Inexpensive Ways to Transform Your Countertops

If you hate your countertops — kitchen, bath, bar, or garage — but you’re not ready to pony up the money required to get granite, take heart. There are other alternatives, probably cheaper than the tax you would pay for granite, to transform countertops.

And the news gets even better. You don’t have to be a professional to transform your countertops yourself. We found several products that can make your countertops look a whole lot better with just a minimum amount of effort.

Daich Countertop Finishing Kit


The Daich Countertop Finishing Kit can makeover your kitchen counters. Image courtesy of Daich Coatings.

You’ll need a paint brush or paint roller to use Daich’s products, but don’t let that fool you. “The SpreadStone Mineral Select Countertop Finishing Kit is actually not paint at all. But it is applied with a roller or brush for an easy, paint-like experience,” explains Peter Daich, President of Daich Coatings in Hamilton, ON. “It is actually a real blended stone resurfacing material that can be easily rolled onto existing kitchen countertops, bathroom vanities, bar tops, tables, etc.,” he says. Daich explains that this allows consumers to add the decorative elegance of a real estate upgrade while only paying a fraction of the cost.

He says the Daich Countertop Finishing Kit contains everything you’ll need, including the tools, coatings and accessories. Each kit covers 30 to 40 square feet.

You can use the refinishing kit on laminate, wood, concrete, stone and other solid surfaces. Daich says that it is a water-based, natural stone material that is odorless, dries fast, resists staining and resists damage from hot pans and daily use.

The kit comes in 10 popular countertop colors: Oyster, Natural White, Onyx Fog, Canyon Gold, Volcanic Black, Mantle Stone, Lodestar, Sundance, Ironstone and Yosemite.


Another example of the Daich Countertop Finishing Kit. Image courtesy of Daich Coatings.

Applying the Daich Countertop Finishing Kit

So, what level of expertise do you need? “Anyone can use this product,” Daich says. “It is a stone mixture that is simply rolled on like paint,” he explains. “No special tools or artistic skills are required to achieve an attractive result.”

In fact, he says you don’t really need to worry about messing up. “If a spot gets missed, just brush or roll some into the surface to fix it or just dab some on with your finger.”

The three phases of refinishing your countertops are as follows:

  1. 1) Roll on a bonding primer
  2. 2) Roll on two coats of stone
  3. 3) Apply clear coat the following day

So, how long does the process take? Daich says it’s a good weekend project (two days). “The coatings in the kit roll on quickly and dry in as little as 30 minutes,” he explains. “Primer and Stone coating steps are usually completed on day one, followed by application of the clear coat the following day.”

Giani Countertop Paint Kit

Giani marble countertop paint. Image courtesy of Giani

Giani Marble Countertop Paint provides an elegant look. Image courtesy of Giani Granite

Giani Countertop Paint Kits are another solution to your lackluster countertops. “You can paint right over your existing countertops and transform them into the look of natural stone,” says Ami Gruenenfelder at Giani Granite. She explains that it’s a simple three-step process. First, roll on the black primer. Then sponge on the three corresponding mineral colors. Finally, roll on the topcoat.

Giani Bombay Black Countertop Paint instantly updates this kitchen. Image: Giani Granite

The kit includes all of the paint and applications, and one kit covers 35 square feet. Since Giani Granite is water-based, it’s low odor and safe to use. Because you paint over your existing countertops, Giani’s kit hides any of your previous stains, burns or scratches. And  the high-gloss, durable, automotive-grade acrylic topcoat protects your new countertops.

The countertop kit is available in several colors, including Marble, Chocolate Brown, Sicilian Sand, Bombay Black, White Diamond, and Slate.


These countertops got a makeover with Giani Sicilian Sand Countertop Paint. Image courtesy of Giani Granite.

Applying Giani Countertop Paint

So, what’s the level of expertise required? “We’ve designed our kits to be a simple ‘paint-by-numbers’ DIY project that anyone of any painting skill set can complete,” Gruenenfelder explains. In addition to written instructions, there are also specific how-to videos. And since the paint is layered, you can change the finish until you reach the look that you want. That means you can actually change the color as you go along, or even add veins. Gruenenfelder says the customer service department can respond via phone, live chat or email if you have any questions or want someone to walk you through the process.

How long does this process take? You should be able to complete it in a weekend. “Your actual painting time will be approximately four hours and drying time is around 16 hours,” Gruenenfelder says. “Typically, you would prep and prime on Friday, sponge on the mineral paints and apply the first layer of topcoat on Saturday, then apply the final layer of topcoat and clean up on Sunday.”


Giani Countertop Paint can deliver remarkable transformations. Image courtesy of Giani Granite.

In June, Gianni will also release a DIY Butcher Block that’s made with wood tone burnt umber pigments and acrylic resin. It is impervious to moisture, and scratch and stain resistant.

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Contemporary Urban Refuge: the Skygarden House in Toronto

skygarden 1

Image courtesy of Dubbeldam Architecture + Design.

Dubbeldam Architecture + Design completed the development of the Skygarden House, a contemporary residence located in midtown Toronto, Canada. The three-level home hides between the trees on the site and offers plenty of outdoor spaces for work and relaxation.

The architects remodeled a century-old building on the site, turning it into a contemporary refuge. Colorful and fresh, the interiors of the Skygarden House feature floor-to-ceiling windows, allowing natural light to flood the spaces. The highlight of the property is an open-air roof deck, which extends the public areas of the residence.

Image courtesy of Dubbeldam Architecture + Design.

“Although the new house is only 2,420 square feet, it feels much larger — its rooms expand beyond the interior of the house to a series of highly usable outdoor spaces that enrich the domestic experience, each with its own unique character and varying level of privacy,” the architects said.

“The rear yard is landscaped and features a generously scaled thermally-treated ash wood deck. A few steps down is another zone, defined by granite pavers and planted with a row of honey locust trees that offer dappled light and shade in summer. Even the existing porch at the front of the house is an extension of the indoor living space, remade into a private outdoor dining room enclosed by a five-foot-high wood screen, extending the private realm into the public arena.” All the photos and information in this article provided by Dubbeldam Architecture + Design.

Image courtesy of Dubbeldam Architecture + Design.

Image courtesy of Dubbeldam Architecture + Design.

Image courtesy of Dubbeldam Architecture + Design.

Image courtesy of Dubbeldam Architecture + Design.

Image courtesy of Dubbeldam Architecture + Design.

Image courtesy of Dubbeldam Architecture + Design.

Image courtesy of Dubbeldam Architecture + Design.

skygarden 2

Image courtesy of Dubbeldam Architecture + Design.

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Drew Barrymore’s New Flower Home Collection for Walmart is Adorably Quirky

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There’s something about Drew Barrymore that has captivated audiences for years. Her quirky personality and free-spirited nature have made her a one-of-a-kind figure in modern history. These days, she’s bringing that energy to the world of home decor.

The actress recently released a line of home products for Walmart. It’s an online-only offering that will be available through Walmart’s site, as well as two of the retail giant’s subsidiaries, and

The Drew Barrymore Flower Home line consists of over 130 home decor pieces.

Drew Barrymore’s new line is extensive and eclectic. Image: Business Wire

Like Barrymore herself, the collection is pretty eclectic in nature. It covers a range of home decor products, including furniture, lighting, wall art, dishware and even pet supplies.

In a press release for the launch, Barrymore had the following to say about her inspiration for this project:

I have always had a love for creating joyful spaces — places where unexpected prints and patterns, shapes and styles and colors and textures come together in the most delightful way. My new collection of furniture and home decor is inspired by this passion and I hope it inspires everyone to make themselves at home.

We’ve put together a list of our favorite pieces from the line for you. Check them out below:

Vintage Palm Barrel Accent Chair, $499

If you want to bring a relaxed, bohemian vibe to your home, look no further than this statement-worthy accent chair. Its clean lines and vintage pattern will bring those vacation home vibes to your design in just the right way.

Rattan Oval Wall Mirror, $69

If pieces like this are any indication, rattan is set to make a comeback in a big way. We love the way this mirror’s oval shape and interwoven loops give it a modern twist by providing a nod to the current geometric trend.

Zig Zag Table Lamp with Grecian Blue Velvet Shade, $75

Sometimes a lamp can be more than just a lighting fixture. It can be a statement piece in its own right. This zigzag table lamp proves it. We can’t get over how well the blue velvet shade pops against the monochromatic pattern on the base.

Vintage Marble 16-Piece Dinnerware Set, $60

Who says dishware can’t be fun? This vintage marble 16-piece dishware set is enough to brighten up any meal. Plus, if you’re not a fan of pink and yellow, you’re in luck. This set comes in a variety of patterns, including a pink and red marble design and vintage floral pattern.

Black Cat Decorative Vase, $38

Cat and dog fans alike have to admit that this vase is beyond cute. There’s just something about the smiling creatures that adorn the base that will undoubtedly spark joy in your home. It’s the perfect vessel to help you put those fresh spring flowers on display.

Hand Woven Macrame 3-Piece Basket Set, $70

A basket set is just so useful to have at home. Whether you’re using the baskets to store extra throw blankets or to hide children’s toys from view, there’s no doubt that this set will come in handy. Plus, its neutral color scheme ensures that it will fit in with just about any aesthetic.

Vintage Sun Wood Frame Pet Bed, $199

Every pet lover knows that their pet deserves the best. This wood frame pet bed will make sure that Fluffy or Fido is sleeping in style. The pillow also comes in a pale blue pattern in case that’s more in line with your pet’s personal tastes.

Ceramic Ombre Side Table, $89

It looks like the ombre trend isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. This pink ceramic side table is a great way to add a fun pop of color to your design. Consider adding it to your teen’s bedroom to give her a place to store odds and ends or using it to make a statement in an eclectic living room.

Day Birds Champagne 33.37″x43.37″ Frame, $124

Not all wall art has to be complicated. This simple design is unobtrusive enough to go well in any room, yet the bold colors will inject a feeling of energy and vibrancy into the space.

Tufted Chaise Lounge, $799

There’s nothing like a chaise lounge to make you feel like royalty. The subdued shade and plush pillows on this one only serve to drive that feeling home. This piece would be the perfect addition to any bedroom seating area or formal living space.

Like what you see? You can view the full collection here.

Be sure to keep your eyes open for updates because Walmart — and Drew — intend to update their offerings seasonally.

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Should You Repair or Replace Your Home’s HVAC Unit?

Your HVAC system is one of those unsung heroes in your home. When it’s working well, you hardly notice. When it starts to falter, it becomes a big problem. Your HVAC system is responsible for keeping your home comfortable, no matter the temperature. If you find that your home is too cold in the winter and too warm in the summer, it’s probably time for some HVAC maintenance. Knowing whether to repair or replace your HVAC when it’s malfunctioning is important. This can involve a professional evaluation and some checks you can do, too. Always check with a trusted pro before you decide to repair or replace your HVAC unit to save time and money. But here are some general tips for how to know whether you can give your HVAC unit a tune-up, or it’s time to get a new unit altogether.

Row of HVAC units outside of homes

Well-maintained A/C units will work better, longer. Image: Shutterstock/Christian Delbert

Repair your HVAC if:

  • It’s less than 10 years old. Consider the age of your HVAC when deciding to repair or replace. The National Association of Home Builders estimates that the average lifespan of an HVAC system should be between 10-15 years. Of course, that’s not to say that an HVAC system can’t fail before then, but if yours is less than 10 years old, it’s probably cheaper to have it repaired than to buy a new one. Whatever’s wrong with your HVAC should be a minor fix unless it’s over 10 years old.
  • You’ve checked the ductwork. A lot of HVAC issues don’t have to do with the unit, but the duct work. In fact, 10 to 30 percent of the air leaks out before it even gets to your home, so a check of the ductwork can save you big bucks. Having a professional check your ducts and seal any gaps for around $50 can make your HVAC will run more efficiently with a relatively cheap fix.
  • You’ve performed regular maintenance. If you’ve had your HVAC system checked and maintained over the years, you shouldn’t have any major problems. Simply clearing your unit of debris, dust, and dirt, and having regular tune-ups should save you from major problems like failure or inefficiency. Make HVAC maintenance part of your spring and fall checklists and you’ll save time and money.

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Large master bedroom with ceiling fan

Can’t keep cool? It might be time to replace. Image: Shutterstock/JR-Stock

Replace your HVAC if:

  • It’s more than 15 years old. Once your HVAC system is nearing its 15th birthday, it’s also nearing the end of its lifespan. Sure, you could fix whatever’s causing it to malfunction, but chances are that you’ll just have another issue crop up next season. The components in your HVAC start to age and malfunction, which means it might be cheaper to just replace the unit than to pay for repairs year after year. A new unit usually costs anywhere from $5,ooo to $7,00o. It’s a big investment, sure, but it also means a new, more efficient unit.
  • You notice higher energy bills. Feel like you’re suddenly paying more for heating and air? If you get sticker shock every time you open your heating and cooling bills, it might be your HVAC’s fault. As systems age, they simply become less efficient. That means your HVAC is working overtime to heat and cool your home, which means it costs more to run. Calculate out how much extra you’re paying in energy bills and you’ll probably find it’s less expensive to get a new unit.
  • Your unit isn’t doing its job. If you notice that some of the rooms in your house are never as comfortable as they should be, it could be an inefficient HVAC unit. If it’s malfunctioning or aging, it means it can’t keep up with the demands of your home. In the summer, some rooms feel hot or you notice that the unit is running day and night to keep you cool. In the winter, you might notice that you’re always cold or constantly cranking up your thermostat. Keep comfortable by installing a newer, more efficient unit and your home will be more comfortable.


Financial tip: when to repair or replace

Still undecided? Knowing whether to repair or replace your HVAC unit comes down to cost. An easy calculation to make if you’re not sure is to get an estimate for HVAC repair. Then, multiply that number by the age of your system in years. If you get an estimate for $385 and your unit is 12 years old, you get a number of $4,680. Check that against the price of a completely new unit. If it’s more than the cost of a new unit, replace it. If it’s less, you can probably get by with just repairing the system.

Still have questions? Talk to an expert

Your best option is to consult a local HVAC professional for their opinion. Your HVAC system might not be the most exciting part of your home, but it might be what makes the biggest difference in your comfort levels. Take good care of your HVAC with regular maintenance and it’ll be easier to tell when to repair or replace the workhorse of your home.

Why Isn’t My Air Conditioner Working?
Keeping Cool: How to Choose the Right A/C Unit
HVAC Basics: What’s a Good SEER Rating? 
Building Your Energy-Efficient Dream Home
Clever Ways to Hide an Ugly HVAC Unit

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Ceiling Tips Every Homeowner Should Know

ceiling tips kitchen

Your ceiling is more than just a wall. Use these ceiling tips to make the most of it. Image: Breadmaker/Shutterstock

Our ceilings are the unsung heroes of the home, but they’re so much more than that. We don’t give them much thought unless there is a problem, but your ceiling can do much more than act as a fifth wall. 

5 superpowers of a great ceiling

  • Helps to control odor
  • Can lighten up a dark room
  • Adds an unexpected accent color
  • May reveal hidden problems in your home
  • Can make a small room look larger

Did you know your humble ceiling can do all that? This area of your home doesn’t require a lot of maintenance, but there are things you can do with your ceiling that will benefit your entire home. Here are the ceiling tips you may not know:

Your ceilings should be cleaned (really)

Washing your walls isn’t a typical to-do list item, even for spring cleaning. Most walls get washed before painting or when we move out. Ceilings are definitely not on a regular cleaning rotation in most homes, but there are situations where it makes sense to add them to the list.

Our ceilings can trap odor, grease and dust as they rise around us every day. Homes with wood-burning fireplaces, smokers or pets can benefit from ceiling cleaning once or twice a year. Cleaning your ceiling can be done with an all-purpose cleaner, water, a ladder or step stool and lots of towels. DIYing your ceiling cleaning is not an easy process, so many homeowners call in a professional to do the work.

Dining room ceiling color

Even a soft, neutral ceiling color can enhance your rooms. Image: cr8tivguy/Getty Images

Ceiling paint color can make a big impact

Ceiling paint color may be the last thing on your mind when you move into a new home. Ceilings have been traditionally painted bright white, which is a simple look that can lighten any room. Today’s builders often prefer to use one neutral color throughout their homes, including the ceiling. A completely neutral paint color on walls and ceilings creates a relaxing and effortless look in every room — but it can also look a little generic.

Ceiling color trends are moving away from the all-over neutral look and into using your ceiling as an accent wall. Choosing an accent color for your ceiling is a great way to incorporate a rich color that you may not want on your walls. Foyers and dining rooms are excellent locations for a ceiling accent color.

Reclaimed wood is a hot trend for ceilings

Painting an accent color is just one way to personalize your ceiling’s look. With the popularity of modern farmhouse decorating, reclaimed wood is showing up on ceilings everywhere. If you love the look of reclaimed wood for a ceiling or wall, there are wood paneling products available that can give you that rustic vibe without the hassle of heavy boards. Redesigning your ceiling with light-weight wood paneling is a fun weekend DIY project that can totally change your home’s style.

Living Room Ceiling Tips

Bright white ceilings are more effective for lightening up a room than a reflective paint sheen. Image: Jodie Johnson/Shutterstock

Ceiling paint sheen: you have options

Choosing the right paint sheen for your ceiling doesn’t have to be a challenge. Most builders and designers choose matte or flat paint for ceilings. Paint with less reflection hides imperfections and gives ceilings a smooth and soft look. If you’d like a little more brightness or light reflection, eggshell finish is more lustrous without being too shiny.

If you’re hoping to bring more light into a room by using a high- or semi-gloss ceiling paint, it can backfire by creating glare, taking away from your wall color. A ceiling paint color that is one to two shades lighter than your wall color can lighten your room more comfortably.

Your ceiling can reveal clues about your home’s condition

We rarely notice our ceilings until we spot a problem. Check your ceiling regularly for cracks, discoloration and surface changes. A regular look at your ceilings can help you identify changes in small cracks that may be getting larger and require professional evaluation for structural issues.

Water spots can appear when your roof or plumbing is leaking, so they should be investigated right away. Once a repair has been made and the ceiling has dried out completely, it’s okay to repaint. Repainting the ceiling after the damage has been corrected will help you recognize future problems.

Ceilings can bubble or swell when water damage is accumulating from above. This is an urgent issue for your ceiling and may indicate an active leak that is more extensive than just that one area. The fix for an active leak can include plumbing or roofing, removal of wet materials and replacing drywall in your ceiling. If you’re a seasoned DIYer, you can handle some or all of that work depending on the source, but don’t hesitate to hire a contractor if it’s out of your comfort zone.

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Arched Doorways Add Interest and Beauty

Straight lines versus curved lines. In a study published in PNAS, participants were more likely to label a room as “beautiful” when it had curves than when it only had straight lines. Straight lines certainly serve a purpose, but they can be formal and predictable. On the other hand, curves add a level of softness and interest. Arched doorways are one way to add soft curves and elegance to any space. Below, we’ve listed some of the ways to use arched doorways in your home.

Highlight entrances and corridors

Archway highlight entrances

Archways highlight entrance areas. Image: EricVega/Getty Images

“When you are refurbishing a historic property, arched doorways are a welcome change and distinguish more important and grand entrances and corridors from mere utilitarian corridors,” says Michael Schienke, Director and Chartered Architect at VORBILD Architecture in London.  However, he doesn’t think this look would work in every type of design. “In new and modern properties, creating an arched doorway seems rather unnecessary,” Schienke explains.

“External double doors with arches in traditional properties enable more light to enter the building. Usually, you would have a fixed glazed panel there,” Schienke tells Freshome. And the type of repeating archway style shown above can help you create a grand entrance with your entryway.

Add a Mediterranean vibe

San Fran

A light and airy San Francisco home. Image courtesy of John Lum Architecture.

“Once a staple in older homes, arched doorways can help achieve various architectural styles and are essential for implementing Mediterranean design styles including Spanish-Style Villas, Spanish Colonials, Italian Renaissance, and Renaissance Revivals,” says John Lum of John Lum Architecture in San Francisco. Lum is the architect for the photo above. “And if you don’t have a particular design style, arched doorways will add an element of play to your desired look,” he says.

Provide contrast

Archway balance

Archways can balance a room. Image: Fuse/Getty Images

Sometimes, arched doorways serve another design purpose. In the photo above, the curved archway serves to contrast the square design on the ceiling, columns, fireplace mantel and the room’s square furniture.

Create a pattern

Archways repeating

These archways form a repeating pattern. Image: Mood Board/Getty Images

In the photo above, the arch in each doorway is repeated in the round chandelier and pendant lights, as well as the round barstools in the adjacent room and to the right.

Infuse elegance

Archway adds details

Archways add architectural detail to formal rooms. Image: akurtz/Getty Images

If you have a formal dining room and/or a formal living room, arched doorways can add to the elegant look you’re trying to achieve. In the photo above, the magnificent arched doorway contributes to the grandeur of the room. The archway also complements the architectural details on the columns, walls and windows.

Making your own archway

Archways frame room

Archways frame a room. Image: Fuse/Getty Images

“For the DIY-er who has moderate carpentry skills, changing from a rectangular door to an arched entryway is fairly straightforward,” Lum says. “Be aware that drawing out the arc takes some precision as you want the radius to be symmetrical throughout its span.”

However, once the archway is made, he says it’s simple to frame it out. “For homeowners working with a professional, be mindful of scale, proportion and function, as the arch may lower the entryway height by an inch or so,” Lum advises.


Converted doorways. Image courtesy of CurveMaker Arch Kits.

You can also convert a square doorway to an archway with products like CurveMakers Arch Kits. In the photo above, several square doorways were converted into archways. The kits typically include two columns and one top header (you can choose between round or elliptical headers). Depending on your budget, you can choose between paint-grade MDF or solid poplar wood. Homeowners can also add architectural details with these types of archways since the columns include a plinth block, column casing and capital. You’ll need to measure your opening to ensure that you order the right size.

The directions in a nutshell: if you have any existing trim, remove it from the doorway. Using the arch template, cut your arch shape. Finally, install the prefab arch kit.

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Caring for Windows: 5 Tips for People in Glass Houses

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They say that people in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones, but 13 years in a window-heavy home has taught me even more. The entire front of my home is made up of 12 windows and, while they’re visually interesting, I’ll be honest with you: they can be a major pain to keep clean. But as homes trend toward the more modern, windows and glass are only becoming more popular. Sure, that’s great news for the window-washing company I use, but it also means a lot of homeowner upkeep, too. Caring for windows is more than just a spritz of blue glass cleaner. Here are some of the best tips I’ve learned through life in my own glass house.

Home with large windows in grassy landscape

Windows add plenty of architectural interest to your home. Image: breadmaker/Shutterstock

1. Go commercial

Regular window cleaner is okay for quick shine-ups, but your glass will need more. Homes that feature a lot of glass — especially in place of exterior walls — will accumulate buildup from weather, dust, animals and more. And sometimes, you can’t even really see how dirty your glass is until the sun shines directly through. In any case, it’s best to go for commercial window cleaning solutions. One of the best methods is to simply use soap and water to remove the grime. Then, use a commercial-strength window cleaner (it usually comes in foam, not spray) to shine up.

Modern home with large picture windows

Avoid your hose to make your glass shine. Image: alexandre zveiger/Shutterstock

2. Wash and dry, but skip the hose

When I first moved into my glass house, I figured a quick spray with the hose outside would be enough to get rid of dirt and grime. But my window care contractor told me that I was probably just making it worse. Hose water is usually pretty hard and, what’s more, mineral deposits can be absorbed by the porous surface of the glass. Caring for windows properly meant filling a bucket with water from inside my home, washing and then making sure to dry the glass before finishing. Never wash your windows in direct sunlight, either, since that’s the time windows are most porous.

Modern home with large windows

Make sure your landscape maintenance doesn’t damage your windows. Image: artazum/Shutterstock

3. Check your sprinklers

Automatic sprinklers are super convenient, but they’re really hard on windows. Having a sprinkler system that splashes up against the glass in your home means wave after wave of hard water and scale buildup over time. I definitely fell victim to this issue the first year in my home; the sprinklers had to be reconfigured. Limescale and hard water buildup are notoriously hard to get off of glass, so it’s best to avoid them altogether. Make sure your sprinklers are pointed away from your windows and water areas close to your home by hand instead.

Living room with floor-to-ceiling windows

Yearly maintenance can ensure more energy efficient windows. Image:

4. Reseal annually

Having a home that is heavy on the glass can be stunning, but it’s not always the most energy efficient feature. Caring for windows can make your home more efficient and help keep energy bills low. Seals around windows and glass can shrink and warp over time, letting out precious heat in the winter and letting it in through the summer months. It’s best to do an annual checkup of your window seals to make sure they’re tight and still pliable. The good news? It’s an easy fix. A tube of caulk can make all the difference in keeping your glass house comfortable all year long.

Large modern home

Call in the professionals a couple of times per year. Image: rawmn/Shutterstock

5. Call in the pros

I do my best to keep our glass home in good shape but I’m not an expert. That’s why I have professional window maintenance come twice yearly to clean windows, clear debris, check seals and otherwise keep my windows in good shape. When your home features a lot of windows, having them look grimy or in disrepair makes a huge difference in the look and feel of the house. It’s usually $150 to $300, but it’s money well spent in keeping my house efficient. While I’m sure we’ll have to replace our windows eventually, it’s a huge cost. Taking care of your windows will extend their life and keep them looking great, so a professional opinion is definitely a worthy investment.

Caring for windows is a major part of homeownership. It’s even more important when glass is one of your home’s major features.

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HVAC Basics: Annual HVAC Maintenance Schedule

When properly taken care of, an HVAC system can last nearly fifteen years. While much of that work should be done by a qualified professional, there are things that you, as the homeowner, can do to make sure that your system stays in good shape. We’ve laid them out for you below. Keep this annual HVAC maintenance schedule close at hand so that you can refer to it throughout the year. With a little TLC, you’ll be able to keep your system running smoothly for years to come.

Clean off your HVAC system every time you see that it’s collected dirt and debris. Image: Shutterstock/ Christian Delbert

As often as possible

  • Visually inspect your HVAC system: The best thing you can do to keep your HVAC healthy is to pay close attention to it. Any time you are in your yard, just take a quick glance over at your system and make sure that nothing is amiss. If you see any dirt or debris on the system, clean it off. Additionally, pay attention to how your system sounds. If you notice any changes in the way the system sounds, you’ll want to call a professional.
  • Keep your landscaping in shape: You should also make an effort to keep any landscaping that surrounds the HVAC unit in good shape. The last thing that you want is to have roots or vines grow too close to the unit and have it cause problems with your system’s functionality. Ideally, you should aim to keep a clear 2-foot barrier around the unit at all times.

Remember to change the air filter every few months. Image: Shutterstock/ Steve Heap

Every three months

  • Change the air filter: Believe it or not, using a clean air filter is one of the keys to keeping a healthy HVAC system. It keeps dust and debris from building up in your ducts or being blown into the other rooms of your home. You should replace the air filter at least once every three months. Though, you may even want to check it monthly to make sure that it’s not full of dirt.
  • Adjust the thermostat: Constantly lowering and turning up your thermostat can have a big impact on your bills and not in a good way. Instead, if you can, consider setting your thermostat once a season and then letting it go.

Have a professional come evaluate the functionality of your system twice per year. Image: Shutterstock/ I AM NIKOM

In the fall

  • Professional seasonal maintenance: The reality is that the vast majority of your HVAC maintenance should be done by a professional. They will check the electrical connections and voltage, condensate drain, exhaust outlets, fuel lines, burners, heat exchangers and other components. Additionally, this is the time when they can address any problems other problems you’ve noticed.
  • Clean ice and snow off the unit: Depending on where you live, ice and snow may be inevitable. However, letting too much of it accumulate on the outdoor components of your HVAC system can do serious damage. Do your best to clean off any ice and snow.
  • Replace the batteries in your carbon monoxide detector: Though this is not truly a component of your HVAC system, it’s just as important. If they’re not working properly, heating systems can give off dangerous levels of carbon monoxide. Make sure you stay prepared by testing the detector at least once a year and putting in fresh batteries.

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In the spring

  • Professional seasonal maintenance: Bring your local HVAC professional back out for spring maintenance on your AC unit. They will inspect the connections, voltage, lines, fins, pans, coils, refrigerant levels and blower system components. This is also the time to bring up any problems or damaged areas that you’ve noticed over the winter as you get ready for warmer temperatures.

Are you getting ready for the upcoming season? Get in touch with a local HVAC professional today to make sure that your HVAC maintenance is taken care of.

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Trend Alert: Kokedama (Japanese Moss Balls) Adds Live Art To Your Home and Garden

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Japanese moss balls, known as Kokedama, are hot right now. No pot required — the ancient Japanese art form is a way to display a plant where the exposed round root ball is the focal point. Hang it, mount one on the wall or create an arrangement on a table for a modern-zen look. A Kokedama ball is traditionally created by using soil that has a heavy clay composition and doesn’t crumble easily. You can wrap the ball in moss or colorful twine to hold the shape and retain some moisture.

what is kokedama?

Wrap colorful twine around the root ball for a bold, modern look. Image: Mattis Kaminer/Getty Images

Or, if you’d rather not get your hands dirty, there are kits available:

what is kokedama?
what is kokedama?
what is kokedama?
what is kokedama?
what is kokedama?

Choose your plant according to where you’re going to display your Kokedama moss ball. Orchids, African violets, ivy, succulents and ferns work well both indoors and outdoors.

Here are some ways you can display your Kokedama around your home and garden:

moss ball trend

Group a cluster of Kokedama as a dining table centerpiece. Image: chikaphotograph/Getty Images

hanging plant ideas

Ferns are great plants for a hanging moss ball design. Image: Dorling Kindersley and Rob Streeter/Getty Images

kokedama ideas

Group a collection of different styles of plants and hang them at varying heights. Image: Dorling Kindersley and Rob Streeter/Getty Images

succulent moss balls

Use small succulents for a low-maintenance and low-water design. Image: kindoki/Getty Images

moss ball design ideas

This kit available at Target includes everything you need to create a zen vignette, except for the vase or bowl. Image courtesy of Target.

moss ball decorating ideas

For an artistic look, use a Kokedama ball in a design inspired by a pendulum. Image: yasmintas/Shutterstock

hanging plants ideas

Replace a collection of pots with hanging moss balls wrapped in twine. The design is a great way to take back valuable floor space. Image:Shutterstock

kokedama design ideas

Use a colorful flowering plant or orchid inside your Kokedama — like this Super Moss Kokedama kit at Amazon — as part of your moss ball design. The pop of color adds vibrancy to a setting. Image courtesy of Amazon.

How would you display your moss balls: hanging or as part of a table setting design?

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How to Design a Small Space Open Floor Plan

Usually, when you see a photo of an open floor plan, it’s this spacious, modern design. The kitchen sits way off in the distance, large windows let in plenty of natural sunlight and there may even be space for multiple sitting areas. But just because you might have a smaller space, that doesn’t mean that an open floor plan is out of your reach. With some smart adjustments, you can create a small space open floor plan.

This might be one of the most involved home projects you could undertake. If you don’t live where you already have a small space open floor plan, you may have to work with a remodeler, move or even design your own dream home. However, if you already live with a small open floor plan, some of the design ideas below can help you make the most of the space you already have. As such, the cost of this project could range in the hundreds of thousands of dollars for a new build or it could be a free endeavor of just moving around furniture.

Small Space Open Floor Plan Small Sofa

A single sofa or loveseat can work wonders in small space open apartments. Image: Jodie Johnson/Shutterstock

Go Minimalist with the Furniture

Whether you already have a small space open floor plan or you’re in the process of designing/finding one, a major feature in the space will be the furniture. If you are working with a smaller space, you’re not going to have as much room for multiple sitting areas. And you’re going to want to keep the space looking as open as possible.

The easiest way to work with furniture in a small space open floor plan is actually to go big. This is counterintuitive, but a single larger furniture piece along the wall keeps the space more open. Otherwise, you’re cluttering up the space with many smaller items like individual chairs. Depending on the layout of the room, you could use a long sofa, a sectional or even add a loveseat.

Small Space Open Floor Plan Wall Art

Boldly colored wall art can make a stunning focal point in an open space. Image:

Create a Focal Point in your Small Space Open Floor Plan

If you’re working with a small space open floor plan, you might want to create a focal point to add visual interest to the room. One focal point item will add plenty of style to your space without cluttering up the smaller area the way designs with more working parts might. Examples of small space focal points can include a:

  • Small accent wall
  • Fireplace, either real or electric (smaller electric fireplaces fit well into small spaces)
  • Single piece of larger, bold furniture, like a brightly colored sofa
  • Television over a mantel or a display cabinet
  • Piece of large wall art

These ideas also create their own sense of organization, as you’ll often organize other items like furniture around the focal point.

Small Space Open Floor Plan Loft Design

Open railings can visually expand small floor plans. Image: Waclaw_EPI/Shutterstock

Think Open Balconies

If you’re in the process of finding a new place to live or designing that dream home, a key feature to keep in mind is an open loft design. That way, even if the space is on the smaller side, you have a whole second story that is visually open.

An open loft design leads to the illusion that the space is far bigger than it is. And it helps add to the small space open floor plan feeling by actually opening up the space. This is a design that is both illusion and literally more open.

Small Space Open Floor Plan Light Colors

Neutral and bright shades can stop a small space open floor plan from feeling closed in. Image: Dariusz Jarzabek/Shutterstock

Keep it Bright

You’ll also want to keep a close eye on the color scheme of the room. A common feature of open floor plans is that they tend to stay on the bright and neutral side of the design spectrum. A small space open floor plan is no exception. In fact, in smaller spaces, it’s even more important to keep the space light and neutral. Lighter colors help keep spaces feeling free and open.

Also, keeping the area well-lit will help it feel more open since darker spaces usually automatically feel closed off. You might consider elements like large windows or skylights. These will keep the natural light flowing into the space. If these are not an option, other lighting features like recessed lighting, pendant lighting and even casual chandelier designs can keep the space well-lit.

And remember, everything in this style is about keeping the space looking as open as possible. Your small space open floor plan goal is to make the space feel more expansive.

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