5 Ways to Update Your Bathroom for Less

By Barbara Pronin

“These days,” says California bathroom designer Ted Reedy, “you can spend $15,000 or more to remodel an outdated bathroom. But while a trendy bath appeals to buyers and ultimately adds value to your home, you can achieve a fresh new look and improve functionality while spending whole lot less.”

Reedy suggests five ways to improve your old bathroom without spending any more than you need to:

Reface vanity/cabinets –
You can give bathroom cabinets and/or vanity a whole new look by refacing – not replacing – the old, tired-looking front surfaces. Refacing will cost just a third of the replacement cost and add new life to the room.
Add a stylish sink – Consider an integrated sink, which has no edges or hangovers from the countertop to the sink, or a bowl sink, which sits above the countertop, for between $150-$500. Even installing a shiny new chrome faucet and/or porcelain handles can be a smart and stylish small investment.
Change the lighting – Improve your bathroom’s look and feel by replacing those glaring overhead lights. Accent lighting, such as canister lights installed in the ceiling, or track lighting installed over the sink, will improve functionality and appearance at a very reasonable cost.
Update the flooring –Replacing vinyl tiles or linoleum with porcelain, ceramic or natural stone tiles is a cost-effective and savvy investment. Choose simple tile designs you can install yourself or have professionally installed.
Change the shower head – Turn your shower into an oasis you will enjoy by updating your shower head with a rain head. They can cost as little as $100 and the small investment can be a real turn-on to buyers when the time comes to sell.

Avoid These Common Home Improvement Blunders

(BPT) – Consumer complaints and lawsuits regarding home improvements are on the rise according to Ripoff Reports; a homeowner that does not do their homework before embarking on a project could find themselves with poor workmanship, inferior products, health and safety issues or even legal problems.

So what’s a homeowner in need of a fix up to do?

"Start by reviewing the three most common mistakes people make when embarking on a home improvement project," says Dave Harrison, chief marketing officer of Champion Windows, Sunrooms, Roofing and Home Exteriors, one of the nation’s leading home improvement companies.

No.1: Buying Only on Price
Your home is probably one of the most expensive items you own, so making improvements is not the place to budget shop.- "Make sure you are getting quality products professionally installed. A properly done home improvement should only have to be done once," added Harrison, "and remember the old adage ‘you get what you pay for’."

No. 2: Not looking at the Long Term Investment Benefits
When your home improvement project is finally over, you should be getting more than an upgrade to your home; you should also see an increase in your home’s value. When you do it right you can reduce energy and maintenance costs and increase comfort and pride in your home, and never have to worry about it again for as long as you own your home.

On the flip side a poorly executed project can lower the value of your home, have to be re-done in several years and even put your family’s health at risk. For example, water damage from faulty windows could cause mold.

No. 3: Not Knowing How to Screen a Contractor

"I’ve seen many independently owned contractors close their businesses after a short year or two," said Harrison. "When selecting a contractor to work with it is important to get a sense of who they are, what products they use and how long they have been in business."

According to Harrison there are four essential questions to ask during this screening process:
– Who designs it?
– Who builds it?
– Who installs it?
– Who guarantees it?

"When you don’t get the correct answers to these four questions you may end up with an inferior investment, expensive surprises, property damage or even lawsuits and liabilities," says Harrison.

"Ultimately, the answer you want is that there is a single source of accountability for your project. Having one company design, build, install and guarantee the product and work can save you time, money and hassles in the long run."

Make sure you have a contractor relationship you can trust for the long-term. This long-term relationship starts with a quality product and professional installation and includes a lifetime warranty from a company that has longevity and provides you with a sense that they will still be in business five or ten years down the road. -You should also ensure that your warranty is transferable, applies to all systems, applications and materials, and is non-prorated. A non-prorated warranty is considered to be the most valuable as it means that the manufacturer or seller will replace or repair the item at no cost to the buyer if there is a problem with a product.

Protecting Your Homeā€¦From Your Pets

By John Voket

Since February is Responsible Pet Owner’s Month, I will continue our series on taking the best care of your pet, while keeping your home free of all the damage, stains, smells and noises that pets may provide, along with all that wonderful companionship!

An Austin, Texas agency recently posted great advice from Laura Foster-Bobroff – throwing consumers a few bones about taking better care of their homes while exhibiting responsible pet ownership at the same time.

She observed that window sills are favorite spot for cats to sit and watch the world. They like to lean against them, and don’t those screens or window frames make irresistible scratching posts?

According to Foster-Bobroff, cats can scratch away the better part of a three-quarter inch thick board — with most of the damage concealed behind a drape or curtain. She advises homeowners to regularly check screens for holes and frames for scratches.

Provide your cat an approved place to scratch – cat condos, scratching posts, etc. – and if necessary, have your vet dull the ends of claws by trimming and filing.

Puppies can do damage by using corners of doors as teethers, gnawing away as long as they’re allowed. Foster-Bobroff, says you can discourage chewing by purchasing products with a bitter taste, available at most pet supply centers.

From the day they arrive home, train dogs not to claw when they need to go out; otherwise, you are inviting gouged-out doors. For stubborn dogs, install a protective metal plate during training.

Finally, did you know that animal hair is a major contributor to reduced energy efficiency?

According to Foster-Bobroff, hairballs clog up fans that cool refrigerator coils. Air movement draws hair up and in, causing a strain on compressors, and shortening the life of appliances.

Animal owners should move refrigerators out every few months to thoroughly vacuum behind and underneath. And vacuums should be well maintained as well, since hair will jam up rug-beater attachments.

She says simply empty the system or change bags often to minimize risk of blockages, and remove hair from around wheels to keep them moving freely.

Moving or Improving? Tips for a Flawless Painting Project

(BPT) – Did you know spring is the best time to sell your home? And now that the housing market is bouncing back, there’s never been a better time to do it. But even if you’re planning to stay put for the long haul, chances are there are some much-needed touch-ups you could be doing to keep your home in tip-top shape. And you don’t have to break your back, or the bank, to do it. In fact, adding a new coat of paint is a quick, affordable, and possibly the most impactful, way to get your project done.

Prep, prime and primp
Misusing color can be a surefire way to turn people off from your home. For a more inviting look that nearly everyone can enjoy, opt for neutral paint colors. A subtle beige, slight grey or even white can do the trick.
First, move furniture out of the room and place drop cloths to protect the floor. Remove any picture frames, outlet covers and wall decor. Then, gently scrub the walls with a mild detergent and water mixture using a soft sponge to remove any dirt, grime or lint. Don’t forget to prime your walls before applying color to ensure the best end-results.

Paint like a pro
For an ultra-smooth finish, try Purdy’s line of Ultra Finish roller covers. These premium microfiber roller covers, available in 9-inch lengths and varying nap thickness, provide an even release of paint and deliver a consistent application from start to finish. Plus, they work great with any kind of paint and finish, including satin, semi-gloss and gloss, taking the guesswork out of the DIY equation.

When applying paint, start at the top and work your way down. For superior results, you’ll want to fill the well of your roller tray with paint, dip the roller in half-way and then roll it back onto the tray’s angled platform to easily remove excess paint. This will reduce dripping and improve overall paint cover. The best approach for applying paint? Use your roller cover to make an overlapping "W" pattern in a 2-foot by 2-foot area; then fill in and repeat.

For smaller interior paint projects or tight spaces, Purdy also has a variety of innovative mini roller choices that are versatile, lightweight and can quickly and easily deliver a perfect finish with smooth rolling action. These combined features make them the ideal applicator for a variety of projects like painting doors and cabinets, to freshening up tables, chairs and even bedroom furniture.

Keeping your color conviction
If you’re still feeling deprived of color after your painting project is complete, never fret. There are several ways to add a pop of color throughout your home without slathering the walls with offensive paint colors. Try incorporating fun accent pieces in your favorite colors – think lamps, frames, pillows and rugs. You can even include larger focal pieces like royal blue armchairs or a patterned couch to make a bolder statement. By keeping the overall aesthetics of your home neutral and inviting, and enhancing them with a few sight-provoking embellishments, house guests will be asking you for home decorating tips. And if your end goal is to get your home sold, consider these minor improvements a step in the right direction.

Trends in Baby Furniture: Unique New Designs That Combine Comfort and Practicality

Trends in Baby Furniture: Unique New Designs That Combine Comfort and Practicality

By Barbara Pronin

Decorating the nursery is a distinct pleasure for most expectant parents. But it isn’t easy to choose furniture and accessories that offer style, comfort and practicality that will last for many years.

Design mavens at the ABC Kids Expo in Louisville, Ky. spotlighted six new products for parents who are looking for something different. They aren’t cheap, but they offer unique and modern styles created with beauty, safety and comfort in mind:

• The Babycotpod – The most contemporary bassinets ever, Babycotpod designs feature an egg-shaped collection of baby furniture that is handcrafted of fine hardwoods with custom-painted exteriors. The Nuna and Cascara models offer a unique, sophisticated and comfy sleep space with built-in hood and carry handles. Prices begin at about $800.
• The Gro-Crib – A crib that turns into a toddler bed, a day bed, a desk and a play table – with no screws or hinges. Designer David Singelyn’s crib has no mechanical fasteners and takes only minutes to put together. Not cheap at $1,400, but when you consider how many pieces of furniture you get in one, it’s great for those who can afford it.
• Baby Dee Dee Sleep Nest – A cross between a soft, washable duvet and a wearable baby sleeping bag, this new innovation with shoulder snaps and a glow-in-the-dark zipper wraps baby in a soft cocoon, eliminates the need for loose blankets, and makes it easy to change diapers in the dark. Costs about $35.
• The Petit Nest – An eco-friendly, made in America collection of cribs, dressers, gliders, wall art and more designed to last long beyond baby’s early years. Whimsical, playful styling with a distinct point of view that can later be integrated into the design of any home. Cribs and dressers cost between $1,400 and $1,700.
• Ububub cribs – Unique, modern wood cribs with smooth, rounded edges and clear Lucite sides for best visibility for you and your baby. They feature a low profile, adjustable mattress positions, and no bars for baby to get stuck in. Cost? About $1,600.
• Spa Baby Hot Tub – A soothing green “baby bucket” that calms squirmy babies and keeps them safe at bath time. Provides a chest-high warm soak in a natural, womb-like position. Cost is about $38.