Contractor Fraud Expert Warns of 7 Home Improvement Scams to Avoid

When you’re planning a home improvement project, it’s wise to comparison shop for materials and labor. However, the zeal to save money can also lead you to work with unscrupulous contractors eager to take your money and run. How do you avoid home improvement scams?

Most homeowners believe that they are too savvy to be ripped off by con artists. However, Jody Costello, home renovation planning and contractor fraud expert and the founder of the Contractors From Hell website, tells Freshome that she hears horror stories on a routine basis.

Costello shares seven of these home improvement scams — and tips for avoiding them.

Legit contractors don't have time to go door to door. I

Legit contractors don’t have time to go door to door. Image: Alexander Ruiz-Avevedo/Shutterstock.

#1: Door-to-door solicitors

In door-to-door solicitations, a contractor (who may or may not be licensed) tells the homeowner he’s doing work in the neighborhood. “This individual says that he can see they need work on their deck, roof, siding or whatever they claim to see. He happens to have materials left over from another job and can do it for substantially less,” Costello says. She adds that these individuals are likely to happily take your money. Then, they’ll either perform substandard work or, worse, you might never see them again.

Unfortunately, these scams are most commonly perpetrated against the elderly. That’s because they’re more likely to be trusting and in need of help with home repairs. These scams are also popular after major storms, as people are deciding if they should rebuild after a hurricane or tornado. Also, if you’ve decided to buy a fixer-upper, it may be obvious that your house needs work.

Tip: “Don’t do business with solicitors looking to make a fast buck with their stories of working in the ‘hood,” Costello warns.

Don't pay more than 30% in advance.

Don’t pay more than 30% in advance. Image: Jakkapant Turasen/Shutterstock

#2: Front loading contracts

In front-loading, the contractor requires a large amount of money upfront before starting on your project. “Every state has different laws regarding down payments, but it is usually between 10% and 30%,” Costello says. And she advises that you never want to turn over more than 30% to start a project. “You put yourself at a disadvantage when handing over large amounts as you have no work performed to show for it. The contractor drags his feet getting started on your project or, worse, never shows up.”

And here’s something else to think about. “When they ask for a large deposit up front, they’re likely behind on another project where part of your money will be used,” Costello says. Obviously, that’s illegal, but she warns that it happens a lot more than you might imagine.

Tip: “Research your state’s contractor laws and down payment requirements,” Costello advises.

Rushing to save can backfire. Image: ADragan/Shutterstock

#3: Sign now and you’ll get a discount

Be wary of limited-time offers. “The contractor pressures you into signing a contract today, and you’ll get a discount for doing so — but only if you sign today,” Costello says.

Tip: “Never allow yourself to be pressured into signing any contract, period,” she warns. “No good ever comes from it.”

Your contract is legal and binding, so read it carefully.

Your contract is legal and binding, so read it carefully. Image: Serthayos sansuwansri/Shutterstock

#4: Low bids and written agreements with vague language and little detail

You should also be wary of low bids and quick assessments. In some scenarios, the contractor bidding on your project will leave off some of the details, knowing that many homeowners focus on the end cost. Pay attention to materials, supplies, construction equipment and subcontractors. “Once the project begins, you realize that some things are not being performed. You confront the contractor, who points to the written agreement you signed which doesn’t include those items. But, of course, it can be added for additional monies,” Costello explains.

“In another scenario, the contractor visits your potential renovation project, quickly assesses it and writes down the bid on the back of a business card or a sheet of paper,” Costello adds. However, your project is too important to let someone set a price based on some scribbled notes. “And you can bet that the costs to do your project will escalate quickly.”

Tip: “Make sure the bids are detailed and include everything that is included in your plans and scope of work,” Costello says. “To this same point, the final written agreement must be detailed and include everything that is in your plans and specs.”

It's not your job to pull permits.

It’s not your job to pull permits. Image: iConcept/Shutterstock

#5:  The homeowner needs to pull the permits

If you’re asked to pull the permits, consider this a red flag. Contractors may tell homeowners that they can save money by pulling the permits, but Costello says that’s not true. “It’s usually because they’re unlicensed or their license is revoked,” she explains.

And there are several reasons why you should not pull the permits. “You want the contractor to pull permits because whoever does is fully responsible for the project and any failures and inspections,” Costello says. And this includes a laundry list of associated responsibilities. “They include obtaining insurance, workers’ comp, employee wages and potentially having to register as an employer with state and federal agencies and pay additional taxes.”

Tip: “Don’t pull the permits yourself,” Costello warns. “Always place that responsibility on the contractor, since ethical contractors will not ask the client to do this.”

A contractor without a license is a giant red flag.

A contractor without a license is a giant red flag. Image dimdimphoto/Shutterstock

#6: The contractor uses someone else’s license

If the contractor doesn’t have a license, that’s another red flag. “It could be that his license has been revoked and he can’t get another license. So he uses a buddy’s license or gets a family member to apply for one and operates under that license.”

In a second scenario, the contractor uses a license number he got from the state Contractors Board. The trouble is that it’s no longer active. He’s counting on homeowners failing to check the license. “If they do, the guy comes up with a crazy story as to why his name isn’t on it,” Costello says. “I have heard this many times from consumers when troubles begin. They start doing some research on the guy and the truth is revealed.”

Tip: “Check the license number to ensure that it is valid and belongs to the contractor you’re working with,” Costello says.

Don't be a cash cow for your contractor.

Don’t be a cash cow for your contractor. Image: Nadya Lukic/Shutterstock

#7: The contractor asks for more money to continue the project

It’s not uncommon for projects to go over budget. But pay close attention to contractors asking for more money than is agreed to in the contract part way through the project. “It’s possible that the contractor has mismanaged the money given for your project or is behind on paying his subs or purchasing materials,” Costello says. “The contractor then comes up with some excuse for needing more.”

She warns against falling for this ploy. Costello says the contractor will continue to come back for more if you take the bait.“Many consumers share stories of handing over money repeatedly. Some of them want to get the project done and want to get the guy out of their hair,” Costello says. “Others are simply intimidated and some have been threatened with liens filed against their property.”

Tip: “Stipulate in your written agreements that any ‘extra money’ for extra work will only be considered in the form of a Change Order. In a Change Order, both parties agree to the work and sign the agreement. Then, it’s added to the overall cost of the project before anything is done.”

If this stipulation is in your agreement, Costello says the contractors cannot legally put a lien on your property. Plus, this clause will scare off unethical contractors.

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5 Ways to Fix Temperature Variations In Your Home and Save Energy

Is there a spot in your home that’s always hotter or colder than the rest? It’s more common than you think. Fix temperature variations right away and you’ll extend the life of your HVAC system and save on your home energy bills.

When a room’s temperature varies, your HVAC system has to adjust to regulate for the change in temperature. This means your HVAC system may be working harder than needed.

Why are some rooms warmer or colder than others?

Before you can fix temperature variations, it’s a good idea to understand why they happen. There are lots of factors that can contribute to a hot spot or cold, drafty room in your house, but the most common are the following:

  • Poor insulation can let more outside air in, causing the room to feel colder or warmer
  • The orientation of the room may mean more hot sun comes in or a lack of sunshine
  • If the room is furthest out on the HVAC air duct’s line, it may not cool or heat efficiently

Fixing the temperature variations in your house allows your HVAC to work less, which will save you money on your cooling and heating bills. Here’s how you can fix temperature variations in your home so your HVAC system works more efficiently.

how to fix temperature variations in a room

Caulk gaps and drafty spots around windows and doors. Image: veryulissa/Shutterstock

1. Seal Windows and Doors

The weatherstripping on windows and doors deteriorates over time, letting cold or hot air in. Caulk all gaps and replace worn out weatherstripping to better balance the temperature in your home.

HVAC drafts

Layers of fabrics and textiles can warm up a cold, drafty space. Image: Photographee.eu/Shutterstock

2. Add Window Drapes, Shutters Or Blinds

Sunny rooms tend to feel warmer than rooms that are dark. If you have a room where the window receives a lot of sun in the summer or feels very cold to the touch in the winter, invest in a heavy black-out or insulating set of curtains or drapes. Window shutters or blinds are also a good insulating option to keep the ambient temperature of the room comfortable.

Open the shades or blinds during the winter so the sun’s warmth enters. And in the summer, keep blinds closed to maintain a cooler room.

HVAC thermostats to fix temperature variations and drafty rooms

A programmable thermostat can keep the room at a comfortable level automatically. Image courtesy of Trane.

3. Add A Programmable Thermostat Strategically

Once you address insulation and manage to balance the temperature extremes, install a programmable thermostat. The key is the location of the thermostat. Place it in or near the room you use most so the temperature level is most comfortable where you spend the most time.

Smart thermostats like Trane’s ComfortLink II XL850 can be programmed remotely from your smartphone so your home’s temperature is perfect before you arrive.

cold drafty rooms and how to fix them

A zoning system means each room can have its own temperature setting. Image courtesy of Trane.

4. Install An HVAC Zoning System

If one temperature for the entire home isn’t realistic, consider adding an HVAC zoning system. A zoning system allows you to set unique temperatures in different rooms or zones in your home.

how to fix drafty rooms

A ceiling fan can circulate air to keep the room’s temperature more comfortable. Image: JR-stock/Shutterstock

5. Add a Ceiling Fan

A ceiling fan is a low-energy way to circulate the air in a room. Most fans have a small button at the base of the motor that allows you to switch the direction the fan spins. This little trick can make a huge difference in the temperature of your room.

In the winter, set your fan to rotate clockwise on low to pull cold air up and away. Doing so pushes the warm air that has risen to the ceiling back down, warming the room. Do the opposite in the summer, setting the fan to spin counter-clockwise, to cool your room.

Still have questions? Talk to an expert

Making your home comfortable and energy-efficient is the smart way to live. Plus, think of all the design projects you can take on with the monthly savings. Talk to a local HVAC professional to see what you can do for your home.

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The post 5 Ways to Fix Temperature Variations In Your Home and Save Energy appeared first on Freshome.com.

Hidden Fire Dangers in Your Home

In the U.S., fire departments respond to one fire every 88 seconds, according to the National Fire Protection Association. Cooking is the most common cause of home fires and smoking is the leading cause of home fire deaths. But there are many other ways that you could inadvertently start a fire. These are some of the hidden fire sources in your home.

batteries

Don’t store batteries near metal. Image: Mariva2017/Shutterstock

Batteries

All batteries pose a fire risk, even those with a weak charge, according to Craig Gjelsten, VP of Operations at Rainbow International, which restores damage caused by fire, water and mold. Gjelsten says that 9-volt batteries are the biggest fire culprit. Since their terminals are in close proximity, they can easily short. “I recommend a battery storage case or just leave batteries in their original packaging instead of lying around loose.”

Gjelsten also recommends storing batteries standing upright and placing electrical tape over the ends of each battery — regardless of the battery type. Other tips include not storing batteries in metal containers or placing them near keys, steel wool or other metal objects. “Also, be sure to store 9-volt batteries separately,” Gjelsten says.

damaged

Check for dust bunnies around sockets. Image: NothingisEverything/Shutterstock

Damaged electrical equipment and dust bunnies

If your electrical equipment is damaged, it can easily overheat and result in a fire, according to Tom Wallace, a Certified Master Inspector at Home Check Inspections in Riverview, FL. “It is important to regularly inspect the electrical equipment in your home for damaged or frayed cords and plugs,” Wallace advises.

You may be thinking that you’d know if you had damaged or frayed cords and plugs. But that’s not necessarily the case. “Power or extension cords hidden behind a bed or table that are repeatedly knocked against can become worn out,” explains Bill Timmons, Marketing Manager of Residential Products at Legrand. He also warns against walking over cords — for example, under carpets or on your hardwood floors — since this can also result in damage.

And don’t forget the dreaded dust bunnies. When they form around electronics, sockets and heaters, Gjelsten says they can ignite and start a fire. “Regularly vacuum dust near outlets, wires and appliances, including crevices and areas behind furniture,” he says.

coffee maker

Turn off your coffee maker when it’s not being used. Image: John Kasawa/Shutterstock

Coffee makers

“Your coffee pot could overheat and start a fire,” says Battalion Chief Raymond Williams of the Birmingham Fire and Rescue Service Department in Birmingham, AL. He says coffee pots with plastic components can get too hot if you forget to turn them off. Although most coffee pots with digital clocks have an automatic two-hour shut off, that’s still plenty of time for them to overheat. Also, several years ago, Kenmore recalled 145,000 coffee makers due to faulty wiring. So, to be on the safe side, don’t leave your coffee maker unattended and manually turn it off when you’re not using it.

flammable liquids

Use care with flammable liquids. Image: Elder von Rabenstein/Shutterstock

Flammable liquids

It’s probably no surprise that gasoline or kerosene can inadvertently start a fire. “These flammable items should be stored away from heat sources in appropriate containers,“ says Wallace. “The containers should be labeled and easily identifiable.”

However, there are other flammable liquids that can also start a fire. For example, a woman in Texas opened a bottle of nail polish remover and left it near a candle in an unventilated room. The bottle ignited and she suffered third-degree burns.

soft surface

Keep laptops off of soft surfaces. Image: Twin Design/Shutterstock

Laptops

If you’ve ever held your laptop in your lap for an extended period of time, you know it can get very hot. However, you might not have known that it can actually catch on fire. “Laptops can get pretty hot during normal operation. When placed on a blanket or similar surface, the batteries can overheat and cause a house fire,” Gjelsten says. He warns against leaving your laptop on any type of soft surface. If you don’t have a home office or desk, consider using a laptop stand.

lilght fixture

Use the proper wattage for your light fixture. Image: Darin Echelberger/Shutterstock

Light bulbs

Are you familiar with the term “overlamping”? It occurs when the light bulb wattage is too high for the lamp, and Gjelsten warns that overlamping can start a home fire. For example, if you use a 75-watt bulb in a 40-watt lamp, you’re overlamping.

“If the fixture is unmarked, stay under 60 watts to be safe,” Gjelsten says. He also advises caution with compact fluorescent lights (CFLs). “Avoid using CFLs when the base of the bulb is enclosed by the fixture, such as with track and recessed lighting,” he says. “If your CFLs are burning out early and they’re brown at the base when removed, the bulbs are overheating.” Gjelsten recommends a cooler option, like LED.

dryer maintenance

Perform preventive maintenance on your dryer. Image: Good moments/Shutterstock

Dryer vents

While you’re sprucing up your laundry room, don’t forget to clean your dryer vent on a regular basis. You should empty the dryer lint screen before every load, according to Dave Lavalle, Founder of Dryer Vent Wizard. “While the dryer vent and duct system carries the air and lint outdoors, some of it gets trapped in the lint screen,” he explains. And since lint is very combustible, he says the screen should be emptied before every load. “Also, on a quarterly basis, clean the lint screen in soapy water,” he adds. That’s because detergent, fabric softener and other materials can build up and create a transparent film.

In addition, you need to check the vent cover on the home’s exterior to ensure that there’s no mulch or bird/rodent nesting materials. “Lastly, check the flexible tube-shaped transition duct that connects the dryer and the duct,” Lavelle says. Every other month, he recommends checking behind the dryer to ensure the transition duct hasn’t been crushed or broken.

paper pile

Don’t let paper pile up. Image: Nongnuch L/Shutterstock

Other hidden fire sources

Gjelsten also warns that if you leave stacks of newspapers and magazines too close to a heat source, they can ignite. “And if you use heating blankets and pads, do not place the cord between the mattress and box spring,” he adds. Gjelsten also advises against using these heating items on anything but the lowest setting.

“Also, throwing that unused bag of charcoal in the closest storage closet is never a good idea.” He says that damp coal can ignite and start a serious fire. Instead, Gjelsten recommends storing the bag in a metal pail or garbage can with a tightly closed lid.

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HomeAdvisor’s 2019 Report Reveals Popular Spending Trends

The new State of Home Spending report by HomeAdvisor provides a treasure trove of information regarding the habits and behaviors of homeowners relating to home improvement spending, home maintenance spending, and home emergency spending.

Misha Fisher, Chief Economist for ANGI Homeservices (which owns HomeAdvisor), provides insight on the report.

Improving and remodeling are more popular than upkeep projects for homeowners.

Improving and remodeling are more popular than upkeep projects. Image: Breadmaker/Shutterstock

Homeowners spend more on home improvement than home maintenance

When taking out their wallets, homeowners are more likely to spend money to improve their space, rather than tackle a maintenance project. “For every dollar they spend on home maintenance, homeowners spend an average of five dollars on home improvement projects,” Fisher says.

In 2018, homeowners spent an average of $7,560 on home improvement projects. “They spent an average of $1,105 on home maintenance projects, and $416 on home emergency projects,” according to Fisher.

Some states spend significantly more on projects.

Some states spend significantly more on projects. Image: Breadmaker/Shutterstock

States spending the most and least on home improvement

Residents in Massachusetts, Hawaii, Rhode Island and Maryland are among the states that spend the most on home improvement projects. “On the other hand, West Virginia, Wyoming, New Mexico, South Dakota, and Maine are some of the states that spend the least amount on home improvement,” Fisher says.

Home improvement spending is up by 17.5% from 2018. Fisher attributes some of this to an increase in consumer wages, and a cultural focus on design aesthetics. “Also, the cost of skilled tradespeople is rising, and there are better (but more expensive) home improvement tools,” he says.

Everyone wants a renovated bathroom.

Everyone wants a renovated bathroom. Image: plusONE/Shutterstock

What are homeowners improving?

Rooms are the most popular home improvement choice. “Among these remodeling projects, bathrooms remain the overwhelmingly popular choice across all generations, likely in part because of their comparatively cheaper cost relative to kitchens,” according to Fisher.  Many homeowners are incorporating 2019 bathroom technology trends. “A bathroom renovation usually costs $10,352, and most homeowners spend between $5,957 and $14,832.” While a small or medium-sized bathroom ranges between $3,500 and $7,000, he says that a master or large bathroom could cost more than $13,000 to remodel.

Besides remodeling rooms, other popular projects include installing new appliances, replacing the roof, and refinishing hardwood floors.

Replacing windows can increase energy efficiency. Image: onzon/Shutterstock

Replacing windows can increase energy efficiency. Image: onzon/Shutterstock

Motivation to complete projects

Among generations, millennials are more likely to complete a home project to increase the home’s resale value. “Also, while baby boomers and Gen X are more likely to want to ‘modernize” their homes, millennials and the Silent Generation say they want to improve aesthetics and design,” Fisher explains.

When homeowners turn their attention to fixing parts of the home, they’re replacing or repairing areas that are damaged, decaying, or defective. Fisher says they’re most likely to focus on the following projects: a new roof, a new HVAC, new fencing, building a deck, new gutters, replacing windows, and new siding.

Roof repair is one common emergency home project.

Roof repair is one common emergency home project. Image: Radovan1/Shutterstock

Emergency home projects

One out of every five homeowners reported the need to complete an emergency home project. Examples of home emergency projects include fixing hail damage to the roof or replacing a failing hot water heater. “Homeowners who live in areas prone to extreme weather events spend the most money on emergency projects,” Fisher says. Texas, Alabama, Georgia, and Louisiana lead in this area, as a result of tropical storms, thunderstorms, flooding and hail.

However, you might be surprised to find out that an older home doesn’t necessary mean you’ll spend more in the event of an emergency. “The owners of a 100-year-old home spend an average of $370 less on emergency home repairs than the owner of a brand-new home,” Fisher says.

Millennials and more likely to conduct research via the internet.

Millennials and more likely to conduct research via the internet. Image: one photo/Shutterstock

How homeowners research costs

When researching home improvement costs, there are stark generational differences. For example:

  • Millennials: 77% use the internet, 64% check big box stores, 30% ask a previously used contractor
  • GenX: 74% check big box stores, 70% use the internet, 23% ask a previously used contractor
  • Baby Boomers: 60% check big box store, 58% use the internet, 35% ask a previously used contractor
  • The Silent Generation: 50% check big box stores, 32% ask a previously used contractor, and 25% use the internet

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Tips for Restoring Your Wood Floors

Hardwood floors have an incomparable beauty and they can add warmth and style to any room. Whether you have a traditional home with architectural details or a modern, industrial space, hardwoods fit right in. That’s why many homeowners even use hardwood floors in kitchens and bathrooms.

If you’re fortunate enough to have original hardwood floors, consider restoring their original beauty. Below are tips from two hardwood flooring experts to help.

recoat floor

Sometimes, your floors only need a recoating. Image: Breadmaker/Shutterstock

Recoat or Refinish?

If your wood floors start to look dull, they can be renewed through recoating. “A maintenance coat involves cleaning the existing floor’s finish, then lightly sanding it,” explains Brett Miller, VP of Education & Certification for the National Wood Flooring Association (NWFA). “After that, you just need an application of a fresh new coat of wood floor finish.”

Miller recommends applying a new coat to your floors every three to five years. However, he says your maintenance schedule may depend on wear and tear, as well as your lifestyle.

“However, a complete sand and refinish is recommended when there are deep scratches, dents and other flooring damage,” Miller explains. He also recommends this process if the finish is worn away and the bare wood is exposed. This may be the case if you purchase a fixer-upper home. And there’s another benefit to doing a complete sand and refinish. “Sanding a floor back to raw wood is the perfect opportunity to change the color of the floor,” Miller says.

equipment

The right equipment makes a big difference. Image courtesy of N-Hance Wood Refinishing.

Don’t Use the Wrong Equipment

“Wood floor restoration starts with sanding the floor,” Kate Gailunas, Interior Designer and Owner of N-Hance Wood Refinishing, explains. “This strips away the previous finish and removes surface-level scuffs and scratches.”

However, if you try to sand the floor with home power tools, she says you might sand the floors unevenly. And that’s the best-case scenario. Gailunas warns that you could also severely damage the wood. “Do it right — use a drum sander,” she advises.

before and after

Before and after. Image courtesy of N-Hance Wood Refinishing.

Avoid Uneven Sanding

But even if you use a drum sander, there’s no guarantee that you won’t make mistakes if you’re not careful. “Under-sanding can leave spots of old stains or finish,” she says. “And then these areas are unsuitable for refinishing.”

And, there’s something even worse than under-sanding. “Over-sanding can lead to divots or scratches that only a professional can fix,” Gailunas says.

even color

Take your time to ensure an even color. Image: pics721/Shutterstock

Be Aware of Improper Edging

Also, be advised that a drum sander cannot get close enough to your walls and baseboards to sand them. “To get these areas, you’ll need an edger,” Gailunas says. You’ll also need to be patient when using the edger. “Don’t rush these areas, because it results in a noticeable color/texture difference around the edge of the room with a higher risk of degradation,” she says.

before and after 2

Before and after photos. Image courtesy of N-Hance Wood Refinishing.

Notice Lingering Wood Dust

The sanding process will create a lot of wood dust. “Keep this in mind when you’re applying the stain/finish to your floors,” Gailunas says. Thoroughly clean the floors first. “If you don’t, these particles will become embedded in the stain/finish,” she warns. “Vacuum up as much dust as possible, then give your entire room a detailed cleaning before applying any kind of stain/finish.”

don't use steam mops

Don’t use steam mops. Image: Photographee.ee/Shutterstock

Don’t Use the Wrong Products & Materials

A lot of products claim to help restore the beauty of your wood floors. “Only certain types of stains/finishes are suitable for certain types of woods,” Gailunas says. “Others are specially formulated for specific uses.” She warns that choosing the wrong stain/finish could give your floors an unappealing appearance. And if that’s not bad enough, Gailunas says the wrong product could cause accelerated wear or discoloration.

Miller agrees. “Only use professional products recommended by your contractor, flooring manufacturer or finish manufacturer,” he advises. “Don’t use steam mops and never use anything from the store that claims to restore luster or add shine.” In fact, if you use the wrong type of cleaning product, Miller says you might not be able to apply a new coat of finish on the floor. “Or you could damage the finish and possibly damage the wood.”

To be on the safe side, he recommends using a wood flooring professional.

avoid temperature fluctuations

Avoid temperature fluctuations. Image: pics721/Shutterstock

Maintaining Your Wood Floors

Since wood is an organic material, Miller says that it will react to its environment. “In humid environments, wood gains moisture and can swell,” he explains. “In dry environments, wood loses moisture and can shrink.” If the environment changes, Miller says there will be changes in the floors themselves and how they perform.

For example, moisture can cause the floors to cup. This causes raised edges and lowered centers. “On the other hand, if your floors lose moisture, they can gap or split,” Miller says. “This can occur between floorboards or on the face of the boards.”

If these gaps and splits occur but then go away during seasonal changes, he says there’s no reason for concern. “However, if the gaps in your floors are large or do not close during more humid months, it’s time to call a professional.”

Fortunately, there is a way to minimize these issues. “Keep your home between 60 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit and between 30 and 50 percent humidity year-round,” Miller advises. To do this, you’ll need to be sure your thermostat isn’t producing ghost readings and false numbers.

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HGTV’s Andy Williams: Celebrate Father’s Day With the Perfect Man Cave

Andy and Ashley Williams, hosts of HGTV's Flip or Flop Fort Worth.

Andy and Ashley Williams, hosts of HGTV’s Flip or Flop Fort Worth. Image courtesy of Almond Board of California.

Father’s Day is a perfect time to celebrate that special dad who works so hard and always puts family first. What better way to show your appreciation than to start thinking about creating a space that he can call his own: a man cave? This may entail transforming your basement, renovating your garage or even creating usable space in your attic.

Andy Williams of HGTV’s Flip or Flop Fort Worth gave Freshome several great tips to help us all design the perfect man cave.

Expect the man cave to be loud during sporting events.

Expect the man cave to be loud during sporting events. Image: Jon Feingersh Photography/Shutterstock

Creating a sports-themed man cave

When Williams conceptualizes and creates a man cave, he takes the same approach as purchasing a custom suit or a set of golf clubs. “There are so many great options and so many things that you can do, but the first thing you have to do is understand the ‘man’ in the cave,” Williams says.

For a sports-themed design, you should start with the history of the cave owner. “If he has trophies or personal memorabilia, it is nice to have a corner or shadow box that pays tribute to his glory days.”

The next part of the theme is generally affiliations: what college did he attend or what are his favorite local teams?

A sports theme can also be stylish.

A sports theme can also be stylish. Image: Hoxton/Tom Murphy/Getty Images

“I often advise not to go overboard in this area because we still want it to be classy and more about the cave owner rather than being a shrine,” Williams says. And that’s why he likes universal sports ideas. “Whether you opt for some of the cool trends in pool tables, a dartboard setup, a poker table or chess boards, this aspect of the cave shows versatility and more of the renaissance man approach, if that is what you like.”

A man cave for a Renaissance man.

A man cave for a Renaissance man. Image: Hemul75/Getty Images

Man caves for men who aren’t sports fans

Of course, the man cave doesn’t have to incorporate a sports theme. “For some, this area may serve as part home office and part hobby area. It can also be part workshop and part lounge.” Williams says there is no better place for him to keep his collection of music or his home library than in the place where he takes his respite and can be focused on the things he enjoys. “More and more, we see man caves that reflect the intellect and style of the individual, rather than their allegiance to a sports team.”

A man cave that simply revolves around entertainment is another good choice, “especially for those spaces that are external to the home,” Williams explains. “There can be a lot of versatility built in so that the former external garage has movie projection capabilities both inside the structure and externally for an outdoor movie night.”

A tastefully-designed man cave.

A tastefully-designed man cave. Image: Eric Audras/GettyImages

Making sure the man cave doesn’t look like a frat house

A man cave is not a dormitory or a fraternity house. To avoid this feel, Williams says the space should define who the cave owner is today and who that person is becoming – not who he used to be. “For me, that goes all the way down to the beverages and snacks that I keep on hand. For example, instead of a bowl of candy and soda, I always have an abundant supply of healthy choices, like nuts and bottles of sparkling water.” Williams says he doesn’t plan on crashing or passing out in his cave. Instead, he goes there to be his best, be alert, share ideas and invite deep conversations.

You can't go wrong with wood and leather.

You can’t go wrong with wood and leather. Image: archideaphoto/Getty Images

Materials to use in a man cave

“Again, this is a very personal choice. But, usually, we start with what exists and merge — if possible — with the vision.” Williams says it’s almost always a good idea to use wood. Your colors choices are important since they can affect your emotions. “I prefer lighter colors to brighten the room and allow for smoother lighting.” He also recommends stone and split-face rock for accents, especially when there is a fireplace. “Flooring is also important based on what will be going on in the room. Instead of carpet, I prefer to use area rugs and provide different textures and looks.”

Include space for entertaining friends.

Include space for entertaining friends. Image: Hemul75/Getty Images

Furnishings to use in a man cave

To truly relax in the man cave and avoid having to go back and forth, Williams recommends furnishing the space as though the cave owner would spend a couple of uninterrupted days in there. “Having a refrigerator is a key element. Also, provided the space is large enough, it’s good to have at least a few ‘refuel’ stations with snacks and beverages.” And from a signature design perspective, Williams says there should be at least one furnishing that is a conversation piece.

A man cave should reflect the cave owner's taste and style.

A man cave should reflect the cave owner’s taste and style. Image: Photographee.eu/Shutterstock

Final tips

A man cave is the perfect place to use one of those cool roll-up garage doors or maybe a sliding, stackable glass door. However, the most important element is the cave owner’s personality. “Designing a personal space is, in many ways, creating a portrait of the cave owner,” Williams says. “It allows you to create something that is in all ways a representation of him and what matters the most to him.”

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How to Allergy-Proof Your HVAC System

Allergies and asthma are a growing problem. The Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America says, “More than 26 million people in the US have asthma, and allergic asthma is the most common type, affecting around 60% of people with asthma.” Improving your home’s air quality can reduce common symptoms like wheezing and shortness of breath. Start by updating your HVAC for allergy relief.

The main culprits that lead to asthma and allergies in your home include dust mites, pollen, pet dander and cockroach droppings. Your HVAC system is designed to filter these allergens (and more), but if it’s not optimized properly, it may be blowing the allergens around. Here are 4 reasons everyone should update their HVAC for allergy relief, even if you don’t personally suffer from asthma or hay fever:

hvac for allergies

An HVAC inspection and maintenance includes cleaning or replacing air filters and searching for trouble areas where mold and mildew are growing. Image: Charles Knowles/Shutterstock

1. Your HVAC System Can Be Hiding Mildew And Mold

Mildew and mold thrive off dark and damp places. And an improperly maintained HVAC system may be collecting condensation and humidity in hidden zones. Turn your contaminated AC or heating on and you may inadvertently blow the mildew and mold into the room.

HVAC allergy fix: Schedule an annual maintenance visit with a licensed professional to make sure your system is working properly. Make sure the HVAC maintenance visit includes having all ductwork cleaned and changing the air filters. In humid zones, installing a dehumidifier can keep humidity levels in check. A good humidity level is around 40%.

hvac for allergies and best hepa filters

Here’s what your HVAC air filter may look like if you don’t regularly clean or replace it. Image: Steve Heap/Shutterstock

2. Your HVAC Filter May Be Making Your Allergies Worse

HVAC filters are meant to capture debris. But if you don’t clean or replace them regularly, they could become overloaded with allergens and blow allergens like dander, pollen and dust mites back throughout the home.

HVAC allergy fix: Clean or replace your HVAC filters every two to three months. Better yet, upgrade to a HEPA (high-efficiency particulate air) filter. Filters must remove at least 99.97% of contaminants in the air to earn a HEPA rating. Choose a HEPA filter with a MERV rating of at least 10. MERV ratings score the quality of the air filtration on a scale from 1 (worst) to 20 (best).

hvac asthma and allergies

Keeping all windows closed can cause poor air quality inside your home. Get your home’s air circulating! Image: Dmitry Zimin/Shutterstock

3. Your Home’s Air Is Stagnant

Just because the temperature indoors is fine doesn’t mean you shouldn’t run your AC occasionally. Homes nowadays are so well insulated that there’s a side effect: pollutants and contaminants can’t escape.

HVAC allergy fix: Run your HVAC system regularly, even if just for 20 minutes, to circulate air. The AC ventilates your home by pumping in fresh outdoor air and pumping out the stale indoor air. If you have a programmable thermostat, you can schedule your system to run at a time and duration of your choice.

4. Other Types Of Microbes And Bacteria May Be Growing In And Around Your HVAC Unit

Besides mold and mildew, other organisms can thrive in the warm, damp and dark environment of your system. According to abatement.com, fungi, mites and bacteria that thrive there can “produce adverse effects” to one’s health. Air filters made of cotton and cardboard can provide food for these microbes, allowing them to multiply quickly.

HVAC allergy fix: Consider having your HVAC contractor install a UV light near the system’s evaporator, which absorbs the heat drawn from your home and is often the place where microbes thrive. A UV light will kill bacteria and other bio-organisms and curtail the harmful growth in your HVAC unit.

Once you allergy-proof your HVAC system, tackle the rest of your home. Here are some tips on how to have a healthier, greener home:

The Ultimate Guide To Sustainable Furniture

How To Keep Your Clean Eco-Friendly

Dealing With Asthma And Allergy Triggers In Your Home

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6 HGTV Secrets They Don’t Want You to Know

If you’re like me, there’s nothing you love more than unwinding with HGTV. At the end of a long day, there’s something soothing about watching other people make high-stakes decisions. Whether it’s buying a beach house, renovating a kitchen or choosing a family home, HGTV has a total lock on homeowner-based entertainment. But how much of what you see is real? As it turns out, HGTV secrets influence the way you watch.

While on-screen house hunts and renos seem to go smoothly, appearances can be deceiving. Don’t get discouraged if you feel like your house situation is less than picture perfect. Much of what you see is good, old-fashioned smoke and mirrors. Here are some of the HGTV secrets that keep you watching.

Some of the “hunted homes” might be off the market. Image: Andy Dean Photography/Shutterstock

1. Home hunting is already complete

If you’ve ever searched for a new home, you know that viewing three properties probably won’t cut it. And even if you’re lucky enough to decide on a new place, it’s not a guarantee you’ll be able to secure financing, win a bidding war and actually move in. So how is it that every owner on House Hunters is able to view, buy and move in what seems like a week?

The secret is that homeowners are usually already under contract for their chosen home before they’re cast on the show. They already know which home is theirs and view other homes to increase drama. It’s less of a hunt and more of a confirmation that they chose the right home. In some cases, they’ve already purchased the home and even moved in before filming starts. Creative filming and staging the home to look empty make it seem like prospective hunters are seeing their home for the first time.

2. Some homes aren’t even for sale

Feel like HGTV always has the best homes to choose from? That’s because they don’t limit hunted homes to those that are currently on the market. To ensure compelling content, House Hunters will lead prospective buyers through homes that have already been purchased by other buyers and even the homes of nearby friends and family. Not only have the hunters already chosen their home, but some of the places they see aren’t even an option. It’s all in the name of creating a narrative where you, as the viewer, become more invested in the process.

Kitchen and dining room

Staged homes might be more Photoshop than interior design. Image: Breadmaker/Shutterstock

3. Homes are virtually staged

Staging homes isn’t exactly one of the most protected HGTV secrets. It’s a well-known practice among realtors, homeowners and those in the industry. But what HGTV doesn’t tell you is that some of the staging you see is done virtually. They’ll utilize computerized models to make a home look more put-together than reality. Even grass can be painted and edited after the fact to make it look lusher. So when they say that the grass is greener on the other side, remember that it might be the result of Photoshop over fertilizer.

4. Construction is contracted

Anyone who’s ever renovated a home knows it never goes as smoothly as they show on HGTV. What’s more, many of the projects seem like they’re completed singlehandedly by a charismatic host and a plucky sidekick. A week under construction by a do-it-all TV star and voilà! The big reveal shows a home that has been renovated top to bottom.

In reality, most shows contract out the heavy lifting to local construction crews. The stars come in and demo a couple of cupboards or paint a few strokes before handing off the project to the real pros. Just remember that real renovations are the result of time, effort and expertise.

Contemporary master bedroom with metal accents

Not every room is renovated as part of the contract. Image: Photographee.eu/Shutterstock

5. Rooms are left out

The show Property Brothers is a ratings smash for HGTV, and why not? What’s not to love about a couple of attractive identical twins showing homeowners they can have their dream home for a little elbow grease and a small investment? The show doesn’t, however, make it clear what is left undone at the end of the big reveal.

The show actually only contracts for four rooms to be designed and renovated. Usually, homeowners pick their highest-traffic areas, like the kitchen and living room. But there is still a lot of work left once the brothers offer up the dramatic finish. Sure, renovating a cheaper home can be a sound investment, but remember it’s much more complicated than what’s show on HGTV.

6. Homeowners don’t keep decor

You might wistfully watch your favorite shows to see the gorgeous rugs, furniture and decor used in each show. Most HGTV shows finish with a before and after, with homeowners’ previously tired furniture replaced with updated, expensive decor.

Don’t get too envious, though. In most cases, the decor is used for staging only and doesn’t belong to the homeowners. After the “after” shot is filmed, that stuff gets put back into HGTV storehouses for the next before and after. In some cases, the owners get the chance to purchase the decor, but only if it’s in their budget. Usually, the renovation budget is long gone to pay for expensive staples like flooring and repairs. Those magazine-worthy finishing touches? They’re a short-term illusion.

Hey, I get it: HGTV is, at its best, pure escapism. No matter what your home is like, you can forget some of its challenges by watching other people deal with the ups and downs of homeownership. Still, it’s important to remember that as much as it’s billed as reality TV, most shows use HGTV secrets and have huge production budgets, directors, assistants, high-paid stars and behind-the-scenes experts. You don’t expect your home to always look like a professional movie set, so don’t make the mistake of comparing your place to what could be a TV mirage.

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Spring Tasks to Keep Your Home Cooler During Summer

With the days getting warmer, you may be thinking of all the fun you’ll have this summer: cookouts, roads trips or days at the beach. But you may also want to take some time to think about one of the not-so-fun parts of summer: those increased energy bills as you run the AC constantly to keep a cooler home during summer. Fortunately, there are several ways to plan ahead to make it easier to cool the home.

These ideas run from replacing cooling equipment to simply adding an awning outside windows. Costs could be negligible (as in the case of weatherstripping) or run in the thousands of dollars (as in the case of landscaping or a new AC unit). But if you’ve needed to replace key parts of your home and you want to reduce your energy costs, it could be worth the upfront price. Plus, most of these ideas only take one afternoon to implement. Below are several ways to keep a cooler home during summer.

Cooler Home in Summer Window Shot

While windows add plenty of ambient sunlight, they can also heat the home. Image: S_Photo/Shutterstock

Check your windows

Your windows are the place that you stand to lose the most cold air and gain the most heat. Heat gain and loss account for 25 to 30 percent of residential heating and cooling energy use, according to the EPA. However, updating to new window technologies, like low-e storm windows, can help save 12 to 33 percent per year in heating and cooling costs.

But if you have an older home, replacing windows can come with disadvantages. And it can be expensive, running hundreds of dollars per window. So if you’d rather not replace your windows at this time, you can choose other options for getting a cooler home during summer:

  • Place awnings over windows so that less heat is hitting the window directly and transferring into the home.
  • Replace just the windows that leak the most air. You can hire a professional inspector to perform what’s called a “blower door” test to determine the location of the most air leaks. Though, if it’s bad enough, you can usually tell because it’s simply drafty around that window or door.
  • Invest in weatherstripping around windows and doors to keep them from leaking air. Different doors and windows have different weatherstripping needs, which you can read about in detail here.
Cooler Home in Summer Tree Outside Window

Having landscaping just outside the window can reduce warming sunlight in your home while the sun is lower. Image: Svetlana Larina/Shutterstock

Fix your landscaping to keep a cooler home in summer

Another idea is to think from the outside in. In other words, plan your landscaping so that you have more shade around your home. Simply put, if the sun can’t hit your windows, it can’t warm your home as much.

Look at your home to see which windows let in the most natural sunlight. Then, see if there is a large tree or shrub you can put outside the window to obstruct the sunlight.

You’ll have to be careful with this idea, however. Trees planted too close to the home can disrupt the foundation as roots expand outward. You may want to consult with a professional landscaping service if you choose this option.

Cooler Home in Summer AC Unit

Upgrading to a more energy-efficient AC unit can help reduce cooling costs before those temperatures soar. Image: Krysten Brown/Shutterstock

Replace your AC unit

If your AC unit is old, replacing it can be a direct path to a cooler home during summer. Older or lower-quality AC units run less efficiently. According to the EPA, replacing an old air conditioner with a newer energy-efficient unit could save 20 to 40 percent on your home cooling costs.

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What’s more, many older units also use a coolant called Freon, R-22 or HCFC-22, which was banned in new HVAC systems in 2010, making basic repairs like a coolant change prohibitively expensive. So if it has been a while since you’ve had a unit installed, it might be a good idea to get it replaced before it lets you down on the hottest days of the summer. (You can read more here about finding the right AC unit.) Your new AC unit should last around 15 years. Contact your local HVAC dealer to find the right unit for your home.

And remember, when working toward a cooler home during summer, choose an option that works with your budget. Even simple weatherstripping around your most drafty window can help in the long run.

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

The post Spring Tasks to Keep Your Home Cooler During Summer appeared first on Freshome.com.

Exclusive! Chip Wade on Home Maintenance Tasks to Tackle Before Summer

 Chip Wade

Wade gave us a few tips to execute before summer. Image courtesy of Chip Wade

If you’ve ever watched Chip Wade on HGTV or the DIY Network, you know he’s pretty handy, both inside the house and outdoors. Wade, who is also the Owner and Lead Designer of Wade Works Creative and a Liberty Mutual consultant, specializes in helping homeowners create the perfect indoor and outdoor spaces.

As you can imagine, he’s busy, but Freshome asked him to stop and share a few tips on how to recover from winter and get your home and yard prepped for summer.

Service your air conditioner

You don’t want your A/C breaking down during the dog days of summer.

You don’t want your AC breaking down during the dog days of summer. Image: C5Media/Shutterstock

“I recommend checking out your air conditioning system in the spring to ensure it’s working properly before the weather really warms up,” Wade says. The first step is to change the system’s filter. “Clogged and dirty filters make air conditioning systems work harder, stay on longer and cost more to run.” Wade recommends changing heating and air filters every two to four months.

Changing filters regularly helps to keep your system running efficiently.

Changing filters regularly helps to keep your system running efficiently. Image: RF-2018/Shutterstock

After changing the filter, he recommends turning on the unit to see how it is working. “Give it a minute, but if the AC doesn’t start doing its job quickly, I’d recommend checking your fuses and circuit breakers,” Wade says. If that doesn’t make a difference, or you’re getting ghost readings, he recommends calling a professional to assess the situation.

Clean your windows and screens

Caulk and weatherstripping can keep your cool air inside.

Caulk and weatherstripping can keep your cool air inside. Image: 3DPhoto/Shutterstock.

Wade cleans his windows by filling a spray bottle with window cleaning solution and using a squeegee or some newspaper to clean the glass since this leaves it streak-free.

“It’s important to remember that everyone’s windows fare differently after the winter,” Wade says, advising homeowners to look for signs of dry rot. “If you live in a colder climate, look for any water damage caused by melting ice or snow.”

Caulk and weatherstripping keeps your cool air inside:

Caulk and weatherstripping can keep your cool air inside. Image: pics 721/Shutterstock

He also recommends checking the seals around the window. “Recaulk or replace damaged weather stripping where needed,” Wade says. “Those seals will work to keep the cool air inside and the hot air out all summer long.”

And don’t forget about your window screens. “Take time to clean them, inspect them, repair any damage and reinstall the screens in your windows.” Not sure how to repair damaged screens? Wade says you can find a repair kit at most hardware stores. “Also, the best way to wash your screens is by using a hose — not a pressure washer — and some mild detergent.”

Inspect outdoor plumbing

Check for leaks or blockages

Check for leaks or blockages. Image: VTT Studio/Shutterstock

Inspecting your outdoor plumbing is another maintenance task you should perform as the weather heats up. “Start by removing insulators from all outdoor faucets and then turn on the water,” Wade says. “If it isn’t flowing as it normally should, that likely means that there is an issue with your pipes and it’s time to call a plumber.”

If you have an in-ground irrigation system, he recommends calling a professional to tune up your system and ensure that it’s operating efficiently.

Get your yard ready

Inspect outdoor equipment for winter damage.

Inspect outdoor equipment for winter damage. Image: Mark Herried/Shutterstock

As the weather starts warming up, Wade also recommends getting your yard ready. “I like to do a full inspection of everything left outside during the winter, like playground equipment.” He says he’s looking for rust or areas that may be worn down by the weather, and starts troubleshooting from there.

 

 

Prep to enjoy the summer months.

Freshen up your outdoor furniture. Image: Zhu difeng/Shutterstock

After that, Wade says he’s onto the fun part. “I love bringing lawn and patio furniture out of storage and freshening them up.” He also sands and repaints if necessary. “Redesigning — or even redecorating — an outdoor space gets me excited because I’m thinking about all the time that will be spent there with friends and family.” Also, consider ways that you can erase the boundary between inside and outdoors.

Proactively maintain your home

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Image: kurhan/Shutterstock

If you stay on top of home upkeep, Wade says you can avoid future headaches. “In fact, a study from Liberty Mutual Insurance revealed 69 percent of consumers have procrastinated on home maintenance and repairs,” he says. And, unfortunately, many people don’t have money saved for maintenance issues or repair work.

“It’s all about routine maintenance, both inside and outside the home,” Wade explains. “This will save you time and money in the long run.”

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