April 21, 2018

Going Green On Your Next Remodel?

home inspector atlantaAdd tile to your green product list!

Are you planning an upcoming remodel for your home? Going green and using sustainable building materials continues to be a top trend in home improvement. Remodeling green isn’t just about using products with recycled content, it’s also about using superior products that will stand the test of time and reduce energy costs.

You can choose from a number of options when remodeling green, including modern energy-efficient appliances and low-VOC paints. Traditional products can also be environmentally friendly. For example, many homeowners choosing to go green are selecting ceramic tile for a variety of reasons.

Ceramic tile is inherently a sustainable product. It’s a great choice because it lasts up to four times longer than carpet and wood flooring. It never needs to be refinished like wood floors do, contributing to a low lifecycle cost. To clean, all you have to use is hot water which means no harsh chemicals are flushed into the ecosystem.

Tile also doesn’t release fumes or fibers into the air like carpet can. Many people dislike carpet because it houses microbes and other germs, and dirt can become deeply embedded, requiring a costly cleaning by a professional. Tile eliminates these issues entirely.

Getting all the great eco-friendly qualities of tile doesn’t mean a sacrifice of good design. Tile of Spain manufacturers offer stunning options in any size, format, texture, color and pattern. From modern, sleek designs to ornate, classic patterns, visit www.spaintiles.info to find tile that will perfectly suit your design personality.

Emerging technology has eliminated some of the concerns people tend to have when it comes to tile. Adding new tile used to be a daunting task. Tearing out old layers and disposing of them is messy and time-consuming. New slim tiles are only 3 to 6 millimeters thick and thin enough to be applied over existing tile, offering a new look to walls and floors with less hassle, and saving construction waste from the landfill.

Tile no longer has to be cold. It’s an ideal product to use in raised flooring and radiant heating. In fact, technological advances now allow for the tile to work in tandem with a home’s HVAC system. High-tech tiles adopt the temperature of the room and once past a certain temperature use nano energy storage cells to absorb thermal energy and then slowly release it back into the room. This technology alone can save the average home more than 16 percent in electricity bills.

Dry setting tile is now an option for home remodelers as well. Tile can be applied without mortar or grout, which means if you move, you can take the tile with you. Or you can change it in a few years without a lot of work.

If you don’t like the appearance of grout lines and worry about keeping these areas clean, there are new options in large format tile which can lessen the number of joints. Additionally, rectification of tile, a process where the edges of the tile are shaved off for perfect calibration, makes it possible to get a very tight “credit card” joint that allows a more seamless appearance.

If sustainability is a key consideration when remodeling, make sure the products you select are durable, easy to clean and are good for the health of your home and the environment. Ceramic tile helps you accomplish all of the above on your green check list.

Pondering A Pond?

home inspector atlantaCreating a water feature is not as hard as you think.

Vibrantly colored flowers, lush grass and stone pathways are wonderful accents for any backyard. But to truly elevate a backyard to the status of “garden,” few features make a bigger splash than a pond.

Ponds can create a focal point, serve as a restful oasis and add the soothing sound of water to an outdoor space. Many homeowners may shy away from building one, thinking it will be too difficult to do themselves and too costly to hire a professional to build. Yet creating a backyard pond doesn’t have to be difficult – if you prepare properly and use pond supplies that are intended to make the job manageable for most do-it-yourselfers.

“The key effort behind building a pond begins before you ever put a shovel to the ground,” says Doug Ward of TotalPond, makers of high-quality pond supplies and water pumps. “Choosing the right spot for your pond, and planning carefully for how it will look, will help you achieve results that you can be proud of.”

Ward offers homeowners some advice for planning, preparing and creating their own backyard pond:

Go big

For your first effort, you might think you should keep it simple, but playing it safe may not ultimately lead to optimum results. “The number one complaint we hear from homeowners is that, while they love the pond they have, they wish they had built something bigger,” Ward says.

The size, shape and features of your pond need be limited only by your imagination, available space and budget. Your water feature can be a small pool of water with a simple fountain pump or a multi-level extravaganza of pools and waterfalls. Your design can be classic, contemporary, organic or a style that’s completely new – what you end up with will depend on your tastes. In fact, you don’t even have to dig a hole if you don’t want to. It’s possible to create an above-ground pond using pavestones and a liner.

TotalPond provides kits and supplies that make pond-building well within the abilities of most do-it-yourselfers. The company groups products into four easy steps to help you determine what is needed to create your water feature. Pro-grade quality pumps – including waterfall pumps – feature UV bulbs inside that kill bacteria, providing extra algae-fighting help to keep the pond cleaner. You can even incorporate a nice spray and night illumination by selecting an advanced multi-purpose product such as the Pond Boss that pumps, purifies with a UV sterilizer, provides a spray and features LED lights. This product ensures the pond is oxygenated and crystal clear by reducing bacteria and micro-organisms with minimal maintenance. Go to www.totalpond.com for more product information.

Stay practical

Let your imagination run wild within reason. Don’t forget that your location, regional climate, community restrictions, the architecture of your home and the purpose of your pond will all affect your pond-building project.

When choosing a spot in your landscape for your pond, keep these factors in mind:

* Draw a map of your property so that you have a visual of its overall look – and how a pond will fit in with the rest of your landscape.

* Your pond is a living eco-system. If you’ll be adding water plants, most need at least four hours of sun per day, so you’ll need to choose a spot that gets plenty of sun.

* Avoid placing your pond near trees or plants with invasive root systems. Roots can grow under the pond liner and cause damage. And if it’s under trees, falling leaves could block the filter and pump, and decomposing leaves are actually toxic to fish.

Designing and building pointers

Now that you know where you’ll place your pond it’s time to think about what it will look like, and to get down to the business of building it. Keep in mind that how you’ll use the pond, where it’s located and your lifestyle will all affect the design.

If you plan to have fish in your pond, you need to adjust the depth accordingly; goldfish are usually OK in shallow water but koi will need a deeper pond. If the ground in your area of the country freezes in winter, you’ll want to make your pond at least 18 inches deep to protect it. If you live in a densely populated area or have small children, you will need to build a fence into your design for safety’s sake.

Before you begin digging, check your community’s bylaws and find out if any city ordinances govern pond-building. Also, be sure to contact your local utilities by calling 811 to ensure you don’t risk hitting any utility lines while digging.

With planning, the right products and a little elbow grease, you can create a water feature in your landscape – and turn your backyard into a garden that you’ll enjoy for years to come.

Expert Tips For Choosing The Right Fountain For Your Outdoor Space

home inspector atlantaSpanish explorer Ponce de Leon spent many years and covered many miles searching for the fabled “fountain of youth.” Fortunately, you don’t have to go to those lengths to find a special fountain that will transform your backyard into a private oasis. You only need to make a trip to the local garden store.

Water’s ability to relax the human soul is virtually unmatched in the natural world. The gentle sounds of flowing water can wash stress from our lives, restoring and relaxing us. That universal appeal is making fountains more popular than ever with homeowners dealing with the stresses of modern life, including the economy and the need to hold on to and improve the homes they have.

The demand for fountains has led to the widespread availability of traditional designs, and some inspired modern creations by enterprising fountain makers.

“Our fountain category continues to grow,” says designer Peter C. Cilio, creative director of Campania International, a purveyor of garden accessories. “Customers want cast stone fountains, glazed, terra cotta and even light-weight – all types of fountains to bring the sight and sound of water into the garden in an easy, low-maintenance way.”

Jon Carloftis, renowned garden designer, agrees. “Water in the garden is an essential element,” he says. “Adding a fountain to your garden, even a small fountain, is a great investment.”

Here are some simple guidelines from the experts to help you choose the perfect fountain for your garden space:

What’s your style?

The most important consideration to keep in mind when choosing the right fountain is the overall style of your home and garden.

“People who love a beautiful garden are becoming more experienced and comfortable with their own styles and tastes outside,” says Cilio. “Whether you have an urban, contemporary or country garden, the fountain should be compatible with your personal style and the aesthetics of your house and garden.”

Today’s selection of fountains appeals to the broadest of palates, with choices available ranging from traditional European designs to more modern Zen-inspired pieces.

Carloftis reminds homeowners to keep proportion in mind. “It is everything in the garden,” he says. “Choose a fountain that will fit and feel good. And if you go big, be sure to keep it simple.”

Consider your space

Whether it graces a patio or the landscape, a free-standing fountain can be a mesmerizing focal point. The size of the fountain that you choose will depend on the size of your garden space.

“You could have a 4-by-6-foot pocket garden and put a small, beautiful fountain at the end, and you’ve really made an incredible statement,” says Carloftis.

Although fountains can take center stage in the landscape, you might also consider nestling your fountain in a secluded corner of your garden. Tucked away among the plantings, the fountain will not distract from the overall composition.

What’s your desired outcome? Dramatic or Zen?

If creating a highly dramatic effect is your desire, the classic choice is a larger two or three-tiered fountain as a focal point for your landscape. Carloftis suggests Campania’s elegant Newport Fountain, which is a beautiful tiered composition made of cast stone with a lightweight basin for better maneuverability.

If you want something Zen, look for a more soothing effect in water gently cascading over a cast stone ball. Discover the allure of dancing water from a fountain lit at night, while you entertain on the patio or deck. Look for freestanding wall fountains, which include lighting components for dramatic nighttime illumination.

Low or high maintenance

Keeping your fountain clean and free of debris to prevent algae growth and clogging is something to consider when purchasing a fountain. Smaller fountains don’t require as much maintenance as larger fountains. And remember to protect your fountain in winter with a water resistant cover to prolong its life.

Whether simple or ornate, you can create your own private oasis by introducing your own fountain of youth into your landscape or garden.

To view Campania International’s wide selection of cast stone, glazed and lightweight fountains, visit www.campaniainternational.com.

‘Veggin’ Out’ Is So In…

home inspector atlantaTips for starting your own veggie garden!

Vegetable and herb gardening is in and studies indicate it will continue to grow in popularity. If you’re not growing your own yet it’s time to start. Why? The reasons are as varied as the people who garden.

Some do it to save money. Others want to ensure their food is chemical-free, and as safe as possible. Still others grow their own vegetables because fresher is just better. Many do it because gardening is good for you and some because it’s still fun to play in the dirt.

Whatever your reason for opting to join the 7 million Americans who grabbed their gardening gear and grew their own vegetables and herbs last year, your road to success is basically the same as everyone else’s – planting at the right time, making sure your soil’s in shape, weeding and watering responsibly, and feeding and nurturing your plants. This season, you won’t have to buy your fresh herbs and vegetables from a farmer’s market; you can grow them on your own, and you don’t need a farm-sized backyard – or pocketbook – to do it.

Avid gardener Stan Cope, president of Bonnie Plants, the largest producer of vegetable and herb plants in North America, growing locally in 75 locations nationwide, offers some time-saving tips to make the growing easy:

* Survey your soil – Your first step is to decide where you’ll put your vegetable and herb garden. Good soil is key. The best soil is loam, a soft, dark, crumbly dirt. Loamy soil holds water, allows for drainage and is easy to dig. If you encounter clay or sandy soil, add peat moss and bone meal so that these soils can also be productive gardening bases.

* Size up your space – When plotting out the size of your garden, you’ll want to be sure it’s big enough to yield a good harvest to make your efforts worthwhile. But if you’re limited on yard space – or have none at all – you can grow vegetables and herbs in containers on a deck, terrace, balcony or even on the windowsill.

* Let the sunshine in – Your plants need plenty of sun – at least six hours a day. A sunny and open location is your best bet for producing a plentiful harvest.

* Pick your plants for your plot – Grow vegetables that are expensive to buy in the grocery store or at the farmer’s market, such as tomatoes and peppers.

A tried-and-true prolific producer, the Bonnie Original Tomato, was developed exclusively for Bonnie Plants in 1967. They come in environmentally friendly, biodegradable pots that you plant right into the soil. Recent trials, planting five of these tomato plants in 25-gallon containers, averaged 100 tomatoes each at an average of 37 pounds per plant. Another tomato that will tip the scales is Bonnie’s Sun Sugar tomato, a yellow cherry type. Trial garden plants averaged 1,228 tomatoes each.

If peppers are your passion, the Yummy Bell Pepper, ripening from green to apricot orange, is a best bet. Trial garden testing of five plants averaged 248 peppers per plant during the summer growing season.

* Time-saving transplants – When you’re ready to begin planting, opt for transplants – seedlings that have already been started – rather than starting from seed. Transplants will buy you lots of time because plants are six weeks or older when you put them in the ground, and you’ll begin harvesting much sooner.

* Feed your food – Your vegetable plants will need food and water to survive and grow. When feeding plants, try to avoid chemical fertilizers that could potentially seep into groundwater. Bonnie Plant Food is a unique, organically based, soybean oilseed extract formula that has demonstrated superior results in the health and vigor of plants.

Give your garden a good watering once or twice a week, although some crops may need more water, especially if your climate is very hot. A thorough soaking, allowing the water to penetrate 4 to 6 inches into the soil, is better for plants than frequent shallow watering.

Gardening is rewarding. It will bring great pleasure as you bring your produce from plot to plate so you can literally enjoy the fruits of your labor. For more information on varieties and gardening advice, visit www.bonnieplants.com.

Houseplants — Good For Home And Health

Bright blooms, the smell of fresh cut grass, and a warm breeze may be missing this time of year, but there are ways you can brighten up the indoors and bring some summer gardening back into your life.

Houseplants create a fantastic distraction for passing the winter doldrums as we eagerly await summer. In addition, they also provide valuable health benefits during our harsh cold months. Most houseplants add oxygen and humidity back into the air and some can even rid an area of toxins expelled through materials used to build, decorate and furnish a house.

Indoor plants are ideal to keeping the summer spirit alive, adding a splash of color or texture in your home and providing wonderful health benefits for you and your family. By following just a few simple steps, you can host healthy and beautiful houseplants in your living space.

Location, location, location
After plants are arranged appropriately in their containers, you’ll need to find a suitable location for them. The first step in keeping a plant healthy is to situate it away from any drafty areas or heat sources. For instance, do not place a fern by a front or back door, or on top of a heating vent. Heat sources such as fireplaces will also cause plants to dry out.

Keeping hydrated
Many of us overwater our plants. Using a product that regulates over watering and infuses soil with oxygen, like Safer Brand Oxygen Plus Plant Food, will allow you to avoid the woes of over watering, which result in wilting, dulling and death of the houseplant.

Catching rays
Placing houseplants indoors where the sun will hit them only about four to six hours a day is sufficient. Sunlight results in denser, greener foliage and overall healthier plants.

Moving time
Like us, plants would much rather be outdoors than stuck inside during warm and sunny days. Houseplants can be moved outdoors after the danger of frost has passed. This timing is dependent on where you live and the time of the year. Moving houseplants outdoors is easy and will add a great decor element to your entryway, porch or back deck. Before moving plants outdoors, add about 2 inches of potting soil to their containers, as this amount has probably decomposed in the container during the winter months. Once outside, you should soak your plants from top to bottom.

In the initial stages of a houseplant’s conversion outdoors, it is important to gradually introduce them to nature. Placing plants in direct sunlight for the length of a day will put them in shock, so it is best to acclimate them over a one to two week period. Introducing them to the outside under shade of a tall tree will ease them into this transition.

The outdoors offers a houseplant many elements that allow them to thrive, but also exposes them to residents of nature they may not have encountered before. Using an organic insect killer, like Safer Brand Houseplant Insect Killer, will keep your plant from being eaten in the outdoors. When you notice that leaves or petals have been snacked on, or you actually see a bug on the plant, you can spray the entire plant to ensure the bugs will be killed organically and your plant will not be harmed.

Not only do potted plants add design elements to interior and exterior living spaces, but they are also beneficial to your health. So go ahead, indulge in a houseplant or two. A little green can really do the body good.

Keep Your ‘Green’ Home Improvements Running At Peak Efficiency

atlanta home inspectorIf you’re like many Americans, you have recently made home improvements to lessen your impact on the environment. While you’ve already taken big strides toward saving energy – and money – you can conserve even more by making sure your new systems are running at peak efficiency.

Whether you recently outfitted your home with solar panels or invested in a new heating system or water heater, here are some tips to make sure you are saving energy at the highest capacity.

Solar panels

Solar panels capture free energy from the sun, but they can lose a lot of their capacity if they aren’t cleaned regularly.  Depending upon where you live and other variable conditions, you may need to clean panels as often as once a month. A dirty panel can reduce the efficiency of an entire array by up to 40 percent. Since panels can sometimes be hard to reach, you may want to consider investing in a cleaning system like Mr. LongArm’s Pro Curve Solar Cleaning Kit, which allows you to reach and clean difficult-to-access panels.

The system features two unique cleaning tools, a washer/squeegee that attaches to a curved extension pole as well as an extendable flow thru pole and cleaning brush that can be attached to a garden hose. To view videos on how to clean solar panels, visit www.mrlongarm.com.

Heating systems

A new energy-efficient heating system only gets you part of the way to optimal efficiency. Before the heating season starts each year, you should make sure your HVAC filters and vents are cleaned, as you will see an immediate loss in efficiency if there is any blockage.

Another aspect of heating efficiency has nothing to do with your heating system. Making sure your home is properly sealed and insulated can save you up to 20 percent on energy costs, according to the U.S. Department of Energy’s Energy Star program.

Water heaters

No matter how large your home or your family, you can easily make your water heater more efficient by turning down the temperature on the unit to 120 degrees F. The lower temperature means the heater doesn’t work as hard, and your water will still be hot enough to take a bath or wash dishes.

You may also want to consider a tankless water heater, which only heats the water when it’s demanded. These systems also take up less space in your utility room by running the cold water through heated coils before it goes through the pipes to your sink or shower.

If you’ve already taken steps to become energy-efficient, you understand the benefits. By making your current systems even more effective and economical, you can see even greater rewards for going green.

Save Green With Green Laundry Practices

home inspector atlantaThere’s no question that the majority of Americans want to make green purchases and do their part to help preserve the environment. But even as the economy starts to turn around, more than two thirds of U.S. consumers say price is the biggest obstacle preventing them from buying green goods or services this year.

With hundreds of green products coming out every day it’s tough to tell what actually works, what’s good for the environment and how to go green without spending all the green in your wallet. Plus, if you’re like many cash- and time-strapped Americans, going green may seem like a costly and time-consuming addition to your everyday life.

Fortunately, several easy adjustments to your weekly routine can help you do your part to preserve the environment and your paycheck. Take an everyday chore like doing the laundry. Spending more than $2,500 annually on water, electricity, cleaning and laundry supplies combined, the average U.S. household does more than 400 loads of laundry per year.

Such costs can be taxing on the environment and your bottom line, but here are a few simple changes you can make to help you save green by going green.

Cool it: The notion that you can only thoroughly clean fabrics in hot water is a myth. Approximately 90 percent of the energy used to power your washing machine comes from heating the water. Wash your laundry in cold or warm water. This will not only help to save money on your utility bill, but will also minimize greenhouse gas emissions.

Hang ’em up: Don’t dry your clothes excessively – doing so is bad for the environment and your fabrics. Try drying laundry the old fashioned way – by hanging it on a clothes line or drying rack. If you are in the market for a new dryer, get one with an electronic sensor that senses when the clothes are dry and automatically shuts off afterward.

Ditch the dryer sheets: They’re an unnecessary expense. Plus many of the most popular brands contain ethanol, chloroform and other chemicals on the Environmental Protection Agency’s hazardous waste list. These chemicals are released into the air after they’re heated in your dryer. If you really need to eliminate static cling, try adding a quarter cup of white vinegar during the rinse cycle. It’s cheaper and just as effective.

Find a fiber-friendly fabric softener: Over 95 percent of liquid fabric softeners are oil-based which means they work by coating fibers in oil. Over time this oily residue builds up and decreases the lifespan of fabrics. The average American family spends $2,147 on clothing each year, half of which is spent replacing clothes. Use a fabric softener that’s not oil-based like Purex Complete Crystals Softener, which is 92 percent natural and will not turn your clothes yellow or gray.

Fill ‘er up: Depending on when your washer was made you could be spending up to $195 each year on electricity alone just to do the wash. Always try to run a full load of laundry in your washer or dryer. Running a partial load uses the same amount of energy as a full load, but accomplishes less. Running full loads will help you use less energy which is better for the environment and your bank account.

There are many ways to protect the environment and it doesn’t stop with your cleaning routine. Adopt some of these tips and the environment, your body and your wallet, will thank you in the long run.

Is Going Green Worth It?

You’ve stopped buying bottled water, opting instead for a reusable bottle you carry everywhere you go. When you go shopping, your list leans toward the organic and recycled. But when you get home, going “green” seems a lot more daunting.

You hear stories about your ultra-conscientious neighbors trading their old energy-devouring water heaters and HVAC units for the new energy-efficient models, putting up solar panels and installing the dual flush toilets. Suddenly your effort to cycle out incandescent light bulbs starts to feel trivial.

And you start to wonder, if you are more confined by budget than your earth-friendly neighbors and pals, is going green worth it?

The trick is figuring out what works for you and your lifestyle, according to Mark Lewison, academic director of the Interior Design Department at The Art Institute of California – Hollywood. “Find an improvement that makes sense for your bottom line and then look for green options in that area of improvement.”
 
Reducing energy costs and decreasing wear on the planet over the long term is as easy as turning the lights down low. “That’s where you get the most bang for your buck,” says Joan Jackson, associate professor of interior design at The Illinois Institute of Art – Chicago. “Dimmers are cheap and extend the life of the bulb five to 10 times.”

Interior design associate professor Eve Fineman adds that a simple and inexpensive switch in the type of bulb you use makes an impact. “An LED light has a really long lamp life and draws much less energy.”

Jackson also suggests insulating your windows as a simple way to keep down costs and keep your home comfortable in both the cold and heat. And what’s the easiest way to conserve energy? According to Jackson it’s as simple as unplugging items when you’re not using them. “Most people don’t realize that your appliances are using energy when they’re plugged in, even when they’re off,” she says.
 
Going green is not just about saving energy and the outside environment. Your indoor air quality counts too. Fineman says the paint most of us used in the past was actually filled with volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that are bad for you to breathe in. That new paint smell was actually toxic. Luckily, most paint sold today has low or no VOCs.

If you do decide on more costly upgrades like energy-efficient appliances or sustainable and rapidly renewable materials like bamboo flooring, you can still see long-term savings, says Fineman. “Now there are ways to assess and compare your cost up-front versus how much the cost savings over a 10-year period will be,” she says. “Most of the time consumers see that it’s definitely worth the investment, because they’ll save a lot over the long term.”

 “Any green or sustainable improvements that can be made to a home should increase a home’s value as a whole in addition to helping the owners save money,” Lewison adds.

All three experts agree, whether you’re trying to help your bottom line or the environment, the way to go is green.

To learn more about The Art Institutes schools, visit www.artinstitutes.edu/nz

Courtesy of ARA