3 Unusual Yet Highly Profitable Home Improvement Ideas

Whenever the topic of home improvement comes up, people normally think about kitchen renovation or remodeling of the bathroom as the most profitable value additions to the home. While this is true, it does not mean that these are your only options. There are many more things you can do and should do to increase the real estate value of your property. Here are some very unusual ideas that make excellent investment:

  • Value Addition Amenities – it is not always necessary that you remodel or renovate your home for added value. You could instead upgrade the safety levels of the house by installing state-of-the-art alarm systems or close-circuit cameras or automatic gates and so on. In the present day, where safety is more and more an issue such improvement would bring up the value of your home significantly. Especially, if the home buyer is worried about young children or senior people living in the family. Other examples that could inspire you would be transforming a room into a home theater, or installing a Jacuzzi in the bathroom, and so on. Think what would thrill people and see if you could add to your home.
  • Increase the Storage Space – one extremely important thing yet always too less in modern homes is storage space. Many home owners realize that an additional pantry, laundry room, closet, etc can indeed dramatically increase the value of the property. Try adding ante-room to each bedroom or transform the attic into a large and spacious children’s bedroom cum hangout place. You could also remodel the basement into a gym, library, home theater or study cum play room. The increased and improved space made available would add a lot to the valuation of your home.
  • Turn The Basement Into A Recreational Area – most people use their basement as storage place, laundry room, or utility room. Change into a recreational area to be used by children and adults alike. Put in air conditioning, good flooring, modular storage space and sitting and sleeping arrangements. Add a PC connected to broadband for Internet TV and you have an exceptionally cozy entertainment zone that can be used for leisure with the family or for party times. When you turn the basement into a fun living room, you have added value to your home without remodeling or renovating much. There is a huge list of resources on the Net with some very ingenious and cost-efficient ideas.

As you can see, home improvement or remodeling does not necessarily mean breaking and building rooms. You cold add enormous value to your home by refurbishing the unused space in your home so it adds up to the overall quality of your home. These types of renovations do not cost an arm and a leg, yet they enhance the value of the home quite significantly. There is no death of home improvement ideas either – just spend a day on the Internet and you will have more material than you could use in a lifetime.

If you’re going to implement a theater room, consider buying your products from Best Buy. Groupon offers great deals for brands like this and hundreds of others.

What You Ought To Know About Windows For Your Homes

The way they are constructed, makes double hung windows very popular. Cleaning double hung windows are easier than windows based on a spiral or string system because they won’t allow the sash to drop out when you are cleaning them. Double hung windows tilt in a way that uses a flush fitting tilt release which is more attractive than screwed in tilt release systems that are more commonly used. You may find that choosing a quality window is difficult because of the overwhelming number of options. A solid warranty offered by a quality manufacturer as well as your budget should be important factors in the window decision you make. Windows are a large investment and if you pick wisely you can save money over the long run by improving your energy efficiency. In order to save money in the future you may be wise to spend a little more on your windows now..

Quality doors add to the curb appeal of a home and also enhance your home’s security. Block the noise outside from entering your home with a well built door which will provide a sound barrier. Energy efficiency is the most important door feature to have. Well built doors provide tight, long-lasting barriers by using effective weather seals to improve energy efficiency. The function of door (patio, garage, front or interior door) will certainly be a factor in your decision. When you install a door ensure it is up to code and meets the safety features in your area. There are a number of design options you can choose from when it comes to doors, such as whether you would like to use coloured, textured or wrought iron glass. There are many types of materials that hand formed bevels come in like black chrome, lead, brass, copper, zinc and antique black. Breaking a door by force in order to enter your home is more difficult when you have well built security plates in your door.

When installing doors and windows in your house don’t forget to factor in window coverings into the price. New technology has improved the quality of shutters and blinds now available. The decision of using a shutter or blind will come down to personal preference because there are so many benefits to both. Blinds are sometimes preferred because of the flexibility they offer for installation and the variety of colours and types you can choose from. Common types of blinds include roman, roller, sheers, pleated shades or cellular shades. The fact that shutters offer home owners privacy, durability and versatility are key benefits. Shutters are designed to allow you to control the amount of privacy and light in your home. The features of light and privacy control offered by shutters makes them a popular choice. Shutters don’t shrink, fade, peel or crack, which makes them a great investment for home owners. Shutters can be cleaned easily, making them a popular choice. The ability to easily remove shutters that have a hinge-release panel makes cleaning them very accessible. Whether you want to install shutters inside the window frame or not is up to you. If you find a reliable manufacturer they will usually offer a solid warranty, perhaps even up to 25 years. The quality, type or size of window coverings you choose will impact the price.

EPDM Liners Should Be A Basic For Any Pond Repair

Pond repair kits are a necessity for any pond owner. In order to address the natural wear and tear that results in rips, cracks and holes in pond liners, a handy tool kit can be a lifesaver. But what you keep in that kit can make all the difference and no smart owner should be without some PondPro. It also has a 25 year history of success and backed by a 5 year warranty.

Traditional tools for pond repair can include tape, adhesive and rollers for patching together and smoothing over seams and cracks. But even the best quality tapes and adhesives can still give way over time, leaving you back to the drawing board with the same problem you had originally. Only EPDM liners can provide a quick, easy and durable solution for all of your repair needs.

PondPro contains all of the same substances as traditional liners but in an easily manipulated form that enables it to cover any size or shape pond. This flexibility along with an amazing durability makes liquid liner a basic addition to all Pond repair kits. As a matter of fact, once you�ve used liquid liner all other means of repair will pale in comparison.

Pond repair is almost impossible to avoid since most ponds, reflecting pools and fountains are exposed to the elements and this inevitably leads to damage. Whether it�s rust forming on the metal parts of the pond, dirt and debris falling into it or stress caused by extremes in temperatures or the sun�s UV rays, your pond�s surface can take a beating and you need to be ready to repair it before it becomes too severe.

Nothing works as well to guard against this kind of natural wear and tear as PondPro. It resists oxidization so built up rust won�t be a problem and it is designed to protect against UV damage from the sun. And its unique chemical composition allows it to withstand almost any temperature extreme so that it will stand up to bitter cold and sweltering heat alike.

Because it is so versatile and dependable, PondPro is the one must have for all Pond leak repair kits. It is easy to apply and one coat is all you need to create a permanent waterproof seal. Simply pour over the damaged area and smooth with a roller, squeegee or brush to ensure even coverage. No more worrying about patches that might eventually give out or seams that might not be perfectly smooth, now you�ll have a perfect, functional liner in one easy step.

PondPro has many advantages over traditional patches. Not only is it flexible and easy to use, but it can be applied in any climate as well so you don�t have to wait for the weather to warm up or cool down before beginning your repairs. Just pour on, smooth out and within hours the PondPro will be dry and watertight.

If you want to enjoy your pond for years to come, don�t be caught unprepared when damage occurs. Make sure you have a well-stocked repair kit that includes PondPro. This one handy tool will be all you need to fix any leaks, cracks or breaks that come up without breaking your wallet in the process. Try PondPro today and you�ll never look back!

The Hidden Costs of Buying & Maintaining A Swimming Pool

The Hidden Costs of Buying & Maintaining A Swimming Pool

A bright swimming pool on a sunny summer afternoon is always filled with smiles, laughs and all around fun. Swimming pools are great for the family and increasing your home’s value, but they also come with many maintenance items that will lighten your pockets.

Before installing a new outdoor swimming pool, be sure to see the most common costs of buying and maintain a swimming pool.

Costs of Inground vs. Above Ground Pools

Off the bat, all homeowners should know that inground swimming pools are more expensive to install than above ground. You will have to dig a very large hole to place the pool and this can only be done by a swimming pool professional. On average, the cost of installing a new inground swimming pool runs between $14,961 and $21,649. Choosing a pool installed at the ground level won’t require excavation (save $$$). In fact, the cost of an above ground pool is typically a third of that price. They rarely cost more than $4,500 to purchase and professionally install. To see the price in your area, check out our swimming pool installation cost estimator.

Costs of Pool Materials

Like any other home remodeling project, the materials you put into it have a great effect on the durability and price. Swimming pools are no different. Solid concrete pools are at the highest end of the spectrum and are designed to last the longest. Vinyl and fiberglass pool shells, which can be simply installed rather than crafted on site, are slightly cheaper than concrete. Customized tiled pools are also expensive because of their higher labor costs.

Costs of Pool Accessories

Many families want more than your average circular swimming pool. We want action. We want more fun. We want jaw-dropping designs. We want extra pool accessories.

Swimming pool slides generally cost around $1,674 for purchase and professional installation. Diving boards, while still providing just as much fun for the kids, are far less at an average of $384.

Other common accessories like pool lighting and tile mosaics have a wide range in prices. A professional pool contractor can help you narrow it down and determine the best ones for your new pool.

Costs of Pool Maintenance

Below are the costs many homeowners don’t consider before buying a brand new swimming pool. Since the pool is exposed to the outdoors 24/7, it will require regular maintenance throughout the year. Understanding some of the most common maintenance items will help you determine the true cost of owning a swimming pool.

Maintenance Costs of Natural Pools

Natural pools are often chosen because they use fewer chemicals and create a peaceful look on your property. While they do require less maintenance overall, they are not cost-free additions to the home. Expect to pay a minimum of $78 monthly for the maintenance of any plants in the pool, keeping the filtration system operating efficiently and cleaning debris from the surface.

Maintenance Costs of Standard Pools

Most likely, you will be installing a standard swimming pool that will require you to maintain the water’s pH balance with chemicals. Sodium hypochlorite will raise the pool’s pH while granular acid will lower it. It’s important to test the water’s balance once a week. You should also provide additional treatment for your pool following a storm, intense heat or growing algae.

There are additional chemicals you must add to kill algae and bacteria. Chlorine is the most popular chemical. It comes in the form of liquid, tablets and a powdery substance. The tablets are often a better choice because they dissolve slowly over time and do not require much maintenance.

On average, expect maintenance to cost $178, but know that the costs will be heavily dependent on the size and quality of your pool.

Costs of Pool Covers

You will not be using the pool 24/7 and therefore, need to protect it from snow, leaves and other harmful items. Every pool owner needs to have a pool cover.

One of the most affordable types are mesh pool nets that cover the tops of both inground and above ground swimming pools. While these won’t necessarily warm the water or stop it from freezing, they do prevent leaves and debris from falling in and blocking the filtration system. Expect to pay anywhere from $40 to $200 for a mesh pool net cover.

Some pool covers are designed to heat the water of the pool, which makes it a viable swimming option for much of the year. These covers can be made for inground or above ground pools and they are often a thick blue insulated material. The low-end price for these covers is $139, but professional installation and high-quality solar warmth may cost as much as $1,305.

Finally, winter pool covers are designed to stay in place for several months at a time, and it secures the pool from leaves, debris or snow. Expect to pay upwards of $59 for a winter pool cover.

Cost of Resurfacing A Fiberglass Pool

Gouges, chips or cracked fiberglass pools are unsightly and not safe for children. Rather than replacing the pool entirely, bringing in professionals to resurface the material can give the pool a fresh new look. On average, resurfacing costs between $655 and $744.

Cost of Liner Replacement for Above Ground Pools

Despite its lower cost for installation, above ground pools may eventually need substantial repair. The biggest problem is a ripped liner, which will have to be replaced entirely. Expect to pay $700 for this replacement, with $500 going to the costs of labor and $200 going to the replacement liner itself.


You should be prepared to dedicate at least four hours a week to pool maintenance. On top of the maintenance costs, this can be a large time commitment. But remember, the hours spent in the pool will undoubtedly make it worth your while.

Everything You Need to Know About Tile, Hardwood & Carpet Flooring

Besides the kitchen and bathroom, a home’s flooring is frequently chosen as the next home remodeling project. Over the years, new options have come to life, like cork or bamboo flooring, but one preference that remains a top choice across America is tile.

Whether it’s the abundance of tile options available, their durable nature or ease in maintenance, tile floors remain the most popular selection on the market. Despite carpet’s prominence or the sudden rise in hardwood flooring, tile flooring offers unique advantages these other flooring options do not.

Based on installation, repairs, cost, durability and design, I will show you why tile floors are better than carpet or hardwood.

Installing Tile Flooring

Tile floors work great for bathrooms, kitchens and hallways because they can withstand the everyday wear and tear that comes with these highly trafficked rooms. Installing tile may be a DIY task for some ambitious homeowners, but there is a lot of labor involved as well as materials, like a wet saw. To professionally install tile floors, expect to pay around $3,724 for 500 square feet.

Installing Hardwood Flooring

Along with it’s popularity, hardwood flooring costs continue to rise as well. The costs of materials and labor for the installation of hardwood floors will depend substantially on what type of wood is used. Solid planks are harder to install than engineered wood with tongues and grooves, so that could affect overall expenses as well. However, expect to pay roughly $4,840 for 500 square feet of materials, labor and delivery.

Installing Carpet Flooring

Carpeting adds a warm feeling to any home, but more and more homeowners are starting to associate it with a dated design. The price of carpet can fluctuate substantially depending on the quality of the material and how much carpet you need, so it can be hard to pin down the exact price. Installation is also tricky because many companies include installation in the cost of the carpet. On average, expect to pay $2,969 for 500 square feet of medium-quality carpet and installation labor.

When it comes to repairs, a homeowner can’t only look at the average costs reported. One must consider the lifetime of each flooring option, the traffic the floors sees and the extent of the damage. Despite the fact that the average cost for tile repairs ($300-$600) is more than hardwood or carpet ($150-$300), tile is more often looked as a cheaper alternative.

When repairing tile floors, you or the pro must ensure that the concrete holding the tile down is level with existing tiles, in addition to maintaining the existing pattern. The more complex this is, the more the repair will cost. Because tiles are laid one by one, a professional should be able to remove just a couple of tiles and replace them. For a simple repair of a few tiles in a floor, expect to pay about $100 in materials, depending on the amount of tiles as they are priced individually. Overall, with labor, this is a $300 to $600 job for an established, reputable business.

Hardwood Repairs

Repairing a hardwood floor usually means having the floor refinished. Expect to pay anywhere from $3 to $4 per square foot for a true professional. The end result is a floor that looks virtually brand new for a fraction of what a new floor would cost. Other types of wood floors offer other options that are more cost efficient. For example, a floating wooden floor involves no glue or adhesive during installation – the pieces simply snap together. Although it can be tedious, repairing a wooden floor of this kind is much less expensive – perhaps the cost of a box of flooring plus labor – and should not cost more than $250.

Carpet Repairs

Whether you’re removing a tough stain, patching up or repairing carpet seams, homeowners can expect to pay between $150-$250 for carpet repairs. However, despite it’s lower cost, bear in mind that cleaning carpet requires much more maintenance than hardwood or tile, driving up their total costs. Additionally, carpet can seem dated quicker than that of tile or hardwood.

No matter what flooring option you go with, there are numerous types to choose from.

Tile Flooring Types

  • Bullets
  • Ceramic
  • Porcelain
  • Terra Cotta
  • Glazed
  • Mosaic
  • Quarry
  • Stone
  • Granite
  • Marble
  • Slate

To see the full breakdown of each, please see Types of Floor Tile.

Hardwood Flooring Types

  • Oak
  • Mahogany
  • Lyptus
  • Ash
  • Hickory
  • Pine
  • Cherry
  • Brazilian Cherry
  • Walnut
  • Rosewood
  • Maple

To see the full breakdown of each, please see So You Chose Hardwood Floors.

Carpet Flooring Types

Carpet flooring doesn’t depend as much on type as it does on design. That is why I found 8 Clever and Bizarre Carpet Designs.


No matter what floor you go with, each will need a regular cleaning schedule to maintain it’s glossy, warm or inviting touch.

Cleaning Tile Floors

Much like hardwood, a majority of homeowners will choose to clean their tile floors themselves. After all, some good TLC is usually all you need to keep your tile floors looking as good as new. However, there are special machines that pros use to clean those tougher stains caught in the tile or grout.

By using a large steam cleaning machine and a special mix of chemicals, professional cleaners will be able to restore the luster of tiles. Other pros use their hands to get to those tough stains. Either way, if you hire a professional, plan on paying approximately $401 for cleaning tile floors.

Cleaning Hardwood Floors

Few homeowners choose to have their hardwood floors professionally cleaned. Since basic care of hardwood includes dusting, mopping or vacuuming, many choose to do it themselves. However, if you go with a professional, plan on paying a similar amount to that of tile floors.

Cleaning Carpet

One of the biggest drawbacks of carpet is the challenge of cleaning some carpet materials. Although the specific costs of carpet cleaning will vary depending on the type of cleaning needed, the severity of the stain and the size of the carpeted area, most homeowners paid $167 to have their carpets professionally cleaned.

Keep in mind, carpet demands more cleaning than that of tile or hardwood, so while the average is less, the number of cleans over the carpet’s lifetime is usually more.

Other Tile Advantages

  • Ceramic tile is not that cold. Ceramic tile reflects the room temperature and holds onto that temperature for a long time. At times it can be cold. There are products out there that can be installed prior to tile installation that can warm up a floor.
  • Floor tiles are expected to be the fastest growing ceramic tiles at an estimated CAGR of 9.4% from 2012 to 2018 (Transparency Market Research).
  • U.S. demand for decorative tile is predicted to rise approximately 7% per year through 2017, reaching over 3 billion square feet (Lori Kirk-Rolley, vice president of brand marketing for Dal-Tile).
  • Tile is waterproof. However, the grout joints connecting the tile do allow water transmission. This is where an improper installation can result in a structural problem and a costly replacement. The best thing to do for the grout is to seal it and keep any cracks caulked. Simple maintenance will give your tile a long life.
  • Tile floors do not squeak, which can occur with hardwood.


Tile floor has been and remains a prominent flooring option for a reason. Given its durable nature, abundance of options, easy maintenance schedule and glossy finish, I expect it to remain in its prominence for years to come.

Driveway Gates an ideal way to finish off your drive

When it comes to your home, you want it to be as unique as you are as first impressions are very important. It makes sense to start with the part of your house that everyone will see first � your gates and railing. Wrought iron driveway gates are an ideal way to finish off your drive. You can give your home that wow factor with new iron driveway gates.

Driveway gates and fences will enhance the beauty, privacy and security of your home. A driveway gate extends your home security to the boundaries of your property, and in a time where people are increasingly worried about their security adding an iron gate at the driveway entrance has become popular. Having a secure fence and gate can be a great comfort, particularly if your house lies in an area of heavy traffic. In addition to the security benefits, adding a gate also contains animals, clearly marks property lines and makes a huge aesthetic improvement to your home.

When you choose an iron driveway gate for your home you can be confident in the knowledge that they are known for their strength and endurance. This makes them less likely to break or bend. With today�s power coating options, wrought iron gates can become just as rust resistant as aluminium. Iron gates can be matched with existing fences, pedestrian gates and access control systems.

It can be very frustrating to finish a long commute only to have to get out of the car, open a gate, drive through it, get out of the car again and close the gate. With this in mind another trendy feature for your iron driveway gates is to install an automatic gate opener. Electric gates provide indispensable convenience, allowing a gate to be opened without ever having to leave your car and therefore eliminating all those cumbersome steps.

When purchasing electric gates you need to consider a few options. The most obvious is deciding whether you want your driveway gate to open by sliding or swinging outwards. Swing gates are more aesthetically pleasing but you must take into account the opening radius depending on the length of the gate. Sliding gates will eliminate this issue as they retract rather than swing out.

You will also need to consider how much power is required to open and close your driveway gate. The amount of power is dependent on the size of your gate, how it opens and how many times it will need to be opened each day.

Finally, how will your gate be accessed, and by how many users? Electric gates are operated by a controller which sends a signal to the opening mechanism.

There are several options for your controller:


�Wired keypads

�Keypads with intercoms

�Key card operated controllers

�Controllers operated by remotes or telephones

Each of these features will affect the price and your final decision should be based on your budget and personal preference. Once you have taken all these points into consideration you can narrow down your options and choose the best Driveway Gates for your specific needs.

There is an amazing company called The Ironworks who have over 40 years experience in this field and will definitely be able to provide a driveway gate to your exact specification. Visit their website tiwtheironworks.co.uk to see exactly what they have to offer.

Don’t Miss These Home Tax Deductions

One of the neatest deductions itemizing homeowners can take advantage of is the mortgage interest deduction, which you claim on Schedule A. To get the mortgage interest deduction, your mortgage must be secured by your home — and your home can be a house, trailer, or boat, as long as you can sleep in it, cook in it, and it has a toilet.

Interest you pay on a mortgage of up to $1 million — or $500,000 if you’re married filing separately — is deductible when you use the loan to buy, build, or improve your home.

If you take on another mortgage (including a second mortgage, home equity loan, or home equity line of credit) to improve your home or to buy or build a second home, that counts towards the $1 million limit.

If you use loans secured by your home for other things — like sending your kid to college — you can still deduct the interest on loans up $100,000 ($50,000 for married filing separately) because your home secures the loan.

Prepaid Interest Deduction

Prepaid interest (or points) you paid when you took out your mortgage is generally 100% deductible in the year you paid it along with other mortgage interest.

If you refinance your mortgage and use that money for home improvements, any points you pay are also deductible in the same year.

But if you refinance to get a better rate or shorten the length of your mortgage, or to use the money for something other than home improvements, such as college tuition, you’ll need to deduct the points over the life of your mortgage. Say you refi into a 10-year mortgage and pay $3,000 in points. You can deduct $300 per year for 10 years.

So what happens if you refi again down the road?

Example: Three years after your first refi, you refinance again. Using the $3,000 in points scenario above, you’ll have deducted $900 ($300 x 3 years) so far. That leaves $2,400, which you can deduct in full the year you complete your second refi. If you paid points for the new loan, the process starts again; you can deduct the points over the life of the loan.

Home mortgage interest and points are reported on Schedule A of IRS Form 1040.

Your lender will send you a Form 1098 that lists the points you paid. If not, you should be able to find the amount listed on the HUD-1 settlement sheet you got when you closed the purchase of your home or your refinance closing.

Property Tax Deduction

You can deduct on Schedule A the real estate property taxes you pay. If you have a mortgage with an escrow account, the amount of real estate property taxes you paid shows up on your annual escrow statement.

If you bought a house this year, check your HUD-1 settlement statement to see if you paid any property taxes when you closed the purchase of your house. Those taxes are deductible on Schedule A, too.

PMI and FHA Mortgage Insurance Premiums

You can deduct the cost of private mortgage insurance (PMI) as mortgage interest on Schedule A if you itemize your return. The change only applies to loans taken out in 2007 or later.

What’s PMI? If you have a mortgage but didn’t put down a fairly good-sized down payment (usually 20%), the lender requires the mortgage be insured. The premium on that insurance can be deducted, so long as your income is less than $100,000 (or $50,000 for married filing separately).

If your adjusted gross income is more than $100,000, your deduction is reduced by 10% for each $1,000 ($500 in the case of a married individual filing a separate return) that your adjusted gross income exceeds $100,000 ($50,000 in the case of a married individual filing a separate return). So, if you make $110,000 or more, you can’t claim the deduction (10% x 10 = 100%).

Besides private mortgage insurance, there’s government insurance from FHA, VA, and the Rural Housing Service. Some of those premiums are paid at closing, and deducting them is complicated. A tax adviser or tax software program can help you calculate this deduction. Also, the rules vary between the agencies.

Vacation Home Tax Deductions

The rules on tax deductions for vacation homes are complicated. Do yourself a favor and keep good records about how and when you use your vacation home.

  • If you’re the only one using your vacation home (you don’t rent it out for more than 14 days a year), you deduct mortgage interest and real estate taxes on Schedule A.
  • Rent your vacation home out for more than 14 days and use it yourself fewer than 15 days (or 10% of total rental days, whichever is greater), and it’s treated like a rental property. Your expenses are deducted on Schedule E.
  • Rent your home for part of the year and use it yourself for more than the greater of 14 days or 10% of the days you rent it and you have to keep track of income, expenses, and allocate them based on how often you used and how often you rented the house.

Homebuyer Tax Credit

This isn’t a deduction, but it’s important to keep track of if you claimed it in 2008.

There were federal first-time homebuyer tax credits in 2008, 2009, and 2010.

If you claimed the homebuyer tax credit for a purchase made after April 8, 2008, and before Jan. 1, 2009, you must repay 1/15th of the credit over 15 years, with no interest.

The IRS has a tool you can use to help figure out what you owe each year until it’s paid off. Or if the home stops being your main home, you may need to add the remaining unpaid credit amount to your income tax on your next tax return.

Generally, you don’t have to pay back the credit if you bought your home in 2009, 2010, or early 2011. The exception: You have to repay the full credit amount if you sold your house or stopped using it as primary residence within 36 months of the purchase date. Then you must repay it with your tax return for the year the home stopped being your principal residence.

The repayment rules are less rigorous for uniformed service members, Foreign Service workers, and intelligence community workers who got sent on extended duty at least 50 miles from their principal residence.

Energy-Efficiency Upgrades

The Nonbusiness Energy Tax Credit lets you claim a credit for installing energy-efficient home systems. Tax credits are especially valuable because they let you offset what you owe the IRS dollar for dollar, in this case, for up to 10% of the amount you spent on certain upgrades.

The credit carries a lifetime cap of $500 (less for some products), so if you’ve used it in years past, you’ll have to subtract prior tax credits from that $500 limit. Lucky for you, there’s no cap on how much you’ll save on utility bills thanks to your energy-efficiency upgrades.

Gutter Protection Breakdown

You may not realize the importance of keeping your gutters clear and debris free, but if your gutter system is often left neglected and abused, you can wind up with serious and costly home repairs.

Clogged and damaged gutters can lead to problems like foundation problems, structural issues, landscape erosion, basement flooding and water damage. One way to protect your home from severe damage is to invest in a gutter protection system.

A gutter protection system is a product that either attaches to your existing gutters, or replaces your entire gutter system, with the intent of allowing only debris to enter your gutters, while water is safely carried through your gutters and diverted away from your home.

From DIY solutions to professionally installed gutter protection systems, let’s face it – gutter protection can be overwhelming. That’s why, at LeafFilter, we want to educate you about the pros and cons of the different types of gutter protection systems. The following will inform you about the different type of gutter protection systems so you can find the system that meets your needs.

DIY Gutter Protection Systems

DIY gutter systems are relatively inexpensive systems that are installed by the homeowner. You can find them at the big home improvement stores. While cost-effective and convenient to purchase, homeowner solutions are mass produced and usually do not include any type of warranty. Usually, these types of systems will need to be replaced within a few years. Foam, brush, metal screen, plastic screen and small hole gutter guards are typical gutter guard options for homeowners.

Foam Gutter Guards: Foam gutter guards are a homeowner solution that is relatively inexpensive. Homeowners place the foam or sponge material that is placed inside of your gutters with the intent of allowing water to drip through (while keeping debris out). Unfortunately, foam gutter guards will trap seeds, and with the abundance of moisture, weeds, plants and trees will begin to grow where they shouldn’t – in your gutters.

Gutter Brush: Brush gutter guards are known to be an inexpensive short-term solution that homeowners can install themselves. The brush is placed into the gutters and is shaped like a giant pipe cleaner. The system is meant to repel debris. However, brush gutter guards actually attract birds and other nesting animals, and trap other debris items like pine cones, leaves and maple spinners. These types of systems will eventually need to be removed and cleaned in order to prevent home damage.Metal Screen Guards: The DIY metal screen product is made out of steel or aluminum. These types of systems are relatively low cost and easy to install by the homeowner, making them a common choice for homeowners looking for a DIY gutter guard option. It’s important to note that because of their larger openings, these types of gutter guards will not keep out smaller debris like pine needles, seeds, insects and shingle grit, so you may need to remove them and clean your gutter periodically throughout the year.Plastic Screen Guards: Plastic screen gutter guards are similar to metal screen options because they have wide openings. With the presence of larger openings, pine needles, leaves, seeds, dirt and insects will still enter and clog your gutters. So, just like with metal screen gutter guards, you may still find yourself removing and cleaning your gutters with this solution.

Small Hole Gutter Guards: With small hole gutter guards, debris such as pine needles, shingle grit, seed pods and dirt will enter your gutter, making these types of gutter guards an unreliable system. In fact, homeowners will routinely have to remove these gutter guards to clean out the debris that is trapped inside.

Professionally Installed Gutter Protection Systems

Professionally installed gutter guards are typically more of an investment than homeowner-installed options. These types of professional gutter protection systems have better clog protection and will last longer than the DIY options. Plus, when installed by a professional, you will typically receive some type of warranty for the product. The three main types of professionally installed gutter protection systems are louver, reverse

Louver Gutter Guards: Professionally installed louver systems feature a large opening that runs the entire length of the gutter guard system. Although larger debris won’t find its way into your gutters, smaller items like leaves, pine needles, seed pods, pests, insects and shingle grit can enter and clog your gutters. Reverse Curve Gutter Guards: Reverse curve gutter guards feature a rounded hood that covers your gutter with a large channel that runs along the entire front edge of the gutter guard. Some reverse curve gutter systems require the purchase of an entirely new gutter systems, since the hood will not fit to your existing gutters. Reverse curve products rely on surface tension. Water is supposed to follow the path of the curve of the hood into your gutters. If water adheres to the curve, so will pine needles, leaves and other debris. This can leave you with gutters that are full of debris. Micromesh Gutter Guards: Micromesh gutter guards are typically made of two main parts: an ultra-thin mesh material and a sturdy supporting frame. Depending on the brand and quality of the micromesh gutter guard, the supporting frame can be made of multiple materials like plastic, metal or uPVC. These types of gutter guard systems feature openings that are less than 50 microns small, keeping out all types of debris, except for water. Although these types of gutter guards offer the greatest clog protection, be sure to choose a system that does not install under your first row of shingles. Installing under your first row of shingles can damage your roof warranty and moisture can seep into your roof, too.

Forecasting the Unexpected Home Improvement Retailers and Emergency Response

Home improvement stores are not only a key resource for bathroom renovations or spring gardening needs; they also serve as the go-to source when a thunderstorm knocks out power, a hurricane strikes, or a tornado touches down. Home improvement retailers, therefore, must plan for the unexpected demands that can accompany a natural disaster, as well as the expected demands as seasons change.

The home improvement industry is expected to reach $143.6 billion in 2014, according to research firm IBISWorld. With their huge assortment of merchandise, home improvement stores already face the challenge of working with carriers and logistics providers to guarantee an uninterrupted flow of goods. But add a natural disaster or major weather event, and the pressure is on to strategically and efficiently move products to customers in impacted areas.

Poised to React

Addressing unpredictable demand is all about being prepared. For Dave Moore, emergency response captain for Atlanta-based Home Depot, addressing these needs is a year-round endeavor. The company operates key distribution centers around the country to react quickly to natural disasters.

“A field team of 61 regional managers supports Home Depot’s emergency response effort,” says Moore. “They work directly with stores, so when a natural disaster occurs, we can react quickly to customer needs. We process orders and expedite them to stores. We strive for 24-hour turnaround between when we recognize there is a need to the time we deliver essential goods.”

Home Depot uses a forecasting system that tracks major weather events such as hurricanes, tornadoes, and thunderstorms. Hurricanes are easier to plan for because they are easily tracked, Moore says, but their damage is often the most devastating. Moore’s team begins working with Home Depot’s head of logistics every January to prepare for the upcoming hurricane season, which starts in June.

“We maintain several key locations that aren’t in impact areas, but are close to them—from the Gulf of Mexico, around the tip of Florida, and up the Eastern Seaboard,” Moore says. “We strategically place products so we can get goods to impacted areas quickly when an event occurs.”

Necessities on Hand

Most hurricanes can be identified about one week before they make landfall. If a hurricane or other major storm appears eminent, Home Depot starts shipping goods most likely to be in immediate demand—such as flashlights, water, gas cans, and plywood—to the targeted area.

Then, 72 to 96 hours before a hurricane is expected to strike, Home Depot mobilizes its command center, which includes store operations, merchandising, inventory planning and replenishment, and supply chain representatives—a total team of about 350 people. Carriers are assigned their own room within the command center, where they focus exclusively on determining how to get needed supplies to the impact area.

As the storm moves closer, Home Depot mobilizes prepositioned loads as close to the expected impact area as possible, while still ensuring a safe distance for drivers and goods. The night before a storm is expected to hit—or on impact, depending on the distance and the situation—trucks loaded with goods proceed to the impact area. As stores reopen in the impact zone, those goods are available for immediate consumption.

Home Depot also follows a post-strike process in which it continues to ship larger supplies of certain goods to stores in an impact area for up to six weeks, or as long as demand warrants. “For example, we sent in goods for more than eight months following Hurricane Sandy,” says Moore.

When a natural disaster strikes without notice, Home Depot engages similar processes, but over an abbreviated timeframe. “We stock goods in a strategic DC, and we go direct-to-store,” says Moore. “The stores contact our regional merchandise managers, who contact me or my counterparts throughout the country. We then work with our urgent host team to fill orders and expedite merchandise to stores in need.”

Unfortunately, the disaster response teams are constantly busy, Moore says. Within a period of two weeks, for example, the group dealt with more than 100 tornadoes in the Midwest, record flooding in Pensacola, Fla., and huge wildfires in Southern California.

“We are on call at all times,” Moore says. “A situation is always developing somewhere, and we apply the same vigilance to every disaster. Lives are affected, so we take our responsibility seriously.”

Crisis Mode

Oak Brook, Ill.-based Ace Hardware takes a similar approach to disaster preparedness. The home improvement company operates 14 retail support centers around the country, as well as two centers that manage its direct import business. Ace can stock key items anywhere within that network to prepare for large weather events or other unexpected occurrences.

“During advanced planning for natural disasters, we position inventory we believe will be in demand if an event occurs,” says Scott McLean, Ace’s director of transportation.

Ace also subscribes to meteorological services that provide updates on incoming weather events and impact area projections.

“When we see an event coming—such as a hurricane tracking toward the Gulf Coast—we transition to a more active approach,” says McLean. “If it’s early in the season, we may not have to do much, because we’ve already built up inventory and planned for it. But if it’s later in the season, we may have to move inventory from other DCs to our support centers in the impact region, and bring in additional merchandise from various suppliers.”

A major incoming storm triggers Ace’s disaster response team, which includes transportation and supply chain representatives, as well as retail support centers on both the inbound and outbound sides.

“Both sides of that warehouse go into crisis mode in managing the changing inbound and outbound velocity,” says McLean. “We may meet multiple times daily as an event is unfolding to ensure the logistics are coming together correctly.”

Like Home Depot, Ace Hardware stocks its retail support centers with core items—everything from batteries, flashlights, generators, chain saws, and pumps, to clean-up items such as rakes, gloves, and garbage bags—to ensure they are prepared if a natural disaster occurs.

“The list of storm preparation and clean-up items we stock is exhaustive,” says Mike Yockey, senior director of inventory control for Ace Hardware. “Depending on the storm paths each season, we stock several months of additional inventory. If nothing happens and the season ends, we reduce that inventory back down to more normal levels.”

Getting Ahead Of The Storm

The earlier Ace can get a jump on an event, the better it can react. “Even a small amount of time can make a big difference in how well we can respond,” McLean says. “Once the media starts hyping a storm, other retailers begin trying to secure and ship the same goods.”

Advance notice for Ace’s transportation providers is also key. The more the retailer can plan and share volume estimates with carriers, the better the product flow.

“If we are forced into a reactionary mode, we have to lean on our core carriers to provide additional capacity—or we may have to expand our carrier base or go through the brokerage market to find carriers to move the freight,” McLean says. “We may also start looking at mode shifts. Items that normally ship via intermodal might shift to over the road, because the product is suddenly in high demand.”

Ace operates its own private fleet, and has built an extensive network. So even in winter 2013, when capacity was tight due to endless bad weather in the southern and eastern United States, the company was still able to move freight fluidly.

Home improvement companies must be agile, because carrying so many types of products—purchased from a large pool of vendors of all sizes—keeps the supply chain in a constant state of ebb and flow, Yockey says. Establishing better internal control over transportation operations has helped Ace Hardware manage that challenge.

“We’ve elected to control about two-thirds of our inbound transportation,” Yockey says. “We’re responsible for it, and we control it. That’s a key advantage.”

A Cloudy Forecast

Ace has also invested in a cloud-based transportation management system (TMS) with a supplier portal.

“Using the TMS allows us to interact with suppliers, and determine when shipments will be ready,” says Yockey. “We can then send that information to the carriers. That gives us a lot of control over a big chunk of our supply chain.”

For home improvement retailers, dealing with Mother Nature and natural disasters is an integral part of the business. When an event strikes, consumers rely on home improvement stores for the products they need to repair or rebuild. Fortunately, market leaders such as Home Depot and Ace Hardware have a plan in place, and are ready to respond to demand.

Hot Water Installation

Hot water heaters are one of the many appliances we do not fully appreciate until it stops working. Believe it not, despite its large exterior and solid metal, steel or copper, hot water heaters do malfunction and require replacement or new installation.

While installing a new hot water heater is certainly not a project for the faint, it can be done in one day with the necessary tools and steps. Below, see when it’s time to replace your hot water, how to install a hot water heater and the total installation cost.

When to Replace Hot Water Heater

Unlike other prominent appliances around the home, there are a few telltale signs your hot water heater needs to be replaced. If you start to see a small puddle or slow drip under your hot water heater, it’s on its way out. Within a day or two, you should see a trail of water slowly running away from the heater. Either way, your tank has rusted and that can not be repaired. If water is dripping from your hot water heater, replace it as soon as you can.

Additionally, and perhaps even more obvious, is the absence of hot water. However, with this sign, before jumping to conclusions, check with a plumbing professional. Chances are, this problem can be fixed.

Types of Water Heaters

Water heaters run via natural gas or electric. Many homeowners are currently using the traditional tank-style heaters. This tank with a heating element is used to store a reservoir full of water. They are cheaper to install and replace. Tankless electric water heaters are considered an on-demand application for the home. Tankless water heaters tend to be more energy efficient and last longer than traditional heaters.

For more pros and cons of each, please see Traditional Water Heaters Vs. Tankless Water Heaters.

Note: Before buying a new water heater, make sure it meets the Department of Energy efficiency standards.

How to Install A Hot Water Heater

Tools & Materials Needed

  • Garden Hose
  • Multiple Wrenches
  • Screwdriver
  • Pipe Wrench
  • Plumber’s Tape
  • Tube Cutter
  • Solder
  • Soldering Torch
  • Metal Screws
  • Pipe Connectors
  • Pressure Relief Valve
  • Discharge Pipe

Now that preparation has been covered, it’s time to get your hands dirty. Below are all the steps needed to replace or install a new water heater.

Note: The steps below are specifically for a gas water heater, but installing an electric water heater is very similar.

Step 1: Turn Off the Gas & Water

The water supply and gas needs to be off. Otherwise, you could have a very dangerous mess on your hands. Find your gas shutoff valve and turn it off. The valve should most likely be at a right angle when off. Next, turn the water off and drain the pipes.

Step 2: Drain the Hot Water from the Tank

Before removing the hot water tank, we have to empty the tank. You can drain your hot water tank using a garden hose attached to the drain valve. However, as you might expect, the water will be very hot. We recommend using safety gloves or waiting one hour before starting the process.

Then, using two wrenches, disconnect the gas line from the hot water heater. You should disconnect the two at the union where the two lines meet.

Step 3:  Cut Off the Water Lines

Time to fully detach the old water heater. First, unscrew the large vent pipe. All you should need is a screwdriver. Next, using a tube cutter, cut the hot and cold water lines. For some operations, you may just have to unscrew the unions with the same wrenches from before.

Remove the old water heater completely out of the way.

Step 4: Attach the New Relief Valve

Take your new temperature and pressure relief value and wrap the end with plumber’s tape. Place the valve in the new hot water heater and screw it in with a pipe wrench. Attach a new copper pipe to the relief valve.

Step 5: Attach Connectors

Next, we have to attach new copper adapters, or short copper tubes, to the new hot water heater. Before attachment, some add plastic connectors to protect against galvanized pipes. These plastic connectors may be required by code, but it is not 100% necessary.

Now, take the two new adapters and screw them into the hot and cold water inlet ports.

Step 6: Attach All Pipes

With the copper connectors in place, we can attach all pipes to your new water heater. Place the new water heater directly under the previously cut pipes. You may have to recut or extend the old pipes. Solder, or attach the pipes to the new water heater using heat from your soldering torch (any heat source can work).

Do not solder any fittings directly on top of the water heater. If you do, you could melt imperative plastic parts and damage your new water heater. That is why we installed those connectors first. Furthermore, you can solder your pipes before attachment as well.

Note: Soldering takes practice. If this is your first soldering project, consult a professional.

Step 7: Reconnect the Vent

Now, reconnect the vent using appropriately sized metal screws. If you are unsure, take a picture of your vent and head to your nearest Home Depot. The vent should not be placed directly on the hot water heater. It should attach right above the draft hood.

Step 8: Reconnect the Gas Lines

Coat the end of the gas line with plumber’s tape and attach it to another plastic nipple. Using two pipe wrenches, just like we did before, reconnect the gas line to the new water heater. You should finish with the union, the actual connection point.

Step 9: Fill the Tank

Before we are complete, we have to fill the tank and make sure all is working. Close the drain valve (the same point you used to drain the old tank). Turn your water back on and open the cold water valve. Turn a hot water faucet on and let it run as you are refilling the tank. Once the tank is full, turn off the faucet and check the discharge pipe on the pressure relief valve to be sure it isn’t leaking.

Note: Make sure your tank is full before turning water back on. Both electric and gas water heaters running on non-filled tanks can cause damage and repairs will be needed.

Step 10: Check the Vents

According to Family Handyman, most water heaters rely on a natural draft to draw combustion fumes up the flue. These fumes must stay within the draft. After changing your water heater, you should check this draft.

First, open or turn on a hot water faucet until you hear the gas burner in the water heater ignite. Then, light a match and place it near the draft hood. The smoke should head up the hood. If not, you should content a plumber.

Step 11: Light the Pilot Light

Time to light it up, but before doing so, double check with the manufacturer’s directions. Set the temperature to 120°F. Test the water as well as possible leaks again.

Removing the Hot Water Heater

Most water heaters are quite large. Many homeowners will just ask a friend to help, but others with electric saw experience can cut the water heater in half using safety goggles and protective gear. A smaller water heater is always easier to remove.

Hot Water Installation Cost

Despite their utmost importance, hot water heaters are not as expensive as most assume. As noted before, traditional hot water heaters have a lower initial cost than a tankless water heater. Whether you choose a gas or electric hot water heater, expect the average price to hover around $800 with installation. However, installing yourself can save almost half that cost.