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Blog Archive for December, 2014

10 New Year’s Resolutions for your Home

Categories: Blog | Posted: December 31, 2014

tuskes home2

It’s that time of year again, when we look back to see what we’ve accomplished—and what we didn’t. So, we create a list of things we’re going to improve once January 1 rolls around.

What better place to focus your improvements than on your home? To get you started, here are some ideas for New Year’s resolutions for your home.

I will…

  1. Declutter my closets. We all have them—those hideaways where we toss, stash, and pile those things we don’t want to don’t use all the time but don’t want to throw away. Imagine your closet had no door. Would you still keep it at the same level of (dis)organization as it is now? If your answer is “no”, then resolve to making a change here. Take everything out of the closet. Everything! Purge those things that get pushed to the back, because you probably don’t need them. Donate usable items to charities or thrift shops. Organize the items you want to keep, in bins that can be labeled. And get rid of the miscellaneous clutter!
  2. Organize my garage. Is your garage like an oversized closet? Is the storage organized? Are you holding onto tools that don’t work? And can you easily find the ones that do? Plan a weekend to tackle this space. Haul everything out and examine what you have. Install pegboard to hang tools and manuals. Invest in garage storage cabinets or shelves. And while your garage is empty, paint the floor to make it look new again!
  3. Be more energy-efficient. Start with doing an energy efficiency audit. Your utility company probably offers this service at no charge. Look at your electrical and water use. Where can you do better? Take shorter showers? Lower your thermostat temperature by two degrees? Use the dishwasher instead of washing by hand (yes, it’s not only more efficient, but a whole lot easier!). Change to a low-flow showerhead and toilet? EPA-certified WaterSense products can save you up to $200 per year off your water bill. Sealing the drafty ducts, windows, and doors in your home can save another $200, according to ENERGY STAR.
  4. Take a DIY class. Improve your home improvement knowledge by taking a free class at a local home center. Learn how to fix a leaky faucet, caulk your air ducts, install laminate flooring, plant a vegetable garden, add a deck or patio, or some other skill or project that gets you excited.
  5. Finally fix that _________. Is there a creaky hinge or stair that used to bother you but you have now tuned out? Do you have a door that doesn’t shut right or a window that sticks? Make a list of those little fixes that never seem important enough to grab your attention. Then prepare for a fix-it day by making sure you have the tools and supplies you need to get it all done.
  6. Rethink my décor in at least one room. Maybe you have a room in your home that could use a facelift. It can be as simple as rearranging the furniture or painting the walls a new color, or as complex as a complete makeover from top to bottom. Updating your interior décor is always a great investment of your time, so create a plan, add a schedule, and make it happen.
  7. Build a budget for home improvement. Give your home its own savings account. Set aside money to cover upgrades and updates. Deposit some of the money you save on energy efficiency into this account. If you get a rebate or bargain price on something you’ve purchased for your home, apply the difference to your home improvement savings account.
  8. Do a home safety check. Check the batteries on your carbon monoxide and smoke detectors, and make sure they’re in good working order. Recharge your fire extinguishers. Check all electrical cords and outlets to make sure you have no fire hazards, including frayed cords, non-functioning outlets, and items covering cords or too close to outlets. Check the locks on your doors and windows, and consider installing a security camera. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) provides a complete home safety checklist.
  9. Clean the places I usually forget. How often do you clean your gutters, vents, windows, chimney, barbecue, and kitchen stove hood? Do you pressure wash your patio or driveway? Take a walk through your home and make a list of those spaces and places that deserve a good cleaning now and then. And remember, if you don’t want to do it yourself, you can always hire someone to take care of these dirty jobs for you!
  10. Boost my curb appeal. Stand by the curb and honestly appraise your curb appeal. Is your front door welcoming? How healthy are your shrubs and plants? Could your house number be a little more attractive? Chances are, you could update your exterior with some more interesting planters, décor, and a coat of paint on your front door.

You know there’s room for home improvement in the coming year. Give yourself a calendar of tasks and projects and, unlike your dream of losing weight or breaking a bad habit, stick to the New Year’s resolutions for your home.

Choosing the Perfect Kitchen Faucet

Categories: Blog | Posted: December 23, 2014

Tuskes Homes

The faucet is the most utilized tool in your kitchen. Whether you’re washing dishes, rinsing foods, using water for cooking, or just getting a drink, you rely on your kitchen faucet. But how much thought do you put into deciding on this important item?

You have more choices than ever before—style, function, and finish. So, what do you need to know about how to choose a kitchen faucet? Here are some essential considerations.

  1. Fit the faucet to the sink. If you’re changing the faucet, but not the sink. you need to know how many holes you have in your existing sink. The more holes you have, the more options you get. A one-hole sink requires a single handle faucet. With two holes, you can look at a single-handle faucet with an accessory (e.g., soap dispenser) or a two-handle faucet. With three or more holes in your sink, you can expand your choices with more accessories—from a single-handle faucet with a deckplate (which covers the holes) to a bridge faucet with a sprayer and/or accessories.

You also need to factor in the size of your sink. The faucet’s spout needs to be able to cover the entire area of your sink, but not so tall that it splashes water outside the sink or so low that you can’t fit a large pot into the sink. A high arc reaches 8 to 10 inches above the sink plane, but if you have cabinets over your sink, make sure the cabinet door clears the top of the arc.

  1. How many handles do you want? A one-handle faucet allows you to rotate to get the temperature you want. With two handles, you have one for hot and another for cold, which gives you more control over the water temperature. If you use a water filtration system, you might want to look at a third handle that turns the filter on and off.
  2. Choose the sprayer style. A sprayer is a desirable feature that expands the reach and allows you to direct the water exactly where you need it. If you like to use your kitchen faucet to water plants or fill large pots, it’s nice to be able to pull out the nozzle and potentially spray beyond the boundaries of the sink. Your sprayer could be a pull-down or pull-out, where the faucet head pulls away from the faucet, or a side sprayer, which is installed in a separate hole in the sink.
  3. Hands on or hands off? Some faucets feature a motion sensor that allows you to turn the faucet on and off without touching it. Just move your hand near it to trigger the flow.
  4. Look at the faucet style. Although the kitchen faucet is utilitarian, your style choices can be anything but plain. Traditional and contemporary, farmhouse to modern, and gooseneck or bridge represent a few of your design choices.
  5. Durability. Not all faucets are constructed the same. The valve is the most important component, as it is the part most likely to break. Look for a faucet with stainless or brass base material, and a ceramic disk valve instead of a plastic one, which won’t last as long. If you have hard water, it’s a worthwhile investment to purchase a faucet made of solid brass.
  6. Finishing. Today’s kitchen faucets are manufactured in a wide array of finish coatings: chrome, brass, brushed nickel, polished nickel, stainless steel, polished bronze, copper, oil-rubbed bronze, matte black, and white. A Protective Vapor Deposition (PVD) finish provides more resistance against tarnishing and abrasion than chrome.

You’ll be using your kitchen faucet every day for a long time. Make sure you choose one that can handle the tasks.

Safety Tips for Holiday Decorating

Categories: Blog | Posted: December 18, 2014

Christmas tree

Trim the trees, hang the lights. It’s time to put some holiday spirit into your home and yard. But before you haul out a Griswold-size tangle of lights or trim your tree with candy canes, read these safety tips for holiday decorating from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (USCPSC)

Lights

  • Use only UL-approved holiday lights that have been certified as safe for the intended use. Don’t string indoor lights outside!
  • Check each string for damage: cracked sockets, loose connections, frayed wire.
  • Don’t overload your extension cords. Limit the sets to no more than three standard-size sets per extension cord.
  • When hanging lights outdoors, fasten them securely to prevent them from falling or being blown down.
  • If you opt for the bubbling lights, string them out of the reach of children. Kids might not be able to resist the fascinating movement, and bubbling lights are made of glass and filled with a liquid that can be hazardous if ingested.

Trees

  • When purchasing a real Christmas tree, make sure it’s fresh by gently pulling the needles along a branch. If the needles fall off in your hand, the tree is already drying out, and will become a hazard inside your home.
  • Saw off about two inches from the bottom of the trunk before putting the tree in a stand. The freshly exposed wood will absorb the water better.
  • A fresh tree absorbs more water in the first few days so be sure to check the water level in the tree stand and replenish it daily.
  • A large tree may need more support than just the tree stand. To prevent a falling tree in your home, secure it to the ceiling or wall with wire or string.
  • If you choose an artificial tree, be sure it is clearly marked “fire resistant” or “flame retardant”.
  • Position the tree away from any heat source, like a radiator, fireplace, candles, or woodstove.

Decorations

  • Position breakable ornaments out of the reach of curious children and wagging tails.
  • Avoid any decorations that resemble food or candy, because they might look too real to kids.
  • Use only ornaments made from non-combustible and flame-retardant materials.
  • Keep decorations away from electrical connects and flames.
  • Make sure that tinsel and tinsel garland is made from plastic or lead-free material.

Candles

  • Place candleholders out of the reach of children and where they are not at risk of tipping over.
  • Keep candles a safe distance from anything flammable, including your tree, which can ignite quite easily.
  • Use non-flammable candle holders.

Fireplace

  • Never burn wrapping paper in a fireplace. The chemically-treated paper can ignite quickly and cause a flash fire.
  • Fire salts may create pretty colors, but the heavy metals in them can be dangerous if ingested.
  • Remove all greenery from trees and branches before burning them to avoid excess smoke.
  • Make sure your fireplace has been inspected before burning anything in your fireplace or woodstove. A creosote building in your chimney could spark a fast-burning chimney fire.

Have a safe, healthy, and happy holiday!

Get Cozy and Stay Energy-Effcient

Categories: Blog | Posted: December 11, 2014

family fireside

Get cozy with an energy-efficient fireplace or woodstove

The chill of winter is sending homeowners to stoke up their woodstoves and fireplaces. This type of heat is warm and cozy, but is it as energy-efficient as you think? Did you know that most wood-burning fireplaces convert only 15 percent of the wood’s energy into usable heat?

According to the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), 9 out of the 12 million wood stoves in homes around the United States are non EPA-certified, so they are 50 percent less efficient than the newer stoves. A newer stove also uses one-third less wood to deliver the same amount of heat, which reduces your firewood expense.

The newer fireplace designs address the heat factor. Rather than sending most of the heat up the chimney, they direct more warmth into the home’s interior.

If you want to keep your existing fireplace, you can install a fireplace insert to produce better efficiency. These sealed metal boxes burn wood or pellets, and do a better job of circulating warm air into your home because the sealed chamber prevents it from being redirected outside.

A gas fireplace can be direct-vent or vent-free. A direct-vent gas fireplace brings in outside air for combustion to fuel the fire, while the vent-free uses the air inside your home—ideal for those homes that don’t have a chimney or vent. The added bonus is that you don’t have to buy or cut firewood or worry about safely removing and discarding the ashes. With gas, you always have more control over the temperature with by setting the thermostat, while the heat from a wood-burning fireplace can only be adjusted with moving the damper.

An energy-efficient fireplace or woodstove also reduces risks. They’re designed to reduce the creosote build-up, the leading cause of chimney fires. From an environmental standpoint, switching to an energy-efficient woodstove or fireplace also reduces the amount of indoor and outdoor particle pollution by 70 percent!

Here’s the EPA’s latest list of certified wood heaters. If you choose wood as your fuel, make sure you use only seasoned wood that has been outside and dried in the sun for at least six months. Unseasoned wood produces more smoke and creosote.

2014 Tuskes Homes Holiday Decorating Contest

Categories: Blog | Posted: December 11, 2014

Holiday Door

We love to see your homes decorated for the holiday, which is why we’re announcing our 2014 Holiday Decorating Contest for all Tuskes Homeowners.  Help us spread the holiday cheer this year by sharing your decorated homes with us.

The winning home will receive at $500 Visa Gift Card, second place will receive a $250 Visa Gift Card, and third place will receive a $100 Visa Gift Card.

We are accepting submissions from now until Wednesday, December 31st at 11:59 PM EST.  Send your submissions to yvettem@tuskeshomes.com and the winner will be notified and announced on Tuskes Homes Facebook page on January 1st, 2015!

In your submission, please include an exterior photo of your decorated home, which community you live in, address, name and phone number.

Good Luck!  We can’t wait to see all of your homes this Holiday Season!

 

 

Holiday Lighting Ideas and Tips: Make Your Home Merry and Bright

Categories: Blog | Posted: December 3, 2014

Christmas eve scene in a living room

The first sign of the coming holidays—aside from retailers putting out their Christmas stuff way too soon—are the exterior lights on homes, trees, fences, porches, and any outdoor spaces that can support them. From the simplicity of white lights to the colorful, twinkling light shows, there are many ways to make your home merry and bright. Here are some holiday lighting ideas and tips to get you started.

  1. Pick a color scheme. Look at your exterior holiday lights like you would your landscaping. Consider what you want to highlight and decide on a color scheme. Do you want multi-colored lighting, white lights, or maybe one or two colors (like blue and white or red and green)? Where do you want your colors to accent your home and yard?
  2. Choose a theme. To make your holiday lights an attractive accent to your home—and not a Clark Griswold “lightmare”—decide on a theme that will pull it all together. You could do Santa’s Workshop, a gingerbread house, Victorian, a nativity scene, Rudolph and the eight other reindeers, winter wonderland of snowflakes and icicle lights, or whatever sparks your excitement.
  3. Make a lighting blueprint. Stand at the front of your property and look at your holiday lighting opportunities: roof line, doors, windows, walkways, posts, fences, trees, shrubs, and walls. Decide where you are going to just string lights and where you want to wind them onto other items, like wreaths and garlands. Take a photo of your house and yard, and then draw over it to show where your lights will go. This step will help you visualize the look, and decide whether you need fewer or more lights.
  4. Get creative. When you’re thinking about lighting outside your house, think outside the box. Look at decorative pieces like container gardens, birdbaths, and hanging plants or baskets. Fill glass containers with battery-operated lights to highlight those places away from your house or trees, like a centerpiece in your yard. Fill birdfeeders with lights (but leave some with birdseed for the winter feathered flocks). Line your walk with luminarias for softer light.
  5. Explore your choice of lights. It can be overwhelming when you walk into a store to look for holiday lights. You have more choices than ever for size and shape, flickering or not, electric or battery-operated, and incandescent or LED. The candle-shaped lights you see in the older movies are C7 and C9, and the large size means brighter dots of color. The miniature light strands come in a broad range of lengths and color choices. Icicle lights are available in traditional or short drop, depending on how far you want those lighted icicles to hang. Combining the lights can give you a more interesting look. And remember that LED lights use less energy than the incandescent version, so if you’re using a lot of holiday lights, make sure you’ve calculated your energy use.
  6. Use a timer. A timer takes the worry out of ensuring you’ve turned out all the lights when you’re out or go to bed. It also allows you to control the energy consumption.

May your days and your home be merry and bright this holiday season!

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