December 16, 2017

Six Easy Ways To Improve Your Kitchen, Bathroom and Bedroom

Are you planning to update your bathroom, kitchen or bedroom but have a tight budget? Here are 6 Easy Way to Improve your area and not break the bank.

atlanta home inspector(ARA) – Good lighting is not something most people think much about until they don’t have it. Living in a well-lit room is a much more pleasurable experience than trying to cook, read, entertain or do just about anything in a dark, shadowy space.

The American Lighting Association offers these tips for improving the lighting in your kitchen, bathroom and bedroom:

* Add to your task lighting. Many bathrooms and kitchens have plenty of overhead light, but are often lacking when it comes to task lighting, says David Martin, designer with lighting manufacturer Hubbardton Forge. “At the kitchen sink, for example, you can eliminate shadows by including two sources of light.” The result is a workstation with easier-to-see spaces that alleviate eyestrain.

* Include mood-enhancing lights and dimmers. “Places such as bathrooms and bedrooms – once mostly functional – now serve as an extension of our living spaces,” says Todd Phillips, owner and senior designer with Quoizel Lighting. The lights in those rooms should be both hardworking and mood enhancing. For example, inexpensive, easy-to-install cove lights in the kitchen can provide soft illumination after mealtime and cleanup. Additional lights placed at a bathroom vanity and aimed out toward the face can help brighten grooming tasks and offer awakening morning light. A bonus: Those controls can help accommodate varying levels of natural daylight, too.

* Increase the size of your bedside task light. One of the bigger mistakes Phillips sees in bedrooms is the size of bedside lamps – they’re either too small or not adjustable. “The lamp needs to provide light where you need it, and if it’s too small it can’t do that,” says Phillips. Go for a larger size with increased lumen capacity.

* Install track lighting for flexibility. Stationary overhead lights are fine when you need to flood a space with light, but too often kitchens, bathrooms and bedrooms lack flexible sources of light. A good solution is track lighting. “You can direct one or two of the lights on the track and point them to a wall to add accent light for artwork, and use other lights on the track to create different focal points,” Phillips says.

* Add a light fixture for drama. A side benefit of beautiful, light-providing chandeliers and pendants is that they provide focal points. “New light sources give homeowners some great options,” says Phillips. “You can drop in a chandelier over a bathtub to create drama and get mood and ambience too.”

As a bonus, those fixtures help provide the finishing touch for different colors and accents. “People sometimes put quite a lot of money and effort into their rooms and lighting can help to show them to their best effect,” says Martin.

* Add a ceiling fan with a light source. With the flip of a switch, a ceiling fan with a light kit can improve a room’s livability with both comfort and light. It is just one more example of how light works wonders in the home. “Having more lighting options creates a better lifestyle and it enriches our lives in terms of the time we spend in our homes,” says Phillips.

To see the latest lighting products and to talk to an expert about how to improve lighting in your kitchen, bathroom, and bedroom, visit your local ALA-member retail showroom or go online to www.americanlightingassoc.com.

Photo courtesy of Tech Lighting

Be sure that any remodeling you do or that you have done, be sure to get a professional home inspection prior and after, just to make sure the remodeling was done properly, safely and correctly.

For your professional home inspection needs, give us a call – we’ll be there for you! 770-645-2132 – or schedule right here on our site Schedule Now

Your Most Powerful Decorating Tool: The Internet

Redecorating used to be most fun for those who had the time to spend poring through interior design magazines, waiting for samples to arrive in the mail, and driving to specialty stores looking for exactly the right item for their redesign.

Today, remodeling ideas and items that would once have taken hours – or even weeks – to obtain are now easily available, thanks to the magic of the Internet. Where once you would have had to locate and drive to a specialty store for items like custom blinds, slipcovers or lighting, you can now browse and purchase a staggering variety of options all from the comfort of your home PC.

Do-it-yourselfers will find plenty of inspiration and inventory online. Here are three interior decorating ideas that you can easily bring to life with the help of some Internet shopping:

1. Buying blinds

Perhaps you remember your mother or grandmother driving from store to store in search of the perfect window treatment. While most department stores have always offered window treatments, in the past the selection has been limited and often pricey. Online resources solve the inventory and pricing problem and spare you a trip to the home improvement store. Websites like Blinds.com offer thousands of cost-effective options, from wood, aluminum and vertical blinds to cell shades, shutters and draperies. Plus, shipping is free.

Changing window treatments is a great way to update the look of a room for a modest investment of cash. And replacing window treatments is one of the easiest DIY projects you can tackle. Online shopping also makes it easy to update your window treatments according to the season. As summer approaches, replace tired old blinds with cellular shades that block heat and ultraviolet rays but still allow light to filter through. When colder months arrive, add a layer of insulation at your windows with lined draperies.

2. Lovely linens

Sure you can find a big selection in terms of style at big box linen stores, but the variety of brands – not to mention lower-priced options – might be lacking. Need especially deep-pocketed sheets for your plush pillow-top mattress? You’ll probably find them in stores, but at a cost that may make you wish you’d bought an air mattress instead. Online, you can find options in every style, color and thread count imaginable – and often at prices that retailers can’t match.

A Google search for “linens” yields nearly 40 million results. Your biggest challenge will be deciding which online merchant to check out first. Some websites specialize in luxury linens, while others offer more basic and practically priced options. You may also find good deals by going directly to the website of a designer you like.

3. Simplifying slipcovers

Long gone are the days when “slipcover” mostly referred to that awful clear plastic covering your grandmother put on the couch to keep the kids and pets from staining it. Slipcovers aren’t just for sofas anymore, according to HGTV.com. You can find slipcovers for ottomans, armchairs, recliners, dining chairs and more – all online.

Modern slipcovers are a great way to change the look of a piece of furniture and the room in which it sits. Cheaper than reupholstering or buying new furniture, adding a slipcover can resurrect a treasured piece that may have worn upholstery but is still in good shape otherwise.

Whether you’re looking to update one room or a whole house, online resources have made redecorating easier than ever. A few clicks of a mouse button can help you quickly create a new look, so you can spend more time enjoying your new decor than you did shopping for it.

 

How To Tackle Your Home Comfort Repairs For Warmer Months

atlanta home inspectorHomeowners are looking forward to warmer weather after heavy snow and freezing rain took a toll on homes and businesses across the U.S. during the winter. Harsh weather even made its mark on typically warm climates in the southeastern part of the country, which experienced some of the coldest temperatures on record.

The coming of spring is revealing a list of post-winter home repairs that need to be made. After being stuck inside for the past few months, getting outside now to assess home damage and tackle initial projects will help you get a jump-start on the season.

Begin with weekend projects that alleviate water damage, such as clearing out gutters and downspouts. Look at the roofing and siding of your home, and repair any broken or missing shingles or panels. These projects allow you to dust off your toolkit, organize your garage and make a list of what needs to be done in the coming months to improve the stability and comfort of your home.

This is also a good time of year to make sure your home’s heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) system is functioning properly and at its most efficient rate. While most HVAC maintenance requires the help of a professional contractor, American Standard Heating & Air Conditioning offers a few simple things homeowners can manage this time of year:

* Check the furnace filter. Cleaning or changing your furnace filter each month will help extend the life of your furnace and may help save on heating and cooling energy costs.

* Clean air ducts. Remove air ducts and return-air grille plates, and thoroughly clean with a rag, scrubbing brush or vacuum to prevent any irritants or dust from making their way into your home’s air.

* Inspect the outdoor air conditioning unit. Remove leaves, grass, dirt and other debris that may have built up around your outdoor air conditioning unit or heat pump to ensure nothing is obstructing the air flow.

* Listen for strange noises. Simply listening for loud or unfamiliar noises is good protocol for evaluating bigger issues that may be plaguing your home comfort system.

Easy troubleshooting tips for a variety of system problems are also available in American Standard Heating & Air Conditioning’s Symptom Checker guide, found online at www.americanstandardair.com.

If you have an old HVAC system, or you are simply wondering how well your current system is performing, take the time to schedule a routine maintenance checkup with an HVAC professional. He or she can advise you on ways to improve the safety and comfort of your home, and make sure your HVAC system is operating properly.

Additionally, ask your local dealer about what you can do to maintain greater control over energy costs and environmental impact, especially on hot days ahead. To locate an independent American Standard Heating & Air Conditioning dealer near you, visit www.americanstandardair.com.

With these new improvements, your home will be looking and feeling as fresh as spring, and your cabin fever will be a thing of the past.

Roller Or Brush?

home inspector atlantaThe applicator matters for your DIY painting project.

In today’s tight economy, freshening outdated home interiors can seem like a daunting, budget-breaking task. The good news is that you don’t have to spend a lot to remove eyesores such as unattractive paneling, too-dark cabinets or that not-so-charming “retro” fireplace mantel and surround.

Instead of living with these design disasters from another era, there’s an easy and inexpensive fix – paint. Quality interior coatings, applied with the proper applicators, can go a long way in giving those design debacles a quick and easy facelift for hundreds of dollars less than a full-scale renovation.

But before you start your paint project, it’s important to know the key to success is selecting not only a quality coating, but applying it with a quality painting applicator. If an inferior applicator is used, even the most outstanding paint may not provide the smooth finish you desire. Using superior applicators can streamline a variety of interior painting projects, saving you time and money, and ultimately helping you achieve a fabulous end result.

“Paint has long been considered one of the great budget boosters for decorating projects,” says Andrew Marsden, product manager for Purdy  applicators. “When you combine a first-rate paint with a quality painting applicator, you can transform a variety of surfaces – from outdated cabinetry to knotty pine paneling – giving any room in the house a fresh look.”

When to use a mini roller

Premium applicators come in a number of shapes and sizes; however one of today’s most popular choices is the mini roller. Purdy has a variety of innovative mini roller choices that are versatile, lightweight, can quickly and easily deliver a perfect finish with smooth rolling action and have the ability to reach tight spaces. These combined features make them the ideal applicator for an endless number of projects, from painting walls, doors and cabinets, to freshening up tables, chairs and even bedroom furniture.

When to use a brush

Even with all the advantages the mini roller offers, a paint brush is still the hero for most projects especially when trim work is needed. A quality brush is a must when you’re aiming to end up with a professional-looking appearance. Most consumers might not know it’s also important to use a brush that’s the appropriate size for your painting project. So, be certain to keep these tips in mind:

* Use 1- and 2-inch brushes for trim work, touch-ups and smaller projects such as window frames and moldings. Angular 1- and 2-inch brushes are great for painting around windows.

* Choose brushes measuring 2 1/2 and 3 inches for medium-size surfaces such as cabinets, baseboards, doors or steps.

* Paint larger surfaces, like walls, ceilings, and floors with brushes ranging in size from 3 1/2 inches to 6 inches.

“Whether you’re using a brush or mini roller, the right applicator can make or break any painting project,” Marsden says. “By paying as much attention to the size and quality of applicator used, in addition to the paint, you’re guaranteed to end up with a fantastic finished project that you’ll be able to admire and enjoy for years to come.”

Five Weekend Projects To Spruce Up Your Home This Spring

home inspector atlantaAfter a long, hard winter across most of the country, people are looking forward to the rites of spring. And one of those cherished activities is the great American remodeling project.

Joe the Pro (Joe Sainz), a building expert with Bosch Power Tools and Accessories, suggests five DIY projects to add to your to-do list that will help improve the beauty of your home.

* Update flooring: If you just bought a home or you’re looking to update your current floor, you may face the task of removing old linoleum. To tackle the job, consider an oscillating multi-tool that includes a scraping blade accessory. Use the oscillating tool to scrape linoleum from the subfloor; use your free hand to peel back the old floor covering. Try to collect large strips.

* Add remodeling electrical boxes: The home theater room is a great place to gather the family. For a professional look with telecom or media wiring, outline and cut holes for remodeling boxes that can be placed in cabinets or walls and finished with an appropriate trim plate. To avoid studs, use a hammer to tap lightly on a wall to locate hollow areas between wall supports or use a high-quality stud finder.

* Remove trim, baseboards or molding: Removal of trim is a tough job if you want to save it for future use. The oscillating tool does a nice job removing caulk and old adhesive, then allows the user to slide a blade accessory between the trim and the wall to cut nails and remove trim intact.

* Replace broken tile: Broken tiles happen – in foyers, kitchens and bathrooms. Spring is a great time to finally remove these long-broken pieces to have complete, perfect alignment again. Use a grout saw to remove grout from around the chipped tile. From there, you can use a pry bar or chisel to remove the old tile. If you can’t remove it as a whole piece, put a towel over the chipped tile and use a hammer to break it up. Remove the old adhesive to ensure the new tile can be placed level with adjoining tiles. Use a quality adhesive to place the new tile and apply grout, being careful to match the original grout’s color and texture.

* Repaint exterior trim: Now that the snow and cold temperatures have receded, it’s time to clean up your window and door trim. Scrape and refurbish paint and stained surfaces, checking for any loose or missing nails, screws or splintered boards. In addition, use a power washer to remove dirt and debris from porches or concrete surfaces.

Joe the Pro always advises professionals and DIYers alike to use eye protection and leather or construction-grade gloves. He also reminds experienced and novice builders to use quality tools and accessories for better results. You only want to do the job once, so make sure your first effort is your best effort.

For more details about these projects and additional tips from Joe the Pro, visit his blog at bethepro.com and click on Idea Box. You can also visit his Facebook page at facebook.com/bethepro.

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.

Tips To Make Your Current Residence Home Sweet Home

atlanta home inspectorAre lower real estate values keeping you in your current home – even though you were hoping to upgrade? Or, maybe you can’t bear the thought of boxing up all your belongings to move? You’re not alone. More homeowners are staying in their current homes, but remodeling with the idea of improving their quality of life and adding more “live-in value,” according to recent research from Consumer Reports.

No matter what your reason for staying put, rest assured; you don’t have to move to get the home of your dreams … just make a few home improvements.

Ooh la la kitchen

Today’s kitchens are no longer a place to simply cook and eat. Your kitchen is the “real” living room – for living, working and entertaining – and the ideal room to improve for added enjoyment.

One project to improve your home and “live-in value” is installing a multilevel kitchen island. Not only does this provide an extra work area, but also an informal place for entertaining guests. Central island cooktops and sinks are another option, keeping cooking and clean-up areas within easy reach.

Tying the overall look of the kitchen together will also help to make a style statement you can live with for years to come. Upgrading to stainless steel appliances is a common choice, especially with the latest technologies – such as built-in flat screen televisions or computers on refrigerators – all with a beautiful high-end finish.

Fashionable faucets

Just think of how much time you spend at the sink, from rinsing fruits and vegetables to filling pots and washing hands and dishes. So why not update this kitchen focal point with a new functional and fashionable faucet? High-arc models with pullout spouts are the most ideal since they allow ample room to fill or clean large pots and pans. Models with multifunction sprays are helpful when washing delicate fruits.

Once you’ve found a model with these useful features, don’t forget about style. Designer finishes, such as stainless steel will give your kitchen a professional look. And, for a designer look that maintains the beauty and brilliance of the faucet’s finish in between cleanings, try Moen’s Renzo pullout kitchen faucet with Spot Resist Stainless finish. This unique finish does just what it says – resists fingerprints and water spots. Moen’s Renzo kitchen faucet is available at Lowe’s.

Storage space explosion

No matter the square footage of your home, accumulating belongings over the years contributes to a lack of storage space. Try to solve this issue by first purging items that you haven’t used within the past six months. Next, you can organize your necessities with a variety of storage systems – from drawer organizers to storage bins. And, if it seems like a task that you can’t handle on your own, hire a company that specializes in organization, such as Closet World, to create a custom-designed solution.

Spa-tacular and sensible baths

Today’s baths have evolved from a task-oriented room to become a private spa. Luckily it’s simple to turn your bath into a private sanctuary. To start, update your current showerhead with a more luxurious and functional design. If you prefer a powerful, full-body spray, perhaps you’d like a rainshower showerhead. Or, if you like options, try a multi-function version that allows you to switch from a relaxing wide spray to an invigorating concentrated spray – or somewhere in the middle. You can find a variety of designs and finishes at your local home improvement store, such as Lowe’s.

And, as in the kitchen, the faucet is a focal point in the small space. Update your current faucet with a new designer style and finish … and with water-saving benefits. Faucets account for approximately 15 percent of indoor household water use – more than 1 trillion gallons across the U.S. each year – so once you’ve found the perfect look, be sure that you choose one that is certified to meet WaterSense criteria.

With these few home improvements you can start recouping your “live-in value” and make your current residence a home sweet home.

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.

Live Large In Your Living Room For $100 Or Less

atlanta home inspectorThere’s a reason we call it “the living room.” We might all spend most of our time in the kitchen, but when we want to relax with family and friends to watch a movie, take in a TV show or just enjoy some good conversation, we head to the living room.

Between the kids playing trampoline on the couch or taking the “throw” in throw pillows literally, the family dog decorating the carpet with her hair, and the overall wear and tear the room gets, it may be hard to imagine living large in your living room anymore. The good news is, refreshing the room and making it a showpiece of your home again needn’t cost a bundle.

In fact, you can give your living room a facelift by making some key changes that each cost $100 or less. From wall decor ideas to furniture fixes, here are some easy, do-it-yourself decorator moves that can update the look of your living room for less than the cost of a designer handbag:

Accessorize, accessorize, accessorize

Just as the right shoes and a bright scarf can add pizzaz to an otherwise so-so outfit, the right mix of accessories can add power and pop to your living room decor. Accessories can also help conceal a host of flaws, from worn-out upholstery to stained carpeting.

Hit a discount home goods store and replace tired accent pillows with new ones in bright colors. Add designer-inspired tiebacks to the same old drapes after you’ve freshly laundered them. Scatter plush throws around the room. Cover carpeting that’s seen better days with an area rug that looks fresh, new and fun.

Back to the wall

She who wields a paint roller well (or is even just reasonably OK with one) has the power to completely change a room – for less than $30 a gallon. Paint is a fast, cost-effective way to make a lived-in room look move-in ready again. And since you spent so little redoing three walls, consider a wallpaper mural for the fourth.

Murals like those found at www.DecorPlace.com can transform any room with a nature mural or images that evoke a tropical getaway, a vibrant cityscape, an undersea wonderland or a rustic Tuscan villa. On the website, you’ll find plenty of easy-to-install murals for less than $100. You can use yours to create a focal point in your living room, accent an architectural feature, make a small space feel more open and airy, or add interest to an otherwise boring wall.

Fire it up

Wish your living room had a fireplace, but find yourself without several thousand dollars to have a real one installed? You can evoke the warm, cozy atmosphere of a fireplace in a number of ways.

Purchase a small chiminea for less than $100 and invest in a pillar candle to place inside it. The candle will create a warm glow (and appealing aroma if you choose a scented one) with less fire risk than burning wood in the chiminea. Just remember to follow good fire-safety practices, and keep children and animals away from all open flames. Spend a little bit more, and you can construct your own faux mantel and place several pillar candles in the hearth area of the mantel.

Furniture fixes

If your wooden furniture is still sturdy but suffering from scratches, dings, dents and watermarks, consider refinishing it yourself. One gallon of wood finish can cost less than $30, and cover a lot of wood furniture. Or, you can check out used furniture stores, flea markets and yard sales in search of gently used items in better condition than what you have. Another option would be to visit a big box store that sells unfinished furniture and do the finishing yourself.

Living large in your living room again is possible, and you don’t have to have the large budget of a home improvement show to achieve it. Some creativity and the willingness to try some fun do-it-yourself projects can go a long way toward making your tired old living room look and feel new again.

How To Make Your Deck An Outdoor Lving Room

atlanta home inspectorNothing beats relaxing in the shade or entertaining a group of guests on your own private deck. When you take the time to plan your deck for the way you live, the result can be a versatile living space and a value-boosting addition to your home.

Trent Boozer, publisher of Extreme How-To magazine, notes his readers have made it clear that decks are one of the top projects they love to design and build. The Internet is full of deck plans and planning tools – and with the range of decking products and accessories on the market, every deck can take on a personality of its own, he says.

Personalization is what makes the deck an extension of the home, says Rick Preble of Deckorators, the leading deck accessory brand that embraces the concept of deck personalization.

“The idea of an outdoor living room has really materialized as people have reattached to their existing homes,” says Preble. A cost-effective way to add square footage and upgrade your lifestyle without moving is with a deck. With all  the deck products and accessories available today, homeowners can customize their outdoor rooms.”

Deckorators has made the process of mixing and matching different deck accessories and building materials easy with a new, easy-to-use online design program: the Deckorators’ Deck Visualizer. The online tool is free and provides homeowners a way to visually discover the different design options they like best for personalizing a deck.

The Deck Visualizer allows the user to set the virtual deck environment to a lake or backyard view and then change the deck accessories for limitless combinations. Users can select the color or grain of composite or wood decking, select the style of metal or even glass balusters, add baluster infill centerpieces, change railing colors, and add post caps, lighting options and even stone.

“This deck design program is fun for homeowners to use and is a great tool for deck planning,” says Preble. “We work with hundreds of deck builders, and they appreciate having this when working with clients. It allows both consumers and deck builders to visualize different options and choose deck products prior to constructing a deck.”

The North American Deck and Railing Association website (nadra.org) is another good place for consumers to start when gathering information for a deck build. The organization has a large gallery of photographs of decks that have received national awards for design or construction.

Michael Beaudry, executive vice president of NADRA, says consumers are definitely hungry for deck design ideas and information on new products. NADRA offers resources to help consumers with deck and rail design and deck safety. The organization’s website also provides access to more than 1,750 different building products companies.

Homeowners who want to build or who are renovating an existing deck will find new trends for 2011. One material making its move onto decks is stone.

Deckorators cast stone Postcovers, which install over rail posts, are one new product in high demand. The postcovers provide the same look and feel as natural stone columns, but are designed to install over basic wood posts. Postcovers are hand-painted to look like cobblestone, fieldstone or stacked stone. The simulated product costs far less than real masonry work and makes it possible for do-it-yourselfers or contractors to add simulated stone columns to a deck.

“Stone or simulated stone on a deck has become possible with new products, and it’s another example of interior design trends and the mixing of various elements making their way to outdoor living areas,” Preble says.

Experts agree that putting the time into planning your deck up front and knowing what your product options are is the best way to ensure you end up with a space your family will embrace as a true outdoor living room.