Take the shower of your dreams

You must admit, there’s nothing like a nice, hot shower at the end of a very long day. Standing under steamy water, you can almost feel the stress melt away.

It doesn’t take much to kill the shower vibe. Weak water flow, a backing-up drain or moldy tiles can all make that end-of-day routine less pleasurable. We’ve gathered some tips to ensure that when you step behind that curtain (or behind the tempered glass) all will be well in shower-land.

Wimpy water flow?

It’s easy to chalk up a wimpy water flow to low water pressure, but before you do, check your showerhead. Especially if you have hard water, mineral deposits may be the culprit. These can build up, clogging the water-flow holes.

How you clean the showerhead depends on the type you have. Newer models typically screw on to the shower arm so they’re easy to remove. Once it’s off the shower, soak it in vinegar or, for truly tough deposits, use a commercial product, such as CLR.

After soaking for about 60 minutes, used gloved hands and an old toothbrush or small scrub brush to remove the deposits. After replacing the showerhead, run water through it to remove all cleaning solution residue.

If you can’t remove the shower head, or choose not to, grab a rubber band, a plastic bag and your cleaning solution.

Place the rubber band over the showerhead arm. Fill the plastic bag with your solution and slip it over the showerhead. Use the rubber band to secure the top of the bag to the showerhead arm and allow the contraption to remain for at least 60 minutes.

Remove the bag and run the shower to flush out the solution and the loosened mineral deposits.

Backed up drains

Just like our four-legged friends, we humans shed and a lot of the hair we lose ends up in the shower, when we wash our hair.

From there, it travels down the drain where, eventually, it’ll  meet up with a big, ugly wad of hair and join it. So, not only does hair back up the water into the tub while you’re showering, it will eventually cause a more expensive backup if you don’t take care of it.

The easiest and least expensive “gadget” you can purchase to avoid hair clogs in the shower is a strainer that fits over the drain opening.

If you already have a clog, avoid using those chemical solutions you can buy at the supermarket or hardware store. Sure, they’re handy when you’re certain that the clog is a wad of hair, but, what if it’s a toy the kid threw down the drain?

In that case, the solution won’t clear the clog and, worse, it’ll back up onto your feet during your next shower.

“To protect yourself and your pipes, always try to dislodge a clog using common household methods before reaching for the drain cleaner,” say the experts at HIS Plumber in Newnan, GA.

Better yet, call a plumber if you are unsure of what’s causing the water to back up into the tub.

A clean shower is a dreamy shower

Mold on tile, soap scum and a ring around the shower – talk about a buzz kill! To make your shower truly Zen, get rid of the grime and keep it away.

Let’s take a look at some proven home remedies to get rid of the grime.

Mold

Combine household bleach and water (50/50) in a spray bottle. Open the bathroom window, don a breathing mask and gloves and spray the solution directly onto the mold. Allow it to sit for a few minutes and then use an old toothbrush to scrub it off the grout.

Use a clean, wet sponge to wipe away the residue.

Prevent mold buildup by using the fan in the bathroom while showering and allow it to run for about half an hour afterward.

Soap scum

We once met a cleaning lady who swore by the use of Tide laundry detergent (powdered) to clean soap scum from tubs and shower surrounds. It’s less abrasive than cleanser and, at least from what we witnessed, did a far better job.

Ensure that you rinse it completely, however, because it can make the surface quite slippery.

Sure, the aforementioned steps are time-consuming, but just imagine how amazingly soothing the after-shower will be.

Four easy-on-the-pocketbook ways to update your home’s interior design

You don’t need to be a professional interior decorator to update your your home’s interior.

With a little creativity, and items already present in your home, you can transform it into a showplace.

Here are 4 inexpensive ways to update your home’s interior design.

1. Paint

The quickest and most inexpensive change you can make to your home’s interior design is new paint. Whether you decide to paint entire rooms or just create an accent wall, new color on the walls will create instant glamour.

If you hire a pro to do the job, plan on spending between $380 and $790 for a 10X12 room, according to homeadvisor.com. This is labor only, by the way, and doesn’t include ceilings, trim or cost of the paint.”

Do it yourself and you’ll save big.

2. Rearrange what you have

Are you taking advantage of the focal point in each room? Whether it’s the fireplace or a view outside a window, arrange furniture so that it faces the focal point.

Not sure what qualifies as a room’s focal point? Check out the guide at pellabranch.com.

Try switching up furniture from one room and putting it in another. Sometimes a stylish nightstand makes a great end-table in the living room; or try putting a dresser in the dining room to act as a buffet.

If you need new furniture but the price just isn’t in your budget, think about slipcovering what you already have. Or, buy inexpensive used furniture and put your DIY skills to work.

While shopping for used furniture, don’t overlook Craigslist online. You can find almost anything there and sellers are likely to negotiate on prices.

3. Add Color

New throw pillows, window coverings and rugs are not only great ways to freshen a room but add color as well. The color-of-the-year, by the way is purple, so go on trend by adding pops of it in your accessories. See the shade (Ultra Violet) on pantone’s website.

Flowers and plants add a splash of color to any room, be it a huge bouquet in the entry or small nosegays in the bathrooms. If you lack a green thumb, silk flowers and plants are inexpensive alternatives.

4. Accessories

You don’t need to break the bank when shopping for accessory pieces and accents for your interior design project. If you find you need a few more accessories why not try flea markets and garage sales? Here’s what to keep an eye out for:

  • Mirrors will make any room look larger and lighter. Groupings of mirrors can be an even more dramatic way to open up a room.
  • Art work is another way to add color and interest as well as texture to your interior design.
  • Decorative pillows can be used in bedrooms and living rooms.
  • Look for items such as decorative plates to hang on the kitchen walls, vases, baskets, candle holders and sconces. Other fun things you might want to look for are drawer pulls and handles for your kitchen and bathroom cabinetry.

If you have the budget, by all means, hire a professional to give you some interior decorating ideas. If not, with a little effort you can do it yourself and save some money. Visit pinterest.com to find fellow DIYers and get tips.

Mistakes to avoid when hiring a roofer

While the average nationwide cost to replace a roof is $7,269, according to homeadvisor.com, costs vary by region, size of the roof and other factors. It’s a huge, expensive job, so it’s understandable that you want to hire the right roofer and get your money’s worth.

So, how do you find this Waldo of the contracting world? Short of a random choice from roofers you find online, we’ve come up with the questions you should ask and how to know you’re choosing the right one.

Common roofing scams

Roof repair and replacement are expensive jobs, so, naturally, the industry attracts its fair share of scammers. Part of your search for a contractor should include being aware of some of the more common scams and how to avoid becoming a victim.

One red flag is the roofer who asks for a down payment upfront, before starting the project. “The company will say it needs the down payment to buy materials or to pay for labor,” cautions Mike LaFollette at Angie’s List. He goes on to say that the scammer will convince the homeowner to sign over the insurance check.

Once they have that check in hand, they never return. Avoid becoming a victim by not paying a down payment until the materials are delivered to your home.

Be suspicious of the roofing door-to-door salesperson. Sure, there are plenty of reputable salespeople who go door-to-door to drum up business, but there are also a lot of bad apples in the bunch.

These folks typically show up in neighborhoods after a storm, which is how they earned their nickname: Storm Chasers.

They’ll use high-pressure tactics (and quote ridiculously low prices) to get the homeowner to sign a contract. The work is typically shoddy and the homeowner has no recourse, as the roofer is chasing storms in another state by the time any problems come to light.

Thoroughly vet any company you’re considering using. Ask for the company’s physical address and then visit the business in person. Avoid any roofing company that only uses a post office box as an address.

How to find a reputable roofing contractor

If you have a general contractor among your family or circle of friends, neighbors and colleagues, he or she may be able to refer you to a good roofer.

If that fails, check the National Roofing Contractors Association website, for members in your area. When you have several names, contact each roofer and request a bid.

  • Ask each interviewee for a copy of his or her business license and tax identification number. This will help assure that the roofer is a legitimate business person.
  • Then, ask to see a copy of the company or roofer’s workers’ compensation and liability insurance coverage.
  • Ask for the names and phone numbers of past clients, then call them.
  • Get the proposal in writing and ensure that descriptions of all work to be performed are complete and include the date the job will begin and end and that payment details are clearly spelled out.
  • Check the Better Business Bureau website to see if any complaints have been filed against the roofer.
  • Ask for a copy of the company’s warranty and read it carefully or have your attorney read it.
  • An extremely low price should set off alarm bells.

Don’t Wait—Create a Home Inventory for Insurance Now!

In 2017, a total of 16 disasters in the United States caused an estimated $306 billion in damage, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

Residents of Montana bore the brunt of wildfires that raged across more than 1 million acres. Californians suffered from fires, as well as flooding and massive mud slides, while hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria devastated homes in Texas, Louisiana, Florida and Puerto Rico.

Many disaster-area residents lacked homeowners insurance and, of those who had policies, many had no idea of how to account for their losses. Trying to recall every single item they owned was nearly impossible.

Living in an area not designated as disaster-prone leads to complacency, a dangerous attitude when fires, theft and other losses can happen anywhere, at any time.

Be prepared by taking stock of your belongings, now.

“If you’re going to insure your property and pay for that insurance, you really should be able to document the ownership and the value of the items that you’re insuring,” Mark Goldwich, author of “Uncovered: What Really Happens After the Storm, Flood, Earthquake or Fire” tells houselogic.com’s Gwen Moran.

“If you don’t have proof of the items you owned, it makes filing your claim much more difficult,” he concludes.

There are several ways to create a home inventory, and we’ll get into some of them in a moment. First, however, learn what your insurance company will want to know about these items.

  • Description of item
  • Quantity
  • Manufacturer
  • Make/model/serial number
  • Date Purchased
  • Estimated or Appraised value
  • Appraisal Company
  • Where Purchased
  • Appraisal Date
  • Appraiser Contact Information

Ways to create a home inventory

  • Create a video of possessions – narrate the important points of each item as you film it from all angles. Zoom in on the model and serial numbers.
  • Photographic documentation – Take photos of each item and make notes on the back of each.
  • Go old school and use an inventory checklist. You can find them online at allstate.com, nycm.com and homeinsurance.com.

Keep it safe

All the time and effort spent documenting your home’s inventory is wasted if the documentation goes up in flames during a fire or disappears if your computer is stolen.

Store your digital media online with a cloud backup service such as IDrive or BackBlaze. Read reviews of these and several similar services online at pcmag.com.

Although these services are quite inexpensive, a more budget-friendly way to store your valuable inventory information is to save the information to a USB drive and then lock it up off-site, such as in a safe deposit box.

Tips from the experts

  • The Insurance Information Institute recommends that you categorize clothing when you count items. For instance, “5 pairs of jeans, 3 pairs of sneakers…”
  • They also remind you to include items that are stored off-site, such as at a storage facility. These items are typically covered by your homeowners insurance.
  • Keep receipts and copies of appraisals for expensive items.
  • Don’t try to do too much of the inventory at once. If you become overwhelmed by the scope of the inventory project, you’ll be reluctant to return to it to get it finished.

Check coverage on big ticket items. Jewelry, art and collectibles may have increased in value and may need special coverage separate from your standard homeowners insurance policy.

While you’re making your home inventory list, check with your agent to make sure you have adequate insurance for these items before there is a loss.

Again, don’t allow yourself to become overwhelmed. Once you’ve started your inventory, keep going even if you can’t get it all done immediately. It’s better to have an incomplete inventory than nothing at all.

Furnish your new home without breaking the bank

Walking into your new home for the first time may be a bit jolting. Unless it was vacant when you purchased it, the home will look completely different.

The walls will be empty, the floors exposed from corner-to-corner and the prospect of filling all that space may be overwhelming.

It’s also exciting. Finally, there’s no landlord to dictate wall color and you can fill the home with whatever you want and can afford.

Ah, therein lies the rub, right? Affordability. After all, you’ve just shelled out a huge chunk of money to the lender, for the down payment and closing costs. If you’re like many homebuyers, there’s not much cash or credit left to do the things you want to in your new home.

This is where you can get creative, and we have some tips to get you started.

Make a plan

We all know what happens when we go grocery shopping without a list. We impulse shop, right? Don’t let this happen to you when shopping for home furnishings and décor.

Go through each room in the house, making notes of your vision for the rooms and what you’ll need to purchase to bring the vision to life.

If you just can’t picture what you want in a room, consider visiting a few new-home communities for ideas. From wall colors to accessories, you can also find tips online at pinterest.com, realsimple.com and bhg.com. 

Shop “used” first

Before shelling out the big bucks for new furniture, consider shopping for used first. It’s the best way to find affordable yet quality furniture.

It’s important, however, to be able to look beyond condition to the “bones” of each piece.

If you like the style of a coffee table or chair, try to overlook the cosmetic, easily-fixed problems.

So, where to shop for these cheap wonders of the decorating world? Read on.

Garage/Estate Sales

No, they aren’t the same thing. Garage sales are the sale of a person’s or family’s “stuff.”

An estate sale is typically a bit more high-end and is used to dispose of a deceased person’s belongings.

Both types of sales, however, offer a variety of items priced less than you’d find at a retail outlet.

Items for sale at estate sales are typically in better condition, so expect to pay a bit more than you would for a similar item at a garage sale.

Don’t forget to take into account any additional costs for transporting your purchases home.

Find garage and estate sales in your area on craigslist.org, estatesales.net and estatesale.com.

Consignment Stores

The consignment store owner is the “middle man (or woman)” between the customer and the for-sale-by-owner. You’ll find higher prices here than you will at thrift stores and garage/estate sales, but most of the items have been well cared-for.

Thrift Stores

Most larger towns and cities have at least one thrift store, such as Deseret Industries, Habitat for Humanity’s ReStore, Goodwill, the Salvation Army and privately-owned thrift stores. Here, you’ll find household furnishings and accessories at deep discounts.

The tradeoff is condition – much of what you’ll find has seen better days.

Again, try to look beyond cosmetic issues to determine if an item is salvageable with new upholstery, paint or stain.

Online Shopping

Craigslist’s popularity depends on where in the U.S. you live. In some areas, it’s the go-to website when folks want to buy or sell something. With the addition of OfferUp, you can find home décor bargains without leaving your living room.

On Craigslist, you’ll find a rather extensive section under “For Sale.” A few years ago, the site started allowing retail stores to offer items, but you are given the ability to exclude those listings, which is ideal when you’re seeking bargains.

Etsy is a fun place to shop for smaller items with shipping charges that won’t break the bank.

You might also consider shopping on eBay, although the shipping charges for large items may make them less of a bargain than you had hoped.

Get around this problem by using the “Delivery Options” link on the left-side navigation menu and ticking the box next to “Free Shipping.”

Or, search eBay locally. In the same, left-side navigation menu, you’ll find “Item Location,” where you can search only for items located within a specified distance from a ZIP code.

Shopping smart can help you add dramatic changes to your new home, without spending a fortune.

Is mold lurking in your home?

Mold – it’s unsightly (when it’s visible) and it’s unhealthy – and, if it’s in our homes, it is present in every breath we take.

Many of us only think of mold in the cold and damp of winter. But, spring weather can also cause a host of problems in our homes and mold is one of them. Not only that, spring is the ideal time to perform mold remediation, according to the experts.

What is mold and how does it get into our homes?

Molds are microscopic fungi that feed on and break down organic materials. In our homes, “They like cellulose. Most of the material we use to build houses – like sheetrock, ceiling tile, wood,” David Straus, a mold expert with Texas Tech University, explained.

But they need moisture to thrive. In fact, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), of all the types of mold in the world, “none of them will grow without water or moisture.”

When conditions are right (moisture, temperature and the presence of organic materials) mold will spread by releasing spores.

Mold exposure symptoms

Symptoms of mold exposure can be as mild as those of seasonal allergies to flu-like symptoms and even the loss of equilibrium, trouble breathing and other life-threatening signs.

Asthma-like wheezing, especially in those not previously diagnosed as asthmatic, is a clear sign that mold may be present in the home.

Diagnosing a mold problem in the home

Mold can be apparent (black substances on the walls), or it can be hidden, such as under carpet pads, furniture and wallpaper.

A common misconception is that mold is black. While it often is, it can also be green, pink or appear as white powder.

The most telling sign of a mold infestation in the home is a musty smell, according to the Minnesota Department of Health.

How to get rid of mold in the home

The experts at the EPA caution that there is no way to rid the home of all mold, but you can control its growth by ridding the home of excess moisture.

This may be easier said than done, however. As mentioned earlier, it is sometimes challenging to find mold, and to remedy the problem you must find the source.

Begin with the places that most commonly experience leaks, such as around the toilets, showers and sinks. Then, inspect the following:

  • Cracks are notorious for allowing water to seep into the home. Check the walls (especially in the basement) and ceilings and the exterior siding for signs of water intrusion.
  • Check the attic for signs of moisture.
  • Inspect anything stored in boxes, such as clothing.
  • Stored furniture may be harboring mold as well.

Once you’ve rid the home of moisture sources, it’s time to clean up the mold. This can be a DIY project, but health experts suggest that you call in a professional mold remediation company for a large infestation.

If you decide on the DIY solution, wear protective clothing and gear, such as gloves, eye protection and a filtering dust mask. Then, follow the advice of the New York State Department of Health:

  • Dry off all wet or damp surfaces.
  • Remove items with mold from the home and discard them. This includes ceiling tiles, carpeting and drywall.
  • Remove mold from hard surfaces by wiping them down with a solution consisting of ½ cup borax in one gallon of water (you can purchase borax online at amazon.com and it’s often available at Walmart and Target).
  • If the surface is frequently in contact with moisture, use a bleach/water solution (12.8 ounces of bleach with one gallon of water). Keep checking the area for future mold growth and apply the solution again, if needed.

Prevent mold infestations in the home

Prevent mold growth by reducing the amount of indoor humidity in the home. The EPA suggests ensuring that there is adequate ventilation in laundry rooms and bathrooms.

Then, if needed, consider purchasing a de-humidifying system to clear the air of excess moisture.

You can find additional mold information online, at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s and at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s websites.