Average ‘08 home improvement spending to top $11,000
Angie’s List members to spend 2.9% of home value on upgrades; stay put not sell
The national downturn in home sales that began in 2007 may cause an uptick in the home remodeling industry in 2008.The annual Angie’s List project poll indicates homeowners will spend about $11,250 on average on home improvement and maintenance projects in 2008, up 13 percent over the average they reported spending in 2007.
On average, homeowners answering the poll plan to spend 2.9 percent of their home’s value on repairs and renovations this year.
“More than 60 percent of our respondents tell us they will update their homes this year, and nearly half of them will oversee their home improvement projects themselves,” said Angie’s List founder Angie Hicks. “Building experts tell us they’re getting calls for work from homeowners who would otherwise move and put their current home on the market, but are afraid they can’t sell it quickly enough to afford the newer, bigger house.”
In specific, Hicks said, most poll respondents plan to invest in kitchens, baths – areas real estate experts say provides the best return when selling a home. They’re also the rooms people spend the most time when they’re at home. Other popular projects for 2008 are:
• Landscaping and yard work
• Painting inside or out
• Doors and widows
• Decks and porches
Slightly more than a quarter of the poll respondents said they will hire help in 2008; not to update, but to repair problems with their homes.
“Whether your project is large or small, the two smartest things you can do before you start are to make sure the professionals you hire are reliable and to make sure you have the resources to cover both your project costs and the unexpected home repairs that will come up throughout the year,” Hicks said.
Angie recommends following these three guidelines before you start any project:
1. Planning: Take a few minutes to walk around your house and observe the shape of your house inside and out.
2. Budgeting: Consider how much available money you have to spend and start with projects that you can afford. Make sure money you spend will add value to your home.
3. Executing: Timing is key in projects. Factor in what season you’ll be doing the work or what time of year may be the best time to get on a contractor’s schedule if you’re hiring out the project.
Once you have your list of projects in hand, consider these 10 factors:
1. Start small: Tackle the smaller jobs first because you’ll more likely finish the project.
2. Wants vs. needs: Make a list of projects that “need” to get done. Finish those first, then move on to your “wants”.
3. Safety concerns: Handle any projects that could affect your family’s safety. Do you have water damage or faulty plumbing? Leaking water should be a priority because it could cause structural problems down the road. Also, check to make sure your smoke alarms are working and childproof your home.
4. Upgrades: Perform projects that reduce energy and water consumption. This will save you money in the long run.
5. Small tasks, big rewards: Make easy, low-cost improvements that can offer significant results such as painting a room or changing a light fixture.
6. Tedious jobs: Polish off repairs that have been a nuisance or that you have been putting off, such as that squeaky floor and leaky faucet.
7. Pest control: Check for the insect kind or the small furry ones. Sealing your home and lawn against pests is important home maintenance item.
8. Cosmetic: Fix that hole in the wall, repair molding or add a splash of color to your walls.
9. Curb appeal: Improvements to the home’s exterior will make it more inviting. Get a new front door or spruce up the landscaping.
10. Stay positive: Don’t get discouraged. Just remember not to get too overwhelmed or you’ll never see the project through. At the end of the year, you’ll have a lot to look back on.
• 1,309 Angie’s List members took the 2007 poll. Responses are representative of Angie’s List members but not the general public. Detailed results are available upon request.
Angie’s List is where consumers turn to get the real scoop on local contractors and companies in more than 280 different categories. Currently, more than 600,000 consumers across the U.S. rely on Angie’s List to help them find the right contractor or company for the job they need done. Members have unlimited access to the list via Internet or phone; receive the Angie’s List magazine, which includes articles on home improvement and maintenance, consumer trends and scam alerts; and they can utilize the Angie’s List complaint resolution service. Get more information and consumer tips at www.angieslist.com.
Four ways to find a contractor you can love
When it comes to sheer potential for relationship disaster, the worst in-laws in the world can’t compare to a shady contractor.
Hire a questionable contractor and you could be setting yourself up for serious heartache. Find a contractor you can love and you’ll be building the foundation of a lasting, happy relationship – not to mention the home of your dreams.
But the numbers show that many Americans have difficulty finding reputable contractors. In fact, the Better Business Bureau logged more than 9,600 complaints against contractors in 2006. Of the 3,800 different categories of complaints accepted by the BBB, those against contractors rank lucky 13 in terms of prevalence.
Here are four steps towards building a lasting, happy relationship with a quality contractor:
1. Run from . . .
Despite the volume of BBB complaints logged against certain contractors, most are honest and operate within the law. The Federal Trade Commission offers the following tips for recognizing a contractor who possibly isn’t on the up-and-up:
• Beware of signs such as soliciting door-to-door, only accepting cash, not having a listed business number in the local telephone directory, or offering to do your project with materials “leftover” from a previous job.
• Watch out for contractors who want you to obtain required building permits or find them new customers (some will offer discounts if you find them new business).
• If the contractor is offering something that seems too good to be true—like exceptionally long guarantees or offering to do your home as a “demonstration”—it probably is too good to be true.
• Finally, if a contractor pressures you for an immediate decision to hire him, or to borrow money for the project through his preferred lender, you may want to take your business elsewhere.
2. Check them out
Don’t hesitate to check out the background of the contractor you’re considering for your job; he won’t be offended if he has nothing to hide. Likewise, find out if he intends to subcontract some work, and do a background and financial check of those contractors as well. Fortunately, there are a number of resources with information on contractors, from the BBB to websites that maintain databases of contractors, such as ContractorCheck.com.
Launched by Experian, the company known for its credit reporting and protection services, ContractorCheck allows consumers to search for contractors in their area, check a specific contractor’s business background and avoid contractor fraud. For each contractor in the database, consumers can check to see if he is bonded, the status of his business license and insurance, how long the company has been in business, and if the contractor has any judgments or liens against him.
3. Talk to people who already love them
During your dating years you probably “checked out” prospective dates by talking to their friends and others who knew them. You need to do the same kind of word-of-mouth research before committing to a contractor. Talk to past clients to determine how reliable, speedy and reasonably priced they think your contractor candidate is. Were they pleased with the work but thought it took too long to complete? Did the contractor deliver on-time and on-budget?
Reputable contractors maintain a list of satisfied customers who have agreed to act as references. If your potential contractor can’t provide the names, phone numbers and email addresses of past satisfied customers, you may want to ask yourself why he can’t.
4. Get it in writing
Good contractors will give you a binding estimate in writing. They also won’t work without a written contract. The contract should clearly spell out, in easy-to-understand terms, exactly what the project will cost, what will be accomplished and the anticipated time frame for completing the job. Don’t hesitate to get an attorney to review the contract before you sign it, especially if you are dealing with a high-price-tag project.
Beware of verbal agreements; as the saying goes, in a court of law, they’re often as good as the paper they were written on.
Courtesy of ARA Content
Caring for your hardwood floors this winter
Homeowners with hardwood floors are often concerned about damaging their floors during the winter season. Without proper care, winter’s harsh elements—slush, snow and salt—can dull the varnish of hardwood floors and even cause warping and gapping.
It’s almost impossible to avoid winter elements. After all, what would the season be without building a snowman or sledding until you’re soaked? Rather than missing out on winter fun, here are a couple of simple steps you can take to protect your floors this winter.
Install floor mats
Catching slush and snow at the door is the best way to avoid damage. It is important to keep these mats as clean and dry as possible. You may even consider investing in an additional mat that you can use while drying the other. If your kids enjoy playing outside, encourage them to remove their wet snow apparel as soon as they come back inside to avoid trekking snow all over the house.
Get creative with everyday household materials
Placing a dish-drainer tray mat by the door with a towel underneath can be a nice place for shoes and boots to dry off. Kindly ask your guests to remove their shoes as they enter. Buy inexpensive or disposable slippers to make your guests feel more comfortable.
Train your pets
Pets are the number one offenders of tracking snow and slush into the house. Train your pets to patiently wait by the door while you dry their paws with a towel, and then reward them with a treat. Consider placing a bowl of treats by the door as a reminder.
Always keep soft towels or a wet/dry vacuum on hand in case you need to get rid of water right away. While towels can clean up most of the mess, it’s best to invest in a quality floor care kit. Lumber Liquidators offers a Bellawood Floor Care Kit which comes with one 32-ounce bottle of Bellawood’s soy-based cleaner, one mop with a washable terry cloth mop head, and one tin with 100 felt furniture pads. The Bellawood Floor Care Kit can be found on the Lumber Liquidators website at www.lumberliquidators.com and at all store locations for $25 per kit.
Check the warranty
Some companies offer warranties, should snow or other harmful elements damage your floors. Make sure to find out before you purchase your hardwood floors what type of product warranties the company offers. Lumber Liquidators offers warranties on most flooring options, which in turn helps protect you and your floors.
“Damage to hardwood floors in the winter is among the top concerns we hear from our customers,” said Tom Sullivan, founder of Lumber Liquidators. “Using our floor care kit on a fairly regular basis should do a thorough job of protecting your floors. While winter is a key season to be cautious, there are damaging factors all year long so we recommend the kit be used regularly.”
While winter can be a difficult time for hardwood floors, there is one benefit to this season: It’s one of the best times to install hardwood flooring. According to Sullivan, indoor moisture levels are at their lowest, which helps to prevent gapping.
For more information about installing hardwood flooring, call (800) FLOORING (356.6746) or visit www.lumberliquidators.com.
Courtesy of ARA Content
Easy, do-it-yourself upgrades to make your home more functional
The age-old argument of form versus function need not apply while upgrading your home. There are easy, do-it-yourself ways to improve your living spaces while making your home more beautiful and functional. Whether your home is a small apartment or a large estate there are many simple, low-cost projects that can have a big impact.
Unlike the cookie-cutter homes of yesteryear, today people want their interior spaces to be customized. Upgrades such as custom walk-in clothes closets and slab granite countertops are nice, but pricey and frequently require professional installation. What if you live in an older home that has no overhead lighting in the bedroom? Or you’ve got a small living room that has room for extra seating or a coffee table, but not both?
Under cabinet—out of sight, not out of mind
There are many products that may be installed under your cabinets to make your kitchen more functional while using previously wasted space. If you like to be entertained while preparing food, but have no counter space to spare, try an under cabinet television, radio or combination of the two. Under cabinet lighting brightens up any kitchen space and can shed light on nooks and crannies that had been neglected in the dark.
Install an under cabinet spice rack to free up valuable counter real estate. The racks hold 14 to 24 jars of herbs and spices without sacrificing cabinet, counter or drawer space.
Up a wall
If you need to add extra space to your place, look up. The walls are an often overlooked area when adding storage to your home. Add shelving to the kitchen, bathroom, laundry area, linen and clothing closets to increase space for the things we accumulate.
The least expensive way to add shelving is to purchase pre-made wire shelves from your local retailer. But wire shelves are not very attractive and the spaces between the wires often allow for products-and messes-to spill through. The Shelfanator is a solid white wood-look shelf cover specifically designed to fit right over wire shelving. The Shelfanator cover locks in place and creates a flat, even and sturdy surface on top of sometimes clumsy wire shelves and gives them a custom look. The covers are water and stain resistant and significantly brighten up the areas where wire shelving is typically used-laundry rooms, kitchens, bathrooms and closets. Installation takes just a few minutes.
Shed some light in tight spaces
The addition of a comfortable chair and wall-mounted lighting can easily create a book nook in an unused corner. Adding wall-mounted lighting to both sides of a bed provides light that is adjustable based on the reader’s — or sleeper’s — preference. Lighting mounted on the wall is stylish, clean, uncluttered and does not take up precious table space needed for alarm clocks and books.
Install dimmer switches to control the light level in a living room, bedroom or dining area. Dimmer switches add ambience and changing the light instantly changes the way a room looks.
The garage – Not just for the car anymore
Purchase an epoxy coating kit from your local hardware retailer and follow the simple instructions to transform your dingy garage floor in just a few hours. Not only does a fresh epoxy coat look nice and add value, but it hides stains and is easy to clean. It even increases the usable floor space in the garage by brightening the space and eliminating formerly cobwebbed and dirt covered spaces.
Stuff to put more stuff
The next time you’re in the market for a chair or coffee table, purchase a piece of furniture that does double duty. There are coffee tables with tops that lift up to create a workspace and have shelves and drawers to store the remote controls. Storage ottomans have hidden space inside to store books and blankets, but when the top is on they add extra seating or can act as a footrest or table. Sofa beds offer a comfortable seating option and the bed inside pulls out when guests stay overnight.
The next time you have a free afternoon, take time to upgrade and customize your space. The payoff is clean, uncluttered rooms that are comfortable and functional.
Courtesy of ARA Content
Bring your entertainment room into the 21st century
Upgrading your family room to a family entertainment room is expected to be one of the hottest home improvement projects for 2008, and if you’re among the millions planning to do it, the best place to start is by deciding how to put the main attraction, your new HDTV, on display.
Popular installation methods include sitting on top of a furniture cabinet, hanging from the wall, or even mounted overhead in the corner of a room. “The possibilities are really endless thanks to innovations in the technology available to support these TVs,” said Keith Pribyl, vice president of retail sales for Sanus Systems, a manufacturer of audio video furnishings, mounts and accessories.
The company expects home theater accessories to be popular in the new year, especially its four new VisionMount full-motion wall mounts for medium flat-panel TVs. The new mounts offer features such as tilt, swivel, pan and extend motions, and Virtual Axis 3-D technology for smooth, effortless tilting with the touch of a finger. The LAS1A and XAS1A side speaker mounts that attach to Sanus’ large and extra-large full-motion flat-panel wall mounts are also expected to be hot items.
Sanus Systems products are available at thousands of retail locations nationwide. A store locator is available at www.sanus.com.
Courtesy of ARA Content
How to prep like a painting pro
Painting is one of the fastest and most affordable ways to update your home. A fresh coat of paint can give new life to a dull room, or a completely different color can add personality and pizzazz throughout your living space. To ensure a professional-quality job, take the appropriate preparation steps.
“To achieve great painting results that last a long time, it’s crucial to prep the surface thoroughly and get the right tools,” said Anne Horst, customer service manager at Wooster Brush, a company dedicated to producing quality painting products. “Surface preparation is key for getting expert-looking results.”
Preparing the surface is the most important part of any painting project. If the paint doesn’t have a smooth, clean surface to adhere to, the result will be a poor-quality job that doesn’t last very long. “You should spend at least as much time on surface prep as you will be painting,” advised Horst.
Follow these seven steps to ensure a professional-level prep job and beautiful painting results:
1) Start by clearing the space. If you can’t move the furniture out of the room, push it all into the center and cover it with drop cloths. Remove outlet covers, wall heating vents, light fixtures and other hardware. The job will go faster because you won’t need to paint around these objects, and the overall coverage will be more professional.
2) Next, scrape or sand flaking paint from the surface. If you are painting over a semigloss or gloss finish, the gloss should be removed or else new coats of paint may not adhere. Horst recommends using sandpaper with 220 grit or a liquid cleaning/dulling agent.
3) As you prepare the surface, look for flaws. Fill cracks, gouges, chips, and nail holes with the appropriate patching plaster, spackling compound, or wood putty. When the patch is dry, sand it lightly and feather the edges of any rough spots so they’re level with the rest of the area. Remember, the smoother the surface, the better it will look after it’s painted.
4) “After sanding the surface and fixing chips, wash the wall with a 50/50 mix of ammonia and water to get rid of grease, dirt and dust. Allow it to dry completely, then lightly wipe with a damp cloth. This helps ensure the wall is clean and ready for paint,” said Horst.
5) Before priming and painting, make sure to get the proper brushes and rollers so the job goes as quickly and smoothly as possible. Horst points out, “If you are a fairly steady painter and you’re using a high-quality brush like Wooster Ultra/Pro, you might not even need to tape off the trim. Steady or not, if you’re working with a cheap brush you’ll need to buy masking tape and apply it, adding to the cost and time of the project.”
6) When painting ceilings, cover the entire floor with drop cloths. For walls, you can simply cover the floor next to where you’re painting.
7) The final step is to prime the walls. Use the correct primer on the entire surface if it is newly constructed, stained by water or smoke, prone to mildew, rusted or aged. Your local paint store can provide recommendations. Primer helps to seal and even out the surface so the paint goes on smoother, adheres better and lasts longer.
One technique experts use to save time and get a high-quality finish is to use a mini-roller for small wall spaces, trim work or edging close to the ceiling. The Jumbo-Koter mini-roller has a special cage frame that provides a smooth operation without skidding, and the roller fabrics match the full-size Wooster covers so you get a uniform finish. It eliminates the band of brushmarks around the wall edges or near the baseboards.
For more information, visit www.woosterbrush.com or look for Wooster products at your favorite paint store.
Courtesy of ARA Content
Fix up the focus of your bathroom for less
Many homes in America have a dirty little secret—a dated, dingy, dark and dysfunctional bathroom. While the average return on investment of a bathroom remodel is 80 to 90 percent, the average cost—$10,000 to $12,000—can easily put the brakes on the project before it’s even started.
The largest focal point in most bathrooms is the bathtub or shower. Sprucing up the main focus freshens up the entire bathroom for a fraction of the price of a full remodel.
“There are ways to reap the rewards of a better bathroom while putting a cap on project costs,” says Derek Cassoff, marketing manager at Bath Fitter — a custom bath, shower and wall company.
Glaze over the problem
One popular option is to re-glaze, or repaint, your existing bathtub. This is one way to cover up chips or cracks. In some cases, you can even use it to change the color. However, the results are usually temporary and may only last until you’re ready to re-do the entire bathroom.
Cover it up
A more permanent option is to install an acrylic bathtub liner right over your existing bathtub or shower surround. Bath Fitter can build a custom acrylic liner to go over your bathtub, shower and wall for much less than it would cost to rip out and replace the existing fixtures. The high quality material is easy to clean, has a lifetime warranty and is a permanent fix, unlike re-glazing. The process takes about a day meaning your bathroom won’t be out of commission for weeks. You can even instantly design your own new bathroom on their website: www.BathFitter.com.
Start from scratch
Embrace your funky pink bathtub and re-tile in a complementary color. Tiling can be tedious, but if Art Deco is your style you can find tiles that fit with your bathroom’s existing color style and color scheme. Be careful when removing old tiles so as not to damage the wall underneath. Hiring a professional may cost a bit more up front, but can pay off in dividends when you don’t have to repair an accidental hole in the wall.
Remember you can always update or change the look of your bathroom with a gallon of paint and some decorative accessories.
Courtesy of ARA Content
Make a dramatic home improvement with a small budget
Do some of your light fixtures look like they are fugitives from another era, and are certain rooms in your home better looking with the lights off? If so, it’s time to do something about it.
Small changes with regards to lighting can make a dramatic improvement in the look and feel of your home, and they don’t cost much to do. Here are some ideas from the experts at LightingShowplace.com—a company that over the past 13 years has helped more than one million customers with their projects – on how to dress up your home in an instant, starting at the front door.
When you drive up to your home at night, what do you see? If the answer is “not much,” then you should replace your front entry light with a lamp that gives off more light. A well lit front entrance says ‘Welcome,’ while at the same time enabling you to greet guests and identify visitors. Not only will updating your lighting improve the look of your home from the street, it will enhance your sense of security because the front door will be better lit.
If you have a single lantern next to the door, consider replacing it with matching wall lanterns to give the home a warm look, while assuring the safety of those who enter. For homes with a porch or overhang, you have even more options: a recessed, chain-hung or ceiling fixture.
The dining room
Want to dress up your dining room without spending a small fortune on new furniture? Simply painting those plain white walls and switching out the chandelier hanging over the table will make a dramatic difference.
Not sure what color to go with? Here’s a guideline from the National Kitchen and Bath Association on what some of the most popular colors can do:
Soft yellows can be cheering and make individuals feel sunny. Bright yellow can be used as an accent that attracts attention and helps to brighten a room.
Green is the ultimate pacifier. Often associated with nature, it is both relaxing and reassuring. Pale yellow-greens conjure images of growth while deep greens are associated with status and wealth.
Blue arouses feelings of freshness, coolness and relaxation. In lighter hues, blue is airy and open while dark blues represent wealth, strength and respect, evoking the feelings of reassurance in individuals.
Red attracts attention, causes excitement, and even raises blood pressure. Intense red is stimulating; however, it can also be distracting in large amounts. Red is associated with wealth and sophistication, while high value reds (pinks) can make people feel good about the way they look.
Once you choose a paint color move on to the task of replacing your plain, boring fixture with one that gives the room more of a “wow” factor. For a look of opulence, you may want to go with a crystal chandelier. For a more contemporary look, consider a fixture that features softened and rounded lines. If you’re going for a modern look, you’ll want something with polished surfaces, strong geometric shapes and asymmetry, while the rustic look reflects the visual patterns found in nature.
Adding a floor lamp in the corner of the room that fits the same theme will help you really dress up the room. It will make those extra chairs resting near the wall a more inviting place to hang out while people are waiting for the meal to be ready.
And if your bathroom still looks like it’s circa 1970 with dark paint and globe lights around the mirror, choose a lighter paint color and swap out the fixtures for a bold new look.
An ideally lit bathroom will have a fixture above the mirror with usually two, three, four or more bulbs. This fixture will provide overhead and top of the features lighting. The next type of fixture you will need to achieve a well lit bathroom are sconces. One sconce on either side of the mirror will help avoid shadows and fill in the rest of your face and neck properly. Most bathrooms will require additional flush mount ceiling lighting in the toilet area or center of the room to fill the entire room properly with light.
When it’s time to start shopping for fixtures, you don’t need to spend a lot of time running from lighting store to lighting store. To get an idea of the latest looks available, just log on to www.lightingshowplace.com, and you’ll have access to an online catalog with hundreds of fixtures to choose from. You can shop by brand, collection or style and once you find a look you like, the site makes it easy for you to pair up matching pieces.
According to Daniel Auer of Lighting Showplace.com, customers come to his online store for three key reasons. “They come to us because they know they can find quality merchandise at a good price, that they can expect the products to be delivered quickly, and that they’ll have all their questions answered either in the informational articles on our Web site, or on the phone when they talk to one of our customer service representatives.”
Auer adds that unlike box stores which typically hire people who aren’t familiar with all the brands and products they sell, his customer service personnel can answer any question the customer has, and they will offer a quick response via e-mail or phone.
Whether you’re ready to shop for your lighting needs today, or just looking for ideas that will jump start your project, log on to www.LightingShowplace.com.
Courtesy of ARA Content
Demand for ENERGY STAR®
Compact fluorescent lighting spurs more options, styles and higher standards.
ENERGY STAR compact fluorescent light (CFL) bulbs have been on the market for more than a decade now, and as consumer demand has grown, so have the styles and sizes to accommodate all kinds of lighting fixtures. Despite their 75 percent power savings over regular incandescent bulbs, and rising consumer demand, there are still many concerns about CFLs that steer some consumers away from buying these high-quality bulbs. For instance, older versions of CFLs fit into all normal-size light sockets, but they either didn’t always fit a particular fixture or lampshade or didn’t work for certain applications like dimmable lights. These versions also took a few seconds to warm up and sometimes flickered. That’s no longer the case today, as ENERGY STAR-qualified fixtures and bulbs give off the same amount of light as incandescent or halogen lighting, while providing a true and natural color without the flicker, hum or buzz.
There are many versions of CFLs for recessed lighting, dimmable ballasts, outdoor fixtures and more. Some ENERGY STAR qualified fixtures and CFL bulbs come equipped with 3-way lighting. Also, new CFLs now look almost like traditional incandescent bulbs in both shape and size. Bottom line, ENERGY STAR qualified CFL bulbs can replace regular, incandescent bulbs in almost any fixture, making them appropriate and cost-effective for fixtures throughout your home. Also, for ENERGY STAR fixtures, there are pin-based CFLs (unlike standard screw-based CFLs) that are made specifically for the energy-efficient fixtures. ENERGY STAR fixtures fitted with pin-based CFLs allow for maximum lighting efficiency and quality.
Using 75 percent less electricity, CFLs can produce the same amount of light as a common incandescent bulb and last about10 times longer. They have lower wattage ratings making them more energy efficient and less harmful to the environment. CFLs are also much cooler to touch than incandescent or halogen bulbs because they produce about 70 percent less heat.
Tired of changing the ceiling lights year after year? ENERGY STAR-qualified fixtures last seven to 10 times longer than incandescent bulbs. All ENERGY STAR-qualified light fixtures are tested to meet strict specifications and carry a two-year warranty—double the industry standard! CFLs use less energy, resulting in less fossil fuels being burned and less greenhouse gases released into the air. In fact, if every household in New York State replaced one incandescent bulb with an ENERGY STAR CFL, we would avoid releasing approximately 340,000 tons of carbon dioxide into the air. That is the equivalent of taking over 68,000 cars off the road. Lower your electric demand and save money with CFLs! By replacing five of your most used bulbs with CFLs, you will save approximately $60 a year in energy costs. When compared to traditional incandescent light bulbs, CFL bulbs are more expensive to purchase, but are much less expensive to operate. They will save you about $30 per bulb in energy savings over their lifetime, more than offsetting their initial cost.
To find out more information about ENERGY STAR lighting, tips to save more money on your energy bills and other New York Energy $mart programs, visit www.GetEnergySmart.org or call 1-877-NY-Smart.
Home security systems go a la carte
By Amy E. Tucker
If you ever thought having a home security system (HSS) was a luxury for the rich and famous—think again. New technologies and customized add-on services have made protecting your home and valuables not just affordable, but a smart investment.
“It’s really more of an emotional product, today,” said Van Mekeel, general manager for security at Time Warner Security (TWS). “It’s not just a good, old-fashioned, burglar alarm anymore, but an extremely modular and customizable configuration that can accommodate individualized security needs.”
The advent of dual income families has increased the number of adults away from the home as well as the reliance on home security devices and monitoring systems. Homeowners have joined businesses in utilizing electronic security to protect and safeguard their property and valuables when they’re not on the premises—and even when they are.
“Emotional ‘triggers’ are big motivators for purchasing a home security system,” said Ann Lindstrom, director of corporate communications for ADT Security Systems, Inc., a unit of Tyco Fire & Security.
“Life changing events such as a marriage, moving into a new home or having a baby prompt people to contact ADT,” she said. “Sometimes those events are more negative, such as hearing that a neighboring home was burglarized or that crimes have occurred in the surrounding community.”
Mekeel agreed, but said people require security for more than just peace of mind or a change in lifestyle.
“Add-on services for environmental conditions such as fire, temperature and water detection are becoming more popular than the primary security service,” he noted. “We service a lot of seasonal homes where subscribers purchase a low-temperature detector or basement water detection.”
Commercial customers might install security systems for liability protection and to deter, detect and document crimes, including theft. In fact, the proven deterrent value of having a professionally-installed and monitored security system has prompted many insurance companies to require systems or offer premium reductions for the service.
In an industry comprised of both national vendors and independent local alarm companies, TWS is a national brand that’s surpassed the quarter-century mark. Available in the Capital District for the last 15 years, its business is approximately 70 percent residential and 30 percent commercial.
“We focus on residential primarily because we feel it complements our core services nicely,” said Mekeel.
ADT Home Security Systems, Inc., on the other hand, enjoys a relatively 50-50 split.
Established in 1874 as American District Telegraph (ADT), the 133-year-old company has been in business longer than any other electronic security services company and services nearly six million customers in North America.
Ranked as the largest security services provider by Security Distributing and Marketing Magazine (www.sdmmag.com), they cite Brinks as their closest competitor in the residential market and HSM in the commercial marketplace.
“Some consumers prefer a local ‘alarm guy’ that they heard of through word-of-mouth referral,” Mekeel said, “where others will prefer a large, name-brand, national service provider like Time Warner, ADT or Protection One.”
What sets the competition apart according to Mekeel is the quality—of the hardware and the service. There are hundreds of different installation variables. Customers may just want their doors secured and have a motion detector, or they may want all their windows and doors secured.
“TWS doesn’t require a long-term contract to ‘bind you’ to our services like most national providers,” explained Mekeel. “If your needs change or you’re unhappy with the product, you can terminate the service.”
In addition to TWS’ lifetime service warranty, there are no charges for service calls and no maintenance agreements or extended warranties to purchase for the hardware.
“We want the consumer to be comfortable using the system,” Mekeel continued, “and not be afraid to call with questions or concerns because they might be charged for a service call.”
All credible security providers should have a central monitoring station that is Underwriter Laboratories (UL)-certified.
TWS owns and maintains a UL-certified monitoring station in Syracuse which accommodates the entire company’s installations. A redundancy (back-up) system can reach out to a regional location in Syracuse or it can be drilled back to a divisional level if necessary.
ADT’s network of five, fully UL-certified, interconnected, customer monitoring centers are strategically located in diverse geographic areas of the country including Rochester, N.Y.; Aurora, CO; Jacksonville, Fla.; Kansas City, MO and Omaha, Neb. These monitoring centers are equipped with the latest technology to prioritize and direct calls for the most prompt attention.
The service menu
ADT’s total security solutions include intrusion, fire protection, closed circuit television, access control, critical condition monitoring, electronic article surveillance, radio frequency identification (RFID) and integrated systems.
“Beyond burglar alarms people appreciate the value of having a monitored smoke alarm and carbon monoxide detector to help provide life safety as well as security,” Lindstrom said.
ADT’s new Safewatch® Videoview® surveillance system allows homeowners to monitor their homes remotely. The system can even generate email alerts whenever a customer-defined event or intrusion occurs.
With an Internet connection and a password, customers can log on to an encrypted and secure website to make sure family members have arrived home safely, check on possible damage to a vacation home after a storm or monitor the progress of repairmen from anywhere.
ADT doesn’t offer a basic starter kit or entry-level pricing. Each home is individually customized to meet the consumer’s needs and pricing is figured accordingly. You’re paying only for what you need, and those needs are individually assessed for your specific home/structure and security concerns.
TWS offers a standard HSS package for $95 consisting of three door or window contacts, one motion detector, an interior siren, a command center key pad, phone connection and communicator panel.
Standard features include zoned areas that can be turned on or off when residents are home; buttons to summon fire, police and emergency medical assistance and pet immunity motion detectors that can be set to ignore motion from objects weighing less than a specified amount.
Additional add-on components or modules include smoke, water and temperature detectors; additional alarms for windows or doors and an Escort ™ System for remote activation of alarms.
The TWS sales team educates the subscriber to help determine what components are needed. In a commercial environment for example, areas can be partitioned so that a warehouse is armed separately from the office. Another popular TWS feature for families with young children is the addition of a door chime. If a child opens the door, the keypad beeps, notifying the adult.
Education also includes landscaping alternatives for new homes, such as planting a thorny bush beneath an accessible window in lieu of purchasing an additional contact. (what do you mean by contact?)
“When we arm a window,” Mekeel explained, “we use the screen as the point of detection for the contact. That way you can raise the window to let fresh air in, but still have the system armed. If the screen is opened or cut, it would trigger the alarm.”
For vendors large and small, the future of security systems is evolving as rapidly as the technology.
According to Mekeel, the industry will continue to evolve into a value-added system like a touch-screen center for information
“We’ll provide information such as traffic and stock reports, horoscopes, news and weather, in addition to the ability to turn on your lights and arm your system remotely. I see it eventually converging into a home-management system.”
All this may eventually be operable from a button on your wrist watch or television remote.
For information on ADT Security Systems, visit: www.adt.com. For information on Time Warner Security visit: www.twalbany.twalb.com/security/ or contact 242.8990.
Molding and trim
The crowning glory of any room
If you’re like most homeowners you probably don’t think much about trim and crown molding. But walk into a room with crown molding and you will immediately feel you are somewhere special. Trim and crown molding really complete a room that may otherwise seem dull and lackluster.
Baseboards and doorway trim are essential to give a room a finished look. And upscale touches like crown molding can add to the elegance of almost any room. In fact, trim and crown molding is so important that finish carpenters – craftsmen who specialize in making and/or installing room trim—can command high prices for their work.
“The good news is that thanks to some innovative new products, and readily available advice and education, you can fire your finish carpenter,” said trim expert Mike Denny of So-Simple Crown Molding. “It’s easier and more affordable than ever for do-it-yourselfers to install trim, even crown molding.”
Here are facts you should know about trimming a room:
• Trim types include baseboards, molding around doors and windows, ceiling trims and crown moldings. They can all be as elaborate or simple as your taste dictates. Most home builders install basic base moldings and door and window trim.
• Baseboards or floor trim are both decorative and functional. Installed where the bottom of the wall meets the floor, base moldings anchor a room visually and also protect walls from damage by feet, vacuum cleaners, brooms, mops or other cleaning tools.
• The wider the trim, the greater its visual impact on a room. If you are trimming a grand, open space, wide, highly detailed moldings can add depth and interest to the room. Keep scale in mind when choosing the size and complexity of trim.
• Crown moldings have long been considered the hallmarks of upscale homes. Historically, builders have marketed these moldings as expensive upgrades and finish carpenters have charged handsomely to install these trims in existing homes.
“Until recently, most homeowners would have hesitated to tackle installation of crown molding on their own,” Denny said. “Thanks to the growth of the do-it-yourself market, manufacturers, such as SoSimpleCrown, have created beautiful and affordable crown molding that makes it easy for virtually anyone to trim a room themselves.”
Crown molding has entered the realm of the do-it-yourselfers thanks to pre-cut corners. “Traditional wood crown molding has a reputation as a difficult home improvement project for the do-it-yourselfer,” he said. “Most people are intimidated by the angled cuts required and the tools such as the, nail gun, needed to install traditional crown molding.”
Enter products like So-Simple Crown Molding, a light weight, easy to handle foam crown molding product that looks exactly like real wood crown molding. Much less expensive than wood crown, this innovative molding eliminates two of the biggest challenges of crown molding installation—corner cuts and nailing. With a simple online ordering process, homeowners specify the number of corners in their room and the company pre-cuts the moldings for the proper fit. Precut corners and the molding’s light weight means one person can easily install the molding.
Additionally, this product installs with caulk. No nails are required. For more information about crown molding visit, www.SoSimpleCrown.com.
Courtesy of ARA Content
Remodeling that pay$
By Amy E. Tucker
As the winter months drag on, many homeowners turn to remodeling and rehabbing projects to pass the time and increase the resale value of their homes. When deciding on which projects to undertake, it’s important to remember: not all projects are created equally.
You may be longing for that in-ground swimming pool this summer, but adding a deck might provide more bang for your buck when it comes time to put your home on the market. To take some of the guesswork out of the process, the following suggestions were derived from Home Modeling Magazine for the best remodeling projects across the country.
The two best home remodeling projects by far in terms of return on your investment are the kitchen and the bathroom.
A kitchen remodel ranges anywhere from $15,000 and up and adds between 80-110 percent increased value to your home. A complete overhaul could include new cabinets and countertops, re-wiring or plumbing alterations, structural changes and new or custom cabinetry and appliances.
Remodeling your bathroom, though typically less expensive than a kitchen remodel, provides a whopping 80-115 percent return. Bathroom remodels start at approximately $7,500 and include new fixtures and fittings, tile, floors and walls, in addition to possible plumbing and structural changes. Adding a second bath can yield more than 100 percent resale value! Bankrate.com quoted Julius Lowenberg, president of the National Association of the Remodeling Industry, as stating “people are spending more time in their bathrooms and bedrooms. It’s a luxury item for them.”
Luxury showers with pulsating or multiple shower heads, marble countertops and double vanities are no longer limited to million-dollar homes. Simple, inexpensive fixes include custom-fitted tub liners, which replace the existing tub without the mess of ripping it out.
When deciding on a room addition, the type of room selected could make or break the deal. Constructing a new room can be costly, ranging anywhere from $30,000 and up, with the return value varying from a mere 50 percent to 110 percent according to Home Modeling Magazine. The addition of a family room or master suite and bath adds more to a home’s value than adding a private office or fourth bedroom.
Converting existing space in an attic, basement or garage, however, is much less costly and can provide the same conveniences. Assuming no structural changes need to be made, and that plumbing doesn’t need to be added, a typical conversion ranges between $10-15,000 and, depending on the type of room created and the size of the existing house, it can increase the value from 25 to 40 percent.
The next best remodeling projects focus on the exterior of your home. Adding a deck or repainting the exterior both yield a 40 to 60 percent return, with a fresh coat of paint perhaps adding the “best profit” to selling an older home (cost and return estimates for aluminum and vinyl siding were not included in the report). Relatively speaking, paint is much less expensive averaging about $1,500 and up compared to $5-10,000 and up for a deck. Warmer climates also increase the value of adding a deck and amenities such as a gazebo, trellis work or a spa.
Finally, adding that coveted in-ground pool can yield a 20 to 40 percent return depending on the size, the climate of your area and desirability to future homeowners. An average, rectangular-size 16’ x 32’ pool can cost anywhere from $20,000 and up with fencing, typically required for safety and insurance purposes, pushing the bill still higher.
Additional improvements such as installing insulated windows, paving the driveway, landscaping and more can beautify and improve both the functionality and efficiency of your home. But when it comes to remodeling that pays, stick to the guidelines above for the best return on your investment.