by John Trupin
The holiday season is here and for many of us, that means it’s time to deck the halls. If you’re looking for some inspiration and a place to start, here are some ideas that are certain to get everyone in the spirit.
A Tree of a Different Color
For many, there’s nothing more quintessential during the holidays than a Christmas tree decked out in ornaments. But acquiring a tree can be challenging and expensive. Moreover, housing a tree consumes time and space. That’s why we love the idea of an alternative tree. There are plenty of options you can buy online or create yourself using things you probably already have around the house. And if you miss the smell of a real tree, try a scented candle or essential oils.
The Season of Lights
Photo Credit: Amara
There’s something perpetually charming about twinkling lights. Whether you’re wrapping them around your front porch or adorning your fireplace mantle, extra lights deliver a warm glow during the holiday season. Getting creative and adding light to otherwise unexpected places, including bookcases, around headboards, or even in glassware, is a great way to keep everything looking merry and bright.
Photo Credit: Better Homes & Gardens
Not all holiday climates are built alike. If you’re expecting a white Christmas, you’re probably used to pine trees and winter brush, but for those of you located in regions where the mercury doesn’t drop, sprinkling in natural elements can transform your home into a wintery oasis. Holly and pine needles add a traditional touch, or consider a wreath of olive branches with some sleigh bells interspersed.
Bring it All Home at Dinner
Photo Credit: Amara
When decorating for the holidays, don’t forget the table! A sprig of holly adds a festive touch to your place settings. And instead of the traditional centerpiece, try placing candles in glass vases or mason jars to give your tablescape that added touch of holiday pizzazz.
Planning for the Life Expectancy of Your Home
Nothing in life lasts forever – and the same can be said for your home. From the roof to the furnace, every component of your home has a lifespan, so it’s a good idea to know approximately how many years of service you can expect from them. This information can help when buying or selling your home, budgeting for improvements, and deciding between repairing or replacing when problems arise.
According to a National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) study, the average life expectancy of some home components has decreased over the past few decades. (This might explain why you’re on your third washing machine while Grandma still has the same indestructible model you remember from childhood.) But the good news is the lifespan of many other items has actually increased in recent years.
Here’s a look at the average life spans of some common home components (courtesy of NAHB).
Appliances. Of all home components, appliances have the widest variation in life spans. These are averages for all brands and models and may represent the point which replacing is more cost-effective than repairing. Among major appliances, gas ranges have the longest life expectancy, at about 15 years. Electric ranges, standard-size refrigerators, and clothes dryers last about 13 years, while garbage disposals grind away for about 10 years. Dishwashers, microwave ovens, and mini-refrigerators can all be expected to last about nine years. For furnaces, expect a lifespan of about 15 years for electric, 18 for gas, and 20 for oil-burning models. Central air-conditioning systems generally beat the heat for 10 to 15 years.
Kitchen & Bath. Countertops of wood, tile, and natural stone will last a lifetime, while cultured marble will last about 20 years. The lifespan of laminate countertops depends greatly on the use and can be 20 years or longer. Kitchen faucets generally last about 15 years. An enamel-coated steel sink will last five to 10 years; stainless will last at least 30 years; and slate, granite, soapstone, and copper should endure 100 years or longer. Toilets, on average, can serve at least 50 years (parts such as the flush assembly and seat will likely need replacing), and bathroom faucets tend to last about 20 years.
Flooring. Natural flooring materials provide longevity as well as beauty: Wood, marble, slate, and granite should all last 100 years or longer, and tile, 74 to 100 years. Laminate products will survive 15 to 25 years, linoleum about 25 years, and vinyl should endure for about 50 years. Carpet will last eight to 10 years on average, depending on use and maintenance.
Siding, Roofing, Windows. Brick siding normally lasts 100 years or longer, aluminum siding about 80 years, and stucco about 25 years. The lifespan of wood siding varies dramatically – anywhere from 10 to 100 years – depending on the climate and level of maintenance. For roofs, slate or tile will last about 50 years, wood shingles can endure 25 to 30 years, the metal will last about 25 years, and asphalts got you covered for about 20 years. Unclad wood windows will last 30 years or longer, aluminum will last 15 to 20 years, and vinyl windows should keep their seals for 15 to 20 years.
Of course, none of these averages matter if you have a roof that was improperly installed or a dishwasher that was a lemon right off the assembly line. In these cases, early replacement may be the best choice. Conversely, many household components will last longer than you need them to, as we often replace fully functional items for cosmetic reasons, out of a desire for more modern features, or as a part of a quest to be more energy efficient.
Are extended warranties warranted?
Extended warranties, also known as service contracts or service agreements, are sold for all types of household items, from appliances to electronics. They cover service calls and repairs for a specified time beyond the manufacturer’s standard warranty. Essentially, warranty providers (manufacturers, retailers, and outside companies) are betting that a product will be problem-free in the first years of operation, while the consumer who purchases a warranty is betting against reliability.
Warranty providers make a lot of money on extended warranties, and Consumers Union, which publishes Consumer Reports, advises against purchasing them. You will have to consider whether the cost is worth it to you; for some, it brings a much-needed peace of mind when making such a large purchase. Also, consider if it the cost outweighs the value of the item; in some cases, it may be less expensive to just replace a broken appliance than pay for insurance or a warranty.
The calendar may claim summer begins on June 21st, but for most of us, it’s already fully in gear. Kids are getting out of school, families are making summer vacation plans, and backyard barbeques are on everyone’s minds. This is also a great time of the year to get your house in order and ready for the summer season. The following are a handful of ideas and tips to help you with this process.
Gardening– It’s not too late to start your garden! If you’re thinking of getting your green thumb engaged, just make sure you use starts because many summer harvest vegetables won’t start from seed this late in the season.
Outdoor living– My home has an outdoor space that, like many, suffers in the grey of winter and the rainy spring. To get it properly in the summer spirit I need to get it prepped for hosting. This includes finding outdoor lighting options, updating the seating and cleaning up the barbeque.
BBQ- Make sure your grill is ready to go this season by making sure everything is clean and in working order before you fire it up. In the northwest that includes making sure the fuel lines are spider-web-free. Also, make sure you have propane or charcoal on hand for impromptu dinners.
Clean Windows- Now is a great time to clean your windows, inside and out. Sun shows more dirt and smudges.
Lawn care- Prepare your lawn for the months ahead. Depending on where you live this means different things. Check your sprinkler system to make sure it wasn’t damaged over the winter; upgrade your lawn care to ensure fuller greens, check for and remove moss to prevent dead patches and start your weeding regimen.
Pool prep- If you have an outdoor pool get this ready for a summer season of fun in the sun, (unless you are lucky enough to enjoy your pool year-round). Same goes for hot-tubs. Make sure your equipment has been serviced, chemicals are available and your pool is clean and ready to use. OR, head to the local hardware store and buy your kiddie pool now before they run out!
Summerize- Check or replace AC filters, window screens, and household fans to make sure these are all functioning and will help provide maximum circulation in your house. Consider installing an attic fan or vent to help pull heat out of your home all winter long. Pack away excess cold weather items such as heavy blankets, jackets, and other items so they aren’t in your way. Same goes for any sundry items you only use during fall and winter.
Lighten the Space- Though I likely won’t spend much time inside once the mercury rises, I want to keep the house as light and cool as possible. I have found that replacing the curtains with a lighter shade lets the light in, but also keeps the rooms from overheating from sun exposure. Summer always makes me want to lighten up with the accessories- lighter colors, more whites, bright accents and less clutter.
Rearrange – Freshen up spaces by rearranging some of your wall art. If you don’t have enough wall pieces to rearrange regularly it may be time to add to your collection. You can find inexpensive original art online at stores such as Etsy or in person at local galleries. You can always play with other items like framed images from books, vintage posters or record albums. Here are some terrific ideas for using what you have to add interest to a room.
Air it out- Open all the windows, shake out the rugs and update home fragrances to fit summer moods (citrus, freesia, clean linen, coconut, melon, fruits and tropical, etc.). You can create your own diffuser with essential oils to distribute fragrance. This may be more symbolic than practical but it always makes me feel ready for summer.
Paint- If you have a room you really want to refresh, a three-day weekend is a good time to take on a project of scale, so you have plenty of time to prep, paint, dry, and clean up. Painting is one of the least expensive ways to really transform how a room feels. Need help picking colors and paint type? Here is some good advice.
Garage or Basement- Tackle a big space that makes a big difference. Our garages and basements often become year-long dumping grounds for seasonal decorations and clothing, items that don’t fit in cabinets, memorabilia and maintenance tools. Go through your items and sort by keep, throw out and donate/sell and then group your keeps by function. Make sure your tools are accessible for easy gardening and entertaining by making sure your tools are accounted for, ready to go, and easy to reach. Here is a useful video on garage organization.
Yard/Garage Sale- If you have overflow at your house, plan a yard/garage sale to get rid of items you no longer need or want. Just make sure to pack everything up and donate it at the end of the sale otherwise you are just letting the clutter back in!
Plan a party- Once your space is all cleaned up and redecorated you will want to show it off! Plan a summer BBQ, dinner party, pool party, picnic or any other gathering.
A delightfully warm spring in many parts of the Western U.S. has many folks brushing off their summer clothing early. While this is exciting for all who love the outdoors, public spaces like parks and beaches may be overcrowded. What better time, then, to focus on ways to maximize the space you have in your own home. There’s no one ideal way to design or set up your deck, but we’ve put together a few of our favorite ideas to help inspire your next redesign.
Credit: H. Camille Smith / HGTV
- Especially if your square footage is limited, tiering your deck into multiple levels is a great way to incorporate extra outdoor space into your home.
- By separating your deck into multiple levels, even slightly, you can create a cozy sense of separation between spaces.
- Give yourself options for privacy. Depending on your property, the base level of your deck may be below your fence-line. If you have a view you’d like to enjoy with your barbecue, consider a second tier.
- A simple way to save space and hassle is to build in your seating spaces during your deck’s construction.
- It’s important to consider what you will predominantly be doing on your deck. Lounging while reading? A corner bench is a great fit and can be outfitted comfortably. Potlucks and cookouts? Consider higher benches or fences with wide tops for easy plate placement.
- Consider your environment. If your deck will weather rain, sand, or wind consistently, don’t write off surfaces like brick and concrete, which can be framed as appealingly as wood or other stone.
- As the sun fades, your deck’s utility can shine or fade with it. Including discreet lighting within the construction of your deck is a small step that can pay huge dividends.
- Increasingly popular low-voltage systems have made a well-lit backyard and deck drastically more affordable.
- Depending on your location, solar powered lighting is a worthwhile investment that can help accentuate your stairs, fences, and other outdoor decorations.
Outdoor living during the spring and summer months is extremely popular. Months of cold, wet winters are followed by glorious spring colors and warm summer days of vivid blue skies. In this post, we thought that now would be the best time to share some pretty garden trends for 2018.
Leisure time should be just that: relaxing and rejuvenating. So why labor relentlessly to create and maintain a perfect landscape? Wabi-sabi, is the Japanese art of accepting transience and imperfect beauty. Relax and appreciate nature as it is, with humble imperfections, weeds and all. Recognize (and tell others) that dandelions and clover in untreated lawns are not blights. They are status symbols for ecological horticulture. Consider natural grasses and groundcovers as low-maintenance substitutes for sod. Opt for perennials instead of annuals, let flowers go to seed and give nature license to evolve on her own.
Reclaiming Small Outside Spaces
For many of us these days, space is at a premium and with house prices continually on the rise, more and more people are living in apartment blocks or tiny lots. Garden designers are determined to make even the smallest of spaces useful and attractive, and manufacturers have taken notice. Look for a better choice in planters that slot onto balcony rails. New models will have coverings for protecting plants from cold temperatures so that you can even grow seeds and vegetables on your balcony alongside your flowers.
Self-watering wall planter systems have been improved for 2018 and the hanging macramé plant holder is having a bit of a revival. Add a small patio heater and you have an outside space you can enjoy all year round with minimal effort.
Pantone’s Ultra Violet is the color of the year. Maybe that’s why you find purple flowers in this year’s plant varieties and garden design. It’s easy to incorporate this color in the garden as there are many flowers and shrubs with this beautiful color. However, there are also several edible purple plants that you can grow. Purple vegetables are not only interesting and pretty, their unique color denote anthocyanins which are very beneficial to your health.
This is a style that keeps popping up time and again. However, 2018 has taken the re-wilding trend up another notch. It is still all about working with nature, growing wildflowers and supporting our pollinating insects. Re-wilding means adjusting plant selections to better support local wildlife and growing both seed-producing and berry-bearing plants. However, now it is also about using ‘green’ gardening products, natural solutions to bug and slug killers instead of chemicals and insecticides and using peat-free products.
Outdoor entertaining and kitchen areas are tipped to be a key trend for Spring/Summer 2018. We are not talking about a little nook corner just off the kitchen. Alfresco dining spaces are being pushed out into the garden itself and made into a major feature. These dedicated outdoor dining areas are surrounded by in-ground and container plants for that lush feeling. Special flooring, comfy furniture and mood lighting turn it into a little haven. Complete the trend with a sunken fire pit, barbecue or pizza oven and you might never want to leave.
Lighting The Way
Adding lighting to your garden is not a new thing. However, in this age of renewable energy, garden lighting companies are turning away from the more traditional lighting solutions we have seen in the past. The advances in solar energy capture, means that we can light up our gardens in a variety of fun, affordable and better ways. No more changing batteries or wiring up the garden with electricity.
The wide range of lighting methods allows you to create whatever ambience you want. Simple stand-alone lights can mark pathways, either discreetly embedded into the path edges or standing loud and proud along the side. Multi-colored fairy lights can be tangled among the overhead branches of a tree creating dazzling shapes and textures. Solar Mason jars can be hung from above or used as table lighting. Festoon lights can create an ambient glow around any outdoor space creating romantic nooks.
13 Appliance Tips & Hacks for Household Chores
Posted in The Home Depot and Living by Donna Smallin Kuper
Modern home appliances make our lives so much easier: They tackle dreaded household chores, saving us time and effort. There are lots of ways to use them, however, that you may not have thought of before. From cleaning your ceiling fixtures in the dishwasher to vacuuming your pet, here are 13 little-known tricks for getting more than your money’s worth from your appliances.
- Sanitize small toys and more. Use your dishwasher to wash and sanitize teething rings, small plastic toys, mouth guards, and even baseball caps. Place items on the top rack and run the dishwasher as usual with detergent (without any dirty dishes). Put smaller items in a small mesh laundry bag so that they don’t move around.
- Clean ceiling fixtures. At least once or twice a year, remove and clean your glass ceiling fixtures and light covers in an empty dishwasher. Run the machine on the normal cycle.
- Eliminate wrinkles from clothing. To smooth out wrinkled clothes or linens left too long in the dryer, toss a damp, lint-free cloth in with them. Run the load on the lowest setting for 10 to 15 minutes. Newer dryers also feature a steam setting that removes wrinkles and refreshes clothing between wears.
- Disinfect sponges and dishcloths. Kitchen sponges and dishcloths contain billions of germs. Clean and disinfect them daily by zapping them on high in the microwave for 2 minutes to kill germs.
- Freshen up your curtains. Vacuum heavy drapes with the upholstery attachment. Use the dusting brush attachment for lighter drapes. Wash sheer curtains in the washing machine on the delicate cycle, then hang them up while they’re damp to prevent wrinkles.
- Remove wax from fabric or carpet. To get rid of wax on a tablecloth, place it in your freezer until the wax is hard. Then put a flat paper bag over the wax and another under the fabric. Iron the top bag with a medium-hot iron until all the wax transfers to the bag. To remove wax from a carpet or rug, place an ice pack on the spot until the wax hardens. Shatter the wax and vacuum up the chips.
- Clean baseboards. Dusting baseboards can be a backbreaking chore. Use your vacuum cleaner and the dusting brush attachment to avoid having to bend down. Do the same to clean chair and table legs.
- Organize your fridge. Use the built-in features of your refrigerator to organize food by category. Designate certain shelves or areas for leftovers, preferably front and center, so you don’t forget they’re in there. Use special-purpose bins for their intended use: crispers for vegetables, deli trays for deli meats and cheeses, cold storage trays for meats. Newer models also feature convertible cooling zones to keep food fresh.
- Dust blinds. Extend the blinds fully and turn the slats to the closed position. Use the dusting brush attachment on your vacuum cleaner to clean the slats from top to bottom. Then open and reclose the slats in the opposite direction and repeat the process.
- Clean your microwave. The best time to clean your microwave is immediately after using it. Thanks to residual steam, all you have to do is wipe it out with a paper towel or damp sponge. To clean old messes, microwave 2 cups of water on high for 5 minutes. The steam will soften cooked-on spills, which you can wipe off with a paper towel or cloth.
- Exterminate dust mites. Dust mites live off human and animal dander and other household dust particles. They thrive in sofas, carpets, and bedding. Use the upholstery attachment to vacuum your mattress and upholstered furniture regularly to minimize dust mites. Be sure to empty the canister in an outdoor trashcan.
- Groom your pet. If your dog or cat doesn’t hide when you get out your vacuum cleaner, try using the dusting brush attachment to brush your pet. It’s a gentle way to collect shedding fur.
- Remove grime from shower liners. Wash plastic shower curtain liners in the washing machine with hot water and detergent on the regular cycle. Throw in a small bath towel to help “scrub” mildew and soap scum off the liner. Then rehang the liner and let it air-dry.
Organizing and cleaning expert Donna Smallin Kuper writes for The Home Depot about easy organization hacks, including the best ways to use your appliances.
This article is editorial content that has been contributed to our site at our request and is published for the benefit of our readers. We have not been compensated for its placement.