How I Installed SimpliSafe In My Apartment – Reader Story

Did you update your bathroom? Revamp your kitchen? Install new flooring? We would love to share your project, big or small! Send us what you did and our editorial team will consider it for our “My Fresh Home” series, which will be published every Thursday. Check out our submission instructions at the bottom of the page.

Today we want to share a story from Freshome reader Paige, who installed SimpliSafe in her apartment after a break in:

A few months ago, I got a great job opportunity that required me to move several states away from my family and friends. It certainly wasn’t easy, but it was an opportunity to move to a great city, and I’m not afraid of being alone. I mean, what’s the worst that could happen?

Thanks to my amazing luck, and a splash of irony, I soon found out an answer to that question. Someone broke into my apartment. Don’t worry. I called the police and got everything squared away, and my dad jumped on the next flight out to help me out. 

Choosing SimpliSafe

The day after it happened, I went to work while my dad installed chain locks on the front and back doors of my apartment. I took some time during lunch to research what kind of system would work for me. Even before I moved, I knew that I wanted a security system, but I dreaded having to do the research, and I honestly didn’t expect someone would break into my place less than two weeks after I moved in.

I came across a survey on Safety.com that would match me with the best system for my needs. I’m a renter, in a one-bedroom apartment, and I wanted to install it myself. It recommended SimpliSafe, which, looking back, was the best decision for me.

Unboxing

You can order a SimpliSafe system online, but I wanted to get it put together before my dad had to go back to work, so we picked it up at BestBuy that evening. The kit I bought came with a keypad and “brain” (I don’t remember exactly what it’s called but it’s the piece that communicates with all of the sensors/keypad), a motion sensor, four door/window sensors, two window stickers and a lawn sign.

Set Up

The set up guide was extremely user-friendly, and anyone who’s confident in their ability to use command strips can put up the sensors. You also have the option to install them with screws, but because I’m a renter, I decided to stick (ha, get it?) with the adhesive strips.

The window/door sensors are magnetic, so you can install them at an angle, which was great for my outward-swinging back door.

The system can function without a contract or subscription of any kind, but if you’re interested in having 24/7 monitoring and having automatic police dispatch in case of an emergency (I was), there’s two different plans you can sign up for. I went with the premium plan because there’s so much more that I can monitor remotely through my phone, which is important to me because I travel. 

One of the things I really like about this system is that connecting sensors is a breeze, and it can be completely customized to your space and security needs. Through the keypad you can recognize, name, and activate/deactivate devices whenever you want. Also, you can shop on simplisafe for additional devices, such as cameras, window-shatter detectors, key-fobs, and more. 

How to Submit User Stories

1: Include “My Fresh Home Project” in the subject line. Then, in the body of the email, please provide an explanation of why you chose to do the project, an outline of steps you took to get it done, and any advice for readers considering similar projects. Make sure to include your name and any before/after images you have! 

2: Email your story to [email protected].

And that’s it! Easy, right? If selected, your story will be shared as an article on Freshome!

The post How I Installed SimpliSafe In My Apartment – Reader Story appeared first on Freshome.com.

How I Created My Own She-Shed – Reader Story

Did you update your bathroom? Revamp your kitchen? Install new flooring? We would love to share your project, big or small! Send us what you did and our editorial team will consider it for our “My Fresh Home” series, which will be published every Thursday. Check out our submission instructions at the bottom of the page.

Today we want to share a story from TPG reader Krissy, who built her own she-shed in her backyard:

The over-sized shed in our backyard that was made over into a home office.

My husband would likely die if he read that headline, especially because he is using our new she-shed too. We should really call it a “We-shed.” This is the story of how we turned our over-sized shed into an amazing work space for two!

Why do we need a she-shed?

This project all came about when we found out we were expecting our third child.  While absolutely thrilled with this news, it meant that our 4 bedroom home no longer included a home office. During my maternity leave, my husband took a new job and his commute changed from taking the train into the city to sitting on our bed working from his computer. I also work from home and have been doing so for about two years. When maternity leave was up, and I needed to reclaim the bedroom as my office, we thought that this house might not work for us anymore. 

We considered a couple of options for our home office. This included everything from buying a new house-not in the budget, to renting an expensive office space, to converting our garage into an office. Then one day I said what about our shed?  When we bought our house two years ago, it came with a huge shed used by the previous owner as a woodworking space. We literally only used it to store a lawn mower and a canoe, so we thought this may be a viable option. The shed already had electricity, and we thought it would only need heat and a WiFi signal to be all set. If only it were that easy!

Manland in the fall.

Prior to this, my husband had initially claimed this shed and its land as his own and called it ‘Manland.’ Since the kids play area took over our basement, he had no man cave space to claim for himself. So he moved to the wood near our shed and built a fire pit area. He strung some lights, added some Adirondack chairs and made a really cozy little campground dubbed “Manland.” This space stayed Manland for about 2 months and now has been turned into our We-Shed…with a cozy fire pit for s’mores breaks.

Laying the plans to build a she-shed

The minimal interior of the shed allowed us to determine its viability as an office pretty easily.

Deciding to convert our shed into a home office was the easy part; figuring out IF we could convert it took a lot more work.  Living in the Northeast, our weather conditions played a big role on the development of our shed. If you live in San Diego or any other comfortable 74 degree location, you may be able to skip the insulation and heating/cooling portion of this process. Here in Pittsburgh, PA, we knew insulation and heat was a must. 

Creating a comfortable space

We added insulation to the walls, ceiling and beneath the floor boards to keep the external elements outside.

To determine if the shed could be a warm and comfortable space in the dead of winter, we hired a contractor to come out and check out our space. It was easy to figure out what we needed to do because the space was just framing, no drywall or really anything but the bare bones of a structure. The contractor recommended that we add insulation to the walls and ceiling to protect from the exterior elements. He also ripped up the plywood floorboards and added a water barrier to protect the floors from the bare ground below. This would ensure warmth but also serve as a moisture barrier. On top of the barrier he laid more insulation before adding new floor boards.

It’s starting to come together. The shiplap paneling is getting installed.

Because a shed is more exposed to the elements, we opted for wood paneling walls vs. sheets of drywall. This would also help to protect against moisture. Now I’m sure when you think wood paneling you are thinking your grandfather’s 1970’s television den, but paneling has come a long way people! Perhaps you have been living under a rock and aren’t familiar with the term “shiplap,” but thanks to the influence of Joanna Gaines we fell in love with the white shiplap look. So that is exactly what we selected.  (PS taking three kids to Home Depot to pick out your She-Shed materials isn’t exactly an enjoyable way to spend a morning.)

Three kids in Home Depot, not a relaxing way to spend a Saturday.

At Home Depot we also selected our floor covering. Now if you thought paneling was dated, wait for this term… VINYL. I promise, this was a great option for our space and like wood paneling it’s evolved a lot since that 1980’s kitchen look we all remember. The vinyl comes on a big roll 12 ft wide and cut to whatever length you need.  Our space is an 11 foot box, so this meant we wouldn’t have any seems in our floor, another way to protect from moisture. It was also super affordable.

Vinyl has come a long way since my childhood 1980’s kitchen.

Power, internet and flipping the switch

We really thought that insulating and making the shed feel comfortable would be the extent of our work. When our contractor came out to inspect what we were working with, however, we learned that we needed to add some additional elements. I mentioned earlier that there was electricity to the shed, but the voltage was too low to power all of our office equipment and we needed to beef up our panel with the necessary voltage.  Unfortunately, the conduit that ran the power from our house to the shed was too small to hold the additional wire. This meant we needed to retrench our yard.

Thanks to the new wiring run up to the shed, we have a TV that we can use indoors as well as outdoors.

We had our friend who runs a landscaping business rent out the necessary equipment to dig an 18 inch deep trench in our yard the 120 feet from our house to the shed.  Luckily we knew that we had a fairly large gas line buried in our back yard so we made sure to reach out through 411 to have the team come out and mark where the line was.  To be sure we didn’t cut this line, we hand dug the trench in this area. After we dug the trench we were able to run a new conduit to the shed with the appropriate power needed as well as the lines needed to have ethernet, cable and phone service in the shed. My husband was thrilled with this addition because it mean he could have a television in Manland.  Football and firepits all fall long!

The additional power capacity was an added expense and something that we didn’t really anticipate, but was necessary to make the space function for our needs. The trench and electrician work nearly doubled our initial budget. This did not make me happy at the time, but I can now say I’m so happy we did it the right way.

All the little details

We have walls, floors, baseboard heat and lights… it’s looking like an office!

We are still in the midst of adding details to make the office shed feel really comfortable, but here are some of the things we’ve done so far to make it workable. We added two matching desks from IKEA.  We already had one desk so we added another and put them right beside each other to allow us to make the best use of our space. This also allows us to enjoy the sunshine that comes through our screen door. Come summer we will have to think through ways to keep our space cool (an HVAC unit was not in the budget at this time), but having a screen door should allow for some nice breezes. Speaking of temperature, we added two baseboard heating systems. These run off electricity and keep the space super warm. We keep them on all day to make sure the space is super comfortable as soon as we arrive every morning.

Screen door added for extra sunlight and a warm summer breeze.

We also added LED can lights that have various colors of brightness. Sometimes LED lighting can be too white, almost like fluorescent lights, so we like that we can adjust the softness of these lights to make sure the lighting is just right.  We also added a place to put our shoes, hang our coats and wipe our feet so that we don’t trek mud, dirt and moisture into the space. We are in the midst of hanging whiteboards and bulletin boards and hope to add some art to the space to punch up the color.

Cost and evaluation of our shed renovation

Desks and computers are in and the space has been fully functional for about a month.

All in we spent nearly $9,000 to renovate, rewire, insulate and furnish our shed office. It’s way more then we had hoped to spend, our original budget was $6,000, but totally worth it. The space has been a huge boost to our productivity and has allowed us a space to escape for work.  Oftentimes, when you work from home it’s hard to separate work and home life.  Having this separate space has really allowed us to leave our work in the office shed at the end of the day to come back down to our house and enjoy our lives with our little family.

How to Submit User Stories

1: Include “My Fresh Home Project” in the subject line. Then, in the body of the email, please provide an explanation of why you chose to do the project, an outline of steps you took to get it done, and any advice for readers considering similar projects. Make sure to include your name and any before/after images you have! 

2: Email your story to [email protected]. (note: link)

And that’s it! Easy, right? If selected, your story will be shared as an article on Freshome!

The post How I Created My Own She-Shed – Reader Story appeared first on Freshome.com.

Best Replacement Windows

Counter top with windows for pella page

Regfer / Shuttershock

 

Best Replacement Windows: Reviews and Comparison

Finding the perfect replacement window for your home can be tough, especially when you have so many options to choose from. To choose the best option for your needs, you should consider factors like material type, window style, frame type, energy efficiency, and cost.

This handy guide covers the best replacement window options, so you can pick the right one for your home.

What Makes the Best Replacement Windows?

Consider the following factors when weighing replacement window options.

Price

When selecting a replacement window, make sure to have a set budget in mind. Window prices usually range from $200 to $1,500, depending on the type of frame material and window style you choose. The most common window frames include:

Wooden frame: These are generally expensive, but they offer exceptional aesthetic value. With proper maintenance, these windows can last for years while offering excellent thermal insulation to help you save on energy costs.

Vinyl frame: Vinyl frames are cheaper than wooden frames and resistant to moisture. These frames are available in different shapes and sizes, but most of them cannot be painted. However, there is a range of stock colors that you can choose from to match the window with your home’s aesthetic.

Composite frame: Composite frames are the least expensive of the three frame options. Comprised of fiberglass or organic materials, these frames are strong and energy-efficient. Similar to other frames, composite frames are available in different sizes and shapes.

When selecting replacement windows, you should also factor in installation costs, which can range from $300 to $2,000 per window, including labor charges.

Features

Consider the following features to ensure your window replacements are in line with your upgrade requirements:

Window design: Double-hung is the most popular window design, featuring two sashes that can move up and down. These windows often come with tilt-in sashes so that you can tilt the moving part of the window for easy cleaning.

Other design options include single-hung, casement type, and awning-style, all of which come with different operating mechanisms and structure designs.

Glass panes: You should also consider the number of glass panes needed for adequate insulation. Most brands offer double-pane glass filled with argon gas that improves the insulating properties of the window. You can also get triple-pane glass which costs more but is ideal for those living in extremely cold regions. The three glass layers also dampen noise.

Energy efficiency: Make sure that the replacement windows you choose are energy-efficient. Look for windows with an Energy Star label to ensure that they meet the minimum standard for insulation defined by the Environmental Protection Agency. Windows with Low-E (low emissivity) coating further improve glass efficiency by reflecting heat while allowing light to pass through.

Other energy-efficiency metrics include:

  • U-Factor, which indicates how well the window prevents heat from transferring outside. U-value ranges between 0.20 and 1.20. The lower the number, the better the efficiency.
  • Solar Heat Gain Coefficient (SHGC) is a measure of how efficient the window is at blocking heat from the sun. The SHGC number ranges from 0 to 1. Windows with a low SHGC value are ideal for hot climates.
  • Visible Light Transmittance (VT) indicates the amount of light the window allows to pass through, ranging from 0 to 1. A high VT number means you’ll receive more light inside your home.

Customer support

When selecting a particular window brand, make sure it offers quality customer support. Most reputable brands offer trained professionals who assist homeowners throughout the selection and installation process. These company-run programs ensure that windows fit properly while meeting your energy-saving goals.

Customer reviews

Another great way to determine the quality of prospective replacement windows is through customer feedback. Most reputable brands provide testimonials about their products on their website. These reviews are a great way to verify the claims made by companies about their products.

Warranties

Warranties are another great way to identify window quality.  Most window manufacturers offer a 20-year warranty on glass and a 10-year warranty on other parts. However, you should also look for windows that offer an option to transfer warranties, so that when you move, the new owner receives peace of mind. Many brands and independent dealers also offer installation warranties, so if anything goes wrong within the warranty period, your repair costs are covered.

Best Replacement Windows

The following list outlines our top five replacement window recommendations.

Andersen Windows

Andersen is the largest window company in North America, offering a range of energy-efficient replacement window options. The company categorizes window product lines into 100, 200, and 400 Series, with 100 Series being the most affordable and 400 Series offering the highest quality. Andersen also offers Architectural Collection windows, which are comparatively expensive but offer aesthetic value to your home. The company includes a transferable 20-year warranty on glass and 10-year transferable warranty for other parts on all of its product lines.

Pricing: Prices vary based on window style, frame type, and where you live, ranging from $200 to $2,000.

Pella Windows

Pella is one of the oldest trusted brands offering high-quality, energy-efficient windows for home improvement. You can choose from a range of styles, color options, and feature sets to match with your home’s aesthetic and needs. The company also offers impact-resistant glass, which is ideal for homes located in hurricane-prone regions. Additionally, Pella offers excellent warranty coverage for its products. For example, the wood windows come with a limited lifetime warranty on glass and cladding. The company also offers a two-year limited warranty on labor, which is transferable. Fiberglass and vinyl windows include a 20-year warranty on glass and a limited lifetime warranty on all non-glass components.

Pricing: Pella window prices range from $100 to $800, depending on the frame type and window style.

Simonton Windows

Simonton is another trusted brand that manufactures vinyl windows and patio doors. The manufacturer provides a range of energy-efficient window styles and color options. All products come with an Energy Star rating. Simonton also offers a 20-year warranty on glass and a non-transferable lifetime warranty on other window parts, such as vinyl, hardware, and screens.

Pricing: Simonton windows cost between $200 and $350, based on style and frame type.

Milgard Windows

In the industry for more than 50 years, Milgard is a popular brand that offers affordable wood, fiber, vinyl, and aluminum replacement windows. These energy-efficient custom windows come in different styles and color options. The company also offers triple-glazed windows under the Quiet Line series, which provide superior sound control. Milgard includes a non-transferable full lifetime warranty on all products.

Pricing: Prices for Milgard windows range from $270 to $350, based on window style and frame type.

Atrium Windows

Atrium offers a broad range of vinyl windows in different sizes and colors. These windows are also Energy Star-certified and offer excellent energy savings compared to old drafty windows. The company offers a limited lifetime warranty on non-glass parts and a 25-year warranty on insulated glass.

Pricing: Atrium windows cost between $100 and $1,000, depending on the style you choose.

The post Best Replacement Windows appeared first on Freshome.com.

What makes the best monitored home security systems?

Home Security System Concept

Today, there are numerous security options you can take advantage of to protect your home. From video doorbells and security cameras to elaborate smart systems, you have more home security choices than ever before. For many people, professional security monitoring is a key feature. Whether you’re sleeping or jet setting, with a monitored home security system, someone is always looking out for your home. But with so many options, it can be tough to know which system is best for you. This guide covers the best monitored home security systems so you can pick the right one for your needs.

What makes the best monitored home security systems?

Using a side-by-side comparison will help you choose the best monitored home security system for your needs. The primary factors to consider when weighing home security options include:

  • Price
  • Customer reviews
  • Advanced features
  • Ease of installation and use

Best Monitored Home Security Systems

SimpliSafe

Based in Boston, MA, SimpliSafe is an excellent choice if you want the security of professional monitoring without a contract. The company offers as much or as little help as you require. You can choose a package, build your own, or have a SimpliSafe expert design a system for you based on your answers to a few questions. Professional installation is available, though the easy-to-install systems are relatively straightforward, requiring no drilling or tools.

There are eight different package systems to choose from, as well as various add-ons. The smallest Essentials system provides one entry sensor and one motion sensor, while the largest Fortress system offers six entry sensors, two motion sensors, a key fob, a siren, and a panic button. Other systems include sensors to detect water damage, freezing temperatures, and smoke. If none of the packages fit your needs, it’s easy to build your own system on their website.

Package prices range from $138 to $306, plus any add-ons you choose, such as a security camera, video doorbell, or smart lock. Professional monitoring costs just $14.99 to $24.99 per month with no contract, depending on which features you need.

SimpliSafe receives an average of 4.5 stars across a variety of consumer and professional reviews. Notable features include 24-hour battery backup, redundant monitoring centers for disasters, and deep signal encryption. SimpliSafe is fully compatible with many smart home controls, such as Alexa, Google Assistant, the Apple Home app, and more. The company offers a 60-day in-home trial period, during which you can return your system for any reason for a full refund.

ADT

DIY home security cameras and hardware

pratan / Shuttershock

ADT is the granddaddy of home security, founded in 1874. It’s a great choice if you want high-end equipment with professional installation. There are no DIY options anywhere in the process, as you must meet with a service rep to design your system before having a professional installer set it up. Monitoring requires a three-year contract with hefty fees for early cancellation. Still, if you know you’ll be in your home for at least three years and you are looking for a top of the line system, ADT is hard to beat.

The company’s systems are divided into tiers. The Traditional tier includes basic monitoring equipment for security, fire, flood, and carbon monoxide. The Control tier includes everything in the Traditional tier, as well as customizable alerts and scheduling, remote arming and disarming, and smart home controls. The top of the line Video tier includes security cameras with the ability to save clips and live stream from mobile devices.

Pricing depends on which tier and add-ons you select. A very simple Traditional tier could cost as little as $99 to install, while higher-end tiers with add-ons can run into the thousands. Monitoring costs $36.99 to $52.99 per month. The best way to get an accurate price for equipment and monitoring is to contact ADT for a free in-home estimate.

ADT received an average of 4 stars across a variety of consumer and professional reviews. Notable features include integration with smart home controllers like Amazon and Z-Wave, strong mobile and web apps, and abundant customization options. ADT offers a six-month money-back guarantee. If a burglary occurs while your system is armed, ADT will cover $500 of your insurance deductible.

Vivint

Vivint is a lesser-known company that has recently gotten a lot of media attention. Like ADT, you need to meet with a service professional for an in-home assessment to design your system. Unlike ADT, though, Vivint offers qualified customers 0% financing for equipment if you enter into a monitoring contract. If you pay upfront, or once your equipment is paid in full, you can choose month-to-month monitoring with no contract.

A major advantage of Vivint is the ability to customize your package. Everyone starts with the basic Vivint Starter Kit, which includes a touchscreen panel, two entry sensors, a motion sensor, a water sensor, and $100 in additional sensors of your choice. Separately priced add-ons include security cameras, smart locks, and Nest and Element smart thermostats. Your in-home service professional will help you decide exactly what you need.

The Vivint Starter Kit costs $599. Depending on which add-ons you select, your total equipment cost could reach $1,000 to $1,500. Monitoring costs $39.99 to $49.99 per month, depending on the features you choose.

Vivint monitored home security gets 4.5 stars across a variety of professional and consumer reviews. Notable features include the streamlined app, the panic button, and seamless integration with a wide range of smart home controllers. Vivint offers a cancellation policy that takes into account extenuating circumstances and military responsibilities, as well as a variety of options for those planning a move.

Choosing a monitored home security system is a highly personal decision. When selecting your system, be sure to consider both upfront and ongoing costs, as well as features and ease of use. With a bit of research, you can determine which system is right for you.

The post What makes the best monitored home security systems? appeared first on Freshome.com.

11-Point Checklist for Prepping Your Home for a First Pet

So, you’ve decided you’re ready to welcome a pet into your home for the first time. Congratulations! Roughly 85 million American families own at least one pet, so it is a rite of passage for most households. Many pet adoption centers require a home visit before the adoption can take place, so you should ask yourself these questions and view this checklist to ensure you and your home are ready. 

Depending on whether you’re adopting a playful pup or a purr-fect cat, there are different ways to prepare your home. Check out Freshome.com’s 11-point checklist to find out what you can do to prep for any pet. We also have specifics for cats and dogs. 

1. Pet-Proof Your Home 


Animals are naturally inquisitive and like to get into different things. You should invest in tightly-closing trash cans and pet food containers to help keep the pets out. Blind cords should be tied up higher to prevent entanglement and electrical cords should be hidden or moved, since puppies and kittens like to chew on them while they are going through the teething phase. 

 

2. Reconsider House Plants 

 

Indoor plants attract pets because they mimic the outdoors, but they can be an extreme health risk. More than 700 plants are toxic to dogs and cats if ingested. Take the time to research if your current plants could be harmful to a new pet and swap them out for plants that are safe. Consider relocating your plants to be out of reach of your pets. 

If you want your home to be pet-friendly but don’t want to sacrifice the beauty houseplants bring, you could also try to find pet-friendly plants. While many common houseplants are toxic to cats and dogs, here are some they can chew on all day without incident: 

  • Air plant
  • Christmas cactus
  • Some ferns, including the Boston fern and maidenhair fern
  • Friendship plant
  • Orchid
  • Polka dot plant
  • Spider plant
  • Some succulents, including echeveria, haworthia, and hens and chicks
  • Money tree
  • Parlor palm
  • Some herbs including basil, thyme, and sage

3. Set Up the Pet’s Space

To help your dog or cat feel comfortable in their new home, create a space that is entirely their own. Get a pet bed and consider investing in a crate if you are adopting a dog. Dogs can learn, from proper training, that the crate is a safe space for them. Crate training also helps you by having a secure place for your dog when you’re not home. For a cat or dog, make sure the area is completely set up before bringing the animal into your home. 

4. Purchase a Few Toys

Cats and dogs alike usually enjoy playing with a variety of pet toys. You could purchase balls or chew toys for a puppy, or string toys and a scratching post for a cat. Pets explore with their mouths, especially puppies and kittens, so make sure that anything you buy can be bitten, licked, or chewed on. Get a couple of basic toys to see what your pet likes before purchasing more. 

5. Stock Up on Supplies

You’re going to need basic pet supplies to get started, including food, dishes, collars, and treats. Cats also need a litter box and litter, and you should get a leash and waste bags for a dog. Once the pet is home and has been named, don’t forget to get an i.d. tag in case your pet gets lost. Approximately 6.5 million companion animals end up in shelters every year, so ensure that your i.d. tag includes the pet’s name, your address, and a contact number so that people can reach you to bring your furry friend home. Consider purchasing training pads or pet spray and cleaning supplies, like spot remover, if you are going to be house or box training. 

While preparing to become a pet owner, you should find a vet to take care of your new furry friend and get information about microchipping to help keep your pet safe. 

6. Secure Your Home and Yard 

Ensure that doors and windows latch properly to minimize the chance of your pets straying from your home. Cats also like to climb curtains and on open window screens, so do some research about cat-proof items you can add to your home. If your dog will have access to the yard during the day, make sure that the fence is in good repair and completely secure. You could also invest in a pet door, either directly installed into a door or wall or a panel that can be added to a sliding door, to make it easier for dogs to go outside while you’re away. 

7. Plan for Play Areas 

Animals love to play, so it is important to create areas for this. You could get a dog run installed in your yard to allow your pup to run around without having access to the whole yard. Cats are climbers, so purchase a cat condo or climbing shelf to give your cat room to roam.

8. Create Family Ground Rules 

Before bringing a pet home, make sure that every member of your family is on the same page. Create rules about where the pets can and can’t go, if they are allowed on the furniture, and where they should be sleeping. It is also important to develop a chore list so that everyone is responsible for caring for and taking care of the new cat or dog. 

9. Change Your Air Filters 

Animals typically shed pet hair and dander around your home, even despite proper grooming. Before bringing your new pet home, change the air filters for your HVAC system to ensure that they are clear and ready to operate smoothly. While homes without pets should change their filters every six months or so, you should plan to change your filter every 1–3 months once you bring pets home. 

10. Protect Outdoor HVAC Units 

This is particularly important if you are bringing a dog home for the first time. Dogs mark their territory and urine can corrode the unit or get into the system, making your home smell unpleasant when the air runs. Your dog could also be a digger and potentially damage the system if they scratch or break something. Consider adding a barrier that prevents the dog from getting to the unit but still allows easy access for technician work.  

11. Invest in an Air Purifier 

If you are still concerned about pet hair and dander in your home, invest in an air purifier specifically designed for homes that have pets. Air purifiers also help if someone in your home suffers from pet allergies.  

Follow these simple steps to prepare your home for your first pet.

The post 11-Point Checklist for Prepping Your Home for a First Pet appeared first on Freshome.com.

7 Easy Steps to Speed up Your Internet

There are almost 4.4 billion active internet users — about 57% of the global population. That means millions of people are surfing cyberspace, accessing the internet at the same time as you. But that traffic can slow down your internet connection and stop you from accessing the information, or cat videos, that you want to discover. 

In addition to multiple users slowing your internet connection down, there are other factors that could also affect its speed, including:

  • The type of internet you have, such as dial-up, Wi-Fi, or DSL
  • Infections from spyware or viruses
  • Space issues due to low memory or hard disk space

To help speed up your internet connection, Freshome has gathered seven easy tips that you can try at home.

1. Restart Your Router

If your internet was running well and suddenly slows down, take a minute to reset. Unplug the power source for the router and wait at least 30 seconds before plugging it back in. Wait for all of the lights to turn back on and then try to use the internet again to see if the issue has been resolved. 

2. Perform a Speed Test 

Internet speed tests can give you different information about your internet connection, including download and upload speeds, and how many Mbps (megabits per second) you are receiving. Some of the most popular speed test apps/websites are speedtest.net, fast.com, and speedcheck.org.

3. Turn Off Other Internet-Connected Devices

Just as too many users can slow down your internet, so can multiple devices. If you are streaming a show on your TV, but have your phone, tablet, and computer all running and connected to the internet as well, this could hamper your connection speed. Turn off anything you aren’t using to free up some of that internet speed. 

4. Check that Your Wi-Fi is Secure

All home Wi-Fi routers should have a strong password requirement when people try to log on. Without the password, anyone can utilize your internet and slow it down, while also potentially accessing your personal information. You can download an app or check your administrative settings to make sure that there aren’t any unwanted guests slowing down your internet speed. 

5. Consider a Wi-Fi Signal Booster 

If your internet signal is routinely slow or there are certain rooms in your home where the signal struggles, consider getting a signal booster before going through the hassle of switching internet providers. Boosters increase your Wi-Fi range and the amount of Mbps you receive, to help the internet connect and download faster.

6. Check Your Computer and Equipment

Viruses and malware can slow your computer down and put your personal information at risk. You can run a scan and check for any virus threats so that you can address them. Additionally, you should check that all wires and cords are fully connected and in good condition to ensure that they are not disrupting the internet connection. 

7. Relocate the Router 


The location of your router in your home can affect the internet speed you are getting. Try to place the router in the center of your home in an open space without any obstacles to allow the signal to flow directly to your devices. 

When to Call Your Internet Service Provider

Troubleshooting slow internet speeds can be challenging. Sometimes it requires a combination of the methods above. Don’t be afraid to test out various strategies to get your network up and running again. But if you’ve tried a few different tips and you’re still puzzled, it might be time to call up your internet service provider.

The post 7 Easy Steps to Speed up Your Internet appeared first on Freshome.com.

The Benefits of Double-Pane Windows

You’re curled up on the couch in your living room on a cold day, and suddenly feel a draft that makes the hair on your neck stand up. The window isn’t open, but it’s allowing heat to escape and letting the cool air in.

The Department of Energy reports that approximately 25 to 30% of energy loss for the average American household can be attributed to the inefficiency of single-pane windows. By simply replacing them with double-pane windows, you could prevent 50% of that warm or cool air from escaping through the windows. In turn, you could slash your energy bills by up to 20–30% each year. 

But that’s just one potential benefit from switching out a single pane of glass for double-pane windows. Let’s take a look at what a double-pane window is, what makes it a superior option, and how your household could benefit from this change.

What Is a Double-Pane Window?

The main difference between single- and double-pane windows is their structure. A single-pane window only has one layer of glass and is not an efficient insulator during extreme seasons. A double-pane window, on the other hand, has two layers of glass with air between the sheets for maximum insulation. Some double-pane window designs may even have argon between the layers. Argon is an invisible gas that optimizes thermal efficiency and reduces heat transfer. 

Benefits of Upgrading to Double Panes

Affordability

Today, over 118 million American homes have double- or even triple-pane windows. This accounts for nearly 60% of all U.S. homes — but this means that 40% of homes still rely on old window technology.  While many people opt for single-pane windows for the low initial price point, these types of windows will cause the homeowner to spend much more on utilities in the long term than if double-pane windows were installed.

Environmentally Friendly

The Energy Information Administration stated that, in 2012, homes comprised a fifth of primary energy consumption in the U.S. and were responsible for approximately 20% of nationwide CO2 release. If a greater number of American homeowners made a concerted effort to switch to double-pane windows, this energy consumption could be reduced.

No matter what type of heat source you use to warm your home (i.e. a fireplace, a gas furnace, or an electric central heating system), double-pane windows limit the need for heating sources to be used as often. When you don’t use as much heat, you burn fewer fossil fuels and lessen your CO2 greenhouse gas emissions — and therefore, reduce your carbon footprint. Upgrading to double-pane windows is a way to contribute to helping the planet. 

Improved Security

Unlike single-pane windows, double-pane windows feature a more substantial locking mechanism and their tight seal prevents intruders from breaking the structure to get into your house. Double-pane windows are also stronger and do not shatter easily when struck. Your home is more secure with double-pane windows. 

Reduced Noise

Whether you have noisy next-door neighbors or you live on a busy street with lots of traffic, excessive noise can take a toll on your sanity. Ambient noise can only do so much to cover up the sound of the incessant honking, loud music, and heavy-duty vehicles passing by. Switching to double-pane windows can help you enjoy a quieter and more peaceful home. The two layers of glass offer insulation from the outside world so that you and your family can relax without the constant ruckus. 

Less Condensation

Window condensation during the cold months might not appear to be a big deal, but a buildup of moisture is indicative of a bigger problem. It shows how inefficient the windows are at preventing heat transfer, and it can lead to problems with mold over time. With double-pane windows, you can consider your condensation problem solved. 

Added Home Value

In spending a little up front to upgrade your windows, you add value to your property. If you decide to move in the future, double-pane windows are a drawcard for potential buyers, and you’ll see a return on your investment once it has sold. 

Newer Style Options

Upgrading to energy-efficient windows has a positive effect on your house’s aesthetics. Window technology has come a long way — and so has window design. Double-paned windows come in a variety of styles, including the sliding window, or double-hung window. Double-pane windows are worth the expense when you consider that the windows are known as the “eyes of your house.” Updating windows to a newer style has a great impact on your curb appeal.

Choosing the Right Double-Pane Windows for Your Home

Before choosing double-pane windows for your home, it’s important to know your options. Double-pane windows come in all sorts of styles, materials, and designs. And because each house is different, your window selection may be different, too. 

Most window companies have several materials for you to choose from: vinyl, aluminum, wood, clad wood, and fiberglass. All of these materials are available in various styles, including the following: 

  • Double-hung: Double-hung windows can move both up and down because both window frame sashes are operable.
  • Single-hung: Single-hung windows are similar to double-hung. The only difference is that one of the sashes is operable, while the other is fixed. 
  • Casement: Casement windows have a traditional charm. Many are operated with a crank and swing outward for a clear view. 
  • Awning windows: Awning windows operate on a hinge, allowing them to open at an angle, which provides both ventilation and rain protection. 
  • Picture windows: These windows are fixed and cannot open. They are ideal for large spaces, and let in lots of natural light. 

Make an Informed Decision. Explore Your Options Today.

Double-pane windows are a cost-effective visual enhancement to your house and a primary way to reduce household energy costs. Explore your options today by speaking to a qualified window professional in your area.

The post The Benefits of Double-Pane Windows appeared first on Freshome.com.

Hardwood vs. Laminate Wood Flooring

The flooring of a home is one of its defining features. Wood flooring remains one of the most popular options, as it is a naturally inviting, beautiful and timeless material. While older, more traditional homes often have the original hardwood floors still in place, many newer homes are using laminate. It offers a natural look similar to wood but at a lower price.

When deciding between hardwood vs. laminate flooring, there are several pros and cons to consider. Sure, when comparing laminate vs hardwood cost, laminate is usually the more affordable option. But you also must look at durability, resale value, cleaning, installation and more. This article will compare some of the factors between hardwood vs laminate flooring and help you decide which is best for your home.

DIY Laminate Flooring

Image: Elnur/Shutterstock

Laminate vs. hardwood cost

The reality of flooring costs and what you can afford may be miles apart. Take into consideration the cost of laminate and hardwood flooring to determine what is best for you.

  • Hardwood: CONS – Hardwood flooring is made of harvested trees; pricing depends on the type of wood you choose. In general, hardwood is considerably higher to buy and to install.
  • Laminate: PROS – Laminate wood flooring is made from composite wood pressed together at high temperatures. The image of hardwood is then placed over the composite wood, covering it to form the laminate. Not only are the materials themselves cheaper, but laminate wood installation cost is, on average, 50 percent less than hardwood installation.

Laminate flooring can cost $3-$7 per square foot, including installation. Solid wood flooring can cost $5-$10 per square foot, including installation. Again, the exact prices will vary depending on the types of materials used and the size of your home.

Laminate vs. hardwood durability

Assess the traffic load and wear and tear on flooring in your home. A more durable surface is easier to maintain and will look great for years to come.

  • Hardwood: CONS – Hardwood is susceptible to scratching, can get damaged from excessive moisture and will show wear, especially in heavily trafficked areas. PROS – Hardwood is the real deal; it is gorgeous and, depending on the type of wood, can add considerable value to your home.
  • Laminate: PROS – Since laminate is made from pressed wood, it is more durable and resists scratches, moisture and wear and tear. Laminate flooring is also easier to clean. CONS – Even though laminate is more durable, it is not as visually appealing. Lower qualities of laminate may have artificial-looking wood grain textures.
flooring

Image: Breadmaker/Shutterstock

Laminate vs. hardwood repair

Your home’s flooring will typically need repairs at some point. From minor accidents to excessive wear and tear, laminate and hardwood have advantages and disadvantages.

  • Hardwood: PROS – Hardwood can be repaired by sanding imperfections and refinishing. This gives it the edge over laminate, in that it will last for years.
  • Laminate: CONS – Laminate flooring doesn’t repair easily. If you buy flooring that comes in individual pieces and snaps together, you may be able to replace individual boards — although, depending on sunlight and age, the new piece may not match properly.

Best places for hardwood vs. laminate flooring
In addition to price, durability and repair, you should also consider the best (and worst) places in the home for both types of flooring.

  • Hardwood: Hardwood flooring is both beautiful and fairly durable, especially in lower-traffic rooms like bedrooms and dining rooms. But, if you have pets or a lot of foot traffic, your hardwood floors might show the scratches and wear overtime. Basements and bathrooms with a lot of moisture are also not good places for hardwood flooring. On the other hand, continuous sunlight can fade your hardwood flooring overtime as well.
  • Laminate: Because laminate flooring is so durable, it’s less susceptible to wear and tear from pets and foot traffic. While it withstands moisture better than hardwood, it should not be in a regularly wet area of the home. Because of its top coat, laminate flooring typically does not fade from sunlight as quickly and noticeably as hardwood flooring and can be used safely in rooms with large windows.

Your home will benefit from the look of wood flooring; deciding between hardwood vs. laminate flooring is up to you. Review the pros and cons, and be realistic about your lifestyle; if you have pets, young kids or high traffic, that may influence your decision.

If you have a lot of sunlight in your home, hardwood can fade because it is a natural product, while laminate wood flooring has UV protection integrated into the surface. Consider all the factors — and enjoy how the warmth of wood will improve your home’s aesthetic appeal and value.

The post Hardwood vs. Laminate Wood Flooring appeared first on Freshome.com.

10 Laundry Room Ideas To Organize Small Spaces

Laundry rooms are hot spots for household improvement these days. Whether your laundry room is in the basement, garage, kitchen, or closet — or you’re lucky enough to have a dedicated laundry room — these 10 laundry room ideas will help create a space that’s organized, up to date and is so beautiful that you’ll look forward to doing laundry. 

Where’s the best place to add a laundry room? Consider convenience first. Set up your laundry close to where dirty laundry collects, or near the bedrooms where clean laundry goes. Other favorite laundry room locations include near the back door, in the mud room, the kitchen, bathroom, closet, or dressing area.

Keep in mind that accidental flooding could happen in your laundry area. Waterproof flooring below the laundry machine is essential, especially if your laundry room is located on the second floor. Good ways to waterproof your floor include adding plastic sheeting over the subfloor, building out a shallow pan for the laundry machines to sit on, or using tile or waterproof vinyl under your washer and dryer. 

Another thing to consider when choosing a laundry room location is the noise from the machine’s vibrations. Laundry machines that are located on the second floor should be fitted with vibration pads that dampen the noise that occurs when the machine is in motion.

Although a few of our inspirational photos in the gallery are large rooms, these ideas work well for small laundry rooms or laundry workspaces in a closet. With a little creativity and planning, a useful, efficient laundry room is possible. 

 Here’s a laundry list of 10 easy laundry room ideas that organize, add value and upgrade your space.

1. Vibrant Laundry Room Paint Color

laundry color 1

Make the laundry room workspace bright and cheerful with a fresh coat of paint. Paint is an easy DIY way to upgrade your laundry room on a budget. Choose a color theme that’s bright and uplifts your mood. Popular paint colors to liven up your laundry area include vibrant citrus tones like lime green, yellow or orange. A crisp, bright white is another clean option that makes the room and your mood feel fresh. Don’t stop with the walls, also consider painting your laundry room cabinets!

2. Extra Laundry Counter Space

laundry-counter-21-re

Counter space is key in the laundry to make sorting and folding laundry easy work. Create a custom laundry room design by adding a counter over your side-by-side washer and dryer.

If you have the square footage, add an island to your laundry room to increase counter space.

3. Built-In Cabinets

laundry 6

To create a high-end, custom laundry room, install kitchen cabinets around your washer and dryer. Stay on budget by buying inexpensive cabinets and upgrading them with contrasting, bright wall colors or wallpaper. Remove builder-grade hardware and replace it with custom drawer pulls. A versatile and contemporary drawer pull will uplevel your style and can work as a towel or hanger rack.

If your budget is tight, visit a restaurant supply shop’s used section. Stainless work tables and shelving are a solid modern laundry room idea and easy-to-install alternative to built-in cabinets.

4. Creative Washer and Dryer Mounting

laundry 8 multi desk

If you don’t have enough space to keep your washer and dryer side by side, stack them vertically. This is a great way to work with smaller spaces while still having a functional laundry area.

Another creative way to mount your washer and dryer is to lift them off the floor. Raising your washer and dryer makes it easier on the back by eliminating the need to bend over to load and unload the washer and dryer. Create a storage area in the space below the washer and dryer. This also leaves room to create a storage area in the space below the washer and dryer. Some washer and dryer manufacturers offer the raised storage unit in the matching appliance finish.

5. Extra Laundry Storage Ideas

laundry storage 20

Wall cubicles, floating shelves, baskets and clothes bars are all good storage options in a laundry room.

Be sure to add a dirty laundry sorting system to save time when doing laundry. A good rule of thumb is to have a minimum of three dirty laundry bins for white or light clothes, and dark clothing. Don’t forget – asking everyone in the household to sort their own dirty laundry in the proper bin saves time.

6. Upgrade Lighting

laundry light main 27

Laundry rooms are often located in dark or windowless spaces, so good lighting is important. Add under-cabinet lighting or a large, overhead fixture to brighten and enlarge the space. Good lighting also helps you find spots and stains on laundry items, so you can pre-treat before washing. Better yet, add a combination of lighting that includes canned ceiling lights, pendants and under cabinet lighting like the image above.

Beautiful lighting fixtures are not only practical, but they enhance the design of a laundry room.

7. Accessories That Hide Laundry

laundry board 24

A wall or cabinet mounted drop-down ironing board is a great way to hide clutter. Most designs not only hide the ironing board away, but have enough room for storing your iron and laundry supplies. 

A wall-mounted drying rack is another smart option for air drying delicates like lingerie or sweaters.

8. Interesting Patterned Walls

laundry wallp main 14

Besides paint, give your laundry room a modern look by adding visual interest to the walls with pattern and texture. Two great ways to achieve this include:

–Wallpaper. Choose a bold, modern pattern in a moisture-resistant, vinyl paper that’s easy to wipe down
–Backsplash. Add a high-end backsplash design to your laundry room. While some of the most beautiful backsplash tile options can be expensive, a smaller laundry room doesn’t require much tile at all

9. Multi-Purpose Laundry Room Functionality

laundry multi 15

If you have limited room, make your small laundry area a multi-use space. Multi-function laundry room ideas include:

–Craft room
–Mud room
–Sports equipment storage room
–Household cleaning supplies storage room

10. Converted Closet Laundry Space

laundry closet main 23

One of the most clever laundry room ideas is to convert a hall, home office or guest room closet into a laundry room.

Be sure to put up plenty of shelving and watch out for door clearances, so you can shut the doors when the laundry room is not in use.

Many of our laundry room ideas are easy DIY projects you can do in a weekend. Take a fresh look at your laundry area and see how you can upgrade yours to organize it better and add value to your home. What are your favorite ideas to try?

The post 10 Laundry Room Ideas To Organize Small Spaces appeared first on Freshome.com.

Home Organizers that Add Color to Your Space

If you love bright color, you’re probably always looking for ways to add shots of bold color into your home. An easy way to add color is to keep it in mind while you’re organizing. After all, who says home organizers have to be boring? Many organizational ideas can be easily modified to add color to any room.

These ideas are also so easy, they’ll typically take only one afternoon to implement. Some ideas are as simple as buying colorful cloth home organizers and bins, and others require some paint. So take a look below to find some easy ways to add color while using home organizers.

Home Organizers Cloth Style

A stacked system would add plenty of color. Image: Michael Kraus / Shutterstock

Colorful Cloth Home Organizers

One of the easiest ways to get some color into your space is to go for simple colorful cloth home organizers. You can use a stacked style, like the organizer in the photo above. These do well hanging in corners. Another idea is to place a bright cloth organizer on a shelf for a splash of color.

These also tend to come in any style or color you can imagine, so there’s sure to be a cloth home organizer that fits in with your tastes. For a more funky and artistic style, try one with a bright pattern. A solid bright color can work well in more traditional spaces.

Home Organizers Colorful Shelving

Bright shelving adds a fun accent. Image: Photographee.eu / Shutterstock

Colorful Shelving Displays

Another idea is to select a colorful shelving option, like in the photo above. You can get this look by using cloth box home organizers, as we touched on above. Also, you could consider panting a shelf directly.

You can see in the photo above how well a colorful shelving option goes with the rest of a funky, artistic space. Simply pair a colorful shelving system with wild accents like throw pillows, picture frames or poufs. Your home organizer can easily fit in with the rest of the room that way.

Colorful home organizers also work great as part of an accent color theme. Consider choosing one accent color for your home organizers and using that throughout the room. For instance, your shelving might be a bright cherry red. And then you can place other elements of cherry red around, like an accent chair or a throw blanket.

Home Organizers Painted Boxes

Create your own organization with a bright display using wooden crates. Image: Africa Studio / Shutterstock

Creative Displays Using Paint

Another option is to get creative with paint and some organizational displays, like in the photo above. You can see how easy it would be to simply paint some wooden boxes. Then you stand them on one end and put colorful decorative accents in them. As the photo shows, you can also combine them with colorfully painted chairs and end tables for an eclectic look.

It’s a fun idea for when you need to organize your decorations in a space. This style also shows that home organizers don’t have to be all cloth boxes and traditional shelving. Feel free to get creative.

Home Organizers Bin System

Plastic bins come in many bold colors. Image: Africa Studio / Shutterstock

Colorful Bins

Another mainstay in home organizers is plastic bins. And this option is easy to find in a colorful style. You can see in the photo above how some exposed colorful bins add a playful feel to this children’s room. The bins do a great job of matching the colorful rugs in the space.

This space goes to show how colorful home organizers were made for children’s spaces, too. Children’s spaces can get pretty messy, with all the toys and art supplies about. So you can easily organize the space and add some bright tones using a colorful bin system.

The post Home Organizers that Add Color to Your Space appeared first on Freshome.com.