Protect Your Home from Radon

14 Aug

If you have recently bought or sold a house, you have probably heard of radon. This invisible, odorless and tasteless gas comes from the natural breakdown of uranium in soil, and it rises through the ground and into the air. The air dissipates it enough that it is not harmful. But it also can seep into your home through cracks or holes in the foundation, where it becomes trapped and can become concentrated to unhealthy levels. In fact, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that radon is the second-leading cause of lung cancer in the United States, responsible for more than 20,000 deaths a year.

Luckily, testing for excessive amounts of radon and alleviating the problem in your home is a simple process. You can purchase low-cost “do it yourself” tests or hire a qualified tester. If levels in your home are found to be high, a radon mitigation system can be installed, which is simply a vent pipe system and fan that pulls radon from beneath the house and vents it outside.

Radon levels can vary tremendously from home to home, and even in the same home from season to season. The EPA estimates that 1 in 15 homes have undetected high levels of radon. So if your home hasn’t been tested, it is probably a good idea to do so and make sure you are protected from this dangerous gas. Visit the EPA’s website at http://www.epa.gov/radon for a variety of publications and resources about radon.

Fact: Radon is heavy and collects in low areas. If you spend a lot of time in your basement, the EPA recommends you test your home for radon.

What Does Your Front Door Say About You?

7 Aug

We know that different colors evoke different emotions in people, but color experts say color can also be an indicator of your personality, even (or especially) on your front door.

“The front door is the focal point of the home,” says Debbie Zimmer of the Paint Quality Institute. “The color there sends a strong message – in the case of the front door, providing insight into how we view our home.”

Here is the message, according to the Institute, that you might be sending with your door of a different color:

Red – passion, vibrant and “full of life, energy and excitement”
Blue – sanctuary, calm, serenity, and relaxation
Green – health, safety, tranquility, and harmony
Black – power, sophistication, strength, and authority
Brown – warmth, stability and reliability (dark brown could signify desire for privacy or isolation)

If none of those colors work for you, also consider yellow (happiness, high energy), purple (dreamer, free spirit) or white (clean, organized). The best part is that if you try something and it just doesn’t work, changing the color is as easy as just painting over it.

Stud Space = Extra Storage

31 Jul

Are you limited by the lack of storage that comes with a small room? Fear not, you do have options! Between the studs that hold up your house and walls lies unused space that can be converted into built-in shelves or a storage nook.

Bookshelves — These could go in any room in place of shelving units.

Bathrooms — Keep clutter off your bathroom countertops by building in space for a few shelves to hold toiletries. Even recessing an area for your towels or bathrobe can make a small bathroom appear bigger.

Pantries — Take a look at unused wall space in your kitchen. Shallow shelves could be used to hold canned goods, spices or stemware. You could also use the recessed area to mount hooks and hang pots and pans.

Tip: Be sure to check for venting or wiring before starting this project.

Garage Security Tips

24 Jul

You may lock up your house like Fort Knox to keep you and your valuables safe, but the garage door is often overlooked in the process. Burglars can use this knowledge to their advantage to gain access to your house. So consider these garage do’s and don’ts as part of your home security plan.

Don’t leave your garage door opener in your vehicle. Do purchase a keychain remote opener and carry it with you.

Don’t leave your garage door open. Do consider installing a device that automatically closes the door after a set amount of time.

Don’t leave the door leading from the garage into the house unlocked. Do make sure it is as secure as your front door.

Don’t give burglars places to hide. Do install low-cost outdoor motion-sensor lighting around the garage.

Do frost or cover any garage windows so thieves can’t see what is inside or that your vehicle is gone.

Do put a padlock on the inside of your garage door when going out of town to ensure that the door cannot be opened.

Also keep in mind that most home invasions occur during the day in the middle of the week when no one is home. So always be sure to secure your house before leaving for the day.

Is Your Doorbell Smarter than You?

17 Jul

Forget the peephole. “Smart” doorbells are giving homeowners a brand new way to see who’s knocking on their door. The basic feature behind this new development is the ability to wirelessly connect your doorbell and a video camera to your smartphone so you can see who is at your door without having to get up and answer it.

The newest technology under development features facial recognition that will allow you to store contacts into your system and play pre-recorded messages to specific visitors. The technology available now allows you to:

  • See and speak with visitors over an intercom system via your smartphone.
  • Customize access for each smartphone in your home.
  • Be notified when someone is approaching the door, before they ring the doorbell, via a motion detector.
  • Take and store pictures and view streaming video.
  • Wirelessly unlock your door.
  • Receive a notification on your phone when someone rings your doorbell and then see and speak with them, even if you are at work or on vacation.

Fight the Good Fight Against Mosquitos

9 Jul


As long as there have been people in North America, there have been mosquitos. So the annoying and potentially dangerous pests probably aren’t going anywhere anytime soon. But we can protect ourselves from them by following “3 D’s of protection” recommended by the American Mosquito Control Association.

Dress

Try to wear long pants and long sleeves outdoors when practical, especially at dawn and dusk, when mosquitos are most prevalent. Also wear light colors and avoid tight clothes with a loose weave, which mosquitos can bite through.

Drain

Mosquito larvae float atop still water to grow and hatch, so the key to prevention is eliminating standing water around your house and in your yard. Items that encourage water collection include roof gutters, pet water dishes, children’s toys, bird baths, pool covers, and tarps.

Defend

Three mosquito repellants approved by the Environmental Protection Agency are generally safe and effective — DEET, Picaridin and oil of lemon eucalyptus. Keep the following tips in mind when using repellants:

  • Spray on exposed skin, not clothing.
  • Apply sparingly and reapply as needed. (Saturation doesn’t increase effectiveness.)
  • Keep away from eyes, nostrils and lips.
  • Minimize use if pregnant or nursing.

Tip: Turn on a fan. Any wind speed of more than 1 mph disrupts mosquito flight, and they will avoid the area.

How to Lighten a Dark Room

3 Jul


Sometimes you get stuck with a small room or one without much natural light, but that doesn’t mean you have to be stuck in the dark. There are lots of easy (and some not so easy) ways to lighten and brighten a dark room.  

Walls

Painting the walls a lighter color can drastically change the appearance of a room. White is always an option, but light pastels can have the same effect without the starkness. Also consider using a satin gloss, which will reflect light, as opposed to a matte finish.

Floors

Most changes to floors are fairly significant, ranging from refinishing hardwood to installing lighter wall-to-wall carpet. When refinishing hardwood with a lighter stain, top it off with a high gloss to reflect light. You can also “lighten” the appearance of a dark hardwood floor with a pale-colored area rug.

Furniture

Dark furniture can really weigh a room down. Choose light fabrics and paint wooden furniture light colors. Also think about adding reflective surfaces to your furniture, like a mirrored table top.

Accents

Mirrors are your best bet for fighting darkness. Place them opposite a light source (a lamp or window) to maximize the amount of light reflected. Smaller items, like mirrored picture frames, reflect light as well.

Windows

Maximize the natural light coming in through windows. Keep the windows clean. Hang curtains higher and wider than the window frame so the entire window is exposed. Stay away from heavy drapes and thick blinds that block the light.
Lights   Use light that is cast up and down, such as wall sconces and lamps with shades that open at the top and bottom. Aim for diffused light. Use walls and corners to reflect the light around the room.