Blog Archive for May, 2014

Breathe Easy

Categories: Blog | Posted: May 28, 2014

glow solar sky on beautiful meadow

How to improve the air quality in your home

If you want to bring a breath of fresh air into your home, try doing more than opening the doors and windows. The indoor air can be riddled with pollutants, like volatile organic compounds (VOCs), such as formaldehyde, toluene, benzene, ammonia, and xylene, as well as dust mites, pet dander, fire retardants, radon, and chemical fragrances. You can improve the air quality in your home with a few simple steps.

  1.    Bring in houseplants. Certain houseplants naturally purify the air, removing toxins that decrease the quality. According to NASA, the peace lily is your best choice as a purifier, removing airborne VOCs like formaldehyde, trichloroethylene, and benzene. Lady palm (Rhapis excelsa) is great for ridding the air of formaldehyde, ammonia, xylene, and toluene. English ivy removes certain toxins and mold. The Barberton daisy (Gerbera jamesonii) produces large, colorful bloom while also cleansing your home’s air of formaldehyde, benzene, and trichloroethylene. Other plants on the list include the weeping fig, mother-in-law’s tongue, and chrysanthemum; however, these are known to be toxic to pets.
  2.    Keep your floors clean. From using a vacuum with a HEPA filter to scrubbing with microfiber mops water only (no detergents), you can reduce the allergens and toxins in your home.
  3.     Protect the threshold. Prevent germs and pesticides from walking in your door by placing a large mat at each exterior door. Encourage people to wipe their feet and leave the dirt-caked shoes at the door.
  4.     Reduce the humidity. Mold and dust mites thrive in a moist environment, so use a dehumidifier, maintaining a 30-50 percent humidity level and emptying the pan frequently. Vent the clothes dryer outside, use an exhaust fan when running the dishwasher or shower, and fix plumbing leaks.
  5.   Prohibit smoking. Cigarettes produce powerful pollutants, with more than 4,000 chemicals in the smoke. Just because someone else wants to inhale doesn’t mean you have to.
  6.  Buy fragrance-free products. Cleaners and air fresheners may appeal to your sense of smell, but they’re attacking your air quality. Synthetic fragrances emit harsh chemicals into the air. Avoid products like dryer sheets, laundry detergents, air fresheners, and anything else with an added scent. If you want to better smelling air, slice a lemon.

4 MORE Reasons New Homes are Better

Categories: Blog | Posted: May 21, 2014


There are plenty of reasons that owning a home is preferable to renting—investment, tax advantages, mortgage is often cheaper than rent. Once you make the choice, you have to then decide between buying a new home or opting for a resale. Each one has its advantages, but I was recently reading an article that offered up “The Not-So-Obvious Benefits of Buying a New Home” by the National Association of Home Builders—and I thought I’d share the insights.

  1.     Grow with a community. When you move into a community of new homes, you join a growing neighborhood where people are building relationships. Rather than become the new kid on the block in an area where those bonds have already been formed by longtime neighbors, you can connect with many newcomers like yourself. In addition, new communities usually feature common areas, like walking paths and recreational facilities, where you can meet your neighbors in a casual, leisurely atmosphere.
  2.     Planned for parties. New construction reflects the most desirable home design—the open floor plan. Today’s homeowners want open spaces that allow easy flow from room to room, particularly for entertaining and quality family time. With higher ceilings, more windows, and spacious rooms, new homes incorporate more of the features you want.
  3.    The “new home” smell. Imagine pulling into a newly paved driveway and walking into your home where everything is brand, spanking new. You don’t have to worry about how the previous homeowner serviced the appliances or whether the builder used quality materials in the parts you can’t see. You have a builder’s warranty, and all of your appliances, systems, roof, and flooring are covered by warranty. That’s peace of mind that doesn’t come with a resale.
  4.     Plugged into your needs—and vice versa. New homes are wired with today’s lifestyle needs in mind. Computers, televisions, DVRs, wireless routers, multiple small kitchen appliances, and even a wine cooler on your patio—they all need electrical outlets. Home builders recognize that we want to plug in without running extension cords, so they’re wiring new homes to accommodate this essential feature.

Plus, you can customize your new home without searching for contractors. Your builder will take care of the details, from the wall coverings, plumbing and light fixtures to your landscaping.

The reasons for buying a new home keep adding up. For the lifestyle you deserve and the value you want, you can’t go wrong with new construction by a quality home builder.

5 bathroom design trends for 2014

Categories: Uncategorized | Posted: May 14, 2014

tuskes bathrom2

Bathroom design has evolved from utilitarian to luxurious, with today’s homeowners opting for a spa experience in their own home. The bathroom has become larger and commanding of more attention when it comes to design. Bathroom wall treatments, flooring, lighting, and plumbing fixture choices are now more diverse than ever.

So what’s trending in 2014?

  1.      The freestanding bathtubs and vanities. The clawfoot tub has made a comeback, and contemporary shapes of soaking tubs are emerging. The whirlpool bath with the deck surround is passé as homeowners now opt for more shapes in their bathrooms, including the freestanding vanity and more innovative sink styles.
  2.    Custom showers. The shower has undergone the greatest design change in the bathroom. Frameless, threshold-free showers are not only sleek looking, but practical (no tripping). Shower heads come in a broad range of choices—including waterfall and multi-jet—and homeowners are looking for larger showers, with two shower heads and seating., and steam showers are really hot, too!
  3.     Earth colors. A reflection of the spa ambience in today’s bathrooms, the color trend has shifted to earthy tones of brown, tan, gray, and soft green and blue hues.
  4.     Sophisticated lighting. Traditional lighting? Gone. Look for pendant lights and even chandeliers to add more style to bathroom design, as well as no-shadow lighting. New homes are integrating more natural light, with skylights and larger windows.
  5.    Radiant floors and area rugs. More attention is being paid to the floors in bathroom design these days. Larger tiles that require less grout are desirable because of the reduced maintenance. A heated floor provides a welcome alternative to the cold tile. Area rugs have also found their way into the bathroom, adding a layer of color, style, and warmth.

Function doesn’t have to be dull. With so many ways to turn your bathroom into a spa retreat, get creative!

Cheaper to keep her?

Categories: Blog | Posted: May 7, 2014

tuskes home2

New homes actually cost less to maintain.

Does the price of a resale seem tempting when compared to the purchase of a new home? Sale price isn’t the only consideration. Maintenance costs should be on the list, too.

You know, for example, when you buy a used car, you might not know how well the previous owner(s) handled upkeep. The vehicle might look clean and shiny, but it’s what you can’t see that will cost you.

The same is true when buy a home. A person who understands how to stage a home will add a coat of paint, add curb appeal, and maybe update the fixtures and kitchen countertop, but these are cosmetic changes. What about the hidden costs, like electricity, home insurance, and repair?

The American Housing Survey (AHS) reported that new homes are the better bargain when it comes to long-term maintenance. According to the 2009 study, 26% of homeowners spent $100 more per month for upkeep, while 73% of homeowners with new construction (four years old or newer) spent less than $25 on this routine maintenance.

With more energy-efficient construction techniques and materials, new homes are also saving money on utilities. The 2011 AHS found that owners of new homes were spending 68 cents per square foot on electricity. Compare that to 81 cents per foot on older homes, and owners of older homes are paying almost 20% more.

In addition, home insurance costs about 25% less for new homes.

When you add it all up, new homes offers long-term value, including the peace of mind that comes with those items that can be expensive to replace, like the roof, plumbing, electrical, and other systems. And, ohh, that new house smell!

A Pain in the Ash (and other trees to avoid)

Categories: Blog | Posted: May 1, 2014


11 tree species to keep out of your yard

Trees add beauty and shade to your yard, and, in general, they’re low maintenance additions. However, that’s not always the case. According to HouseLogic, here are 11 tree species that you should keep out of your yard.

  1.  Ash. Although sturdy enough for baseball bats, the ash is under attack from a beetle that could spell the species’ demise. One of the most destructive pests we’ve encountered, the emerald ash borer has been found in 15 states and seems to be spreading, putting 7.5 billion ash trees at risk. You might not get a healthy return on your investment if you plant an ash.
  2.  Silver maple. This beautiful tree grows quickly, so it’s a popular choice for homeowners wanting to boost their landscaping. But the shallow root system doesn’t support the top-heavy tree and it has been known to succumb to heavy storms. The roots also spread out, invading sewage and drainage systems, and working their way under the driveway where they cause cracking.
  3. Quaking aspen. This tree can take over your yard like an alien invasion. Although the tree is lovely, it’s what’s underneath that should cause concern. The root system constantly tries to populate more aspens and the result is a massive war of the roots. When you try to cut back on the over-growth, you might encounter a tangled web that is costly to remove.
  4. Hybrid poplar. The “mutt” of poplars was created by cross-pollinating several species, but the result seems to lack the resilience of the sturdier purebreds. Experts say the hybrids won’t last more than 15 years.
  5. Willow. Beautiful and wispy, the gentle swaying exterior masks an insidious interior. The willow is an extremely thirsty tree species and has been known to drink heavily from irrigation systems, sewage pipes, and drain fields. With all that water, you might expect something hardy, but you’d be disappointed.
  6. Eucalyptus. Maybe you think of the wonderful fragrance or the adorable koalas munching on the leaves, so it’s tempting to want to plant a eucalyptus tree in your yard, particularly since they grow so quickly. But the heavy branches have been known to drop without warning, causing a hazard to anyone—particularly children—who might be playing nearby. In addition, you’ll incur maintenance time and/or money to peel off the bark that it sheds annually.
  7. Bradford pear. The idea of a fruit tree is appealing, both for the blossoms and the fruit, but the Bradford pear—with or without the partridge—is not a good choice. For one thing, the blossoms are more pungent than fragrant. And at maturity, the tree tends to split.
  8. Mountain cedar. An allergy nightmare, the mountain cedar releases clouds of pollen during the cooler weather. You might not be allergic, but you could make life miserable for your neighbors.
  9. Mulberry. There are so many reasons NOT to plant a mulberry tree! Where to start? Silkworms love them, so plan on having those squirmy guests dining on your tree. In addition, mulberries are very messy, the tree’s roots pop up through the ground, and your lawn won’t grow under the dense shade provided by the trees branches and leaves (worms and all).
  10. Black walnut. Woodworkers love black walnut. It’s a desirable—and therefore, expensive—hardwood. But as a homeowner, you should keep black walnut in your furniture, not your yard. The toxins from the tree will kill the flowers and vegetables in your gardens, the heavy pollen is most definitely something to sneeze at, and the vast walnut harvest will keep you busy raking them off your lawn.
  11. Leyland cyprus. These trees start out like shrubs and then grow fast—very fast. If you want a quick solution to gain privacy, the Leyland cyprus seems like a great idea. However, the tree requires regular trimming for healthy growth and the shallow root system means the tree is prone to falling when there’s a heavy storm.

There are plenty of wonderful alternatives for trees that will give your yard the beauty, shade, and durability you want from your landscape investment. Stay tuned for a list of those tree species you should plant in your yard.

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