September 9, 2010

Change Out Your Lighting Fixtures

Older lighting and fan fixtures can date your home. Changing out lighting and ceiling fans is a simple task that most homeowners can tackle them self. For a low cost your interior or exterior lighting can be changed to a newer and possibly even more cost efficient lighting fixture. Replacing existing light fixtures is usually not too difficult. The job requires no special skills or electrical knowledge. All you need are a few pointers to get you started. You will need a screwdriver and  possibly some wire strippers or a utility knife.

Before removing the old light fixture, be sure to observe the first rule of electrical work—Turn off the power to the circuit on which you plan to work! Do this at the service panel (breaker box), and check the circuit to make sure it is off. Inexpensive circuit testers are available that are, essentially, a light with two probes designed to handle house current. They are very useful for testing ground and hot wires, as well as for determining whether a light fixture is carrying current.

Unless the fixture you are replacing is broken and doesn't work, it is possible to use a less elegant method to check the circuit. The light will quit working when its circuit is turned off at the breaker. It will come on again when the breaker is turned back on. (This proves that it is not the light itself that has quit working!). To test, turn the circuit breaker off and on and off again, double-checking the light to confirm that it is indeed the lack of electricity that is causing it to quit working, and not some coincidental failure that could mislead you into getting shocked.

Once the circuit has been turned off at the breaker and has been checked, there is no need to fear working with the wiring on that particular circuit.

The second rule to remember when replacing fixtures is: Wire the new one back in the same way the old one came out! It really can be that simple. Most of the time when replacing light fixtures you will simply be connecting white wires to white wires, and black wires to black. If several wires are involved, however, or if the wiring seems more complicated and perhaps even includes a red wire, take note of the connections before you disconnect them. Make yourself a sketch of how the fixture is wired (index the sketch by wire color) or mark the wires themselves with masking tape and a pencil so you will know how to put them back.

Make your electrical connections by "tying in" to the home wiring using plastic connectors, If the new fixture includes a ground wire (bare or green insulated wire), it should be connected to any other ground wires that may already be in place, and to grounding screws in metal electrical boxes when metal boxes are used to support the fixture.

Finish installing the fixture as indicated in your manufacturer's instructions. Then, you're ready to install the recommended bulbs, turn on the breaker and try out the new light.

Ceiling fans are both functional and decorative. They are particularly useful in the summer, since they effectively reduce energy usage while creating a cool breeze. They can also be used in the winter to gently pull heated air away from the ceiling where it tends to collect. Light kits can be added to increase the usefulness of many ceiling fans. A wide range of both fan and light kit styles is available, providing choices that will contribute to the beauty of any room. To replace your ceiling fan simply follow the same wiring directions as replacing light fixtures. Another option with ceiling fan is to simply replace the blades, replace the fan lighting or both. Whatever option you choose, you will have a nice looking fixture with little cost or effort!

Flat Panel Television Placement

Flat panel televisions have made it possible to have a television in your living room or other rooms without having to deal with an ugly looking television. With the added benefit off being able to mount your flat panel television to the wall, flat panel televisions can now represent a piece of art rather than an ugly eyesore. Flat-panel TVs offer some of the best pictures available, plus a sleek design that looks great in almost any d├ęcor. Their slender shape and light weight make them ideal for wall mounting.

Flat panel televisions types include LCD televisions and plasma television. Both plasma and LCD televisions look similar. Both styles of flat screen televisions have large picture areas, excellent resolution, and are more expensive than traditional televisions, but that price gap has been narrowing over recent years. Nearly all models of the new plasma or LCD flat panel televisions come in wide screen model.
LCD stands for liquid crystal display. You can think of them as liquid crystals squeezed between two pieces of glass. You can find LCD screens which can range in size from a 15 inch desktop model all the way up to a 70 inch big screen model.

An LCD flat panel TV has several advantages over Plasma televisions. LCD's work very well in both darkly or brightly lit rooms which can be a real plus. LCD's offer a slightly higher resolution than plasmas and they also have an anti-glare aspect which is why they are superior in bright rooms. The cost of an LCD TV is also much less prohibitive for the smaller models. A long term advantage of an LCD is that they use less electricity than Plasmas and they also have a longer lifespan.

The plasma screen, as the name suggest is made of a formulation of minute gas plasma cells that are charged by electrical voltages which create a picture. The size of plasma TVs are usually 42 to 70 inches. Larger sizes are available, but at a premium price.

With a Plasma TV, you get a wider viewing angle and the off-angle color is much better than that of LCD television. With a Plasma screen TV, you get exceptionally high quality levels of brightness and contrast due to is deeper shades of black. One of the biggest advantages plasmas screen TVs have over LCDs is the price of the larger screen models.

So if you are still not sure which flat panel TV is best for you, consider the following. If you are looking for a 50 inch or larger screen television than plasma screen model is probably the best choice because you can get the most for your money. For models less than 42 inches the LCD may be the best choice because they look great and their prices are getting better every year.

Where to mount your TV- Obviously, your TV needs to be easily, comfortably viewable from your couch and other viewing spots. But what other factors should you take into consideration? Below, we've addressed two key points that are often overlooked.

Height- Ideally, the middle of your TV screen needs to be at about eye level while you're seated. You'll want to be comfortable while watching TV, and mounting it too high can result in neck strain. Plus, you'll probably see the best-looking picture when you view your TV head-on, rather than at an angle. However, lots of folks find that mounting their TV that way looks too low, and move the TV up so that the middle of the screen is around standing eye level. If you do opt for a higher mount, try adjusting your seating to compensate. Move your couch further back so that you don't have to look up at such a steep angle, or recline when you're watching TV. You might also consider using a tilting wall mount to angle the TV down — you'll see a better-looking picture when you view the screen straight on, rather than at an angle.

Screen glare- Sit in your favorite TV-watching spot and look at the place on the wall where you plan to mount your TV. Is there light reflecting off that area? If so, is it something fixable (by closing the curtains, or by moving a lamp)? Screen glare can be distracting, and detract from an otherwise beautiful picture, so be aware of potential sources of glare. A tilting or swiveling mount can also help you cut down on glare, by allowing you to angle the TV's screen away from the light source.

Selecting a Wall Mount-Most TVs don't come with their own mounting hardware, so you'll have to purchase it separately. If you haven't already purchased your wall-mounting bracket, check out our tips below on picking out the right fit for your TV. 
  • Check your TV's owner's manual for mounting guidelines. Some models require use of a specific bracket, but most models are compatible with a number of brackets that follow VESA (Video Electronics Standards Association) standards. You'll see the word "VESA" followed by a number, which tells you how far apart the holes on the bracket or TV are in millimeters. For example, VESA 75 means that there are 4 holes in a square, and each side of the square is 75mm long. VESA 100/200 means that the holes are in a rectangle, with two sides measuring 100mm and two sides measuring 200mm. You should be able to find that information in the owner's manual, or you can measure the holes yourself to determine which VESA standard fits your TV. Many mounting brackets are compatible with more than one VESA standard, so finding one to fit your TV won't be difficult.
  • Always check the screen sizes that the bracket says it can hold, and stay within the appropriate range. You should also to check the maximum weight a bracket can hold and make sure that it can support your TV.
  • Think about what you want your bracket to be able to do. Do you want to be able to swivel the TV left and right to avoid glare, or get a better view from different seats? Do you want to be able to nudge your TV up and down in case you don't get the bracket exactly where you want it the first time? There are lots of options out there, so keep such conveniences in mind.

Painting 101

Nothing makes a faster statement than painting. One of the simplest, most cost-effective improvements of all is paint! The cost of painting is low and the labor is fairly simple but there are still pitfalls when painting. Learning all the ins and outs of painting will make your next painting project a huge success. Learn the different types of paint, what supplies you need to have handy and different painting techniques. We also offer advice on how to choose the right color of paint, because after all painting with the right color makes all the difference in the world!

There are two basic types of house paint. Latex or water based paints offer the easiest use and clean up. Latex performs well on interior walls and ceilings; its quick drying time prevents the kinds of ripples and sags that can occur with slower-drying oil based finishes finishes. For brick, concrete and cinder block, only latex should be used. Latex paint has less odor and clean up is easy with soap and water. The sheen of a paint is the amount of light reflected by the surface of a paint finish. There are four basic sheens: flat, satin, semi gloss and gloss.

Oil based paint is a preferred paint for use in high traffic areas, such as, kitchens and bathrooms because it is very durable, and cleans easily. Oil is a great paint to use because it has a distinctive "warm" look to it - especially when using higher sheens - and really does stand up to wear and tear better than latex. Again, compared to latex, it is a little messier with which to work and clean up, and does tend to have a stronger odor. A great paint to use on woodwork, cabinets (especially bathroom and kitchen), and trim work, particularly when you want the finish to last a long time, and keep it's sheen. oil based paints need turpentine or mineral spirits for clean up and it is important to brush on thin coats when using an oil base paint.

It's important to realize that you can't paint latex paint on top of something that has been painted with an oil base paint. To test for oil or latex paint on walls, spread some fingernail paint-remover (acetone-based) in a small place that's not noticeable. This will remove latex, but not affect oil in anyway. If you find you have an oil based paint and want to paint over it using latex paint, you will need to add a coat of oil based primer first. Be sure and let the primer dry at least 24 hours before painting on top of it.

There are several different sheens of paint to choose from:

* Flat Paints exhibit non-reflective properties providing a matte finish. This finish helps hide surface imperfections, and is normally used for ceilings and walls in areas not subjected to a lot of wear and tear, dining rooms, living rooms and bedrooms not used by small children.
* Satin Finish also know as eggshell finish, provides a soft luster sheen similar to that of an eggshell. A satin finish provides a harder surface finish which is more durable and more stain resistant than a flat finish. This durability makes satin paint a good choice for walls in children's rooms, hallways, stairways and family rooms.
* Semi gloss Paints are very durable, they are easier to clean, and are more stain resistant than satin finish paints. Semi gloss paints are most often used on heavy wear surfaces or areas that are frequently cleaned such as kitchens and bathrooms. Semi gloss paint is also used on wood trim and cabinets.
* Gloss Paint is a harder, more durable, more stain resistant paint finish. It is easier to clean than all the other paint finishes. Gloss finishes generally make surface imperfections more noticeable. Gloss finishes are the best choice for heavy wear areas like kitchens, bathrooms, furniture and cabinets, floors, stairs, handrails, high traffic doors and trim.

Now that you know what type of paint to purchase you need to choose the color. Paint color can help you open up rooms that appear small and dark or have low ceilings. Using shades of white or yellow provides an expansive, airy look. Large rooms that seem sterile and lack a cozy feel may benefit from shades of brown or dark blue. Several factors figure into color selection. Personal preference, or colors a person feels comfortable with, is one of the biggest factors in color selection. Color can reflect a person's cultural heritage or traditions. Blue, for example, signifies stability in one culture, trouble in another. Colors also set moods that play a role in color choice. Warm oranges and reds may stimulate appetites, while cool greens and blues can appear calming. Orange-yellows seem welcoming. Color choices also offer cooler reds and warmer blues that cross traditional color-wheel boundaries. If the plan is to remake the entire room, coordinate the paint colors when selecting the floor and window coverings and upholstery fabric. Bring samples to the paint dealer to ensure a good match.  Don't rely on small paint chips to decide your color, instead narrow your search to two or three colors and buy small sample pints.

Before you begin painting make sure you have all the supplies you need and don't shortcut the prepping process. Use blue paint tape to tape edges and get professional straight lines. You will want to use a roller for large areas and smaller paint brushes for cutting in the edges. An angled brush works great for the ceiling line. Be sure to have something to put over the floor to protect it from spill or splatters. If you are painting with an oil based paint be sure to have turpentine available for clean up.

Prep the wall by removing all light and electrical outlets. Use spackling to fill in any holes or imperfections on the wall. Allow the spackle to dry than rub the spot with sandpaper and wipe away the dust before painting. If your job will use more than one gallon of paint you may want to mix equal parts from each can to avoid any small changes in coloring.

You need to use a primer on wood that has not been painted before. Consider a coat of primer if walls are in bad shape or stained. Primer and tinted primer will save you time paint and money if you are painting a dark color, especially red and black. Primer is also important if you are trying to paint over a dark color that may try to bleed through. Primers/Sealers insure longer lasting paint work as the resins in the finish paints stay on the surface creating the "wear layer" as they are designed to do. Peeling and premature failure is eliminated and this is by far the most important part in getting a long lasting, durable finish.

Besides just standard painting you can try some fun painting techniques such as sponge painting. It's a quick and easy way to achieve a subtle texture and add depth to your walls.

Landscaping 101

Landscaping your yard adds curb appeal, allows your to enjoy your outdoor space more and adds value to your home. With proper planning and design you can transform a plain yard into an outdoor haven. With the use of creative landscaping, outdoor furniture and a patio or deck you can add an outdoor room or rooms to your house, extending your home usage, while improving the overall flow of your property. Landscaping can be done by anyone, but the results will depend on the amount of time, planning and your ability to carry out your goals.

Size does matter when it comes to landscaping and you need to make sure that your house is not over or under whelmed by your plantings. Look at your landscape as if through a giant magnifying glass -- scrutinizing every detail. Then allow yourself to dream. Soon you'll be conjuring up all sorts of ideas and sketching out some rough plans. By gradually working through the initial stages, you'll move on to planning and eventually have a finished design.

Landscape professionals will tell you that a master plan is the key to any landscape project or solution. A master plan is more than a drawing or a design; it's a well-thought-out plan of action that includes a design. It enables you to feel confident that you're on the correct path toward building the landscape that's right for you and your property. Any project becomes more attainable when you're willing to accomplish the plan in stages. Be realistic about how much you can accomplish each year. Many people like to work and budget on the basis of a five-year plan.

Make sure you do your homework on what plants do well in your area. You may want to consider xeriscaping or doing a yard that is environmentally friendly. It is best to also have your soil tested. You can probably take a sample to your county extension office and have them test the ph balance. Do your research and make sure all the plants and shrubs are planted where they will have the highest rate of success. Check your yard at different times of the day to find out how sunny and shady areas are. Another thing place to do your homework is to find out how large the plants and shrubs get and how fast they grow. Drive around your neighborhood and look for plants that are growing healthy and beautiful in your neighbors yards. These plants will probably do well in your yard too.

Choose your plantings to have blooms at different times of the year to keep your landscaping looking good year round. Plants with flowers and leaves in different colors and textures will add richness to your landscaping. While variety is good you will want to repeat plantings in different areas to add a cohesive pattern to the landscape.

Plan for different spots in your yard for different activities and try to blend hard and soft materials. You may want a hummingbird or butterfly garden in one area and a quiet spot to sit and read in another. Choose stones and materials that compliment the style of the home. Don't forget to add spots for entertaining and seating for friends and family.

A water feature and lighting are nice finishing touches to your landscaped yard. Landscape lighting could be one of the least understood and overlooked areas of a home landscape design. The popularity of outdoor landscape lighting continues to grow. Very often you see outdoor lights commonly know as Malibu landscape lights installed in the "runway effect" or landscape path lights lining a pool walkway. When the sun goes down the solar powered system lights come on. Usually these outdoor fixtures don’t highlight any particular element in the landscape, they just light up. Landscape lights provide safety, and are energy efficient and economical. Creating a place to retreat from daily cares and merge oneself into natural sights and sounds promotes mental health and a sense of well-being. Fountains for your landscape come in a vast array of sizes, forms, and costs. Almost any place in the landscape is a good place for a fountain, but near the patio or deck offers the added attraction of the soothing sound of moving water for those sitting nearby.

Replacing Your Windows and Doors

Replacing dated windows and doors in your home will make a positive decorative statement as well as lowering your utility bills and helping your home become more green. When we changed out the dated brown interior doors it our home it made an instant improvement in every room of the house. The new doors, painted an off white brightened our interior spaces and the new brushed silver door knobs were a great added touch. For a low price (about $50 a door) and an afternoon of labor we took our 1980s home into the 21st century!

Replacing your windows is also something most homeowners can handle on their own. With the money saved on your utility bill the new windows can help pay for them self. New windows can greatly improve not only the interior rooms but the outside look of the home as well. If you have single-pane windows, you'll probably be happy if you replace them. Single-pane windows are one of the largest sources of heat loss in winter due to their low insulating ability and high air leakage rates. They're also a major source of unwanted heat gain in the summer. As a result, single-pane windows are responsible for 25 to 50 percent of the energy used to heat and cool homes. Newer windows also provide better UV protection and can prevent fading and home damage as well as keep your family safe from the sun’s harmful radiation.

When it comes to installing new windows, homeowners will have a huge variety of options in size and style. If you are looking to improve your home in both form and function, knowing what's out there and what can be done is a must. You'll have a lot to look at when you're out window shopping. Obviously, the easiest window replacements involve swapping an old, drafty window for a new one of the same dimensions, however, many homes can benefit from moving a little outside the box. Enhancements such as bay or picture windows can go a long way in increasing curb appeal and livening up a living area.

If you choose to replace your own windows you will need the following tools:
  • A good caulking gun and plenty of caulking tubes
  • A square
  • Wood shims
  • Tape measure
  • Miter saw
  • Hammer
  • Strong cordless drill
  • Screwdriver
  • Wood chisel
  • Utility knife
  • Small pry bar (not the larger wrecking bar)
  • Protective glasses
You need to measure windows from the inside of the house, not the outside. Run tape from one side of the window jamb to the other side of the window jamb. You will be measuring from the inside of one jamb to the inside of the opposite jamb. Because windows can warp and skew over the years, measure at bottom, middle, and top. Hopefully all measurements will be the same or within 1/4". If not, choose the smallest measurement as your "keeper."  Measure the height of the window the same way. Order your new windows using the 'keeper" measurements. Check our page on tax incentives and find out if your new windows and doors qualify for a tax credit on your income tax.

Discover Your Decorating Style

Have you ever wondered what your decorating style is? Defining your style will help you when making decorating choices for your home. It's important to be honest and settle on a decorating style that still works at the end of a busy week. Do the footwork, study the possibilities and then let the right one strike your fancy. Soon you will discover the decorating style that has been fighting to get out!

Your style should be a reflection of what makes you feel good, what matches your tastes and preferences in other areas of your life. The last thing you bought for your home is a fantastic indicator of what your style is, especially if it is design departure for you. Hotels have clear design styles, so use them to help you find your own style. Think about the type of hotel your choose. Do you enjoy a quiet bed and breakfast or an ultra modern high rise or the more traditional styled hotel?

Do you like vintage things? Are you drawn to old clothes, movies and furniture? If so, generic, contemporary decor will probably not be a comfortable fit for you. Are you more of a modern soul? You might want to go full 21st century, with a streamlined look. Do a little soul-searching on what you really like to be surrounded by. You might surprise yourself.

One way to define your decorating style is by going through stacks of home-design magazines. Tear out pictures of any rooms you like. When you have 50 interiors, go back through them. A look will emerge. You can also try looking around your home, for the three things it would break your heart to part with. 

Here are just a few of the decorating style possibilities. if you're still not sure what your decorating style is try this  online quiz.

Country decorating is about creating a feeling and an ambiance that evokes our past. It is a nostalgia for simpler times and simpler lives. Country style decorating helps us imagine a time when we lived closer to nature and life had a natural order to it. All aspects of country decorating derive from the simple cottages on the shores of Massachusetts to the stark log cabins of the West. At that time homes were simply decorated with items that were used for everyday chores. Spinning wheels, butter churns, quilting racks were all used for practical reasons. Today they are the decorative accents we search out in antique malls and flea markets.

Shabby Chic is no particular style, but rather balances elegant things with old and worn, shiny silver accessories with painted wooden tables, soft throw rugs with rough old lace. Shabby Chic fans love previously owned and well loved items. They haunt flea markets, auctions, antique malls and estate sales. They are searching for treasures that show benign neglect, the wear and tear of time, and items that have been well used and handed down through generations.

Modern style decorating is sleek and geometric. The surfaces are hard and utilitarian. No curves or bulky styles are in sight with modern style decorating. In contemporary style furniture, the focus on unusual shapes is an important characteristic. Although most of the lines in a contemporary home are angular and geometric, there is almost always an interesting piece of curved furniture to catch your eye.

Simple Urban decor is a combination of vintage and contemporary with natural fabrics, medium to dark toned woods, rich neutral colors and decor accents of iron and glass. And, the result is an uncluttered and spacious look. Antique pieces with clean lines (no Victorian here) and flea market finds are integrated into the decor as a counterpoint to the sleek urban style. Unique accent pieces, vintage or new, take the spotlight in this decorating style.

10 Ways to Improve the Value of Your Home

Everyone wants to get the most value for their home. The trick is getting the most value while spending the least amount of time and money. One of the keys for adding value to your home is to repair, replace or remove anything that could turn buyers away. Whether your budget is large or small you will find things on our lists to improve your home value. And remember you don't have to be ready to sell to improve the value of your home. Your home is a large investment and you will want to get the most value from any of your home improvement projects. Try our 10 tips for improving the value of your home and watch your investments pay off big!

Nothing makes a faster statement than painting. One of the simplest, most cost-effective improvements of all is paint! Freshly painted rooms look clean and updated  and that spells value. When selecting paint colors, keep in mind that neutrals appeal to the greatest number of people, therefore making your home more desirable. On average, a gallon of paint costs around $25, leaving you plenty of money to buy rollers, painter's tape, drop cloths and brushes. So buy a few gallons and get busy! Be sure and read our article on painting before your start your project.
Get a Professional Opinion. Check with your local Realtors to see if you can have someone come and view your home and give you their professional opinion. You may also try getting a consultation with a home stager or decorator. A fresh pair of eyes, especially professional ones can give you valuable insight on how a potential buyer sees your home and what you can do to improve that all important first impression of your home. Prepare to spend between $75-$200 for a consultation.

 Improve your curb appeal. No question that shrubs and colorful plants will add curb appeal to any home, but when shopping at your local garden center, make sure that you "think green." Purchase plants that are native to your region or plants that are drought-tolerant; these require less water and maintenance, which means more savings to you and more green in your wallet. Read our article on xeriscaping for more ideas.

Remove that popcorn ceiling! What's on your ceiling? Few structural elements date a house more than popcorn ceilings. So dedicate a weekend to ditching the dated look and adding dollar signs to the value of your home. This is a project you can tackle yourself. First, visit your local hardware store for a solution to soften the texture, then simply scrape the popcorn away. Removing a popcorn ceiling may not seem like a big change but one of the keys for adding value to your home is to repair, replace or remove anything that could turn buyers away.

Get your home inspected. A home inspection is vital before you put your home on the market. The last thing you want is to have a contract on the table, only to hear the inspector has found dry rot. If you know in advance, you can take care of it. If a home inspection turns out well, it is likely the buyers will feel good about their purchase and not ask for costly fixes or concessions. A home inspection will also give you a heads up on upcoming costs and buyers will be impressed and feel more secure with a homeowner who has regularly had the home inspected.

Small bathroom updates equal a big return. Bathroom updates are always a smart move. A great room to update for less than $750 is the bathroom. The two rooms that benefit most from even small renovations are the kitchen and bathroom. One cost-effective change, like replacing an outdated vanity, old plumbing and lighting fixtures or adding a new tile floor, will guarantee a lot of bang for your buck and give your bath an updated, modern look. Trim out the mirror, declutter the vanity and add new rugs, towels, and faucets for big results and little money!

Fix all small repairs and complete your "Honey Do" list. Walk around your home and make a list of all the little things that are broken or in need of repair. Individually, small repairs might not seem important, but if every room has just one thing wrong, those small things will add up to create the impression that your home has been neglected. If you don't feel comfortable tackling the repairs yourself, hire a handyman for a day and watch your "to do" list disappear. Staying on top of maintenance today eliminates problems down the road should you decide to sell.

Replace dated electrical outlets and add new switch plates to your light switches. The little things really do add up.

 Add Some energy efficient features, Nowadays everyone is looking for ways to go green. Install a tankless water heater, upgrade to star efficient appliances, and add a programmable thermostat. Seals around the windows and door frames and improved insulation will lower your electric bills and letting potential buyers know they won't be paying an arm and a leg for utility bills is a great selling feature. Read our section on "Going Green around the Home for some great ideas!

Spend your budget on your kitchen. Whatever your budget is spend the majority of it on your kitchen. Adding marble countertops, stainless steel appliances and replacing or at least improving your cabinets will all go a long way in improving your home value. On a limited budget replace the cabinet hardware and paint the doors for a fresh new look. Keep the counter uncluttered and sell that valuable counter space. Add a new faucet and garbage disposal and refinish the sink or use creative ideas to make your backsplash dazzle!

Fix up the Entry way. The look of your front door and entrance play heavily into the overall curb appeal of your home. As visitors enter, the front door serves as the transition into your home and is part of their first impression. Entry doors are architectural components that should complement your home's overall design, not detract from it. If your existing front door isn't up to par, head down to your local home improvement store for a more energy-efficient and attractive replacement. Whether you choose a solid wood door or one with decorative stained or cut glass panels, a welcoming entrance will definitely increase your home's bottom line.

Flooring Options

Every home has one or more types of flooring. There are numerous flooring options to choose from and many of these floors can be put in by the homeowner. When selecting flooring options for your home, the first step is understanding the types of flooring available. Changing the flooring in your home makes an instant change to the look and feel of a room. Find out the different types of flooring available and make the choice that's right for both your home and your budget.

When you are looking for flooring options that will be affordable to you, you may want to consider going to a discount flooring store. There are many different flooring outlets that you can check out, and usually the prices at these types of stores are much cheaper than regular flooring stores. Even though you get a better deal out a flooring outlet, you will still get the quality flooring that you want and need as well. You can find wood, vinyl, and even tile flooring at a discounted cost. While real hardwood floors can cost you about $5 per square foot, you can get the same look with laminate flooring for less than $2 a square foot, which is a tremendous savings. Another great thing is that the laminate flooring is much easier to take care of as well.

Concrete floors can be casual or elegant, they last for life, and they are very hard to damage. A common misconception about concrete flooring is that all concrete floors look the same. This, however, is not true. The customizable options for concrete floors are nearly endless. A popular option that many homeowners are going with is the wet look, which is accomplished by applying a high-gloss clear coat finish. This option also makes the room appear bigger than it is by reflecting more light around the space in the room.

There is nothing quite like carpet flooring to really transform a room from a simple living area into a focal point for family and friends to gather. Apart from the obvious aesthetic values of carpet flooring, they all feel great to walk on and these days even with children and pets to worry about, today's stain protection is extremely good. Even stains caused by the dreaded red wine are no longer a worry. When considering a new carpet, give some thought to where it is going to be used and what the traffic flow will be like over it.

Everyone has heard someone refer to laminate floors as “Pergo”. However, Pergo is just one of many companies such as Armstrong, Wilson Art, and Formica who make this virtually indestructible floor. The floating nature makes it quite simple to install, and the range of styles and colors is virtually endless – from simulated wood and tile to creative and decorative choices that will provide any home with an amazingly durable and beautiful floor.

Tile has been traditionally used in kitchens and bathrooms. Today, you can see tile creeping into living rooms and other areas where carpeting was once used. Tile is incredibly versatile. A tile floor can be made from one single type of tile. Tile floors can also be made using patterns or mosaics. Since tile can be made to resemble stone, you can have a tile floor that looks like a stone floor installed at a much lower cost than real stone. You can choose a glass tile floor if you like or a tile floor made from metals such as stainless steel. You can mix and match for an eclectic appearance.

Floating floors get their name from the fact that they are never fastened onto the subfloor. This option is good for homeowners who don’t have the time, money or expertise to dismantle an existing floor; floating floors can be installed right on top. The material is usually a wood or cork laminate, but linoleum or vinyl have become increasingly common. It’s easy to install; just lay it flat and snap it together. On the downside, if you don’t install floating floors properly, your guests might have the seasick feeling that they are floating away.

No Cost Decorating Ideas

If you want to make some decorating changes but have little or no money in the budget then you will want to read our article on "No Cost Decorating". The best, no-cost solution to cure uninspired spaces is looking at the things you already own with new perspective. Do this by shopping around your house and repurposing what you find. Move an accent pillow from the sofa to a bed, hang pretty china as art or turn an unused sheet into window panels. Be creative, have fun and enjoy the fresh (and free) new looks.

One free way to decorate is to turn greeting cards or magazine photos into wall art! Make sure the pictures match or have a them that looks good together. Buy a wide frame with a smaller center get creative. It’s a great way to decorate your walls at almost no cost! For minimal artistic effort and maximum effect, try framing a fabric. You can find beautiful pieces of extra fabric either lying around your house or at the clearance section of material stores. As long as the colors and design are beautiful and tasteful, framing it will instantly turn it into art. Calligraphy is a beautiful as wall art and Japanese calligraphy especially enhances a Zen decorating style. You can do basic calligraphy on your own with just a brush and black paint. Just look at some examples and try copying the images. You might need a little artistic talent for this one, but if you keep it simple it won’t take too long to pick up. You may even be able to create some calligraphy in Japanese! A great place to look for wall art is your kitchen. Plates, coasters and even dish towels that just take up needless space can be hung on your wall and displayed. Framed dish towels make beautiful wall art. Dishes and coasters can be hung with a frame or on their own.

A great no cost way to decorate a room is to set up a network of friends and create a decorating library. Sometimes we all just want something different. Get your friends together and set up a trade program for lamps, knick knacks artwork and anything else you want to add. Swapping back and forth allows you to get afresh look for free and later when you get your old items back they will feel new again. As a group you will need to set up the ground rules. What is up for grabs, how long the exchange lasts and how many items can be traded at a time.  Give it a try, what have you got to lose?

A free and no-sew idea for dressing a window involves bed sheets. Insert a curtain rod through the big hem at one end of each of two sheets- twin size is usually a good choice. This works best if you use a tension rod or curtain rod or some roundish-type rod that you can prop over brackets and cover the ends with something decorative. That's it. Straighten out the gathers, tie the sides back with something, and there's your no-sew window dressing.
Declutter! This is probably the single best thing you can do for your space. Clutter saps energy and detracts from a home's strengths.
Organize. Make sure that there's a place for everything and everything's in its place. If there's no spot for it, get rid of it.
Clean. Cleaning floors, windows, and surfaces brings a sense of order and calm to a space.
Rearrange. After your space has been cleared of clutter and cleaned, spend a few minutes in a room and pay attention to its energy flow. Draw up a floor plan and rearrange your furniture for the best flow.
Paint. Okay, you do have to buy the paint, but painting is one of the most cost-effective ways to spruce up a space.
Restore. If you have quality furniture that's a little out of date, upgrade it by restoring it with a fresh coat of paint, a reupholstered seat, or new hardware. Click here for tips on restoring old pieces.

Selecting Artwork For Your Home

Choosing artwork for your home can be an exciting adventure and a source of enjoyment for years to come. The artwork in your home says a lot about you. It tells whether you prefer modern or classic, colors or monochrome and what design aesthetic appeals to you. That's why it's important to choose the right artwork for your home. Read on for ideas on how to find that perfect artwork that will compliment your home decor.

Look at as much artwork as possible before you make your selection.
In addition to museums and for-profit galleries, check out local outdoor exhibitions, co-op and non-profit galleries, and art in public spaces such as banks, restaurants and libraries. The internet is another great way to find a large variety of fine art available worldwide. One advantage of using the internet is that you can search for the specific kind of art you are interested in, whether it's photography, impressionism, bronze sculpture, or abstract painting. Choosing artwork for your home is a big step and you want get a good idea of what direction you want to take with the artwork.

Purchase art online
Purchasing paintings over the Internet lets you avoid the snooty salesperson telling you what you should like and allows you to look at things leisurely with no sales pressure. Know that you can spend anywhere from $20 (for a poster) to $2,000 (for a painting) for art purchased over the Internet. Many specialized Web sites allow consumers to do searches within a specific price range. Always view art on the Internet with the highest-resolution monitor you can. Also be sure to view art on the Internet in its largest possible size. When using the internet to choose artwork for your home you are able to take all the time you want to search for the perfect artwork.

Look at whatever information the artist provides about him or herself, and the painting.
Often times artists will put a pamphlet or a note card with their paintings, telling the story of its creation, and any events that inspired it. Sometimes you will find moving stories that help you understand the painting better. To establish a good art collection, you should know as much as you can about the history of the painting, and about the artist who made it. Research the biography of an artist. Chances are if you like one of his or her pieces, you'll like another. Choosing several pieces of artwork for your home from the same artist will give your home a cohesive feel as guests travel from room to room.

Hang correctly.
As a rule, paintings should be hung so that the center of the painting is at eye level. Sculpture may sit on the floor, a table, or pedestal. Rules should be considered guidelines only, however, so feel free to experiment. One collector hung an acrylic painting on her bedroom ceiling so she could better view it while lying down. Choosing the right artwork for your home is only part of the process, hanging and displaying the artwork properly is essential.

Select artwork by size to fit a particular space.
Art that is too large will overwhelm and art that is too small will be lost and look out of proportion. The bolder the art, the more room it needs to breathe. Measure the space you want to hang the art and leave enough "white space" so that the painting will not feel crowded. Remember when choosing artwork for your home, you want the artwork and your home decor to work together.

Choose artwork that harmonizes with the color of your room.
When selecting a painting to match color, select one or two of the boldest colors in your room and look for art that has those colors in it. You're not looking for an exact match here. Picking up one or two of the same colors will send a message that the painting belongs in this environment. Choose artwork that compliments the colors in your home, but don't try to match the colors or the artwork you choose for your home won't stand out enough to be noticed.

Adding Trim and Crown Moulding

Adding trim and crown moulding to your home is an inexpensive way to add a lot of pop. Adding trim or moulding yourself is easy to do, inexpensive and is a fairly quick project. When it comes to trim the options are almost endless. Think outside the box and use trim to finish off other areas besides the floors and ceilings.

Crown moulding primarily refers to a decorative row of trim applied where the walls meet the ceiling of a room. It may be narrow or over a foot wide. The style of moulding that is selected, and the colors and finish chosen can define a room, for good or bad. Quite often other architectural details such as fireplaces, doorways or bookcases may be trimmed with matching mouldings. Crown moulding makes a statement wherever it is used. As with any decorating plan one must be careful to use the various elements with good taste. The moulding should add to the style of the room without calling attention to itself as separate from the overall effect of the room.

Trim is a great way to take a home project to the next level or add dimension to other projects and can be used in every room of the house check out some of these great ways to use trim to spruce up areas of your home.

  • Trim out your bathroom mirror. Take your plain standard mirror in the bathroom and add trim around it, transforming that generic look into an expensive looking custom mirror for less than $20. Follow this link for easy to follow step by step directions on trimming a mirror with wood trim.
  • Add trim around  shelves or cabinets. If you are looking for a custom built in unit but can only afford a standard store bought unit, try adding trim along the edges and watch that boxed unit transform into a custom built in piece of furniture. To make your store-bought units look like built-ins, add crown-molding-style trim along the top of all the units, and use scrap lumber or moldings to fill in any gaps between the units. Consider topping a sturdy, low, two-shelf unit with a cushion and centering it between larger units to create a window seat! Rather than try to refinish the shelves, add trim to the front to make them look better. If you have several shelving units that are the same size, put them next to each other, and then add molding to cover the seams. By the time you're done, it should look like one classy unit instead of several inexpensive ones.
  • Use Trim moulding to define a space. Transform a bare corner into an inviting breakfast nook, reading room, or salon with the skilled use of trim mouldings. The transformation is as simple and inexpensive as it is effective. Simply nail thin strips of trim moulding to the walls to create two or three "boxes" of moulding. (Use a leveler to ensure plumb, uniform lines.) Use pale shades of white trim and attach it to a charcoal gray wall. Suddenly, a bare, white corner becomes an inviting and very stylish oasis.
  • Wainscote a wall or area.- Wainscoting is the practice of covering either the top or bottom half of a wall with wallpaper and then painting the other half. The two halves are separated with a piece of flat molding. Wainscoting offers some incredibly creative options. By varying the wall paper and selecting a matching paint, possibly textures, the overall feel of a room can be dramatically altered.