Advice for First Time Home Buyers

Buying-Home-PittsburghFrom evaluating your finances to visiting homes, there is a great deal of footwork involved in buying a home. Here are a few tips for the first-time home buyer to consider.

Owning your own home is the dream of many people who are still living in rented homes or apartments. Having your own house means that you have a lot of freedom in terms of creativity, and you also have a lot more privacy than before. Houses in the right areas of the country can also make good investments, since when you live a house for a few years, the value typically goes up. Continue reading

Fall: The best season for home improvement

Fall-Home-Improvement-Real-Estate-Tips(BPT) – The rituals of fall include sending kids back to school, raking leaves and cheering on the hometown football team. In addition, a new fall tradition has emerged for America’s nearly 74 million homeowners — home improvement.

This fall promises to be particularly popular for home projects. Lower gas prices are boosting people’s discretionary income and Metrostudy’s latest Residential Remodeling Index points to a continued rise in activity.

Like many trends, there isn’t one particular reason fall has emerged as a popular time for home improvement, several factors play a role. Continue reading

5 tips for settling into your new home

5 Tips for settling into your new home(BPT) – Though summer is winding down, for many families, hectic moving schedules are still underway. Whether you are moving this season or planning for a move in the near future, consider some helpful guidelines on packing up, moving out and settling in without a hitch — plus, the latest technologies to turn your new house into a home.

Here are five tips to help you minimize moving stress and settle in quickly:

Make a list, measure it twice. After celebrating the signing of your new home (congratulations!), it’s time to begin the moving process. Even before you start packing, it’s important, if possible, to visit your new home with a tape measure. Carefully measure and take note of the square footage and dimensions of every room in your new home. Do the same with any existing appliances and furniture you plan on relocating to your new home to ensure that everything fits through the door and in the space. LG’s moving guide (www.lg.com/us/moving) is designed to help and includes tips on measuring your current appliances to make sure they’ll fit. If you’re purchasing new large appliances or furniture, be sure to measure everything in the store or take note of each item’s dimensions online to make sure it fits. Removing or replacing a refrigerator, for example, is a time-consuming and expensive task that can be avoided with careful planning. If you aren’t able to visit before moving in, ask your broker or real estate agent for a copy of the floor plan.

Continue reading

Stone Crazy for Turquoise

Turquoise beaded strands and tiles are whipping up a home design frenzy. Whether used in vintage, boho or modern looks, this gemstone that’s been prized since ancient Egyptian times is boasting renewed popularity and versatility. Dot or douse your home in turquoise stones and hues with this seductive collection.

How to flip a house using project managers

With framing subcontractors coming in as scheduled, I all of a sudden realized that the floor that they would be framing over had some very serious issues.

Pounding on my cell phone to find someone… Anyone to help me on literally zero notice, I realized the only person I had that could do it… Was me.

So I dusted off the flooring toolbox, started pulling out the old flooring tools and began ripping up floorboards with my trusty Wonderbar.

Not having done this kind of work in a few years, one of the boards I ripped up broke loose and smashed me square in the jaw.
Continue reading

Can your child’s after-school program lead to a STEM career?

(BPT) – Learning doesn’t only happen in a classroom. Each year, millions of American children participate in after-school programs that mix education with a healthy dose of fun. And while there’s always room for more programs that help kids love learning, the plethora of what’s already available can be overwhelming for parents trying to choose the right programs for their children.

“Multiple studies show that children who take part in quality after-school programs have better attendance, grades and behavior, and do better on tests compared to their peers who went home alone to an empty house,” says Dan O’Donnell, vice president of the Bricks 4 Kidz after-school program. “Parents can help their children get a jump-start on life, and learn to love learning, by enrolling them in high-quality after-school programs.”

It’s important for parents to assess after-school programs with a critical eye, and consider how successfully a program combines learning with fun and basic care. While many programs are effective at keeping kids safely occupied after school ends but before parents are done with work, not all emphasize educational material. Programs that stimulate a child’s interest in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) subjects can be particularly valuable – possibly even inspiring an interest in a high-demand STEM career.

“We must prepare all students … to be proficient in STEM subjects,” the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) writes in a report to President Obama. “And we must inspire all students to learn STEM and, in the process, motivate many of them to pursue STEM careers.”

An after-school program with a STEM emphasis can fulfill both the need to educate children and inspire a lifelong love of STEM subjects, experts agree. Parents seeking a STEM program for their children should look for one that:

* Offers creative and engaging activities that are as fun and motivational as they are educational.

* Encourages curiosity and creativity, which are building blocks of independent thinking.

* Draws on the real-life expertise of people working in STEM fields. For example, engineers and architects designed Bricks 4 Kidz modules.

* Uses familiar, loved learning tools, like LEGO (R) bricks, to provide hands-on, interactive STEM lessons.

“It’s also important for a program’s lessons to be age-appropriate,” O’Donnell notes. “Children need STEM lessons at every age, which is why we offer programs for children ages 3 through 13. We use themed-based project kits to motivate children by reinforcing STEM principles, and at the same time boost self-esteem, improve fine motor-skills, and teach organization and how to follow directions. And we do it in such a way that kids have so much fun they don’t think of what they’re doing as work.”

To find a Bricks 4 Kidz program in your area, visit the interactive map at www.bricks4kidz.com/locations. You can learn more about the programs and search for a location by state or ZIP code.

“STEM education is most successful when students develop personal connections with the ideas and excitement of STEM fields,” according to the President’s Council report. “This can occur not only in the classroom, but also through individualized and group experiences outside the classroom ….”

Courtesy of BPT

Using renewable energy for your business


Using%20Renewable%20Energy%20for%20Your%20Business
All it takes is for cost of a barrel of oil to spike up, and once again everyone starts talking about renewable energy. Then just as fast as whatever it was that caused the price spike goes away, the conversation dies down. It really is all ridiculous too because the future is coming and it is renewable energy.

Now the fact is that the hardware for assembling your own renewable energy system became cost effective years ago and its growing even more as time moves on. That is that it the cost of putting together, say a solar system is about 30% less than the value of the power it produces over its service life.

The big problem though, is that while the power that comes off your power grid does cost more, it’s on an easy payment plan. You simply get your bill once a month, pay it, and that’s it. Simple and easy and this is what has so many people hooked. It’s just easier that way.

However, for you as a business person, there is the public relations aspect that you have to take into consideration. That is that it’s just good for business for you to be seen as a conservationist by your clients or customers and this trend in PR is only expected to grow.

By far the easiest type of system to set up is a photovoltaic solar system that uses solar panels. Now while they are quick to install and get online, they do none the less have a few shortcomings that you will have to contend with.

The first is that they only generate power in the daytime and electricity is expensive to store in batteries, but it can be done. The option that most people take though is to direct excess production back into the grid during the day, get credited for it and then draw it back out at night.

Now if your business is in an area where you have a steady supply of wind, then you need to know that a lot of progress has been made in wind turbines. New off the shelf, high tech turbines that can be generating energy for you in about the same time as it takes to set up solar panels.

The nice thing about wind turbines is that they operate 24 hours a day, just as long as the wind is blowing. Also if you have enough wind and buy a big enough turbine system, you can generate a very large amount of power.

One issue to consider with wind turbines though, is that they do tend to be a bit costly, and it’s not just the cost of the turbine that can run up your bill. It’s the tower, because good towers can be expensive and that particularly holds true for larger towers that you would mount a large turbine on.

Courtesy of BPT

Upgrading to the house of your dreams


Upgrading%20to%20the%20house%20of%20your%20dreams
The real estate market has many homeowners staying in place and looking for ways to make their current abode the most comfortable it can be. Because they’re not selling, homeowners are looking at remodeling rooms, changing out decorating schemes and in some cases, even adding on to the home.

 
Incorporating a new look into the home – whether it’s in the kitchen, bedroom or bathroom – can really change the feel of the house. Upgrading a bathroom is a great place to start, because it’s a smaller room and is used by both occupants and guests.  A remodel can also help you save money on your utility bills. With a new bathroom adding a spa-like feel to your home, you may even rethink your desire to move when the housing economy turns around.

 
Here are some tips to changing the bathroom of your home into a beautiful and comfortable space:

 
* Vanity: Used for hand washing, preening in the mirror and brushing teeth, the vanity is one item in the bathroom that is the center of activity. Add an artistic – and economical – touch to your vanity with TOTO’s Wyeth Faucet, characterized by its refined good looks. When on, this budget-friendly, universal design faucet runs a mere 1.5 gallons of water per minute, earning it the green WaterSense label. In addition to the faucet, consider upgrading your mirror with a model that combines beauty and elegance in the room.

 
* Walls: A fresh coat of paint can go a long way in changing the look and feel of a room. Don’t forget about the ceiling. Even if you only give it a new white coat, the fresh look can make all the difference. Choose a paint that handles high humidity well to give your upgrade a longer lifespan.

 
* Toilet: The toilet tends to be the largest water consumption appliance in homes. But replacing your older toilet with TOTO’s 1G, a one-gallon per flush ultra high-efficiency toilet, can really affect your utility bills. This gravity-fed toilet uses Double Cyclone Flushing technology to provide excellent performance and exceptional bowl cleansing action to create a green, clean flushing system that saves you money, water and time cleaning the toilet, always a thankless task.

 
As you upgrade your toilet, don’t stop with just installing a high-efficiency, self-cleansing toilet. Bring the spa to your own home and consider upgrading your toilet with TOTO’s Washlet S350e or S300e, which turns a toilet into a warm-water personal cleansing unit. These new additions to the Washlet family use eWater+ technology, which is applied after each flush and once every eight hours when the unit is not in use, disinfect the bowl, reducing the need for harsh chemicals during cleaning, which saves money and is better for the environment.

 
* Flooring: High humidity often found in bathrooms can quickly age the flooring, causing peeling and even cracking of dated linoleum. Plus, modern flooring products are much higher quality, and are built to withstand more traffic and high humidity environments. Consider using ceramic, clay or stone tiles, or laminate in stone or wood styles to modernize the look of your bathroom.

 
Upgrading a bathroom will transform your entire house with a new look and feel. And if you love the change enough, you might decide to continue the upgrade to another room, like the kitchen or master bedroom, turning your home into the beautiful house of your dreams.

Courtesy of BPT

Boomers: Living comfortably at home in style


Boomers%3A%20Living%20comfortably%20at%20home%20in%20style
As the years pass, Americans in the baby boomer generation are changing the definition of how they want to live comfortably during their later years.

Boomers are opting to continue living where they’re already secure and happy – right at home. Sometimes with age comes a need for additional safety features in the home – but this generation doesn’t want to sacrifice ambiance or style while incorporating these devices. With small upgrades and remodels, it’s easy to weave safety products into the design of a room – without making it look institutional.

Safety is a top concern in the bathroom. There are many ways to make a master bath or guest bathroom socially sustainable for many enjoyable years. Here are some tips:

* Helpful handles – Grab bars near the toilet and in the bathing area can make older people feel more stable and secure in the bathroom. But too many grab bar styles look like they belong in a hospital – not a private home. TOTO Transitional Collection Series A grab bars in chrome, brushed nickel and polished nickel finishes with concealed hardware are designed to fit in with the beautiful aesthetics of a bathroom, adding safety without detracting from the look. Visit TOTOUSA.com to learn more.

* Slippery surfaces – Falling is a great concern for older individuals, so it’s a good idea to eliminate any tripping hazards or slippery surfaces where possible. For example, remove rugs that could shift and buckle, and install rubber grip flooring inside the shower or bath for better traction.

* An extra bit of height – Taller toilets are easier for baby boomers to use because the height helps with balance. A toilet upgrade incorporating low water usage, easy-to-clean finishes and a soft-close seat will help keep a bathroom in style. The TOTO Legato One-Piece High Efficiency Toilet is universal height and comes with a SanaGloss nano-scale ceramic glaze, which prevents matter and bacteria from sticking to the surfaces, resulting in less needed cleaning.

* Accessible storage – Bending over to dig for a beauty product stored way under the sink can be tricky at any age. Consider installing pull-out drawers in lavatory cabinets, or putting storage items in wall cabinets at a higher level to reduce the need to bend for trapped products.

* Spa-like shower – The shower is a place to relax, and baby boomers are more than ready to enjoy small luxuries such as a spa-like shower during the retirement years. One way to spruce up the shower is with the TOTO Transitional Series A Multi-Spray Showerhead, which rotates sprays between massage, mist, spray/massage and pause combos. Not only does this showerhead provide a wonderful shower experience, it also has a maximum flow rate of 2.5 gallons per minute – helping to save on water usage and money.

Many baby boomers have plenty of good years left living comfortably in their own homes. With small upgrades using stylish and socially sustainable products, it’s possible to stay independent while sharing your home with individuals of all ages.

Courtesy of BPT

Firearm safety: Tips that can prevent injury and save lives

(BPT) – With hunting season gearing up in many parts of the country, a few important tips can help prevent injury and save lives. Good habits to safely handle and store firearms are easy to incorporate into your routine.

Even the most proficient sportsmen and hunting enthusiasts may need a refresher course on how to safely store their firearms. The National Rifle Association (NRA) advocates that guns should be stored so they are not accessible to unauthorized persons. Many safe storage devices for guns are available: safes, lock boxes, trigger and cable locks, and secure gun cabinets.

The NRA supports three additional tips on safe gun handling:

* Keep the gun unloaded until ready to use.

Remove the ammunition source, open the action, visually and physically inspect the chamber and magazine area, which should be clear of ammunition, and leave the action open.

* Keep a gun pointed in a safe direction.

This is a primary rule of gun safety. A safe direction means the gun is pointed in a way that if it is discharged, it will not cause any injury or damage.

* Keep your finger off the trigger until you are ready to shoot your firearm.

When holding a gun, rest your trigger finger outside the trigger guard, alongside the gun. Until you are ready to shoot, do not touch the trigger.

Today, gun owners can make safety even more rewarding. Stack-On Products Company, a leading manufacturer of security cabinets, safes and tool storage systems, is sponsoring “Keep ‘Em Safe – Locked and Unloaded,” a pledge to encourage firearms owners to safely store their guns. By taking the pledge, firearms owners will benefit the Shoot for a Cure charity, which raises funds for leukemia and multiple sclerosis research through clay sport shooting fund-raisers. Gun owners can visit Stack-On’s online pledge page, and when they complete the pledge form, Stack-On will make a monetary donation on behalf of their household – up to $20,000 total. Hunting celebrities Steve West of Steve’s Outdoor Adventures, Willie Robertson of Duck Commander, and Jason Aldean and Tombo Martin of Buck Commander have endorsed the campaign to help spread awareness of safe firearm storage.

For more information on the safe gun storage pledge program, visit www.stack-on.com or call (800) 323-9601.

If you’re unsure how to handle, use and store your guns safely, why not take a class? A number of organizations, including the NRA (www.nrainstructors.org) and many local police departments, offer free courses on safe gun handling.

Courtesy of BPT