Posted by Betsy Graziano on 1/15/2018

If you're a homeowner or are planning to become one in the near future, hiring contractors to maintain and upgrade your home is a fact of life. Although older homes often need more TLC than newer ones, "newness" (like youth) can be a fleeting quality! Time passes quickly, and before you know it, your house needs a fresh coat of paint, landscaping improvements, or even wet basement solutions.

There may be times when you're tempted to accept the first estimate you're given for a home improvement project, but there are sound reasons for taking your time and choosing home contractors carefully and in a methodical way.

  • Saving money: It's not unusual for one home contractor to quote a price that is literally thousands of dollars more than the competition. While, on one hand, very low prices may be a sign of inferior quality, there is no guarantee that high prices assure superior quality. Fortunately, there are plenty of good contractors who charge competitive prices and make it their business to provide customers with exceptional value. If you get references, read online reviews, and make sure your prospective contractor has all the necessary insurance coverages, licenses, and relevant experience, then you'll be ready to make an informed decision based on quality, service, and pricing. Regardless of the caliber of a contractor's work, if you don't get at least two or three estimates, you'll always be wondering if they overcharged you. When you get multiple quotes, you'll never be plagued by that nagging question!
  • Getting helpful ideas: In addition to finding a qualified tradesman with solid expertise, project management skills, and competitive pricing, it also pays to choose one who offers innovative suggestions and creative ideas. By interviewing three contractors, you'll gain insights into their communication style, their overall attitude, and their willingness to provide helpful advice when needed.
  • Personality factors: After meeting with prospective contractors, you'll know which of the three you feel the most comfortable doing business with. Many home improvement projects can easily last between 3 days and a couple weeks, so you'll tend to be a lot more satisfied with a contractor who's courteous, punctual, above the board, friendly, professional, and customer-service oriented. If they seem annoyed with your questions or evasive in their responses, you can be reasonably sure there will be problems down the road in working with them -- possibly even quality assurance issues. If they tend to complain about other customers or berate their competition, then that is also a potential red flag.
Once you've received three project proposals and are able to compare "apples to apples," you're in a good position to choose the right contractor for your needs -- one who takes pride in their work, looks for solutions not problems, and provides a high level of customer value for a good price.





Posted by Betsy Graziano on 12/18/2017

In times of rising temperatures and growing concerns of climate change, many of us are looking for small ways we can make a difference in our everyday lives. What better place to start than your own home?

It can be overwhelming to plan drastic eco-friendly changes to your home. That’s why we’ve broken these tips down room-by-room so that you can make changes in just one area and then build from there. Starting small will help you see your environmentally-minded project through to the finish.

Read on for tips for each room of your home to make your life more eco-friendly.

Bedroom

We’ll start with a small and easy one: the bedroom. Odds are your bedroom isn’t hogging too much power or creating a lot of waste. However, there are a few small changes you can make that will help you save some money while helping out the environment.

If your bedroom tends to get chilly at night, try using insulating curtains to help keep the cool air from slipping in through the windows. Similarly, on hot days close the curtains at peak sunlight hours to keep the bedroom cool. This small change could save you from having to turn up the heat or air conditioner when you enter your room each night.

The next time you clean out your closet, bring your items to a local thrift store or charity drop-off. You can even ask for a receipt which will make your donation tax-deductible. This way your clothes can extend their lives and stay out of a landfill a bit longer, and you’ll be helping out someone who could use the clothing.

Kitchen

Kitchen appliances offer a lot of opportunity for energy and water waste. When shopping for appliances, seek out appliances that meet Energy Star standards.

When it comes to water, forego the plastic bottles and buy a glass or metal refillable water bottle. Tap filters can greatly improve the taste, and you might find after a few days that you don’t even notice the water tasting differently.

Consider composting kitchen scraps in a composting bin. You can later use this for fertilizing plants in your yard and garden. And, finally, be sure you’re recycling all of your empty food and beverage containers.

Living Room

Is your living room your entertainment center? If so, many of your devices, like cable boxes and streaming media devices, might continue running on “standby mode” wasting electricity. To prevent this, simply plug all of your devices into a power strip and turn it off at night.

Bathroom

Start by using refillable hand soap containers rather than buying a new one each time you run out. This will save you a lot of money in the long run and save you trips to the store as well.

If your hot water takes a long time to heat up and you find yourself running the tap often, consider installing a recirculating water pump in your bathroom.

House-wide improvements

To save on electricity throughout the house, make sure you’re using compact fluorescent bulbs and only keeping the lights on when you’re in the room.

When cleaning, try using non-toxic cleaners or making your own from solutions of water, vinegar, and citrus essentials. 





Posted by Betsy Graziano on 11/13/2017

Want to boost your home's value? Completing home improvement projects enables you to do just that, as you can perform these tasks regularly to maximize the value of your residence. So which home improvement projects should you prioritize? Here's a closer look at three important home improvement tasks that every home seller should consider: 1. Painting the walls. Picking up a can of paint and various paint supplies ensures you can revitalize the walls in any room of your home instantly. Over an extended period of time, the paint on your home's walls may start to chip or peel. However, adding a fresh coat or paint (or two) to your residence's walls serves as an inexpensive way to transform bland, unattractive walls into visually appealing ones. Devoting even a few hours to paint the walls of your home can help you boost your home's value. And ultimately, your new paint job may allow you to receive multiple offers at or above your asking price, too. 2. Installing a water filtration system. Does your kitchen have a water filtration system? If not, you could be missing out on a golden opportunity to increase your residence's value. A water filtration system offers multiple benefits, as it ensures a homebuyer won't necessarily have to worry about buying bottled water if he or she purchases your residence. Plus, this system is one of many features that may help differentiate your home from others in a highly competitive real estate market, thus making your residence that much more appealing to homebuyers. Installing a water filtration usually is fast and easy as well. Furthermore, you won't have to worry about breaking your home improvement budget to complete this project. 3. Cleaning up the front lawn. High grass and weeds will damage your home's curb appeal and may significantly reduce your chances of a quick sale. On the other hand, spending some time mowing the lawn, raking leaves and performing other essential front lawn care tasks can deliver long-lasting benefits. A clean front lawn likely is one of the first things a homebuyer will notice about your home. And home sellers who are committed to maintaining a pristine front lawn can improve their home's value and their chances of a quick sale. Also, maintaining your front lawn can be easy if you spend even an hour per day performing yard work. Or for those who want to avoid lawn work altogether, professional landscapers typically are available that can keep your front lawn in great shape until your home sells. As a home seller, you'll want to take the necessary steps to up your home's value before you add your home to the real estate market. And with any of the aforementioned home improvement projects, you'll be better equipped to boost the value of your home quickly and efficiently. Stay focused on increasing your home's value consistently and keeping your residence in excellent shape. By doing so, you'll be able to keep your eyes on the prize – maximizing your home's value and selling your residence to the highest bidder.





Posted by Betsy Graziano on 10/16/2017

When you stop and think about it, there are a lot of aspects of our lives that need continual organizing. The ideal scenario is to set up an organizing system when you first move into a new home, and then maintain it on a daily or weekly basis. Unfortunately, many people wait to organize their closets, pantries, or home offices until those areas are in a state of utter chaos. By then, the clutter has taken on a life of its own! Not only is it difficult to find things you're looking for, but your frustration can spill over into other aspects of your life. Kitchen Organizing Tips Being organized is the bedrock of a well-managed life. While it's far from a panacea, the results of organizing your home and work space can be far reaching. Take your refrigerator, for example. How many times has perfectly good food been wasted because it was pushed back into a corner and forgotten about until it turned into a "science experiment"? Although refrigerators are designed with organization in mind, it's all too easy to throw vegetables in the meat drawer and haphazardly wrap up leftovers without labeling them. As a side note, if you write the current date on the label, you'll be able to keep track of how long it's been in the fridge and whether it's time to throw it away. (Note: The U.S. Department of Agriculture advises that cooked leftovers be used within four days. Its food safety "window" for raw poultry and ground beef is even shorter: only one or two days.) Whether your goal is to organize your refrigerator, kitchen cabinets, bedroom closets, or garage, the benefits are worth the time and energy. Before getting started, though, it's helpful to make a trip to a local office supply outlet, kitchen retailer, or dollar store to pick up an assortment of small containers, canisters, drawer dividers, a marking pen, and labels. The Benefits of Organizing Your Home Getting started is the hardest aspect of home organizing, but there are many sound reasons for taking the initiative:

  • Improving the appearance of your home rewards you with a sense of accomplishment and a feeling of personal satisfaction.
  • When you organize closets, cabinets, or other storage areas, you'll stumble upon things you thought you misplaced or lost, long ago.
  • You'll get rid of miscellaneous junk and clutter, which will free up space for things you want to save, refer to, or use in the near future.
  • Organizing your household supplies, tools, and kitchen accessories will also prevent you from having to buy replacement items that you already have. Knowing where things are will save you time, money, and aggravation!
Maintaining a Semblance of Order Getting your family to clean and organize their own rooms and work spaces is a separate challenge, but setting a positive example is one of the first steps. In the case of children, clear expectations need to be set and daily routines established. When all else fails, bribery has been know to work, too!