Tricks To Customize A Kitchen On A Budget

clean kitchen sink - home inspection miamiHelpful information from Atlantic Building Inspections

Who wouldn’t want a kitchen customized to meet their particular tastes and needs? A complete kitchen renovation can cost tens of thousands of dollars, but you don’t have to spend a bundle to achieve a custom effect. A few modest investments can help make your kitchen work well and look great.

Ways To  Affordably Customize Your Kitchen:

1.Get creative with cabinets

Completely replacing cabinets can be costly, but it’s possible to create a custom look with the cabinets you already have. Customization tricks to try:

* Paint cabinets a trendy color, like dark blue. Or, paint one set of cabinets, such as those under an island, a different color.

* Remove the doors from one cupboard to create an open effect where you can display prized showpieces. Further accent the look by painting the back of the cupboard a contrasting color.

* Replace dated or dull hardware with drawer pulls and knobs that speak to your design tastes. For example, if you love a vintage look, replace metal hardware with glass or ceramic knobs.

2. Freshen up the faucet

Cabinet hardware isn’t the only “jewelry” in the kitchen. The faucet can also be a design focal point that looks as good as it works. If yours is old, basic or just not to your taste, replacing the kitchen faucet with a newer model that speaks to your style can help reinvent the entire room. Plus, a new faucet can provide functions and features that will make your kitchen more usable.

For example, the Tournant faucet by Kohler combines traditional design with modern industrial elements, so it works well with a variety of kitchen design themes. A three-function, pull-down spray head lets you put the water exactly where you need it, while a special BerrySoft setting is gentle enough for washing fruits and vegetables.

If a more vintage look appeals to you, Kohler has recently added a bridge model faucet to its favorite Artifacts line. Reminiscent of turn-of-the-century kitchen and bar faucets, the deck-mounted bridge faucet works with either lever or six-prong handles for temperature controls and features a dual-function side spray. Visit www.us.kohler.com to learn more.

3. Enliven your lighting

Good light is essential for a kitchen to function well, but it’s common for kitchens to have just one overhead light and maybe a pendant or two over a breakfast bar. Replacing dated fixtures with newer ones that suit your style is easy, but what can you do if you want more light without the expense of paying someone to install additional wiring?

* Replace a standard ceiling light with track lights. They require no additional wiring, and you can position lights along the track to put illumination where you want it.

* Install under-cabinet lights that can easily plug into an existing counter-level electrical outlet.

* Place a swing-arm task lamp over work areas, so you can aim light where you need it most while working. The lamp can easily plug into a wall outlet.

4. Accentuate accessories

Accessories are the finishing touch of personalization in any room, including the kitchen. However, since the kitchen needs to be high-functioning, look for ways to accessorize that also enhance your kitchen’s ability to work for you.

* Every kitchen has small appliances that get regular use, such as toasters, food processors, blenders, etc. If your toaster sits out on the counter, why not turn it into part of the design theme by selecting an appliance in a bright color to match your decor?

* A matching set of pot holders or dish towels hung from a hook beneath a cabinet or on the side of a cupboard not only puts a much-needed item close at hand, but they can also add decorative flair.

* Place a bright, cheerful area rug in front of the sink or prep area. The rug will not only perk up space but helps cushion your joints while you stand in one spot working.

* A pot rack above an island provides much-needed storage space for large pots and pans while adding a homey touch to the kitchen.

Customizing a kitchen doesn’t have to be costly or require you to sacrifice any functionality. With a few smart updates, you can cost-effectively create the personalized kitchen of your dreams. – (BPT)

How to Remodel Your Kitchen on a Budget 

 

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Smaller Metros Take Action To Draw Millennials Fleeing Urban Areas

buildings near a lake - home inspection miamiAn Article Courtesy of  Atlantic Building Inspections

Are millennials getting ready to leave big cities in droves? Some experts in demographics, economics, and real estate have predicted the millennial exodus from vast urban areas has already begun. If true, the question remains: where will they go?

Some may head to the suburbs as their parents and grandparents did before them, but many will look for a different lifestyle, one that combines the advantages of suburban living with features of city life. Some smaller metro areas, like Wausau, Wisconsin, they have the blend of economic opportunity, urban elements, affordability and lifestyle that will attract millennials.

The Draw:

“Economy has always been a factor in generational migrations, and while the nature of work has changed, economic opportunity is still critical to where people want to live,” says Christian Schock, director of planning, community and economic development for the City of Wausau. “Everyone wants to find a place with the winning formula of urban activities, affordability, and lifestyle. Businesses want to put down roots in that environment, too, knowing it will draw a bigger pool of skilled workers.”

In recent years, the City of Wausau has made concerted efforts to position itself with both big city amenities and small town assets. By many accounts, the efforts are paying off. In a 2016 Pew Research Trust analysis of income equality nationwide, Wausau ranked first in the nation, with the middle class constituting 67 percent of the city’s total population. Wausau also ranked highest in Wisconsin and eighth nationally on Area Development magazine’s list of hot spots for new and expanding businesses.

The Formula:

Small to mid-size metro areas that want to attract millennials, as well as businesses and investors, need to address key areas, including:

* Urbanity

In addition to the recreational and entertainment amenities often highlighted when discussing millennials, many mid-sized metros lack the diversity of housing types that can be found in a larger city which millennials might be accustomed to.

One strategy Wausau has focused on specifically is diversifying housing product. The City funded local architects to design an urban rowhouse — a housing style which did not previously exist. For over a decade, leaders proactively assembled parcels for new riverfront apartments and continually worked with developers to seek tax credits which could be applied to renovating historic properties into unique multifamily offerings.

* Affordability

Rising real estate costs are among the factors that kept many millennials living in cities longer than they might have liked, experts say. Mid-sized metros have an edge in making home buying more affordable for millennials — and homebuyers of all generations.

Recognized as a leader in economic development homesteading, Wausau’s Live It Up program is a partnership between local employers and the city to provide employees with a no-interest down payment assistance loan for the purchase of a home. In the last two years, the program has allocated more than $200,000 in no-interest loans to local employees.

* Place

Millennials who came of age in urban environments have a strong affinity for multifunctional spaces and are drawn to communities that are a walkable mix of business, retail, industry and residential. While the specific physical space needs may change, their own strong sense of identity makes them inclined to seek a region that has its own established sense of self.

Wausau has leveraged more than $100 million in new downtown development over the past decade and currently has another $100 million under construction, emphasizing the city’s identity as a vibrant, growing core. Wausau’s Riverlife Village project is reclaiming more than 16 acres of urban waterfront along the Wisconsin River to house a new park, river wharf, mixed-use office space, biking paths, apartments and a family entertainment center.

Perhaps the greatest testament to a mid-sized metro’s success is the recommitment of historic businesses to local growth. Wausau Insurance was an early innovator in workers’ compensation insurance, which evolved out of the necessity for local lumber mills to share the risk of worker rehabilitation. Now part of Liberty Mutual, the company recently announced a $50 million regional facility expansion. Wausau Window and Wall Systems and Linetec, both in the building materials industry, also trace their roots to the lumber industry, and have completed over $60 million worth of expansion and doubled the size of their workforce within the past five years, providing a strong foundation for continued economic development.

“Any resident, millennial or not, is looking for ways to connect with their community. Both businesses and residents are discovering that smaller cities can even be more responsive and creative than larger metros,” says Robert Mielke, mayor of Wausau. – (BPT)

To learn more about how the City of Wausau is attracting residents from big cities, visit www.wausome.org.

Top 10 Best U.S. Suburbs to Live in

 

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Home Innovations that Protect Against Moisture

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There is an insidious enemy that every homeowner dreads: moisture and the damage and degradation it can cause if left unchecked. Luckily, home improvement manufacturers have discovered new ways to prevent moisture from penetrating the home in the first place. With new home product innovations, there is no reason to suffer the costly and damaging effects of rain, snow or ice.

Unique fasteners add longevity to decks:

Innovative fastening methods can extend the life of your deck and provide a beautiful fastener-free surface that also stands up better to weather and moisture. Although there are several kinds of deck fasteners that conceal the fastener, edge fastening is the latest method. “With edge fastening, which delivers real screws into the edge of the deck boards with a series of unique guides and drill bits, fastener-related splitting and cracking can be eliminated,” said Greg Palmer, Director of Marketing at National Nail’s CAMO Edge Fastening. “This can add to deck life because moisture is not seeping into those cracks and splits, causing accelerated degradation.” He adds that the company has also expanded its warranty to cover the deck boards, as well as the screws. “Edge fastening works great for composite, PVC and all types of wood decks and creates a safer, fastener-free surface.”

Exterior cladding that resists moisture:

When searching for alternative exterior products that have beauty and curb appeal, make sure they repel moisture, especially near the foundation or near the gutters at the roof line. It is now possible to have the look of rich wood cedar shake or a variety of stone looks to cover foundations or to upgrade the ugly space under decks. New technology enables polymers to actually be stained or finished to be indistinguishable from the real thing. “There are new levels of realism in shakes that resemble true cedar,” said Ralph Bruno, president, Tando Building Products. “Beach House Shake” by Tando is an example of this superb realism — it installs easily and is impervious to moisture with little to no upkeep.” He adds that homeowners can keep moisture at bay and have luxurious exteriors without sacrificing beauty.

Protect your home in every season:

As if heavy spring rains and winter’s melt-off didn’t threaten homeowners’ properties enough, the hurricane season is expected to be more erratic than in years past — with a predicted early start and activity right into late fall. Thankfully, there are new, affordable technologies to quickly remove standing water from homeowners’ properties, keeping it away from their foundations. “Having both dependable sump pumps and multi-use pumps are the first lines of defense against storm damage,” said Jeremy Cantor, VP of Marketing for WAYNE Pumps. “One example is the innovative WaterBUG Submersible Water Removal Pump, which can remove large volumes of standing water quickly and easily from flat grassy yards, basement floors, and even tight spaces like window wells because it has both top and side water flow.” He emphasizes that having reliable multi-use and sump pumps in your home can save thousands of dollars in property damage and basement repairs.

Seal it or patch it to keep water out:

Water damage doesn’t have to happen, and by having the right caulks, sealants and hand tools, homeowners can easily do the job themselves and save on contractor costs. And, if moisture gets ahead of you, there are ways to repair the damage and prevent it from happening in the future. After winter, check windows, under door frames, gutter lines, concrete and other vulnerable areas that need sealing or patching. Very often, the simple act of sealing these areas with the right type of caulk can make a big difference in keeping out moisture. “One of the most popular sealants on the market is LIFETIME Ultra, which is a perfect solution for outdoor fix-ups after winter’s damage,” said Alan Crupper, VP of Marketing, Red Devil, Inc. He added that premium acrylics like this work very well and are paintable, unlike silicones. “You need a caulk that has a tight seal, won’t sag or crack no matter the temperature and especially for outdoors, one that adheres well to any surface.”

No matter the season, moisture can put your home and valuables at risk, so don’t delay in taking preventative action or repairing damage where it starts. With innovative new technologies on the market, you can easily protect your home from nature’s wrath. – (BPT)

Submersible Water Removal Pump

 

 

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A Smart Way To Buy A Home

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Are you considering buying a home? With mortgage rates on the slow and steady incline, there may be no better time for a home purchase than now. Mortgage interest rates will likely continue to go up for the foreseeable future, according to recent data from the housing finance company Freddie Mac. Many housing experts and industry observers agree.

What does this mean?:

If you are thinking about buying a home, it means don’t wait any longer. The overall cost of the purchase of a home in the future will only increase compared to the acquisition of a home of the same value today. Furthermore, rising interest rates impact housing inventory, as sellers might not be as interested in moving if it means paying a higher rate on a new mortgage. As a result, the dream home you see today might not be available next year.

The 20 percent down myth:

If you’ve put off buying your next home to save for the full 20 percent there is good news: you don’t need it. If you were unaware of this, you’re not alone. A recent survey found that among first-time homebuyers who obtained a mortgage, 80 percent made a down payment of less than 20 percent. While there are several low down payment mortgage options available, only one has a 60-year history of being a stable, smart way to get into a home: a conventional loan with private mortgage insurance (MI).

What is a conventional loan with MI?:

A conventional loan is a mortgage from a lender that is not entirely backed by the federal government. For qualified borrowers with a small down payment, private MI is required and typically paid monthly along with the mortgage payment. You can obtain this type of loan with as little as 3 percent down, though buying with a 5 percent down payment will result in a lower monthly payment.

There are other types of low down payment options that also include MI, such as the government-insured loans backed by the Federal Housing Administration (FHA). Unlike the premiums charged by FHA loans, private MI premiums can be canceled once 20 percent equity in home value is reached, and with private MI there are no upfront costs added onto a borrower’s initial down payment like there are with an FHA loan. This means your monthly bill decreases and you have extra money to spend on your family, vacations, retirement and any other needs.

Don’t sit on the sidelines and miss out on your dream home. To learn more about mortgage insurance compared to other low down payment options, visit LowDownPaymentFacts.org. – (BPT)

The Smart Way to Buy a Home

 

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6 Must-Know Kitchen and Bathroom Design Trends

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Many homeowners today wonder how they can turn their bathrooms or kitchens into something worthy of making the rounds on Pinterest or Instagram. As more people want to give their home a personal and stylish touch, home decorating and interior design is hotter than ever, and the possibilities are seemingly limitless.

The only problem is that making up your mind can be overwhelming. If you’ve ever tried to pick what shade of blue or tint of gray to paint a wall, you know that sometimes there are too many choices. With over 140 years of designing kitchen and bathroom products,  Kohler Kitchen & Bath tapped into a large brain trust of designers and product experts.

Here’s the 6 Leading Kitchen and Bath Design Trends for 2017:  

1. All in the mix. We all know patterns play a big role in how large a room appears and what features are accented or emphasized. For all the importance people place on patterns, many are inherently afraid of blending — or mixing — patterns. Be bold! When done right, this can create a vibrant, energetic space that does more for your room than if you were to play it safe.

2. Perfect pairs. Two of the most striking colors to appear in kitchens and bathrooms these days are velvety blues and vivid greens. Blues are timeless and can work well by themselves in most situations, but add a small dose of blood orange and you’ve created an infectious vibe to the room. Nothing makes as dramatic a statement as pairing two complementary colors.

3. A softer white. A traditional color for bathrooms and kitchens, white gives off a clean, bright aura. Nonetheless, the look can be a bit clinical. One way around this problem is to warm up the whites with a tone of brass, gold or bronze. Subtle touches on the cabinets or backsplash can create a warm ambiance that softens the look of an all-white space.

4. Keep it neutral. If you’re looking for fun, vibrant colors but aren’t ready to go all in, consider neutral shades such as icy blue, blush sand and other straight-from-nature shades. These are a lot more refreshing than the standard beige! Such transparent neutrals beautifully diffuse light and lend themselves to contrasting elements.

5. Amber Glow. The living room has expanded. Kitchens aren’t just for preparing food and bathrooms aren’t just for getting ready. People want a cozier, at-home feel for both these rooms. Top designers do this by adding a range of metallic fixtures coupled with smoky grays, a combination that creates a dramatic and welcoming room.

6. Noir. With the debut of black stainless steel appliances, black has made its way back to being a staple color in kitchens and bathrooms. Of late, the emphatic pairing of black and white has become the real showstopper. The idea here is to work with high contrast: think strong color-blocking patterns and heavy stripes. Two timeless colors will join to create a perfectly modern mixture.

To discover more ideas for your home visit ideas.kohler.com. Here you’ll find invaluable advice and inspiring fixtures to transform your bathroom into the room of your dreams. – (BPT)

30 Small Bathroom Design Ideas 2017

 

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Live-Edge Wood In Home Design

 

wooden kitchen top and table - home inspection miami

Helpful Information from your friends at  Atlantic Building Inspections

Live-edge hardwood, in which the sides of the slab are left unmilled to retain the natural profile of the tree trunk, is an increasingly popular decorative trend in today’s residential interiors. The technique is not only used for pieces of stand-alone furniture such as tables and benches but also for built-in elements like shelving, mantles, countertops, bars and kitchen islands.

 

“Most mills cut off the rough tree edges, turning the raw timber into neat boards,” says Linda Jovanovich, of the American Hardwood Information Center at www.HardwoodInfo.com. “But the current demand for live-edge slabs has led to a small but vigorous subset of producers who specialize in the category.” These are often boutique businesses that source, dry and mill limited batches of timber for use in furniture of their own design and manufacture.

 

“Some larger sawmills sell live-edge slabs to the public,” Jovanovich continues. “You visit their showroom and pick your own one-of-a-kind piece of ash, cherry, red oak, walnut or whatever other hardwood species they have in stock. A cabinet maker can then custom-make a piece of furniture or a built-in feature to your exact specifications.”

 

Sustainability-minded entrepreneurs are responsible for another niche in the live-edge hardwood market: small urban suppliers that source culled or fallen trees from the backyards of private homes, public parks, graveyards and other leafy locations in their city and its immediate environs. One such enterprise, RE-CO BKLYN in Brooklyn, New York, recently harvested four 12,000-pound logs from a 150-year-old storm-felled elm in nearby Prospect Park. The logs were taken to an upstate mill to be sawn into live-edge slabs and dried before being shipped back to Brooklyn, where they were either sold or used by RE-CO for tables, desks, bar counters, shelves, headboards and other beautiful custom-made pieces it produces.

 

“It was George Nakashima, the legendary Japanese-American mid-century furniture maker, who pioneered the use of live-edge slabs in refined residential settings,” says New York-based designer Glenn Gissler. “Previously, untrimmed wood planks, sometimes with the bark still intact, were used for rustic, log-cabin or ranch-house effects — elements that referenced the traditions, myths, and aesthetics of the American Old West. With his gorgeous large-scale pieces, comprising multiple slabs of characterful woods like walnut and cherry connected with butterfly joints, Nakashima showed us how unfinished natural edges and richly figured knotted surfaces fit perfectly into even the most sophisticated urban interiors.”

 

Today, original Nakashima pieces are highly collectible and command high prices at auction. But his free-edge aesthetic is more influential than ever as homeowners discover the ability of live-edge furniture to work with almost any decorative style. Paired with blackened steel legs, for example, a live-edge slab of burled walnut creates a dining table with loft-worthy industrial chic. Fixed to the bedroom wall, a free-form expanse of warm-toned cherry provides a romantic headboard. Or a hefty live-edge slab of oak, supported on an equally hefty oak-slab base, makes for a monumental console with the presence of a piece of archaic sculpture. New York-based designer Laura Bohn has even used the chainsawed cross-section of an elm trunk — complete with its bark — as a countertop on which to mount a stainless steel powder-room sink. “It introduces a decidedly rustic note into a thoroughly modern space,” she says. “And yet it looks perfectly natural as if it had just grown there of its own accord.” Visit www.HardwoodInfo.com for more about residential design trends and other applications and products using American hardwoods. – (BPT)

DIY Wooden Countertop

 

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A Room-By-Room Guide To Decluttering Your Home

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Controlling clutter in your home can be a challenge; 48 percent of Americans say their houses are cluttered with stuff they don’t use anymore, according to a survey by ClearVoice Research. Multiple studies have found a cluttered home can negatively affect your mental and physical health, while a cleaner home can make you feel happier and healthier.

A UCLA study found mothers in cluttered homes had higher stress levels while dealing with their stuff, while an Indiana University study found people with clean houses are healthier than those living in cluttered homes. You may realize clutter isn’t good for you, but it’s not always easy to get organized.

Here is a Room-by-Room Guide to Cutting the Clutter:

Entryway – Basic tactics:

* Decide what belongs in your entryway and what doesn’t. The size of the space will influence this decision. If your entryway is a spacious mudroom, you might choose to store shoes, boots, umbrellas, and backpacks there. If you have a modest foyer, you may decide you only have room for car keys. Remove anything from the space that doesn’t help it serve its purpose in your home.

* Add storage/organization that helps space meet its purpose. Wall-hung key racks can keep important keys at your fingertips. Shoe racks are available in a variety of sizes and styles to fit your space and décor while keeping footwear organized and off the floor.

* If space allows, adding built-in storage such as cabinets and shelves can help keep an entry space organized and visually appealing.

Family room – Basic tactics:

* Assess the kind of clutter that builds up in your family room. Perhaps your clutter consists of children’s toys, magazines, and newspapers, or multiple remote controls for entertainment components. Once you know what kind of clutter you’re collecting, decide if it belongs and must be accommodated, or doesn’t and should go.

* Add storage solutions specific to your needs. For example, storage ottomans can double as extra seating and a place to store frequently used toys. A caddy can keep remote controls organized and at hand.

* Sometimes furniture that’s too large for space can add to the feeling of a cluttered and congested room. Assess your family room furniture. Is it the right size for space, or is it overwhelming the area? Replace overly large furnishings with ones that better fit the room.

* If you have the room for it, a large shelving or cabinet unit can help contain clutter. Add decorative containers to help keep everyday items like toys, magazines and other frequently used items organized on shelves.

Bathroom – Basic tactics:

* Tackle the linen closet and trash any partial bottles of shampoo, tubes of toothpaste and towels that have seen better days. Be brutal. If you haven’t used that half bottle of body wash so far, chances are you never will.

* Clean out your medicine cabinet. Discarding expired prescription medicines can help reduce the risk of someone accidentally taking the wrong medication.

* Showers can be among the most cluttered spots in a bathroom. If you’re ready to take your bathroom organization to the next level, ditch the rack hanging from your showerhead and the precarious corner shelving and upgrade your shower to one with a built-in organization, like Sterling Store+ shower. The showers feature built-in recesses and tracks where you can snap in a variety of storage accessories and shelves, such as a soap dish, storage bin, towel bar or shower hook. The storage is fully customizable, and all accessories are removable and dishwasher safe. Visit www.sterlingplumbing.com to learn more.

Kitchen – Basic tactics:

* Countertops frequently host a wealth of kitchen-related clutter, from the mail you brought in yesterday and forgot to go through too small appliances you use once or twice a year. Clearing off countertops can make a kitchen feel visually more appealing, look bigger and function better. Remove and store rarely used small appliances, ditch the ceramic container of utensils and store those items in drawers instead.

* Pantries and Cabinets can be nearly as cluttered as countertops. Adding shelving and storage units within cabinets can help keep pots, pans, lids, and dishware better organized and more easily accessible.

* Some people need a bit of extra incentive to stay organized. If that’s you, consider replacing solid cabinet doors with glass ones that reveal what’s inside. Knowing the contents of your cabinets are always on display can help inspire you to keep them tidy and organized. Plus, glass-front cabinets are an opportunity to create an appealing visual display. – (BPT)

How To Declutter Your Home in 5 Easy Steps

 

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Repair or Replace? What To Do With A Worn-Out Cooling System

 

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Helpful Information from Atlantic Building Inspections

Sooner or later, every homeowner will face the same tough decision: Can you repair that malfunctioning system or appliance one more time, or is it finally time to replace it? Summer temperatures can heat up the repair-or-replace debate for homeowners living with an older cooling system.

To arrive at an answer, you must weigh numerous factors, including which option is more cost-effective over both the long- and short-term, how the existing or new system will affect the air quality of your home, and just how much reliability you require. Your decision can affect your wallet and the comfort of your home for years to come.

Guidelines  from The Heating and Cooling Systems Experts at Champion(R):

When you can still repair

Sometimes, it may be preferable to repair a minor problem than to replace a system. Your cooling system might still be a candidate for repair if:

* It’s less than 10 years old and/or is a high-quality, energy-efficient model.

* The repair is still covered under warranty, or you will be able to pay for the repair without financing the cost.

* The cost of the repair will be far less than the cost of replacement.

* You can reasonably expect the repair to solve your problem.

* Repairing the problem means that specific issue isn’t likely to reoccur throughout the system’s remaining lifespan.

When it’s time to replace

It can be much easier to recognize the signs that it’s time to replace a worn-out cooling system. They can include:

* A system that is 10 or more years old.

* Frequent and repeated repairs that are adding up to be very costly.

* Even after repairs and/or maintenance, the system still doesn’t adequately cool your home.

* Very high energy bills. Modern cooling systems are significantly more energy-efficient than older units.

* You can afford to finance a replacement, but can no longer afford to pay cash for repairs.

* The unreliability of the worn-out cooling system is affecting the comfort of your home and causing you to feel stress.

Replacing a cooling system

When you decide replacing a cooling system makes the most sense for your needs, you’ll need to start looking for a new system. Here are some points to keep in mind:

* Choosing an energy-efficient unit like the Champion(R) Momentum(TM) Variable Capacity Air Conditioner can greatly reduce energy bills while improving the comfort of your home. Refer to the system’s Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio (SEER) to get an idea of how much more energy-efficient the new unit is. Modern air-conditioning systems can be over 50 percent more efficient than ones manufactured a decade ago.

* It’s important to right-size your new cooling system. A system that is too small for your home won’t be able to deliver the desired comfort level and will use more energy working harder at maintaining cool temperatures. A system that is too large will also use more energy and may result in uneven cooling throughout the house. Your Champion dealer can provide a load calculation and energy analysis to help you determine the right size system for your home.

* Depending on the age of your home and your cooling system, you may have to repair or replace other elements, too. Have your home’s ductwork, insulation, refrigerant piping, electrical service, wiring, thermostat and other cooling system components inspected, too. Ensuring all the parts of the system are in top working order will help your new air-conditioning unit work at its best, too.

To learn more about the advantages of replacing a worn-out cooling system, what you should look for in a new system and where to find a dealer near you, visit www.championhomecomfort.com/repair. – (BPT)

HVAC: Repair vs Replace Your Heating and Cooling System

 

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Latest Deck Trend: ‘Monster’ Size, Mega-Luxury

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Move over mini — the new trend in decking is anything but small. When it comes to the size of their decks, the majority of Americans feel bigger is better — as multiple surveys indicate decks are getting larger and more luxurious, RealtorMag reports.

Today’s decks dwarf the outdoor spaces of decades ago, and blur the lines between indoor and outdoor spaces with features like full kitchens, dining and entertainment areas, says Kim Katwijk, owner of Deck Builders Inc. in Olympia, Washington. Katwijk is a 20-year  veteran of the deck-building business and co-producer of the upcoming web series Outdoors Outdone.

Sizable Changes:

Katwijk says the intersection of two major home trends is driving the growth of “monster” decks: homes are getting larger and outdoor living has reached mainstream status. Last year, more than half of all new homes were 2,400 square feet or larger, according to the U.S. Census Bureau’s “Characteristics of New Housing” report. In 1973, the average home size was 1,660 square feet. As homes grew, deck sizes have, too. RealtorMag reports one survey found that since 2014, the average deck size grew by 53 percent in the Northeast, to 406 square feet.

The Making of a ‘Monster’ Deck:

So what makes a deck project “monster”? Size, design, materials, and amenities all combine in this nationwide trend.

Size — “Monster” decks are big — really big. Mark Kalady, a decking sales manager for TAMKO Building Products, Inc., says he’s recently seen residential decks grow to 3,000 square feet. Depending on the amenities included, a deck 1,600-1,800 square feet could also be considered “monster.”

Kitchens/dining — Cooking and dining areas are among the most requested luxury features, deck builders say. Luxury grills, built-in pizza ovens and full-cook stoves and sinks are becoming more common.

Water/Fire — Fire and water features such as hot tubs, lap pools, fireplaces and fire pits are part of the trend of bringing the indoors out. These focal points serve as relaxation, exercise, and entertaining stations.

Seating — Katwijk says “conversational pits” designed specifically for extended entertaining allow deck-users to enjoy time together away from the cooking and dining areas.

Multi-story — “Monster” decks often include multiple levels, with each level serving a different theme or intended use, such as dining, conversation, swimming, etc.

Technology — Many of today’s larger decks include living room areas equipped with big-screen TVs, wireless speakers and gaming systems. But the technology used on monster decks can extend to retractable glass walls and skylights, and even the deck boards themselves. Katwijk says the technology behind man-made decking products like Envision composite lumber offers the luxury appearance of exotic woods, but with minimal annual maintenance.

“People want an environment where they can be outdoors, yet have all the creature comforts of their home — essentially creating a space where they can do all the things that they love,” Katwijk says. –  (BPT)

Building a Large Deck

 

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5 Tips To Protect Your Devices From Cybercrime

man checking a card online - home inspection miamiYour smartphone, your tablet, your computer – they are some of your most important and most used possessions. They are the daily tools you use for research, to connect with others and make purchases. You take them everywhere and fill them with your important, personal information.

And all of that makes them the perfect targets for a cyber attack.

The number of cybercrime incidents in the United States grows each year, and as Americans move into an increasingly digital society – thanks to smartphones, smart cars, and smart in-home technologies – cybercrime is expected to grow in frequency again in 2017. Protecting yourself, your family and the vital information on your devices means increasing your focus on your own cybersecurity. That starts with these five tips.

* Recognize you’re not immune. Cyber attacks increase in frequency and severity every year, so don’t make the mistake of believing it can’t happen to you. “It’s important to protect yourself by taking personal responsibility for your data; we can’t expect banks or other institutions to do it for us,” said Jim Karagiannes, Ph.D., professor in DeVry University’s College of Engineering & Information Services. “We lock our doors and take other security measures to protect our home and car. We need to also take precautions with our personal security and information.”

* Don’t store your username, password or credit card information with a website. The convenience makes it tempting, but websites are a popular target for cybercriminals because a successful hack gives them access to hundreds or thousands of files, including yours. Even storing this information on your own computer can expose it in a cyberattack, and if your credit card information is captured, criminals can use it to gather your social security number. That exposes you to identify theft. Keep this information off your devices and, instead, create complex passwords and write down all of your usernames and passwords on a piece of paper that you keep in a safe place, such as a deposit box.

* Use only a credit card, not a debit card, when making online purchases. Using your credit card instead of your debit card allows you to keep better track of the purchases you have made. It also limits the effects of any possible theft to just the one card instead of several. If you have no choice but to use a debit card for an online purchase, do not use your pin number online.

* If it feels like a trick, it probably is. Cybercriminals often engage in “social engineering” or other non-electronic methods to try and trick you into surrendering your data. If you get a phone call about a banking or credit card issue or if your computer tells you to call a number because it just caught a virus, be cautious. Do not divulge any personal history or credit card details. Hang up or ignore the computer-generated notices and call the customer service number of the institution’s website with any questions.

* Replace your existing credit cards with chip cards as soon as possible. Chip cards are becoming the new normal these days, and if your current credit card does not have a silver square chip on its front, consider replacing it quickly. Popularized in Europe, chip cards possess the necessary encrypted information to eliminate delays in the transaction process. Doing so closes the window criminals need to steal your personal information, thus protecting you from identity theft.

You have no intention of abandoning your devices, of course, so protect them. Following the tips above will help better secure your technology and personal information from the threats of cybercrime so you can enjoy your devices with greater peace of mind. – (BPT)

 

The Best Way to Prevent Cybercrime and Hacking Attempts

 

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