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Home Improvement Contractor Tips
July 28, 2014 - Builders
Never pay the full price up front ? Establish a payment schedule and adhere to it. Withhold final payment until the entire project is completed to your satisfaction and all required inspections and certificates of occupancy are finalized.

Get everything in writing ? State law requires a contractor to provide a written contract for home improvement work. The contract should include a time line for work to be completed, a payment schedule and specifics about the project ? such as types or brands of materials. On larger projects, architect or engineer plans should specify virtually every detail. Remember any verbal changes to the project must be added to the written contract. The contractor is only bound by what is in the contract. Keep copies for your records.

Know where your payments are going ? Contractors are required to deposit progress payments in an escrow account. The payments are to be used solely for your project, any withdrawal must bear a ?reasonable relationship? to the work completed. The contractor can otherwise obtain bond insurance to protect your money. Know which option your contrac- tor will use.

Never do business with a contractor who is unwilling to abide by any of these conditions. Even if the contractor seems reputable, it simply is not worth the risk.

Check the Attorney General?s web site for a listing of contractors with judgments or substantiated complaints against them. (Source -

(Sign up for your FREE monthly e-issue of the LifeandHomes Magazine. There is No-cost, No-obligation. Each monthly issue features informational articles, local real estate listings and our exclusive "Ask the Expert" business directory where you can find local resources to answer your how-to questions. Just Click on the FREE Magazine Tab at the top of this page)

Take Your Home from Cookie Cutter to Custom
December 02, 2013 - Builders
Five projects to take your home from cookie cutter to custom

(ARA) - A new home: It's your chance to personalize your living space with details that suit your taste and personality. Or, so you think. Many builders only allow you to choose colors; and offer limited options beyond their builders' grade materials. Or, if you've purchased a previously owned home, it too is most likely equipped with many basic options.

Luckily, it's easy to bust out of builder basics and add a few easy and inexpensive updates to make your cookie-cutter home stand out from the rest. And what better place to start than the heart of your home - the kitchen?

"A minor kitchen remodel is really one of the easiest ways you can make the most of your home - while also giving it your own personal style," says Danny Lipford, renowned home improvement expert and host of the nationally syndicated TV show, Today's Homeowner with Danny Lipford. "Plus, according to Remodeling magazine, it's one of the top five projects that will recoup your investment when it comes time to sell."

Not sure where to start? Lipford recommends these five projects:

Cool countertops. If your kitchen is like most, you probably have laminate countertops, since they are available in a variety of colors and patterns and are relatively inexpensive ($10 - $30 per square foot). However, they lack style and scratch and buckle easily. To give your kitchen a high-end look, consider updating your countertops with a more resistant surface, such as solid surface, a molded resin that is stain-resistant and mimics the look of concrete ($35 - 80 per square foot); marble, which in addition to its natural beauty is heat-resistant ($40 - $100 per square foot); or engineered stone, which is a mix of quartz and resins to create an extremely durable and fashionable surface ($45 -$90 per square foot).

Fabulous faucets. Does your faucet have a pullout spout with a beautiful finish that coordinates with the rest of your decor? If not, it's time for an upgrade. For less than $200, you can easily swap your no-frills faucet for one that adds functionality and fashion. Moen offers a variety of stylish high-arc pullout kitchen faucets with new innovative finishes, such as the Neva pullout faucet. Available at Lowe's, Neva features Moen's two newest finishes - Soft Grip and Spot Resist. Soft Grip is a stylish, black finish that is soft to the touch for a comfortable and sturdy feel in your hand - yet is durable in design for everyday use; while Spot Resist Stainless does just what it says - resist fingerprints and water spots - virtually eliminating the need for daily cleaning while maintaining a beautiful, brilliant finish.

Luxurious lighting. Fluorescent lighting in the kitchen is a staple for many builders since it's functional and inexpensive. However, it's not very aesthetically pleasing. Luckily, replacing fluorescent lighting is a simple project that will instantly make a style statement in your kitchen. Try one of these options: Track lighting, which is a fixture that sits close to the ceiling, but features multiple decorative lamps in a row; pendant lamps, which extend down from the ceiling like a chandelier; or mini pendant lamps, which offer a smaller version of a pendant and are available in a variety of styles and designs; are all ideal and easy-to-install options.

Wonderful walls. Are your walls still white or beige, plain slabs? Adding color and texture is an easy way to make a dramatic difference. Painting is the simplest tactic - and by using a high-quality paint, in a semi-gloss or eggshell finish, you can additionally make your walls easier to clean. However, don't stop there. Adding textures with updates, such as wainscoting, crown molding or even a tile backsplash are easy enough for a DIYer - and can be cost effective as well.

Fabulous floors. As the foundation of the room, you want your kitchen floor to sweep you off your feet - not send you packing. So, if yours is more "blah" than "beautiful," it's time for an update. Luckily, there are many choices available - from high-end choices, such as hardwood or natural stone; to more affordable options, such as ceramic tile and laminate. And, with the wide array of colors, designs and textures available with each, you can create a dramatic update that fits your budget and your unique design style.

With a few simple updates the only thing cookie-cutter about your kitchen is what you're baking. For more information about Moen products, visit
Radiant Floor Heat Yields Energy Savings
October 11, 2013 - Builders
(ARA) - Some savvy homeowners are having their cake and eating it too when it comes to energy-efficient home heating. Imagine cutting your heating bills, while boosting your home's comfort. Sound too good to be true? Not for the thousands of homeowners who are using radiant floor heating, one of the oldest and most efficient means of heating a home.

The technology, dating back to the ancient Romans, uses warm water to heat the floor, instead of a furnace to heat the air. Modern radiant systems pump warm water through an in-floor network of PEX tubing (crosslinked polyethylene), which, in essence, turns a home's entire floor into a massive whole-room radiator.

Many families actually feel warmer at a lower thermostat setting with radiant floor heating than at a higher temperature required with conventional forced-air heating systems. Studies conducted by the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) indicate that people with radiant heating systems can be comfortable at temperatures 6 to 8 degrees lower than with forced-air systems. The lower thermostat setting means using less energy and saving more money.

Feel warmer at a lower temperature

Picture a beautiful sunny day. It's 65 degrees outdoors, and you are standing under a large tree. You may feel a bit chilly if there's a breeze; but as soon as you step into the sunlight, you're comfortable again. The air temperature is roughly the same in both sun and shade, but you feel OK because the sun's radiant heat waves warm you directly.

The same concept applies to a home with radiant floor heating. As the invisible waves of thermal radiation rise from the floor, they warm you and all the surrounding furnishings, which radiate that captured heat.

Contrast that with what happens in a conventional forced-air heating system, the kind found in most American homes. Hot air blows out of the registers and rises to the top of the room where it quickly sheds heat and then drops back down as it cools.

In a radiant home, all that warmth stays at the floor level where the people and, most importantly, their feet live. And if your feet are warm and comfortable, chances are, so are you.

"Because radiant heating warms people and objects directly - as opposed to the surrounding air - residents are more comfortable, while often using less energy," explains Mark Hudoba, senior product manager, Residential Heating and Cooling, at Uponor North America, a manufacturer of PEX-based radiant heating systems. "Radiant systems tend to yield consistent temperatures throughout the space. In homes heated with forced air, the temperatures can vary by more than 15 degrees between floor and ceiling."

Moreover, because the distribution of heat is more evenly circulated, there is less need to "overheat" a home in order to compensate for spaces that seem too cool because of drafts or poor insulation.

New and existing homes

A radiant heating system can be installed during new-home construction or added to an existing home. Even if you choose not to opt for radiant heat throughout your new home, the builder can still install the PEX tubing in the basement floor or - if you don't have a basement - in the home's concrete slab. Radiant technology is also perfect for heating a single bathroom or a kitchen.

Other benefits of radiant heating include:

* Healthy atmosphere: Since a radiant system needs no fans or blowers to move its heat, family members with allergies are not subjected to the circulation of dust, mold, bacteria, viruses and pet dander throughout the home.

* Quiet operation: No fans and blowers also means no noise.

* Interior design options: Radiant heating allows you to place furniture wherever you want with no concern about blocking air vents.

* Fuel flexibility: Radiant floor heating systems can accommodate a variety of energy sources: from the conventional (gas-, oil- or wood-fired boilers) to the cutting-edge (solar thermal systems and geothermal systems) - or even a combination of both.

Ask anyone who's had the pleasure: Once you've experienced the joys of radiant heating, you'll never want to go back to a conventional system. For more information, visit
Custom Home Builder - How to Make the Right Choice
January 18, 2013 - Builders
There are many questions that you should ask to ensure that you will receive the quality and precision that you desire as a homeowner.
Hiring a Contractor
August 03, 2012 - Builders
Practical advice on hiring a qualified contractor.
New Construction - The American Dream?
January 03, 2012 - Builders
Who is responsible for making sure your home is properly built?
Simple Home Safety and Security Steps
November 29, 1013 - Builders
The short, dark days of cool weather are a smart time to think about home safety and security

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Stunning and Affordable DIY Backsplash
LifeandHomes Journal - Episode 6
LifeandHomes Journal - Episode 2
LifeandHomes Journal - Episode 3
LifeandHomes Journal - Episode 4
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