Friday, December 30, 2011

Before You Call Your HVAC Repairman

Let's say you're enjoying a cozy evening at home. Maybe it's winter, and you have the heat on - or else you're trying to keep the house cool during a heat wave. Suddenly in the middle of your favorite show, as you're unwinding from a long day at work, your HVAC system goes on the blink. The air is stifling in your living room now, and you're agitated. What now?

Your first instinct is to check the air conditioner or heating system to see where the problem lies. If you know next to nothing about how your HVAC system works, though, you could end up just staring at the setup and wondering what to do next. Tinkering with the AC or heater could solve the problem, or make it worse. If you rely on gas to heat your home, it could be a matter of relighting the pilot, but do you feel comfortable doing that?

The problem with your heating and air system, however, may only be minor, yet you might feel more comfortable having a licensed HVAC contractor have a look. Before you make that call however, here are a few things you may wish to consider before you pick up the phone.

1) Is this a persistent problem? If you have experienced a breakdown of your AC or heating more than once through the week, it definitely warrants a call to a reputable repairman. Some homeowners may be content to wait out the problem if they believe they can rough it for a night. This may largely depend upon the age of the unit and the weather situation. Be intuitive when looking at your HVAC as you think about whether or not to call.

2) How old is your unit? Age and wear play important roles in the health of your HVAC system. If you can remember when your unit was installed, it could portend that you need a replacement instead of a simple repair. Did the unit come with the house? Knowing how long you've lived there will tell you whether or not to make the call.

3) Has the outside weather affected your system? If you use gas, a severe wind might blow out a pilot if it reaches it. Your heating problem could only be a matter of relighting it. If you feel comfortable doing it yourself, use good judgment. Otherwise, let a professional take care of it for you.

Of course, there are other considerations to take when looking into an HVAC repair. If you find the problem doesn't resolve itself, or you do not know how to fix it, call your local repairman.

Kathryn Lively is a freelance writer specializing in articles on Hampton HVAC services and Hampton HVAC repair.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Remodeling Tips to Make a Tiny Bathroom Appear Larger

If you have shopped around for a new home or condo, you may have noticed that newer model homes feature spacious, large bathrooms. Compared to older model houses, contemporary designs focus as much on comfort as they do efficiency - whereas your home may have a smaller bathroom because it isn't designed for leisure, but functionality. These days, though, people want to pamper themselves with a lengthy bath or take their time getting ready for the day, and it cannot be accomplished well in a small bathroom. If you are unable to widen the area, there are still ways to remodel so the space looks bigger and more comfortable.

Looking for ideas to get rid of that closed-in feeling every time you use the bathroom? Here are a few ideas to get you started. Some you may be able to do yourself, while others may require the help of a reputable contractor who specializes in bathroom renovations.

1) If you have an under cabinet sink, consider replacing it with a pedestal model. The removal of the cabinet will free up that space and make your bathroom look less cluttered. It's not uncommon to let your bathroom build up with dozens of half-empty tubes and bottles. Try to economize with your toiletries and use one common shelf unit - like something that positions over the commode - while clearing up other space.

2) Consider a second mirror or replace your current bathroom mirror with a larger one. Mirrors are used often in decorating to add depth to a small space. They train your eye to see the room as lighter and larger.

3) If you are able to replace the flooring, try something in a light color that better reflects the light rather than absorbs it. Larger tiles, too, may help open up the room.

4) Bringing more light into a room not only helps open the space, but makes the room more pleasant. If you have curtains, try removing them for a short time and see if it makes a difference.

Above all else, keep the bathroom clean whenever possible and remove items that don't necessarily have to be there. If you keep a laundry hamper in your bathroom for convenience, try moving it to a closet or the laundry room to make more space. More light, and a color scheme that emphasizes the brightness in your bathroom can help create the feeling of space that you want.

Kathryn Lively is a freelance writer specializing in articles on Norfolk home remodeling services and Virginia Beach remodeling services.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Should I Hire a Professional to Remodel My Kitchen?

So, you are sitting in your kitchen now and looking at the same cabinets and fixtures that probably came with the house. Whether you have lived in your home for ten, twenty, or even more years, you know your tastes have changed over time. What appeared fashionable back when the home was built may look completed outdated now, and unfortunately too worn to be considered vintage. When you come into your kitchen you want to be inspired to cook and entertain, and enjoy wonderful meals at home. A remodel of the space can be helpful, but is this an undertaking you should do yourself, or should you hire a contractor?

Do it yourself projects, some may argue, can save you money initial as far as labor goes. However, if you are not particularly skilled in home improvement - and a kitchen remodel requires a fair amount of work - you might find the improvements you make now need more improvement should things break down. If you plan on a complete overhaul of your kitchen, replacing certain appliances in addition to cabinets and counters, you may want to consider bringing in a professional to assess the job.
Why hire a remodeling service for your kitchen job? There are a number of reasons:

1) A contractor can advise you of ways to make your kitchen more energy efficient. You may not be aware of green innovations in home improvement, and your contractor can point you in the right direction. Energy efficient appliances and installation of eco-friendly windows can contribute to the lowering of your utility bills, saving you money in the long run.

2) A contractor may be able to get certain counters, cabinets, and other fixtures at a better price than if you tried to buy the materials on your own. Contractors work with specific brands and know where to get their supplies. You may be limited, too, to places where you can get the decor you want.

3) Hiring a quality contractor to handle your home renovation frees up your time. Depending on the extent of the work, this can be a time consuming process, and if you work you may find you have to set remodeling aside. This, of course, can leave your kitchen useless for days or weeks. A contractor can work during the day and help get your kitchen functional when you need it.

Employing a reputable, bonded construction company to handle your kitchen remodeling can help you save money in the long run. Consider shopping for a good fit to beautify and modernize your home.

Kathryn Lively is a freelance writer specializing in articles on Virginia Beach remodeling and Norfolk home remodeling services.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

What Needs to Be Shredded? Take Care of Your Identity's Safety

When you have the opportunity to take your personal documents to be shredded, you can decrease the risk of having your identity stolen by thieves who will apply for credit cards in your name. It is important to ensure that none of your important papers with personal information are made available to people who may try to take advantage of you. Therefore, when you meet with a professional shredding service, here are the top items to have ready for destruction.

Cancelled Checks - After you have reconciled payments from your checking account, shred the checks that come back to you - if your bank still does this. Don't leave any trace of your checking account number behind.

Pre-approval Mail from Credit Card Companies - We may be inclined to throw out that envelope that screams how we are pre-approved for credit. If you throw it out whole, somebody could fill out that application and get a card in your name. Don't take that chance.

Expired Credit Cards - Leave one behind and somebody could try to use it to steal your identity.

Medical Records - These records contain your life health history and other private information. Some things do not need to be made public.

Storage Data - Anything you have used to keep personal information - USB drives, cassettes, floppy discs, and even microfilm - should be destroyed if it's no longer used.

Work-Related Documents - These may include payroll reports, employees records, accounting records, contracts, and proposals for projects. Anything considered exclusive and confidential should be shredded if they are no longer relevant to your needs.

Inventory Records - If you maintain a warehouse, an inventory list can assist in thief in knowing what to take from you. What records you do not need, seal them away or have them destroyed.

Legal Documents - Leases, contracts, outdated wills are among the legal documents you should shred if you no longer need them.

Correspondence - Letters, faxes, and e-mails saved to a disc reveal more personal information than an identity thief needs to know about you. If you have no reason to keep the letters in a safe place (for sentimentality), take them to a shredder.

Once you rid your home or office space of the paper clutter, you reduce the risk of somebody finding your information and using it to their advantage. Thieves are clever when it comes to stealing identities, so don't give one an easy ticket.

Kathryn Lively is a freelance writer specializing in articles on Newport News shredding and South Carolina shredding.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

How Often Should You Change Air Conditioning Filters?

If somebody were to ask you when is the best time to replace the filters in your air conditioner, you would probably answer "When they are dirty". A simple answer to what may seem a silly question, but as you go about your business at home you aren't likely to think about things like AC filters. You know that when there's something in the air that shouldn't be there, perhaps you should check your system to make sure it's working. Unless you are vigilant enough to keep track of such things, how can you really know?

The question of when to replace an air filter in an air conditioning system is going to vary among households. To answer this for yourself, you will need to look at a number of factors concerning your household and lifestyle, and the style of air conditioning system you use. Let's take a look at some of these factors as they relate to you.

The Air Filter

When you purchase a standard AC filter, you may note on the packaging that you are advised to change them out every one to two months. This is probably a good guidelines to adhere to if you consider yours a "normal" home with no variance on quality of life issues. These may include the following.
  • Number of people in the home - do you live alone, or with your family? The population of your household can determine the air quality and usage of filters by virtue of daily activity. If you are single and keep a clean home, for example, you may check your filter after a month and discover it may hold out a while longer.
  • Pets - Dogs or cats in the house? If so, you have pet dander. This could to put a bit of wear and tear on your AC filters. You may find with pets in the house you are changing the filters more often, perhaps every thirty days.
  • Allergies - If anyone in your family has severe allergies, you no doubt are doing everything possible to keep your home clean. Regular checking of the filters may result in changing every thirty days.
  • Overall environment - Where do you live? Urban condos and apartments are likely to be more subject to pollution that gets sucked into the filters as opposed to rural living. Of course, a home in the country is not without the opportunity for dust, dander, and other allergens. Consider where you live and get a good gauge on checking every thirty to sixty days.
When you change your AC filter will depend on a number of factors - your home, the people living there, and other elements. Once you have a good feel of when the filters have taken everything they can handle, you'll know when to change them.

Kathryn Lively is a freelance writer specializing in articles on Newport News HVAC services and Williamsburg HVAC services.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

How to Prepare a Car For Storage

When we think of renting a storage unit, most likely we are more concerned with smaller objects like clothing and boxes of books, Christmas decorations, and other items we don't use on a regular basis. We may also be more inclined to obtain storage for furniture as we transition to a new home. Some may not realize that one can also stow away a vehicle for an indeterminate amount of time. Depending on the storage facility you use, you can keep your car or motorcycle safe while you are not using it.

This is especially handy for those in the military who are stationed overseas, or for people taking temporary work where a car is not needed. If you need to put your car storage while you are away, it's important to make sure the automobile is prepared before you leave it with the facility. Here are a few things to remember as you get your car ready.

1) Make sure all valuables are removed. Don't risk leaving something like all your CDs or a removable MP3 player in your car. Even though you're stowing the car, you never know what will happen while you're away. Clean out the car as much as possible before leaving.

2) Wash the car inside and out. Give your auto one last, good wash and wax, and use cleaners to treat the seats, floors, and dash. Make sure the interior is dry before closing the windows - you may wish to keep a box of baking soda in the front for freshness. Make sure the windows and sunroof (where applicable) are closed.

3) Change the oil and fill the tank. Your first inclination may be to deliver the car with as little gas as possible, since you won't be using it. Actually, when an empty tank sits for a long time, moisture can accumulate and eventually cause problems. It's a good idea to properly lube and fuel your car - it keeps it in good working order and it's ready to drive away when you come home.

4) Use a car cover. For added exterior protecting, a cover that fits the car well can help preserve the shine.

Lastly, choose a storage rental facility that offers high security and, where applicable, indoor storage for cars. If you live in an area prone to bad winter weather, you'll want to keep your car safe from the elements so it's in good driving condition when you come home.

Kathryn Lively is a freelance writer specializing in articles on Norfolk storage rentals and Chesapeake storage rentals.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Choosing the Best Air Conditioning System For Your New Home

When you are home, your comfort is probably one of your primary concerns. Nobody wants to feel forced to leave their house because they are unable to find peace. Every day after work, you should be able to come home to enjoy your family, kick back and watch television, or do anything you wish. Clean air is an important element to your home comfort, so if you are in the market for a new air conditioning system you want to make sure you have the best.

A quality air conditioning system is an important investment in your home. Whether you plan to stay for years to come, or end up selling after a short time, your AC should perform at optimal levels when you need it. More than likely, the thought of air conditioning will not cross your mind until you need it the most - say, an extremely hot day that leaves you setting up electric fans in every room. If you're feeling the heat, you don't want to rush out and buy the first thing you see thinking you'll get instant relief. You may, but in the long run your purchase may not turn out to be a good one.

As you browse for air conditioning systems, you need to decide first if a central system is best for you, or if you wish to maintain individual units. For apartment living, window units may be your only choice if central AC is not an option. If that's the case, make sure you properly measure the window receiving the unit and look for an energy efficient model. Also consider the size of the room you plan to keep cool. With a smaller room, for example, you probably will not need a huge unit. Consult home improvement sites and magazines for tips if you're unsure.

For a central system that requires a more advanced installation, you may wish to consult with an HVAC contractor for recommendations. A reputable HVAC specialist can assist you not only in getting a quality unit that cools your house, but comes with controls that let you regulate where the air goes. You risk wasting energy and money cooling rooms that are not used often, so you want to be sure your unit offers the flexibility and functionality you need.

Depending on the unit and time you buy it, you may also be eligible for a tax rebate. Speak with your local residential HVAC company for more information.

Kathryn Lively is a freelance writer specializing in articles on Newport News HVAC services or Hampton HVAC services.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

New Homes - Common Issues During Winter

Whether you have just moved into your house or have lived there for several years, you are bound to eventually face issues in the winter. If you live in a region susceptible to cold weather and snow, you definitely want to stay vigilant and be ready for problems that crop up while you are trying to stay warm. Here are just a few of the more common issues you, as a homeowner, could face in the later months.

Leaky Roof - If you find you are running your heater at a higher level than you should, it could be an indication that your roof has a leak. Roofs are built to ventilate properly so you don't experience too many problems with your HVAC system, but a leaking roof allows heat to escape your home at a faster rate, which in turn causes your heater to work harder. Your energy bills, as a result, rise. Therefore, it's wise to have a roof inspection before the weather gets too bad.

Moisture Problems - Notice any condensation streaking down your windows on the inside? When your windows are cold from the winter weather, the humidity in your home turns into moisture. If left untreated, you could find a growth of mold in your home, which in turns causes health problems for those breathing in the air inside the house. It's important to make sure proper ventilation keeps this from happening.

Freezing Pipes - You turn on the shower or sink and nothing comes out, or if it does the water flow isn't consistent. There could be a problem with pipes freezing in the wintertime, so it is good to take precautions to make sure it doesn't happen when you need hot water the most. You may wish to consult with your plumber for precaution so your water flows uninterrupted during the winter.

Garden Problems - Some plants are capable of surviving harsh weather, but if you want to keep your landscaping up through the colder months you may want to consult with a professional lawn service for advice on properly winterizing your grass and shrubbery.

Home ownership instills pride, and when you take care of your home it will take care of you through the later months when it is cold. Be aware of problems that could arise when it starts to snow or sleet, and you'll be ready to tackle them easily.

Kathryn Lively is a freelance writer specializing in articles on Virginia Beach roofing and Palatine plumbing services.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Storage Buildings - What Size Will I Need?

People may use storage facilities for a variety of reasons. Your current home may not be large enough to contain everything you own, and perhaps you are not quite ready to get rid of some things. You may be moving to a new house and need a place to temporarily keep furniture and other items until the transfer is complete. If you are in the military or plan to be overseas for a temporary job, you may want to keep everything you own in one place without paying rent on an apartment. Storage space is a reasonable, affordable option for you regardless of the circumstances, but you'll need to ask yourself how big of a space you need to hold your stuff.

When you visit your local personal storage facility, you'll find a variety of spaces available for your use. People may store everything from furniture to books, seasonal decorations and clothing, and even motorcycles until they wish to use them again. The unit you rent is largely determined by what you own that's going in, how often you intend to access the storage unit, and how much you can budget for rental. Let's take a look at some of the more typical sizes of units.

The walk-in closet-size storage space usually measures five by ten feet, or about 50 square feet. One can keep some furniture in this space, and a number of packed boxes or clothing bags. If you don't have much to move, or want to keep items on hold for a sale or move, this small size is probably a good deal for you.

The next size up will likely be about ten by ten feet, and allows for more furniture storage. If you have a one-bedroom apartment and need to put everything in the space while you move, this size should cover you.

To accommodate furniture from a small, two-bedroom home, a unit sized ten by twenty-five feet is roughly the size of a one-car garage. Units this large will also have garage doors for easier access.

Units larger than ten by twenty-five may be considered if you are storing a larger home, or even an automobile. Ultimately, the best way to gauge the storage unit you need is to group together what you plan to put away and measure the pile. Then visit your storage place and measure potential units. Make sure the unit provides enough room to keep your things and allow you to move inside to get what you need when you need it.

Kathryn Lively is a freelance writer specializing in articles on Norfolk storage rentals and Chesapeake storage rentals.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

The Various Types of Roofs

Having a new home built? Perhaps you have lived in the same place for many years and are finally experiencing the wear and tear associated with age. No matter how long you have owned your home, the question of having the roof replaced will eventually occur. If you are interested in a new roof for your house, it may surprise you to know there are different styles available to keep your property protected and even your heating bills to a minimum. Whether or not you may have a different model installed depends on the structure, though a professional roofer can help you determine the best course of action.

Let's take a brief look at some of the available roof styles you may be able to get for your home:

Mansard - Also known as a French roof, the Mansard style is characterized as a four-sided model with two slopes on either side in order to maximize top floor or attic space. From a side view, the Mansard has the look of a triangle where the sides are bent slightly outward, not unlike the traditional barn shape. You may see the Mansard used on homes accented with dormer windows on the upper floors.

Hip Roof - The Hip roof style has no flat surface on top, but rather creates a downward slope on all sides starting at a point. One will not find room for gables here, given that Hip roofs are traditionally low-sitting on homes.

Pyramid - Similar to the Hip design, the Pyramid roof is aptly named. Four slopes meets at a point and form an even pyramid. As such, you are more likely to find this style on square buildings.

Flat Roof - As the name implies, the Flat roof is simply a flat surface that tops a building or home. It is not uncommon to find houses with flat roofs along a shoreline or beach area. It is believed that the roof construction is better able to withstand winds and tropical storms. However, the flat roof has a disadvantage in that it can collect debris more quickly and there is no way for snow or leaves to drain or fall away unless one goes up there to clean the roof regularly.

Gambrel - Similar to the Mansard style, the Gambrel is a two-sided sloping roof that overhangs on a building rather than covering at all corners. The typical barn design is topped with a gambrel, and its design allows for maximized space on top.

Consult with a professional roofer about your options if you are having a new home built. Roofs come in many styles and shapes, but all are design to provide protection.

Kathryn Lively is a freelance writer specializing in articles on Virginia Beach roofing and Eastern Shore roofing services.

Friday, October 21, 2011

How Plumbing Inspections Are Beneficial

When you work all day and need to take care of things at home - the kids, dinner, and other house work - the last thing you want to think about is scheduling any kind of home improvement or repair inspection. Yet, these things eventually take precedent if you want to keep your home running smoothly and not have to worry about expensive repair bills later on. A plumbing inspection is beneficial for your home life in that it is proactive and can eventually help save you money. If you are interested (and who isn't?), let's take a look at some ways a plumbing inspection is beneficial to you.

1) If you plan to invest in a new home or other property where plumbing is a concern, offering to pay for a plumbing inspection can help you determine if the price is right. A plumber can tell you whether or not to anticipate problems or massive repairs and replacements, which will then help you negotiate a better price on the property if you still wish to buy it. Such inspections are great precautionary measures.

2) A thorough inspection can help explain why your water bills are high, if they are indeed. If you have noticed in recent months you are paying more for water when you have not used any more than you typically do in a month, there could be something wrong with your pipes, or perhaps there is an undetected leak. A plumber will know where exactly to check to confirm your suspicions.

3) An inspection can also help you decide what needs to be done in your home to allow for a more energy efficient system. If you are concerned about environmental issues and want to better "green" your home, find out if such appliances will work better in your house and what is involved in making the switch.

4) A regular plumbing inspection, even when you have no plans to renovate or look for repairs, simply makes you a better homeowner. You are more in tune with your house and how it works, and as your plumber explains the process you will hone your intuition in the event something does go wrong.

A plumbing inspection need not be invasive or inconvenient for you. Quite the opposite, you could discover things you didn't realize about your plumbing system. Done correctly, you could discover ways to save money on your water and energy bills, and catch problems before they explode. Consider an annual inspection for your pipes and fixtures today.

Kathryn Lively is a freelance writer specializing in articles on Virginia Beach plumbing services and Palatine plumbing services.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Can I Install Underfloor Heating?

If you are looking for an economical method of heating your home, you may have considered having underfloor heating installed. This method of radiant heating is preferred by homeowners interested in cost efficient home improvements, and one advantage to this system is that it better distributes heat than the standard HVAC equipment. If you are having a new home constructed, you may wish to look into have underfloor heating installed; however, if you are looking for a change from your traditional heater you will have to research if it's possible to have a newer system in place.

Why choose underfloor heating for your home? There are many reasons which prove advantageous to the home owner. For one, the system can free up space in your home. The radiant coils that bring heat to your rooms are place, naturally, under your floor. There are no space heaters to deal with, and you have room. Also, underfloor heating can help decrease air moisture and therefore reduce allergens. Add the likelihood of lower energy bills due to the efficient method of heating, and underfloor systems prove a winner for any homeowner.

That said, can you have underfloor heating installed in your current home? This will largely depend upon a number of factors. Do you have the budget to handle costs of equipment and labor, for one? Also, is anybody in your area specializing in underfloor heat installation?

Another factor to consider, too, is if your floors are able to accommodate such a system. Having an HVAC professional inspect your home for possible options is a good way to determine the next step, and if you have a suitable foundation you will find that the investment is well worth the money you spend now, for you will surely save some in the long run.

Once you decide to have a contractor install everything for you, you may need to make arrangements while your floor is put under construction. If you wish to set everything up yourself, make sure you know how to remove your floor and handle all the aspects of construction. If you live in a condo complex, you may require permission from the condo board to do this type of construction. This may also hold true if you live in a similar type of residential community where homeowners must adhere a covenant.

However you decide to get your underfloor heating installed, make sure you know everything about your home in relation to the construction involved, and that you are able to see it through. You will definitely enjoy the end result.

Kathryn Lively is a freelance writer specializing in articles on Newport News HVAC services and Norfolk commercial HVAC services.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Real Estate Law - Five Laws Real Estate Investors Need to Know

The idea of investing in real estate has appeal in that it offers a potential supplemental income for the buyer. You may have heard terms like "flipping homes," where you buy a home at a low price, fix up, and sell for profit; or, you may be interested in buying up property for the purpose of seasonally renting it to part-time residents. However you came to be interested in real estate investments, know that there are a number of laws and regulations, as well as common courtesies, that you should be aware of before you start bidding on contracts.

Let's take a look at five situations that will require you to understand how real estate law works, and how to proceed during conflicts.

1) Any decision you make regarding a real estate investment must be approved by legal counsel before everything is signed and sealed. If you want to buy a condo, a duplex, or even an entire building, it is wise to have legal representation if you plan to do more with the property than live in it. You will need to be aware of laws regarding tenants and zoning, where applicable.

2) If you are involved in a legal dispute over property, it is important to have all the correct paperwork to support your case. While it would be ideal to have all transactions involving your property run smoothly, inevitably you may run into conflicts with renters. When claims are made with regards to your property, make sure you have written evidence to back up your statements in the event you wind up in court or in a lawyer's office.

3) To achieve a sound return on investment, consider long term commitments as opposed to shorter turnarounds on property. If you can find an excellent tenant willing to rent your property in the long-term, you may wish to consider offering multi-year leases. Offer prospective tenants a good deal, and it may save you the headache and expense of advertising your property every six months.

4) Make sure you know exactly what comprises the property in which you invest. When possible, have the property inspected and checking for zoning restrictions. You don't want to be stuck with a building or lot that you can't use.

5) Understand the mortgage and payment schedules to avoid defaulting. Make sure you know when to make payments and what your rights are with regards to paying for your property.

The more you know about the property you want, and the laws enforced in your area, the better for your real estate investment endeavors.

Kathryn Lively is a freelance writer specializing in articles on Chesapeake real estate and North Carolina lawyers.

Monday, September 5, 2011

How Much Does a Pool Cover Cost?

If you live in an area susceptible to bad storms, even hurricanes, you already know the drill when a potential disaster bears down on your neighborhood. Before the rains begin, you are bringing patio furniture into the garage or storage unit, removing loose toys and other hazards, and taking care of your pool. A cover for your pool is essential when bad weather strikes, for a good covering can protect not only your water but the bowl and vinyl liner. It is a worthy investment if you plan to keep your swimming area, so be sure to price a cover if you haven't already.

How much does a pool cover cost? As with other pool accessories, the price may vary according to your needs. Covers also range in styles, from simple tarps to sturdier covers for colder months. Your local pool supply store can assist in finding the right cover for you, especially if you need a custom cut for your oddly-shaped pool. As far as cost goes, let's look at a general breakdown:

Above Ground Pool Covers

If you own an above-ground model, you may find it is easier to obtain a cover. This is because there isn't much deviation in terms of design - above-ground pools are either round or oval shaped and come in set widths. Very likely you will discover that available covers come from the same company that supplies the pools.

Basic winter covers used to protect water and keep out bad weather can run you anywhere from twenty dollars to several thousand - you have to decide on features that will raise the price. Simple hard covers and mesh covers are less expensive and typically do not go higher than a few hundred. Motorized automatic covers, however, will definitely set you back some money.

Solar covers are also an option for pool owners. These are designed to keep harmful UV rays from your pool water, and higher end versions can cost you as much as $300-$400. Again, add a motor for automatic retraction, and you'll nearly double the price.

In Ground Pool Covers

Covers for in-ground pools can be trickier to price, because there are customizations to consider. If you have a traditional shape to your swim area - round, oval, rectangular - ready made covers will come at good prices, perhaps no higher than a few hundred dollars. Custom fits, however, may set you back as much as $500 depending on the complexity of your pool's shape. Safety covers designed to withstand as much as half a ton or more usually start at a thousand dollars, but are a good investment if you have small children or are concerned about large debris falling into your pool.

As a rule, what you would pay for an above-ground model is less than an in-ground pool cover. When you consult your local pool supply store you will find exactly what you need at a price you can afford.

Kathryn Lively is a freelance author specializing in articles on Norfolk pool supplies and Chesapeake pool supplies.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Pros and Cons of Geothermal Heating

Perhaps you have an older home you wish to modernize, or maybe you have had so many problems with your current HVAC system that you are ready to try something different. Geothermal heating is an option that provides heat to your home through pipes and a heat pump. Since the heat is sourced from the ground, hence the name, your HVAC contractor will lay the pipes in trenches dug into your property to create the closed circuit needed to keep your house warm. The heat pump takes the water in this circuit and produces the warmth which is circulated throughout your house.

Geothermal systems can work with under floor heating systems or immersion systems. Question is, is this type of HVAC right for you? As with other types of heat management systems, geothermal has its pros and cons. Let's take a look at some of them.


If you are eco-minded, you will be pleased to know that geothermal heating is a good way to go green. Heat is derived from a source that doesn't require mining, and you are less likely to create a hazard through this natural method of keeping your house warm. You could discover a good reduction in energy bills as a result.

Geothermal heating also does not require a lot of maintenance to run. You are not responsible for cleaning a chimney or refilling an oil tank, and you will rarely need to call a repairman. This heating method provides an energy efficient method of keeping your house comfortable in any season.


While the source of the heat is energy efficient and environmentally friendly, bear in mind that not all equipment works the same way. More than likely you'll use the same source for cooling your home, which means using refrigerants to power your pump. You will need to look hard for eco-friendly equipment.

Depending on where you live, you may need permission to have the pipes laid. For geothermal heating to work properly, you will need quite a bit of space, and if you live in an attached home or condo this might not be possible.

Also, the initial cost of digging the trenches could set you back. Granted, geothermal heating could save you in the long run, but note you may need to make a sizable investment up front.

Is geothermal heating for you? Weigh the pros and cons of the system to determine if it will work for your home.

Kathryn Lively is a freelance writer specializing in articles on Norfolk commercial HVAC services and Newport News HVAC services.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Laws and Regulations For Outdoor Firepits

On a cool autumn evening, or perhaps during the summer backyard barbecue, a cozy sit in front of a fire pit makes for great conversation and comfort. Whether you have a fire shoppe built in your backyard or you use a portable bowl to burn wood, you have the ability to turn a simple yard into a place of relaxation and recreation. Because you will have an open flame close, however, you need to be aware of fire safety and any laws regarding owning a fire pit. Depending on where you live, the laws will vary.

Tips for Fire Pit Safety

The key to enjoying your evenings outdoors on your property is having your fire pit professionally installed. Planning is important in that the fire area must be situated on solid, level ground and in an area with no foot traffic. Your fire should not be placed anywhere near flammable objects or in a place where potential damage could happen. For example, the pit should not be installed near any gas lines or close to a pool, where people are likely to walk or run.

If you are setting up a permanent pit that is concrete or brick-based, arrange seating so that it is not too close to the flames. As you burn wood, there is the chance that sparks will fly from the fire and you do not want to get singed. Where possible, install your fire pit in an area with no tree cover - dry pine needles and leaves should be cleared away before you light a fire. If you have small children, keep them away from the fire as well.

Knowing the Law

Once you have decided to set up a fire shoppe on your property, before you do anything, you should consult with your area Fire Marshall. The Marshall will keep you informed of all fire laws in your city. More than likely, you will learn that having a small pit that maintains a low flame is okay to have in your yard, but many areas may enforce a law that says you can have a pit only if you intend to cook with it. This, of course, includes open pit barbecues. However, if you use your fire pit for roasting marshmallows and hot dogs you may be okay.

To be safe, consult with the Fire Marshall and a professional contractor who deals in backyard recreation facilities. Get all related information on size restrictions and other requirements, and soon you can enjoy those cool evenings by the fire with friends.

Kathryn Lively is a freelance writer specializing in articles on Norfolk outdoor firepits and Virginia Beach fireplaces.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Why You Should Consider Going With a Saltwater Swimming Pool

Thinking of having a new swimming pool installed in your back yard? If you have the money and time to devote to the maintenance of a pool, it's a great thing to have during the warmer months when you desperately need to cool down. These days you have so many options for your backyard recreation. Above ground pools are popular, and these days you can choose from different sizes and depths. However, many people are finding that the in-ground salt water pool is more desirable, and why not? Salt water swimming pools provide a greener way to enjoy backyard fun.

Of course, by green we mean environmentally sound - you definitely don't want your pool water turning green! That is one advantage of owning a pool with a salt system: such devices are built to clean themselves. This way you probably won't spend as much time cleaning your pool than if you used chlorinated water. This gives you many more hours spent in the water enjoying it.

If you are concerned about skin issues as you swim, it may encourage you to know that salt water tends to be softer and gentler on the skin than chlorinated water. It is less likely to sting your eyes and damage your hair. Also, the fact that chlorine is part of salt's chemical breakdown, you are likely to save money on products you would normally buy for maintenance.

As you decide on the procedure for installing you swimming area, take note of initial costs. It may cost more up front to have a salt system put in place, which may make you wonder when the savings come in. This happens in the fact that you are not constantly buying chemicals to refresh your water. Therefore, monthly payouts won't be as bad. Repair of such systems are affordable as well, and cleaning a salt water pool is much easier to do.

Consult with a professional for more information on salt versus chlorinated systems. You will definitely note the differences as they apply to your lifestyle. Once you are in the water swimming and enjoy the time with your family and friends, you just might experience the difference in the water's consistency. If your eyes aren't stinging and the scent of chlorine doesn't tickle your nose, you might realize your summer recreational pleasure is enhanced by their absence. A salt water system for your new pool is a great option for your backyard entertainment.

Kathryn Lively is a freelance writer specializing in articles on Norfolk pool supplies and Virginia Beach pools.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

How Not to Hire a Plumber

When the hot shower in your shower turns tepid, when your toilets or sink drains clog, when your pipes freeze after a bad winter storm, your first inclination may be to contact a plumber. If you own your home and have not yet experienced a plumbing problem, you may not have a ready number to call. It is not uncommon to rely upon word of mouth for references, but there are ways to avoid hiring such a home mechanic to improve the way water flows through your home.

Is there a wrong way to hire a plumber? Yes, indeed. If you want to put your pipes and fixtures at risk, these are the best methods:

1) Don't ask friends and family for help. You trust the people closest to you to assist in finding recommended products and services. When you need a plumber, you may be inclined to ask a friend who they call in an emergency. Without this helpful expertise, you are left to peruse dozens of local listings, all of whom will claim they are the best. Who is, really?

2) Don't check ratings online. Organizations like Angie's List and the Better Business Bureau are set up to keep consumers informed if rogue companies have given homeowners trouble. These days you can log into a site and search potential plumbers for quality ratings and complaints. Even using Google search on a plumber will pull up reviews, which is a great way to learn more about the people you are thinking of hiring.

3) Call the first one you see and give them the job. It is okay to ask plumbers for an initial estimate. If you live in a large, urban area chances are you will have many choices. Don't feel as though you need to hire the first person you contact. Get the information you need, then comparison shop. Check websites and social media accounts to get a feel for how everybody stacks up. Then make the final call.

Remember, the plumbing mechanic you bring into your home is supposed to fix the problem for good. If you work full time, this will involve altering your schedule to accommodate the plumber while he or she works. You definitely do not want to keep calling people in to repair the first fix, so make sure you research thoroughly your options before giving one person the job. Your wallet and your sanity will remain intact.

Kathryn Lively is a freelance writer specializing in articles on Virginia Beach plumbers and Palatine plumbers.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Swimming Pools - In-Ground Vs Above-Ground

When you decide to have a pool constructed in your backyard, you not only create a recreational environment for your family, but you stand to enhance the value of your property. Owning a pool provides many opportunities for fun and relaxation in the warmer months, more so if you live in a temperate climate that yields more time to swim and play. Question is, once you've decided to build that pool, should you go for an above ground model or in-ground?
Regardless of the style of pool you choose, you're certain to enjoy the cool water and play with your family and friends. Both models are seen in backyards throughout the country, but as a homeowner you must decide which is best for you. Above ground and dug pools each have their own benefits and challenges, so if you are not leaning directly one way or the other here are a few considerations to help sway your choice:
How much does it cost to install a swimming pool? For in-ground models, prices will vary depending on size and depth. Do a search on the Internet and you may find numbers ranging from just over five thousand dollars to as much as ten grand - also factor in whether or not you have somebody install it for you.
By contrast, a nice above ground pool won't set you back as much. Depending on size, you could pay as little as a few hundred dollars to as much as five thousand - the price often factors in the materials used to make the pool's interior and walls. Traditionally, the above ground model will be less expensive, but that doesn't mean it is always the correct choice for you.
Above ground pools have come a long way in the last few decades. Once upon a time, we might skim a peek over the fence to see the round blue object in the neighbor's yard, while these days homeowners may choose between round and oval models. Above ground swimming pools typically start at twelve feet in circumference and may be extended to as much as thirty-three for round and oval models. If you have the yard to suit, you can even buy an oval kit that stretches forty feet long.
With in-ground pools, however, you can be more creative. Pool designers can offer designs from the simple rectangle to curvaceous shapes that give your backyard an aesthetically pleasing look. Depending on where you live, too, you can have one end as deep as eight feet. Above ground models, by contrast, usually go no deeper than four and a half feet...otherwise you'd need a tall ladder to get in!
Just because you have an above ground pool doesn't mean you can get away with not buying a pump and filters and chemicals to clean the water. You cannot treat this model like an overgrown kiddie pool - it will need to be maintained the same as you would care for an in-ground pool. Issues like mold, clogged filters, and pump maintenance carry over to both types of pools.
To get into an above-ground pool, you'll use a ladder. However, you can always enhance the look of your swimming area by constructing a raised deck around the edge. This not only makes for better socialization space around the pool, but easier access for swimmers - if a family member or guest has limited mobility, it may be difficult to get into the pool otherwise.
With an in-ground pool, there are ways to beautify the area with landscaping as well. In-ground models may also come with a diving board, something you don't normally see on an above ground pool.
Swimming pools come in different shapes and sizes, and if you intend to have one installed at home you have the advantage of choice. Take into consideration all characteristics of above ground and in-ground pools before making your decision, then enjoy the water!
Kathryn Lively is a freelance writer specializing in articles on Norfolk pool supplies and Virginia Beach pools.

Monday, July 25, 2011

The Benefits of Under - Floor Heating

It makes sense for homeowners to look into new and different ways to save money on heating and cooling bills. As energy costs fluctuate according to consumption and homeowner needs, the necessity to keep costs low reflects our willingness to conserve in questionable economies. While you may be inclined to stock up on more blankets as opposed to turning up the thermostat in winter, however, you may wish to look into alternative methods of keeping your house warm, such as underfloor heating.
Underfloor heating provides homes and other buildings with a manner of radiant heating, for radiation allows for the primary source of thermal comfort. Radiation typically accounts for more than half of the heat given off in this system, which is often comprised of radiant tubes laid out underneath a floor during construction.
Are there benefits to having such a system in place in your home? Absolutely! Anything that gets layers of winter coats left on the hooks is certain to please homeowners, though the idea of a major construction project may leave people reluctant to move forward. Hiring a reputable HVAC professional contractor, however, makes for a quick turnaround in service so you can feel warm and comfortable in any part of your house. Also, consider these points:
1) Underfloor heating can free up home space. One disadvantage to other types of radiant heat is having an unsightly coil radiator in your room. You can't really cover it up, and you lose real estate, even though your radiator is likely to be tucked in a corner. Moving the heating system under the floor leaves you free to decorate as you wish.
2) Under the floor heating allows for better distribution. Perhaps with your current heat system there is one spot in the house that remains warmer than others. With everything set in your floors, the heat has the opportunity to radiate throughout the area, leaving every spot comfortable.
3) This heating system provides a more cost efficient, greener method. Homeowners with such heating in place will find it reduces carbon dioxide emissions, and the addition of solar panels to create heat can further lower energy bills.
4) Moisture content in the home decreases. With the heating equipment under the floor, there's less of a chance of dust and other allergens. The home will seem cleaner and safer.
If you are building a new construction, consider the installation of underfloor heating to keep your house and family warm in the winter. It is a great, green alternative that lasts.
Kathryn Lively is a freelance writer specializing in articles on Williamsburg HVAC services and Virginia commercial HVAC services.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

The Importance of Plumbing Inspections

Whether at home or in the office, you rely upon solid, quality plumbing to keep clean water coursing through your fixtures. If a reputable plumbing company took care of installing everything, you shouldn't have any issues, though this doesn't mean you'll never have problems. One way to ensure you never need to worry about clogs or leaks is to have a regular plumbing inspection done, once or twice a year, to check on your pipes, kitchen and bathroom fixtures, and outdoor plumbing where applicable.
Why schedule a plumbing inspection? Well, think about it like this: you handle preventative care for things like your health, your car, and your pets, right? Why would your plumbing be any less important? You require good water flow for washing, cooking, and care of your plants and lawn - or landscaping at work. It makes sense to have a professional come in to evaluate the health of your fixtures and setup. You should also note too that:
1) A plumbing inspection can help your resale value. If you are thinking of selling your home anytime soon, that proof of an inspection can help when it's time to determine the value of your home. Good plumbing means a valuable property since a new owner won't have to do much to it.
2) Inspections can pinpoint potential dangers. If a plumbing mechanic spots an anomaly that could worsen into a more expensive problem, you can arrange for a fix that will save you lots of money and headaches down the road. To the trained eye, some things are better revealed - you may not see the same thing a plumber does.
3) An inspection could reveal places where you can save money or apply green practices to your plumbing setup. Remember that trained eye? What if a plumber came in and showed you how it can be fixed so your water and energy bills are reduced? That is certainly worth the time and investment to have him come in to lower future bills.
4) Lastly, an inspection can help you plan for the future. If you're thinking about expanding, your plumbing may prevent it. It's best to know well in advance so you don't go through the trouble of planning a new addition to your home only to find out it will cost more because of these obstacles.
A plumbing inspection for your home and office is designed to head off disasters, help plan for better efficiency in your home's maintenance, and to help you save money. Schedule an appointment for peace of mind.
Kathryn Lively is a freelance writer specializing in articles on Norfolk plumbing and Palatine plumbing.

Friday, July 15, 2011

3 Most Common Types of Swimming Pool Filters

Seasoned pool owners already know the importance of filtration. In order to maintain a clean and safe swimming environment, you must have working filters in place. Whether you use a chlorinated or salt water system, it's important to have the right filter installed. Let's take a look at three of the most common types of swimming pool filters to help you determine which is best to use in your home in-ground or above-ground pool.

The Sand Filter

The Sand Filter is appropriately because the device holds an amount of sand use for pool filtration. With this device, pool water flows into the filter, through the sand and out the other end. Any debris and dirt carried by the water is trapped in the sand, leaving cleaner water to flow out into the pool. Through back-washing and changing the sand for optimal result, all the bad stuff is removed completely. The sand filter is perhaps one of the best known and easiest types of filters to install and use.

The Diatomaceous Earth (DE) Filter

Similarly built to the sand filter, the DE filter instead uses a special substance to clear debris from your pool water. Diatomaceous earth, unlike regular sand and soil, is finer and works well to sieve out smaller particles. DE filters are sometimes known as water polishers for the work they do.

The Cartridge Filter

This type of filter is easily recognizable. Rather than using a grainy substance, a cartridge not unlike one you'd use in your sink or air ducts is used to trap soil and debris. Because of the nature of the design, some pool owners may prefer this type of filter because it's easier to tell when a cartridge needs changing.

The type of filter you use for your home swimming pool will largely depend on a number of factors. What size pool do you have, what is in your budget, and how often you plan to use your pool. The more you swim - especially if you live in an area with a nice year-round climate - the more likely you are to change out filtration. Any pool is a serious investment, so you want to be certain you get the filtration system set up correctly the first time.

When in doubt, consult with a pool service professional at your local supply store. Learn everything you can about the filter you will install in your pool.

Kathryn Lively is a freelance writer specializing in articles on Chesapeake pool supplies and Norfolk pool supplies.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Do You Need Renters Insurance?

So you have decided, either because you're not sure if you plan to stay where you are or you aren't ready to take on a mortgage, to rent an apartment or house. That's fine - given the present economy, more people have turned to renting affordable houses and condos based upon their current incomes and needs. If you travel often or have no children, renting offers a reasonable alternative to owning a house. Once you've made the decision on which place to rent, then comes the question of insurance.

Do You Need Renter's Insurance?

As you discuss lease terms with your potential landlord, the question of home care will certainly arise. As a tenant, it is your responsibility to make sure you manage your living quarters well. You may reach an agreement with your landlord where he/she will handle lawn maintenance or other projects - it typically depends on your landlord's involvement in the home's care. Of course, your landlord will have insurance policies on the building to cover certain damages, but those policies don't necessarily protect what you bring into the home. This is why you should consider a renter's policy.

This type of insurance policy covers the items you own within the home or apartment. Your furniture, television, computers - anything of value - is covered and protected in case of damage brought on by accident or bad weather, or theft. If somebody were to break into your garage and steal your bicycle, a renter's policy should cover that asset.

Do you need this type of insurance? If you do own a number of expensive devices or valuable antiques, it would behoove you to carry a policy in the event something does happen. If you choose to rent near a beach or an area susceptible to bad weather, there is a heightened risk of damage, even though it's possible anywhere you live.

Obtaining a Policy

If you already carry a policy for your automobile, you may wish to consult with your agent to see about your options for renters insurance. A premium could be more affordable than you think, and if you keep important equipment for work and play - musical instruments, game console, and MP3 players - you will find the cost to replace something is more prohibitive than if you had a policy to cover its loss.

Most insurance agents that deal with home and automobile insurance will be able to help you with a renter's policy. Take the time to consider the investment for your peace of mind.

Kathryn Lively is a freelance writer specializing in articles on Virginia Beach insurance agencies and Norfolk insurance agencies.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Is Your Air Conditioning System Meeting Your Needs?

Where you live, what you do for a living, and what you do at home are but a few factors that determine the usefulness of your current heating and air conditioning system. If you're at home trying to unwind after a long day of work, you want to feel content and comfortable in your surroundings. If you suspect the heat or air isn't working to your satisfaction, you will know immediately just from the temperature in the room. However, the occasional mishap doesn't necessarily mean a replacement is in order. It's important to know which kind of HVAC equipment works best for you.

To better determine whether or not your current setup is working right for you, take into consideration your lifestyle:

Where You Live:

If you live in a relatively warm climate, you naturally depend more on your air conditioning through longer stretches in the year. By comparison, homeowners in northern areas may use heating and air for equal amounts of time, or cut back on A/C if the weather is temperate enough not to require it. Your home's location plays a major role in determining the type of HVAC system you'll require. Consider the year-round temperature and buy accordingly.

Where You Work:

How does where you work affect your home HVAC system? For one, your work determines how long you are away from home on a daily basis. You may work anywhere from eight to ten hours a day, leaving your home unattended. Do you leave the air conditioning on to come home to an Arctic blast? If you are the type to converse energy (and consequently your bills), you may tend to keep your system off for long periods when you're not around. If that's the case, you'll want a system that isn't affect by long periods of inactivity.

What You Do at Home:

When you are at home, are you active? Do you tend to relax on your deck as opposed to your living room, or spend time in the garden more than in front of the TV? If your home is basically the place where you come to sleep until it's time to tackle the next day, you probably don't require a heavy-duty system - rather one that keeps you cool or warm when you most need it. You'll need to decide if an energy-efficient HVAC is right for you. Price accordingly what is available for your budget and be comfortable when you need it.

Kathryn Lively is a freelance writer specializing in articles on Newport News HVAC services and Williamsburg HVAC services.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Hire a Professional Plumber to Fix Backflow Problems

Every time you turn on a faucet to fill a soup pot, or to run a tub full of water for a bath, you expect what comes out of the spigot to be safe and clean, good enough for consumption. Whether you use your city's water supply or have some kind of well system set up for your home, it's important to make sure everything is working to maintain the proper filtering of your water. When things go awry and you notice your water doesn't look clear or maybe gives off an unpleasant odor, the last thing you want to do is use it for cooking or bathing. You could have a problem with your backflow preventer.

Simply put, backflow is the reverse flow of your main water supply. When your home plumbing works properly, only clean drinking and washing water will flow through your pipes when needed. In cases of severe weather or other damages, anything that faults the pressure that maintains water flow, there is the chance dirty water from storage is drawn into your plumbing. This contaminate flows in reserve into the good water stream, and therefore gets into your pipes and sinks, tubs, and so on. When this happens, it's necessary to contact your plumber for repairs.

Backflow Preventers

Dirty water coming out of the faucet in your first sign that you water needs to be tested, and your backflow device repairs or replaced. Typically your backflow plumbing should be tested once a year to make sure everything is in working order, but it's important to have a plumbing mechanic check it in extreme emergency cases. Make sure the person you hire has certification to work on such devices, which may include a check valve, a reduced pressure device, an air gap, or an atmospheric vacuum breaker.

Because some systems may require specific handling and parts, it is best to have somebody with experience tackle the plumbing job so no further damage is done to your water flow. Make sure the system you have installed comes with a warranty and learn everything you can in the event you need to describe another problem to your plumber should something go wrong.

Without a good backflow device, spoiled water may continue to be a problem for your home. Luckily this problem is easy to spot, but until you get a plumber to come in and take care of your backflow problem, you must refrain from using your tap water until you're certain it's clean enough to use.

Kathryn Lively is a freelance writer specializing in articles on Palatine plumbers and Palatine plumbing.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

About Limestone Fire Pits

After a long day at work, nothing feels better than going home and kicking back with a cold drink and maybe some nice music to help you relax. When the weather is cool and the sky free of clouds, the idea of sitting outside for some pleasant conversation just may be the ticket to topping off the day. If you aren't enamored by your present landscaping situation, though, you may wish to renovate with a cozy limestone fire pit for your back patio area.

Why upgrade your yard with a fire shoppe? If you're the outdoorsy type who loves spending more time in the yard than in the house, adding a fire pit seems like second nature. If you want to get some fresher air and take advantage of temperate evenings, the fire pit is one way to make your nights enjoyable.
  • It's Affordable! Having a fire pit installed isn't as expensive as you think. Depending on whether you build one yourself or have a professional landscape company take charge, you'll find the money is well spent for the long run.
  • It Looks Great! Limestone lends a rugged beauty to any outdoor environment. You can build an attractive round or square-shaped pit that looks gorgeous no matter how your patio or deck is styled.
  • Kids Love Them! Up for some marshmallow roasting on a Saturday night? With a wood-burning fire shoppe at home, you don't have to wait until your next camping trip to have some fun.
  • Fantastic for Parties! Host a home barbecue or have the next door neighbors over for a glass of wine and a chat. The low flames from the fire pit keep your parties alive and lit.
  • Maintain a meditative environment! No matter the season, when you sit by your fire shoppe and let the warmth envelop you, you'll feel much calmer and can even have a better night. You'll feel more relaxed the next day and ready to take on the world.
If you are interested in making your back yard more functional, but don't have a lot of money to spend, budget for a nice patio area with a limestone fire pit. Set up a number of chairs, and you instantly create a cozy conversation area where you and family or friends can relax for hours. You'll enjoy your time outside chatting and watching the gentle flames that you may just forget to go back into the house.

Kathryn Lively is a freelance writer specializing in articles on Norfolk fire shoppes and Chesapeake fire shoppes.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Things That May Be Found During a Plumbing Inspection

Reasons for having a plumbing mechanic come to your home for an inspection may vary. Whether you plan to sell your home and wish to have everything appraised, or you have noticed your water bills are higher than usual and you've done nothing different to warrant the spike, scheduling a full inspection of your home plumbing can help you pinpoint problems that must be fixed. The sooner you discover what is wrong, you can put a stop to any water leaks, and money bleeding from your wallet.

What can you expect to find during a routine inspection of your home plumbing? Ideally, you want the plumber to tell you that everything is working at optimal levels and that there's nothing to worry about. Of course, homeowners don't normally call in a home improvement specialist unless something is wrong, so there are a number of things you should be on the look and listen for. These may include:

1) Leaky pipes. These aren't always simple to find, for pipes not easily visible may leak gradually, making it progressively difficult for sinks and showers to function properly.

2) Faults with your water heater. Water heaters typically last no more than a decade. If you can't remember how long you've had yours, it may be time for a replacement.

3) Stubborn clogging. If you are experiencing slow drainage in sinks and tubs, there may be buildup in your pipes that haven't cleared after home solutions. A plumber may need to use a pipe snake to get the debris dislodged.

4) Faulty garbage disposal. Even if you don't aggressive use your disposal while cooking, the mechanics will age over time. Something like this could prevent future drainage problems.

5) Outdoor plumbing damage. If you endured a storm recently, you should have a plumber check any outdoor plumbing fixtures like your sprinkler system or pool for damage before you use them again.

6) Improperly installed fixtures. If you had another plumber put in a new toilet or shower - or maybe you tried it yourself - and it's not working as it should, a good plumber will detect this and advise you of what needs to be done so that you don't waste water or money in repairs.

While a plumbing inspection may yield distressing news about your pipes and fixtures at first, the good news is that once you correct any faulty plumbing you can work toward more energy efficient water usage that saves you money. If you suspect your plumbing is off, get it checked!

Kathryn Lively is a freelance writer specializing in articles on Chicago plumbing services and Palatine plumbing services.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

4 Solid Reasons to Make Sure You Are Protected By Flood Insurance

Imagine having to evacuate your home following a hurricane or flood warning. With little time to pack, you grabs what is most precious to you, get the family into the car, and head for higher ground. Coming home afterward, you find your home and surrounding area has sustained damage - maybe some of it can be repaired, but there's a good chance you might lose some valuable possessions to storm damage. With flood insurance coverage, however, you may receive due compensation for your losses.

Homeowners who don't live along the shore or in beach areas susceptible to hurricanes may think of flood insurance as an unnecessary expense. What's the point of extra coverage if you live in a land-locked area, right. Well, when you consider that floods are apt to happen anywhere in the world - not just where it's sea level - you may think differently. Homeowners in Tennessee learned the hard way when flooding damaged homes and businesses. If it can happen there, it can happen where you live on a day of heavy rain that encourages water systems and rivers to overflow.

Still not convinced that you should strongly consider a flood insurance policy. Think about this:

1) Getting a policy now is more cost effective than paying to repair damage later. A flood insurance policy could cost you as little as a few hundred dollars a year. Stack this up against loans paid out to those rendered homeless by floods. Pennies a day versus years of paying back money is definitely a no-brainer.

2) Policy holders can experience a quicker relief turnaround. If you have a policy in hand, you might find it easier to get compensation than if you didn't have this kind of insurance. It's not uncommon for people to wait weeks or even months for their insurance companies to deliver checks. Flood insurance makes it easier on you.

3) Your traditional home policies may not cover all damage sustained from flooding. Check with the provider and consider a flood policy where necessary.

4) These policies will not take effect until thirty days after you get one. So if you are sitting at home watching the weather reports and worrying that flood waters are headed your way, getting a last-minute policy will not help you. You need to be prepared well in advance.

Flood insurance can provide peace of mind during a season of bad weather. You may not be able to replace everything lost in a bad storm, but a solid policy can at least help you rebuild in a timely manner.

Kathryn Lively is a freelance writer specializing in articles on Norfolk flood insurance and Virginia flood insurance.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Should You Hire a Professional Pool Cleaner?

We know you can't wait for the weather to warm up. Sunny spring and summer days are meant for relaxing by and splashing in your backyard, and the sooner you can suit up the earlier the fun begins. With owning a pool, however, comes the responsibility of keeping it clean. The water must always be treated so nobody encounters discomfort, or worse, illness. When you shop for pool supplies you'll no doubt find friendly experts ready to assist you, but you might wonder also if cleaning the pool is a responsibility best left entirely to an expert.

There is definitely more to cleaning a swimming pool than occasionally skimming leaves from the surface. One must check regularly that the pH balance of the water is correct, and that enough chemicals are used to maintain water purity. Filters and pumps should be checked often to make sure they work properly, and it's always a good idea to make sure your vinyl liner is not torn or worn anywhere. If something is askew, you risk a leak in your pool, and if left alone these damage could cost a fortune in repairs.

You may think you save money by cleaning your own pool, but it is necessary to consider a few things before you take on the job. Do you work full-time, or travel often? Do you have a physical impairment that would prevent you from doing certain tasks? While there are advantages to doing it yourself, hiring an expert cleaner allows you the freedom to enjoy your pool without worry, provided you have a reputable service.

Where can you find a quality cleaner for the job? Word of mouth is typically the best method - ask neighbors and friends who own swimming pools if they hire out, and learn which companies offer good service. Try online home improvement directories like Angie's List where pool maintenance services are rated. Before you call anybody to come out and get to work, meet up with potential hires to learn about their schedules, pricing structure and other issues. If you work often during the day, chances are you may need to leave a back gate open for the cleaner to access, so you want to be sure your home is safe.

Take your lifestyle and knowledge of pool safety and cleaning into consideration before you decide to hire somebody to clean your swimming area. With the right person doing the job, you can enjoy many days in clean water.

Kathryn Lively is a freelance writer specializing in articles on Norfolk pool supplies and Virginia Beach pools.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Air Conditioning Systems For New Construction

For companies planning new construction projects to house their businesses, the necessity of planning everything down to the exact detail will determine how well or how poorly productivity progresses. Whether you are building offices for clerical or storage use, or are building a place for a restaurant or other food service work, the contractor you hire should take into consideration the proper ventilation of the workspace.

You may be advised, too, to bring on a contractor that deals exclusively with commercial HVAC services, if your builders do not have such a person on hand, or else do not sub-contract that work. Commercial HVAC - or heating, ventilation, and air conditioning, is important if you wish to maintain a clean, healthy environment for your employees. As you plan your new construction project, here are a few things you will want to consider:

1) Size. How large is your building? One floor, or several? Will your work area be spread out or situated on so many square feet? The size of your work space will determine the size and power of the HVAC units that will heat and cool the buildings.

2) Usable Work Space. Depending on the scope of your business, not every square inch will be occupied by manpower. Offices where your employees will work, of course, should be temperature controlled, as should areas that will house sensitive equipment (foodstuffs, computers, etc.). Therefore, your HVAC system will be installed accordingly so that the most important areas are affected.

3) Location. Where is your office located? Businesses in the deep South will have different construction concerns than those in New England or the Pacific Northwest. Where your office is located will determine whether or not your HVAC system should be geared to heat or cool more.

4) Budget. How much money do you have to use toward constructing your office or warehouse? Though it's important to have a good HVAC system that will work for a long time, you want to operate within your budget and choose units that won't require too much maintenance. Consult with your contractor for the best solution.

Air quality is one of the most essential components in a healthy office and commercial environment. Keep your offices and work spaces at comfortable temperatures with clean air, and you will find your business functions at optimal levels. For a new construction, this is especially crucial as you plan to start work as soon as possible. Research the best commercial HVAC company to do the job.

Kathryn Lively is a freelance writer specializing in articles on Norfolk commercial HVAC services and Virginia commercial HVAC services.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

The Most Economic Way to Heat Your Home

As a homeowner, you're watching every penny that leaves your wallet. Between cable and insurance, gas and groceries, the cost of living seems to offer few breaks. When it comes to heating your home in the winter, you might consider piling up on blankets and thick socks rather than adjust the thermostat! Truthfully, there is no need to resort to drastic measures if you know how to economically heat your home. Here are a few suggestions to consider.

1) Shop around for the most affordable resource.

Depending on where you live, one way to heat your home may be cheaper than another. Oil heat, for example, may come at a premium, so you will want to research options for gas heat, electric, and even wood. The addition of a wood-burning stove in an oft-used part of the house may have merit if you are able to find the materials you need. Otherwise, you can consult with an HVAC professional on the best options for heating your home.

2) Invest in the right windows.

Thermal windows are helpful in the winter time, for they properly seal your home and prevent heat and air from leaking. If you find you are constantly having to turn up the heat, there could be a problem with your current windows. Installing thermal windows helps to insulate your house from the cold, and you won't need to fiddle with the thermostat as much.

3) Check your doors and roof as well.

Roofs are designed to ventilate and keep in the air you circulate in your home. If you suspect heat is leaking from your roof, it's best to have an inspection done to determine if repairs are necessary. As with your windows, you will want to invest in a strong door that works to trap in the warmth without letting it escape and in turn drive up your bills.

4) Close off unused rooms.

It isn't necessary to heat rooms you don't use. Keep the warmth relegated to the most populated parts of the house - the living room and the bedrooms in particular.

5) Insulate your floors.

If heat has a chance to escape, it certainly will. If you do not have insulated floors in unheated spaces, you risk losing heat. Research your insulation options so your bills don't skyrocket.

Properly heating your house involves more than making sure you have an HVAC unit or gas system set up. With the most economical heating option comes the responsibility of making sure the rest of your home keeps the heat where it needs to be, inside!

Kathryn Lively is a freelance writer specializing in articles on Newport News HVAC services and Williamsburg HVAC services.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Green Your Bedroom for a Better Night's Rest

Sometimes, we just can't avoid breathing in things that could make us sick. We walk outside to meet a toxic swirling combination of car exhaust and other chemically-based fumes that may emit from lighter fluids, factories and even the everyday objects around us. It's true that the clothes we wear, the food we eat, and utensils we use at lunch and dinner may contain some kind of treatment that isn't necessarily good for us, but unless you want to live in a bubble or move off the grid into the woods and forage, how else can you survive naturally?

If one should start anywhere to enjoy a more natural, eco-friendly experience, it's the bedroom. This is your sanctum, a place where you come to wind down and recharge at the end of every busy day. It is important, since your body requires deep sleep to rejuvenate energy, to make sure you have few to no interruptions at night, and certainly nothing in your personal space that could cause you to get sick. When you prepare to green-up your bedroom for a peaceful existence, bear in mind that every element of living space - not just the bed - comes into play.


As with most textiles, heavy drapes will come treated with chemicals designed to preserve the durability of the fabric. When these hang over your windows to block incoming lamplight, you may think you are helping set a sleeping mood, but the chemicals that remain stay with you. For a healthier, greener window treatment, look for curtains made of natural, untreated fibers like organic cotton, hemp or bamboo, or consider unpainted wooden blinds or shutters.


A good way to keep healthy circulation in your room is to add a plant or two to your sleeping space. Live plants help with filtering your home air naturally, and even absorb some chemicals and reduce risks. Ask your local nursery about good options for keeping in your bedroom.


A natural wood frame, a latex mattress topped with organic fiber sheets, and a natural pillow of components designed to help your head support (buckwheat, latex, etc) are essential in the pursuit of a natural night's sleep. Bear in mind if you have considered a fancier sleep system like memory foam, the mattresses may still have chemical treatments. It's best to consult with a green home furnishings company so you know what you're getting is the real deal.

Put everything together your bedroom for a relaxing, renewing experience. When you green your bedroom, a good night's sleep comes naturally.

Kathryn Lively is a freelance writer specializing in articles on finding the right latex mattress for your bed, and articles on green living.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

How to Head Off Plumbing Problems

With summertime on the way, the last thing you want to think about is your plumbing. This is especially true if you plan to spend more than a few nights a week lounging in the Jacuzzi tub, or swimming in your pool. Summer typically means the showers run more than a few times a day, especially as you come in hot and sweaty from exercise or outdoor play. Good plumbing means a happy home, and in order to keep it that way you will want to head off plumbing problems before they require some expensive work.

You don't need to get a certificate in plumbing mechanics to know how to keep good pipes and fixtures. Just take care not do overdo a few things and not to abuse your plumbing during crucial months. Here are a few things to keep in mind:

1) Watch how you use the garbage disposal. Summer may mean you'll cook at home more, and make use of your sinks and disposal. Take care, though, not to get carried away by chucking vegetable peels and other compost down the drain. It's a disposal, not a garbage can. Limit the waste to small shards and liquids when possible.

2) Keep an eye on the common bathrooms. Do you have kids? If so, chances are you'll have frequent visitors this summer. You'll want to make sure the toilets flush properly and little ones are not running off while leaving the faucets running.

3) Keep home plumbing tools handy. In case of accidents, have a good plunger and brand of plumbing liquid around to solve minor clogging issues. Some emergencies are not as harrowing as you may first think; your best defense is a clear head, calm hands, and a bit of research to get your plumbing operational again.

4) Watch usage of water for outdoor purposes. You might spend more time watering the lawn, or your kids may wish to fill up a pool. If you have not used outdoor spigots in several months, start gently with the water flow and make sure your hoses and sprinklers are working correctly. If you had a previous cold snap and did nothing for your outdoor plumbing, you may encounter problems. Always err on the side of caution.

With summertime comes more time to play, relax, and garden. As you are more likely to use your fixtures and water at home, you'll want to head off plumbing issues before they get out of hand. Be vigilant and you should be fine.

Kathryn Lively is a freelance writer specializing in articles on Palatine plumbing services and Norfolk plumbing services.