Designing a new space

How to design a new space and what you should consider when creating a vision board.

Green Building

Ecofriendly construction products that can help save money and energy while also making your home healthy for your family.

Selecting A Contractor

Top mistakes that homeowners make when choosing a contractor for their project.

First Time Homebuyers

There's more to think about than square footage when you're debating about moving into a home, especially in this market


A money saving water preserving alternative to traditional landscaping.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

How well do you know your water? Free home testing kit.

How well do you know what is in the water in your home? The water you use to cook with, to clean with, bathe with, etc. Hard water can reek havoc on your appliances, laundry, and pipes.

Newly washed clothes feel dingy and scratchy Washed clothes wear out up to 15% faster Washing machines can wear out 30% faster Skin has a filmy residue after bathing Soap scum rings on bathroom fixtures Extra detergent is needed to get dishes clean Pipes can become clogged from scale deposits Increases water heater repairs and maintenance

Nature's Own offers a free home water test kit. Hard water consists of minerals such as calcium and magnesium that are picked up from the soil. The minerals aren’t toxic, but they can cause a host of problems within your home – and ultimately affect your health. Our free, easy-to-use test kit will help you find out if you have hard water – and what you can do about it

The free kit will tell you what minerals are in your water and how they affect you, your health, and your family.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Movers Club: 10% off your entire Home Depot purchase

The Home Depot has done it again! Are you one of the many that are moving this year? If so we have a little inside tip for you to save you some green, the Home Depot Movers Club (yes, another club). They will give you 10% off of your first purchase which could add up considerably with all of those odds and ends you need for a new home. If you are in the market for a new appliance the savings could be even greater. So before you pack up your home computer make sure to head over and sign up to save yourself some cash at the register!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Week of Freebies: Eco Fin Deck Stain

One of the best things you can do to maintain a new appearance on your deck is to keep up with the stain and seals. Regular maintenance like this will keep your deck looking brand new for years and save you costly repairs or worse, having to replace the entire decking surface.

Sun Frog has come out with a new wood staining product, Eco Fin, which is made from soy products and is a low VOC wood finisher for interior and exterior applications. You can use it not only on your deck but also on furniture. It protects against abrasions, sun, and water damage. Less than 2% of the can contains VOC which means a minimal carbon footprint. It comes in a variety of colors and tones and can even be used as a tint base for non Eco Fin colors.

Head over to get your hands on some Eco Fin and tackle two birds with one stone, home maintenance and eco friendly living!

6 Reasons the Housing Market Hasn't Recovered & Why You Should Renovate NOW!

Stumbled on a very insightful article from US News on the 6 Reasons the Housing Market Hasn't Recovered. I'll do my best to paraphrase the important parts but it calls to attention a great detail to keep in mind, now is the time to remodel and renovate your home.

It's pretty clear from the national news, economists, and government reporting that the United States economy is in some pretty bad shape and likely won't really start the uphill climb for a few years, if not more. So while we wait for the market to return you might as well get the most out of the home you're currently in. Not only does this benefit you but it also puts you in a better position to sell your home in the future. As an added bonus (and much to our dismay as professionals) construction costs are at an all time low which means that you can cash in on the savings and be able to complete projects that may have otherwise been out of the budget.

So keep that as food for thought and now onto those 6 Reasons the Housing Market Hasn't Recovered...

1. Record Unemployment. The unemployment rate is sitting at just under 10%!! That's a LOT of people out of work! It's a pretty simple concept, when there are no jobs no one can afford a house nor can they qualify for one. What's worse is that this knowledge destroys consumer confidence. The result? The people who are maintaining a job avoid homeownership like the plague for fear that they too may lose their job and be left with a mortgage they can no longer pay for. Until our job force returns the entire real estate realm is going to be in a holding pattern.

2. Household Formation. Typically people "form" a household and move into their own home. With the state of the current economy people are no longer forming new households and are instead combining them. Families are moving in together, children are moving back home, relatives are combining households, all as a result of the lack of income, which is directly related to the job market. In fact the number of new household formations over the last year has seen the second smallest increase since 1947!

3. Foreclosures. Not at all surprising, the number of foreclosures out there on top of typical new construction mean a highly oversaturated market. RealtyTrac execs expect the number of foreclosures to exceed 3 million properties by the end of the year with 1 million more in bank repos. And with the growing number of layoffs and families still struggling to meet their mortgages the numbers will only increase from there. See the vicious cycle here??

4. Tight Credit Standards. Mortgage rates are hitting all time lows so why isn't everyone jumping into new homes.... because they can't qualify for a mortgage in the first place. Banks have been hardened with the blow of bad loans so they're requiring some serious ante from prospective buyers outside of their first born son. To take advantage of these great rates you're going to need a FICO score of 720 or better, outside of FHA loans, and anywhere from 10-40% down. Not exactly the profile of most Americans right now....

5. Falling Home Prices. You'd think that cheaper prices would stimulate the market but here we go with the consumer confidence aspect again. With the news blaring about slumping home prices it drives in the message that owning a home is BAD thing right now. "Don't get yourself stuck in a home loan... do you see what's happening to people out there right now... they're upside down.... they're losing everything... they're stuck in their home forever." These implications aren't quite sending a positive message about homeownership! So those folks that would be prospective buyers are bailing from the sinking ship.

6. Selling your current home. If you're one of the millions out there committed to a mortgage already it's a daunting task to think about buying a new home because you have a giant black cloud looming over your head. In today's market 1 in 4 homeowners is upside down on their mortgage, they have negative equity. So in order to get out they would have to take a loss on the property and not too many folks are rushing in to do that!

It all goes back to the number one issue, the economy.... bad economy means no jobs, no jobs means no loans, and no loans mean no home sales. So as unfortunate as the situation may be it's not a bad idea to stay put while the dust settles and take advantage of some of the positives of the economy, like cheap construction costs to get your home improvement going.

~5280 Lady

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Week of Freebies: Toilet Odor Eliminator

The next freebie is something that all of us could use from time to time and certainly something to have handy around the house. Toilet odor concealing drops from The Drops! They're not your traditional bathroom scent cover-uppers, instead the chemical formula in these drops interacts with the water in the toilet bowl to create a barrier preventing odors from entering the air at all. My favorite part, they have a lavender scent, in my opinion much better than the traditional overpowering bleach smell. The Drops also offers a 100% money back guarantee, so they're obviously serious about offering an effective and innovative product.

The Drops offers free samples so that you can see for yourself if their product is too good to be true.
All you have to do to try out the toilet drops is send a self addressed envelope to them telling them which scent you'd prefer.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Week of Freebies: Soy Clean BBQ Cleaner

Now here's something new, a cleaning product for your BBQ that is made from soybeans!

SoyClean BBQ Grill Cleaner harnesses the power of soy for a high perfromance green alternative to traditional products. A safe and effective way to remove char, grease, and burnt-on barbeque residue from grills and smokers. Also works well on ovens and grill hoods. Barbeque Grill Cleaner's bio-based content is 91% as tested by Iowa State University using conventional radiocarbon analytical methods.

Luckily for all of you World of Green, a great place to find all things green including everything from green building to green skin care, is offering a free sample of SoyClean. All you have to do is head over and email their customer service department for your goodies.

And when you fall in love with the product no need to worry, a full gallon of this stuff is only $19.99 which will last you many years of clean grilling.

Be a part of the club! The Home Depot: Home Improver Club

The Home Depot is a great resource for all things home improvement... if that wasn't clear already! But did you know they have a club you can join, free of course... to get your DIY and home improvement fix? Let me introduce you to the Home Improvers Club! You can finally let go of those memories of being the last person chosen in gym class and be one of the cool kids.

Here's some of the perks, home maintenance and upkeep email alerts, how-to video tutorials, projects based on your local weekend weather report, just to name a few! You also get the benefit of all of their workshops that can teach you everything under the sun like how to install laminate flooring or first aid for your lawn techniques. They even have an entire series of workshops for women and they have workshops for kids, a great way to get them involved in home ownership pride at an early age.

They have a wealth of information available. Check out their projects like "removing rusty toilet bolts," "installing liners and gutter maintenance," "planting bulbs for spring," and even projects like "mortising a door latch," and "installing a wall switch for a ceiling fan". The ideas could keep you busy year round (sorry husbands with your already overflowing 'honey-do' lists)

~5280 Lady

Monday, July 19, 2010

Biggest mistakes homeowners make when selecting a contractor

1. Not doing their homework. Make sure to research and investigate your prospective contractors. Look into their licensing and insurance. Check their website and project portfolios. Ask for references and client referrals, better yet, if possible see if you can view one of their projects in person. Make sure that they have a positive standing with the Better Business Bureau. Many times just asking these questions will scare away the non-legit guys out there.

2. Taking the lowest bid. First rule of remodeling and home building for that matter is that generally you get what you pay for. ALWAYS question the low ball offers, chances are you haven't stumbled on an amazing deal but instead there's a reason the price is so low and you don't want to find out why the hard way. If you've done your homework and the contractor is reputable don't hesitate to ask them about their bid. Maybe there is a reason they came in low and you can cash in on the savings without worry but check and double check, if they are legit they will have no problem discussing their pricing with you.

3. Comparing Apples to Oranges. This is one of the most frustrating things for industry professionals. Here's the scenario, a homeowner has grand renovation ideas, they go over all of their wishes and wants during the bidding process and dream big. Then they get the bid and faint from sticker shock, the price is much higher than they expected and far out of reach. Instead of discussing this with the original contractor to see which areas could be cut or lowered to get the price back into the appropriate budget they instead call another contractor. This time they tell the new contractor all of their renovation plans that have been scaled back, they take out the venetian tile of their dreams and say they can live without granite, etc. The new contractor comes back with a bid that is obviously much cheaper than the first and the homeowner chooses the second contractor for their project. You've just compared apples to oranges instead of letting both contractors bid the EXACT same work with the exact same materials. Don't make this mistake, make sure all of your bids are comprable to one another!

4. Having unrealistic expectations. You should be aware of the scope of your project so that your expectations are appropriate for the job. Simple research can save you many a night of headaches! Don't expect a full basement finish to take 10 days and invite company to stay at your home at the day of the deadline. This will cause undue stress in all arenas. Be prepared for the remodeling process to intrude in your daily life, not having a functioning kitchen is only temporary. Keep focused on the end result and the nuisance of contractors coming in and out of your home daily won't seem as bad. When it's all said and done the inconvenience will seem minor, trust us!

5. Paying too much upfront. Now I want to be clear that it is absolutely necessary for contractors to require money upfront for your project. This allows them to get the ball rolling on your project, to get subs in to begin work, and most importantly to order materials upfront so that your timeline stays on track. However, paying too much up front can spell disaster if you haven't done your homework and found yourself a reputable contractor. These are the stories you hear about contractors disappearing after the funds clear the bank. Make sure that you are covered in the contracts that you sign and keep copies for your records. And going back to rule #1, know your contractor and get referrals, that way you don't have to worry about things like this.

Week of Freebies: Pool Testing Kit

With summer upon us we bring you some freebies for those homeowners with backyard pools! A healthy pool is critical and without the proper pH and chlorine levels your pool could become a breeding ground of illness for you and your family. These levels can change drastically in a matter of just one day especially in a busy pool.

"A properly maintained pool helps prevent recreational water illnesses, keeping swimmers healthy. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends patrons use portable test strips to check pool water for adequate chlorine and proper pH."

HealthyPools will send you a free kit, including a collection of test strips and reference charts, so you can make sure your backyard pool is as safe as it can be. And it’s free – so what excuse do you have for not testing the water?

If free isn't enough to motivate you, go ahead and check out this lovely list of "Diseases aquired via Public Swimming Pools." You've got your classics like E.coli, Giardia, and Hepatitis A but there are dozens more! YUCK, how are you going to explain the chicken pox like rash from pseudomonas aka "hot tub folliculitis" or how about Guinea worm disease.... lovely.
So spare yourself and your family, fill out a short form with name and address and your kit is on the way. Easy Peasy!

Sunday, July 18, 2010

100 Twitter Feeds for Home Improvement Advice

Thanks to for compiling this list! They've put together your best resources for easy access tips. Categories include general home improvement, green resources, remodeling, furnishing and decorating, publications tv and radio, corporate feeds, and project specific feeds!

 "Whether you have a construction management degree or are just a determined do-it-yourself-er, you are sure to find great advice for all your home improvement projects with these terrific Twitter feeds."

Head over to the feed list to see who you should be following, and always you can check out 5280 on the Tweet Deck for more great home improvement info!

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Is Your Contractor Lead Certified per the EPA?

The latest enforcement to hit the construction industry is the Environmental Protection Agency's new lead handling regulations for contractors. The regulations require contractors to be certified in safe lead paint handling practices. That's right, the lead scare is back... but is it?? The truth is that the new regulations surround some rather far fetched ideas about lead contamination but unfortunately those of us in the trade must comply. Their argument is that by doing home renovations on homes painted with lead containing paint there is the possibility of lead contamination through the dust particles that may be disturbed during the project.

The National Association of Home Builders has urged the EPA to delay the enforcement but it's falling on deaf ears. The use of lead based paint in the US has been outlawed since 1978 but as you can imagine a large percentage of homes pre-date the ban, and therein lies the problem. In Denver it's estimated that about 80 percent of the homes were constructed prior to 1980.

When the government and it's associated agencies say jump we are left with no choice but to jump. So when composing your list of questions for prospective contractors make sure to ask them about their lead handling certification. And try to keep in mind that regulations and requirements like this will raise the rates of your project so try not to attack your chosen contractor when you see the related costs... it's not our fault, we're just doing as we're told.

Learn more about the new EPA regulations

Professionals looking to get certified

Product Watch: Bacteria used for making Eco Bricks??

You wouldn't think that the terms "eco" and "bacteria" would go sononomously but according to the latest product catching press in the United Arab Emirates the tides may be about to change. The latest in eco building products are bricks made from bacteria and sand! The specifics are obviously a bit more complicated but essentially the bacteria binds with specific solutions and the sand. When placed in a form the end result is an eco friendly brick ready to compose the walls of the next skyscraper. These new bricks require no baking in a kiln and therefore eliminate the need to burn coal for fuel. The creator estimates that this will reduce the amount of carbon emissions by 800 million tons annually!

This new discovery is still under testing with environmental engineers but the predicted future is a positive one. Ginger Kreig Dosier, an American architecture professor, is responsible for the find and she hopes to mass produce the bio-bricks for under developed countries and ultimately the US for the same cost as standard clay bricks. Construction of the future should prove interesting if discoveries like this persist!

~5280 Lady

Friday, July 16, 2010

Beat The Heat! Tips to save you money & energy this summer

We're in the dog days of summer folks! With temperatures here in the mile high city tipping the triple digits it brings our attention to the best ways to beat the heat. Obviously, you can crank that AC til the cows come home but instead of fainting from heatstroke you'll be fainting from your energy bill. What else can you do to keep your home ambient without breaking the bank?

The average home spends $2200 a year in energy costs but by making simple changes you can save not only your comfort but your wallet too.

Make sure your attic insulation is up to par! Many older homes are lacking in this department to say the least. The insulation creates a barrier between the high (and low) temperatures outside and the inside of the home. An under insulated home can lose up to 40% of conditioned air through the attic! YIKES! You can pretty easily check to see if your insulation is adequate by looking in your attic, exposed beams mean that there is definitely not enough. However, even with covered beams you could be inefficient, a solid 18 inches is ideal. You can add to your existing insulation fairly easily and we recommend a material with an R-60 value, top of the line! An extra bonus, Federal tax credits are available for things like this for up to $1500! By far the best way to save on your heating and cooling bills.

Weatherize your home. Make sure that there are no air leaks throughout your home. Windows and doors are a common place for leaks. You can certainly mediate these problems by replacing your outdated windows but there are also cheaper alternatives. Spray foam is a good option, grab a couple of cans and seal the outsides of your home including your garage, this will also keep pests and rodents out. Door sweeps keep drafts out. You can also re-caulk your window jams to make sure that an effective seal prevents any leaking.

Keep shades and curtains drawn during the day.

Open windows and screen doors at night and allow mother nature to cool your home. Make sure to open things on both sides of your home to create a cross draft.

Turn off lights! The heat, especially from iridescent bulbs, can do a lot more damage than you would think heating up a room several degrees over time.

Use ovens and stoves sparingly, instead bbq on the grill outside!

If you must resort to the AC make sure you have a programmable thermostat. Set the temperatures accordingly, it doesn't make sense to cool a home that no one is in during work hours so program your AC to kick on shortly before you arrive home.

~5280 Lady

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Remodeling: Get the most bang for your buck

One of the most common questions asked about remodeling a home is where to put your money. For most people unlimited funds aren't exactly the norm so at some point you have to decide where to focus your attention and budget. So what can you do to get the most return on your home improvement investment? The answer isn't completely black and white, factors like location, time of year, and current market temperature come into play but typically there are areas that will give you more return for your investment than others.

The National Association of Realtors and Remodeling Magazine publish a cost vs. value report each year and this offers us some insight into the debate.

The most straightforward way to add equity to your home is to add square footage. Basement finishing and additions are always an option to create a good return. The best part about investing money in these options is the benefit to you in the meantime. Who wouldn't want that entertainment and bar area for their pool table and pub fantasies or that extra room to house the in-laws or contain moody teenager's messes! By adding square footage you can make your dream walk in closet and 5 piece bath a reality or create an amazing culinary space that chefs would drool over, the options are endless.

Next up on the list are kitchens! According to the cost vs. value reports, kitchens return nearly 100%! This is where people spend a good majority of their time, this is where the entertaining takes place and is an area that makes a huge impact on the look and feel of the home. New cabinetry and appliances will eat up a good portion of your budget but there are options in this department. There are plenty of affordable cabinet lines out there and there are scratch n dent appliance centers nationwide that can save you a lot of money. Flooring and countertops come in next and as you can imagine there's more variety here than you can fathom.

You may have heard the saying that "kitchens and bathrooms sell houses" and there is a lot of truth in that. Bathrooms are next up on the list offering in a lot of cases more than 100% return on the investment. Best part about bathrooms is that they move pretty quickly and don't put the homeowner out too much in the meantime considering that most homes have more than 1 bathroom to use. Some simple updates like new flooring and fixtures and a fresh coat of paint go a long way.

Not to be forgotten is the outside of the home. Patio covers, decks, and other outdoor living areas are often neglected as home improvement options. These types of projects add bonus selling points for homeowners. And don't neglect the landscaping and fencing options out there.

If you're leary to start these major projects there are plenty of other things to do that will add value to your home. Simple repairs and updates are something that any homeowner should consider throughout the duration of owning your home. Fresh paint, drywall repairs, updated lighting fixtures and sinks give the home a facelift. New flooring throughout the home can make a big difference on a lighter budget.

Last but not least are new roofs and windows, these will extend the longevity of the home and can be done on a short timeline. And no one will be complaining about the savings on energy bills!

As always make sure you employ a reputable contractor for your home improvement projects or you won't be seeing ANY return on your investments! The bigest mistake homeowners make during this process is taking the cheapest bid that they receive. Remember they are cheap for a reason!! Reputable contractors have a bottom dollar that they can work with, plain and simple, going any lower isn't possible so always question the low ball offers and do your homework. You don't want a con artist walking away with your home investment!

~5280 Lady