Fireplace Upgrades

Don’t let your fireplace look boring. If it’s the cold season and you spend most of your time in front of the fireplace, might as well make it look good while you cozy up.

Here are ways to upgrade your fireplace:

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Add Glass Fireplace Doors

A cozy fire on a cold night is a delight. But a wood fire left untended isn’t safe. Unlike a gas fireplace, which can be switched off, the only way to leave a wood fire is closed off with glass doors.

Retrofitting this safety feature to an existing fireplace isn’t difficult. The doors come in standard sizes that fit in any flat firebox opening.

Get Your Firebrick in Shape

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After years of searing-hot blazes, fireplace mortar can crack, crumble, and fall out. Gaping mortar joints are not only unattractive, they leave the bricks more vulnerable to damage. So before wood-burning season starts, examine the condition of the mortar in the firebox and take an hour or two to replace any that has deteriorated.

Install a Mantel

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The stockings are hung by the chimney, but who cares? That mantel they’re strung from is a joke. Its boring profile may have looked pretty festive for holidays past, but we all know that sagging shelf’s barely fit to foot a mug of eggnog. The chimney is permanent, but the mantel’s just a front.

Sharp, detailed models come in kits that lock together with a few twists of the Phillips-head. You can have a whole new look in less than a day.

Opt for a Salvaged Mantel

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The hearth has endured, in part, because of the wooden mantel that frames it. A mantel serves not only as an architectural anchor in a room but as a functional shelf on which to display prized possessions. That’s why so many of them still grace the parlors, dining rooms, and bedrooms of old houses even when the fireboxes have been walled over to eliminate drafts.

For every surviving example, of course, there are dozens that were torn from walls during reckless remodels. Luckily, many discarded mantels have ended up at architectural salvage yards.

Tile a Hearth

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Why is it that the mantel always gets all the attention? Sure, it flaunts the grand shelf, the carved legs—it’s the frame around the flames. But mantels come and go. It’s the hearth that’s always been there, an ornate buffer between the fire and the shag rug.

Consider jazzing things up with some colorful new tiles. You can change the whole look of a fireplace—and the room—in one or two weekends.

Choose the Right Tiles

Designer tile is a great material for a hearth, but it isn’t always the appropriate one. Fortunately, there are many other masonry products that work well for fireplace decoration, from formal white marble to earthy terra-cotta, and they are all installed using the same methods.

Tile the Surround

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Nights by that old fireplace practically screamed for a glass of Chablis and the soothing sounds of Lionel Ritchie. Now you’re more about dinner parties and family holidays in front of the hearth. But before you go at old bricks with a paint roller and some white semigloss, consider the more elegant cover-up of art tiles.

Tiling a fireplace surround isn’t a quickie makeover. But it’s well worth the effort.

Choose the Right Tile for Your Surround

As a focal point, a fireplace can set the tone for the whole style of a room. Rough brick can pull a rustic space together, while smooth glass can be used to set a modern tone.

Consider Using Art Tile

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The beauty of artisanal tile lies in its imperfections. Because each piece is designed, molded, and glazed by hand, no two look exactly alike. Use them as an accent with plain subway tile, or mix a handful in with monochromatic squares to make your fireplace surrounds spring to life.

Inspired by early-20th-century styles, these low-relief polychrome tiles are made using the Spanish cuenca process, in which individual glazes are poured by hand into the depressions formed by raised lines in the clay.

Build a Stone-Veneer Fireplace Surround

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There’s something so homey about a stone fireplace, bringing to mind cozy nights spent with loved ones in front of a blazing hearth. Think using real stone is the only way to get this look? Think again. Today’s cast-stone veneer looks a lot like the real thing, with styles ranging from stacked stone to river rock.

And if its nicer price tag makes it an option that’s hard to pass up, the DIY-friendly installation will seal the deal.

Add a Granite-Slab Surround and Swap Out the Mantel

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Chipped bricks, a stained hearth, and years of accumulated soot can turn what should be the focal point of a living room into an eyesore. Replacing a hearth and surround—either with seamless tone slabs or with ceramic or stone tiles—makes a big difference in the way a fireplace looks.

You can replace an old quarry-tile hearth and cover a brick surround with four sleek granite slabs, each 1¼ inches think.

Fireplace Design Ideas

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On a cold night, an industrial drum filled with coals could be considered a beautiful fireplace. The trick is to create a fireplace that is art without a flame.

Add a Gas Fireplace

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There’s only one thing better than a roaring fire on a wintry night: a roaring fire that needs no tending, requires minimal cleanup, and doesn’t leave the rest of the house freezing cold. That’s what you get with today’s gas fireplaces.

Long gone are the anemic blue flames and unconvincing “logs.” Modern versions burn much more realistically, with glowing red embers and tall orange-yellow flames that dance and flicker around ceramic-fiber logs molded from the real thing.

Put in a Fireplace Insert

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Fireplaces rank among the top three features desired by new homebuyers. Unfortunately, fireplaces are also major air gaps—they can send up to 8 percent of valuable furnace-heated air flying out the chimney, making them really fun to look at but inefficient as heating sources.

Add a Tin-Tile Fireplace Surround

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While looking for a way to add personality to their new custom fireplace, Steve and Sandy Miller had this flash of genius: Why not use the same unique tin tiles that adorned their kitchen backsplash for the surround? In total, the project took only a few days—but the result will look cozy all winter.

MDF Fireplace Face-Lift

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The nonworking brick fireplace in John and Casey Spencer’s 1920s bungalow was more of an eyesore than an eye-catcher. It lacked a mantel, and hiring a carpenter to custom-build one was beyond the couple’s budget. Their solution? Make one using off-the-shelf supplies, like MDF, astragal molding and baseboard.

Cover a Mantel Shelf with Pine Boards

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A fireplace should steal the show in a living room, not drag it down. At Kevin and Layla Palmer’s 1950s home, in Prattville, Alabama, the gathering space’s dreary gray fireplace was more homely than homey. And once the room’s knotty-pine walls got a much-needed coat of cream-colored paint and the wall-to-wall carpet was pulled up to reveal warm oak floors, the fireplace became even more of an eyesore.

 

All About Shutters

Shutters are more than an additional decor of your home, it has variety of reasons. One is controls the sunlight that enters the room, privacy, security and protect against weather or intruders. Here are the basic types of shutters (indoor and outdoor).

Lovely Louvered (exterior)

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Louvered window shutters are constructed with overlapping uniform slats of wood set into a frame. They remain popular for many styles of architecture. Choose an eye-popping paint color to set them off against a white saltbox-style home, or simply stain them if you prefer a natural look.

Raised Panel (exterior)

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These decorative, raised panel shutters and coordinating window box combine to create a formal yet inviting country-garden style. The dark paint choice offers a dramatic contrast to the window frame and cascading flowers.

Board and Batten (exterior)

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Board-and-batten shutters are available in arch-top or square, spaced or joined styles. As their name implies, they are constructed from individual boards joined together with shorter crosspieces, or battens. The black, arch-style joined shutters shown here work well for curved windows.

Plantation (exterior)

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Aiming for a laid-back Southern look? Try functional plantation shutters, exterior shutters with wide louvers that can be closed against storms, or opened to let in warm breezes.

Cut-Out Shutters (exterior)

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Use your creativity to customize your own cut-out design shutters. Ships, stars, and geometric shapes are common choices for this style that was popularized in the 1920s.

Scandinavian (exterior)

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Scandinavian shutters are distinguished by their solid, joined board-and-batten design, dressed up with cut-outs and bright colors. These shutters can be closed to keep out howling blizzards and snowstorms, and their decorations provide spots of color in snowy Alpine regions.

Combination (exterior)

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A combination shutter is simply a mix of two or more shutter styles—in this case, the shutters are a louvered, raised-panel, cut-out combo. This style is a great choice for homeowners who want a customized, one-of-a-kind look that reflects their style and personality.

Shaker Style (interior)

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The flat, solid panels of these interior shutters block out bad weather and bright lights. Their plain, functional simplicity is a hallmark of the traditional Shaker style.

Café Style (interior)

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Café-style shutters get their name from the French cafés where they are so popular. They are easy to identify: They’re usually louvered, and they cover just the bottom half of a window to give café patrons privacy.

Using Granite Countertops to Improve Home Value

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Why Installing Granite Countertops Makes Sense

All over the country granite countertops are being installed in kitchens, baths and patios at a rapid pace due not only to its intrinsic and aesthetic value but also for its versatility and durability. But what is it about having granite countertops that has everyone wanting to have them? Are they really all that? To help one decide if granite countertops are right choice, be sure to understand the pros and cons of granite countertops.

The Hard Facts about Granite Countertops

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Granite is truly one of the most beautiful countertop choices available for one’s home. But before spending hard earned money on granite consider the following:

  • Granite countertops come in over 3,000 colors each one with its own unique pattern and movement, and can be given custom edges and finishes.
  • Granite countertops, when properly sealed and maintained, are virtually scratch, stain and chip resistant.
  • Granite countertops are great for making cookies, candies, bread dough and other foods that are best prepared on a cool surface.
  • Granite is heat resistant. If one forgets to grab a heat pad for that pan of lasagna, it won’t matter if it is set it on the granite countertop.
  • The only surface that is harder than granite is a diamond.
  • Granite countertops add a minimum of 10% to the re-sale value to your home.

The Disadvantages of Granite Countertops

Of course, like anything else, there are some disadvantages to having granite countertops installed. They are:

  • Cost-granite is expensive due to the labor for its removal from the quarry, the work involved in cutting it and the work necessary for installation.
  • Granite will dull knives if used as a chopping block, just purchase a good cutting board and save on wear and tear.
  • Granite countertops should be installed by a qualified professional—it is not a DIY project.
  • Granite countertops need to have the sealant re-applied a least once a year to prevent staining or fading.

Quick Tips for Selecting Granite Countertops

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Once the decision is made to have granite countertops installed, there are several steps to take in the selection of the type and color of granite countertops.

  • Go to a granite warehouse or show room with a wide selection of granite slabs.
  • Bring along items from the room the granite countertops will be used in—cabinet door, floor sample, fabric swatch, wall cover, etc..
  • Ask to see several slabs of whatever color is chosen to be sure it will work with the room.

By taking the time to select countertops that at are perfect for the living environment, one can ensure that the end result is pleasing to all who enter. Yes the choices are many, but deciding the perfect granite countertops cna be the difference between “just a room” and a beautiful showpiece.

Even with the disadvantages, granite countertops are making strides in kitchen, bath and patios. They are a beautiful way to add style, personality and re-sale value to the home. So, take the time required to select the granite countertops , choose a contractor that is reputble and can be counted on to do a proper installation and get ready to enjoy beautiful, longlasting grantite countertops.

Natural Gas Fireplaces

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Benefits You Can Cozy-Up To

Crackling wood. Delicious smoky aroma. Roaring flames encased in a classic masonry brick setting. Traditional wood-burning fireplaces certainly are delightful! But, when it comes to effective heat generation, these charming hearths fall short.

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Consequently, increasingly more natural gas fireplaces are making their way into new and existing homes in many parts of the world. What makes them so appealing? Let’s look at what they can offer:

Increased Energy Efficiency

Compared to traditional wood-burning fireplaces–that actually may remove more heat from a home than it produces–new natural gas fireplaces are at least 75% efficient. This means, the bulk of the fuel going into the system is successfully converted into household heat for the family’s enjoyment.

Reduced Total Energy Consumption

Though difficult to quantify, a natural gas fireplace may also help reduce overall home heating costs. For example, turning on the gas fireplace when the family gathers in the TV room for a few hours enables you to lower the thermostat that operates the main heating system.

Environmental Benefits

Gas fireplaces are also better for the atmosphere. They are clean burning and don’t create smoke, ashes or other particulate. On days when air quality is low outside, you can operate a gas fireplace with peace of mind.

Immediate Health Benefits

Since natural gas fireplaces don’t produce smoke or soot, people with allergies, asthma or other medial conditions don’t have to fret over the impacts of the fireplace.

You can breathe easy knowing that the entire family, along with your guests, will stay healthy whenever the fireplace is on.

Safe Operation

With natural gas fireplaces, the risk of fire is greatly reduced.

Carpet-burning sparks and dangerous creosote build-up in the chimney become obsolete when a wood-burning fireplace is replaced with a natural gas unit.

Convenience

With just a flick of a switch or the push of a button, a gas fireplace provides instant warmth along with attractive flames. The chore of storing wood and cleaning ashes is replaced with a continuous supply of fuel to a unit that rarely requires cleaning.

If you want to replace an existing wood-burning fireplace, and already have a gas hook-up, natural gas inserts are available so you can conveniently make the switch.

When purchasing an energy-efficient natural gas fireplace, look for the following features:

  • Electronic ignition–eliminates the need for a standing pilot light that uses energy even when the fireplace is not operating.
  • Sealed-combustion direct vent design–uses air from the outdoors to feed the system, unlike traditional fireplaces and vent-free systems that depend on indoor air. The entire operation is separate from the household air, resulting in no drafts or heat loss.
  • Ceramic glass front–transmits heat better than temperate glass and is shatter-resistant.
  • Wide temperature control–offers a range of temperature-settings.
  • A squirrel-cage type circulating fan–helps to push heat across the room.
  • Ducting capabilities–that enable the fireplace to distribute heat, like a furnace, to other rooms in the home.

A Perfect Time for Spring Cleanup

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Time to Clean Your Life Up

It is that time of year when a person thinks about getting rid of all their piles of things that they have accumulated throughout the years. Sometimes it can be hard to get rid of a knickknack or collectible that you have been holding onto but there is no time like the present to reevaluate what things you really need and what things are just collecting dust. Now with spring upon us it seems like the perfect time to begin to throw out those old hand me downs.

Spring Cleaning – Where to Start

A good rule of thumb is if you have not used or worn something in a year it may be time to take it out of the closet and get rid of it. Pick one room in your house as a starting place and then methodically move to the next one. A good idea is to make selective piles of what you want to throw out such as clothes in a clothes pile, toys and knickknacks in another pile and so on. This will help later when you decide where you are going to take all your junk.

Spring Cleaning – Make a Plan

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Most towns have a local thrift shop so why not donate some of your old clothes that you don’t wear anymore. Your load will be lighter and you will feel better about yourself because you will be helping someone less fortunate then you out. Remember one man’s junk is another man’s treasure. In the event that you have a lot of technical junk lying around try taking it to a local pawn shop, you will clear your space as well as possibly make a few dollars off of it in the process.

Heavier messes may require a trip to the dump to dispose of all the clutter. While this may be expensive depending on what you have, there is no doubt that you will feel better about yourself and it will make your living space much more presentable.

Spring Cleaning – Try Not to Horde

Hording is considered an illness by many professionals nowadays and extreme cases may need extra help. If you are a hoarder, why not ask a family member or friend to help you get rid of things. They will most likely be more than happy to help you sort through your possessions and decide what should be kept and what is no longer needed. Having a clean place will make you feel great so why not start today and begin your spring cleaning.

Household Jobs Checklist: Creating a List to Keep Track of Home Maintenance

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Unlike making the beds and cleaning the bathroom, many household chores do not need to be completed daily or even weekly. With busy lifestyles, it is easy to lose track of when such tasks were last taken care of, especially if they only need to be attended to annually.

Some chores, such as checking smoke detector batteries, are necessary to ensure that important household items are working correctly. Other jobs, such as regularly washing curtains and throw cushion covers, help to improve the appearance and longevity of these items. It is important to plan these regular maintenance and cleaning tasks so that they are not forgotten.

 

Prepare a List of Chores

In a notebook, allocate a page each for regular, monthly , quarterly, bi-annual , and annual tasks. List all the tasks that come to mind on the appropriate page.

Individual Needs

The frequency of some tasks depends on individual requirements.

  • Changing water filters – This is determined by the style of unit and amount of water filtered. Read the instructions accompanying the filter and mark the replacement date on a calendar. If replacement is required at regular intervals, include it on the appropriate checklist.
  • Swimming pool maintenance – It is best to consult a pool supplies business to discuss the appropriate maintenance schedule.
  • Spas and spa baths – Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for cleaning and maintenance.
  • Pets – Many factors affect what is needed to care for a pet. A local vet, pet store owner or reference book will provide the most reliable and appropriate advice.

Create a List to Suit

Differing environments and lifestyles will affect how often certain chores need to be performed.

In some areas, autumn leaves will need to be cleared from gutters more regularly than others. Extreme weather temperature conditions require more frequent cleaning of air-conditioning and heater filters.

Gutter Cleaning

People who smoke indoors generally need to launder curtains, throw cushion covers and similar items more regularly.

Asthmatics or others with respiratory problems may prefer to replace bed pillows more frequently to reduce dust mite irritation. They may also benefit from more frequent airing of pillows and blankets and washing of bedroom curtains.

Households with young children have an extensive list of additional tasks to be taken care of regularly, such as cleaning bath toys and sorting through toy boxes to discard broken or damaged toys.

Home Jobs Checklist

Make a Checklist

A checklist can be prepared in two ways.

  1. Make a page for each month and list all the jobs that need to be done in that month. Monthly tasks will need to be listed on each page, quarterly tasks can be spread out over three months, bi-annual tasks over six months and annual tasks throughout the year so that each month has a reasonably even number of tasks.
  2. Make a jobs chart spreadsheet with all the chores listed in the first column. For a monthly chart, list the days of the week (repeated four times) as column headings (28 in total). Columns only need to be wide enough to allow a check mark to be made to indicate when regular and monthly jobs should be completed. For a yearly chart, use the months of the year for the column headings and list quarterly, bi-annual and annual tasks.

Keep the checklist in a folder for easy reference. By keeping the lists up to date, you will ensure that no important household chores will be forgotten.