6 Things to Do to Winterize Your Home

483590383We’re starting to feel the chill of fall and it’s only going to get colder. It’s just a matter of time before it’s time to turn on the heat and pull out the wool sweaters and layer discount bedding to keep warm at night. But our homes need to transition, too. Here are 6 things you need to do to winterize your home to save energy and money.

Insulation It’s easy to forget how much money we can save in heating costs with insulation. You may already have insulation in your walls and attic, but you may be able to add more to reduce energy consumption.  Energy.gov has a guide on where your house should be insulated to minimize energy use. If you want to take an extra step toward lower heating bills, you can also use a thermal insulation blanket for your water heater to trap heat and prevent it from escaping too quickly during winter months.

Roof Do a spot check of the rooftop. Check for wear and damage and if there are any missing shingles. Around the chimney, make sure the flashing is intact and that it’s not a source for drafts or leaks.

Clean out gutters and downspouts so they’re free of leaves and debris; with clean gutters, rain and melting snow won’t get trapped on your roof and cause water damage. The downspouts should drain at least five feet from your home’s foundation to prevent water from leaking into your house.

winter-curtainsDoors and Windows Caulking and weather stripping your windows can cut down on energy costs significantly. Alternatively, indoor window insulating kits work very well for the winter to keep cold air out of your home. They require a lot less work than caulking and weather stripping, but plastic may not suit your home décor. Consider heavy drapes or curtains to mask the plastic for the winter months. Plastic insulation doesn’t work for exterior doors; weather stripping at the sides and bottoms of doors is your best bet.

Heating System Before it gets cold, turn on your heat to make sure it’s working properly. If it doesn’t kick on, you can try to figure out what the problem is on your own with a little bit of troubleshooting, but if you’re not confident with your home improvement skills, call a service technician to check it out before it gets cold and he gets busy. If it is working properly, make sure to change your air filter once a month and clean the heating vents.

Plumbing In cold weather climates, frozen pipes are a serious problem. When pipes freeze, they sometimes burst, causing costly damage. It’s not as much of a problem in the middle of the house where it’s generally warm in the winter, but in colder parts of your home like the basement and crawlspaces, insulate your pipes with foam insulation. For exterior pipes and faucets, drain the pipes and shut off the water supply. Automatic sprinkler systems require a professional to drain the underground pipes.

When you travel for the holidays and you turn off your heat, remember to also turn off your water. This might save you from coming home to expensive repairs.

fireplaceChimney and Fireplace Chimneys attract critters during the summer months; make sure squirrels and pigeons haven’t made a home there and it’s clear of any other obstructions. Make sure the flue opens and closes properly. When both of those things are done, make sure your chimney draws out smoke. You can do this by burning a few newspapers to create smoke. If your living room fills with smoke, there’s likely creosote buildup and you’ll need to bring in a professional chimney sweep to clean it out.

Winterizing is a big project. You can save time by having an energy audit done on your home. Though it costs a little bit extra, having a certified professional come in and figure all the leaks and areas you missed may save you a lot of money on energy costs in the long run.

LTD Commodities has everything you need to make your home cute and cozy this winter. From baby toys to quilts to keep you warm, shop LTD Commodities for the best products at the lowest prices.

Items We Adore: LTD Product Picks for the Week

Getting organized often seems like a daunting, as well as expensive, task. However, just a few quick changes can make your life more efficient, freeing up more time to relax with a pitcher of lemonade or iced tea. LTD’s Product Picks of the Week get you started without breaking your budget.

Slim-can-and-spice-racks

Get maximum kitchen storage in a minimum amount of space with the wooden Slim Can and Spice Rack.

Brick-or-siding-clips

Use these Brick or Siding Clips as an easy and simple way to decorate vinyl sided or brick walled homes.

2-pc-quilted-auto-organizer-sets

Keep everything a driver needs at hand with a 2-Pc. Quilted Auto Organizer Set.

set-of-2-silicone-counter-gap-covers

Prevent spills and dust collection in hard-to-reach places with a Set of 2 Silicone Counter Gap Covers.

Shatter-resistant-pitcher

The ergonomic design of the Shatter-Resistant Pitcher makes it easy for anyone to pour themselves a drink.

Items We Adore: LTD Product Picks for the Week

Summer is a wonderful time to give your home a new look. Whether you fill your weekends with DIY projects or just want to add a little color to a room, improving your space has never been simpler. Start out with LTD’s Product Picks for the Week, and you will be done in no time!

metal-wall-decor-with-mirrors

Hang this Metal Wall Decor with Mirrors vertically or horizontally to make a bold statement in any room.

self-adhesive-window-privacy-film

Self-Adhesive Window Privacy Film gives you seclusion and still allows light to shine through.

3-pc-figurine-sets

The slim characters of these 3-Pc. Figurine Sets create a charming grouping on a shelf or table.

sets-of-2-electric-or-gas-burner-covers

A Set of 2 Electric or Gas Burner Covers provides additional counter space in a busy kitchen.

moose-lodge-comforter-set

Create a rustic feel fit for a log cabin in the woods with this Moose Lodge Comforter Set.

 

 

 

 

Do It Yourself Kitchens: How to Install Your Own Granite Countertop

Granite-countertop

Image credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/granite-charlotte

 

Granite countertops are a luxurious and functional addition to any kitchen or bath. In the past, installing granite was a job for the pros, with custom fabrication and installation costs running to thousands of dollars. Now, however, several companies offer do?it yourself granite countertop kits that you can install yourself, achieving professional results at a fraction of the cost. This step-by-step installation guide will help you get?expert results with your granite countertops.

Measure and Order Your Countertops

Before you start, make sure your cabinets are level, and securely anchored to the floor and walls. If your walls aren’t square, you’ll need to make allowances in your measurements. Use craft paper to make an exact template of your countertops, including lines for the sink and any other custom cutouts you need. Be sure to include a one to one and a half-inch overhang for the edges facing the cabinets. Select your granite color, and place your order based on your template.

Prepare Your Cabinets for the Granite

You’ll need to install a ? inch sheet of plywood on your cabinet tops to support the weight of the granite. Cut the plywood so that it lies even with the edge of the cabinet face; you do not want any overhang. Make sure wood is square and level. Screw the plywood in place using pilot holes?to prevent cracking the wood.

Working with the Granite Slabs

Find a safe place to store the granite slabs upright while you work, and find a partner to help?granite is very heavy and breakable. Carefully set the granite in place to make sure the pieces fit properly. Trace the sink hole and any other custom cuts onto the plywood sub-counter. Remove the granite, and use a drill to create a pilot hole in the marked sink cutout. Using a jigsaw, cut out from the pilot hole to create a hole for the sink. Drop in and install the sink.

Replace the Granite and Prepare to Glue

Place the granite slabs on the counter, and press any seams tightly together. Fine-tune the leveling, since all the seams must be absolutely level before gluing. Use 1-1/2 inch screws beneath the plywood to make minute adjustments to the height of the granite, and measure continuously until the seams are smooth and level.

Glue the Granite in Place

Have your helpers lift the granite up, and apply silicone around the edges of the plywood using one-inch dollops every six to 12 inches around the perimeter. Lay a bead of caulk around the outer edge of the sink, and another bead on top of the sink to seal the granite side. Lower the granite slabs into place and make sure they are level and the seams are tightly matched.

Glue the Seams

Tape around either side of the seams with blue painter’s tape. Choose at least three colors to match the granite, and mix a little of each into separate dollops of resin. Mix with a putty knife, continually checking the resin color against the granite. When you have three satisfactory shades, add hardener to a mixture of three percent hardener and 97 percent resin. Using your putty knife, work quickly to dab and smooth the resin into the seams; you will only have about five minutes before the resin starts to harden. Start with the medium-hued shade, and then add dabs of the lighter color, using the darkest color last until you have a natural-looking match.

Finishing Touches

Immediately remove the tape so it doesn’t dry into the resin. After about an hour, smooth out the seams using a seam stone. Rub the stone in small circles using firm, steady pressure until the seams are sleek and smooth. Wipe the countertops down with warm soapy water to remove any grit. Protect your investment with a stone care system like Rock Doctor.

Use only granite-friendly cleaning products, and don’t expose your countertops to extreme temperatures. Granite countertops are a beautiful, durable way to update your home.

 

Growing a Garden: Six Steps to Eating Your Own Fruits and Vegetables

With all the interest in healthier eating, many people want to grow?fruits and vegetables in their own backyards. Having your own supply at your fingertips can help you save money and increase your cooking options; you can also make tending your garden into a family activity. Although it may sound daunting, starting your own garden isn’t that difficult.

Here are some good vegetable and fruit selections for the first-time backyard gardener.

Salad Greens

LettuceGrowing your own salad greens like lettuce, spinach, arugula, mustard green, or kale doesn’t require a garden plot; you can grow a nice selection of greens in containers, pots, or window boxes, too. Using a quality potting mix is important. Greens grow well from seeds, and many garden shops offer seeds with a mix of greens for variety. Most will require some fertilizer when the plants are 4-6 inches tall. Since these are rapid-growing plants, you can often start harvesting leaves a few weeks after planting. Salad green plants can produce from spring until fall, giving your tasty salads for most of the year.

Tomatoes

New gardeners love tomatoes, but they’re popular with gardeners in many places where the citizens are health-conscious like Rancho Mission Viejo. There are many versions of slicing tomatoes and cherry tomatoes to choose from. Tomato plants can grow in containers like salad greens or in your yard but do need full sunlight and plenty of water. Seeds or transplants both can be used to start your tomatoes; as they grow, fertilizer, mulching, and staking can help your tomatoes reach their potential.

To control the plant growth and lower the risk of fungus, you’ll need to prune lower leaves and branches. The ripe tomatoes should be harvested twice a week during warm weather.

Radishes

Radish A less common choice for your first garden would be the radish. These root vegetables are easy to grow and grow very fast in a few weeks. These can grow in containers or in a garden plot; however, they do thrive in cool seasons so you should plant them in the spring and fall. A lot of sunlight is key for these plants. Without it, they’ll grow bigger leaves and fewer vegetables. Radishes will deteriorate if they’re harvested in a timely fashion; you can also take the radish greens for salads, as well.

Green Beans

Green beans are also popular for the first-time gardener. Some beans grow as vines and will need a support system while others may grow as a bush. Green beans also grow during the warm months and need full sunlight and significant amounts of water. When the plants bloom, there will be bees and other insects to help with the pollination. During this time, you should avoid using too much pesticide that might interfere with this process. Green beans can be harvested between 50 and 80 days after planting.

Strawberries

StrawberriesAnother fruit that can work for the home gardener is the?strawberry. ?These are spreading plants that send out runners that can take up a lot of space. However, you can grow them in confined spaces like hanging containers, boxes, or pots. No matter where you plant them, you have to make sure they can get full sunlight. If you use a portable container, you can move the plant around to maximize sun exposure or protect from harsh weather. Strawberry plants can produce fruit for several years.

Herbs

Safe choices for your first garden are herbs like basil, rosemary, coriander, or dill. Many herbs are easy to grow and can be used in a number of dishes and even with your new vegetables. Herbs can be grown in pots, containers, or in your garden plot. Most herbs need to be in areas with good drainage because they don’t grow well in wet soil. You can plant several types of herbs in the same garden; however, some like mint will overgrow your garden.

Of course, your location will influence what items you can grow. But if you take care of your growing garden ? no matter your location ? you can be eating as well as any community. To improve your health and give your kitchen a kick, start your own garden.

Top 10 Candle Uses You’ve Never Heard Of

candleCandles have been a part of society practically since the dawn of civilization. In the past, they were used to light homes, but most people only use them now for adding a nice decorative touch to a room. However, they still serve several great purposes. In fact, candles have some very surprising uses. Here are ten candle uses you may not have ever considered.

1. Make Labels Watertight

If you?re out of clear plastic tape and need to mail a package, reach for a candle to make the label watertight. Simply run the candle over the label and the transferred wax will protect the ink and prevent smearing.

2. Spill-Proof Recipe Cards

You need your recipe cards out when cooking, but you don?t want them to get ruined. Make them spill-proof by rubbing a candle over the recipe. Splashes and spills will wipe right off the dried wax.

3. Eliminate Odors

As candles burn, the flame can burn off fumes and odors in the home. It won?t get rid of the source of unpleasant scents, but it will make your home smell nice again. Consider putting a candle in the bathroom. Use one in the kitchen if you?re burned a dish. Smokers often burn candles to help with the cigarette smell. You can even use a candle when you?re cutting onions to stop the onion fumes from making you cry.

4. Smooth Operating Wood Frames

Wood windows and dressers that stick are a serious inconvenience, but a candle has the cure you need. Rub the candle over the areas where the wood pieces move. The wax coats the wood and allows it to move smoothly. This is an age-old method for dealing with sticking drawers, and it still works.

5. Invisible Ink Projects

Let the kids have some fun with secret messages. Using a white candle, they can draw an image or message. The recipient can then cover the paper with watercolor paint to reveal the hidden information.

6. Banish Wood Dents

Dents in wood furniture are an eyesore, but you don?t have to live with them. Rub the wax candle over the dent and let the wax fill in the space. It effectively fills the dent without any stripping, sanding or refinishing required.

7. Fix Shoelaces

Shoelaces that are missing the plastic caps on the ends will continue to fray and come apart. However, you can stop the trend by dipping the ends in melted candle wax. You?ll have to repeat this process as the wax wears off over time, but it?s cheaper and faster than replacing the laces.

8. Zipper Repair

If you have a zipper that?s sticking, then a candle can help you. Metal zippers can start to bind, but all they really need is some lubrication. With the zipper open, rub the candle along the teeth and then see how much more smoothly it operates.

9. Stop the Squeak

If you have a squeaky door, then you might reach for an oily lubrication. However, a candle will work just as well. All you have to do is rub the candle over the hinges to coat the surface and quiet the noise.

10. Hold Pens and Pencils

If you have a decorative candle that needs a more functional use, turn it into a pen and pencil holder. Just put holes in the sides and along the top to easily slide your pens into place.?Candles are still an important part of our lives. While they aren?t typically used as task lighting anymore, they?re still an important tool that can be used in several other ways. From holding pens and fixing zippers to invisible ink and waterproofing labels, you?ll find that candles can help you out around the home in several ways.

Kathy Cameron is a work from home mom. She often writes about great DIY home tips. Here are her tips about various use of candles.

Finding Spots Where Air is Leaking Out of your Home

warm-houseIn the coming months, the weather will be getting colder and it will require more and more energy to keep the environment inside your home warm and comfortable. If you want your home to be as energy efficient as possible, you might want to have it examined before winter hits to detect for spots around your windows or doors where air might be entering or leaving your home. Whether you live in an old home or a new home- any of the properties available on the real estate market, air leaks are a possibility, and they can have a drastic effect on your electricity bill each month. In fact, air leaks can be responsible for as much as one third of a homeowner’s overall heating expenses. Heating expenses are a major utility cost, accounting for perhaps half of all of your overall utility costs.

Air leaks in the home are remedied with the use of techniques such as caulking or weather stripping around the windows and doors in a home. Such procedures can take in part of much of the additional costs brought about by air leaks. It is the perfect time to weather strip areas in your home, as such procedures can immediately make your home easier to heat and insulate effectively. Sealing your home is less important before periods of pleasant weather when heating and air conditioning is not as necessary.

It might seem like gaps and cracks around windows are so infinitesimally small that they cannot significantly impact the temperature in the home. However, a gap of only one eight of an inch around a window is the same as a hole in a wall with a diameter of as much as five and a half inches. This equates to a great deal of cold air leaking into a home.

There are leaks in the home where leaks are more difficult to detect. For example, it is very obvious when there is a draft under a door due to a large gap between the door and the floor. No machinery or procedure is necessary to detect such a crack. However, other types of cracks around other openings towards the exterior of a home are harder to detect. To detect such an opening, it is necessary to first turn the AC units off and seal the house by closing all of the windows and doors. Next, fans and vents in the bathroom and kitchen should be turned on, and incense can be used to see where air is leaking out of the home. Light incense and walk around the home. You will be able to see where air is escaping because the smoke from the incense will make air flow visible. You will see the incense being sucked towards gaps in the walls and towards the outside.

This is a simple, DIY method of looking for air leaks in the home. However, you could rely on professional consultation if you want to be absolutely certain that you are not missing any air leaks. It’s probably wise to make this a regular fall tradition so that you can prepare for the winter months each year. Once you have caulked or weather stripped to stop air from exiting or entering your home, you will see that your heating bills go down considerably.

Image Credit: www.newair.com

Add Value to your Home without Wrecking your Bank Account

add-value-to-your-homeWhen making home improvement decisions, it is always smart to start small. Even if your home is relatively new, chances are that there will be a few cracked walls, paint that already looks a bit glum, etc. Small projects like this do not necessarily add value to your home, but they do a great job at retaining the value of your home.

Simple Cleaning
If you plan on selling your home, the cleanliness and upkeep of the house will determine how long it will be on the market. It can even get buyers’ offers closer to what you are asking for. Smaller projects usually require a simple can of paint, some paint brushes, some spackle, and a bit of elbow grease. Painting the exterior is a way to add some curb appeal without the enormous expense of hiring a contractor. It’s relatively easy with the highest cost being time rather than money.

Small Reno
Once your house is spruced up and looking fresh. It is then time to get focus on the making tasteful renovations to the most important rooms in the house. Most home buyers base their decision on the quality of the bathrooms and kitchens, therefore renovations to these rooms add the most value. You don’t need to get carried away with updating these spaces as such renovations are among the most costly in the home improvement industry. Here are some inexpensive touch-ups your family can do to improve your kitchens and baths.

Revive the Kitchen
Let’s focus on the kitchen since it is often the heart and soul of a home. Kitchen renovations need to play to the advantages of the design of your kitchen. Kitchens need to feel as good as they look. It is easy to start with paint. The paint sets the mood of the space. Lighter colors make rooms feel larger and warm colors create set a social tone.  You do not necessarily have to go with what is in fashion to add more value.

Neutral colors create a timeless look and appeal the most buyers, buyers want to picture themselves living bright colors can disrupt their fantasies. Materials chosen can affect cost. When choosing counter tops, it does not always have to be expensive granite to get the price you want. Soapstone is a wonderful material.  It is durable, beautiful, and will wow any buyer. White subway tiled back-splashes are fashionable, timeless, and won’t cost you an arm and a leg.

DIY or Contract?
If you have the confidence and the know how to do the job yourself, then do so. But bear in mind that buyers, real estate agents, and appraisers have a sixth sense for detecting amateur work. Thus the savings from not hiring a contractor are at risk of being lost in the long-run. So if you do it yourself, be sure to do it well.  If you are not handy with a hammer, then there are countless online resources that can help you find a contractor who is both reputable and affordable.

These are only some of the ways that you ways that will give you a leg up on making a return on your investment. And the other benefit of renovation is that you and your family get to enjoy the fruits of your labor while the house is still in your possession.

Matthew is an American ex-pat real estate agent and knows a thing or two about home pricing. He has closed many deals and knows real estate markets around the world. When not helping clients find with their property search in Monaco, he enjoys taking his Bulldog, Buster, on walks and enjoys Southern French Cuisine.

Image Credit: www.fugoolive.com