Home Improvements

10 Home Amenities Contractors Love

Rising numbers of creative artists, freelancers and contractors are working from home. The numbers are expected to increase. Leasing agents, employers and manufacturers of home amenities aren't the only people who have to accommodate for shifts that America's changing workforce will bring. Real estate agents, home builders, mortgage lenders and home buyers may also have to adjust to the changes.

Home amenities must keep up with changing times

The shifts that may have far reaching impact are expected to see half of America's workforce earning income from the contractor and freelancer ranks. According to Forbes, 53 million workers in the United States already freelance. By 2020, that number is expected to double. Many of these workers will work from home.

Add in telecommuters, and don't be surprised if members of the gig and freelance economy start looking for home amenities and home floor layouts that fit their work-from-home needs. Following are 10 home amenities that contractors may start looking for more and more in home designs.

  1. Open floor plan - Houses that are designed with an open floor plan make it easier for contractors to multi-task. Whether they are working from their home office, the living room or the kitchen island, contractors can keep an eye on young children, pets or a meal that's cooking in the oven while they work.
  2. Solar energy - Homes built with solar energy panels help to cut down on utility expenses for work-at-home professionals, and who doesn't love opening a utility bill and seeing that the costs has dropped?
  3. Great outdoor views - Of all home amenities, this one is tops. Great views can keep freelancers from feeling isolated. Outdoor views help contractors feel connected to the world around them, even as contractors work for 8 or more hours a day from home.
  4. Built-in bookcases - Apartment management companies are already designing apartment units with built-in bookcases. Not only are built-in-bookcases visually attractive, they are space savers.
  5. Large home office - A large home office is a contractor's bread and butter. Contractors may start asking real estate agents to only show them houses that have a large home office. These rooms need to be big enough to fit a desk, chair, two filing cabinets, a printer and computer inside. The space shouldn't be cramped.
  6. Indoor exercise space - A large extra room or a basement could serve as an indoor exercise space. Because contractors tend to be independent thinkers, they value and take care of their health.
  7. Wifi access - This is a must when it comes to home amenities. Even houses in the country may need Wifi access to land a sale with freelancers.
  8. Stylish home lighting - Task, accent and general or natural lighting are winners. Home offices should be designed with at least task and general lighting.
  9. Wall computer stands and monitor stands - Similar to built-in bookcases, these home amenities computer and monitor stands are attractive space savers. Houses designed with these two home amenities also keep contractors from having to spend money on separate computer and monitor stands.
  10. Finished basement - Documents, videotapes, artist equipment and supplies and additional filing cabinets can be stored in a finished basement. A portion of a finished basement could also serve as a home office, especially if both people buying the same house are contractors.

Location is also important to contractors and freelancers. Homes that these workers, particularly full-time contractors, live in come with real advantages if the homes are located within walking distance of public train and bus stations. If the houses are not within walking distance, contractors should not have to drive more than 10 to 15 minutes to reach public transportation facilities.

Until the shifts change, these home amenities may seem far fetched. Manufacturers, home builders and real estate agents who see and prepare for these shifts now, may find themselves ahead of the curve now and in the future.

Building An Eco Friendly Home

Are you looking for eco-friendly, money saving methods and materials for building your new home? Do you want a comfortable and stylish home with all the latest smart home gadgets, yet wish to construct it in a way that has as little negative impact on the environment as possible? Not to worry, with planning and a close working relationship with your architects, builder, and interior designer, you can reach your goals of good stewardship of the earth’s assets while knowing you are building an energy-saving home with materials and products that do not negatively impact the environment.

Prevent Frost Heaving With Frost-Protected Foundations Climatic conditions in North America result in high levels of spring frost that settle down on and around the house. Many energy-efficient focused builders follow a practice of installing frost-protected shallow foundations (FPSF) that raise the frost depth by directing heat loss towards the foundation. Talk to your builder and consider the benefit of this practice for your building situation.

Advantages Of Pre-Cast Wall Panels Using pre-cast wall panels is also a financial sound, eco-friendly option. These panels make homes look beautiful and are thermally efficient: made of insulating foam and concrete. Thermal panels deliver superior quality insulation, enhancing thermal efficiency. Additionally, they are resistant to moisture, highly durable, non-combustible, and even provide soundproofing through walls – which means no more worrying about the neighbor’s barking dog! Another option, CarbonCast insulated wall panels and claddings provide stellar insulation, enhance ambiance, and provide decades of energy-efficient sound proofing from outdoor traffic noise. SIPs or Structural Insulated Panels also serve as a highly effective option, replacing conventional framing material and differ forms of insulated wall panels. Sips are pre-assembled and do not contain concrete. They are, in fact, made of polystyrene foam fit between oriented strand board to serve trifold functions of sheathing, insulating and framing – all in one! Mostly used as support for roofs, walls and flooring, SIPs are very energy efficient and offer an R-value improvement of 15-40 percent.

Energy - Efficient Windows For The Home How to plan your house is directly related to how energy efficient and eco-friendly. Placing operational skylights and savvy window panels help improve the natural ventilation, reduce heating and air conditioning use and also trap the sunlight during winters, keeping the house warm. Low-e window coating or low-emissivity window coating employs a thin metal or glass coating that lets the majority of the sun’s light radiation enter the room while blocking the harmful radiation. They boost the R-value and reduce the U-factor. Technological advancements enhance operational skylights, wind turbines, and windows with rooftop monitors – all accessible via an app and functional on the go.

Keep The Pipes From Freezing Heat tape with automated temperature controls installed under sidewalks and driveways eliminate the need for snow removal – saving a lot of time and sparing a lot of labor. If geothermal energy is an option, the pipelines beneath the concrete could heat up the garage floor, basement, and other areas, causing the snow to melt. Again, at the touch of an app: a relatively inexpensive “fix” for a chronic problem.

 

6 Easy Ways to Save on Painting Projects

Guest Post by Andrea Davis

Applying a fresh coat of paint is the easiest way to revitalize the look and feel of your home. But the price and labor of a painting update can be intimidating for some homeowners. Here are six ways you can you save time and money on your next painting project.

Tip #1: Check Local Recycling Centers

US News & World Report notes that recycling and hazardous waste centers take in old, unused cans of paint from local residents and businesses. Paint has a long shelf life, so it’s not uncommon to find usable paint at these centers. Best of all, paint from recycling centers is usually free.

Tip #2: Illuminate the Walls

Professional painters often bring their own spotlights and clamp lights to jobs. A clamp light or similar illumination tool will help spot mistakes before the job is done. Addressing mistakes as you go will save you time and money later.

Tip #3: Use a Primer

A primer as your base layer will help your paint adhere to untreated surfaces like raw wood or unfinished drywall. The use of primer is also good if you’re dealing with stained or rough surfaces that might require multiple coats of paint to gain an even finish.

Tip #4: Buy Better Paint

Professional painting services rarely opt for cheap paint, unless specifically directed to do so by the customer. Most cheap paints won’t shine as brightly or look as smooth as higher-quality alternatives. Using lower quality paints will also require multiple coats of paint to achieve a finished look, which can increase costs. Most high-quality paints, including those which feature a primer in the mixture, go on in one coat. They will cost more per can, but completing your job will require less paint.

Tip #5: Don’t Rush to Select a Color

Consider how your color will work with your space before making a purchase. Being sure about your color choice will save you time and money. Rushing into a color selection can result in a touch up or repainting altogether.

Tip #6: Know Your Finishes

Lastly, make sure you pick the right finish for the room. Here are the four major finishes:

  • Flat: Great for interior walls and ceilings.
  • Eggshell: Ideal for living rooms, bedrooms and dining room walls as it is easy to wash and touch up.
  • Satin: The easy-to-clean nature of satin finishes makes it perfect for high-traffic areas of the home.
  • Semi-Gloss/Gloss: Reserve this finish for trim, molding, cabinets, kitchens and bathrooms due to its great coverage and washable, durable nature.

Follow these simple tips and you’ll not only find yourself saving money at the hardware store or with your professional painters, but you’ll also save time by not having to repaint or frequently touch up your newly painted surfaces.

Andrea Davis is the editor at HomeAdvisor, which connects homeowners with home improvement professionals in their area for free. 

Spring Flowers Mean Fall Planting

The weather is definitely colder but still not too late to plan a beautiful Spring. Bulbs planted this fall, will bloom starting in early spring.  Some of the most popular bulbs that flower in the spring include tulips and daffodils.

Planting bulbs is easy and perfect for the beginner gardener. Here are some tips to get you started:

1. Plant in the fall or early winter before the ground freezes and when evening temperatures average between 40° to 50° F.

2. Prepare the planting bed by digging the soil so it's loose and workable.  You may want to add organic matter such as compost or peat moss to the bed.

3. Plant the pointy end of the bulb up.

4. Plant big bulbs about 8" deep and small bulbs about 5" deep.

5. Plant bulbs in clusters. A lone tulip or daffodil can look funny.

6. If you are planting bulbs that bloom at the same time, plant low bulbs in front of high.

So before the temperature falls too low, get out there and enjoy your garden. In about six months your garden will put on a spectacular spring show.

Springtime Spruce Up for Sellers

Spruce Up copyHome value is top of mind for sellers and renovations or remodeling can play a critical role in both increasing the value of a home and ensuring that it stands out to potential buyers. 

Most consumers are looking to do more with less, few homeowners may be ready to commit the thousands of dollars it can take to fully redo even a single room.  Before breaking out the tool belt, Coldwell Banker Upton-Massamont REALTORS advises homeowners to check out the free online tools that can help them chart their home remodeling efforts, such as "Tips for Selling Your Home" available at www.coldwellbanker.com.  Homeowners can also speak with your Coldwell Banker real estate professional to learn more about specific home improvements that most appeal to buyers in your area.

The professionals at Coldwell Banker suggest the following 8-affordable home improvements for potentially increasing the overall value of a home, without breaking the budget:

NOTE* We always recommend to homeowners who are not comfortable taking on a home improvement project themselves should always hire a qualified professional.

1.  Reface Kitchen Cabinets. Kitchen updates are among the smartest remodeling projects when it comes to "upping" the resale value of a home. But homeowners do not need to spring for an entire new cabinet set to improve the room's appeal. Refacing existing cabinets, applying a fresh coat of paint or replacing tarnished pulls and knobs with new hardware might be just the quick fix a kitchen needs to make it look and feel like new.  light bulb

 2.  Improve the Lighting. Updating lights and lighting fixtures is another simple enhancement that does not require a major investment. Replacing old bulbs with stronger, more energy-efficient compact fluorescent bulbs will brighten up the house and make it more inviting - while cutting down on energy costs over the long term. In addition, replacing recessed lights in a dining or living room with an affordable chandelier or installing accent lighting to draw attention to artwork or other room features can create an entirely fresh ambiance.

3.  Freshen up a Fan. An updated ceiling fan can give a room a more contemporary feel, but purchasing a new one isn't always a necessity when looking to upgrade. Improving an existing fan is simpler than homeowners might think and does not have to come at a high price.  First, try unscrewing the fan blades and turning them over. Typically, blades have alternate colors or patterns on the reverse side. If not, simply add a coat of paint and reattach. One can even install new pull chains to complete the look as well as match the fan accents to new lighting fixtures or cabinet hardware.

4.  Hang More Mirrors. It sounds simple, but the addition of a mirror on any wall adds depth and light to a room, making even the smallest space seem larger. Mirrors also add elegance and charm to a home's décor, and often at a reasonable price.

5.Paint Can-Brush  Break Out the Paint Brushes. Applying a couple coats of paint can make a remarkable difference and is always a low-cost, high-return project. Coldwell Banker recommends a warm, neutral wall color that can make a room seem more spacious, create a more modern feel and appeal to a wider variety of buyers.

6.  Install Laminate Flooring. Even if the cost of hardwood or tile floors is out of the question, for under $5 per square foot, homeowners can easily install laminate flooring in their kitchens, hallways and bathrooms - provided that floors are level with those in adjacent rooms. Laminate flooring can hide chipped tiles or old linoleum and give the room a more modern feel.

7.  Refinish Your Appliances. Purchasing brand new matching appliances can cost thousands of dollars. However, for a few hundred dollars, an appliance refinisher can re-enamel the surfaces of appliances covering up any out-dated colors that may be ruining the look of your kitchen.yard tools

8.  Spruce up Your Home's Exterior. When planning to put money into a house, homeowners should not overlook simple exterior renovations that can add substantial worth and attract more buyers. A freshly-mowed lawn, a clean, even walkway and a few well-placed bushes can make a huge difference. If you don't have a green thumb, consider hiring a landscaper on a one-time basis to plant some shrubs or give the front yard a good cleanup.

*Homeowners who are not comfortable taking on a home improvement project themselves should always hire a qualified professional.

Energy Savings

Energy costs can really take a toll on our monthly bills. But you can take control of these costs with a few simple steps. And to help out, programs like Mass Save (Masssave.com) and www.energystar.gov will help homeowners save even more.

Did you know that even when you turn off appliances, such as your TV, they still use energy? With all the electronics in your house, the energy use can really add up in a year. A quick easy way to control these costs is to get an advanced power strip, where there are multiple plugs for electronics that need to always be on (i.e. your cable box) and those that don't (i.e. you TV). The power strip will automatically turn off those electronics that are in the "don't keep on" sockets when the electronic in the "master" socket is turned off. Mass Save estimates that you can save $30 annually by using one of these on your entertainment system.

Mass Save and Energy Star has a variety of other ways to save on energy from product savings (on things like light bulbs and power strips) to rebates for buying energy savings appliances. You can also get a free home energy assessment to help you get started on improving your home's energy savings. And if you are low income, there are programs to help you save on costs even more.

Each state has it's own energy savings programs, so even if you aren't from Massachusetts, there are resources available to you. Be sure you contact your state's energy department to find out more about ways to save.

Organization Tips

Ever feel like things pile up in your home? Maybe on the kitchen table or counter, your dresser, or nightstand? Well a little organization can turn your home from full of clutter to nice and neat without having to throw everything away. Here are a few things to keep in mind when improving the organization of your home.

  1. Everything needs a place - if every item in your home has a place to be stored, you are less likely to just drop it anywhere. If an item shouldn't be sitting on your counter top, then it should have a home.
  2. Maximize your storage space - If you feel like you are lacking storage space, think again. A closet with no shelves can't store as much, and those spaces you aren't using, like under your bed, can be transformed into storage places too. Setting up the places that you have to store items so they can be fully used is key to making sure everything can be stored.
  3. Label - If you can find where something goes, you are more likely to put it there. Having boxes stacked into a closet, and not knowing what's in there, doesn't help you organize. But having storage containers, shelves, drawers, etc that are labeled for easy finding does.
  4. Shelves and containers - Having the right assortment of storage is key. Not everything is stored well on a shelf and the same goes for in a container. Make sure you have a variety of what you need; everything from small to large containers, baskets, drawers, shelves and hooks. You want to make sure that where you are putting something can be easily found and accessed.
  5. Get into the routine - Old habits die hard so when you first organize you might find you still leave things hanging around. Getting into the new habit of putting things away can take time but an easy way to start is to set aside 10-15 minutes at the end of each day to put everything where it belongs. Before you know it, you will be doing it throughout the day!

Regardless of whether you go all out on organization, or just do a little, you will find that with a couple of changes you can enjoy your space much more. And without all the clutter that has been left behind!

 

Cheap Ways to Update Your Home

Everyone is on a budget nowadays so redecorating your house can seem like its impossible. Yet, with some small, inexpensive updates, you can transform the look of your house.

The most basic way to update the look of a room is color. A new paint color on the walls can transfer a dull room to a stunning room. With a gallon of paint around $25, you can repaint a room for under $75. Top it off with a chair rail (around $9 for a 8ft piece) and you have a completely different room. Not in the mood to paint? How about some throw pillows on the couch? Or a new comforter? A little splash of color can go a long way.

Now let's get creative - have plain knobs or handles on your kitchen cabinets or none at all? Get some decorative knobs for around $1.00 a knob and you have yourself updated cabinets. (Try this on any cabinet in your house!) Add some drama to your dining room or entry way with a new chandelier. For as low as $50.00 you can add a focal point that will wow. And how about that bathroom? Adding a new shower curtain and bath mat can really change the whole look of the room for under $50!

No matter what room you are looking to update, house gutting renovations are not needed. With a little imagination, the smallest updates can create a whole new look for a room. Need some ideas? Take a walk around your local home improvement center and see what catches your eye. You never know what you might find that sparks an idea for a inexpensive update!