Four Things to Do for Your Home During the Dog Days of Summer

The dog days of summer are officially here (July 3 – August 11, according to Farmers Almanac.) The phrase calls to mind hot, lazy days marked by lethargy and inactivity and it has nothing to do with Fido. Rather, the “dog days” were so named by the ancient Greeks to denote the period during which they perceived that the dog star, Sirius, rose just before the sun, signaling the hottest time of the year and a season rife for them with fever, war, and other calamities

Don’t let these few weeks spell disaster for you and your home like they did for the ancients. Here are four tips for using the warmth and relatively slower pace to your, and your home’s, advantage:

(1) Do Stuff That Needs to Dry. If you need painting or concrete work done, contract for it now. Good contractors’ calendars are getting full and, once the first frost hits, it’s hard, and sometimes impossible, to get the new material to dry and set effectively.

(2) Do Stuff You Don’t Want to Be Around For. Some projects are just plain disruptive. Examples include sanding and finishing hardwood floors, kitchen and bath remodels, roofing, window replacement, and additions. At best, you’ll be inconvenienced for a short time; at worst, you’ll have loads of dust and debris, heavy worker traffic for days, noise, and loss of privacy. Hire dependable contractors and let them come in while you’re away on summer vacation anyway. You can check in periodically via phone or send a neighbor but, when you come home, you’ll have a beautiful new space to enjoy without having to live through the hassle of making it that way. For the larger projects (additions, major remodels), it is not too early to start planning for next summer. Finding the right contractor, getting plans made and approved, and setting up a work schedule can take months.

(3) Do Stuff You Should See Coming. Good luck trying to find an HVAC contractor to replace the furnace that dies on a cold and snowy Christmas Eve. They’re busy with A/C work now, but you have the luxury of time to schedule work on a heater anytime in the next several weeks before the weather turns. If your system is more than 10 years old, have a reliable contractor assess its likely remaining lifespan and order a new one installed before frigid weather makes everything difficult. Similarly, if your roof is 15 years or older, or you are seeing soft spots or experiencing leaks, consider repair and replacement now, well in advance of heavy ice and snow that could turn things from bad to worse.

(4) Do Stuff the Kids Can Help With. Of course we’d love to refer you to contractors for any little thing, but honestly you can save a good deal of money DIYing it. Why not use that free labor you’ll have around until school starts in the fall? Have Junior help with pruning, mulching, painting, minor repairs, and any other small thing you’ve been meaning to get to but just haven’t yet. You gave them life; the least they can do in return is caulk your tub.

Wise homeowners use down time to get ahead. Be one.

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Home Design for Four Personality Opposites

Home should be where you feel the most like you. Therefore, design your space around your personality to be sure it offers the comfort and refuge you need. Here are some ideas for four opposite “types”:


If you’re an extrovert, you draw energy from being around people. Introverts, on the other hand, need time alone to recharge after social activities. If you’re the former, be sure you have plenty of gathering space in your home, complete with a wide open floor plan and comfy seating. If you’re introverted, you may want to buck the open floor plan in favor of cozier interior spaces, create a reading corner, or make sure you have your own “office”, “man cave”, “craft room” or other space to get away from it all.


If you like things spare, pick kitchen cabinetry with clean and straight lines; consider modern furniture with little ornamentation or decorative detail; and create a clean palette with neutral tones on walls and furniture then let your accessories bring in the occasional “pop” of color or whimsy. If your taste is more baroque (that is, elaborate and decorative), go with curved inset panels in the cabinetry, brighter colors or patterns on larger pieces, and lots of accessories.


If you are a “place for everything and everything in its place” type, consider closet systems, built-in shelving, and a floor in the attic for extra storage. If you don’t care about keeping things tidy, just implement enough of an organizing system to allow you to find things when you need them.  Put a few simple systems in place to catch things you “throw” as you pass through: a basket near the door for keys, an easy-to -access clothes hamper (no lid, and not behind a door, or you’ll opt for the floor), and hooks rather than towel bars in the bathroom (because you won’t take time to fold the towel anyway.) If you are a “messy” who wants to move more toward “organized”, let us know. We have fabulous professionals for that.


If you aren’t a fan of mosquitos, sunburns, and windblown hair (guess which one I am), spend your remodeling and decorating dollars more inside than out. I’m not suggesting you let the lawn go or forego a deck. Just don’t worry about building a stone patio, waterfall, and fire pit. If, on the other hand, you somehow like all that nature, plant and pave to your heart’s content. You may also want to “bring the outdoors in” with large windows or glass doors, a sunroom, and floral or nature-inspired art and accessories.

Wise homeowners design spaces they can be themselves in. Now, go forth and dwell comfortably.

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Aging In Place: Your Home Has Special Needs Too

You’ll face a different set of challenges renovating a decades-old home. Here are some key considerations we first pointed out a couple of years ago, and they bear repeating:

With seniors enjoying longer and healthier lives, many can stay in the homes they’ve loved for years with only a few simple modifications to increase comfort or accessibility.

Those renovations, however, require some special considerations not present when improving newer homes. Here’s a short list of older home issues to be aware of before you renovate:

(1) Lead Paint: Lead exposure can lead to behavior, learning and growth problems in children (protect the grandkids!) and cardiovascular, kidney and reproductive problems in adults. The EPA estimates that lead paint is present in 87% of homes built before 1940, 69% of those built between 1940 and 1959, and 24% of those built between 1960 and 1977. Often, it is lurking under layers of newer paint but can release toxic material into the air when disturbed by sanding or other renovations. Federal law requires contractors who disturb painted surfaces in homes built prior to 1978 to be EPA-certified and follow specified practices to prevent lead contamination.

(2) County Code Changes: Building codes change frequently and, if you engage in new construction, you’ll have to meet the new requirements. So, don’t assume that, because your house already has a screened porch, you can simply replace it with a new one. Recently-passed setback regulations may prohibit building in the same dimensions as before. Check the code before you swing your first hammer!

(3) Asbestos: Asbestos floor and ceiling tiles were manufactured until the 1980s. They pose a danger only if they are no longer whole and intact because their fibers, shown to lead to mesothelioma in some cases when breathed, are otherwise bound inside the tile.

(4) Sewer lines: From the 1950s to the 1970s, wood pulp sewer piping was used extensively. Yup. That’s right. Cardboard sewer pipes! They seemed to last pretty well for about 50 years but, with advanced age, came susceptibility to breakage, deformity and root intrusion. Be aware of the signs of sewer line breakdown: foul odor or backup from the lowest drain in the home and/or slow-flushing toilets.

(5) Windows/Doors/Insulation: It may be true that older homes are, generally, built more solidly than some newer construction, but when it comes to energy-efficiency, the old properties can’t compete. Windows, doors and insulating materials have improved significantly in the past several decades. You owe it to yourself, your home and your wallet to investigate replacement of these items for long-term energy and utility bill savings.

Finally, you’re not in this alone! Work only with licensed, experienced contractors. They’ll have the proper knowledge and certifications to make sure your older home remains a safe place to stay through the golden years.

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Happy Mom/Happy Home: Mother’s Day Ideas

Mother’s Day is just around the corner – Sunday, May 14. Do you know what you’re going to do to make Mom feel special? Are you a mom looking to give the family a few ideas?

It may be 2017, but Mom is still overwhelmingly the family member chiefly concerned with keeping the house in order and well appointed. Here are four relatively simple, high impact projects to relieve some of that burden:

  1. Spruce Up the Problem Areas. We all have them. That room/closet/drawer that is completely unorganized or stuffed full. Start by taking everything out, sorting it into Keep/Give/Trash piles, then putting it back accordingly. If bins or other storage containers are required, pick some up at your favorite home improvement box store. If you don’t know where to start, give Mom the gift of a few hours with a professional organizer (we know the best), then help her implement follow through on the organizer’s tips.
  1. Plant Flowers. Here’s a twist on a Mother’s Day tradition: instead of buying a bunch of roses that will be dead and gone in a few days, plant some flowers in the yard that will bloom all summer. There are lots of perennials and annuals to choose from at most garden stores right now. If you don’t have time, hire a good landscaper to swoop in and take care of it for you (we know the best.)
  1. Clean it Up. As noted above, chances are Mom is more stressed by a dirty house than others in the family. If you don’t already have a cleaning service, bring one in to do a deep clean that will keep Mom smiling for days. Better yet, hire a service (we know the best) for regular cleanings weekly or bi-weekly, freeing up Mom’s time for more pleasant or profitable pursuits.
  1. Freshen The Walls. If it’s been a while since you painted, scuff marks, handprints, and other imperfections have likely crept up on you and you’ve not noticed because you look at the same walls every day. Maybe it’s the baseboards and trim that are looking shabby. Really examine your high traffic rooms and hallways and pick the worst to cover with a fresh coat of paint. Be sure you prep properly. If you don’t want to be bothered, hire it done. Good painters can be in and out in no time (we know the best).

Wise homeowners take care of the mom who takes care of them. Now go forth and  show Mom you appreciate her!

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Four Deck Maintenance Tips

Spring is here, and summer is just around the corner. Time to get that wood deck ready for family fun and entertaining. Here are four tips to do it right:

(1) Safety First. Before you do anything else, pound in those popped nails, replace splintered boards, and repair any unstable, rotted, or split railings, steps, or supports. Nothing ruins a summer barbecue faster than the entire party falling to the yard below when the deck gives way.

(2) Clean It Up. Experts recommend cleaning just before staining and sealing (see (3) below) and, otherwise, only when there is visible grime, mold, or mildew. Avoid cleaning too often, wire brushes, chlorine bleach, and cleaning products as they all can damage the wood. Opt for a power washer using plain water on the lowest possible effective setting. Too much water pressure can damage wood too.

(3) Stain and Seal. Every two or three years, follow up the deck cleaning with a good stain and seal. You can save yourself a step by using a combination stain/seal product that does both in one brush stroke. Don’t sand unless absolutely necessary as you’ll remove the top layer of color and need to apply three coats of finish where one refresher coat would have done just fine.

(4) Ongoing Maintenance. Periodically, and at least at the end of each season, rearrange your furniture, rugs, potted plants, and other items to allow dampness trapped underneath to dry out and avoid mildew and mold. Similarly, in the fall, remove leaves that accumulate on the deck.

Deck maintenance isn’t difficult to DIY, but it will consume the better part of your valuable weekend. There are licensed professionals who can swoop in and take care of it for you. We know the best!

Wise homeowners extend the life of their deck with regular maintenance. Now, go forth and dwell al fresco!

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