Amid the COVID-19 Pandemic, many of us now find ourselves working from home. While it’s hard to complain about the commute, working from home can be an adjustment. For example, you may find yourself doing tasks around the house and suddenly you’ve missed several important emails. If you feel like you need some help being more productive while working from home, here are five tips to improve your workflow.
The best kind of light is natural light. Try setting up your workspace by a window. If that’s not possible, add a desk lamp or floor lamp to brighten your space. Not only will it help with visibility; it brightens your mood, which helps you to be more productive.
Remove distracting clutter. Take everything off your desk that you don’t need. Store it elsewhere or use shelves on your wall to display it.
If you find yourself cleaning throughout the day, set aside time specifically for these tasks. If you’re still waking up at the same time you did when working at the office—which studies show is a great strategy when working from home—using your would-be commute time to tidy up helps avoid those periodic distractions.
Bring the Outdoors In
Bringing plants into your home is beneficial for productivity and health alike. Greenery is a natural mood booster and gives life to a room. Plants naturally purify the air, helping you breathe easy as you make your way through the workday. Try arranging both hanging and potted plants to improve the mood around your workspace.
Change Your Chair
A chair that’s too tall, too short, or not comfortable is a fast track to back and shoulder problems that inhibit your workday and linger afterwards. Being in a stationary position for hours at a time requires the right kind of support to stay productive. Features to look for in a quality office chair include proper lumbar support, sturdy wheels, and an adjustable base that allows your shoulders to relax and your feet to rest flat on the floor.
It’s important to keep your home office professional and dedicated to your work. However, adding personal touches to the space will help you feel at ease. Position your work computer and phone front and center with any related work tools close by and handy. Adding pictures of loved ones, artwork, and inspirational quotes will help inspire you to generate ideas while working productively.
Most of us tend to think of air pollution as something that occurs outdoors where car exhaust and factory fumes proliferate, but there’s such a thing as indoor air pollution, too. Since the 1950s, the number of synthetic chemicals used in home products have increased drastically, while homes have become much tighter and better insulated. As a result, the EPA estimates that Americans, on average, spend approximately 90 percent of their time indoors, where the concentrations of some pollutants are often two to five times higher than typical outdoor concentrations.
Luckily, there are many ways to reduce indoor air pollution. We all know that buying organic and natural home materials and cleaning supplies can improve the air quality in our homes, but there are several other measures you can take as well.
How pollutants get into our homes
Potentially toxic ingredients are found in many materials throughout the home, and they leach out into the air as Volatile Organic Compounds, or VOCs. If you open a can of paint, you can probably smell those VOCs. Mold is a VOC that can build up in the dampest parts of your home like the laundry room or crawl spaces. Another example is the “new car smell” that seems to dissipate after a while, but VOCs can “off-gas” for a long time, even after a noticeable smell is gone.
Many materials used to build a home contain chemicals like formaldehyde, toluene, xylene, ethanol, and acetone, and even lead. VOCs can also be in the form of pet dander or dust. Fortunately, VOCs from building materials dissipate over time. For that reason, the highest levels of VOCs are usually found in new homes or remodels. If you are concerned about VOCs, there are several products you can buy that are either low- or no-VOC. You can also have your home professionally tested.
How to reduce VOCs in your home
Choose your building materials wisely
- – Use tile or solid wood for flooring—hardwood, bamboo, or cork
- – Choose solid wood or outdoor-quality plywood that uses a less toxic form of formaldehyde.
- – Choose low-VOC or VOC-free paints and finishes
Purify the air
- – Make sure your rooms have adequate ventilation, air out newly renovated areas for at least a week
- – Clean ductwork and furnace filters regularly
- – Install air cleaners if needed
- – Use only environmentally responsible cleaning chemicals
- – Plants are a natural solution to help clean the air
- – Air out freshly dry-cleaned clothes or choose a “green” cleaner
Pick the right carpet
- – Choose “Green Label” carpeting or a natural fiber such as wool or sisal
- – Use nails instead of glue to secure carpet
- – Install carpet LAST after completing painting projects or wall coverings
- – Air out newly carpeted areas before using
- – Use a HEPA vacuum or a central vac system that vents outdoors
- – Clean up water leaks fast
- – Keep humidity below 60 percent, using dehumidifiers if necessary
- – Refrain from carpeting rooms that stay damp
- – Insulate pipes, crawl spaces, and windows to eliminate condensation
- – Use one-half cup of bleach per gallon of water to kill mold in its early stages
If you would like to learn more about VOCs and indoor air quality, please visit http://www.epa.gov/iaq/.
Every component of your home has a lifespan. Common questions asked by homeowners include when to replace the flooring or how long to expect their siding to last. This information can help when budgeting for improvements or deciding between repairing and replacing when the time comes. We’re all familiar with the cliché: They just don’t build things like they used to. And while this may be true when it comes to brick siding or slate roofing, lifespans of other household components have increased in recent years. Here are the life expectancies of the most common household items (courtesy of NAHB):
Appliances: Among major appliances, gas ranges have a longer life expectancy than things like dishwashers and microwaves.
|Oil-burning Furnace||20 years|
|Heat Pump||16 years|
|Gas Range||15 years|
|Electric range / Refrigerator / Dryer||13 years|
|Electric / Gas Water Heater||10 years|
|Garbage disposal||10 years|
|Dishwasher / Microwave / Mini Fridge||9 years|
Kitchen & Bath: When choosing your countertops, factor in the life expectancies of different materials.
|Kitchen / Bath Item||Life Expectancy|
|Wood / Tile / Natural Stone Countertops||Lifetime|
|Toilets (parts will require maintenance)||50+ years|
|Stainless steel sink||30+ years|
|Bathroom faucet||20+ years|
|Cultured marble countertops||20 years|
|Kitchen faucet||15 years|
Flooring: If you’re looking for longevity, wood floors are the way to go. Certain rooms in your home will be better suited for carpeting, but you can expect they’ll need replacing within a decade.
|Flooring Material||Life Expectancy|
|Wood / Bamboo||Lifetime|
|Brick Pavers / Granite / Marble / Slate||100+ years|
|Carpet||8 – 10 years|
Siding & Roofing: When choosing roofing and siding for your home, climate and maintenance level factor into the life expectancy of the material. However, brick siding and slate roofing are known to be dependable for decades.
|Siding / Roofing Material||Life Expectancy|
|Brick Siding||100+ years|
|Aluminum Siding||80 years|
|Slate / Tile Roofing||50+ years|
|Wood Shingles||30 years|
|Wood Siding||10 – 100 years (depending on climate)|
Are extended warranties warranted?
Extended warranties, also known as service contracts or service agreements, are sold for all types of household items from appliances to electronics. They cover service calls and repairs for a specified time beyond the manufacturer’s standard warranty.
You will have to consider whether the cost is worth it to you. For some, it brings a much-needed peace of mind when making such a large purchase. Also, consider if the cost outweighs the value of the item. In some cases, it may be less expensive to replace a broken appliance than to pay for insurance or a warranty.
What’s the best remodeling project for your home? The answer, in part, depends on where you live. Every year, Remodeling Magazine evaluates which projects bring the most return at resale in different markets around the country in their “Cost vs. Value” report. For the purposes of this blog, we are focusing on the Pacific states (WA, OR, CA, AL) and the Mountain states (MT, ID, UT, CO, NV).
According to Remodeling Magazine, these are the six top projects in those two regions that currently have the best return on your investment when it comes time to sell. To see the full report, click here.
Garage Door Replacement
The project with the most return from Washington State to Nevada? A new garage door.
In the Pacific States, replacing your garage door will cost an average $3,785, but will increase your resale value by $4,686, recouping 123.8 percent of what you paid for it. Homes in the Mountain States will also benefit from a garage door replacement, recouping 98.6 percent of their costs.
Due to its size, a garage door can have a big impact on a home’s curb appeal. But adding to your home’s aesthetic is only one advantage; the warranty that comes with the new garage door is also a selling point for potential buyers who can trust that they likely won’t have to deal with any maintenance issues in the near term.
Manufactured Stone Veneer
As long as the new stone veneer is consistent with your neighborhood’s overall look, this siding is the second-best project across the Pacific and Mountain states.
Stone veneer can replace your home’s existing siding, adding a fresh, modern look that conjures a cozy vibe all the way from the street, before buyers ever step foot inside. Along the West Coast, it can recoup 110.4 percent of the cost when you sell, and Mountain states will recoup 96.5 percent of the cost.
Wood Deck Addition
While building a deck might seem like a big undertaking, it’s actually a pretty cost-effective way to positively impact your home’s resale value. Pacific states can expect to pay around $15,000 and Mountain states just above $13,000, but they’ll see 87.8 percent and 74.3 percent recouped respectively when they sell.
Adding a deck extends the living space of your home and provides even more area for entertaining, relaxing, and enjoying the outdoors. Whether you choose a natural wood deck or a low-maintenance composite deck, you can pick from a variety of styles based on the lay of your land and the areas of your backyard you wish to highlight.
Minor Kitchen Remodel
No need to move walls or appliances around, a minor kitchen remodel will do the trick to recoup 87.1 percent of the cost in the Pacific states, and 80.3 percent in the Mountain states.
An outdated kitchen can go from drab to fab and become a focal point with a fresh palette. Replace the cabinet doors with new shaker-style wood panels and metal or metal-looking hardware. Switch out the old counter tops with laminate that matches the new look. Think about adding a resilient flooring option, then finish the project with a fresh coat of paint to the walls, trim, and ceiling.
Looking to improve your curb appeal and create an entrance that guests and homebuyers won’t soon forget? Add a fiberglass grand entrance. This project involves replacing a standard-sized front door with a larger opening with dual sidelights (glass panels). Typically costing around $8,000, Pacific states will see 85.1 percent of that recouped in the sale, and Mountain states will see 71 percent.
Depending on the size of your home, replacing the siding can be an expensive undertaking. However, it’s a project that comes with high returns. For Mountain states, sellers can expect 75.4 percent of the costs recouped, and Pacific sellers will see 84.3 percent.
Not only is siding one of the first things a buyer sees, but it also serves as an indicator of the overall health of the home. Broken or damaged siding could mean that there are other problems with the home, such as pests and rot. Replacing old siding is a cost-effective way to boost your home’s curb appeal and ensure buyers are going to walk through your front door.
We’re in the thick of autumn now, with Thanksgiving just days away. That means it’s time to start considering how to best showcase your home before the guests arrive.
One of the cheeriest bits of fall is the shifting colors that bring a canopy of rustic hues to a walk through the neighborhood. You can bring that cozy feeling inside yourself with some golden-dipped creativity.
Gilded Pears – Use real or fake pears, whichever you prefer, spray paint gold, and allow them to dry completely. You can add little flags to the top if you’re really feeling crafty.
Magnolia Wreath – Collect some Magnolia branches and use a wreath frame as a base. Spray paint the green side of each leaf with gold and then assemble using wire. It’s not as complicated as it looks!
Dipped Pinecones – First, you’ll want to make sure your cones are clean and dry. Apply gold leaf adhesive using a foam brush; deciding how much you add will determine how much of the cone is covered in gold. After they dry, consider gold leafing the cone’s scales. Wrap it around the cone and use a clean foam brush to rub it into the adhesive. Then give it a light spray with sealant and allow them to dry.
Gold Acorns – Hand pick your acorns, clean, and oven-dry them to make sure they are pest free. Paint them gold and then add a layer of clear shellac for a shiny look. Lastly, you’ll want to use a hot glue gun to attach the caps since they naturally fall off after the acorns dry. You can use these as filler in a glass vase or simply scatter them on a tabletop.
Shimmering Maple Garland – All you’ll need is a bag of artificial leaves, bought at any craft store, some Elmer’s glue, glitter, and string. Use a paintbrush to apply glue to each leaf and sprinkle lots of glitter over them. Let the glue set, then shake off the excess glitter, punch a hole at the top and attach a ribbon. Tie them all to a large strand and voilà, a perfect garland for the holidays.
Petite Pumpkins – If you are still head over heels for pumpkins, then using small ones for place cards will add some spice to your table. Tape each pumpkin halfway with painters tape, choose a design with horizontal, diagonal, or however you want! Next paint the bottom portion with gold craft paint (may require multiple layers) and with the last layer still wet, generously sprinkle gold glitter over the painted half. After your pumpkin is dry and you’ve shaken off the excess glitter, wrap beading foil tightly around the stem. Leave a little extra at the end for you to bend for your place card.
Find these and more decor ideas on our Pinterest Board, “A Gold Thanksgiving.”
The month of November brings the end to daylight savings time, for most of us anyway, and the start to the holiday season. Don’t be left in the cold, jumpstart your preparations with this quick checklist.
Check Your Fire Safety System
Test your smoke alarms and CO detectors to make sure they’re in working order. Locate your fire extinguisher and be sure the gauge shows that it has enough pressure. If it isn’t already stored in or near the kitchen, re-locate it closer to the oven for quick action should Thanksgiving dinner go up in flames.
Clean Your Garbage Disposal
Don’t let a stinky garbage disposal ruin your appetite, keep it smelling fresh with a few pieces of lemon rind and some ice cubes. The lemon cleans and deodorizes the odor causing bacteria and the ice scrapes away any debris, as well as sharpen the blades.
Check and Repair Other Plumbing Issues
Run the water in each sink to determine if it’s draining properly.
If your bathroom sink is not draining quickly, a great natural way to clear debris, with ingredients that you likely already have in the house, is to put ½ cup of baking soda down the drain, followed by ½ cup of vinegar, then plug the drain and let it sit for an hour. When you unplug the drain, pour boiling water down until it drains quickly.
Send a snake down your tub drain, then add a hair trap to each drain to prevent future blockage, especially when you have guests over for the holidays.
For a slow kitchen drain, the likely cause is a build up of fat, oil, or grease (FOG drain clog). The best way to clear this kind of clog is with 2 liters of water and a few tablespoons of dish washing detergent. Pour slowing and keep pouring until the drain is cleared.
Pull Out Your Winter Essentials
For those of you in cold climates, get out the shovels and replenish the ice-melt bucket before the snow and ice hit this season. Don’t get caught in the storm, make sure they’re easy to access or easy to pull out when the weather forecast calls for below freezing temperatures.
It’s also a good idea to get out your snow gear and toys. Don’t miss an opportunity to play in the snow because you can’t get to your shed to pull out your snow boots, gloves, or sled!
Check and Replace Floor Protectors
Prevent damage to your floors by checking any pads on your chair legs as well as the rug mat.
Make sure the pads on your chairs, sofas, and tables are intact so when you move them, they won’t rub and scuff or dent flooring. Lift the rug to double check that the rug mat isn’t causing damage to the floor as well. Sometimes, the adhesive can stick to the floors, leaving a residue that’s almost impossible to clean, this is especially important on cement floors.
Prepare the Guest Bedroom
Has it been a while since anyone, besides the dog or cat, has slept in the guest bed? This is a great time of year to wash the sheets and clean the room in preparation for holiday guests. And don’t forget the cobwebs in the corners! Organize and re-stock the closets so your guests can easily access more blankets and towels during their stay.
Once you’ve completed your November checklist, you can sit back with your hot apple cider and know that you’re ready for the holiday season.
Stylizing your own home can be a daunting but rewarding challenge. When you own your living space, it’s easy to feel a sense of ownership over every piece of your design. But for renters, the challenge is a bit different. Despite limitations, it’s no less important to one’s well-being for a residence to convey a sense of ownership and self. To make a rental unit feel a bit more like home, we collected a few ways to imbue your abode with your own spirit, without risking your security deposit.
Storage – Let’s be honest, rentals often lack sufficient storage place, and since custom cabinetry isn’t usually an option for renters, investing in some added storage is key.
Add some simple, no-to-low damage shelves, bookshelves that stand on their own, baskets, or use under the bed storage. Search for furniture that doubles as storage, like an ottoman that opens up or a side table with a drawer or shelf.
Blinds – Vertical blinds may be the ultimate decorating sin. No one likes feeling as if they’re living in a motel room.
We suggest you either take them down and save them somewhere so you remember to put them back when you leave. Another option is to hide them under curtains. Just don’t throw them out or you may not get all of your security deposit back!
Before making changes like this, or adding hardware like curtain rods, be sure to ask your landlord for permission.
Accessorize – A MUST when decorating your space are small items like pillows, throws, candles, books, and light fixtures… the only way to get a truly genuine space. These are easy ways to add your unique style that you can take with you from one place to the next.
Wall Art – Hanging art with hooks and nails can damage the walls, which might keep you from hanging art or photos on your walls, but when it comes down to it at move out, they’ll only take a few minutes to patch up when it comes time to move out. This doesn’t mean you have to hang an entire art gallery, but hanging one statement piece and placing the rest of the photos on a mantel or shelf can be all you need.
Again, ask your landlord before you add any holes in the home. When you’re touring, ask the landlord to keep the existing holes in the walls so you can use them, or ask if you can get the paint color information so you can patch and touch-up yourself, upon move-out.
Rugs – Last but not least, rugs: the peanut butter to your rental jelly. If there are scratched hardwood floors or stained carpets, you can cover those up easily with a throw rug, and prevent further damage as you live there.
Additionally, a rug is a great investment piece that will add your personal flavor to any space, plus they absorb noise and make a room feel comfy.
Do you have any great tips to decorating a rental? Let us know in the comments!
As the days shorten, you can mitigate many mid-winter headaches with some preemptive prep. Proper weatherizing can help protect your home from preventable damage, save money on energy costs, and, most importantly, keep you and your loved ones safe and warm throughout the winter season. Here is a useful checklist to manage your weatherization project. Setting aside some time on a couple of weekend days should be more than enough to knock this out:
Cracks & Leaks
Examine your entire house for any cracks and leaks, from your roof to your baseboards, to your basement and foundation. With unpredictable winter weather, these cracks and leaks are how the outside gets in, causing cold drafts and water damage.
Luckily, most cracks don’t require a professional to handle it. Depending on your house type and age, it’s likely you’ll be able to do it yourself with supplies from your local hardware store.
Windows & Doors:
Gaps and breaks in windows and doors is another way to let the winter in your home, and they can let heat escape, raising your heat bill throughout the season.
Make sure seals are tight and no leaks exist. If you have storm windows, make sure you put them on before the cold season begins. Additionally, add weather-strips and or a door sweep to prevent drafts and keep the heat in.
Clean your rain gutters of any debris. In colder climates, the buildup will cause gutters to freeze with ice, crack and then leak.
Once you have removed the residue from the drains, test them by running hose water to make sure cracks and leaks have not already formed. Even in warmer locales, the buildup can put undue stress on your roof and home.
Protecting your pipes from freezing should be your number one priority this winter. A burst pipe can quickly become a disaster in any home.
Remember to turn off your exterior water source and take in your hose. Internally, wrapping your pipes is a recommended precaution to take.
Annual checks are vital in avoiding dangers such as house fires. Replace filters if you use a furnace and clear out any vents and ducts that carry heat through them. If you have baseboard heat, wipe them of dust and remove any debris that might catch fire.
Fireplace & Wood Burning Stoves:
Make sure to have chimneys and air vents cleaned early in the season if you are planning on warming your home with a wood-burning source. When your fireplace is not in use make sure to close the damper, some resources estimate an open damper can increase energy consumption by as much as 30%, increasing your bill about $200.
Bring your patio furniture inside or cover it for the winter. Don’t forget other, smaller items such as your tools, including the hose and planting pots. Clear out any piles around the side of your house, checking for cracks and holes in your home and foundation as you go so to avoid providing shelter for unwelcome guests over the cold season.
If your property has large trees check for loose branches and call someone to trim back any limbs that may fall in your yard, on your roof or even damage a window.
Lastly, make sure your emergency kit is up to date with provisions, batteries, fresh water, food for animals, entertainment for kids – especially if you live in an area prone to power outages.
Congratulations on your new home! You made it through the arduous process that is buying a new home. Now it’s time to take on the task of moving in.
You did your research about the neighborhood and you feel like you know the home like the back of your hand. However, there are some things to do as you move in to protect your newest investment, and yourself, from the unknown variables in and around your home.
Change the locks garage door codes
Previous owners might have changed the locks, but they may not know who all has a key or a code to open your garage, especially neighbors who they trusted to watch their place while they were away. Changing the codes and locks on all the doors ensures that you have complete control over entry to your home
Check or Install Fire and Carbon Monoxide Detectors
If the home already has fire and carbon monoxide devices, make sure they are in working order by testing each one with the tester button. Keep a note of when to replace them as well.
If they don’t have them, install a device in each sleeping room, as well as common areas like the living room or kitchen. Hallways are a great place to cover multiple rooms with one detector as well.
Install a security system
Enjoy total peace of mind with a new security system. Meet with a consultant on the best ways to protect your home for a system that works best for you and your lifestyle.
There are also app-connected systems that you can set up yourself that notify you of movement on the cameras or doors and windows opening.
Meet the neighbors
Build a sense of community and get to know the lay of the land by knocking on neighbors’ doors to get to know them. Bring a small gift as a “thank you” for dealing with the moving trucks. This is a great initial step for figuring out who you can trust to watch things while you’re away should you need a helping hand in the near future.
These are just a few ideas on what you should do as soon as you move in. What are some things you do, or suggest to friends and clients on move-in day?
After last year’s wildfires, some of the largest and deadliest in recent memory, spread along the west coast, homeowners are on edge as to what this fire season will bring. The questions of whether their home will be burnt, or if they will be affected by poor air quality, hang in the air much like the smoke of a nearby fire. Accompanied by heatwaves hitting much of the U.S. these fears can turn into realities just as quick as a spark in brush. Luckily there are ways to prevent damage and to prepare for anything coming your way.
Be prepared with fire insurance
Are you currently protected in case of a fire? Make sure to talk with your insurance agent and work on a plan to insure your home.
Questions to ask them are:
- What is covered should our home be destroyed in a fire?
- What kinds of documentation do we need to do in order to get the full benefit of the insurance?
- It’s usually a great idea to keep a log of what is in your home and how much it costs. Keep receipts and invoices if possible.
- Who at the company should we contact in case of emergency?
Be prepared with an emergency kit
Cal Fire has a comprehensive guide to all things wildfire preparedness. Here they suggest putting together an emergency kit that’s always ready in case of sudden evacuations. They recommend including:
- Map marked with at least two evacuation routes
- Non-perishable foods to last three days
- Prescriptions and medications. Also, eyeglasses or contact lenses.
- Change of clothes
- Toiletries and sanitation supplies
- And extra set of car keys, as well as credit cards, cash or traveler’s checks
- First aid kit
- Flashlight and batteries
- Copies of important documents like birth certificates and passports
- Food and water for your pet
- Chargers for cell phones and other devices
Some other items you might consider having close by are easily carried valuables, sentimental items like family photos, and computers or hard drives. Keep a sturdy pair of shoes and a flashlight near your bed for any evacuations at night.
Prevent damage by fortifying the building
You don’t have to re-do the entire garden to slow the fire down. Home Advisor recommends you create a balance of aesthetically pleasing flora and slow-burning plants that are less likely to ignite.
Additionally, keep your garden and property free of dry materials that are ideal for kindling either in your bonfire or for a wildfire. Not only does creating this barrier protect your home, it also gives firefighters a safe area to work from as they work to control the fire.
To see what plants to use and other ways to fireproof your property, visit HomeAdvisor.
Build or remodel with flame-resistant materials
Materials like brick, stucco, metal, or concrete are great exteriors that can prevent the fire from taking hold of your home, at least initially. If your home is already built with one of these materials, the weak points might lie in your extremities like your deck or porch. Consider re-building these with fire-proof materials or add a coating to protect them.
Additionally, protect the most vulnerable areas of your home, like your windows and any air vents. Add retractable fireproof panels to your windows or replace the glass with wire glass or fire-proof safety glass. Don’t forget your skylights or windows on your doors.