All posts by words4less

Choosing the Right Roofing for Your Style

Home and Greenery

When it comes to roofing your home, there are several different styles and options to choose from. What is your preferred style? Do you have a color preference? Does your home have a certain design element, such as modern, cabin style, or pueblo style? Having a particular roofing style in mind can help you to limit your choices when selecting a new roof. Here are some things you need to know about different roofing styles, and how to choose one that best suits your home.

Design a Look
Before you start looking at composition, laminate, or metal roofing, first, you need to determine what your design style is. One thing to consider is the curb appeal of your home. Do you want to install a new roof that will boost curb appeal? As you look through the various selections available for roofing, you need to determine the color, roofing style, and how long you want the roof to last. A pueblo-styled home, for example, will look best with clay tiles, compared to wood shakes or composite shingles. However, a cabin-styled home will look best with wood shakes or shingles versus clay tiles or metal roofing. Understanding the style of your home will make it easier to begin browsing for the correct roofing materials.

Composition Roofing
Many people select composition roofing because it comes in a variety of colors and styles. Composition roofing is normally called asphalt shingles, and it is one of the cheapest roofing materials available. The other positive benefit to asphalt shingles is they are easy to install and repair. Modern asphalt shingles will help to protect against the sun, which reduces energy costs. You can create a unique design style with composition roofing by selecting two or three different colors of shingles and alternating them. The originality of this design will make your house stand out from the rest. When selecting asphalt shingles, remember, the thicker the shingle, the longer it will last. Composition roofing choices can vary in price, but they average about $50 per square, plus installation costs.

Wood Roofing
While choosing to use wood for a roof can help reduce energy costs, it can also require more effort on your part to maintain the roof. Wood shingles and shakes made for the home normally come from redwood, pine, and cedar. This roofing style will need to be maintained properly to protect the home from leaks. The other concern with wood roofing is pest infestations. Certain bugs can burrow in the wood, and you can have troubles with rodents. Proper treatment of the wood is the best way to prevent problems with these pests. You will need to spray the wood shingles with waterproofing treatments as they start to age. The great thing about wood roofing is how unique it is. It can drastically change the look of your home, and thanks to the way wood breathes, it will help to keep your energy costs lower. Wood roofing can last upwards of 25 years with proper maintenance. The average cost of wood roofing ranges from $100 per square, plus installation costs.

Metal Roofing
If you want to choose roofing that is fire-resistant, energy reducing, and long lasting, opt for metal roofing. Metal roofs can reflect the sunlight, helping to reduce energy bills, as heat won’t be absorbed into the attic. Metal roofing can come in large sheets, or you can select smaller shingles. Metal roofing will last upwards of 40 years, and you can choose various paint options. Paint can help your roof to match the color of your home. Select a higher-grade metal like steel or copper over aluminum, as aluminum can dent in a hailstorm. Metal roofing also varies in price, but it averages $100 or more per square, plus installation costs.
Hosuse with Gate
Meeting with a Roofer
While three roofing selections above are the most common, it is important to meet with a quality roofing company to help you create a design style that best suits your home. If you want to use the composition roofing materials, but are unhappy with the colors, consider special ordering shingles. Obtaining the right color can make your home a stand out in the neighborhood. Certain colors are easier to obtain for roofers than others, so you can end up spending more if you want an uncommon color. The other thing to consider when choosing shingles is the neighborhood. Do you want your home to blend in with the others, or would you like your home to stand out? A good roofer can help you evaluate your options to find the correct roofing style to match your home and personal design.

This article was written by Jared Miert, home improvement blogger, hubby and dad.  If you are looking for a new roof or just a quick repair, click here.

Awesome Driveway Designs

Driveway and Gate

Driveways are often overlooked when it comes to home decoration, but they shouldn’t be. When you or a visitor arrives at your house, the very first thing visible is the driveway; and, as the saying goes, you only get one chance to make a good first impression. As such, for anyone caring about the appearance of their home, the driveway is a perfect place to begin decorating, designing, or improving. A driveway offers countless opportunities for artistic creativity, as well as self-expression. You can make your driveway uniquely you, completely unlike any other in your neighborhood or city, while still being gorgeous and functional. Here are a few awesome driveway designs:

Landscape the surrounding area
Perfect for long driveways, landscaping near the sides can enhance your driveway’s beauty. From flowers to bushes to trees, you can turn the area on either side of your driveway into a fairy tale nature haven that makes you feel like you are driving into a beautiful, exotic, and secretive garden every time you come home. There are few better ways to make your home classy, beautiful, and mystical than by properly landscaping the area around your driveway.
 
Beautify your concrete
One of the best ways to make a gorgeous and yet classy driveway is to go for the beautified concrete look. From different designs to various shapes and colors, the myriad possibilities presented to you with concrete beautification make it possible for you to create a driveway perfect for you, and completely unique to you. When your friends come over, they’ll be treated to a driveway unlike any they have ever seen before. Plus, the look of beautified concrete is modern, upscale, and artistic.

Plant in the median strip
One of the most unique driveway designs is the median strip garden. Simply by having the median strip (the middle part of the driveway, between the tires) lower than the rest of the driveway, you can create an entire garden impervious to the bottom of your car when you come and go. You’ll enjoy seeing beautiful flowers and exotic plants directly in front of you as you seemingly drive over them, assured in your knowledge that they are undamaged. It’s not only a fun way to support a gardening hobby, but it’s also a driveway that you can bet none of your friends have.
House with Gate
Brick surface
There may be no prettier building material than brick, and that is as true for driveways as anything else. If you build a driveway out of brick, you can add a mesmerizing and rustic element to your home. The beautiful color of brick will immediately set the tone for your home, welcoming any guests or visitors in classy and artistic fashion.

Wood surface
Similar to making a brick surface, a wood driveway can add aesthetic appeal to your home. Wood is classy, but also simplistic. A wood driveway makes the entrance to your home subtle and sweet, brilliant and beautiful. Plus, you can choose a gorgeous wood that perfectly complements your home, so that your driveway acts as trimming for your pretty house.

Plant grass
One of the quaintest driveways around is a grass driveway. Many people don’t think to build a grass driveway, because they know they’ll be driving on top of it. In actuality, your wheels drive over the same two lanes every time you enter or exit your driveway, meaning that the rest of the driveway is perfect for grass. A grass driveway with lush greenery and two perfect pathways for your tires can be an endearing path for years to come.

With these ideas, you can have the prettiest driveway you and your friends have ever seen, and it can be uniquely you. Build one of these driveways, and you’ll smile every time you come home.

This article is written by Jared Miret, home improvement blogger.  Jared recommends contacting beautifyyourconcrete.com as an affordable way to renew your driveway.

How to Keep Your Pipes from Freezing (And What to Do When They Freeze)

Home Repair
Every year when winter comes, home owners and residents find themselves scrambling to prepare for the realities of harsh cold weather. Winter can be a fun time of the year, but only if you are adequately prepared for it. If you are not prepared, you will quickly find that winter is the most troublesome and stressful season. When the weather turns, the house problems can mount, making it quite the chore just to go about your day-to-day life. Thankfully, there are good ways to prepare.

One of the best things you can do to prepare for winter is make sure that your water pipes are ready for the cold temperatures. Temperatures are reaching record lows, so the probability of having frozen pipes is high. Frozen water pipes can be a gigantic trouble. When your pipes freeze, water flow gets blocked and can burst the pipes, causing flooding and thousands of dollars in damage. Plus, broken pipes temporarily mean no water for your house. So it’s best that you prepare to make sure you don’t get stuck with ice in your pipes and nothing but air in your faucet. Here are a few ways to prevent frozen pipes and some tips on what to do in the event that your pipes do actually freeze.

How to prevent frozen pipes
Insulate: The single best way to prevent your pipes from freezing is to insulate them. Insulation is extremely affordable and very easy to install. You can install some simple pipe insulation for $20 or $30 and avoid having to pay hundreds or thousands of dollars for repairs. While it’s best that you insulate all of your pipes, it is most important that you make sure to insulate the areas of pipe that are exposed to the coldest weather, such as any places where the pipes travel outside of your house or run along an outside wall (a wall that isn’t insulated). Remember, it only takes your pipe freezing in one location to entirely block your water flow.

Periodically run the water: The longer that water is stagnant, the easier it will freeze. So it’s important that you run water through all the pipes with some regularity. You don’t need to waste water by leaving faucets on, but make sure that those guest bathrooms that don’t get used often get their faucets turned on every once in a while. This will keep the water moving and prevent the ice from forming. If you anticipate a cold night coming up, turn on all the rarely used faucets in the house for at least a few seconds to get the water running.

Heat your cold rooms: It goes without saying that the coldest areas of your house are likely to be the culprit if pipes freeze. That means that your basement is just waiting to freeze your pipes. If pipe insulation isn’t enough (or you don’t want to install it), buy a space heater for your cold rooms and turn it on periodically to keep the ambient heat high enough to prevent freezing.

If your pipes freeze
If your preventive tactics are too late, have no fear. Here are two good ways to handle frozen pipes:

Thaw them: You can thaw your pipes with space heaters, hair dryers, or warm towels. You want to be sure to avoid anything that could be harmful or dangerous, such as fire or torches. When you’re thawing your pipes, make sure to have your faucet on; that way, when a little bit of the ice melts, the water will have somewhere to go, which will expedite the process (and also let you know if you’re having success).
Plumber II
Call a plumber: If you aren’t able to easily thaw the pipes yourself, call a professional plumber. If you don’t know what you are doing, you can do serious damage to your plumbing system and even to your house. Plumbing should only be done by those who know what they are doing.

With these tips, you will be able to handle frozen pipes or prevent them from freezing in the first place.

This article was written by father and home handyman, Jared Miret. Jared recommends calling Doug Turner Plumbing if you are unsure how to handle your frozen pipes.

Energy-Efficient Heating and Cooling Ideas

AC

One of the most wasteful things in an average consumer’s life is heating and cooling. We all care about heating and cooling our homes, as it is the key to being comfortable in the places we live. But, because the weather fluctuates so much, we end up having to use a lot of energy to heat and cool our houses. Of course, the detrimental impact of using large amounts of energy to regulate temperatures is twofold: First, energy is extremely expensive, so the more you use, the harder your wallet gets hit. And second, our energy consumption is harming the environment. Every bit we use has a negative impact, so it’s imperative that we find ways to reduce our energy consumption and our carbon footprints. Thankfully, there are a few simple tricks that can help you save energy—and thus money and the environment—on home heating and cooling costs.

Energy efficient heating
Insulation: Insulation is a pretty basic home feature, but many houses lack it, despite the fact that it is easy to install and extremely affordable. In fact, installing insulation in your home can pay for itself in just a few months because of how much it will lower your heating bill. It’s pretty simple: insulation does to your home what a winter coat does to your body. When the cold comes, it keeps all the warmth inside. Simply insulating your home can save you hundreds of dollars a year on heating, while dramatically decreasing your environmental impact.

Solar heating: If you feel like taking it a step further, you can install solar panels to heat your home. Solar panels rely on light from the sun for energy, which is far more environmentally friendly than other sources of energy. Solar heating can be achieved in two ways: you can get full solar panels, which provide electricity for your whole home, or you can get a solar heating system, which heats water that then travels through your house, heating it in the process.

Replace your windows with energy-efficient options: There are two reasons why replacing your old windows with new, energy-efficient ones is a good option. First, energy-efficient windows are designed specifically to maximize heat absorption and retention. They simply do a better job of keeping your home warm than traditional windows do. In addition, your old windows almost surely have imperfections in their frames. Many windows are not installed perfectly, and even if they are, they will develop framing imperfections in a matter of just a few years. This may not seem like a big deal, but it is. Even the tiniest imperfection in the frame lets in a constant draft of outside air, which, over time, dramatically increases the money you have to spend on heating. Thankfully, if you opt to buy energy-efficient windows, you can get a strong tax return to reward you for your environmentally conscious decision.

Window to Garden

Energy efficient cooling
Shades: Many people don’t realize it, but using shades to cover windows can have just as strong of an impact as turning on the air conditioning. Shades keep some of the strength of the sun away, thus keeping your home a cool and comfortable haven.

Paint your house and walls light colors: As we all learned in grade school, dark colors retain heat. The difference between having a brown house with grey walls and having a tan house with white walls can be the difference between you turning on the air conditioning or not. Keep your colors light (this goes for curtains and furniture as well), and you’ll keep your house cool.

Replace your windows: Replacing your windows doesn’t just help you heat your home, it also helps you cool it. When hot weather comes, the air gets moist (especially if you live in the southern states of the U.S.). When that moist air creeps into your home through imperfections in your window frames, it makes it harder to keep the air cool. Replacing your windows can solve this problem and keep your cooling costs down.

With these tips, you can keep your home at a comfortable temperature all year long, without hurting your wallet or the environment.

This article was written by Jared Miret, home improvement blogger.  Jared says, if you must use Air Conditioners, remember to keep them out of landfills by having them repaired rather than replaced. Check out AC repair in Cypress, Texas today.

5 of the Weirdest Things Commonly Dug Up in Backyards

Digging Up a BackyardA number of common home improvement tasks might require you to dig up parts of your backyard. Diverse remodeling tasks, ranging from installing patios and ponds, to fixing up the messes left by critters in your backyard, all necessitate getting your hands a bit dirty.

While you may not venture into your front or back yard with the intent of unearthing valuable treasures and artifacts, on occasion you may be shocked what you find when digging a hole to plant a tree, tilling your land, or planting a garden. Your average backyard project probably won’t  include a call to your local archaeologist, but countless homeowners have unearthed odd and startling objects over time. Below are some of the most common surprises that people have when digging in their backyards.

1. Ancient Bones

Over the last 150 years, residents of Michigan have unearthed ancient fossil bones just by digging around. In 2012, two 11-year-old boys dug up a bone they initially thought was a cool rock to add to their collection. It ended up being a mastodon vertebra! While the average person will not come across such a rare find, you should submit photos of any large and uneasily identified bones to a nearby paleontologist just in case!

A more common discovery might be finding any number of other fossils, ranging from ancient shells, insects encased in amber, to petrified wood. Your local geological surveys might be able to provide helpful keys for identifying common fossils in backyards.

2. Ancient Artifacts

While you may not know what an ancient artifact looks like at first glance, you will surely take note of any unique pieces of art or tools that are uncovered when you are digging and working in your yard. In 2006 , a Washington state man found a 1,000-year-old Native American artifact while working on his rock garden. If you find something in your yard that appears to be some type of ancient artifact, you can have it authenticated by a local anthropologist or archeologist. While you might not be able to cash in immediately on your find, you can easily find joy in having excavated a part of history in your own backyard.

Planting3. Hidden Treasures

We have all heard of maps that lead to hidden treasures buried decades ago by pirates and thieves. But most of us would not go as far as to search for these buried treasures on our own. In 2013, someone did just that—by accident! A farmer who was searching for the keys he dropped in his field was surprised to find 14 medieval coins that dated back to the 14th and 15th centuries. (But unless you’re While it’s not exactly a pot of gold, each of these coins is worth $700-$800! If you find old coins in your yard or floating around your house (maybe in the back of a drawer!), you can take them to a coin store for authentication. The older the coins are the more specialized the coin dealer will need to be.

While you probably have to reside in Europe, Asia, or South America to find the world’s oldest hidden treasures, Americans have found their fair share of unearthed historical and fascinating objects as well.

4. Deceased Pets

While burying a pet in the backyard may not be uncommon, it can sure be a surprise when you find a pet that the previous home owner buried. From time to time, people even come across bones of bodies buried on their homestead instead of in a local cemetery. If you find bones that appear to be human, call your local police station to confirm that the bones are not part of a crime.

5. Time Capsules

Time capsules are a popular trend that many people bury at significant milestones in their lives. At the time a capsule is buried, it is intended to be found by future generations or uncovered by the creator several years down the road. While time capsules do not often contain items of material value, they can hold great personal value for the person that created them.

While it is more likely that you will find nothing other than dirt, rocks, worms and bugs when you are digging in your yard, keep your eye out for anything unexpected just in case!

Guest writer Ryan Diaz enjoys getting his hands dirty, and can frequently be found assisting homeowners with improvement and beautification projects in the Gulf Coast of Texas and Louisiana. He has come across many of the weird objects listed above while installing concrete in Houston-area homes.

Patio Remodel(1)

Top 5 Patio Designs

Having an outdoor patio to entertain guests and spend quality time with your family may be high on your list of priorities. If you are considering adding a patio to your outdoor living space, you may be looking for a source of inspiration. The patios of today rival the features, functions, and comfort of indoor living spaces—even outdoors in the fresh air. Below are a few ideas to help you get inspired when building or redesigning the right patio for your backyard.

Basic
Even basic patios can be cool and fun if they are accessorized correctly. For example, if you have a fairly basic concrete patio, you can easily dress it up by building a patio cover or awning, adding decorative potted plants, or lining the concrete with a flowerbed or bushes. You can also invest in luxurious patio furniture in a color pattern or theme that best expresses your personality. The more comfortable and inviting your patio, the more your friends and family will want to enjoy the outdoors.
 
Garden
While most patios have some amount of greenery or outdoor elements nearby, you may choose to create a garden patio where your greenery and flowerbeds are the primary focal point. There are many ways to create a garden patio. For example, you could create walls or a patio cover using a lattice that you thread with ivy or a climbing flower such as wisteria or sweet pea. You can also build your patio into the center of your garden or flowerbed and mix in elements such as a koi pond or a tranquil fountain.

Poolside Patios
If you have a pool or hot tub outside, your patio design may be based around maximizing these outdoor water elements. For example, adjustable lounge chairs that allow you to sunbathe go hand-in-hand with poolside patios. You may also want lower side tables for your poolside patio that allow you to access snacks and beverages while lounging or while floating over to the edge of the pool to grab a bite to eat or a drink. Don’t forget that you and your guests may prefer a break from the sun while lounging poolside, so create some shaded areas with patio umbrellas, awnings, or built-in structures. Also consider adding a pool house for changing in and out of swimwear and storing water accessories. You may even want an outdoor restroom.

Screened Patios
If you want the fresh air and light of the outdoors but want to keep the comforts of the indoors and a greater sense of privacy, consider a screened patio. Screened patios can be built with removable windows or screens so the patio can be enjoyed regardless of the weather. These types of patios can have indoor light fixtures, electrical outlets, and even indoor furniture depending on their exposure to the elements. You can add a door that leads directly to your yard and your outdoor grilling space. Screened patios are the ideal choice if you would like to have a year-round formal patio.
 
Outdoor Living Room
Outdoor Kitchen Designs
One of the fastest-growing trends in outdoor patios is building a patio with all the features and functions of an indoor kitchen. These patios will include a sink, refrigeration, drawers, cupboards, and even a range and oven. If you prefer the idea of grilling outdoors you can build in a brick oven, or you can leave a space between your counters to keep your preferred grill easily accessible. One of the many advantages of having an outdoor kitchen is that it eliminates the need to run to and from the house to keep food items at a safe temperature. It also allows you to prepare food on your outdoor counter space and gives you a built-in serving area. You can even build bar-style seating or use traditional patio furniture for your outdoor kitchen.

Each of the patio ideas above is a general theme you can use for inspiration. However, you can add your own personality and style to your outdoor patio by selecting furniture and accessories in the color, décor, and theme that best suits your tastes. With the growing popularity of creating outdoor living spaces, your options for outdoor furniture and dining wear have gone from cheap and flimsy plastic to comfortable, elegant, and luxurious.

This article was written by Jared Miret.  Jared is a father and home handyman who loves reading up on tips for building a great patio, DIY home projects, and great home improvement ideas.  He gives these things a try, then blogs about his real experience.

Window on Green Wall

DIY Window Shutters

Adding shutters to your windows is a great way to give your home a cute, stylish “cottage” look. It’s also an incredibly easy project that won’t cost you too much money. You can always go out and purchase some pre-made shutters from your favorite home improvement store, but that can get expensive depending on the style you’re looking for. Besides, there’s no guarantee that you will be able to find a style that actually fits with your home and window style. As with most home improvement projects, the best way to make sure that you have the ideal shutters for your home is to build them yourself. It does take a little extra work, but the job is actually easier than you might expect, if you have the right tools and materials for the job. It will also be a great way for you to save some money as well. This simple guide for building your own basic window shutters will help you get started.

Gathering the Right Materials
The obvious first step in building your own shutters is gathering the proper supplies and equipment. Your supplies will depend on the kinds of windows you have, so make sure that you have accurate measurements of all of your windows before you start shopping for materials. Once you have measurements, it’s time to buy the wood that you will be using for your shutters. For a basic board and batten shutter, you will need three long planks of wood measured to fit the height of each of your windows and two smaller pieces of wood measured to their width. The smaller pieces are called the battens, and they will be placed across the longer planks to hold them together. You will also need a box of 1-inch exterior screws, a drill, and some hinges if you want your shutters to be functional. You will need two hinges per shutter. Otherwise, you can screw the shutters directly onto your outer wall if you want them to be for appearances only. Depending on the kind of wood you use, this project can be completed for about $40.

Building the Shutters
The next step will be to make sure you know how the shutters will go together. Line up the three long planks of wood so that they fit together evenly, and use a piece of cardboard as a guide to figure out where the batten will fit. You will want the batten to be at the same place on each shutter, so make sure all of your measurements are exact. You will need two battens per shutter placed close to either end.

Once the three long planks are placed together evenly and you know where your battens are going to go, you will add the actual battens to the shutters. The battens will be held in place with two screws drilled into the wood from the back of the shutters. Drilling from the back will eliminate the need to counter sink and add wood fill. It also gives your shutters a better appearance by keeping the screws almost entirely hidden. Repeat these steps until you have two evenly spaced battens holding your shutters together, and you are done with the actual construction. This shouldn’t take you longer than one afternoon. All that is left is to paint or stain the shutters and install them.

Window

Installing the Shutters
How you want to install your shutters is really up to you. If you want them to be stationary, you can drill them into the outer wall of your house on either side of your windows. As always, make sure you measure closely so that everything is at the proper height and width; you don’t want your shutters and your windows to be miss-matched. If you want your shutters to actually function, you will need the proper hinges. Basic strap hinges will work just fine for this project. Buy two hinges per shutter, and install them on your windows at the height you want.

Whether you want to give your home the appearance of a cute cottage or you want a way to give yourself some extra privacy, a set of cheap homemade shutters is truly the way to go. They are remarkably easy to build, and they are certainly cheaper than most pre-made shutters. Remember this project the next time you want to increase your home’s curb appeal.

This article was written by Jared Miret, father and home handyman.  Jared’s wife was so set on getting window shutters to go with the new Home Exterior Systems for Simonton windows in Houston, that he quickly learned how to make and install them.

House with Trees

Eco-friendly Roofing

If you are building a new home or replacing the roof on your current home, you may be looking for some eco-friendly roofing options. Depending on the type of home or building you own, and the needs you have for your roof, there are a variety of eco-friendly roofing options to choose from. Below are a few ideas to consider.

Recycled Shingles
Repurposing plastic, rubber, or wood is one eco-friendly way to fix your roof. By purchasing shingles made with recycled materials, you can achieve the look and feel of traditional shingles, without using 100 percent new materials. Recycled shingles offer your roof the same protection as traditional shingles, but they are more environmentally friendly.
 
Wooden Shingles
Depending on where you live, you may be able to install wooden shingles to your roof. Before investing in them, check to make sure that they do not violate your city’s codes or ordinances, as some places see them as a greater fire risk than traditional shingles. While wooden shingles are less toxic and take less energy to produce than other types, some people feel that cutting down old cedar to create shingles may not be particularly environmentally friendly.

Zinc Roofing
Zinc roofing has a long life span, is highly durable, 100 percent recyclable, rustproof, and fireproof. Zinc roofs are ideal in snowy areas because the snow will simply slide off the roof, unlike with shingles. Zinc is one of many metals that can be used for roofing, and the average metal roof lasts for up to 50 years. Metal roofs also eliminate the need for installing a roof with toxic chemicals and asphalt.

Rooftop Gardens
One way many homeowners in large cities green their roof is to add a rooftop garden or green roof. Rooftop gardens are eco-friendly in a couple of different ways. They add oxidizing plants, flowers, and foliage to the local environment and have also been shown to provide an additional level of insulation, leading to lower heating and cooling bills. Rooftop gardens can also be used to produce fruits and vegetables or other greenery. If your roof is not flat or easily accessible by foot, you may be able to install green roofs with lightweight foliage or moss.

Home with Solar Pannels
Solar Panels
Roofs are an ideal place to add solar panels, as they have an unobstructed view of the sun. Solar panels will reduce or eliminate your need for traditional electricity altogether, and they will provide a reflective layer of protection on warm and sunny days.

Painted Roofs
An inexpensive way to reduce your energy consumption is to paint your roof white, or install white or light colored shingles to your roof. A lighter colored roof will reflect 70-80 percent of the daily sunlight, compared to darker roofs, which only reflect 10-20 percent of light. This allows you to reduce your cooling bills during the spring and summer seasons.

Create Shade
If you have greened your roof as much as possible, but are still looking for ways to improve your home’s energy efficiency, consider creating additional shade by planting strategically placed trees in your yard. They will need adequate time to grow to a height in which they can provide your home with additional shade, but fully-grown trees can lower your homes temperature by as much as nine degrees. Additionally, you can also plant shrubs and bushes outside windows with direct sunlight. While the shrubs and bushes will help to create shade and block the sun, they will still emit an adequate amount of light.

This article was written by Jared Miret, father and home handyman.  If you like the idea of a zinc roof, he recommends Wade Architectural Systems, a leader in metal solutions

Electric Bill

7 DIY Energy Saving Tips

So much of our monthly income ends up going straight out to our utility companies.  Water, sewer and my least favorites, power and gas.  If you are looking for more ways to change your lifestyle and increase your energy efficiency (and of course, save money) you may be looking for some alterations you can make in your home. There are many do-it-yourself home projects that you can implement quickly and inexpensively to help conserve energy in your home. Below are 7 DIY projects, and changes you can make to your home to help conserve energy.

Upgrade To Energy Efficient Products
As more attention is drawn to reducing energy consumption, many electronics and appliance brands are producing energy efficient models of their products. This could be anything from your dishwasher, washer and dryer, computer, light bulbs, ceiling fans, and windows. While it may not be in your budget to replace all of these items at once, prioritize which ones you can upgrade in a manner that best fits your budget. When purchasing anything that draws energy, remember to inquire about energy efficient alternatives.
Home with Solar Pannels

Utilize Solar Power
Installing solar panels to provide electricity to your home is one way to significantly reduce your energy consumption. Depending on the type and size of solar panels you install, this is a project that can cost up to $15,000 to complete. With such a high price tag, this is not an investment that fits into everyone’s budget. For those looking for ways to use solar power without installing costly solar panels, look for other solar alternatives. This could be anything from solar powered outdoor lights, solar powered phone chargers, or solar powered electronic chargers.

Seal Windows And Doors
Regardless of the time of year or climate you live in, outdoor air can sneak in to even the tiniest of cracks and crevices in your windows and doors. This requires you to use both your heat and air-conditioning with greater frequency, which wastes energy. By investing a few dollars into sealing cracks and crevices, replacing old doorjambs, and installing weather stripping, you can keep your heating and cooling bills where they belong. For particularly drafty windows and doors, you can add curtains, install window insulation kits, or replace them altogether.

Insulate Your Home
There are many areas of your home in which you can add insulation to prevent heat from escaping. This could be anything from your basement, attic, hot water heater, or hot water pipes. For areas of your home that have been previously insulated, get into the habit of checking the insulation for damage or gaps every few years. When buying insulation, be sure to purchase the appropriate kind for the specific area of your home you are insulating. The average hot water pipe insulation for a DIY project costs approximately $20 to complete.

Reduce Vampire Energy Sources
The average American household spends at least $100 a year on vampire energy sources. Vampire energy sources are plugged in electronic devices and appliances that draw energy even when they are not currently turned on. This includes items such as your coffee pot, microwave, television, computer, and electronic chargers. To reduce your vampire energy consumption, get into the habit of unplugging things when they are not in use. For hard-to-reach vampire energy sources, purchase smart energy strips that will reduce or eliminate vampire energy from the items plugged into them.

Program Your Thermostat
By investing in a programmable thermostat, or utilizing the programmable features on your thermostat, you can avoid the yo-yo of turning your heat up and down and up again on a whim. You can also program your thermostat so that you are not excessively heating or cooling your home when it’s unnecessary. For example, when you are at work, you may drop the temperature in your home a few degrees, and then turn it back up when you return home.

Maintain Your Heating And Cooling Sources
Even if you have not upgraded to energy efficient heating and cooling sources, your appliances will consume less energy when they are properly maintained. Change the filters on your HVAC system, get a tune-up on your hot water heater, and clean the coils on your refrigerator on a regular basis.

This article was written by Jared Miret, father and home handyman.  He was tired of wasting money too, and made this changes to save some dough.  He also checked out taraenergy.com for lower rates on the monthly electricity bill.

House and Sky

Prepare Your Roof For Winter

As a homeowner, one of your more costly home repairs is replacing your roof. Whether your roof is fairly new or several years old, you should protect your investment by performing annual roof maintenance and repairs. This will help extend the life of your roof and protect your home from the elements. The winter months are typically the time when your roof is exposed to the most extreme weather, including rain, snow, ice, hail, or high winds. To ensure that your roof is ready for the winter weather, follow the steps below.

Inspection
Inspecting your roof before winter helps to ensure that you do not have any pre-existing damage, or areas of your roof that need attention. When inspecting your roof, look for any of these signs:

Sagging: A sagging area, or areas that appear as if they are sunk in, could be a sign that the plywood framing below is rotten.

Discoloration: Discoloration could mean that you have algae or moss on your roof. If this is not addressed in a timely manner it can lead to costly damage.

Missing Shingles: Your shingles are your roof’s first line of defense against the elements. In order to ensure that your roof is ready for the rain, snow, hail, and wind that may arrive in the winter months, replace all missing shingles. Also look for loose shingles that need additional roofing cement.

Curled Shingles: Curled shingles could be a sign that it is time to replace your roof. If you only have a few curled shingles within a general area, the area may need repair. Also inspect the keyways, or areas between the shingles, to ensure there is not any deterioration.

Check The Flashing: The flashing is the sheet metal that connects the joints of your roof to the side of your home, chimney, or plumbing vent pipes. Check to make sure that there are no holes or gaps in your flashing that can lead to leaks in your roof. If you find an area of the flashing with a hole or gap, then remove the old caulk completely before applying new caulking.

snow house
Clean Your Roof
Any dirt and debris that accumulates on your roof needs to be swept off prior to winter. This will require you to climb up on a ladder with a broom and gently sweep your shingles. If you do not remove debris, it will hold water when it rains and can lead to damage when left sitting on your roof for an extended period of time. When sweeping, be particularly careful if you have asphalt shingles. These shingles are particularly granular; make sure you are not sweeping away the shingles granules.

Clean And Inspect Your Gutters
Your gutters have the important job of guiding the rain, hail, and melted ice and snow from on your roof, to down drain spouts. Clogged gutters or those in need of repair can lead to pooling water and leaks. To prepare your gutters for winter, follow the steps below:

Remove Debris: Start by removing any fall leaves, dirt, and debris that have accumulated in your gutters. If not removed, the debris can restrict the flow of runoff and lead to clogs in your drain spout. You should remove the debris in your gutters at least twice a year, or each spring and fall. If cleaning your gutters is too much work, consider installing gutter guards that will drastically reduce your gutter cleaning time, as they will divert most debris back into your backyard.

Inspect: While you are cleaning your gutters be on the lookout for cracks, holes, or any loose or damaged areas. Gutters that are not in proper condition can lead to runoff in areas other than the drain spouts. Over time, this unplanned runoff can lead to damage and leaks.

Much of the maintenance and repairs above are DIY projects. However, if home maintenance is not your strong skill, or the height required to work on your roof is not a task you are up for, hire a local roof maintenance expert to complete the above maintenance and repairs for you. Even if you perform all of your roof maintenance yourself, it is a good idea to reach out to a professional on occasion to gain further insight as to how you can best maintain your roof.

This article was written by Jared Miret, father and home handyman.  Jared wants everyone to know how to protect their roofs from damage during the harsh winter months.  If you do experience some damage there are many roofing services in Houston that will take good care of your roofing needs.

Bathroom II

How To Fix A Running Toilet

Ever flush your loo then hear that dreaded sound as it doesn’t stop filling?  Maybe you “jiggle the handle” to see if it helps?  Well it is a great idea to learn how your toilet works so that you may fix it yourself. Knowing how to fix your toilet, instead of calling a plumber each time your toilet starts to run saves you time and money. Fixing it right away also saves water. Below are step-by-step instructions to help you learn how to fix a running toilet on your own.

Step 1: Take the time to learn how your toilet works
Fortunately, fixing a running toilet does not have to be a time-consuming or expensive process. It can be an easy fix, provided that you have taken the time to learn how your toilet works. Each type of toilet has a different structure, but the way in which toilets function is essentially the same.

Remove the lid from the tank and identify the flapper that lifts when you push the handle. This flapper allows a tankful of water to fall through the opening at the bottom of the tank and go into the toilet bowl.

Identify the plastic float in your toilet tank. When all goes well, the water in the holding tank drains and this float drops, signaling for water to refill the tank. As the water in the tank fills up, the float rises and signals for the water to stop filling the tank.

Identify the overflow tube that is usually in the middle of the toilet tank. If all goes well, this tube drains excess tank water into the toilet bowl.

Step 2: Ensure that the water in the tank is at the water line
One cause of a continuously running toilet is not having the water in the tank at the water line. If the water is not at the water line, check your water valve. If your water valve is not entirely on, change this. Upon turning it on all the way, the water in your tank should start filling up to the water line.

BathroomStep 3: Make sure the flapper is closed
If the toilet does not stop running long after using it, there is a good chance that the flapper might not have closed all the way. Close the flapper manually to solve this problem. To help ensure that the flapper does not get stuck open again, check that the chain on the flapper is not tangled up or caught on other toilet parts. Prevent further tangles by threading a plastic straw through the flapper chain; also, consider replacing the chain altogether with a loop made out of dental floss.

Step 4: Make sure the float is adjusted
If adjusting the water in the toilet tank to reach the water line and making sure the flapper was closing properly did not work, then check up on the float and make sure it is adjusted properly. First, make sure it is functioning by pulling it up with your hand; if it is working, this should stop the water flow. Make the necessary adjustments to the float so that the tank stops filling a half an inch to an inch below the top of the overflow tube. This ensures that water will not be leaking into the bowl. If the float is close to the valve post, pinch the clip so that you may slide it away and down the wire.

Step 5: Fix and prevent any slow toilet leaks
If you have tried all of these options yet your toilet is still running, then it could have a small leak in it. To check whether your toilet has a leak, put some food coloring in the toilet tank and avoid flushing the toilet for a few hours. After these few hours have passed and the food coloring has transferred to the toilet bowl, you will know whether there is a leak.

If this is the case, make sure that your flapper is not leaky; you may have to replace a decaying rubber part. If the flapper is not breaking down, you may try using steel wool to clean buildup off both the flapper and the rim it sits upon.

Jared Miret, home handyman and husband is happy to share the joy of home improvement with you.  He knows leaky toilets are something that need fixing right away, as he has spent way too much time repairing water damage in Houston because of leaks. 

Modern Kitchen

How To Replace A Kitchen Sink

It is inevitable for homeowners to be faced with the task of picking out a new kitchen sink and faucet, and many homeowners will pay a professional to install them. Did you know that you can save a lot of money by not hiring a professional to install your sink and faucet, but instead learning how to install them yourself? Below is a step-by-step guide for replacing your kitchen sink and faucet. This provides you with a less costly, and more convenient, sink and faucet replacing experience.

Step One: Choose the right sink for your home
Choosing the right sink for your home involves considering different surfaces and knowing the sink dimensions that you need. Finding the sink compatible with your family’s needs and lifestyle ensures that your sink will maintain a polished appearance for as long as possible. This also ensures that the sink you choose is as easy to maintain as possible.

Many homeowners choose porcelains sinks for their aesthetic appeal. Porcelains sinks, however, may not be the best choice for kitchens; often, it is best to use them only in bathrooms. The porcelain surface can easily chip or crack if a heavy pot is dropped on it. Heavy, stainless steel sinks can be a great choice for kitchens. Not only are they easy to clean, but their durability helps them to maintain a beautiful appearance for years to come.  Granite sinks are also a lovely option, they look great with tile countertops, and they can be very affordable in price.

Step Two: Turn off the water supply
Open the cabinet that is directly underneath your sink and then shut off the water using the shutoff valve. Place a large bucket under the trap to catch any excess water that may come out.

Step Three: Loosen the slip nuts on the drain
Loosen the slip nuts on both sides of the drain on the sink you are replacing. Do not forget to also disconnect any connections to dishwashers or garbage disposals.

Step Four: Remove the old sink by cutting through its seals
Begin by unscrewing any mounting clips that may be on the sink. After you have done this, take a utility knife and cut through any caulk or adhesive that is connecting the kitchen sink to the countertop. Make sure to remove the seal lining on the perimeter of the sink. Be careful–you do not want to hurt yourself, or scratch the kitchen counter when using your utility knife. Once all of the clips have been loosened and the seal has been broken, you may lift the sink out of its place and set it somewhere nearby.Kitchen

 

 

 

 

Step Five: Make sure your new sink will fit correctly
Your new sink is likely to have a different depth than your old sink. Because of this, you need to test out, or measure, the new sink to determine whether or not you will need to change the length of the new drain pipe.

Step Six: Set up the basket strainer and faucet
Before installing the sink, turn it over and install both the basket strainer and the faucet using Teflon tape and plumber’s putty. Doing this before installing the sink allows for an upright position and an easier installation.
 
Step Seven: Apply sealant to the new sink
After attaching the lines, use silicone sealant to line the edge of the opening where your sink will go. Place your new sink in this opening.

Step Eight: Tighten the new mounting clips and make plumbing connections
Once you’ve placed your new sink in its proper place, tighten the mounting clips that are on the bottom portion. Make any needed plumbing connections, such as the trap and drainpipe.

Step Nine: Connect the water lines to your new sink
Connect the supply tubes on your new sink to the shutoffs. Make sure that you connect the cold water on the right and the hot water on the left.

Step Ten: Turn on the water supply and check your work
After turning the water supply on, test your faucet to make sure that it is working correctly. Give the silicone sealant a few hours to dry, then clean up any excess using your utility knife.

This article was written by Jared Miret, home handyman.  Jared is happy to share his love of home improvement through blogging.  If you have any problems installing the sink, or need a hand with pluming or leaks, he recommends finding affordable leak detection in Houston.

Tips for Making a Small Backyard Feel Spacious

potted plants and backyard shedIf you have a small backyard and feel like you are limited to the things you can do to make your space warm and inviting, try adding a few features that will make it more appealing. Even small backyards can be utilized as an extension of your home and a place to entertain family and friends. Below are a few ideas that you can use to make the most of your small backyard. Some require more planning than others, but whether you’re an industrious home improvement maven, or a homeowner simply looking for a few quick and cost-effective fixes, there are numerous ways to make your backyard more spacious.

Size and Material Appropriate Furniture

While you want your outdoor furniture to be comfortable, you don’t want it to overwhelm your outdoor space. For example, it may be more appropriate to have chairs with end tables or a quaint two-person table, instead of a table that seats four. Also look for pieces that can be positioned in a manner that will keep your patio space streamlined and flowing so that you can easily walk around your outdoor space.

Repurposed or distressed wood often gives a unique charm to outdoor furniture, and work best in smaller forms. Many homeowners with small backyards opt for rustic materials for their outdoor furniture, which also require less upkeep and maintenance.

Keep Enclosures Open

A popular trend in outdoor patios and small backyards is to add areas that create shade. However, these shade-creating structures, such as panels or pergolas, can make your living space feel smaller if not done right. If you are going to add partial enclosures, do so with roofs that have skylights or walls made from lattice that will add privacy and shade, but have an open feeling. Wood crafters are often a sought-after choice for charming and space-saving enclosures.

Go Vertical

One of the best ways to work with small spaces is to utilize vertical space. For example, if you do not have the room to plant a traditional vegetable or flower garden in your yard, consider planting vertical gardens on fences and hanging plants from vertical structures. If you don’t have any places to hang foliage vertically, consider adding a post or structure that you can use to hang greenery from, without taking up too much of your floor space.

bambooCreating Privacy

Homeowners with small backyards are often jutted squarely next to their surrounding neighbors. While it can be sometimes be a joy to have friendly homeowners nearby, small backyards are often problematic for creating privacy. Property-line plantings are best for screening in the front yard, but for the backyard, homeowners can turn to a variety of differing features. Naturally, fences and walls form the best privacy-defining structures, with board fences being among the most popular choice, but this is often lacking in aesthetics. It doesn’t take too long to begin sprucing up a boring fence with help from bamboo or other giant leafy plants.

More Plant Ideas

Even if you have room to plant a garden, it can take up too much of the valuable floor space in your yard. For the best of both worlds, plant flowers, trees, and vegetables in small or medium pots. This will give you the freedom and flexibility to move your pots around to the areas that best fit your current space needs.

Add Lighting

Adding lighting to a small space will make it feel roomier. You can do this by adding fixtures to the side of your house or by stringing lights along the outer edges of your yard.

Frame Your Space

Even though your space is small you can frame the outer edges of your yard with a line of shrubs, a thin row of flower beds, a low rock wall, or a fence. By framing your space you will give it a distinct structure and flow. When choosing the medium to create your frame make sure the shape, scale, and color are a good representation of the theme you want to create in your yard.

All of these ideas allow you to create a welcoming space in a small yard that is well-organized and functional. If you have a small yard that you don’t enjoy with frequency, consider adding the elements mentioned above to encourage more outdoor activity and fun.

Classic New Orleans Style Home Designs

Awning and BalconyColorful and vibrant, New Orleans often brings to mind images of Mardi Gras, festivals, and fun. Its architecture is no different. This city is one of the places where the edifices really do seem to have a personality all their own. One of the most popular locales in New Orleans is the French Quarter or Vieux Carre, the quarter to locals. Infused with a rich cultural and artistic history, the architecture of the French Quarter has Spanish, French, Creole, and American influences. Several housing styles abound in New Orleans — Shotgun, Double-Gallery, and Raised-Center Hall, to name a few. These styles have much to offer homeowners across the Gulf Coast region and beyond.

Shotgun Style

Perhaps the most prominent of the New Orleans style homes is the Shotgun Style. This style of home has its origins from Haiti and West Africa. Although tall and slim, these houses hold a charm that stems from their mysterious origins. They often have a porch covered by an awning supported by columns that encase the porch. To achieve this look, adding columns and an awning to your current home, as well as a bright layer of colorful paint, might turn your home into a little piece of New Orleans in the Gulf Coast.

Raised Center-Hall Cottage or Villa

This beautifully styled cottage resembles a shorter and wider version of the shotgun style home, but with more elaborate galleries and columns that also support an awning that covers the porch. This New Orleans style home typically has five entries with the front entrance in the middle. If your home is structured differently or has no porch, you can still gain a bit of the look by either adding a deck or embellishing the deck you currently have. Simply add an awning supported by columns over the deck or porch addition. Instead of a deck, adding a patio the entire length of the home will also give you the desired effect. Simply add the awning and columns to surround the patio.

Double Gallery House

In keeping with the columned theme, this two-story house has two galleries supported by columns at each story level. Somewhat resembling a much loftier version of an American colonial, this home also holds its own unique charm. To apply this look to your own home might take some creativity as the roof is side-gabled, and there are two galleries instead of just a porch awning. You might get close to this look by adding a balcony to your second level supported and encased by columns.

American Greek Revival 

Although you might not find these types of homes within the proper metro area, several historic American Greek Revival homes dot the outlying area of New Orleans. Simply put, these are some of the most luxurious mansions of the South; spacious treasures that show some of America’s finest architectural origins. While it can be intimidating to consider styling your home in the manner of an American Greek Revival mansion, many homeowners can pursue this aesthetic in a subtle and classy manner, by adding unique touches and timeless antiques to your home’s collection. If you are looking for inspiration, many of these stately homes are now open for public viewing, or refurbished into unique bed and breakfast lodges, such as the Bocage Plantation, in Darrow, Louisiana.

Home and Greenery These New Orleans style homes signify a time of historical charm and allure. Adding touches of Louisiana style to your own home will make your house stand out from the rest in a great way. Contacting an architect in your area will be an excellent first step to implementing many of the structural changes and additions that will add the French Quarter charm to your home. If you already have columns, a porch, or a deck, then adding a new coat of fresh, bright paint may be all you need to bring a touch of Vieux Carre to your neighborhood. Make sure to check with the housing officials in your area for zoning laws, restrictions, and licenses before making major structural changes to your home. If you don’t want to take on a major remodel, adding bright colored paint, cast iron faux balconies, and a window replacement to your Houston, New Orleans, or Gulf Coast home will also give you a bit of this fun and free-flowing style.

Adding New Orleans Charm to Your Home Décor

Patio RemodelCourtyard patios are a feature of hotels, restaurants, and homes in the French Quarter. The narrow style of house achieves more space by beautifying an enclosed area in the back. Brick is the favorite choice of masonry material in New Orleans, according to the New Orleans Historic District Landmarks Commissions — Guidelines for Masonry and Stucco, and it can add a unique complement to your patio.

To add an authentic touch of New Orleans charm to your home, enclose an area in the back yard with a board fence and pave it with bricks. The tone that you establish with a red brick floor opens the way for you to make your courtyard as charming as those in the old section of the city. The Commission states that red brick is the most popular, but you can use brown, yellow, or orange to match your decor.

Planters and Flower Beds

The warm and humid air in New Orleans provides excellent growing conditions for colorful flowers, so you may need to install a misting system if you live in a dry area. Planters shaped like large vases serve as statuary pieces that you could situate in accent areas. The lightweight material that is used in many of the planters today makes them easy to move.

Flowerbeds along the fence line provide a colorful contrast, and weeds are controllable in a limited space. Bricks that match the patio floor are good for retaining the dirt, or you could use a contrasting color for extra style.

Loads of Flowers

An abundance of blooms is the secret to a successful New Orleans patio. Evergreen plants like camellias and azaleas that bloom in the late winter or early spring are favored varieties. While it has no aroma, the camellia has flowers in red, white, and pink, which resemble large roses, and require little maintenance. Blooms on azaleas are as delicate as little orchids, usually in shades of white and light pink to deep magenta. Decorative flowers that can give you the look you want in your flowerbeds include these:

– Impatiens and vinca

– Gladiolas

– Lantana

– Tea roses

– Lily of the valley

Watering FlowersAccent the Corners and the Center

Banana trees grow thickly, and dense greenery is essential in your patio. The tall leaves bend gracefully, showing yellow tints on the trunk. Some varieties produce miniature bananas, but the plant is sensitive to temperatures that are uncommon in the south. Gardenias produce an aroma that is sweet and pleasant during the day and even more aromatic in the evening. Train some jasmine to grow on your fence, and let its light fragrance add to the inviting ambiance of your courtyard.

Consider a Fountain

Anyone who has visited New Orleans has probably noticed the prevalence of fountains. While your local garden retailer may have ideas about potential New Orleans style fountains, you can do a little research first and find the best type of fountain for your home. While the city of New Orleans often boasts a larger than life personality, you do not have to spring for an ostentatious or gaudy display. Instead, look for a fine smaller fountain that is subtle in its approach. A New Orleans style fountain does not hew close to a particular aesthetic, but rather is playful in its incorporation of various features.

If you are a DIY home improvement enthusiast, you can also construct a shallow pond and connect a water supply for a spouting fountain. Water lilies in the basin or some gold fish can create a focus area that is always interesting.

The Finishing Touch

With a courtyard that is a delightful place to relax or visit, you have the perfect location to entertain family and friends. Open air dining is part of the life style in New Orleans, and it is an elegant way to enjoy a meal. The greenery, flowers and fountain provide an environment that is graceful and pleasant. With a table and some large, comfortable chairs, you are ready to enjoy your own New Orleans courtyard patio. These finishing touches help illuminate and give charm to your home. With these tips in mind, you can see how people across the Gulf Coast have looked to New Orleans for stylish home décor.

With assistance from www.concretehouston.com/concrete-patios-houston, the author is adding some classic Gulf Coast style charm to his Houston home. 

Quick Tips for Saving Energy in Your Home This Summer

Smart Home
Although it is frequently overshadowed by the need to keep a house warm in the winter, keeping a home cool and comfortable during the summer can create a strain on a family’s energy bills. This is especially true with families in warmer parts of the country that all but rely on air conditioning to stay cool. Fortunately, there are ways of saving money on your energy bill in the summer without resigning yourself to living in an unbearably warm house.

Keep Your Thermostat Turned Up
As much as you will want to, it’s not always wise to run your air conditioner all the time. Keep your thermostat at around 78 degrees and use fans to circulate cool air. During the summer, keeping the thermostat set at a high, yet comfortable level will decrease cooling costs.

Keep Your Shades Closed
Although it’s not as effective as exterior shading, shades and drapes on the window can go a long way in keeping a home cool. Your home’s windows are some of its largest sources of heat gain, so it’s important to keep them shaded as much as possible.

Open Your Windows When It’s Cool Outside
Instead of running an air conditioner, try opening your windows when it is cooler outside. This will help ventilate your home, especially at night or early in the morning. In addition, try waiting until turning on your air conditioner is needed, usually during early to late-afternoons.

Use Your Ceiling Fans
Ceiling fans are capable of circulating enough air to cool a space by over four degrees, and they use about as much energy as a 100-watt light bulb. Using circulating floor fans in individual rooms is another simple way to keep your house cool, and save energy at the same time. Once again, this should eliminate the need to run your air conditioner non-stop.

Turn Off Your Lights
When you leave a room, make sure you turn off the lights. If you’re in a room with large windows and it isn’t too hot outside, don’t be afraid to open the shades in the middle of the day to let some sunlight inside. Don’t run appliances longer than you need to. Unplug them if you won’t be using them soon.

Use Your Appliances Efficiently
This means not doing entire loads of laundry, keeping your dryer’s lint trap clear and run all appliances during off-peak hours such as after the sun has gone down. If you have to buy new appliances, look for Energy Saver products. These can lower your energy bill by as much as 30 percent, and will save you money in the long run.

Replace Air Conditioner Filters Monthly
Dirty filters can block the airflow in your air conditioning system, causing it to work harder and use more energy. Replacing your filters every month can save you up to five percent on cooling costs.

Keep Outdoor Air Conditioning Units Free of Debris

Most central air conditioning systems run off of a large outdoor unit. This should be kept free of debris and weeds to work efficiently. Leaves, branches, and invasive plants should be removed to keep the unit functioning correctly.

Home with Solar Pannels

Hire Someone to Perform Maintenance on Your Air Conditioner
An air conditioner will last for years if it is properly maintained, but it will also work inefficiently and waste a lot of energy if it goes too long without a tune-up. Make sure you have it repaired and maintained before every summer.

Seal Leaky Windows and Doors
Cool air can easily escape a leaky window or door, and this can be a big problem when cooling your house. Check to make sure there isn’t a draft coming from a closed window. If you do notice a draft, seal it with caulk or weather stripping. These are available in kits at most hardware stores and are a relatively inexpensive fix to a pesky problem.

 

This article was written by Wesley Francis. Wesley is a home contractor, father of three, and DIY enthusiast. For further energy conservation strategies, he recommends searching for home renovation professionals in your area, like the team at Remedy Roofing, who always provide eco-friendly solutions. There are plenty of energy-saving home projects out there, go find them!

The Top 5 New Orleans Fountains

WaterFountains are found throughout New Orleans, especially in the French Quarter and the Garden District. They grace the courtyards of many private residences and they are commonly found among the restaurants and hotels in the area. Even Pat O’Brien’s on Bourbon Street has a courtyard fountain that appears to be on fire at night. Here are the five most fascinating and historic fountains in the city of New Orleans.

Darlington Fountain

This fountain in New Orleans’s West End was erected prior to World War I. It was known as a musical fountain because an operator controlled the water flow and the lighting by hand to synchronize the fountains with the music contributed by bands and orchestras at special events. The three-dimensional effects produced resulted in it also being known as a “prismatic” fountain. This century-old masterpiece became one of the inspirations for later automated musical fountains, such as those found at The Bellagio in Las Vegas.

The original drawings for the fountain are dated February 1915, and construction likely concluded in 1916. The Darlington fountain later became the symbol for West End Park. Yacht clubs and restaurants also embraced the iconic fountain by using it in their logos. The fountain is slated for a full restoration by the Friends of West End.

Fountain in Jackson Square

This historic fountain is found in Jackson Square, which is situated exactly where the French Mississippi Company built the very first settlement. Fittingly, the fountain in Jackson Square was dedicated on April 29, 1960 to memorialize the visit of French President General Charles de Gaulle and his spouse, Yvonne.

The landscaped area on which the fountain stands was designed in 1721 by architect Louis H. Pilié. For a time it served as grounds for military parades. Today it stands at the heart of the French Quarter in front of St. Louis Cathedral, the longest continually operating cathedral in the U.S. The current home of the New Orleans archdiocese, the cathedral first opened in 1718. The present structure was built in 1789. Pope John Paul II visited in 1987.

Fountain at Coliseum Square Park

South of the French Quarter, in the lower Garden District, is the lush greenery of Coliseum Square Park and its beautiful fountain. Strollers and those on Garden District walking tours often stop to enjoy the tranquil sounds experienced here. Both biking trails and walking trails abound in this park that dates back to the mid-1800s. The park and its fountain are only two blocks away from the St. Charles streetcar stop.

Fountains at Longue Vue House and Gardens

Just off Metairie Road, at 7 Bamboo Road, are the Longue Vue House and Gardens and its 22 fountains. Longue Vue is often thought of as one of the highest quality city estates in the nation. It is open to the public on a paid admission basis. It’s been a National Historic Landmark since 2005.

The Classical Revival mansion serves as a stunning backdrop to a long rectangular pool and lyrical fountains. The fountains frame the mansion in endless photographs captured by enchanted visitors. The fountains are a vital part of the eight acres of gardens inspired by the Gardens of the Alhambra in Spain.

The home was built by New Orleans businessman Edgar Bloom Stern and his wife, Sears heiress Edith Rosenwald Stern. The gardens have been fully restored to the original specifications created when the Sterns built the estate.

Pavement and GrassFountains at the New Orleans Botanical Garden

The Botanical Garden, in City Park, is home to the country’s largest stand of mature live oaks. The cool shade and the fountains offer a wonderful respite from city life. Bronzed statues and sculptures blend well with the historic cast-iron fountains. Photographers never tire of framing scene after scene with low-hanging oak branches. The conservatory has been renovated, and it includes a roaring waterfall and beautiful hanging vines in a simulated rainforest. Over 2,000 plant species can be explored here.

New Orleans truly is a city of fountains, and these five examples have long represented, and help contribute to, its overall vibrancy and heritage.

The author found a great New Orleans-style copper fountain for his home at: www.fathomfountains.com/copper-fountains

Preparing Your Gulf Coast Garage for Summer

AC Seen from OutsideAs a homeowner in the Gulf Coast region, you can protect your home’s garage doors from summer weather by making a plan and by taking action to implement it. The first of June is the official start of hurricane season, and your prompt action can limit or avoid damage to your home’s structures. Planning for weather events that are predictable is a duty of responsible homeowners.

The National Hurricane Center cites sustained wind speeds at up to 95 mph for Category 1 and up to 157 for Category 5 storms. The Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale indicates that frame structures are especially susceptible to damage from wind, and garage doors that are typically constructed of wood or similar materials are vulnerable.

Make a Plan

As part of your general household defense plan, the security of a garage door will improve the structural integrity of your home. Successful efforts to stop hurricane winds from entering a garage can prevent extensive damage to the interior of your home. Interior doors that are not designed to resist impact can easily collapse in hurricane conditions. Captive wind forces inside a garage are extremely destructive, pushing upward and outward to destroy walls and roofing systems. Defensive methods that are commonly used in garage openings to limit wind damage include:

• Impact-Rated Garage Door – Hurricane-force winds pull as well as push against garage doors, shaking and weakening them in the process. Impact-rated doors are designed to withstand forces of extreme wind conditions and flying debris. Some are reinforced within each section of a door to provide increased resistance to winds. Prices start around $900 for a one-car garage door and $1500 for a two-car door.

• Braces – Vertical braces made of aluminum strong enough for use on airplanes strengthen a door and make it more resistant to hurricane winds. For about $200 per brace, you can add to the security of your garage door. The quality of your existing door governs the performance of braces that are a retrofit product. Doors that have glass windows or those that are in poor repair may not get as much protection as those that are solid or new. Manufacturers may choose not to offer guarantees for braces applied to substandard doors.

• Hurricane Panels – Steel offers the best protection from hurricane damage. Aluminum panels are lighter and less capable of deterring damage. Installation of either type of material is a difficult task, and the quality of installation has an effect on effectiveness. Poorly installed panels can add to flying debris and cause damage to people or property. Panels for doors of various sizes are available for less than $1000.

House with a Lot of WindowsImplement a Plan

To assess the need for garage door protection, you may choose to hire a home appraiser. Some companies offer a free evaluation of garage doors to assess the wind load that they can tolerate, their ability to resist impact, and their compliance with local building codes. Checking for effectiveness of protective measures and the cost of installing them is a first step you can take to prevent hurricane damage.

Taking the next step to get the work done is the way to make sure that it is done correctly. The space occupied by a garage door opening is sufficiently large to require installation by someone with professional expertise.

With these tips in hand, the author has begun fortifying his Houston overhead door.

Window Tinting a Gulf Coast Home

Kitchen with Window TintWindow tinting makes any interior space cooler, more private, and more enjoyable; this is particularly valuable for homes in the New Orleans and Gulf Coast region. The addition of window tints can not only reduce cooling expenses, it will protect furnishings and art from the bright sun while also making it harder for intruders or strong winds to break a window. However, it’s important to choose the right team to tint the windows in any private home. Here are a few tips homeowners can follow when searching for a window tinting company.

Selection

Not all window tints are created equal. Some are darker and will cut more of the natural light. Special coatings are required to block the UV rays and protect fine artwork from fading. Security tints that hold glass pieces together when a window is broken are also specially designed and labeled. Look for a company that has a good selection and can provide you with the right window tint.

Experience

Look for a company with years of experience. They may also specialize in window and commercial tinting, but they should definitely have a few years of experience in residential windows. It takes time to learn how to smoothly install window tint that is free of bubbles or scratches.

Insured

When a contractor works on any home, they should have insurance. While it is not likely that a window tinter will break something inside a home, it’s still better to choose a company that protects its customers by investing in insurance. With this coverage, homeowners are protected in the unlikely event that something in their home is damaged or broken.

Timely Services

It’s also important to invest in a company that will provide timely services. When homeowners make the decision to invest in window tint, they don’t want to wait weeks or months to have it installed. Look for a company that can provide fast service to start benefiting from window tinting right away.

Ask About the Clean-Up

Installing window tint can be messy. The technicians will have to use water to get all of the air out from between the windows and the tint. Talk to the company you are considering about the installation process. Find out what steps they take to protect your home and clean up any mess afterward. The best companies will use protective covers under the windows, and they will clean up the entire mess after the tinting is installed.

Window FixGet Multiple Quotes

Talk with several companies and get more than one quote. This is the best way to find the most reasonable prices on window tinting projects and save money. Taking the time to talk with different companies also lets homeowners ask questions about scheduling, how long the project takes, and what steps are taken to keep the area clean.

Ask for References

Finally, ask for references for any tinting company. Reputable companies are happy to provide references for their work including pictures of homes and businesses they have worked on. Don’t be afraid to call the references and ask for more detailed information about how the company did, how long they were in the house, and how pleased the customer is with the work.

Window tinting can lower energy bills and help homeowners save money. The best tinting will also make the home safer by protecting furnishings from the sun and even intruders. Finding the right company for a residential project will require a little research, but homeowners will be much happier with the finished product when they hire a reputable, experienced company. From a decorative tint on a New Orleans bungalow, to a window film in Houston, homeowners across the Gulf Coast have been able to enjoy their summers again by pursuing this simple home renovation project.

Easy Tips for Gulf Coast Homeowners to Keep Cool This Summer

Woman in Front of ACBattling summer heat in an arid region is tough enough, but when you’re living in New Orleans, or any city in the Gulf Coast region, you have to deal with both heat and humidity. Use the following tips to keep you and your family nice and cool during your Gulf Coast summer.

Stay Inside and Crank Up the A/C

This one is simple enough. You probably don’t want to be a hermit all summer long, though, so if you’re going to spend time outdoors, aim for early in the morning or later in the evening when outside temperatures will be more manageable.

Electric Fans

Letting your air conditioner run all summer can be expensive. If you want to cut down your electricity bill, use an electric fan instead. Keep in mind that once temperatures go into the high 90s, an electric fan won’t ward off heat-related illnesses. Take a cool bath or shower if you start getting too hot. You can even turn your fan into a makeshift air conditioner. All you need is a metal bowl filled with ice. Place this bowl directly in front of the fan, and it will go a long way toward cooling the room.

Drink Plenty of Water

You should stay hydrated all year round, but this is even more important during the summer. Drink eight ounces of water each hour. Avoid alcoholic beverages or drinks with high levels of caffeine, as these will dehydrate you quickly. Drinking enough water has numerous health benefits, so this is a good tip follow throughout the year.

Protect Your Body

Put on plenty of sunscreen and wear light-colored, loose-fitting clothing. Ideally, sunscreen should be applied approximately thirty minutes before going outside. You should also wear a hat and sunshades in order to ward off heat stroke and prevent your eyes from being damaged by the sun’s UV rays.

Keep Strenuous Activity to Minimum

Those of you looking for a good excuse to avoid home and yard work are in luck. Participating in strenuous activities during a heat wave is dangerous, so either cut back on your work hours or limit your activities to the early morning or evening. If you exercise regularly, you should either alter your workout schedule to avoid the hottest time of the day or exercise in a building with a good air conditioning system. Or, you can take part in outdoor activities that can simultaneously keep you cool, like visiting some of New Orleans’ public pools.

Wooden TableTake Walks by a River

On hot summer days in the Gulf Coast, a large body of water is your friend. If you live in New Orleans, take a stroll through Woldenberg Riverfront Park and watch the ships sail down the Mississippi River. You’ll enjoy cooler temperatures and beautiful scenery.

The Canal Street Ferry

Speaking of New Orleans, a ride on the Canal Street Ferry can provide you with a fun and cost-free way to cool down. The ferry operates seven days a week, from 6 a.m. to midnight.

To offset some of the costs associated with cooling his Gulf Coast home, the author recently invested in an energy saving water heater replacement.

The 4 Most Luxurious Spas in New Orleans

FacialSpa at Windsor Court

The spa at Windsor Court is located inside the elegant Windsor Court Hotel, in the heart of the French Quarter. Enjoy the many luxurious offerings at this full service spa, catering to your every need. Once you enter the spa, you are greeted by friendly, courteous staff that will provide you with the accessories you need for your relaxing session. Guests are provided with robes, sandals, and a private locker for personal belongings. The facility also offers a pool and gym area for those receiving treatments.

The Windsor spa offers personalized treatments from facial, nail, and hair to full body treatments. The spa also offers personalized treatments and spa packages for wedding parties upon request. The spa recommends that you make reservations before arriving; this will be helpful so that they can provide the best service to you.

Guerlain Spa at The Roosevelt New Orleans

This spa is not only known for being linked to one of the more well-known names in town, it is also known for its luxurious offerings. Guerlain Spa has been known for excellence throughout its 180 years of operation. During each session, beauty experts perform a systematic analysis of the skin to determine where their primary focus should be – environmental, nutritional, emotional, or physical. The analysis helps therapists determine a treatment that is specifically tailored to your personal needs; this is one of the signature touches Guerlain offers to their clients. Guest service is the spa’s top priority.

The products used at Guerlain are a full line of high quality products from the prestigious Guerlain Paris. The spa also offers hydrotherapy facilities, makeup services, and a VIP treatment room. Exclusively offered to hotel guests is a special treatment called the Waldorf Impériale, a two-hour body massage and facial. The spa also offers a state-of-the-art fitness center and a relaxing rooftop pool for guests to enjoy.

The Ritz-Carlton Spa New Orleans

The Ritz-Carlton Spa, New Orleans has gained enormous recognition not only for its gorgeous decor, but also for the elegance of its spa treatments. The spa offers over 100 therapies, all of which are customizable to meet the needs of clients, as well as a fitness center, retail store, and valet parking. The staple of The Ritz-Carlton Spa is absolute indulgence in every sense. The atmosphere alone is enough to help you relax and forget about the world, with draped chandeliers and therapists to pamper your every need. The spa is equipped with 22 luxurious treatment rooms as well as relaxation lounge areas, steam rooms, and saunas. Spa packages are available for couples and wedding parties, upon request. Reservations are encouraged to be made one week in advance.

Girl and hair

Woodhouse Day Spa

The Woodhouse Day Spa is a full service luxury spa located near the French Quarter. Upon arrival you are greeted by friendly staff that will provide you with a luxurious robe and a delicious beverage. The spa offers 70 invigorating and rejuvenating spa treatments that offer a unique approach to maintaining the health and beauty of your skin. Woodhouse Day Spa offers signature body wraps and massage therapies, the most popular being the four-handed massage. Tension release and deep relaxation is achieved through the spa’s signature technique called “intent combing science.” The spa offers many services including waxing, hand treatments, foot treatments, body treatments, and much more. Appointments are available seven days a week.

Next time you find yourself in the Big Easy, be sure to take some time to let yourself be pampered. Whether you’re young or old, male or female, New Orleans has a wide variety of luxury spas for every preference.

In researching various spa offerings in the Gulf Coast, the author found that many of the most luxurious locations utilized equipment from one company: T4 Spa

The Top 4 Butcheries in New Orleans

BBQ

New Orleans is full of character and class, and its butcheries are no exception. If you’re visiting New Orleans, or even if you’re a local, you’ll want to make sure you check out the butcher shops that the city has to offer. With some of the best and most unique butcheries in the United States, New Orleans will surely impress you with the following meat shops.

1. Cochon Butcher

Cochon Butcher on Tchoupitoulas Street is a butcher shop inspired by old world meat markets. Customers at the shop can stop in for fresh meats, sandwiches and wine. The shop specializes in handpicked meats, house made terrines, and sausages. Many of its sandwiches have earned acclaim across the country from magazines and food critics. The shop does not accept reservations but customers can call ahead to order catering trays featuring delicious meats and cheeses.

There is also meat available to bring home, with several nods to New Orleans rich culinary history. Customers rave about everything from the andouille sausage to the duck confit, and there are numerous other selections for traditional old-world meats that have provided sustenance for countless generations of New Orleans eaters.

2. Cleaver & Co.

Cleaver & Co. is a full service meat shop on Baronne Street. The shop features local meats from Louisiana and Mississippi that are cut to order. As one of the few shops in the city that does custom butchery, the shop offers a unique service to customers. In addition to quality meat, each package comes with a small primer on where the meat came from, and the butchers behind the counter can answer questions about how the animals were raised and where they came from.

Cleaver & Co.’s focus on locally sourced meats puts it in a distinct class among New Orleans butcheries. The butchery has quickly made a name for itself with its regionally-minded boudin, a combination of cooked rice, pork, onions, green peppers, and New Orleans style seasonings that will please any Cajun food lover. Cleaver & Co. have also begun selling other traditonal Cajun specialties, such as stuffed chickens.

3. Rare Cuts

Another popular butchery in New Orleans is Rare Cuts on Magazine Street. The shop features hard to find meats including duck, quail, wagyu, and specialty sausages. The shop prides itself on providing customers with handpicked meat that is aged and cut according to a precise process. The meat at Rare Cuts comes from animals that were fed an entirely vegan diet with no hormones, pesticides, steroids or antibiotics. The owners or Rare Cuts have worked hard to ensure that animals used for its meat supply were raised to meet their strict specifications. In addition to high quality meats, Rare Cuts also offers a dinner to go service so customers can have dinner catered in for dinner parties.

Rare Cuts is also unique in that it operates as a high-end restaurant through their specialized in-house dinner parties. A popular option lets  guests at Rare Cuts pick their own steak right out of the cooler. Parties can also waltz into the kitchen and check in during preparation, effectively having a front row seat as their food is being cooked.

4. Emmett’s MeatsVariety of Grilled Meats

Owned by Emmett Dufresne, a New Orleans native with over 23 years of butchery experience, Emmett’s Meats features beef that is wet-aged, and a few cuts that are dry aged. The shop gets most of its meat from Halpern’s, a local purveyor known for supplying many of the city’s most notable restaurants. The shop also offers homemade sausages in many creative combinations and flavors like barbecue bacon and green onion. The popular pork and crawfish etouffee version of boudin is also available at Emmett’s Meats. Jerky and meat sticks are offered at Emmett’s Meats, including a popular jerky that is flavored with brown sugar and spice and then smoked.

With all of the unique butcheries in New Orleans, there is no reason anyone should be in want of quality steak or specialty meat. You can stop in to one of the top-notch butcheries above for a taste of delicious meat and maybe even some nostalgic memories of the good old days.

Greg Mitchell is a freelance writer, currently residing in New Orleans. He loves sharing cattle and livestock advice together with his insights into regional Gulf Coast meat preparation.