Archive for the ‘Home Improvement’ Category

5 Ways to Keep Your Old Home Green

Friday, October 25th, 2013

Image of a happy green home.If you’re one of the many who has adopted an old or historic home, you undoubtedly know all the good and bad that comes with it. While your house may be historic and full of character, it may also be full of holes and gaps for the wind to blow through, making efficient heating impossible. It’s certainly more difficult to transform an older building into a “green house,” but it can be done affordably and without destroying the integrity of your home. Here are some tips for looking closely at your home, understanding where the energy is going, and improving your savings and your impact on the environment.

Hot Water Heater

Check the temperature of your water heater. You may want to consider turning it down a few degrees; every 10° difference will equal up to about 3-5% of your energy. If your home has room for change, you may want to consider a different type of heater. Today there are solar water heating systems and tankless systems for a less wasteful, “water-on-demand” approach. If your home has an existing duct system, you could also opt for a geothermal heat pump to be installed underground. Check with your State historic preservation office before you go ripping up the ground, and be careful not to disturb your home’s foundation.

Air Sealing

Nothing is more inefficient than heating a house where the air blows straight out. Your home may have more air leaks than you realize. These leaks could be anywhere there is a seam, a chute, or a door. You can perform an energy audit on your home to better discern where the air is flowing, but for the most part it’s easy to tell. Cover your windows when there is a draft and close your chutes when not in use. You can fix any air sealing that is damaged or worn out with the many DIY guides that are out there. Just remember that while your air is flowing so chaotically, every cubic foot of conditioned air that leaves the house invites in a replacing cubic foot of outside air. So close the door!


Windows are usually a major culprit in energy loss; on average they are responsible for 10-15% of the energy lost in a home. While most consider it essential to replace the windows when there is significant energy loss, usually all they need is a good repair to become more efficient. Fix any wooden framing that has become termite-ridden or water damaged, and caulk both the interior and exterior pane sealing. You could look into installing storm windows for added efficiency (low-E is best, but more expensive).


Depending on what time your house was built, you could have any type of insulation in the walls (some people find newspapers padding their interior walls). As a bare minimum, the best places to install new insulation is around attic spaces, basements, cooling ducts, and around water pipes. You can do this yourself, but you may need a professional opinion to help avoid cold pockets and thermal bulging. There are also plenty of potential fire hazards in old walls, including tube wiring. You’ll also need proper ventilation to avoid mold and water damage. But with the proper precautions, new insulation in your home will help keep the heat in significantly.

Natural Heating/Cooling

The nice thing about old homes is that most of them were built before the days of instant heat or air conditioning. They had to adapt to the environment that they were built in and naturally have great features to combat the elements. Warm climates normally have fireplaces built on the outside of the walls, while cold climates have interior chimneys. Homes in high-wind environments generally take up an L- or U-shape to provide a working area protected from the cold. And despite the shameful insulation, most old houses have extremely thick walls that allow for great heat absorption from the sun that warms the home at night. Trust your home’s natural ability to keep you comfortable, and you could become more energy efficient than you ever thought possible!

Michael David is a freelance journalist and blogger living in New York City. He loves his work, and enjoys collaborating with great local companies that offer a great commercial real estate loan. Michael loves writing about DIY projects, home improvement, and garden-related topics.

10 Common Types of Home Improvement Customer

Monday, October 7th, 2013

As anyone who’s worked in retail knows, certain customer types are apt to pop up over and over again. These people may seem to have nothing in common at all until you interact with them. It is at this time that you realize this customer behaves exactly like one you had yesterday, last week, and the week before that. Here are 10 common home improvement store customer types.

Back in my day Home Improvement were a dollar.#10: The Good Old Days Customer. This customer may be very old or only slightly older than you. He will reminisce about “the good old days” when a faucet cost only a dollar or a light bulb could be had for a dime. He conveniently forgets that the average income was also much lower at that time.

#9: The Buy American Customer. This customer will only buy products made in America. No drill, light, or carpet is good enough for him unless it bears a “Made in the USA” sticker. This would be fine, except he fails to understand that American workers are typically paid higher wages for making the products than overseas workers are, so the finished product will cost more. He will complain bitterly about the price discrepancy in foreign and American made items.

#8: The Condescending Customer. This customer is most often encountered by female home improvement employees. He will not allow a female associate to wait on him, even if available male associates tell him they know nothing at all about Product X but the female does. He sometimes operates under the false assumption that female associates work in home improvement retail to snag a man, and will often hit on every female he encounters in the store.

#7: The Yard Sale Customer. This customer firmly believes the price on the shelf is just a suggestion. He will offer less than the retail price for no particular reason. He often gets angry when his offer is declined.

#6: The I’ll Go Elsewhere Customer. This customer will try to extort anything he can out of management by threatening to shop at the competitor. He will actually follow through on his threat most of the time, even if it means spending $20 or more in gas to get to the competitor’s store.

#5: The Name Dropper. This customer is your Store Manager or District Manager’s next door neighbor, best friend from high school, or 2nd cousin 3 times removed. He will drop your manager’s name at any opportunity, to try to get special treatment. In most cases, your manager has really never heard of this person before.

Leonardo Dicaprio as the rich guy.#4: The Millionaire. This customer would have you believe the company was built solely on his purchases. He frequently uses phrases such as, “I pay your salary” or “I spend thousands of dollars here every year.” The store often has few records of actual purchases made by this customer.

#3: The Damaged Customer. This customer himself is not damaged. But in his opinion, everything in the store is, and he should therefore get a discount on whatever he buys. Rarely is the item he wants truly damaged-more often the “damage” is that the box is dented, open, or just dusty, but the product inside is perfectly fine. Sometimes this customer causes the “damage” himself.

#2: The Renter. This customer shows up in times of natural disaster. For example, if there’s a flood in the area, he will purchase a wet/dry vacuum or sump pump. After the flood has passed and his home is dry, he will attempt to return the used item for a full refund, often claiming it was defective. By doing this, he obtains what amounts to a free equipment rental by defrauding the store.

Finally, the #1 type of home improvement customer is The Combo. This customer is a combination of 2 or more of the other 10 common home improvement customer types. He is especially crafty, as he can change tactics and arguments at any time, depending on how the conversation goes. It’s best to hide in the break room when he shows up.

If you’ve recognized yourself or anyone you know in any of these customer types, please take it easy on the employees. They are just doing the best job they can by the policies they are given. Happy shopping!

Improve Your Home Without Spending A Lot

Monday, September 9th, 2013

Cheap home improvement in 2013.With the struggling economy, many people are struggling as well. Much needed improvements to your home may be put off as the price to complete them may be too high. Items on the list, such as renovating the whole kitchen or bathroom, may have to be delayed. However, there are many ways to improve your home without spending a lot of money.

One of the cheapest ways to improve your home is with paint. Go to your local home improvement store and spend some time in the paint section. Many have computers set up where you can input what room you’d like to do, the dimensions of the room and what colors you would like to try. After inputting the information, it will give you a basic view of the room with the colors you have chosen. By using the user-friendly software, you will prevent spending time and money on a color you really don’t enjoy. Painting a room in your home will not only give it a nice fresh look, it will help to add value to your investment.

If your kitchen looks a little tired, consider refinishing your cabinets. Although time-consuming, this is relatively easy to do. An electric hand sander will be needed and these can usually be purchased for under $50. To refinish your cabinets, remove the doors for easier access and use the electric sander to remove the old finish. Once this is done, you will be able to stain them or paint them in your color choice. For added updates, consider adding new hardware to your cabinets. You will be surprised at how quickly this can change the look of your kitchen.

Another way to improve your home is by giving the outside of your home a fresh look. Stand by your driveway and try to look at your home through the eyes of someone who has never seen it before. Does the house look drab? Perhaps a fresh coat of paint will bring it back to life. Is there clutter in the yard? Simply putting stuff away in a garage or shed will clean up the area and offer more appeal. If landscaping is not your cup of tea, many high schools offer horticulture classes to their students. It never hurts to call and ask if they need a site volunteered for a class project.

Many small home improvements can not only improve how you see your home, they can improve the value of your home, as well. In 2013, with the economy in such a stressed state, the value of your home could mean your survival.

Simple Ways to Save Energy At Home

Thursday, June 13th, 2013

Saving energy can be simple and save money as well. Here are a few hints that can be done inexpensively and by everyone. If you educate yourself and everyone in your household about saving energy, not only will you help the world, but you will help yourself by lowering energy bills. It will be a win/win situation for everyone.

Saving energy and money at home.

Saving Energy ay Home

You can save energy by changing your light bulbs to fluorescent bulbs. This may take a small investment at first as they are more expensive than regular bulbs, but the National Resource Defense Council (NRDC) says that they use 67% less energy than incandescent bulbs. You may be able to save $50- $60 in energy costs over the life of one bulb.

Use less hot water to save energy. Install low flow shower heads. Wash clothes in cold water whenever possible. Less hot water used means less hot water heated and less energy used.

Insulate windows by putting up plastic can save you money and energy. Of course, in the best of all worlds, everyone would have double paned windows, but that is a fairly large investment. Rolls of plastic are much less expensive.

Change your manner of dress to suit the temperature in your house rather than change the thermostat to suit the way your are dressed. Wear sweaters and warm slippers in the winter and in the summer wear shorts or thin clothing.

Set your thermostat to no more than 68 degrees in the winter (55 at bedtime) and to no less than 78 degrees in the summer. Use fans or ceiling fans whenever possible, as these do not use as much energy as air conditioners.

Keep the use of other small appliances to a minimum. These use great amounts of electricity. When you replace appliances, buy Energy Star appliances to replace the old ones. These use 10- 50% less energy. Also unplug appliances when not in use. People do not realize it, but even when turned off these appliances continue to use small amounts of electricity when not unplugged.

Efficient use of blinds and curtains can help. Open the blinds and curtains during the day during the winter to let the sunshine help heat the house. Close them at night to keep the heat in. Do the opposite in the summer to combat heat.

Close the doors and vents to vacant rooms. There is no sense heating or cooling unused areas. Not heating or cooling unoccupied areas can save energy quickly, and you will notice it on your utility bill.

These steps may take a little adjustment to get used to, but you will see the benefit on your energy savings.

Getting the Most Value Out of Your Remodel

Wednesday, August 29th, 2012

Roofing in need of repair or replacing

Remodeling your home is always an expensive venture. Whether you are hoping to sell your home, or just need an update. A smart first choice is to always get your house appraised to see if the money you are spending on your home, you eventually will get back out of it. It can also sometimes be cheaper just to move to a newer home, instead of making the huge investment of a remodel. Consider all of your options before diving into a big investment!

The outside of your home can get the most wear and tear. You can start by replacing any missing shingles on your roof. Moss, mold, and other organic matter can also collect up there. Gutters also can be filled be debris, and need to be cleaned. Do not just pressure wash your roof and gutters! This can cause even more damage, and is an easy mistake to make.  A professional can do the job effectively and safely. Roofs that were properly installed within the last ten years should just need repairs and not a complete overhaul.

Extra things like pools and extensive outside additions can be great if you are enjoying them, but if you are concentrating on selling it is just not worth the investment.  It can also seem like a big maintenance demand on the new owner. Cleaning and cost of upkeep can seem a little daunting. Often the only outside addition worth the investment is a deck addition to your home.

If you any pets washing your walls and repainting can do wonders for both the look and smell of your home.  Wallpaper can also absorb those musty smells, and if you are selling your home, is very based on personal preferences.  Plain colors that scream unlimited potential are the best choices.

Your floor can often get an easy face-lift. Older homes usually have hardwood floors hidden beneath that shaggy carpet. Once the carpet is removed the floors can just be re-stained to revive their former beauty. Unfortunately if you are not so lucky, it can be one of the biggest expenses you will face.

The most wanted and most expensive room for improvement is the kitchen.  Appliances get outdated and stop working properly, cabinets become broken, and counter tops become overused.  If you buy new appliances you don’t need to spend a fortune on them. As long as they are “good enough” it won’t have a huge effect on the price of your home. Green materials and appliances is a fad that will not go away and stay relevant for years to come.  Cabinets can be re-stained and repaired for minor costs, while keeping the originals. Counter tops can also be laminated again. Bathrooms are definitely worth the update and are a big decision maker after the kitchen.  Any money that you pour into the bathroom remodel is almost always worth it.

Some easy low cost updates include:

  • Light fixtures can add brightness and instantly change the mood of any room.
  • Small things like new trim can do a lot to add details and elegance to a space.
  • Staging your home correctly can let people really see what it would be like to live there.
  • Refurbish any of your current furniture for a cheap update. DIY updates can do wonders for your remodel.  Even a coat of paint can make a big difference. Just make sure you are qualified enough for the job you are taking on!

Make sure you know what you are getting into.  Take a step back to look at all of the costs and what actual value you will get out of your investment.  Do your research into possible hidden costs, building codes, and reliable contractors. If you do all of the proper prep work it will all be worth it in the end with your beautifully remodeled home.

This post was provided by Fortified Roofing, provider of roofing services in Cherry Hill, Voorhees and Marlton, NJ at: Fortified Roofing