Blog Archive for March, 2015

Spring cleaning tips for your new home

Categories: Blog | Posted: March 26, 2015

Winter is finally slipping away and we’re starting to feel refreshed, and ready for the change that spring brings. One of the most popular rites of spring is doing an overhaul of your home’s interior—cleaning, purging, reorganizing, and perhaps redecorating. But before you launch into a full-scale attack, here are some helpful spring cleaning tips for your home.

Make a plan. If you just dive into spring cleaning without a plan, you’ll waste time and probably miss certain areas that you’ll regret later—after your energy has been depleted. Decide where you need to purge—closets, attics, and basements are a great start. Determine how you’re going to approach each task. Set aside boxes or bags for “Keep”, “Donate”, and “Toss” in the area you’re purging so you don’t have to carry out piles.

Include the tiny places that seem to get ignored during normal housecleaning, like sliding door tracks, baseboards, door frames, behind the kitchen appliances, and cabinet doors.

Next, prioritize the spaces that need your attention. If you have a dreaded area, put it at the top of the list. Don’t procrastinate. Tackle it first. You’ll feel better about getting it out of the way.

Organize your supplies. Now that you have your spring cleaning plan all ready, gather up the supplies, like rags, paper towels, various solvents, sponges, brushes, squeegies, gloves, drawer liners, and replacement batteries and light bulbs. Sort them into categories. Make a bucket for window washing, use another container for dusting supplies, and so on. Then you can just grab the right bucket and head off to tackle the cleaning.

Make a checklist. Keep a clipboard with you and make notes of things you need to get, replace, clean, or fix as you move from room to room. Don’t stop during your cleaning frenzy to run to the home store because you’ve decided you need to change your cabinet hardware or bathroom accessories. The distraction will slow down your progress. Instead, at the end of the day, review your clipboard and make a shopping and errand list to tackle all at once.

Start at the top. In every area of your house, start your spring cleaning from the top. Sweep away cobwebs and dust the light fixtures. Then move to the windows and walls. All the dirt, dust, and debris will fall to the floor, to be cleaned away last.

Hand out the assignments. Spring cleaning should be a shared challenge for everyone in the household. Once you have your plan, share it with your “helpers” and decide who will do what and when (yes, make sure there are deadlines).

Plan to be tired. At the end of your spring cleaning day, reward your hard work by putting your feet up, letting someone else make or deliver dinner, and kicking back to enjoy your fully refreshed surroundings!

Spring Cleaning your Yard – 6 Tips

Categories: Blog | Posted: March 20, 2015


When the first hint of spring trickles in—a surprisingly warm day, a light breeze, the first buds peeking up from the ground—do your thoughts shift to being outdoors? And are you ready to breathe new life into your yard, gardens, and landscape? Spring cleaning in your yard gives the wonderful reward of enjoying the fresh air after the months of winter, and refreshing the curb appeal for your home.

When you’re ready to get going and growing, tackle the task in an orderly manner so you can stay on track.

Step #1: Cleanup. Start with a clean surface by raking up the debris—dead grass, leaves, and perennial stalks; doggie droppings, litter, and fallen branches. Clean away the old mulch. Sweep up your patio, walkways, deck, and stairs. Pressure wash your hardscaped areas.

Step #2: Prepare. Get your gardens ready for the new growth. Pull out the weeds and dead growth (like last year’s annuals). Trim back perennial stalks to about 4 to 5 inches high. Till the soil. Add compost or fertilizer. Remove any edging that looks tired.

If you’re planning a new garden, prepare the soil. Build the raised bed. Lay down the landscape fabric.

For those bare spots in your lawn, clean away the area, add compost, and spread the seeds when the temperature is warm enough for the seeds to germinate (March or April, in most northern climates).

Step #3: Prune. The winter weather may have damaged some of your trees and shrubs. Prune off the dead branches, just below where the brown stem meets the green. If you have a flowering shrub, don’t trim off the greenery because the buds are already there.

Step #4: Prevent. Protect your landscape from pests by applying pesticides and herbicides. Replace fences that are intended to keep animals out of your gardens. Apply crabgrass prevention when the temperatures warm up (early May in northern zones).

Step #5: Repair. Refill the spaces between the stones in your outdoor flooring (walkways and patios). Replace cracked or missing edging or bricks. Repair damaged fencing, trellises, or lattices.

Step #6: Plan. Once you’ve prepped your lawn and gardens for the season, you can decide how you want to change your landscape. Map out a landscape plan to show where you want to add plantings, and what types (annuals, perennials, vegetables, herbs, foliage, shrub, tree). Note where you have early sun, late sun, or mostly shade, so you can be prepared when you go to your local garden center to make your purchases. Decide on the color palette you want to follow. Cut out or print pictures of gardens that appeal to you, and bring them along with your plan when you’re ready to shop.

Step #7: Plant. After all this preparation, plant your new flowers, shrubs, and trees. Be sure to follow the planting instructions from the grower.

Home Office Tax Deductions Not To Miss

Categories: Blog | Posted: March 12, 2015

Home Office Tax Deductions

Two methods for taking home office tax deductions for 2014

Before you file your 2014 income tax return, make sure you know about the Internal Revenue Service’s options for claiming home office tax deductions. If you’re one of the 3.3 million American taxpayers who utilize these deductions, be aware that you have choices.

Beginning with the 2013 income tax year, the IRS has been offering home workers the simplified option—also known as the “safe harbor method”—for taking advantage of the tax deductions available for conducting business out of your home. The safe harbor method makes it easier to calculate your deductions, but also limits certain benefits that the standard method offers.

Percentage versus square footage

In the standard home office tax deduction method, you calculate the percentage of your home’s size that is used for your business. Then you apply that percentage to allowable deductions, such as utilities, mortgage interest, casualty losses, and property taxes, as long as you have all the records to back up those expenses. With the safe harbor method, you can claim up to 300 square feet and take a flat deduction of $5 per square foot. Either way, you’ll still need to file Schedule A (itemized deductions).


The regular method for home office tax deductions allows you to claim depreciation on the portion of your home that is used for your business. You can also recapture the depreciation when you sell your home. The simplified option doesn’t allow for any depreciation deductions.

Loss carryover

If loss carryover applies to your tax situation, you need to think carefully here. For a loss carried over from the previous year, you can take the deduction in your 2014 income tax return with the standard method. The simplified option does not allow for loss carryover.

Home office qualifications

In order to claim home office tax deductions on your 2014 income tax return, your space must meet all of the following criteria:

  • Your “home office” must be a dedicated space used exclusively for business. Using your kitchen counter doesn’t allow you to deduct your entire kitchen space. If you use a room that has multiple functions, you’ll need to move your office or forego the deductions.
  • Your home office must be your primary place of business.
  • If you work from home as a paid employee, you cannot be charging rent to your employer and also take the home office tax deductions.

The standard method is a good choice for taxpayers who are great at maintaining records. The reward for doing so could be a bigger tax payoff. If you’re trying to determine which method will be better for you, multiply your home office’s square footage by $5. Compare that result with your total home office deduction for the prior year. If the square footage dollar amount is higher, the standard method is a good choice, as long as you have the documentation to support your deductions, and the patience to do the 43 lines of calculations on the IRS Form 8829. You can get more information about the simplified method on the IRS website.

The Latest Trends in Laminate Flooring

Categories: Blog | Posted: March 5, 2015

 Installing laminate flooring

For easy care and visual appeal, laminate flooring offers a great option to homeowners. With the steadily rising popularity of this material, manufacturers have become more creative with the choices.

So, what’s paving the way in laminate flooring trends right now?

#1. Get real.

The resemblance to real wood has never been so detailed. The look of distressed wood—with embossed texture and even nail holes and saw marks—has become ingrained in the laminate that homeowners are clamoring for. According to the North American Laminate Flooring Association, the look of wood accounts for about 80 percent of laminate sales, with ceramic, marble, tile, and stone combining to comprise the remaining 20 percent.

#2. Eco-friendly.

Environmental concerns don’t end with energy efficiency. Using materials constructed from pre-consumer waste provides a smart way to reuse and recycle.

#3. 50 shades of greige.

The grayish-white hue in wood laminate flooring has become more popular this year. Slightly warmer than gray and cooler than brown, greige laminate works with a wide variety of décor styles—contemporary to rustic.

#4. Longer and wider.

The larger planks seem to be gaining popularity, possibly because they add a sense of greater space to a room.

What’s underfoot in your home? For durability, variety, and easy maintenance, laminate flooring delivers exceptional value.

#5. Chevron.

The geometric herringbone pattern has been popular in home décor for a few years—in bedding, wallcoverings, accents, and carpet. With wood laminate, the motif creates a more dramatic focal point on the floor.

#6. Weathered.

Whitewashed laminate lends a coastal look, like driftwood, to today’s homes. Worn and weathered, this laminate subtly accents a casual décor. When combined with the longer, wider planks, the light hue brightens up a room.

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