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Tuesday, April 02 2013

More home owners are planning to renovate their houses this year, according to Houzz, a remodeling Web site. The company recently surveyed approximately 100,000 home owners, and 53 percent of them reported that now is a good time to remodel.

More home owners getting motivated to increasing the values of their houses by improving the “look, flow, and layout” of these residences.

The most popular renovation projects were centered around bathrooms and kitchens. Twenty-eight percent said they were planning a bathroom remodel or addition, while 23 percent of those surveyed said they were planning a kitchen remodel or addition in the next two years. Over the last five years, home owners have spent $28,030 on average to remodel their kitchens, according to the Houzz survey.

Source: “Interest in building, remodeling homes picks up,” Inman News (March 28, 2013)


Posted by: Rolando Trentini AT 11:26 am   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Thursday, January 24 2013

Is your kitchen begging for an update? Does that green and purple tile make you cringe on every trip to the fridge? If so, now might be the time to explore the latest trends in kitchen remodeling.

According to the National Association of the Remodeling Industry’s website, planning out exactly what you want out of your kitchen remodel will help you set realistic budgets.

And if you’re still not sure what you want or even where to begin, don’t panic. Here are some ideas from our country-wide panel of design and contracting experts who agree these are the six hot kitchen remodel trends for 2013.

Trend #1: Refacing Kitchen Cabinets

Do you want a fresh look for your kitchen cabinets, but don’t want to go through the hassle of actually replacing them?

Good news: Kathleen Donohue, an award-winning designer with Neil Kelly Designs, says that refacing cabinets - not replacing - is in. Donohue says this trend is in because people are watching how they spend their money. And since refacing is the process of just changing cabinet doors while maintaining the original cabinet structure, it’s a much less expensive option.

And when it comes to cabinet refacing, think simple and sleek, says Donohue.

“When refacing cabinets, a clean, simple contemporary look is winning out, both from an updating standpoint, and a trend to eliminate unnecessary clutter and fussy details that equate to high maintenance and complicated living - both unpopular trends,” says Donohue.

Trend #2: Stone and Solid Countertops

Are you dreaming about a gleaming new countertop to spruce up your kitchen? Consider quartz countertops, which experts say will be the material of choice in 2013 due to its durability.

“Stone countertops are losing ground to quartz composite countertops that are no-maintenance and the closest thing to bullet-proof countertop materials available today,” says Donohue.

Florida-based kitchen and bath designer, Patricia Davis Brown, says another reason for quartz’s popularity is that it has less fussy patterning than granite.

But quartz isn’t the only trendy material for counters in 2013, according to Mark Fies, board of directors member for the Metro D.C. chapter of the National Association of the Remodeling Industry.

Fies says more homeowners are asking for concrete countertops to create a custom and eye catching look. “With concrete you have endless colors to choose from, the ability to shape the surface as you see fit, and you can even embed materials and/or designs right into the surface,” he says.

Trend #3: Hardwood Floors

Are you thinking about replacing your worn and ripped kitchen linoleum with gleaming hardwood floors?

Good, because our kitchen experts agree that hardwood floors remain a hot kitchen remodeling trend for 2013, with a few new developments.

For example, “I am starting to see lighter shades of wood floors again - something that hasn’t been seen in a while,” says Chappaqua New York interior designer, Cami Weinstein.

And Brown sees the same trend in Florida. “The washed wood floors are back but, with a twist - wider planks and hand scraping, giving a beachy feel,” she says.

But hardwood floors can be a lot of work in terms of both installation and maintenance. Luckily, there are some options to give you that classic wood floor look - without the hassle.

For example, Goldberg and Donohue are seeing a trend in hardwood-looking floors made from durable and easier-to-install materials, such as engineered wood flooring, which is made from a plywood base with a real hardwood veneer.

“Engineered wood continues to be popular, but so is porcelain tile that looks like wood, with less maintenance and better water tolerance,” says Goldberg.

Trend #4: Stylish Sink

Adding a stylish sink can drastically change the look of your kitchen. So what will be trending in 2013? Fies says the answer is deep bowl sinks.

“Deep bowls are still the rage,” he says. “Although there are endless possibilities with today’s sinks, our homeowners want large, deep sinks to accommodate their larger pots and pans. The debate between single or double bowl is still in full effect, but we tend to see homeowners choosing the one bowl option.”

[Planning to remodel your kitchen? Click to find the right contractor now.]

After you’ve decided on the style, the next thing to consider is the material of the sink. And in terms of what will be trending for 2013, Weinstein believes stainless steel sinks will be hot due to their durability and flexibility.

“They just look great for a very long time and work with both modern and traditional cabinetry,” he says.

Trend #5: Appliances

If you’ve been thinking about investing in new appliances, this could be the year to justify buying that commercial stove. According to Weinstein, incorporating commercial-style stoves and other useful built-in appliances in kitchen remodeling projects is a hot trend for 2013.

“Commercial stoves and stainless steel appliances continue to be used and enjoyed,” she says. In addition, features that save homeowners time and space are becoming increasingly popular. “One of her favorites is a hot water dispenser. “They are great for a quick cup of tea, hot cocoa, or mixing with boullion cube for a stock,” she says.

Adding to that concept, Goldberg says kitchen features that do double-duty and save valuable kitchen space are also must-haves for 2013.

This includes microwaves that double as second ovens and warming drawers, and refrigerators with convertible drawers that can act as the fridge, freezer, or wine fridge.

“Multi-taskers that serve more than one need are hot,” says Goldberg.

Trend #6: Mixing Cabinet Colors

Is dark brown too bland, but red too vibrant? Will white cabinets turn a dull shade of gray after the kids put their hands on them? If you can’t decide on a color for your kitchen cabinets, never fear - our experts say it isn’t just one color that will be trending in 2013, but rather a combination of colors.

“Homeowners no longer need to choose between white, medium, or dark tone cabinetry,” says Fies. He adds that a variety of colors will provide visual interest, and can immediately give your kitchen an updated, modern look.

So what are some ways you could incorporate a combination of colors into your own kitchen?

“I am starting to see kitchen cabinetry painted in shades of cream, taupe and gray, often mixing in a darker wood for an island or the lower cabinets,” says Fies


Posted by: Rolando Trentini AT 08:00 am   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Tuesday, December 04 2012
Here are six tips to get great Christmas tree lights.

Your Christmas tree can look grand if you follow these six tips for holiday lights from Mary Beth Gotti, director of the GE Lighting & Electrical Institute:

  • Know your lights. If you’re buying new lights, make sure they’re compatible with your existing light strings.
  • Unsure how many lights you need for your tree? Figure 100 to 150 lights per vertical foot of the tree.
  • Use LED holiday lights on your tree. LED holiday lights use up to 80% less energy and are cooler than traditional incandescent lights.
  • Add movement. Want that snowflake display to sparkle or your eight tiny reindeer to trot? Give the illusion of movement with color changing lights. Many options are available, including twinkling, chasing, and fade-in, fade-out styles. Check into cascading icicles with a circuit that gives off a melting effect.
  • Mix lighting styles. To make holiday lighting stand out, pair strings of different sized lights together to add depth to decor. On the tree, set a base of white lights at the bottom and continue upward, adding strands of large bulbs and novelty lights for color and variety.
  • Find inspiration. Every year, thousands of tree lighting ceremonies take place all over the country. Draw ideas from these magical designs.

Source: GE Lighting & Electrical Institute

Read more:
Posted by: Rolando Trentini AT 10:51 am   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Friday, August 10 2012

Find out which remodeling projects will provide the biggest bang for your buck this year, according to Remodeling magazine.

Optimizing the use of space in a home will not only attract buyers but also give sellers more bang for their buck, according to Remodeling’s “2011–12 Cost vs. Value Report,” conducted in cooperation with REALTOR® Magazine and NAR’s

An attic bedroom addition costing $50,148 was expected to recoup 72.5 percent of the cost nationally—inching up 0.3 percent from the 2010–11 report. The minor kitchen remodel also fared well, returning an estimated 72.1 percent of the nearly $20,000 job cost.

The report looks at the estimated cost and expected resale return of 35 midrange and upscale remodeling projects in 80 markets. The estimated costs and returns were derived from a survey of more than 3,000 REALTORS® conducted last summer. As in past years, REALTORS® picked exterior projects to recoup the most at resale. Among those, new fiber-cement siding was expected to provide the highest return, recouping an estimated 78 percent of the $13,461 cost.

Top 6 Returns

Siding Replacement (upscale) - fiber-cement
Job Cost: $13,461
Resale Value: $10,493
Cost Recouped: 78%

Entry Door Replacement - steel
Job Cost: $1,238
Resale Value: $903
Cost Recouped: 73%

Attic Bedroom Addition
Job Cost: $50,148
Resale Value: $36,346
Cost Recouped: 72.5%

Kitchen: Minor Remodel
Job Cost: $19,588
Resale Value: $14,120
Cost Recouped: 72.1%

Garage Door Replacement
Job Cost: $1,512
Resale Value: $1,087
Cost Recouped: 71.9%

Garage Door Replacement (upscale)
Job Cost: $2,994
Resale Value: $2,129
Cost Recouped: 71.1%

Remodeling’s2011-12 Cost vs. Value Report ©2011 by Hanley Wood, LLC. Republication or redissemination of the Report is expressly prohibited without written permission of Hanley Wood, LLC.“Cost vs. Value” is a registered trademark of Hanley Wood, LLC.Visit for information on all 35 projects. There, you can also download a free PDF providing information on average cost and resale value nationally, regionally, and in a specific market. Estimates for construction costs were compiled by HomeTech Publishing.

Posted by: Rolando Trentini AT 08:00 am   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Friday, August 03 2012
Want to put a little pep in your porch? Here are 5 budget-friendly ways to add value and get more enjoyment out of your front-facing outdoor space.

Sprucing up your porch is more than a cosmetic upgrade — it’ll boost your curb appeal and help preserve the value of your home. As a bonus, you’ll even get some neighborhood bragging rights. Here are five simple porch pick-me-ups, each costing less than $500.

1. Adding architectural pizzazz

Sweeten your porch’s appearance with a wide variety of architectural trim pieces in weather-resistant wood or low-maintenance synthetics (PVC or polyurethane). They’re readily available at home improvement centers.

Most porch trim pieces install with nails or screws and require basic tools and moderate do-it-yourself skills. Or, hire a handyman for a few hours at $30-$60 an hour.

  • Add decorative brackets (starting at $20 each) where support posts meet the ceiling.
  • Span the space above porch stairs with a fancy fretwork spandrel ($200 for 6 feet).
  • Shapely corbels ($30 and up) lend charm under the eaves.

2. Painting the floor

You’re walking on sunshine when you splash color on a porch floor. Use good-quality exterior paint made for porch floors ($30-$45 per gallon) and follow the manufacturer’s guidelines for prepping the surface so the paint won’t peel.

If the old paint dates prior to 1978, find out if the paint is lead-based. If necessary, remove lead paint.

Once the basecoat dries, you can add a painted design, such as a faux rug, using stencils. Or outline your motif with quick-release painter’s tape to ensure crisp edges.

3. Fanning a breeze

Stir up your own cooling breezes by adding a ceiling fan to your porch. Be sure to select a ceiling fan model designed for outdoor use ($75-$250).

Wiring a fan is a task you can do yourself in less than an hour if there’s an existing electrical box and you have the right electrical tools. Or, hire an electrician ($75-$200) to wire the fan.

4. Creating privacy

If your exposed porch leaves you feeling like a goldfish in a bowl, add home privacy using one or more of these makeover strategies:

Louvered shutters: Tall louvered panels, or shutters, filter light while allowing breezes to blow freely across your porch. Select shutters in wood, vinyl, or PVC; prices start at about $50 for a 12-by-64-inch shutter.

Install one or more shutters floor-to-ceiling or just above the rail to create a private spot on the porch. You’ll need an afternoon to install shutters, typically by securing wood cleats to the floor and fascia and fastening the shutters to the cleats with screws.

Outdoor fabric: Add a little romance, color, and pattern to your porch with fabric panels that draw closed for privacy. Weather-resistant curtain panels with grommet tops come in a variety of lengths, and start at about $60 per panel.

You’ll need a few hours to install a rod ($50 for a wrought-iron rod that extends to 130 inches) and hang the panels. Or, buy weather-resistant fabric (starting at about $10 per yard) and make your own panels.

Lattice: Like shutters, lattice panels allow filtered light and breezes onto your porch, while obscuring the view. You can install several panels in an afternoon using standard tools and fasteners. A 4-by-8-foot wood lathe lattice panel costs about $20. Decoratively patterned lattice PVC panels start at about $30. Visit a home center to find prebuilt wood or PVC privacy panels with custom looks, starting at about $200.

Plants: For botanical beauty, add a lush, living privacy screen. Trail flowering vines, such as fast-growing morning glory ($2 for a seed packet) or clematis ($15), up lattice panels; or plant tall but narrow-spreading evergreen, such as Thuja Green Giant ($100 for an 11-foot tree), beside the porch.

You can also use tall container plants on the porch and move them around where needed. Bamboo (about $40 for a 3-gallon container) grows quickly and provides leafy, light-filtering beauty.

5. Screening it in

Ban buzzing pests from your porch haven with screens. Use porch railings as the frame for supporting screens and staple screens in place. Use thin lathe strips or molding to cover staples and the screen edge.

Or, build frames using ¾-inch-thick, pressure-treated lumber. You can build a 6-by-6-foot frame for less than $15. Stretch the screen across each frame and staple it in place. A 100-foot roll of 4-foot-wide patio screen starts at about $55.

Mosquito curtains are another option that you can install yourself on a sliding track in 5 or 6 hours. Floor-to-ceiling curtains (less than 10 feet tall), which cover a 25-foot wide span, plus the track and hardware, cost about $475.

Read more:

Posted by: Rolando Trentini AT 08:00 am   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Wednesday, June 13 2012

Just another weekend? Not if you take advantage with one or more of these 5 great projects you can easily pull off for under $300.

Project #1: Add a garden arbor entry.

The setup: Install an eye-catching portal to your garden with a freestanding arbor. It’ll look great at the end of a garden path or framing a grassy area between planting beds.

Specs and cost: Garden arbors can be priced up to thousands of dollars, but you can find nice-looking kits in redwood, cedar, and vinyl at your local home improvement or garden center for $200-$300. Typical sizes are about 7 feet high and 3-4 feet wide. You’ll have to assemble the kit yourself.

Screwdriver; cordless drill/driver; hammer; tape measure. Kits come pre-cut and pre-drilled for easy assembly, and usually include screws. If fasteners aren’t included, check the materials list before you leave the store.

Time: 3-5 hours

Project #2: Install a window awning.

The setup: Summer is super, but too much sunlight from south- and west-facing windows can heat up your interiors and make your AC work overtime. Beat that heat and save energy by using an awning to stop harsh sunlight before it enters your house.

Specs and cost: Residential awnings come in many sizes and colors. Some are plastic or aluminum, but most are made with weatherproof fabrics. They’re engineered for wind resistance, and some are retractable. A 4-foot-wide awning with a 2.5-foot projection is $150-$250.

Tools: Cordless drill/driver; adjustable wrench; tape measure; level. You can install an awning on any siding surface, but you’ll need a hammer drill to drill holes in brick. To prevent leaks, fill any drilled holes with silicone sealant before you install screws and bolts.

: 3-4 hours

Project # 3: Screen off your air conditioner from view.

The setup: Air conditioning is great, but air conditioner condensers are ugly. Up your curb appeal quotient by hiding your AC condenser or heat pump unit with a simple screen.

Specs and costs: An AC screen is typically 3-sided, about 40 inches high, and freestanding — you’ll want to be able to move it easily when it comes time to service your HVAC. For about $100, you can make a screen yourself using weather-resistant cedar or pressure-treated wood to build 3 frames, and filling each frame with plastic or pressure-treated lattice.

Or, buy pre-made fencing panels. A 38-by-38-inch plastic fencing panel is about $50.

Tools: Hammer; saw; cordless drill/driver; measuring tape; galvanized wood screws.

Time: Build it yourself in 4-6 hours. Install pre-made fencing in 1-2 hours.

Project # 4: Add garage storage.

The setup: Shopping for garage storage solutions is definitely a kid-in-the-candy-store experience. There are so many cool shelves, hooks, and hangers available that you’ll need to prioritize your needs. Take stock of long-handled landscape tools, bikes, paint supplies, ladders, and odd ducks, such as that kayak. Measure your available space so you’ll have a rough idea of where everything goes.

Specs and cost: Set your under-$300 budget, grab a cart, and get shopping. Many storage systems are made to be hung on drywall, but hooks and heavy items should be fastened directly to studs. Use a stud finder ($20) to locate solid framing.

If your garage is unfinished, add strips of wood horizontally across studs so you’ll have something to fasten your storage goodies to. An 8-foot-long 2-by-4 is about $2.50.

Tools: Cordless drill/driver; hammer; level; measuring tape; screws and nails.

Time: This is a simple project, but not a fast one. Figure 6-10 hours to get everything where you want it, plus shopping. But, oh the fun in putting everything in its place!

Project #5: Edging your garden.

The setup: Edging is a great way to define your planting beds, corral garden mulch, and to separate your lawn from your garden or patio.

Specs and cost: Wood and metal edging looks like tiny fencing; they’re 4-6 inches high. Some include spikes that hold the edging in position; other types must be partially buried. Cost is $1-$5 per foot.

Plastic edging can be molded and colored to mimic brick, wood, and stone. About $20 for 10 feet.

Concrete edging blocks are smooth, or textured to resemble stone. $15-$25 for 10 feet.

Real stone edging is installed flush with the surrounding grade in a shallow trench on a bed of sand, so digging is required. Stone is sold by the ton and prices vary by region. You’ll need about one-third of a ton of flagstone to make an 8-inch-wide edging 50 feet long, costing $150-$200.

Tools: Shovel; wheelbarrow; tin snips (for cutting plastic edging); work gloves.

Time: Pre-made edging will take 2-3 hours for 50 feet; stone will take 6-10 hours.


Posted by: Rolando trentini AT 08:00 am   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Thursday, March 08 2012
In our ongoing “Why You Should Fake It” series, we look at garage doors that give you the look of wood at a price point that’s easier to swallow.

Money’s tight these days, but your desire for nice things needn’t be stifled. That’s why we’ve been examining faux products in our “Why You Should Fake It” series.

Today’s topic: Fiberglass garage doors with the deluxe look of wood for a get-real price.

New die technology lets fiberglass doors mimic wood grains so closely that only a professional eye can tell the difference. But unlike wood, which is vulnerable to heat and water and must be painted or stained every few years, pre-finished fiberglass garage doors are impervious to the elements and require almost no maintenance.

Other plusses of fiberglass garage doors:

  • Won’t warp, rot, or rust
  • Insect-proof
  • Lightweight
  • Available in many prefinished colors
  • You can paint them (but you’ll have to repaint every couple of years or so)

Although the energy efficiency of insulated fiberglass and insulated wood doors are practically the same, the initial cost can be worlds apart.

Most 16-by-7-foot fiberglass doors cost about $1,800 installed, while hardwood doors start around $2,500 to $3,000, then zoom up from there depending on wood and style. Your local garage door contractor can help you explore your faux door options.

What’s the downside of fiberglass garage doors? They can crack with age and are more expensive than other low-maintenance options, such as steel garage doors ($750 to $1,200).

Read more:
Posted by: Rolando Trentini AT 08:01 am   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Friday, March 02 2012
You dropped and broke a CFL bulb. No need to call a Haz Mat team — just keep a cool head and follow these 8 tips.

A broken compact fluorescent bulb isn’t cause for panic, but it is cause for concern. CFLs and other fluorescent bulbs typically contain a small amount of mercury, which can turn into dangerous mercury vapor if the bulb breaks.

Cleaning up and disposing of a broken CFL properly is important, especially if you have young children, you’re pregnant, or the bulb breaks on a carpet.

Don’t reach for the broom to sweep it up. That’ll disperse the mercury; your goal is to keep the mercury in one place and remove it.

Follow these 8 steps to clean up and dispose of any CFL bulbs that break:

Step 1: Contain the damage

  • Get people and pets out of the room.
  • Open the windows to let in fresh air.
  • Shut the door to the room and turn off your forced-air heat or AC to keep mercury vapors from traveling elsewhere in your home.
  • Avoid stepping on the broken glass or mercury powder as you leave the room.

Step 2: Gather up cleaning supplies

Stay out of the room for 5 to 15 minutes to give the mercury enough time to settle into little balls, but not long enough to disperse. Meanwhile, collect:

  • disposable rubber gloves
  • duct tape
  • a piece of stiff paper or thin cardboard
  • a few damp paper towels or baby wipes
  • a sealable container — a glass jar with a lid (best), a plastic jar with a lid (OK), or a zipper plastic bag (better than nothing)

Step 3: Cleaning up your broken CFL

  • Put on the gloves and pick up the big pieces of broken glass.
  • Use the stiff cardboard to scoop up the smaller pieces.
  • Use the sticky side of the duct tape to pick up the smallest shards.
  • Wipe the area with your paper towels or baby wipes.
  • Put the broken CFL pieces, the cardboard, and the wipes in your container and seal it.

Step 4: Double-check your work

Look closely at the area where the CFL broke for any remaining powder, pieces of glass, or mercury balls. If you see any, repeat Step 3.

You may vacuum the area, but use only the hose attachment and pay special attention to the disposal techniques in Step 5.

Did your CFL break onto a carpet? If you have small children who crawl or play on the carpet, you may want to replace the area of carpet where the CFL bulb broke. A Maine Deparment of Environmental Protection Agency study says residule mercury left behind after you clean the carpet can be released as vapor when children play or sit on the carpet.

You can avoid the problem entirely by using only LED or halogen bulbs in rooms where your kids play or sleep, and in your bedroom while you’re pregnant. Also, make sure you’re using CFLs appropriately to keep them from burning out too soon.

Step 5: Take out the trash

  • Take the zipper bag or glass jar right out to the trash.
  • Toss out anything else the CFL broke on, such as bedding, fabrics, and clothing.

If you vacuumed, take the whole vacuum outside before pulling the bag out of the machine. Seal the vacuum bag and put it in the trash. If you have a canister vacuum, empty the canister into your sealable container and wipe the inside of the canister clean. Put the cleaning rag into the container, too.

Step 6: Clean yourself

  • If bits of glass or mercury got onto your shoes, use a towel or wipe to clean your shoes, then dispose of the wipe.
  • If mercury got onto your clothes, toss them out.
  • Wash your hands with soap and water.

Step 7: Remove the debris from your property

Your sealed waste container and contaminated trash need to go to a universal waste facility that handles all types of trash, including environmentally sensitive materials.

Ask local government officials where to find one in your area.

Step 8: Continue to air out the room

Continue to air out the room and leave the HVAC system off several hours, or as long as that’s practical given the outdoor temperatures. If the CFL bulb broke on carpet, open the windows when you vacuum for the next few weeks in case vacuuming releases any mercury you didn’t already get out of the rug.

Read more:
Posted by: Rolando Trentini AT 08:00 am   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Friday, December 09 2011
With construction costs rising and the hassles associated with taking on a renovation project, many homeowners can be reluctant to tackle certain projects when it comes to remodeling their home. However, according to the 2011-12 Remodeling Cost vs. Value Report, several inexpensive exterior replacement projects are not only crucial to a home’s regular upkeep, but are also expected to recoup close to 70 percent of costs.
Exterior replacement projects continuously outperform other remodeling projects in terms of resale value, especially siding, window and door replacements. These types of projects are considered essential to regular home maintenance so homeowners will need to implement them anyway to keep their house functioning properly. The good news is that these projects do not require expensive materials. Many exterior replacement projects can be performed with durable low-maintenance materials and they also have the added bonus of instantly adding curb appeal, which is important to those looking to sell.
The 2011-12 Remodeling Cost vs. Value Report compares construction costs with resale values for 35 midrange and upscale remodeling projects in 80 markets across the country. Realtors® provided their insight into local markets and buyer home preferences within those markets. Overall Realtors® estimated that home owners would recoup an average of 57.7 percent of their investment in 35 different improvement projects, down from an average of 60 percent last year.
Seven of the top 10 most cost-effective projects nationally in terms of value recouped are exterior replacement projects. Upscale fiber-cement siding replacement was judged by Realtors® as the project expected to return the most money, with an estimated 78 percent of cost recouped upon resale. Two additional siding replacement projects were in the top 10, including foam-backed vinyl siding and upscale vinyl siding. In addition, three door replacements were among the top exterior replacement projects. The steel entry door replacement is the least expensive project in the report, costing little more than $1,200 on average and is expected to recoup 73 percent of cost upon resale. Both the midrange and upscale garage door replacements are expected to return more than 71 percent of costs.
There are regional differences when it comes to the resale value of particular remodeling projects. Relators® can help homeowners decide what low-cost improvement investments will provide the most upon resale in their particular market. It’s important to keep in mind that resale value is just one factor among many that homeowners must take into account when making a decision to remodel.”
Three interior remodeling projects are also considered worthy investments. A midrange attic bedroom remodel is expected to return 72.5 percent of cost. Out of all the projects it is the least expensive way to add a bedroom and bathroom within a home’s existing footprint. A minor kitchen remodel and wood deck addition are also expected to recoup more than 70 percent of costs. Improvement projects that are expected to return the least are a sunroom addition and a home office remodel, both estimated to recoup less than 46 percent of costs.
The 2011-12 Remodeling Cost vs. Value Report is published by Remodeling magazine publisher Hanley Wood, LLC and is in collaboration with the National Association of Realtors®. Additional data for the report can be found at NAR’s consumer website, The website includes a wide variety of ideas and projects to help homeowners maintain, enhance and improve the value of their homes. 
Please do not hesitate to contact me at 812-499-9234 or email at
Posted by: Rolando Trentini AT 08:00 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
Tuesday, December 06 2011

LED holiday lights vs. old-fashioned bulbs: 6 tips to help you decide which is right for you.

Should you chuck all your good old holiday light strings and buy new LED holiday lights? Here’s how to decide.

1. LED holiday lights save you money. LED lights use at least 90% less energy than traditional holiday lights, according to the U.S. government’s Energy Star program.

That results in a $50 energy savings for the average family during the holidays, says Avital Binshtock of the Sierra Club in San Francisco.

Put it into perspective: The amount of electricity consumed by one 7-watt incandescent bulb could power 140 LEDs—enough to light two 24-foot strings, says Energy Star.

2. But LED lights typically cost more than old-fashioned holiday lights.

  • GE 100-bulb string of Energy Star-certified LED white lights: $18.97 at Lowe’s
  • GE 100-bulb string of conventional white lights: $8.97

But shop around because a growing number of retailers are offering sales on LED holiday lights and, if you can’t find a sale before the holidays, you can certainly find one after. Plus, prices will surely go down as these lights gain traction.

3. LED holiday lights last and last. LED bulbs can keep your season bright for as long as 100,000 hours, says Cathy Choi, president of Moonachie, N.J.-based Bulbrite, which manufactures LED and regular bulbs. That’s substantially longer than the life of your old holiday light strings.

4. You can string a BIG strand of LED lights. Safety wise, you shouldn’t connect more than three traditional light strings, but you can connect up to 87 LED holiday light strings, totaling a whopping 1,500 feet, Choi says. So blow your neighbor’s display away by cocooning your house in lights:

  • You won’t have to buy as many extension cords.
  • You can take your holiday lighting display further away from the outlet.

5. LED lights reduce the risk of fire. They stay cooler than incandescent bulbs, according to Energy Star.

6. How about that hue? Some people stick with their old lights because they don’t like the brighter hue that white LED holiday lights emit. But Choi says manufacturers now offer a “warm white” bulb that more closely mimics the glow of an incandescent light. Be sure to read the label to choose a bright or warm white and to ensure what you’re purchasing is Energy Star-certified.

Colored and color-changing LED holiday lights are more vibrant than conventional lights, making your display easier to see from the street, Choi says.

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Posted by: Rolando Trentini AT 08:00 am   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Monday, August 15 2011

Today’s cost-conscious home owner is focused on two things: reducing costs and protecting the value of their home. You can do both with these five home improvement projects that cost less than $25 and can save you thousands in future repairs, according to HouseMaster, a home inspection franchise.

1. Be aware of termite or carpenter ant damage. Home owners who diligently check their property and foundation can alleviate serious termite or carpenter ant problems. Before selling or purchasing a home, look closely for any signs such as “mud tubes” or wood damage. Also, moving wood piles and debris away from the home can eliminate termite or carpenter ant problems.

2. When it rains, it pours. One of the most common places for water damage is in a bathroom. When grout breaks down, water can easily get behind the tiles and cause them to come loose. An easy solution to this is to re-grout, caulk, and use sealant on bathroom tile and surrounding fixtures. In other cases, where water penetration is affecting the foundation of a house, a splash box is a cost-efficient solution to direct water away from the foundation.

3. Clean the gutters. Stained siding under a gutter indicates overflowing, which can cause structural damage. In addition, overgrown vegetation on gutters can cause clogging or potential termite issues. Trimming vegetation away from the house and cleaning gutters offers many advantages and minimizes the risk for potential costly repairs in the future.

4. Replace rusting roof flashings. Flashings deteriorate over time and can allow water penetration, resulting in expensive damage to the underlying roof structure. For under $25, replace roof flashings or apply sealant to the problem area.

5. Seal your deck. If not properly maintained decks are very susceptible to the effects of weather exposure. Once wood becomes rotted, it’s more likely to be infested by termites, carpenter ants, etc. Purchase deck sealant at an inexpensive price to seal your deck and prevent future damage.

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Posted by: Rolando Trentini AT 08:00 am   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Thursday, August 11 2011
There is nothing that I like better than to find an additional use for a common household item. This can cut down on having to buy additional cleaners and/or chemicals for my household, which is always good. And of course, invariably these additional uses will save you money. Once I got into living frugally, I really began to research these “extra” uses. Some of them are quite ingenious! I’ve come up with a short list of multiple uses for five common items you likely have around your house. The list is by no means inclusive, so feel free to add your ideas in the comments section. I know that some of you house moms and dads have some great ideas out there!

Dryer Sheets

The best part I like about these additional uses is that for a lot of them the dryer sheet doesn’t even have to be new. So with these ideas, you are really getting something for free while also recycling your products. Dryer sheets can be used to get pet hair off of furniture and clothing, and, if you put a little fabric softener on one, you can then remove dust from a TV screen or computer monitor and keep it from coming back.

Some additional uses…

  • Remove burnt food from casserole dishes (soak in warm water with the sheet)
  • Get rid of and prevent odors just about anywhere you can think of (even in your shoes!)
  • Remove soap build up from your shower
  • Place in your clothes drawer or suitcase while vacationing for that “just washed” smell all the time
  • Clean paint brushes (soak in warm water with the sheet)

Aluminum Foil

Would you like to cook the perfect pie crust? Wrap the edges in aluminum foil. Line your grill with it and pokes holes in it to prevent chicken/meats from cooking too fast. Scissors need sharpening? Cut through a few pieces of foil, and presto—sharp scissors.

A few more…

  • To reuse a paint brush for the same job without having to clean it, wrap it in foil, place in fridge
  • Wrap doorknobs with it while painting
  • Line paint tray with it rather than buying the premade plastic inserts
  • Polishing silverware. What a time saver! Line a pan with foil, fill with cold water. Add a little salt, put silver in for three minutes. Rinse and dry.


This list could be a mile long. Far too many uses to get into all of them. But keep in mind that the manufacturer does not recommend a lot of the uses for how people use it. I’ve included only some of those that have the blessing of the makers of WD40. In addition to it lubricating almost everything, it will also:

  • Loosen zippers
  • Clean roof racks on vehicles
  • Remove bug “guts” on your car’s grill
  • Removes remnants of duct tape
  • Keeps rust away from most tools
  • Keeps pigeons away (they dislike the smell)
  • Removes black scuffmarks from kitchen floors

White Vinegar

One of my new found favorites. You can substitute a little white vinegar for just about any household cleaning job. White vinegar can be used to clean the hoses in your washing machine, the insides of your coffee maker, the inside of your steam iron, and a variety of other things. Freeze some with some water and grind through your garbage disposal to get rid of odors there too! Some others you may not have known about are…

  • Remove chewing gum
  • Help pain from sunburn
  • Soothe a sore throat
  • Itching
  • Ear infections
  • Athlete’s Foot
  • Remedy for acne
  • Body odor
  • Cure for hiccups

This list could go on forever…


Toothpaste can clean, it can deodorize, and it can make you more beautiful! A short list of some unintended uses for toothpaste:

  • Remove pimples
  • Polish nails (nails are similar in their makeup to teeth)
  • Car freshener (wrap some in paper towels and put under your seat)
  • Clean walls, jewelry, shoes, and even piano keys
  • Hang posters on the wall (no lie)
  • Sub for spackle (will fill nail holes on walls)

So there you go. A whole host of new uses for items I am pretty sure you have lying around the house. A few of these I already knew about, a lot of them I didn’t. I can’t even imagine the savings if you employ half of these ideas.

Care to elaborate on any of these lists?


Posted by: Rolando Trentini AT 08:00 am   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Tuesday, August 02 2011
Recently, a friend of mine told me her young son was jumping out of his crib. He is only a year and a half, and his new ability took his mother by surprise. She had concerns about the safety of her son, and concerns about the costs associated with buying her son a new toddler or twin bed.

Whether you’ve been saving up to buy some furniture to decorate your home, or you need to make an unexpected furniture purchase, there is no need to worry about the cost. Fortunately, there are a variety of places to shop, and many ways to save money on furniture.

Where to Shop for Furniture

1. Online
Acquiring furniture consists of two main steps: shopping and buying. Before you buy, you need to shop. By shopping online, you can get a better idea of what styles you like, and how much you can expect to pay for the furniture you need. You can also browse more stores in a shorter amount of time, without spending money on gas.

Once you have a better idea of what you need, and what you can expect to pay, start browsing stores to buy furniture. Look on a variety of different websites, including eBay, Ikea, Macy’s,, and Pottery Barn. If you peruse online auctions, discount shopping websites, and department stores, you can find a range of prices for similar items.

Pay close attention to the construction of the furniture, and compare prices for hardwood and laminate. Hardwood furniture lasts longer, but inexpensive laminate furniture can be an excellent choice if you plan on replacing it in the next five years.

2. Thrift Stores
A friend told me recently that he bought a really nice, sturdy dining room table at Goodwill. He brought it home, sanded it down, and painted the table. Best of all, he only paid $25 for it, and $20 for the restoration supplies. His wife loves the new table, and especially loves the price he paid.

You may have to put a little elbow grease into cleaning up used furniture, but in the end, you’ll have something cheap and unique that you can be proud of in your home. Pay close attention to scratches, dents, and other signs of wear and tear when shopping for used furniture. Determine whether you can fix the damage, or if you can live with it.

Watch for special sales days, to get the best deal on your used furniture. Goodwill and the other large thrift store chains offer additional savings on specific items in their stores during sales. Thrift stores also offer discounts to senior citizens.

3. Garage Sales/Estate Sales
In addition to thrift stores, garage sales and estate sales offer many treasures. Use your imagination when looking at pieces, to think how you might use them in your own home. For example, an old stereo cabinet could be a fun alternative to a newly constructed entertainment center. However, keep in mind that the furniture found at garage sales and estate sales may require some refurbishing.

A little luck finding the perfect piece never hurts, but try employing the buddy system, where friends and family members shopping at garage sales keep an eye out for the furniture you need.

4. Classifieds/Craigslist
Check out the classifieds and Craigslist to quickly find used furniture, without going from garage sale to garage sale. Use some creativity as you look through the listings to envision how you could restore and use each piece in your home.

Use a variety of words and phrases when conducting your online search on Craigslist. For example, search for wardrobes and armoires, couches and sofas, and end tables and side tables, to narrow your search and find the furniture you need.

5. Freecycle
The Freecycle Network enables people to give away their unwanted items to other people for free, as a way to recycle. Sign up on the website to begin searching for free furniture in your area. These items may need refurbishing, but since they are free, that certainly makes up for any supplies you may need to buy for restoration. When you use Freecycle, you also act as a good steward of our planet, by keeping waste out of the landfills.

6. Warehouse Clubs
When my husband and I were shopping for a bedroom set, we happened to receive a flyer in the mail from Costco. I occasionally shop at there, but I never knew that warehouse clubs sold furniture. After researching the Costco product line, we found deeply discounted, high quality furniture. They also offered free delivery for the items we purchased.

Based on my experience buying my Costco bedroom set, I would definitely shop at a warehouse club for furniture in the future.

7. Outlets
Outlet centers offer great deals as well. I bought furniture from a Pottery Barn outlet for a fraction of the original cost. Outlets do not always offer bargain prices, however, so make sure you comparison shop before buying furniture from an outlet mall.

Tip: Before you buy furniture from an outlet store, do some research to find out the original, pre-sale prices. Unless the furniture at the outlet mall is substantially discounted, you may want to wait and see if the item goes on clearance.

8. Clearance/Scratch and Dent Area
Many furniture stores have a clearance area, or a “scratch and dent” area, in the back of the store. When you enter, head straight for the back of the building. My husband and I found a table we wanted, along with some chairs, for a quarter of the retail price, mainly because each piece had a tiny scratch on it. If we had missed the clearance area, we would have paid full price for the table, and all of the chairs.

When you examine items in the clearance area, make sure to inspect the furniture carefully for damage. Remember, everything ended up in the clearance because it didn’t sell, so it may have scratches, stains, or other signs of wear.

9. Ikea
Ikea has a contemporary style, while providing unique storage in order to maximize your space. While Ikea does offer great prices, if their modern style does not match well with the motif of your home, you may not want to take the time to get lost in the store. Ikea has inexpensive furniture, but watch out; many of the items require self-assembly.

10. Auctions
Auctions offer another way to buy furniture for bargain prices. Visit auction houses in your area to find out more about the types of upcoming auctions they have planned. When you bid on an item, remember to stick to your budget. You don’t want to overbid or get caught up in the moment, and bid more than you can afford.

When buying used or antique furniture at an auction, examine it carefully beforehand. Look for evidence of wear and tear, scratches, tears, and other types of damage. Determine if the furniture needs restoration, and if it does need refurbishing, consider the cost of the work and the supplies as part of the overall cost.

11. Hand-me-Downs
Make sure friends and family know that you need furniture, and accept the gift of used furniture from them. It might seem embarrassing, but most people start out this way, by accepting an old couch or TV from a friend or family member.

You help your loved ones clear out some much-needed space in their homes, and they help you furnish your home. One day, you can return the favor, giving some of your gently used furniture to someone else in need.

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Posted by: Rolando Trentini AT 08:00 am   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
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