Making Your Basement More Than Just Leftover Space

The February, 2011 edition of Qualified Remodeler offers a variety of insightful tips for making better use of your basement’s space:

Basements often are just leftover space.  Builders don’t usually think about the most efficient way to use that space, putting the HVAC, plumbing and electrical components wherever they happen to be expedient.  As a result, “prime real estate” may be taken up by things you want stored away.  Depending on your budget and your desire to optimize the space, you may opt for moving these things into a smaller mechanical room or designing around their presence.  In either case, getting the mechanical equipment out of the way is just the start.  Here are a few other tips for providing the lower level of your home with a face-lift:

In many cases, ceiling height may be an issue.  If the finances permit, you have the option of lowering the floor.  It isn’t your only option, however.  You can “open up” a tight space by uplighting the ceiling to gain the appearance of height.  Additionally, light colored walls and ceilings tend to project the illusion of a bigger space.

Appropriately positioned lighting can also be utilized to throw light into dark pockets or corners.  Mirrors are good options as well, but be cautious of their impact to the entire interior design.  Make sure to put them in areas where light is most abundant.

Instead of using solid wooden doors for your entrance door leading into the basement, consider a design that has glass fixed into it.  Not only does this provide more light, but it also prevents someone from being slammed while going up the basement steps.

Building drawers into the space beneath a staircase provides storage space away from the rooms themselves.  A corner or a recessed section of the basement can be closed off with sliding doors, providing a quick and easy fix for keeping the general area clutter-free.

It may be pointing out the obvious to say that the basement in the lowest point in your home, but this is a fact to keep uppermost in your mind when designing and furnishing the area. Select materials that are waterproof!  Make sure your basement is made of tiles or vinyl to facilitate easier clean-up, should the need arise.

Most importantly, think of your basement as another room in your house rather than just a dark, dank storage area.  As Elizabeth Emerson of E/L Studio in Cheverly, Maryland states it, “It’s really the base of the tree, and everything needs to come down cleanly into it.”

from the original article by Kenneth W. Betz

Useful Remodeling Ideas – BEFORE You Get Started!

home remodeling ideasHome remodeling can be done for function or just because the house needs a new look, or a combination of the two. The focus of home remodeling for most homeowners is usually the kitchen or the bathrooms because those are the rooms that add the most value to a home and can become outdated more quickly. Just as in fashion, home décor goes through fads, and typically if bathrooms and kitchens have not been remodeled for ten years or more, it’s obvious!

How many times have we heard the jokes about the ambitious do-it-yourself homeowner who starts project after project, only to stop in the middle and not finish any one of them? Usually the weekend warrior runs out of time, or perhaps money, or maybe he or she realizes that much more has been bitten off than can possibly be chewed. The results are evident – half-finished paint jobs that leave some walls in one color while others sport another; flooring has been exposed but never finished; kitchen cabinets are leaning against the wall yet will not be anchored in for weeks or perhaps months. Sadly, many a homeowner neglected to receive some sound remodeling tips prior to embarking on their tasks. To this end, here are some tips and tricks that will you to get off to a good start, before you actually pick up your checkbook or your tools!

One of the first remodeling tips that are usually neglected is the fact that it should have a general appeal. Granted, this may be common sense, yet it is astounding how many homeowners add or take away from their homes in such a way that a future sale is compromised. While the homeowner may think that a purple bathroom with yellow handprints is just darling, the potential buyer who tours the house two years down the line will probably wrinkle his nose at this décor faux pas. In the same way, if you decide to add on to your home, do it with an eye on the investment potential. In other words, do not do a half-fast job yourself, but instead pull the proper permits and hire licensed contractors to at least take a look before the building inspector stops by.

Experts have a tool box full of different small bathroom remodeling ideas, but most can be grouped into two categories: creating light and creating visual space. The illusions of space and light complement each other and expand a small space. Anyone who has tried to apply makeup in a small dark room knows how important light is, and it’s created in a variety of ways, both natural and artificial. Natural light comes from windows, skylights, and any other opening that allows sun into the space. Whenever possible, windows should be left uncovered or only lightly covered by a filmy white or light-colored window covering. Paint colors from the cool end of the color spectrum reflect and enhance natural light, as do mirrors and light-colored flooring. Even a light-colored, inexpensive rug used to cover a dark floor can brighten up a space. Artificial light, originating from ceiling lights, wall sconces or lamps, can also brighten a space when employed artfully. Recessed lighting, which creates the illusion of space as well as light, could also be a viable option for you. Just be sure to use artificial light that is bright without being oppressive. Look in your home and garden store for special bulbs that can be used to effectively diffuse the light.

Other remodeling tips include the popularity versus functionality of a desired item, as well as value for the items. For example, just because recessed lighting is the latest fad, it may not be the lighting of choice for the bathroom where it may create dark spots and shade in undesirable areas. In addition to the foregoing, the value of the items purchased should remain intact, thus adding value to the home rather than simply costing money. Thereafter it is a smart idea to do a bit of research to see where home decorating trends are headed. Some old time favorites, such as ceiling tiles or even marble counter tops, are becoming a thing of the past, and if you are wondering about adding value to your home it is best to decorate with the market in mind. Naturally, not all homeowners will look to sell their properties within the next few years or until after the next remodel, yet this rule of thumb is certain to add value to the biggest investment you will ever make rather than just drain the bank account.

Hopefully these remodeling tips have added a little bit of common sense to the mix of weekend projects and large undertakings, and the next time you contemplate a project, please be sure to think it through from beginning to end before your jump into the car to head to the local big box store for supplies!

by Michael Johnson

Garage Makeover

clean out and organize your garageIf your garage houses everything but your car, perhaps it’s time to consider cleaning out and reorganizing. Making space for projects, hobbies and storage extends your living space. For some, the garage is the biggest room in the house; why not make it more livable?

From sports equipment, lawn and gardening tools, seasonal decorations and cherished relics that you can’t part with, a roomful can be overwhelming — especially when considering the decision to toss or keep.

Realistically, if you organize everything, you may not have to get rid of anything. This is an opportunity to get the treasure off the floor and out from behind the door. With a step-by-step process you can create an organized, usable garage space and create storage.

Pick a nice day so you can use the driveway to begin organizing. Separate things into piles by group: sports gear, hand tools, fix-it supplies, yard paraphernalia and a junk pile. “Junk” being those things that you’ve hung onto that you “might use someday.” Consider how many years it has gathered dust and toss or donate it to your local charity. The tax savings from your donation might even help pay for your garage make over.

Once you have everything in its respective pile, look at your garage space. Now that you have empty walls and floor space, you can put everything back and hope it stays nice, right? Wrong! You wouldn’t leave pots and pans on the kitchen floor, why leave valuable equipment on the garage floor? Add cabinetry with shelving, drawers and doors to store things properly.

Adding cabinets also creates counter space for woodworking, fixing the car, potting plants or whatever your interest dictates. Modular cabinets can be arranged in and around your large items, like the refrigerator, ride-on lawn mower or band saw to create a space for everything.

Adding cabinetry is more than organization, it’s about lifestyle. You’re taking the most cluttered part of your home and customizing it to create a finished extension of your square footage and adding to your home’s value. The professional craftsmen at Handyman Matters can handle all of the cabinet and storage installation in your new garage space.

Once your garage becomes a clean, organized space you can also use it for garage entertainment. Hang a flat-screen TV and sound system to enjoy football games and work on your project at the same time and have fun in your garage.

Certain companies make heavy duty cabinetry specifically to handle heavy tools, machines and rough conditions typical of the garage. With their unique hanging system, the cabinets don’t sit on the floor so they are level and easy to clean under. Make sure when installing your cabinets that you have done your homework on pound load capacity. Our craftsmen can make the appropriate recommendations for materials and storage that will handle the items you store in your garage.

Once you find how nice it is to utilize your garage space, think about the basement, laundry room, mud room or other space where stuff gathers dust. Handyman Matters can handle all of your home repair and update needs. Springtime is the best time to start cleaning out and updating your home, call 866-FIX-MY-HOME (866-349-6946) to find a location near you.

12 Steps To “Going Green” In Your Home

go green at homeIt’s easy to talk a good game about going green, but not always as easy to walk that talk.  But here, with the assistance Dan Fritschen, the owner of remodelormove.com and a practiced hand at implementing reasonable ways to be greener at home, is a list of easy-to-implement practices and products for reducing your home’s carbon footprint:

  1. Don’t rebuild or remodel from scratch without considering re-purposing what you already have on hand.  Remember to weigh disposal costs and landfill burden.  In the case of cabinets, for example, re-face, don’t replace.  When possible, use other’s cast-offs.  Check out www.freecycle.org to find everything from free cabinets to windows to light fixtures.
  2. Choose sustainable or recycled materials when updating floors.  Farmed oak, bamboo and cork all offer greener, comparatively affordable flooring choices.  Tiles made of ground-up discarded porcelain sinks and toilets also look better than you’d think.
  3. Use Low-VOC paints. These have fewer volatile organic compounds and are easier on the planet.  Also, you won’t get a paint headache while using them.
  4. Opt for green sheets. Linens made of organic cottons are usually pesticide-free.
  5. Save water with every flush. This is an oldy-but-a-goody, and well worth remembering.  If you don’t have a low-flow toilet, then put a brick in your toilet tank.
  6. Consider motion-sensitive lights or put outdoor lights on timers.  Even better, install solar lights outside.  These soak up the sun’s rays all day and give them back at night.
  7. Put dimmers on light switches. For every ten percent you dim the light, you save the same amount in electricity and you double the life of the bulb.  If you dim by 50 percent, you cut your lighting bill in half and extend the bulb’s life five times.
  8. Switch disposable for reusable. Use cloth instead of paper towels and napkins, and washable plastic containers instead of disposable plastic bags for lunch.
  9. Be a borrower and a lender. If you’re going to need a tool or a piece of equipment only once or temporarily, borrow or rent it.
  10. Look for Energy-Star rated appliances. They save on energy bills and are easier on the environment.
  11. Buy antiques or secondhand furniture. The world has enough stuff.  Let’s fix it up and pass it around.

What Do You Want In A Kitchen?

..it depends on when you were born.

A 2011 survey conducted by Masco Cabinetry of Taylor, Michigan yielded some interesting results.

The company surveyed 1,027 households among homeowners, aged 18 to 65 with the assistance of Harris Interactive. It turns out that, while there are a number of features desired by just about everyone of any age when it comes to the ideal kitchen, there are also some marked differences.

Everyone—Baby Boomers, Generation X-ers, and Generation Y-ers, favor an open floor plan, something with wider walkways and easy access to everything. The reasons may be slightly different, however. Baby Boomers are seeking easier mobility, whereas Generation X-ers appreciate uncluttered space.

Generation X-ers, born between 1966 and 1978, like to have a computer near the kitchen, enabling them to attend to cooking while simultaneously having access to their social-media accounts and, when necessary, answering homework questions.

Generation Y-ers, those born between 1979 and 2002, want a kitchen that meets the needs of a household with small children, like high chairs and such.

X-ers rely on friends for advice more than any other group, while Y-ers look to the internet for advice, so a kitchen design for older groups (X-ers and Baby Boomers) is likely to come by way of friends or facilities they’ve seen in other homes.

X-ers prefer taller (bar height) tables, while Baby Boomers are transitioning to a preference to standard-height tables.

All groups appreciate both organization and easy access to supplies and utensils, but the definition of “easy access” varies from group to group. Baby Boomers want things within quick reach, whereas X-ers prefer creative places for hiding small appliances, rather than having them on countertops or in plain view. Y-ers have a preference for pull-out drawers and, interestingly, want a specific location delineated for spices, in particular.

So, taken as a whole, what relevance do these facts provide?  Well, it’s believed that building and design professionals who have a strong understanding of solutions that meet clients’ multigenerational needs will be more likely to have in creating kitchens for universal living.

Info compiled from ‘Multigenerational Kitchens’ article by Sarah Reep, Qualified Remodelers Magazine.

When it Comes to Windows and Doors, Play it Safe!

Window and Door SafetyBelieve it or not, windows and doors can present potential hazards in your home. According to the National Centers for Disease Control, up to one-third of home accidents can be prevented with modifications and repairs. The following are recommendations for window and door universal design elements to help ensure safety in your home:

  • Doorways and hallways should be a minimum of 36 inches wide.
  • Place doors to allow for 18 to 24 inches clearance on the door handle side to easily open and close doors.
  • Door thresholds should be no more than 1/2 inch high above the adjacent floor. If you prefer, install mini-ramps or transition wedges.
  • Door locks should be sturdy yet easy to operate. Consider keyless locking systems for maximum convenience.
  • Install a pocket door if you don’t have the floor space necessary for a hinged door.
  • Select front doors with a view panel to make it easy to see who’s arrived at your door.
  • For added privacy on sidelights and patio doors, consider options like the cordless between-the-glass blinds and shades on Pella’s Designer Series sidelight collection so that you can enjoy a view and still conveniently cover the opening at desired times.
  • Make sure windows are easy to unlock, open, close and lock, and require minimal maintenance.
  • For greater safety and convenience, select double-hung windows that tilt in for easy cleaning, or casement units that open with the maximum clearance to allow easy access to both the exterior and interior glass surfaces from inside the building.

Your home houses what is most important – your family! Keep them safe by following these helpful tips, and don’t forget, if you need assistance making these modifications and updates to your house, your local Handyman Matters is just a phone call away. 866-FIX-MY-HOME.

Replacing Window Treatments

Changing window treatments isn’t something you do all the time. It’s one of those rare home remodeling events like getting new floors or upgrading the kitchen, which usually only happens because you are either moving somewhere new or something broke apart. Maybe you have even been responsibly saving to make changes for a while and finally gathered enough funds to get it all done now. In any case, you should take some time to plan this project and make the most of your investments.

How you go about adding new window treatments will depend largely on your own situation and whether you’re moving into a new place that has bare windows or if you’re redecorating those found in your current home. Either way, and especially if you want to keep the same look that your old windows had, be sure to take photos before and after you take down the window coverings, even if they aren’t in the best shape. If you’re working with the same windows, it’s also a good idea to take the measurements of your drapes or blinds along with the actual window measurements for reference. Take the photos and measurements with you to a local window treatment or home furnishings store to find replacements more easily. You might also want to bring a sample of the fabric you’re intending to match or a cutout from a magazine that you like for inspiration.

Aside from the design and appearance there are a few other important things to consider when selecting your replacement window treatments.

Lighting

The main purpose of any window covering is to block light, but also to allow light through, and depending on the fabric or style of window treatment you choose you’ll be able to adjust the amount of natural light that comes in through the window. You also have different options depending on which part of the house you’re working on. If the room is on a side where windows are naturally covered on the outside by trees or another building or if they face away from direct sunlight, you should be able to simply use thin semi-translucent sheer drapery to cut back the glare. On the other hand, if the windows are receiving direct sunlight at any point of the day, it will be much better to use a thicker and darker colored drape instead for better room darkening and energy efficiency. This is also generally what you’ll want in your bedroom to ensure a comfortable and private sleep environment. Living rooms and kitchens tend to benefit from lighter window treatments that help illuminate the spaces, but still provide privacy. If you can afford it, the best practice is always to pair a dark heavier drape with a light sheer one behind it to have better light control.

Operation

Window shades and blinds are commonly operated by a cord and clutch, and often a continuous cord loop system, to raise and lower a shade or open blinds. However, there are other options that might be better for operating your new window treatments.

  • Cordless Control One thing you should consider very carefully regarding window treatment operation is the safety of children. Whether you have a family or are planning to have children in your home at some point, you need to be aware of the risks involved with window cords. There have been numerous accidents involving babies and young children who have become entangled in window cords and tragically strangled to death. There is a documented history of these incidents over the past 20 years and subsequent industry recalls and modifications, but the safest solution remains to use cordless window treatments. Simple curtains, sliding panels and shutters are good alternatives that don’t require any cords to operate. However, if you’re intent on having blinds or shades, these are also available with manual or wand options instead of cords.

 

  • Motorization A motorized shade system is also cordless and allows you to wirelessly control any number of shades, blinds or curtains by wall panel switch or remote. This can be a more expensive option, but the benefits of ease and convenience are great, especially when controlling multiple or large hard to reach windows. Motorized shades like any home automation component may also help add value to your property if you ever plan to sell or rent it.

 

Evaluate what will benefit each of your rooms and consider all the options available for lighting control and window covering operation. Preparing and planning for your home renovations like this will save time in the long run and ensure they will be a long lasting part of your home.

Four Fast, Fashionable And Fabulous Home Fixes Anyone Can Do

When it comes to home improvement, there are many simple projects that can dramatically update your home and stay within a tight budget. The bathroom is one area of the home that most wish was more of an oasis – it’s time to get the space you’ve always wanted with the professional help of Handyman Matters.

Vamp up your vanity

Just by its name, the bathroom vanity should exude beauty to make a style statement in your bath. However, if your current vanity features chipped paint or a dated color – it’s time for an update. Rather than buying new, you can easily make your current vanity look clean and fresh with a coat of paint. You pick out the paint that you want and the professional craftsmen at Handyman Matters will paint it for you and have it looking like new in no time. This is one fast update that will give dramatic results!

Don’t fear your faucet

We use it all the time in our bathrooms so why shouldn’t it be in style like the rest of the bathroom? It is very easy to replace and will give you that look you’ve been wanting. There are many designs and color finishes to choose from so pick one that suits your style and compliments the colors. Handyman Matters will take care of the rest!

Swap out your showerhead

Changing out the showerhead will not only increase the look of your bathroom, but will make a big difference when showering. Having the right showerhead can make your bathroom feel like a true oasis!

All about the accessories

One of the easiest ways to add a decorative touch and functionality to the bath is with accessories, such as towel bars, towel rings, robe hooks, tank levers, shelves, soap and toothbrush holders and even curved shower rods. Luckily, accessories are simple to install and there are many lines available to perfectly match or complement your new faucet style and finish. If you’re having trouble getting those towel rods mounted – call the pros at Handyman Matters to help you out.

Conserve Water In Your Home With Minimal Effort


Summer is just around the corner, and water conservation will undoubtedly be brought to the forefront for those who are impacted by seasonal droughts and water usage restrictions in their towns. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), at least 36 states anticipate local, regional or statewide water shortages by 2013, even under non-drought conditions.

Simply by making small changes around the house and to our daily routines, we can make a significant impact on our water supplies without feeling as though we’re sacrificing our comforts or experience.

A good place to start is with the home bathroom, where the water-saving potential is great. The EPA estimates that Americans use roughly 3.3 billion gallons of water each day just for showering. Handyman Matters believes it’s easy to bring that number down by taking a slightly shorter shower or using a water-saving showerhead.

It seems to be abundant, but water is a relatively scarce resource. Less than 1 percent of the world’s fresh water is readily accessible for direct human use. Here are a few tips that Handyman Matters professionals have put together for you to follow in order to help reduce your water consumption in the bathroom:

  • Install a water-efficient showerhead. By installing a water-efficient showerhead, the average four-person household can potentially save an estimated 11,000 gallons of water per year. Here’s an example:
    • 8-minute shower x 2.5 gallons per minute (standard showerhead) = 20 gallons used per shower.
    • 8-minute shower x 1.5 gpm (water-efficient showerhead) = 12 gallons used per shower.
    • 8-gallon savings x 4 people per day x 365 days yields approximately 11,680 gallons of water savings per four-person household, per year
  • Fix a leaky faucet. According to the EPA, a leaky faucet dripping at the rate of one drip per second can waste more than 3,000 gallons per year.
  • Learn to reuse and recycle. Don’t pour water down the drain when there may be another use for it, such as watering plants or cleaning.
  • Turn off the water. According to the EPA, a bathroom faucet usually runs at 2 gallons of water per minute. By turning off the water while brushing your teeth or shaving, you can save more than 200 gallons of water per month.
  • Take showers instead of baths. The average bathtub can hold up to 70 gallons of water when full. By taking an 8-minute shower instead of a bath, each person can save approximately 50 gallons of water per day.
  • Switch to a high-efficiency toilet. A high-efficiency toilet uses less than 1.3 gallons per flush, leading to an average of 20 percent less water per flush when compared to the industry standard of 1.6 gallons.

In March 2010, the EPA established its WaterSense specifications for showerheads to promote water efficiency in the shower, and product performance and quality. To earn the WaterSense designation, a showerhead or handshower must flow at a rate of no more than 2.0 gpm, tested at a flowing pressure of 80 psi, and is tested against the following attributes to ensure performance and user satisfaction:

  • A consistent flow rate across a range of pressures
  • Spray force
  • Spray coverage

As the world’s population increases, the conservation of water has moved from being more than just a good idea; now it is an imperative. Handyman Matters professional craftsmen can help you take some of these water conserving tips and apply them to your home. Click here to find a location near you and information on kitchen and bathroom updates and remodels that include water-sensible features and fixtures.

How To Keep Your Yard and Garden Primed Throughout The Growing Season


spring flower gardenEven though spring is upon us, there are still a variety of things you can do to keep your garden and yard primed for the growing season and into the summer. Your house isn’t the only place that needs a good spring cleaning; the exterior of your home could use it as well. Grab a notepad and take a walk through the vicinity, making notes here and there. Not only is this a great way to organize your “attack” on the ground, but it’s an opportunity to get out in the fresh air, get a little exercise, and anticipate the summer days ahead.

Here are some things you can tackle right now:

Shrubs and Trees

Prune off broken or cracked branches damaged in winter. You can tackle damaged twigs with pruners, but those branches that are 2 inches in diameter or larger need to be removed in sections so that the weight doesn’t tear the bark as they fall.

Perennials

Dig up and divide perennials that were getting too large last year. Signs that these had “outgrown” their livings space include reduced flowering, pale, off-color leaves, or smaller, puny stems. Break apart root-clumps using a knife or shovel blade and then replant smaller, healthy sections. If these are spring bloomers (tulips, iris, etc.), wait until they’ve finished flowering. Late summer bloomers can be divided and replanted by April.

Seed Heads

Snip the stalks and dried seed heads from plants left from last autumn. Remove these and dead leaves so that overwintering insects and disease aren’t a problem. Clip the stalks about two inches above the sleeping foliage.

Roses

Rose bushes are a class unto themselves, and they aren’t “one size fits all.”  All need pruning, but know your rose-types. Keep in mind that the timing is crucial, because trimming will stimulate new growth, leaving the plants vulnerable to subsequent frosts. If your rose flowers just once a year, then it’s best to wait until the blooming is done to do your pruning. Clip the branches at a 30- to 45-degree angle, and do so a quarter of an inch above a live bud.

Ornamental Grasses

Use caution when cutting these down. Wear eye protection, long sleeves and gloves. Most ornamental grass leaves are finely toothed and readily able to cut unprotected hands and fingers. A good technique for trimming is to wrap a bungee cords tightly around the grass so that it lifts the leaves up high, resembling a sheaf of wheat. Then prune by lopping the grasses about six inches from the ground. Hand pruners or a small saw will work well for this.

Lawn

Corn gluten can be an effective pre-emergent weed killer and also serves as a nitrogen fertilizer for your grass. Apply this two to four weeks ahead of  the typical weed-emergent dates in your area. Use a core aerator to punch 3-inch deep holes in the lawn to fill in bare spots in the grass and reduce thatch, then use a drop spreader to spread grass seed immeidately after the aerating. Sprinkle your lawn with water every day for several weeks until the seeds sprout.

These are a few handy tips for “pre-preparing” your yard and garden for the spading, tilling and planting that will follow, and will make those steps of the process easier for having paved the way with some organized spring cleaning first. And of course, if yardwork and gardening isn’t exactly your thing, keep in mind your local Handyman Matters location. We’re happy to help out.