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Posted by on 11:50 am in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Granite Not Your Only Option: 4 Countertop Options To Consider For Your New Kitchen

Remodeling your kitchen is an excellent option if you want to improve the function and efficiency of the space while enhancing the overall look, but making the right decisions is important to achieve an estimated 100 percent return on investment. From choosing paint colors and cabinet material to installing new appliances and flooring, the various decisions can become overwhelming. Thankfully, finding the best option for your kitchen countertops does not have to be challenging. Although a common option for homeowners and builders, granite is not the only appealing countertop material for your kitchen. Using this guide, you can find a durable, attractive, equitable, and non-granite countertop material for your kitchen. Stainless Steel If you are hoping to create a modern, clean, and stream-lined look in your kitchen, consider using stainless steel for your countertops. Not only is stainless steel non-porous and resistant to stains, but it is also a durable option that will stand the test of time. Of course, you most likely spend a great deal of time in your kitchen, cooking and preparing foods, dining, and entertaining. Due to this constant use, preventing fingertip smudges can be difficult on the stainless material. To keep the countertops clean and shiny, you will need to wipe the stainless surfaces down constantly with a mild detergent. Quartz Granite is a natural stone, which may be appealing to you, but its natural look does contain flaws. If you prefer the look of natural stone, but in a more perfected color and design, opt for quartz countertops. Composed of approximately 93 percent natural stone with the remaining percentage comprised of resin, quartz is a great alternative to granite. Here are a few other benefits of this attractive countertop material: Non-Porous – While it does contain a large portion of natural stone, quartz is non-porous and resistant to stains. Easy Maintenance – Since quartz counters are constructed out of both stone and resin, you do not need to seal or wax the countertops. Cleaning is simple, as well. Wipe down with a solution containing warm water and liquid dish soap. Versatile – Quartz is available in a large variety of colors and designs. Choose from a faux-granite or a bright blue or green. With all the different options available, you can easily find a quartz look suited to your kitchen design. Marble Marble is a common option for bathroom countertops, but its elegant look will also work in your kitchen. The material is available in numerous colors and patterns, so you will be able to find the marble piece that works best for your style and personality. Marble does offer a few negatives, though. Since it is a porous material, marble can stain easily, so you sealing your marble countertops will be imperative. To add the luxurious look of marble without worrying about constant stains or maintenance, consider installing marble in one small area of your countertops. The material remains cool to the touch, making it a great surface for preparing dough for baking pies and pastries. Due to this benefit, installing marble solely on your kitchen island or work section is smart. Concrete Installing a slab of concrete in your kitchen may not sound ideal, but concrete countertops are actually attractive options for your kitchen. Concrete is porous, so it can easily...

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Posted by on 11:56 am in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Ways To Improve The Aesthetics And Longevity Of Your Asphalt Driveway

The condition of your home’s driveway affects the aesthetics of your property and can impact the health of your car. If your driveway has large cracks, potholes and bumpy spots, you risk damaging your vehicle each time you drive over the unsightly asphalt. Driving over potholes every day can harm wheel rims, shock absorbers and front end components. Therefore, you should take action to repair the asphalt and make it more attractive by heeding the following tips. Your driveway will look better and you will not have to worry about damaging your car. Clean and Repair the Asphalt You can give your driveway an immediate upgrade by cleaning the asphalt surface and making repairs to sections that are damaged. You will need a large push broom, cleaning solution, water and a large scrub brush. Use the push broom to remove any dirt, leaves, loose asphalt and other debris. Then rinse the asphalt with water. Pretreat stains from oil and grease, tires and other substances with a commercial degreaser. For large grease and oil stains, you can soak up the substances with baking soda or cat litter. Stomp on the cat litter to break it up. Let baking soda or cat litter sit on the stain for at least thirty minutes before scooping it up to finish the job with the degreaser. Use the scrub brush with the degreaser to continue cleaning the asphalt. Rinse away any residue with water. If there are any cracks and small potholes, you can purchase asphalt patch material from a hardware store by the bag. For severely damaged driveways, you should consult with a paving contractor and hire them to repair extremely large potholes and cracks in order to make sure you end up with a smooth, drivable surface when repairs are complete. Seal the Asphalt If you want to increase the longevity of your driveway, you should hire a paving contractor to seal the asphalt surface. The contractor will use professional grade driveway sealer that will slow the asphalt aging process. The driveway will be less susceptible to damage from rain, ice, extreme temperatures and the sun’s UV rays. The contractor will clean the asphalt and repair any cracks before applying the sealant. Be aware that it will take a day or two for the sealant to dry. Make plans to park your car elsewhere until the sealing project is complete. Paint the Asphalt Once repairs on the driveway are complete and the sealant dries ups, you can further enhance the look of the asphalt by painting it. Your paving contractor can apply paint that is specially designed for asphalt surfaces. The paint that contractors use to cover a blacktop surface can withstand the elements as well as vehicle traffic. In addition, asphalt paint comes in several colors so you should be able to select a color that complements your home’s paint job. Line the Driveway With Plants Instead of settling for a plain asphalt driveway, spruce up the entrance to your property with ornamental plants that line the paved surface. Formal hedges, flowering shrubs and small trees can soften the look of a long stretch of asphalt and enhance the beauty of your property. First, you should get rid of weeds that line the edges of the asphalt. If necessary, augment the soil...

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Posted by on 4:26 pm in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Is Your Masonry Home Sending You A Message? What Homeowners Must Know About Cracks & Deterioration

There is a reason why homes constructed of bricks and masonry are often more valued and sought after than a frame home of similar size by many home buyers across the nation. In addition to not needing to be painted every few years, a masonry home resists infiltration by insects and can more easily resist damage from strong winds and weather. In fact, a masonry home originally built in 1639, and designated as a National Historic Landmark, is still standing strong today and has been refurbished for use as a museum. While your masonry home is sure to have been built far more recently than the Henry Whitefield House, mentioned above, it is just as important for you to understand why cracks and deterioration can occur in your masonry home and what you can do about them. Watch for visual clues Masonry walls, whether constructed from bricks, blocks or stones, often offer visual clues of damage or deterioration that should never be ignored. These include: cracking (cracks forming in either the mortar or the bricks, blocks, or stones, or both) spalling (surface flaking of bricks, sometimes extensive) bowing (a vertical bulge in the wall) sweeping (a horizontal bulge in the wall)  leaning (a situation where one or more of the masonry walls appear to be leaning into or away from the home, instead of standing straight)  When to worry about cracks Some cracking is normal in most any brick, block or stone building. This can be due to a wide range of causes, including settlement, soil issues, weather, issues with mortar quality, building practices, exposure to some type of stress or movement and many others. In most cases, hairline and minor cracks that do not become worse over time can be managed by simply monitoring them frequently for changes and addressing them as they occur. Unlike minor cracks, those that are more severe or cause portions of the brick, block or stone wall to crumble, move or appear uneven should always be examined by a reputable professional masonry contractor or masonry restoration expert, such as Mara Restoration, Inc., at the earliest possible time. If left unrepaired, the home can be at risk of infiltration from water, insects and even rodents, as well as other issues. Additionally, major cracking issues can cause stress on the home that result in damage to the interior of the home, including plaster damage, sticking or cracked window panes and doors that become difficult to open and close.   Potential causes of masonry cracking and deterioration When noting the formation of cracks or deterioration in a masonry wall, homeowners should examine the area for any issues that may be causing or contributing to the damage. Since excessive exposure to water can cause masonry walls to deteriorate, homeowners will want to make sure that the guttering is in good condition and is not allowing water to either run down the wall or accumulate against the foundation of the home. Additionally, it is important to direct water from the gutters away from the home through the use of landscaping methods or gutter extensions to prevent issues with saturated soil or frost heaving that can cause movement in the foundation and cracking or deterioration in the masonry walls they support.   Another cause of masonry damage or deterioration is the...

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Posted by on 4:49 pm in Uncategorized | Comments Off on High Energy Bills? Why Your Garage May Be The Cause & How To Fix The Problem

If your heating and cooling bills seem higher than they should be for your home size, then you may be confused why you are losing your cool and warm air when the exterior of your home is well-insulated. You may be considering spending a small fortune to upgrade your heating and cooling systems to see if your investment can pay off in lower energy bills. However, the problem may not lie in those systems at all. It may sound surprising, but a garage that is not properly insulated can result in higher home energy bills, even when you don’t intentionally heat and cool your garage. Read on to find out how to determine if your garage is the cause of those sky-high bills and how to fix the problem. How Improperly Insulated Garage Doors Can Lead Higher Heating and Cooling Costs in Your Entire Home If you took care to install good installation around the perimeter of your home or chose a home that already had good insulation, then keep in mind that the rooms above and adjacent to the garage are lacking this insulation on the walls (or floors) that are connected to your garage. If your garage itself is not properly insulated, especially the door, then these rooms likely feel cooler in the winter and warmer in the summer, even though your heating and air conditioning systems are heating and cooling the rest of your home well.  Much of the heated or cooled air that enters those rooms leaks right into the garage and out the door. If you compensate by adding extra heating and air conditioning units to those rooms or just cranking up your existing systems to the point where the rest of the home is then too hot or too cool, then you are wasting energy that you could avoid wasting if you just insulated your garage well.  How to Easily Fix the Problem Insulating your garage is likely easier than you think, because the part of the garage you need to focus on is the exterior wall, and a huge part of that wall is your garage door. Some garage doors are about 20-percent of the entire front of a home. Simply switching out your existing garage door for a new, well-insulated one and having it installed properly to eliminate any drafts around the perimeter of it is the first and most important step on your way to a properly insulated garage.  For the best insulation, your garage door should include the following: A a door with with integrated high density polystyrene or polyurethane foam layers. The great news is that when choosing a door with one of these integrated foam layers, you don’t have to sacrifice style and curb appeal for good insulation. Even a typically drafty door made of wood or metal can provide proper garage insulation when it contains layers of insulation.  A thick door. It can be easy to see how a three-inch thick insulated door would provide more insulation than a two-inch one.  Large panels. Every joint between door panels provides an additional space where a potential draft could occur. The fewer panels your door has, the fewer places a draft could occur.  Air-tight seals around the door. A good seal around your door eliminates drafts, so they are...

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Posted by on 9:50 am in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Maintenance Tasks To Keep Your Street Sweeper In Great Shape

If you have recently purchased a street sweeping machine and have acquired a bid through your town or city that allows you to clean the streets, then you are probably looking forward to your new career. You likely understand that your street sweeping machine is your best tool and investment. This means that regular maintenance is required to keep it in good condition. Keep reading to learn about a few tips to help keep your street sweeping machine in great shape. Clean Your Brushes Your street sweeper has a variety of brushes on the bottom and side of your machine. Gutter, rotary, wafer, and strip brushes are a few of the varieties that may sit on your machine. Most of these brushes will be made out of polypropylene materials. Polypropylene is a thermoplastic material that is commonly used to make products like ropes, carpeting, and other plastic materials. This type of plastic is quite strong. However, the thin polypropylene bristles of your sweeper brushes can break off over time. One way to prevent this from happening is to wash your brushes after every use. A gentle car washing solution or dish soap will work best to clear away debris. Rinse with a hose afterwards. When your sweeper is not in use, you should also make sure that your device is placed in a garage or another covered area. While most chemical substances will not cause polypropylene materials to deteriorate, the heat and the UV rays of the sun can cause damage.  Some of your sweeper brushes may have some steel bristles. This is more common for gutter brushes. These brushes should be cleaned and rinsed just like the polypropylene varieties. However, you will also need to add some lubricant to the metal to keep corrosion at bay. Silicone based lubricants are not likely to last long when placed on the metal brushes, so think about using motor oil instead. Lubricate the bristles around once a week or after every cleaning. Also, inspect the brushes for corrosion since rust can transfer to the polypropylene bristles and to the road as well. When you lubricate the metal brushes, think about adding a grease lubricant to the bearings too, that help the brushes spin.  Clear The Sprayers If your street sweeper is a variety that uses water to force debris and dirt off the street, then you will likely need to fill the back tank every week to make sure that you have enough fluids for cleaning purposes. Unfortunately, if the water in your area is hard, like it is in the vast majority of the United States, then calcium and magnesium may clog your water sprayers. This will reduce the volume and intensity of the water that you release when cleaning. To prevent issues, consider cleaning your water sprayers every three to six months. Most sprayers are the small and thin varieties that sit on the front of the sweeper, so place about two cups of vinegar in a small bucket with two cups of water. Allow each sprayer to sit in the mixture for two or three hours. Rinse the sprayers afterwards.  If possible, consider getting a water filter for your machine as well. These filters sit in or near the water pump and help to remove minerals and other foreign materials so they cannot clog...

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Posted by on 6:18 pm in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Trouble Breathing After Relocating To A Humid Climate? How Can You Find Relief?

If you’ve recently relocated to the coastal South from a drier, more arid climate, you may have had some trouble adjusting to the high levels of heat and humidity that can occasionally take your breath away. However, for those who deal with real breathing difficulties — such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder (COPD), asthma, or allergies — this humidity can feel (and be) downright oppressive. Short of returning to your old climate, do you have any options that won’t leave you feeling like an elephant is sitting on your chest? Read on to learn more about some of the air conditioning systems and home air treatments that can help you breathe easier in even the most humid climates.   What types of air conditioning can help improve the breathability of humid air? If you feel as though your lungs immediately constrict when exposed to humidity, you may be correct — studies have shown that asthma patients have a nearly instant physiological reaction to hot and humid air, with a level of airway restriction not seen in non-asthma sufferers. Because this physical reaction to humid air is magnified by heat, keeping your home at a cool temperature while minimizing humidity can be key to pulmonary comfort. While most air conditioners work equally well at cooling hot air, some are better than others at removing humidity. An air conditioner’s size (relative to the space to be cooled) and efficiency can be key factors in the amount of moisture it is able to remove. Whether you’re interested in a window air conditioner, a central HVAC unit, or even a swamp cooler, you’ll want to focus your search on a unit that will run fairly constantly during peak periods (rather than an oversized or energy-efficient unit that needs to run less frequently) to ensure that moisture is constantly being removed from the air.   Another key feature you’ll want to look for is a variable cooling unit — by decreasing the speed at which air flows over the compressor to be cooled, you’ll be able to increase the amount of moisture extracted from this hot air. Some newer units even include moisture control sensors that allow you to specify the household humidity level you’d like to achieve. Can an in-home air purifier bring additional relief?  Although switching the type of air conditioner you use can help reduce the average humidity level within your home, you may find that you still have occasional breathing troubles — particularly when coming inside from outside, getting out of the shower, or engaging in other activities that involve a sudden and extreme temperature change. If this is the case, you may benefit from the installation of a whole-house dehumidifier along with an air filter or purifier. If you’ve ever used a warm-mist or cool-mist humidifier to help ease a croupy child’s breathing, you’re already familiar with how this device operates. A dehumidifer operates in reverse, using a compressor to extract moisture from the surrounding air and deposit it into a canister to be periodically emptied. When using a dehumidifier in your home for the first time, you may be amazed at the amount of excess moisture this small machine can extract on a daily basis — especially when considering how much of this moisture may have previously made its way...

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