(BPT) - Open floor plans, mini-mansions, micro homes - some home design styles and elements shift with the currents of consumer tastes. However, others stand the test of time because they’re enduringly useful. Attics or lofts, for example, are a staple of American home design, remaining in demand even as the way we use them has evolved.
In bygone eras, attics served largely as storage space - but those were the days before the growth of the self-storage industry. Modern homeowners can stash their stuff outside their home, opening up a range of other possible uses for their attics, from master suites, extra bedrooms or home office to workout rooms and craft centers.
Homeowners are as eager as ever to convert attics, and the trend isn’t limited to people buying older homes. Many builders are incorporating attics into new construction to please buyers who want the flexibility of finishing the space as they like later on. If you’re considering an attic conversion, here are a few pointers to keep in mind:
Light from above
Some attics are constructed with windows, others have none. Whether your attic has a small window or solid walls, skylights and roof windows are the go-to choice for bringing natural light and fresh air into an attic space. The direct access to the roof means it’s easy to add no-leak skylights like those made by Velux America. Energy Star-qualified, solar-powered, fresh-air skylights provide ample natural light, privacy (an advantage in bedrooms and bathrooms), and ventilation (also great for bathrooms and kitchens). Programmable remote controls make it simple to open and close fresh-air skylights, and to operate solar-powered blinds that allow you to decide just how much or how little light enters the room.
Skylights are a great aesthetic fit for attics too, and can help large or small attic spaces feel brighter and bigger. JoAnne Haynes, project designer for the O’More College of Design Alumni Show House, utilized skylights for the attic conversion on that project and says that it was an amazing transformation. “It went from a dark, black, unusable space to a wonderful, well-lit multi-purpose room.”
Adding skylights to your attic conversion is a cost effective way to upgrade both the appearance and functionality of the space. The latest solar-powered models, which close automatically in case of rain, along with solar-powered blinds, are eligible for a 30 percent federal tax credit on the products and installation costs. To learn more, visit www.whyskylights.com.
Bedrooms and bathrooms are things of beauty
With more families housing multiple generations under the same roof, additional bedrooms and bathrooms are popular objectives of attic conversions. Homeowners with very large attics can convert the space into a dream master suite, complete with a spacious bedroom and full bathroom. If your home already has a great master, or if your attic space is more modest, you can still convert even a small attic into an extra bedroom or a half bath.
According to Remodeling Magazine’s Cost vs. Value Report, a master suite addition recoups more than 64 percent of its cost when you resell the home. A bathroom addition returns more than 56 percent of your investment.
Homeowners are getting inspired about attics
While extra bedrooms and bathrooms are a great way to use attic space, they’re by no means the only ones! If you have all the bedrooms and baths you need, you can still benefit from an attic conversion to increase your home’s functional living space. Whether you’re adding a family room, workout space, home theater or craft room, that unused space in your attic is the perfect way to create a specialty space without giving up any other room in the house.
Your decorating options are as unlimited as your imagination, too. Some homeowners choose to take advantage of an attic’s naturally rustic look, and leave ceiling beams exposed. Others work within the limitations of a low-ceiling attic to create cozy, right-sized playrooms or bedrooms for kids. Still others put a creative twist on the attic’s original function - storage - to move their wardrobes out of their master suites, allowing them to reclaim walk-in closet space for other uses.
Americans have been finding value in attics for generations. If your attic is currently serving as storage space, it may be time to clean it out - and start envisioning the many ways you can brighten and freshen up the space to work better for your family and lifestyle.
(BPT) - The cars of today aren’t quite your father’s car. While that’s not a surprise given the rise in new technology for the automotive sector, what some homeowners may find surprising is the level of technology with items in the garage next to the car - like the lawn equipment. Here are three unique ways today’s lawn equipment is featuring automotive-like technology.
While Bluetooth technology has become more of a standard on new cars, it is actually a unique feature on lawn equipment. With the Cub Connect mobile app, owners can connect their smartphone with certain lawn mowers, garden tractors and zero turn riders via Bluetooth. It takes the guesswork out of maintenance by allowing the lawn tractor to alert its owner about needed oil changes, blade maintenance, air filter replacements and other routine maintenance.
“With so many apps available for things homeowners don’t use, this app can actually help them keep track of maintenance for an important piece of equipment,” says Jason Cameron, home expert and TV host.
Electronic Fuel-Injected Engines
Electronic Fuel-Injected Engines - or EFI engines - were popularized in the automotive sector in 1980s. However, no one had been able to engineer the same type of technology in residential lawn tractors until this year. For the first time ever, fuel-injected engines are now available on XT2 LX42 Cub Cadet lawn tractors. The new engine technology reduces emissions and delivers excellent fuel consumption - using up to 25 percent less fuel than carbureted engines that are standard on other lawn tractors.
“According to a recent study, lower fuel consumption is a top benefit to residential lawn mower customers,” Cameron says. “And they have a willingness to pay for fuel-injection technology - more than half surveyed were likely to purchase a riding mower with a fuel-injected engine.”
Another advantage of the engine technology is that riding mowers with these engines feature a one-step start, making it easier to start in all weather conditions. The push-button start mirrors the features in many cars.
Hybrid and electric cars have carved a place in the automotive world, but there is now an equivalent to that eco-friendly technology for lawn care. The RZT-S Zero is the world’s only electric zero-turn rider with steering wheel control and four-wheel steering. It requires zero gasoline, zero oil, zero oil filters and provides zero emissions and zero engine noise, making it one of the most environmentally friendly lawn mowers on the market today. It operates on battery power, which provides up to 60 minutes of continuous mowing on an overnight charge.
For handheld lawn equipment, there’s a new technology available that also provides zero emissions. Cub Cadet powered by CORE uses a sophisticated motor technology to deliver more torque with longer runtimes and no gasoline. It’s the same type of technology used in wind turbines and even submarines. In addition to providing zero emissions, it offers reduced noise and high torque levels equal to two-cycle engines most common in garages. This technology is available in string trimmer, hedger and leaf blower options.
With features like Bluetooth, push-button starting, fuel-injected engines and zero emissions, cars aren’t the only products showcasing innovation. The next generation of lawn equipment is designed to help homeowners create their ideal outdoor spaces by incorporating efficient new technology. More information about these automotive-like features is available at www.CubCadet.com.
(BPT) - Being a small-business owner or home-based professional is hard work. Long hours may come with big rewards, but maintaining a clean and well-organized office might just be one of the many sacrifices. Do you think the mess doesn't matter when it comes to the bottom line? The reality might surprise you.
Productivity and workplace cleanliness are directly related, meaning dust and grime is more than just an eyesore. A clean office produced a 5 percent productivity gain, according to a study conducted by HLW International LLP. What's more, employee morale and engagement improve when an office is organized and clean, which in turn means higher productivity.
Piles of paper here, folders scattered there and lots of clutter everywhere - the effects of a messy workplace go even further. When office spaces are dirty, germs and viruses spread easily. In particular, touchpoints such as doors, handles, phones, etc. can be a transfer point. When you or one of your team members becomes sick, it can halt productivity for the entire business.
To keep your office clean and productivity pumping, consider these five smart tips and tricks:
1. Stock your cleaning arsenal.
When you have the right cleaning supplies and tools on hand, it's easier to adopt and stick with a cleaning routine. Some essentials include paper towels, all-purpose spray cleaners, dusters and air deodorizers. Fortunately, you can get everything you need to maintain a clean and tidy office at Staples. Visit www.staples.com to place an order - you can even pick up breakroom essentials like coffee, along with clever office organizational supplies.
2. Wipe once weekly.
Place a bottle of disinfectant wipes at each person's desk and encourage everyone to wipe weekly. Not only will this prevent dust and food grime from building up, it will also help eliminate germs to keep everyone healthy. Make sure to focus on the phone, keyboard, desk surface and door handle to your office. If your space has a breakroom, wiping it down regularly is equally important.
3. Plan a purge day.
Particularly appropriate during spring cleaning season, planning a purge day is a great way to eliminate clutter and inspire organization. Whether you're a one-man-shop or have a small team of dedicated employees, set aside a few hours on a particular day to recycle old paperwork, donate dated office supplies and toss broken desk gadgets.
4. Rearrange the workspace.
After the clutter is gone, it's time to organize. Rethink your file system and use color coding to your advantage. Use storage options to streamline desk space. Invest in ergonomic office supplies to help keep your workforce healthy. Digitize what you can to eliminate excess paperwork.
5. Organize the digital workspace.
Technology is another big consideration when it comes time to clean. Dated files, legacy software and hidden computer viruses can cause digital chaos that cuts productivity quickly. Clean up your technology systems by deleting unnecessary files and software. Buy a backup drive and cloud storage as necessary.
(BPT) - Nearly one in six of all U.S. children and adolescents are obese, according to the U.S. Center for Disease Control. And with some struggling schools forgoing traditional physical education classes, health experts view this issue as a growing concern. The regular physical activity encouraged in PE classes not only helps build and maintain healthy bones and muscle, it has also been shown to improve students’ academic performance.
“Research shows that school is one of the first places where kids establish health habits,” says Jen Ohlson, co-founder of Interactive Health Technologies LLC (IHT), a company pioneering customized P.E. curricula through the use of heart rate monitoring. “As a solution, many health advocates are turning to physical education to positively impact adolescents’ overall health. With the right tools and resources available in school that can extend to home, teachers and parents alike can reach students on an individual level, helping them achieve their own fitness goals.”
Ohlson offers her top five tips for teachers, parents and caregivers looking to help their kids get more active:
1. Set measurable short term goals.
Motivation is all about goal setting. Teaching your kids or students to evaluate their habits and make changes that will improve their well being helps them learn the importance of living a healthy lifestyle. Setting goals can be a fun project that teachers, parents and students can work on collaboratively, just be sure the goals are measurable, timely and realistically achievable.
2. Use technology to help them understand.
“Research shows kids in the U.S. are spending more than 7.5 hours a day using technology. Alarming as it may sound, we see leveraging technology as an opportunity to help kids get and stay active,” Ohlson says. “Having worked with adidas to develop adidas ZONE for IHT Spirit, the first wrist-based heart rate monitoring device built specifically for PE, we’re using wearable technology to motivate students to work out to their own individual potential. Harnessing the power of heart rate zone training, these young athletes can reach their goals by running around, jumping, dancing, really any activity that raises their heart rate, no longer needing to race against their classmates or shoot a certain number of baskets.”
3. Make sure they know the “why” and “how.”
For students to excel athletically, they need to understand the “how,” “why” and “feel” behind the skill in their activity. If a child gets involved in a sport simply because their parents pushed them to, they likely won’t be motivated to improve or continue playing. It’s important to help your kids find activities that boost their self-esteem.
4. Be a model for active behaviors.
Show your kids how important staying active is by setting a good example. Younger children tend to follow the lead of their parents, so make sure you’re looking after your own health. Make the physical health of your entire family a priority.
5. Get involved in group activities.
Kids are more likely to be motivated when they receive support from a group of peers. Whether it’s a sports or dance team, running club or an active play date, encourage your kids to get out and be active with their friends.
While rising obesity rates and dwindling physical education classes continue to be a concern, the right approach and resources can help teachers and parents take matters into their own hands. Tools like the IHT Spirit System are certainly a big step forward, and following these tips can also play a part in helping every child get their health on track. For more information and resources visit ihtusa.com/zone.
(NewsUSA) - Sponsored News - Homeowners across the country are out enjoying sunshine and fresh air while prepping their homes for the warmer seasons. While home improvements on the honey-do list may seem endless, one important task that shouldn’t be ignored is checking for termite activity.
Moisture-damaged homes, regardless of make, model or age, are susceptible to termite infestations. Termites are capable of chewing through wood, flooring and wallpaper undetected. These “silent destroyers” can’t be eradicated with do-it-yourself measures, and cause more than $5 billion in property damage annually, costs not typically covered by homeowners insurance.
How to Identify Termites
Termite-spotting likely occurs in spring as they build new colonies for mating and nourishment. As colonies mature, winged termites appear around lights of windows and doors. After mating, termites create nearby colonies, spreading the infestation and disappearing into structures.
While homeowners may see termites, they can mistake them for flying ants. Termites have distinct body types characterized by straight waists, straight antennae and two sets of wings equal in size. Misidentifying termites could delay treatment and cause structural property damage.
Homeowners should be on the lookout for mud tubes on the base of their house, soft wood that sounds hollow when tapped, darkening or blistering of wood structures, small feces piles resembling sawdust near a termite nest and discarded wings near doors or on windowsills.
If your home is currently termite-free, you should still take preventative steps to avoid becoming a termite magnet in the future.
Most importantly, eliminate or reduce moisture in and around the home, which termites need to thrive. Below are things you can do to help prevent infestations in your home:
Divert water away from the foundation by installing properly functioning downspouts, gutters and splash blocks.
Reduce humidity in crawl spaces with proper ventilation.
Trim vines, hedges and other vegetation so they don’t block vents.
Remove old form boards, grade stakes, tree trunks and roots nearby.
Maintain 18 inches between soil and any wood portions of your home.
Store firewood at least 20 feet away from the house and 5 inches off the ground.
Routinely inspect your home’s foundation for signs of termite damage.
If You Think You Have a Problem
To rid your home of termites, contact a termite pest control specialist to address the infestation and recommend a proper solution. Please visit www.pestworld.org to find your area's licensed pest professionals.
The Golden State Manufactured Home Owners League (GSMOL) 2016 Convention will be held at the Ramada Inn in West Sacramento on April 8th, 9th and 10th.
The statewide organization is a non-profit benevolent group for mobile home owners. Through a system of chapters in California, it is able to educate owners on their civil rights and responsibilities relative to living in a mobile home park.
During the convention, members will hold breakout sessions, panel discussion groups, and attend an Awards Banquet Saturday evening. Sessions include subjects concerning mobile home ownership, real estate sales and marketing, earthquake, and flood insurance, disaster preparedness, and evacuation planning.
Attorneys will present programs based on legal issues. Keynote speaker for the Banquet will be Senator Joe Dunn, former head of the Senate Select Committee on Manufactured Homes.
Mobile homes offer low-income seniors one of the last opportunities to live independently as the cost of other types of housing continues to escalate in California. They have the opportunity to have yards and gardens and to live in single unattached housing instead of small low cost apartments which may not coincide with their older years.
GSMOL champions the property rights of homeowners and is an advocate for the members throughout California. GSMOL lobbies the legislature for fair and just protection under the law so owners can experience the quiet peaceful enjoyment of their mobile home communities. It strives to educate homeowners on their legal rights as renters of their mobile home spaces. GSMOL proposes legislation for the benefit of mobile home owners and attempts to defeat legislation that would diminish the health and lifestyle of park residents.
The GSMOL corporate office is located in southern California, however there are hundreds of chapters located in northern California, on the coast, in the Sacramento area, in the Central Valley and in the foothills.
Basic schedule is Friday April 8th from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m., Saturday April 9th from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m., and Sunday April 10th from 8 a.m. to 12 p.m. For a detailed schedule and more information visit www.gsmol.org/convention/ or visit the Ramada Hotel at 1250 Halyard Drive, West Sacramento, Cailf., or call the hotel at (916) 371-2100.
(BPT) - Spring is here! This season of new beginnings also marks the start of the year’s busiest real estate period. According to the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation, the housing market in 2016 is set to be quite active with a 3 percent increase in total home sales compared to the previous year. If you’re planning to enter the housing market this year, buying or selling a home is a big decision and you can count on plenty of competition. To ensure you make the correct home buying or selling decisions, it’s important to do your research and arm yourself with valuable information.
“Selling or purchasing a home is one of the biggest and most important transactions many consumers will make in their lifetime,” says Tim Haynes, president of American Home Shield (AHS). “It’s important for everyone involved to make smart decisions that will help a home stand out in a competitive real estate market, and at the same time, protect against costly breakdowns.”
For both home buyers and sellers, AHS recommends preparing for what will happen vs. what might happen. A home warranty not only helps protect a home's systems while it’s on the market, but also helps provide buyers with additional confidence in their purchase. For an already financially stretched homebuyer, it’s important to know that a home warranty covers what homeowners insurance doesn’t – the repair/replacement of home system appliances.
To help you make the most of the spring home season American Home Shield offers these tips.
Sellers: improve curb appeal. First impressions matter. Take your home’s exterior from drab to fab. Trim shrubs, mow the lawn and remove all dirt/debris from around the outside. Make sure the house numbers, mailbox and lighting fixtures near the front door look inviting. Add plants and comfy furniture to the porch for a welcoming touch.
Sellers: optimize the space. Add the illusion of extra square footage by using the same paint in a lighter shade across rooms to create a seamless transition. Remove family photos and any customized decorations so the buyer can picture living in the home. Be sure to keep the master bedroom gender neutral. Lastly, have a professional cleaner shine the home, especially often-neglected areas like carpets, ceiling fans and baseboards to make a bigger impact.
Buyers: do your homework. Narrow your home search to particular areas and neighborhoods that appeal to you with regard to housing prices, school districts and work commuting times. Determine your budget and stick to it. Familiarize yourself with the real estate market and your rights as a homebuyer. Know your credit score and take steps to improve it, if necessary.
Buyers: ask the right questions. Don’t be afraid to directly ask the seller “what’s wrong with the house?” Ask to see disclosure forms around any issues with the house and check the age/condition of major home systems, like heating, plumbing, electrical and air conditioning — this can cut your costs in the long run. Additionally, an independent professional home inspection is highly recommended. This is an investment that can pay for itself many times over, especially if hidden defects are found.
American Home Shield is the nation’s largest home warranty company, servicing homes for over 45 years offers tips to arm and has a trustworthy network of over 3,000 contractors. For more information and helpful home buying and selling tips from American Home Shield, visit www.ahs.com or the Home Matters Blog and YouTube Channel, which have hundreds of maintenance tips, videos and content for homeowners to help protect homes from the inside out.