Monthly Archives: August 2015

5 Home Improvement and Repair Disasters to Avoid


Dreaming of the perfect home? You are not alone. But dreaming of the perfect home can quickly devolve into a nightmare. A few home improvement wrong turns and both you and your wallet can be in for a very rough ride.

Many home improvement options come with some risks. But that doesn’t mean you have to shy away from your remodeling goals. Home improvements are a way to dramatically increase the livability of your home as well as its resale value. Let’s explore the steps you should take as well as repair disasters that you should avoid at all costs.

#1. Lead Paint


Mankind has known of the dangers of lead paint for not just decades, but for centuries. However, in the quest for profit, lead made its way into a simply staggering number of homes. Homes built before 1979-1980 will likely have some level of lead contamination. The older the home, the greater the chances are that lead paint is present. Lead is highly toxic and damaging to human health, and this is especially true for infants and children. Lead exposure leads to lower, potentially dramatically lower, I.Q. and other health problems.

When you start any home remodel project, be sure that you know what areas have lead paint and what areas are safe. If an area has lead paint, never under any circumstances sand the paint off, as this disperses the paint into the air and environment. Upon discovery that you do have lead paint, it is extremely important that you consult with a proven and reputable lead remediation expert. Once your home is contaminated with lead, it is a very expensive, stressful and time-consuming process to remediate it.

#2-Not Cleaning or Repairing Your HVAC System


HVAC systems are very expensive. The lure for shady companies to damage your system so you have to buy a new one is a very real thing. Yet, it is essential that you clean, maintain and repair your home’s HVAC system for many different reasons. A properly functioning HVAC system has lower operating costs and provides superior performance such as cleaner and healthier air.

Not properly vetting any repair personnel that enter your home can be a costly mistake. For these reasons, invest the time to find recommendations that you trust. High priced items like HVAC systems are prized targets for scam artist. So ask your friends or relatives whom they’ve used over the years for HVAC and other service and what the outcome has been. The second part of the step is to let your HVAC repair company or other companies you’ve worked with know who referred you and why.

#3-Forgetting About Insulation

House wrapped in a scarf isolated on white

Insulation is a unique home improvement. The bottom line is that from the moment you install insulation you begin saving money. Not properly installing insulation in your home, especially your attic, is nothing short of a home improvement disaster. Insulation saves you money as soon as it is installed by cutting down on your energy usage.

With that stated, not all insulation is created equally. The market is saturated with chemical based insulation products that are bad news both for the planet and for humans alike. Options such as blue jean insulation and wool insulation may cost a little more, but they are highly effective and largely free of the chemicals found in other insulation products.

#4-Converting Your Garage


Why is it usually a bad idea to convert your garage into new living space? The answer is actually fairly simple: some people really, really want a garage. If you want to make your home as attractive as possible to potential buyers down the road, then you should keep your garage.

The garage isn’t just a place, but is actually something of a concept that is firmly fixed in homeowners’ minds. For many, the garage is not just a place to park a car but also functions as a workshop, area for doing dirty jobs, a workout area, a home car repair shop and the list goes on and on. The extra space a garage provides might be wonderful but when it comes time to sell you may be left regretting your decision.

#5-Tackling Home Demolition Projects Yourself


You’ve maybe heard that “anybody can knock out a wall.” Yes, that is very true, but can you do it safely. For example, do you understand where load-bearing structures are located in the house? Do you have the expertise to recognize issues such as asbestos? Do you know what kind of protective gear to wear and how to maintain proper indoor air quality? What about lead safety precautions when undertaking demolition projects?

The bottom line is that you are far safer allowing professionals to handle any demolitions you may have in mind. In the process of demolishing an area of a home, you may expose you and your family to a variety of unexpected health risk, and this holds true for both new and older homes. A lot of varied building materials go into the construction of a home and, as a result, there is much that can go wrong. Side with caution and leave demolishing up to the professionals. When it comes to demolishing, a mistake such as hitting your electric wiring or plumbing can be both costly and dangerous.

It’s possible to avoid home improvement headaches. Owning a home should be a pleasure and not a nightmare. There are health risks that can take place when remodeling but by following prudent safety procedures you can save money, protect your sanity and your health all at the same time.

Posted by August 28, 2015 at 9:39 PM under Home Living Tips
BLUEdot Has Reviewed Urban Clotheslines!

This summer, the BLUEdot Register did a Carbon Footprint Comparison Study with us, comparing a conventional dryer vs. a clothesline. Obviously the results were going to be great, but if you want to know how great, keep reading.

Photo is CC 3.0 by Michael Gäbler

Original photo is CC 3.0 by Michael Gäbler

First, let’s talk about BLUEdot Register. BLUEdot aims to protect our Earth from climate change in three ways:

BLUEdot RegisterEducating people on how to reduce their own carbon footprints

The BLUEdot site is an abundant source of information on what sorts of energy improvements are happening worldwide. Their blog, Practically Green, is full of everyday tips on living a carbon-conscious lifestyle.

Selling carbon offsets

A carbon offset is an investment in an environmentally sound project. These are often renewable energy farms or environmental restoration projects.

Evaluating the carbon footprints of businesses and products, and helping concerned citizens decide where to shop

When BLUEdot looks at a business’ carbon footprint, it compares their products to more conventional options. In our case, it was a clothesline vs. a dryer.

Want to know how a clothesline compares to a dryer?

We chose one of our best dryers, the Stewi First Lady Rotary Clothesline, to compare to both an electric dryer and a combined electric and natural gas dryer.

Counting all carbon a dryer creates in its lifespan includes mining materials, building the parts, getting it to the customer, all the shipping between those steps… and finally, the carbon cost of each household use. The average American family dries a load of laundry every day, while the average mechanical dryer lasts less than 13 years.

The Stewi First Lady is going to last longer than 13 years, but we had to stop somewhere.

The result? The First Lady creates 99% less carbon over the 13-year lifespan of a conventional dryer. And then it lasts longer.

What we couldn’t factor in are the carbon savings from how much longer your line dried clothes last.

Why we chose the Stewi First Lady

The Stewi First Lady Rotary Clothes Dryer

It dries huge loads.

We didn’t want to cheat by comparing a puny clothesline without the capacity of an electric dryer. The Stewi First Lady has over 200 feet of drying line.

It’s Swiss made.

Same idea: we wanted to compare a dryer that is at least as well-made as its counterparts, and from sturdy materials. A durable build may not increase the lifelong carbon cost though, considering the dryer lasts longer.

It fits a concrete-free ground socket.

You can get a removable Stewi Soil Ground Socket if you need a non-permanent spot for your clothesline. Of course, if you want to cement your ground socket, the one that is included with the Stewi First Lady is a fine choice.

To read more about the Carbon Footprint Comparison Study, visit

Posted by August 27, 2015 at 8:18 PM under Clotheslines and Laundry Environment News and Events
Where Should You Turn for Your Interior Design Ideas?

Great interior design isn’t an accident. The simple fact is that great interior design is the result of planning, preparation, experience, professionalism and skill. Yet, while it is important that these factors all blend together with precision and elegance, it is not the most important part of the process. The most essential part of the interior design process is finding a great interior designer or finding great ideas of your own.

Know What You Want

The process of knowing or discovering what you want couldn’t be more important. Far too many interior design projects fall flat because homeowners don’t know what they want. Deciding what you want out of a space is critical. Invest the time to contemplate your needs and the look you want to achieve.

Online Research Is an Excellent Investment


Visiting online design blogs is a very good time investment. Spending time on design blogs will help you get a good idea of what you do like and just as importantly what you don’t like.

There is no doubt that working with an interior designer can be expensive, but you can cut down on the cost by providing an interior designer with examples of what works for you. Armed with this information, an interior designer can quickly orient his or her thinking and move the process along.

Be sure to keep an image file of design ideas that you like. In this way, you’ll be able to quickly outline for your interior designer what you like. If you are not working with an interior designer you can use your collection of likes to orient your own thinking.

Top Interior Design Destinations

There are some websites to consider when formulating your interior design strategy. There are lots of great interior design websites and blogs that you’ll want to check out. Here are a few great options for starters. has an ideas section that is full of clever ideas for all kinds of spaces. HGTV provides a lot of expert advice and is the kind of site where you can lose hours and hours and, in the process, build a great collection of pictures.

When it comes to finding wonderful ideas for your interior design projects, Pinterest is pretty tough to beat. Simply search the type of interior design ideas you want to explore, and Pinterest will instantly give you options to pin. This tool is very useful when it comes time to showcase your favorite styles to an interior designer. Or you might gain so much inspiration that you start putting together a room of your dreams on your own.

Don’t forget these are only four of many wonderful sites and blogs that can help you generate some spectacular interior design ideas. In the end, you may find so many ideas that your largest problem becomes one of editing down your ideas. Having too many ideas can actually be far more time consuming than not having enough.

Visit Interior Design Boutiques


Now that you have your collection of interior design looks and items that you love it might be time to visit local interior design boutiques. These boutiques will have professionals who are motivated to help you find what you want. In other words, they want to make a sale, and that means free and potentially expert interior designer advice. Yes, you have to do a little bit more legwork but you will also save money.

The best approach is to take a tablet computer along with you so that you can show people your picks. Just be sure that you’ve organized your collection of interior design picks well in advance.

Finding an Interior Designer

Like finding anyone to work on or contribute to the look and feel of your home, you’ll want references. It is difficult to understate the tremendous importance of getting a reference. Someone who has worked with an interior designer in the past and knows that he or she can be trusted is invaluable. Additionally, be sure that you take a look at an interior designer’s past results. If you don’t like what you see, then move along.

So You’re On a Tight Budget?

Even if you are on a tight budget, there are ways you can get some great advice for your interior design project. One of the most overlooked ways to get some great advice for your project is to work with an art and design college student or an interior design student looking to boost his or her portfolio. Just as you would check any interior designer’s portfolio, you’ll want to do the same with a student. However, you might discover that a student will be willing to work harder and take more risks than an established interior designer.

There are plenty of other great tips for those on a budget. For example, instead of shopping at boutiques, turn to consignment stores and thrift stores. You’ll run into some amazing surprises. Use your imagination and get creative with your finds. When you do shop for new items, ask about when these products might go on sale. You’ll be surprised the amount of inside information that you can get from salespeople if you just ask.

Great Communication is Absolutely Essential for Amazing Results


Achieving amazing interior design results isn’t just about spending money. In the end, finding the right interior design solutions can be distilled down to knowing what you want, doing your research and then communicating those needs to professionals.

Whether you work with experts at an interior design boutique, students or established interior designers, doing your homework in advance will not only save you time and money but will also help you achieve the final look you desire. Remember that no one can read your mind. The more accurate and well organized information you can provide, the better off your final results will be!

Posted by August 04, 2015 at 10:25 PM under Home Living Tips