Seven Home Improvement Projects It Pays Not to Postpone
You may think you have all the time in the world to make repairs to your home, but your property has other ideas.
After my wife and I bought our first house five years ago, we began building a subconscious triage list of issues and potential repairs and started addressing them as best we could. We honestly thought that portions of our house and surrounding property would sit around in suspended animation as we dithered with garden beds, insulation, and myriad other projects that now seem incidental at best.
During the next five years, we’d learn the merits of preemptive planning. When a wind storm felled a 110-year-old pignut hickory tree, we became quickly acquainted with arborists, preventative maintenance, and tools like pruning poles and wood chippers. When a a firewood rack nearly fell through our front porch, we learned the value of selecting the right wood and framing for the job. When our water pump seized not once, but three times, we learned that asking for a professional opinion during a small job (like winterization) is better than asking for it before a big job (like a complete pump replacement).
The biggest takeaway from all of these misadventures is that it isn’t just cheaper to address small problems before they become big ones, it’s often inexpensive to address small problems period. I looked back on my own checklist and came up with a few projects where the bill was not only lower than I thought it would’ve been, but low enough to make me wish I’d called someone in sooner.
When we first moved to our house, we inherited two legacy trees. One was a 110-year-old pignut hickory and the other was a 125-year-old black walnut. When a windstorm took down the first, we avoided a nearly $900 removal fee, but spent days with chainsaws, hacksaws, a wood chipper and a log splitter cutting apart a gnarled, knotted, dense mass of a tree.
My father-in-law had much of the equipment that we didn’t, but rental charges would’ve brought us to at least half the removal price. We did have to spring for a $230 excavator rental to get rid of the stump, but sprung for $200 tree pruning for the remaining black walnut tree in the years that followed. With each tree right near our garage, and the hickory fortunate enough to fall away from that building, we likely should have addressed pruning far earlier than we did.
We have a two-story home that dates back to the early 1850s, which means it has an extremely steep roof on its second story and questionable roofs over some of its entrances. I can get the lower gutters and about 20% of the high gutters fairly easily. It’s the 80% of those highest gutters that have irked me for years.
As the folks at HomeAdvisor point out, the average cost of gutter cleaning nationwide is $150, but that can range from $70 for a smaller job to $335 for a mansion-sized property. Ours was slightly less than the average, but well worth it after a series of unusually snowy and icy Oregon winters threatened to pull gutters clean off of the house.
We have a gravel driveway that wasn’t in peak condition when we arrived and was replete with ruts and pits before we finally addressed it. Installing a new driveway would’ve cost us thousands, but repairing a gravel driveway costs roughly $40 a ton for 3/4-inch minus — thick gravel with loose fill that settles into gaps left by potholes.
Combined with the $60 rental of a plate compactor, the entire job will cost us less than $400, which is significantly less than the nearly $1,500 cost of having it completely redone. An asphalt driveway, meanwhile, costs about $2 to 2.50 per square foot to repair but $3 to $4 per square foot to replace.
If your house uses well water or you have an irrigation system that runs on well water, it helps to have a float and cutoff switch installed for the months when the well gets low. It also pays to blow out your lines and winterize your pump before things get too cold.
Before we learned any of this, we overheated two well pumps and had a third crack after its remaining water froze. Each replacement was roughly $250 apiece, while winterization cost nothing (just removing bolts and draining the pump) and the float and switch installation cost roughly $180.
As soon as we were told that we were moving into a house with a septic tank, we made plans to have it emptied. We didn’t mind the previous owners leaving behind items like curtains, furniture, and appliances, but having their remnants in our septic tank just made me uneasy. We had a crew come in during the spring and empty it for about $275. While that isn’t insignificant, it’s a cost you incur every 10 years and is far less than the $1,551 average cost of repairing a septic system that’s been pushed beyond its limits.
In our house’s more than 150 years of existence, insulation seems to have been a nominal concern. There was some old yellow batting in the floor of the attic, but not much beyond that. The first winter’s natural gas bills for heat were substantial, with even the 12-month flat rate exceeding $190 a month.
We have laurel bushes and invasive blackberry ringing our property, but the laurel bushes on one side of the house had grown halfway across the yard. We realized in other parts of the yard and in our garden that, if left unchecked, hedges and blackberry would simply consume everything in their path. That said, these laurel bushes and blackberry were about to consume and outbuilding an reach their way toward the house.
We called in a landscaping crew and, $500 later, we had reclaimed much of the yard and given the goats a bunch of laurel and blackberry to munch on. If the previous owners had simply pruned a bit each year, however, that same hedge could’ve been either pruned by professionals for far less or trimmed by the owners for free.
The Department of Energy has updated its testing and labeling standards for residential water heaters, replacing Energy Factor (EF) with a new metric called the Uniform Energy Factor (UEF).
Manufacturers say there's nothing different about their water heaters, only the way the government requires performance data to be collected and reported. Consumers shopping for a hot water heater by using the familiar yellow Energy Guides will see more detailed information than in the past.
Rheem Manufacturing said in a fact sheet that the new standard more accurately reflects real world use and should help consumers make "applies-to-apples" comparisons of different brands. The new rules took effect in June 2017, but manufacturers are still working with code officials and consumers to explain what they mean.
Development of the UEF was prompted by a 2012 law passed by Congress requiring the Department of Energy (DOE) to either revise the old EF metric or create a new one. The department decided to develop a completely new standard and test procedures that all manufacturers must follow, Rheem said.
Rheem suggested that part of the problem with the EF protocol was that manufacturers were interpreting it differently, a potentially confusing situation for consumers.
"Due to inconsistent, unreliable interpretations of High Efficiency (EF) ratings across national brands, all water heating manufacturers are now required to comply with the new DOE testing procedures and rating standards," the company's explainer said.
A.O. Smith explained in its own fact sheet that water heaters are now placed in one of four "bins," based on anticipated hot water usage. The bins are "very small" (10 gallons of daily hot water use); "low" (38 gallons); "medium" (55 gallons); and "high" (84 gallons). Based on the first-hour delivery, a water heater gets a UEF within its bin, with higher UEFs representing greater energy efficiency and lower operating costs.
First-hour ratings, rather than nominal hot water capacity, are key. Bradford White said in an online statement that testing protocols for first-hour hot water delivery have been revamped, resulting in new values for the same appliances.
A.O. Smith cautioned that only UEFs within the same bin should be compared. A "high" bin water heater with a UEF of 0.95, for example, will not have the same efficiency as a "low" bin water heater with an identical UEF.
Shopping by the Energy Guide label
Consumers shopping in a local big box store for a water heater will continue to see the yellow "Energy Guide" labels that list some of the performance specs, like the sample label for a tankless heater shown at the top of this column.
Revised energy labels include several pieces of information:
Storage capacity. For tank style water heaters, storage capacity shows the exact amount of hot water the tank will hold, not just a nominal capacity. Tankless water heaters list gallons per minute.
First hour rating: This is the amount of hot water a consumer can expect to get in the first hour, starting with a full tank of hot water. Results are organized by bin.
The most prominent number is the "Estimated Yearly Energy Cost." Like the old labels, this one shows a range of energy costs among similar models and an estimate of how much the consumer will spend for hot water with this particular appliance.
What's missing? The UEF. Nowhere on the label is the numerical value the new testing protocol should produce.
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC), which administers rules about the label, didn't answer an emailed question about why the UEF is missing, and referred questions to the Department of Energy. The DOE didn't reply to a request for more information.
However, Joshua Greene, vice president for government and industry affairs at A.O. Smith, said by telephone that during the rule-making process, the industry recommended that the UEF be included on Energy Guide labels. The FTC decided against it.
"We as an industry collectively recommended to the FTC that the applicable UEF number for that particular water heater be part of the yellow guide label," he said. "The rationale the FTC gave back to us as to why they were not going to take that recommendation is that that would be one step more than a consumer would have to figure out, and not truly having the intuitive understanding to go through what the UEF really means.
"They felt the more pertinent information was the annualized cost of that water heater to them as a consumer," he continued, "that in the end that was more tangible, more understandable rather than shopping by UEF number and bin."
Greene added the issue would be revisited with the FTC in 2019, when manufacturers get another crack at convincing officials to add the UEF to labeling. He also said the industry had tried to convince DOE to write a primer about the UEF for consumers but so far had not been successful. "We're not there yet," he said.
You can still get the UEF
Shoppers who want to compare similarly sized models by UEF can still do so. One source of information are the manufacturers' own web pages. A.O. Smith, Rheem, and Bradford White, for example, all list the UEF on product descriptions posted at their websites.
Or, Greene said, consumers can call customer support numbers for any manufacturer and ask for the UEF from the product's spec sheet.
More detailed information is available by checking a published list of minimum UEF standards for water heaters of various types.
Buyers who don't want to wade into the details can always use an interactive product selector, like the one A.O. Smith offers at Hotwater.com or the less detailed selector from Rheem.
The new test procedures got a mixed reaction from the Appliance Standards Awareness Project (ASAP) when they were announced in 2014.
In a blog posted by the American Council for an Energy-Efficiency Economy, then senior analyst Anthony Fryer said the new procedures were designed to measure energy consumption more accurately for newer types of water heaters, such as tankless, heat pump, and condensing gas water heaters. That was the good news.
But Fryer was critical of the decision not to test heat-pump water heaters (HPWH) at low ambient temperatures, when the devices fall back on built-in electric-resistance elements. Those elements use three times as much energy as the heat pump.
"Because of this sensitivity to low ambient temperature, performance can vary depending on where in the house the unit is installed and what region of the country the house is located in," he wrote. "This means that a unit installed in an unconditioned basement in northern Minnesota is likely to perform very differently from one installed in a garage in Florida."
Heat pump compressors on some models shut down at temperatures as high as 57°F while others continue to operate at 30°F, he said. Rather than factor that into the test protocol, DOE decided to test the water heaters at an ambient temperature of between 66.5 and 68.5°F.
"New water heating technologies offer enormous energy savings potential, and the new DOE test procedure goes part of the way to ensure that all water heaters are tested fairly and accurately," he said. "We hope and expect that it will not be long before DOE revises its test method again to better reflect how HPWHs perform in colder temperatures."
Asked whether those concerns remain true today, Chris Granda of the ASAP said by email:
"Testing HPWH at 70 degrees F ambient can result in significantly lower annual electricity consumption than testing at more realistic ambient temperatures because at the higher ambient temperatures HPWH tend to use less resistance heating. That said, HPWH technology continues to evolve and we haven’t reevaluated the current crop of products to see whether the low-temperature cut-out concern is still relevant. In short, ASAP still has this concern, but it requires more study and at the moment there isn’t a water heater rulemaking that we could use to encourage DOE to change the test procedure anyway."
How to Save Money on Your Electricity and Water Bills
While you want to be comfortable in your home, it’s possible to achieve this goal while also saving money. Making small adjustments that you will barely notice can result in significant savings. Keep reading to discover ways to save money on your electricity and water bills.
Stop using your toilet as a wastebasket. “Every time you flush a facial tissue or other small bits of trash, five to seven gallons of water is wasted,” according to Doyle James, president of Mr. Rooter Plumbing.
James also recommends that you refrain from using your garbage disposal so frequently. “In-sink ‘garburators’ require lots of water to operate properly,” he explains. “Start a compost pile as an alternate method of disposing of food waste.”
If you wash your dishes by hand, stop leaving the water running when you’re rinsing them. “If you have a double-basin, fill one with soapy water and one with rinse water,” James says. “If you have a single-basin sink, gather washed dishes in a dish rack and rinse them with a spray device or a pan full of hot water.”
Your water heater accounts for 12% of your electric bill. If you have an older system, James says flushing sediments out of it will improve energy efficiency. However, if the water heater is 15-20 years old, he tells Freshome that replacing it will generate substantial savings. “Tankless ‘on-demand’ systems don’t store water, offering savings up to 30 percent; however, the latest hybrid heat pump systems offer even greater savings – reducing water heating costs up to a whopping 60 percent,” James explains.
Your ceiling fan can lower your energy costs during the summer. According to Richard Ciresi, owner of the Aire Serv of Louisville, KY, ceiling fans create a wind chill effect, allowing you to adjust thermostat settings by 4-7 degrees F (up to 30% savings!) and still remain comfortable. However, make sure that the fan is going in a counterclockwise motion during the summer, and turn it off when you leave the room, because fans cool people, not rooms.
Ciresi also recommends upgrading your lighting. “Lighting accounts for up to 12% of your energy budget, and those old school incandescents give off 90% of their energy as heat, taking a toll on your air conditioner.” He recommends replacing your lightbulbs with CFLs (use 75% less energy and last 10x longer) or LEDs (use 80% less and last 25x longer).
Leave your thermostat alone. You don’t need to cool an empty house. “This practice can actually increase your utility bills,” Ciresi warns. “We recommend, particularly during hot weather, that you set the thermostat to a comfortable temperature and leave it be.” Also, he says the constant temperature change isn’t beneficial to your art, musical instruments, or furnishings.
Observe your humidity levels. If they’re above 50%, Ciresi says you’ll feel warmer than the air temperature. “In most cases lower humidity allows you to be comfortable at slightly higher temperatures, often as much as 78 degrees,” he says. And if you can be comfortable at higher temps, you can save a lot in energy costs. “If your humidity is too high, check for a source like a leaking basement, roof, or plumbing fixture – you may need to a call an air conditioning professional to determine the cause and provide a solution.”
Changing the time you use large appliances can also help you save money. “Operate dishwashers, washers, and dryers only when full, preferable at night or when temperatures are cooler,” recommends Doug Rogers, president of Mr. Appliance. “Also, remember that refrigerators/freezers use less energy when full and make sure to pack them accordingly.
Small appliances – microwaves, toasters, TVs, DVDs – are energy vampires that consume small amounts of energy even when they’re not in use. “Don’t let them drain your budget,” Rogers says. “Plug them into power strips so you can turn them off when you’re not using them.”
If your windows are not properly sealed, this can account for 20% of your home’s energy loss, according to Larry Patterson, franchisee of Glass Doctor in Dallas, TX. If your home was built before 2001, he says the most cost-efficient approach is to keep the window frame material and replace the existing clear glass insulated units with new low-emissivity (low-e) glass insulated units. “This can help save up to 35% on utility bills, while also leading to increased comfort near windows, reduced fading, and less noise.”
If there’s one thing I’ve learned while working at Real Simple, it’s that a successful day of cleaning is reliant on great, effective products. (OK, and maybe an upbeat playlist, too!) As the products editor, I’m always on the hunt for experts' go-to picks that will save time and make life a little easier. I recently tapped the professionals at Fairy, a housekeeping service in New York City and San Francisco, for their secret weapon that quickly gets a house spick-and-span.
Now, I had anticipated them spilling the beans about some magical product I had never heard of, something pricey, or one that’s only available wholesale and difficult to find at a retailer. But reader, you know what they said their go-to is? Good old Formula 409 Multi Surface Cleaner. Yes, the one in the white and red bottle with the impossibly fresh scent.
So why do they like it so much? For one, they say it’s super effective for a variety of uses—from removing toilet stains, to cleaning gunk in ovens, to even polishing up a dull bathtub. They also said the smell is pleasant and that a bottle lasts and lasts. And it’s no wonder why one bottle goes a long way—apparently the experts at Formula 409 even suggest diluting the solution with water to wash floors.
Want one more pearl of cleaning wisdom? The cleaning experts at Fairy also mentioned the one task you should tackle if you're short on time but want to make your home feel instantly cleaner: do a quick vacuum. We're keeping this trick in mind for the next time guests stop by on short notice.
While the pleasures of homeownership are great, there will invariably be repairs along the way, especially when it comes to your hard-working plumbing. Some issues, such as fixing broken sewer lines, should certainly be handled by a pro; others, fortunately, are basic do-it-yourself jobs—no special tools or skills required. Check out five of the most common problems you’re likely to encounter and learn how to make short work of them with these plumbing repairs.
1. STOP A SWEATING TOILET TANK
Condensation on toilet tanks—the kind that ends up dripping into puddles on the floor—generally occurs after taking a long hot bath or a steamy shower. That’s when temperature and humidity levels in the bathroom are high, but the water in the toilet tank is still cool (between 50 and 60 degrees Fahrenheit), causing condensation buildup. Picture how a cold beverage develops droplets outside the glass on a sizzling summer day; the same thing is happening with your toilet tank.
To prevent the pesky problem, this plumbing repair involves installing an anti-condensation tank liner. You’ll find them in kits at DIY stores and plumbing-supply outlets for less than $20. The kit includes instructions and a large sheet of flexible foam, which you’ll cut to fit the inside of the tank. Depending on the brand, the liner will come with a peel-off backing or separate adhesive for installation. You’ll need to drain the tank and let it dry out before starting. Once the liner is securely in place (you may need to wait overnight for adhesive to set), it will form an insulating barrier between the cold water and the outside tank, and puddles will be a thing of the past.
2. REMOVE A SINK TRAP
Removing a sink trap—a P-, J-, or S-shaped pipe that connects to two other pipes beneath the basin—is often the key to common plumbing repairs like unclogging a sink, because that’s where most clogs lodge. Or if someone drops a ring or other valuable down the drain, you’re likely to find it caught in the trap. Follow the steps below to remove, clean, and replace a trap.
1. Position a pan beneath the plumbing pipes under the sink to catch the residual water that will drain out when you remove the trap.
2. Locate the trap that connects to the pipe that drops straight down vertically from the sink drain and the horizontal pipe called the “waste arm.” The trap is threaded on both ends and held in place with nuts. No need to turn off the water supply to the sink, just tell family members not to use the water while you’re working.
3. Loosen both nuts that secure the trap by twisting counterclockwise. You can often do this with your hands, but if a nut’s really stuck, use an adjustable pair of pliers—just go easy to avoid breaking the nut.
4. Detach the trap by pulling it downward. It should fall off easily; if not, pull and wiggle gently till it comes loose. Allow water to drain into the pan you’ve placed below the sink.
5. Scrape out any stuck debris you notice in the trap with an old butter knife, and then take the trap outdoors and spray it out thoroughly with a water hose to remove any sludge that might be coating the inside.
6. Reattach the now-clean trap by sliding it back into place and twisting the nuts that secure it clockwise with your fingers.
3. RE-CAULK A VANITY SINK
The plumber who originally installed your sink applied caulk around the edge to keep water from seeping between the basin and the countertop. Over time, however, this semi-solid waterproof sealant can deteriorate, harden, or crumble, allowing water to seep into the cabinet below, which can damage stored items and lead to mold growth.
To re-caulk the area around the sink, purchase a small tube of 100 percent silicone caulking that’s transparent or in a color that matches either the countertop or the sink. Then follow these steps for the DIY plumbing repair:
1. Scrape away the old caulk with a plastic putty knife; a metal knife could scratch the sink or the countertop.
2. Wipe down the seam between the sink and countertop with a clean rag dampened with denatured alcohol. The alcohol will remove residual traces of soap scum or grime.
3. Let the area dry completely.
4. Apply a small bead of caulk, approximately 1/8” in diameter, all the way around the sink, keeping consistent pressure on the tube to create a uniform bead.
5. Dampen a fingertip with water and carefully run it along the bead of caulk, smoothing the caulk into the crease and forming a nice smooth groove. You may have to rewet your finger a few times.
6. Allow the caulk to dry completely before using the sink. Drying times appear on the caulk tube and average 12 to 24 hours.
4. FLUSH A WATER HEATER FLUSH
Mineral deposit buildup in your water heater can reduce the unit’s efficiency. By flushing your water heater every six months, you’ll extend its useful life and enjoy more hot water. You’ll find flushing instructions in the manual that came with the unit, and while models may vary slightly, for most the following steps are sufficient.
1. Turn off the power to the water heater. If it’s electric, shut off the breaker. If it’s gas, turn the gas off at the shut-off valve.
2. Turn a hot water faucet elsewhere in your house to “On,” and allow it to run until the water cools.
3. Attach the end of a standard garden hose to the drain outlet at the bottom of the water heater, and put the other end in a floor drain or a large bucket.
4. Turn off the water supply to the water heater. The shut-off valve is located on the pipe that connects the cold water supply to the top of the water heater.
5. Use a flat-head screwdriver to open the drain valve located on the drain outlet where the garden hose is attached. Water will begin draining out of the hose, along with built-up sludge and mineral deposits. Be careful to avoid getting splashed—the water will be very hot!
6. Close the drain valve with the screwdriver when water stops draining out, remove the hose, turn on the water supply to the water heater, and then turn the power back on.
5. FIX LOW WATER PRESSURE
It’s so frustrating when you want a strong, powerful stream of water but only a trickle comes out of the faucet! Fortunately, most water flow issues are an easy fix.
• First, check the water pressure at different faucets. If only one faucet is affected, the problem could be mineral deposits. Most faucets have either a small screen or a water-saving filter at the very end of the spigot that twists off. Remove the screen by twisting it off counterclockwise. If it’s clogged with debris, rinse it and reattach it.
• Showerheads are notorious for developing hard water deposits that can turn a refreshing spray into a disappointing dribble. If the low water pressure affects only the shower, remove the showerhead using a set of locking pliers to turn the nut that holds it in place. Soak it overnight in white vinegar, then rinse and reattach.
• Low water pressure at all faucets is a real red flag. Call your local municipality to see if work is scheduled on the water lines that supply your home, which could affect your pressure. If no work is being done, turn off all the faucets and any other water-using appliance, such as a dishwasher. Then check the water meter (usually located near the curb or alley). If the meter is turning, despite all your faucets being off, there’s a leak somewhere between the meter and your home. This indicates a serious situation and a plumber should be called immediately.
Just because something looks dry, doesn't mean that it actually is. That's why we have our trusty infrared camera to help us determine moisture in deceiving areas. It's our job to make sure that, after a water loss, an environment isn't left behind for mold to move in.
How do we do this? We have moisture readers and infrared cameras to confirm where moisture is, which tells us where we need to extract and how long we leave our fans in place.
We want you to feel like the disaster 'never even happened,' so we use our best equipment to ensure you have the best experience.
Call SERVPRO of McMinn, Monroe, and Polk Counties today to take care of your home or business emergency! Call (423) 745-4165 and tell them Kodi sent you!
A shift is taking place in the home building and remodeling industry. Green home renovations, long thought of as too expensive or complex, are more affordable and achievable than ever.
At the same time, homeowners are increasingly concerned with their impact on the environment. That’s why words like energy-efficient, sustainable and recyclable are becoming central to the homebuilding process. On top of that, increasing labor and material costs have a new generation of homebuyers rethinking the entire building and renovation process.
Complete an Energy Audit
Before digging into any major green home renovations, it’s important to know how your home is performing currently. Window and door leaks, outdated appliances and inefficient HVAC systems don’t exactly equate to an efficient, eco-friendly home. Knowing the root of the problem is the first step in completing a green remodel.
Many homeowners end up shocked at how much energy (and money) their home is wasting. Trained professionals can show you exactly where your house is leaking energy or air and provide solutions for problem spots.
To find a certified energy rater for a home energy audit, the U.S. Department of Energy recommends using the Residential Energy Service Network directory. You can also do a DIY energy audit on your own.
DIY Home Energy Audit Checklist:
Check doors and windows for drafts.
Inspect HVAC and ventilation systems.
Use an electricity monitor to find out how much energy your appliances are using.
Replace older lightbulbs with CFLs, LEDs or eco-incandescent bulbs.
Examine your home’s insulation, in both the attic and walls.
Upgrade to Eco-Friendly Windows
Drafty windows are the bane of eco-friendly homes. If yours are taking a toll on your heating and air usage, it may be time to upgrade to more modern, energy-efficient windows.
Using materials that are sustainably sourced is also important for a successful green home remodeling job. For instance, cellular PVC is a popular, energy-efficient window material, but it is produced using a process that releases toxins into the earth’s atmosphere. Here are a few green remodeling tips for purchasing responsibly produced windows.
Tips for Buying Eco-Friendly Windows:
Aluminum and steel are recyclable but offer little insulation, making them inefficient.
Vinyl, like PVC, is made using a toxic, highly inefficient production process.
Double and triple-pane glass cost more, but will insulate your home better.
Sustainably-harvested wooden frames are a good choice for eco-friendly windows.
Fiberglass window frames are made from sand, a virtually limitless resource.
Choose Locally Sourced Materials
Choosing an eco-friendly product is great, but if it has to be shipped across the country, it’s hard to say it’s truly green. Buying locally sourced materials requires far less energy to get the products to your door. Additionally, local professionals are a valuable resource, as their knowledge of nearby communities, the types of homes in the area and even the local climate can be very useful to you and your project.
Beyond supporting small businesses, going local also enables you to choose climate-appropriate materials, making your home more energy-efficient overall.
Switch to Low VOC Paints
Volatile organic compounds, or “VOCs,” are chemicals that evaporate and enter the air at ordinary room temperatures, and they are common in many paints. The VOCs in interior paint come from petroleum-based solvents used in their production.
Low VOC interior paints use water in place of these solvents. Using no or low VOC interior paints lowers the amount of harmful emissions in your home, while also minimizing your consumption of petroleum, a non-renewable resource, making this a great project to add to your list of eco-friendly home improvements.
Best Low VOC Paints for a Green Home Remodel:
Aura ® Bath and Spa
ben ® Interior Paint
Harmony Interior Acrylic Latex
ProMar 400 Zero VOC Interior Latex
Resilience Exterior Acrylic Latex
Insulate Your Home
Wall cavities – the insulated spaces between an inner and outer wall of your home – are often overlooked during green home remodeling projects. However, they can make or break your home’s efficiency. Luckily, there are green solutions that are both inexpensive and effective.
Blowing cellulose is a quick fix since it can often be blown over insulation that’s already there. On top of that, many states offer rebate programs for completing this eco-friendly renovation project. Here’s a thorough guide on picking insulation for your home.
Go for a Passive Solar Home Design
Going solar is a great green remodeling project, but you can harness the power of the sun without dropping your entire budget on new solar panels. Passive solar home design is the art of using the sun to your advantage, allowing it to warm your home in the winter while blocking it out in the summer. You’ll be surprised at what a difference some simple changes can make.
Green Home Renovations for Passive Solar Home Design:
Focus renovations on the sides of your home that receive the most sun.
Plant seasonal trees that block sunlight in the summer, but allow it in during the winter.
Choose smart blinds that open and close with light and temperature changes.
Install a solar chimney to improve your home’s heating and ventilation.
Apply heat reducing film to your windows.
Add eave overhangs or awnings to block direct sunlight from reaching your windows.
And if you’re ever looking for that final push from passive solar to the real thing, remember that “panels will start paying YOU money in under 10 years,” according to Roskowinski.
Replace Old Appliances
Spending thousands on a new fridge may not be the most cost-effective green remodeling tip, so this tip really depends on your budget and how important new appliances are to you. Either way, it’s important to keep in mind that older appliances were built without efficiency in mind. That means your refrigerator, stove, dishwasher and washer/dryer could be sucking up excess energy by the minute.
ENERGY STAR provides a great list of resources for checking how much money and energy appliances with their certification can save you. You can also take advantage of rebate programs to get additional dollars back.
Install a Smart Home Thermostat
One of the best and most popular green remodeling tips today is to install a smart home thermostat. Smart home thermostats can be connected to most electronic devices and controlled from afar, which allows you to adjust your home’s heating and cooling even when you aren’t there.
Some thermostats can even detect when you’ve left the house and adjust the temperature on their own. Installing a smart home thermostat is a great way to cut down your energy bill and increase your home’s efficiency.
Best Smart Home Thermostats for a Green Remodel:
Honeywell Wi-Fi Thermostats
KONO Smart Thermostat
Add Skylights to Increase Natural Light
If you hate the idea of using lamps in the middle of the day, try adding skylights to light your home naturally. While it might not be cost-effective to install them in every room, you can strategically place skylights in the most commonly used areas during the day, such as the kitchen, living room or guest bathroom. Remember to fit your skylights with automated blinds to block the sun when needed. Used correctly, skylights can be a great eco-friendly remodeling project for your home and help cut down on your overall electricity use.
Use Responsibly-Sourced Hardwood Flooring
Hardwood flooring is one of the greenest flooring options available, provided you choose responsibly sourced wood. One way to do this is to use FSC Certified wood. The Forest Stewardship Council, or FSC, is dedicated to ensuring that their members market only sustainably harvested and produced hardwood products. By using businesses that sell FSC Certified wood, you’re supporting efforts to keep our forests green and plentiful.
We asked Columbia Forest Products, a provider of FSC Certified products, for advice on buying responsibly forested hardwood flooring:
FSC Certified Hardwood Flooring Companies for a Green Home Remodel:
Columbia Forest Products
Northland Forest Products
American Pole & Timber
Certified Wood Products
Additionally, Home Depot makes an effort to stock FSC Certified products – call your local store to see what options they have available. For a full list of FSC Certified Wood providers, check the Forest Stewardship Council’s Member List.
I’ve always been a firm believer that a clean, clutter-free home makes me a generally happier person. In fact, some of my friends consider me a pro at decluttering because I have no remorse when it comes to throwing things away—which is why I decided to pull together a thorough spring-cleaningchecklist. While some things like a closet revamp and bathroom cabinet “cleansing” session are key, spring-cleaning is about more than just getting rid of things. It’s about starting anew—lighter and cleaner.
Of course, we have faith in your basic cleaning skills, but there are little odds and ends you don’t do all the time that will get your place in great shape. Case in point: sanitizing things like doorknobs and light switches or checking cords on your electronics make such a difference. Below find our go-to spring-cleaning checklist that will help you start the season fresh. The best part? We go room by room so you don’t have to do it all at once. It’s time to take baby steps.
—Clean the oven
—Dust on top of cabinets
—Wipe off light fixtures (including those up high)
—Discard expired food items from the refrigerator and freezer; wipe down shelves
—Organize your pantry; purge expired items
—Clean the stovetop, including burners
— Wipe out the inside of the microwave
— Scrub and polish the floor
—Disinfect the counters, the sink, and any tiles
—Wipe out the inside of the trash can
—Clean the dishwasher (put a container filled with white vinegar on the top and run a cycle)
—Replace any water filters
—Wipe down and polish your cabinets
—Sharpen your kitchen knives
—Check your Tupperware and see if you need to order more
—Discard chipped plates, bowls, and glasses and purchase extras
—Clean baking pans and utensils you don’t use often
—Scrub out your blender really well
—Deep-clean all pots and pans
—Organize your pantry; restock with any new items
—Consider making room in your cupboards with shelf risers
THE LIVING ROOM
—Wash or dry-clean throw pillow covers and throw blankets; replace if necessary
—Dust the TV screen
—Wipe down side tables, coffee table, footstools, etc.
—Vacuum any area rugs
—Clean out crevices in your couch with a vacuum attachment
—Spot-treat your chairs and couches
—Check your electronics for frayed wires
—Replace batteries in remote controls if needed
—Clean any lightbulbs
—Sweep out your fireplace
THE DINING ROOM
—Clean your chandelier or light fixtures (including dusty cords)
—Dust the molding in the room
—Dry-clean any linens, including napkins and tablecloths
—Dust cabinets; polish
—Wash any table cushions and seat cushions
—Vacuum and clean the rug
—Wash and polish the floor
—Wipe down table and chairs; remove all dust
—Clean your china cabinet and any drawers
—Wash and polish silverware
THE HOME OFFICE
—Discard any old or unnecessary papers
—Organize items in folders and storage cabinets
—Wipe down the floor and any baseboards; polish floor
—Clean your desk and rearrange it in a way that makes sense for you
—Take stock of supplies like pens, folders, and staples; order more if needed
—Wipe down your chair (don’t forget the wheels)
—Take everything off of the bookshelf and wipe it down (donate old books)
—Use electrostatic dust cloths to clean your tech items
—Vacuum your desk chair
—Sanitize your phone, headset, etc.
—Clean tissue canisters and other containers
—Organize vanity and space above and below
—Clean toilet, including the top, side, and base
—Deep-clean the shower and tub
—Clean out any hampers and trash bins
—Wash out toothbrush canister (replace toothbrush)
—Wipe down towel hooks and racks
—Remove hair from drains using a tool
—Wash shower curtain and rehang; change liner
—Deep-clean tile and remove mold; clean grout if necessary
—Clean your toilet paper holder (so much dust settles at the top)
—Shine faucets; clean countertops; wipe mirror
—Discard expired makeup and products; replenish as needed
—Check linens; wash and replace as needed
—Wipe down shower caddies
—Sweep floor and mop
—Wash bath mat or replace
—Rotate your mattress
—Change your sheets; purchase new linens and discard old ones
—Wash your mattress cover
—Clean out your laundry hampers; disinfect
—Dry-clean throw pillow shams
—Dust any ceiling fans and wipe down air conditioner units and heating vents
—Remove frames from the walls and dust everything; replace
—Wipe out any storage bins in dressers, closets, etc.
—Treat wood furniture (that includes patching up scratches)
—Vacuum your mattress
—Clean under bed; move furniture as needed to do a thorough job
—Check pillows for fluffiness; replace when necessary
—Organize both dresser and closet; donate old items
—Wash the floor or vacuum (don’t forget area rugs)
—Wipe down mirrors and windows
—Clean the bed frame; headboard included
—Wash stuffed animals in children’s rooms
—Consider drawer organizers to keep essentials in sight
THE LAUNDRY ROOM
—Wipe down drying racks
—Do a deep-clean on both washer and dryer (a load with white vinegar in the washer works wonders)
—Empty the lint trap in the dryer
—Use bleach to clean the sink
—Organize shelves and closet space; wipe down
—Take stock of products; discard expired and order any essentials you are low on
—Deep-clean the floor—dust bunnies are common in this room
—Deep-clean behind appliances
—Clean out the inside of your iron and steamers; wipe down ironing board
—Wipe down hampers, hangers, etc.
—Dust off tools like vacuums and dust busters
—Clean the bottom of your broom; rinse out your dustpan
—Mop the floor
—Do a linen closet overhaul
—Dust the inside of your dryer hose with an extendable duster or a vacuum attachment
—Garden or landscape; add new plants
—Fix dents in your mailbox
—Clean out your shed/garage
—Have your roof cleaned
—Wipe down patio furniture and playground
—Get a new doormat (or clean yours)
Now that you have our ultimate spring-cleaning checklist, it’s time to put it to good use. Your home will be forever grateful.