Who is your favorite person with whom to share the good news, quiet moments, funny stories, frustrations, or silly observations from the commute to work? We regularly turn to different people for different reasons. On any given day, we engage in a variety of relationships. From coordinating our day with our spouse and children, collaborating with coworkers, and saying hello to our favorite grocery cashier, loving relationships sustain us, define us, and keep us healthy.

“People involved in loving, philia-based relationships have [fewer] doctor visits, shorter hospital visits, have less pain, and have more positive emotions,” said Kirtly Parker Jones, MD, of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at University of Utah Healthcare. She added that loving friendships make us more resilient when hard times come. It’s one thing to feel good about a relationship, but can that relationship actually be good for our health.

Here are seven proven health benefits from sharing a healthy relationship.

5 Benefits of Healthy Relationships | Northwestern Medicine

1. We live longer

Studies show that those engaged in positive relationships live longer. “People, particularly men, are healthier when they’re married, and they live longer,” said Jones. Experts attribute this phenomenon to factors like reduced stress, and in romantic relationships, a partner often gives up bad habits—like heavy drinking or smoking—in support of the relationship. As a result, healthy habits increase longevity.

2. We heal quicker

“Generally, we see patients with strong social support having better recoveries,” said Benjamin A. Steinberg, MD, assistant professor of medicine in the cardiovascular division of the University of Utah Healthcare. “That can be from friends or family, or even support from an animal partnership, like a pet.” Steinberg attributes improved recovery to lower levels of stress hormones, like cortisol.

3. We have lower blood pressure

Finding a love connection can make your heart skip a beat, but the safe and secure feeling of a positive relationship calms anxiety and keeps your blood pressure in check. “We know that sudden negative emotions can lead to sensations mimicking a heart attack, also known as ‘broken heart syndrome.’” said Steinberg. “It stands to reason the opposite is true, as well.” Additionally, people feeling love are more relaxed and more likely to engage in exercise or other activities beneficial to the heart.

4. We bolster our immune systems

It never fails: the moment we experience heightened stress levels, either from work or personal conflicts, a cold is sure to follow. Yet studies show that people who engage in supportive, positive relationships produce more oxytocin and seem less likely to succumb to the negative effects of stress, anxiety, and depression.

5. We are more physically fit

When it’s hard to keep motivated to exercise and eat right, the support of a good friend can give you a needed boost to stay on track. New romantic relationships are a boon to weight loss and good health since we want to look and act our very best for that special someone. There’s nothing quite like a flurry of compliments to motivate us to maintain our physical appearance.

6. We enjoy good heart health

When your main squeeze makes your heart race, it’s giving your heart a healthy workout. Those loving feelings cause your brain to release dopamine, adrenaline, and norepinephrine, which make your heart beat faster and stronger in response to such emotions.

Seven Qualities of an Ideal Partner

7. We feel less pain

Do you remember the movie where the courageous hero endures extensive pain for his true love? His inspiration may be out of sight, but a mental image of her is enough for him to withstand pain for her sake. As it turns out, he probably could. A behavioral study demonstrated that “the presentation of romantic partner pictures was sufficient to reduce experimentally-induced pain.” By contrast, showing suffering subjects random photos of attractive people didn’t show any reduction in reaction.

Yes, loving relationships make us happy, but they also keep us healthy. From improving our immune system and blood pressure to helping us heal quicker and enjoy life longer, a happy relationship is life’s greatest medicine. Go ahead, take that free hug. It’s good for you.


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Ways to Get the Best Work from Your Contractor

We’ve been around enough remodeling jobs to know that if you want great results, you’ll need to actively manage the process — even if you’ve hired a general contractor to oversee the work. Get apathetic or lose your focus and you may pay for it — literally.

Here are seven smart ways to stay on top of the job and maintain strong communications with your contractor and construction team.

How to get the best work from your contractor | Renovation and Interior  Design Blog

1. Avoid Allowances

An allowance is a line item in the contractor’s bid for something that’s yet to be determined. For example, if you haven’t chosen the plumbing hardware for your new master suite, the contractor will put an allowance number in the budget as a placeholder.

But with such a wide range of price points for these products, his estimate may be far lower than what you wind up spending.

Try to eliminate allowances by sorting out all of your material and product selections before the contractor gives you an itemized bid for the job. Otherwise, do enough shopping to give the contractor an accurate ballpark price for the materials you’re considering.

2. Establish Good Communication

Ask the contractor how he prefers to communicate with you. Good options include:

  • Being onsite and talking with your contractor every morning before work begins.
  • Have your contractor’s cell phone number and the OK to call or text anytime.
  • Talking with the job foreman every day at a pre-determined time.

Try to meet with the project leader at least once a day. This is an opportunity for you to hear progress reports and find out what work is scheduled over the coming days — and to ask your questions and voice any concerns you have.

3. Keep a Project Journal

Your project journal is your friend and ally. Use it to:

  • Record progress.
  • Note things you want to ask your contractor.
  • Jot down ideas.
  • Record product order numbers.
  • Note upcoming delivery dates.

A journal helps keep communication clear and provides a record of who said what when — which could help you iron out disputes later on.

4. Track All Changes in Writing

Hiring a contractor | Building or Renovating | Consumer Protection Office

Your team may encounter unforeseen structural issues, or you may decide to include additional work as the project evolves. Any good contractor can handle these changes — just make sure that he bids them in writing first.

Specify in your remodeling contract that you want change orders in writing for anything that’s going to add to the bottom line of the job. That means the contractor must give you a description of the change and a fixed price for what it’ll cost. You both must sign the change order before the work is done.

5. Check the Work

Be proactive about checking your contractor’s work. A good time to check is when the crew has left for the day. Make notes in your journal and bring up anything you’re wondering about during your daily check-in with your contractor or job foreman. You can:

  • Compare the model numbers on appliances and fixtures against your receipts, invoices, and the contractor’s bid to ensure that the right product was delivered.
  • Check the locations of window and door openings against the blueprints.
  • Note any quality issues, such as misaligned trim. You’re the client; you have the right to expect good work.

6. Pay Only for Completed Work

Your remodeling contract should establish a series of payments to be made when certain aspects of the job are completed. For example, your contract could stipulate that you’ll pay in three equal installments, with the last payment to be made after the project is complete, and after you and your contractor agree the work is satisfactory.

Never put down more than 10% upfront; any more than that is too much cash to hand over before any work is complete. Your contractor should be able to get any necessary supplies on credit.

7. Be a Good Customer

How Hard Is It To Be An Owner Builder And To Act As Your Own General  Contractor?

One of the best ways to get quality work out of a contractor and construction crew is to make them enjoy working for you. That means being decisive with the contractor — and giving him a check promptly at the agreed-to points in the project.

Being friendly and accommodating of the workers is a great way to motivate them to do their best for you. Try:

  • Designating a bathroom that they can use.
  • Greeting them by name each morning.
  • Serving them cold lemonade on a hot day.
  • Complimenting their work (as long as you feel it’s worthy of praise).
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Ways to Build Strong Contractor/Client Relationships

Build a strong relationship with your client and not only will they be happy to work with you again in the future, but they’ll also even rave about you to others when your project is complete. There are plenty of benefits to building great relationships with clients; communicating well, providing accurate information, and ensuring your presence is a positive one will all pay off in the long run.

5 Strategies for Improving Construction Client Relationships - Build  Magazine

Communicate Regularly

Your communication during the project should be as positive and as frequent as it was when you were courting the customer for their business. Choose your preferred method of contact and make sure your client has an easy way to get in touch. Regular communication throughout the project can help build trust and ensure your customer feels cared for and that their home is in good hands.

Provide Details

You know every step required for the job at hand, and understand what a residential construction zone looks and sounds like, but your customer may not. A simple welcome packet or email with a “thank you,” a quick outline of what to expect from the project, and a note from you to get in touch any time they have a question, provides insight and makes your customer feel like they are in the loop. Some homeowners do not like relinquishing control of parts of their home, so by providing this information up front, you ease any anxiety they are having about the unknown.

Keep Things Positive

How to Build a Good Client-Contractor Relationship | Home Design Lover

You’re always on stage when you’re in the client’s home – and your subs and workers are too. Make sure your team looks presentable, refrains from using NSFW (not safe for work) language, and maintains a positive, professional attitude. Even if you’re stressed out or angry that something was done incorrectly, maintaining a professional and positive atmosphere will prevent those feelings from spilling over to the client and possibly souring them on the job at hand.

Listen and Teach

Listening to the homeowner can help you truly understand their needs. When they feel heard, they’re more likely to respond positively to you. Not all your clients will be expert contractors themselves; that’s why they hired you. Taking the time to explain “why” a load-bearing wall needs to be in a specific place can help position you as an expert and allow you to develop a great relationship with your client, too.

Use Technology to Your Advantage

5 Methods to Help You Build – and Maintain – Strong General Contractor/Client  Relationships -

Use technology to ensure you are providing accurate estimates and delivering what your client expects. Eyeballing or using a manual tape measure can give you a ballpark idea, but using a platform like HOVER ensures your estimates and proposals are accurate every time. Backtracking, changing your approach, or even coming in over budget can destroy the rapport you’ve worked so hard to build up. Technology like HOVER can prevent you from having to adjust on the go.

Give your clients the experience they deserve every time. By communicating well and often, listening to their concerns, and using technology to provide the best possible service, you can be sure you’re building relationships that last. Make the most of your time with a client; use HOVER to provide key details, visualize every change to the look of their home and deliver an accurate estimate for every project.…

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Home-Repair Safety Tips

Performing repair tasks around your home should be satisfying and safe. (You won’t feel satisfied if you have to visit the emergency room because of a cut or fall!) In this article, we’ll discuss how you can choose safe tools and use them correctly, and how to properly employ equipment, such as ladders, to avoid injuries.

Safe Tools

Weekend Warriors Beware: 6 Fall Cleanup and Home Repair Safety Tips -  Orthopaedic Hospital of Wisconsin

The first rule of tool safety is to buy good quality, as suggested at the beginning of this chapter. You don’t have to buy the best, but the lowest cost can often mean the lowest value. The best value is typically higher-quality tools and equipment purchased at a discount. It’s also important to use your tools correctly. It may be tempting to use a screwdriver as a chisel, but doing so can damage the tool and, more importantly, damage you.

Also, never remove the safety guards installed on power equipment, and always wear safety goggles when working with power equipment. Safety glasses should also be worn when sanding, filing, or doing any other job that produces flying particles. Make sure your safety glasses wrap around the sides to keep deflected particles from reaching your eyes from any angle.

Once you’ve purchased high-quality tools and learned how to use them properly, you’re good to go — right? Not quite. The most dangerous tool is one that isn’t well maintained. A dull saw is less safe than a sharp one. A hammer with a loose handle can do more damage than one in good repair. A power tool with a frayed cord can electrocute you. So, be diligent about tightening loose parts, fixing damaged cords, and sharpening dull blades.

Quick Fix Tool Care

Quality tools aren’t cheap. Fortunately, with care, they can last many years and be a better long-term investment than cheap tools. Here are some useful tips on tool care.

  • Protect your tools from moisture. Keep a thin coating of oil on metal parts, wrap them in plastic wrap, or keep carpenters’ chalk or mothballs (both of which absorb moisture) in your toolbox.
  • A piece of garden hose slit open is a handy protective cover for the teeth of a handsaw between projects. Circular saw blades are stored conveniently in heavy shipping envelopes.
  • To remind yourself to unplug an electric drill when changing accessories, fasten the chuck key near the plug end of the cord.
  • Tack rags will last longer if they’re stored in an airtight container to keep them from drying out. Airtight storage also prevents spontaneous combustion, which can be very dangerous. (This safety tip applies equally well to other rags, coveralls, work gloves, and any other clothes that might absorb flammable oils and solvents.)
  • Don’t take a chance of hitting a thumb or finger when hammering a small brad, tack, or nail. Slip the fastener between the teeth of a pocket comb; the comb holds the nail while you hold the comb. A bobby pin or a paper clip can be used the same way as a comb.

Safe Ladders

A sturdy stepladder will make lots of quick fixes easier, from changing lightbulbs to painting a room to cleaning gutters to replacing a smoke alarm battery. If you don’t already own one, get one. Invest in a good ladder, and use it for all those out-of-reach projects.

Most home-use ladders are made of wood or aluminum. Depending on quality, both types are reliable. Aluminum, however, weighs only 20 to 50 percent as much as wood, which means it’s easier to take it in and out of storage or move it around. On most good ladders you’ll find labels that indicate a rated strength. For example, a Type I industrial-grade ladder, rated at 250 pounds, is the strongest. A Type II commercial-grade ladder is rated at 225 pounds; Type III is rated at 200 pounds. Fortunately, each type has actually been successfully tested at four times its rated load. For around-the-house purposes, invest in security and durability and buy a Type II ladder. One that’s 6 feet tall will do for most homeowners, but taller ones — 8, 10, 12, and all the way up to 16 feet — are available. For an extra measure of safety, get one with rubber or plastic feet so your ladder won’t skid on hard floors.

If you’re painting a ceiling from a single stepladder, you’ll find yourself going up and down like a yo-yo, constantly moving the ladder to reach unpainted areas. A safer alternative is to buy a second ladder of the same size. Then, using a pair of 2-by-8-foot boards, make a scaffold between them — a platform from which you can paint for longer periods of time by moving from one end of the bridge to the other. For stability, don’t make your scaffold higher than is absolutely necessary and no longer than 6 to 8 feet in length. Use C-clamps to fasten each end of the 2-by-8s to a rung of each ladder.

Using Ladders Safely

Ladder Safety Training Video - Safetycare preview DVD - Workplace Height  Safety - YouTube

There’s no such thing as an absolutely safe ladder. Gravity is always an unrelenting enemy. However, below are ways to greatly reduce your risk of accidents and injury with ladders.

  • Always open a stepladder to its fullest position, lock the spreader braces on each side in place, and pull down the bucket shelf.
  • Whether you are going up or coming down, always face the ladder head-on, and use both hands to hold onto the side rails or rungs.
  • Don’t climb higher than two rungs from the top; don’t sit or stand on the top of the bucket shelf.
  • To keep yourself from overreaching and getting off-balance, never let your navel go beyond either of the ladder’s side rails.
  • If you must work on a ladder in front of a door, lock the door.
  • Put the paint can or tray on the bucket shelf before you climb the ladder. And don’t go up the ladder with tools in your hand or in your pockets.
    Always open a ladder to its fullest position and always face  the ladder head-on.

    Always open a ladder to its fullest position, always face the ladder head-on,
    and never climb higher than two rungs from the top.


Electrical Safety

Electricity can help you — or it can hurt you. An appliance can make your coffee in the morning. A frayed cord can electrocute you. Here are some rules for working safely with electricity.


Additional Safety Tips
Need some more safety tips? Sure you do. Fortunately, most of them are built on good old common sense.

Quick doesn’t mean working as fast as you can move. It means planning out the task in advance and doing it safely and well.

Wear latex gloves when working with adhesives so you don’t bond your fingers together.

Wear a painter’s mask, particularly if you are using alkyd paints indoors. When painting overhead, wear goggles to keep paint out of your eyes.

Wear safety glasses when sanding, filing, or doing any job that produces flying particles.


  • Never work on an electrical circuit that is life or attached to an electrical source. Unplug the circuit, trip the circuit breaker, or unscrew the fuse before you begin working.
  • Use only equivalent replacement parts. That is, replace a controller with one that has the same function and rating. Don’t replace a 10-amp appliance cord with one that is rated for 5 amps.
  • Some appliances use capacitors, which are electrical components that store high voltage. Touching a charged capacitor, such as those in a microwave oven, can electrocute or burn you.
  • Carefully check all loose wires for related damage or stress, and reconnect them using electrical tape, wire nuts, or other enclosing fasteners. Not only can a loose wire break an electrical circuit, it can also injure you if you touch it while it is energized or hot. Loose wires are caused by vibration or other factors.

Using common sense and the right tools will help you tackle home improvement repairs or projects safely and with confidence.…

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Hot Water Heaters, What Are They, How Do They Work, And How To Maintain Them

Everybody intends to stay comfortable even during the cold weather. It’s challenging to shower or wash dishes using the cold water flowing through the pipes. That’s where hot water heaters come in handy. They come in different types and sizes for clients to choose from.

What are Hot Water Heaters?

These are appliances used to deliver hot water in homes and commercial areas. They can either be gas water heaters or electric water heaters. These water heaters have storage tanks to store cold water and deliver hot water when needed.

Types of Hot Water Heaters: Pros and Cons

There are many types of hot water heaters in the market today. Therefore, people have different options when installing a new one or replacing a faulty one. The best water heaters are durable and have a life span of up to 20 years, requiring little maintenance. Below are different water heaters types with their benefits and drawbacks.

Heat Pump Water Heaters

They are also known as hybrid water heaters. These water heaters require little electricity during usage. This is because they generate heat from their surrounding environment.


  • Energy-Efficient: Though they use electricity, these hot water heaters ensure that the users pay low electric bills. However, they are efficient and the best to use during winter.
  • Low Maintenance costs: These hot water heaters are durable and require less maintenance. Therefore, they save you lots of money needed for regular repairs and replacement. Despite their efficiency, heat pump water heaters require maintenance once each year.


  • Require a Larger Space: Heat pump water heaters function fully in 1000 cubic feet or more spaces. These water heaters are insufficient in small paces and can’t meet your needs. Again, they are also inefficient in colder areas.
  • Shorter Life Span: Heat pump water heaters have a shorter life span than other hot water heaters. They work efficiently for about a decade and then become faulty or require frequent repairs.

Conventional Water Heaters

Most people use conventional water heaters in their homes or industries. They have insulated water tanks to store water and deliver hot water when needed.


  • Low Market and Installation Cost: These hot water heaters are efficient yet affordable. They have a storage tank that stores hot water, ready for use. Again, despite installing an electric or gas conventional water heater, the installation costs are affordable.
  • Efficient in All Weather Conditions: Conventional water heaters can meet your needs in hot and cold climates when maintained well. This makes it better than other water heaters that need specific weather conditions to perform as required.


  • High Energy Bills: Conventional water heaters storage tanks always store hot water. It’s an advantage that the water is ready for use, but a disadvantage because they use energy continuously.
  • Require Regular Maintenance: Conventional water heaters are easily damaged by water. Therefore, these water heaters require regular maintenance and repairs for efficiency purposes.

Condensing Water Heaters

They have a primary and a secondary heat exchanger that allows a constant flow of hot water. These hot water heaters capture the hot exhaust gases escaping from the flue. Then, they redirect them to the tank, ensuring hot water flow.


  • Energy-Efficiency: Condensing water heaters are efficient because water heats quickly. This allows you to save the money required for monthly energy bills.
  • Eco-Friendly: These water heaters use less energy. This way, they produce less carbon and other greenhouse gas. Thus, they reduce environmental pollution, making the environment greener.


  • Expensive Initial Price: It’s costly to purchase a condensing water heater from the market. Though these water heaters have many advantages, they are expensive than most water heaters found in the market today.
  • Require a Large Space: These water heaters need lots of water. Hence, they need a larger space for storage to work efficiently and deliver a constant flow of hot water.

Solar Water Heaters

Water Heater Maine

These hot water heaters get heat from roof-mounted panels. The solar panels capture the sun’s energy and transfer heat to the water tanks to warm the water.


  • Energy-Efficient: Solar water heaters harness the sun’s rays to warm the water in the tanks. Thus, residential and commercial owners don’t have to worry about paying energy bills.
  • Uses Renewable Energy: Solar panels can store the sun’s heat for longer to ensure a continuous flow of hot water. All these hot water heaters need is sunshine.


  • Costly Installation: The cost of solar panels installation is expensive, especially when installed in commercial areas. Thus, you need to pay a substantial fee for solar panels to work efficiently.
  • Requires Plenty of Sunshine: Solar water heaters are efficient in areas with plenty of sunshine. This way, they have a high performance in hot areas. Though they harness the sun’s heat, they are not best in cold regions.

Tankless Water Heaters

They are also known as on-demand water heaters. These hot water heaters have highly-heated coils that allow a constant flow of hot water.


  • Require Less Space: They are compact-sized water heaters and don’t require dedicated storage space. Thus, they are fit when used in either small or large buildings. Again, they are tankless, and that’s why they require lesser space.
  • Low Monthly Bills: These hot water heaters provide hot water when needed. They heat water instantly, saving lots of money. This makes them energy-efficient water heaters.


  • Low Water Supply: Tankless water heaters are best for smaller homes. Thus, they can’t provide enough water when used in commercial areas.
  • Expensive: Buying a tankless water heater may be challenging, especially when on a tight budget. Their market prices are higher than most water heaters.

Commercial vs. Residential Hot Water Heaters

Residential water heaters are smaller in size and hold smaller amounts of water. Most water heater tanks require water between 40 to 100 gallons of water. Thus, they are cheaper, and you pay lower monthly bills. However, commercial hot water heaters are larger and require more water in the storage tanks.

Commercial hot water heaters hold water amounting to up t0 11,000 water gallons. Thus, the storage tanks take longer to heat the water. Therefore, business owners need to pay higher monthly energy bills. The most common types of commercial hot water heaters are storage water heaters and on-demand heaters. Any hot water heater should be installed by a professional however, it is especially important that you have large commercial hot water heaters installed and serviced by a professional plumber. For service in Cumberland and York County, Maine contact American Mechanical And Plumbing Click Here To Visit Their Website.

How Do Hot Water Heaters Work?

Water travels from the storage tank to the waterline. Thus, the water flows through the split lines to the intake system. After the hot water tap is on, water passes from the shut-off valve to the dip tube and into the water heater tank. The thermostat heats the water in the tank. Then, hot water rises, and cold water goes to the bottom.

As the cold water gets hot at the bottom of the tank, hot water travels to the open tap at high pressure. Thus, hot water continuously flows where needed, including the washing machine or the bathroom. This cycle continues when one turns on the hot water tap again.

However, a tankless water heater works differently from others. Again, a gas and an electric tankless water heater work differently. The one that uses gas has a flow sensor to activate the tank once the tap is on. Then, the fun rotates, the gas valve opens, and the burner in the unit turns on.

When using an electric tankless water heater, the process begins by activating the heat exchanger. Then, the hot water flows out of the tap. Thus, it heats water instantly when needed. That’s why they are energy-efficient.

How to Maintain Hot Water Heaters

Hot water heaters are essential, especially during winter. Though most of them are durable and have a life span of more than a decade, they require regular maintenance. This allows them to deliver high performance and prevents them from frequent damages. Below are ways to take care of hot water heaters.

Flush Out Sediments in hot water Heaters

Sediments from the water may settle in the tank due to water storage. These sediments may damage the water heater reducing its efficiency. Thus, it would be best to drain the tank by allowing water to flow out into a bucket. The only way to ensure that the tank is clean is ensuring that water flowing into the bucket is free from sediments.

Test the Pressure Valve

The pressure valve in a hot water heater controls the pressure inside the tank. Hence, if it’s faulty, the pressure might be higher or lower than required. To test the pressure valve, you need to lift its lever, and water flows into a bucket below the pipe.

Repair or Replace the Valve

If the …

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Home improvement ideas for 2021

There’s something about the start of a new year that gets us in the mood for home improvements and renovations. Looking to solve niggling issues such as loose roof tiles? In need of a home clear-out to signal the end of 2020 and the arrival of 2021? Want to make your home makeover or kitchen renovation dreams a reality? Our tradespeople are ready to help. If you’re not sure where to start – scroll down for interior design trends and inspiration for home improvements, including bathroom and kitchen decor ideas.

1. Sort those emergency jobs

Don’t start the new year on the wrong foot. Get those ‘to-do list’ jobs done before bad weather sets in and starts causing problems. Remember to get your boiler serviced and ​protect your pipes ahead of cold January weather.

Frozen pipe

2. Get your roofing done

Snow-covered terrace of houses

It’s not the most glamorous thing to spend your money on, but a well insulated and tiled roof will help keep your home warm and dry throughout the winter months. High winds and storms mean loose tiles can easily lift and fall from your roof, causing damage and leaks. One of our specialist roofers can inspect your roof and let you know what needs replacing.

Looking for a roofer? ​Find a qualified roofing professional by posting your job on Rated People​.

3. Do a deep clean

2021 home improvements: White bathroom sink and gold tap next to skincare products
Photo by Karolina Grabowska from Pexels

Dust off the cobwebs and get your home feeling fresh for 2021. Our cleaners can help with those hard to reach places – whether it’s dirty windows, grubby post-Christmas ovens or bathroom and kitchen grime. Next up: organise cabinets, shelves and wardrobes for a tidy home and tidy mind.

4. Update your bathroom

Dreaming of going to the tropics or to a luxurious spa? Perhaps it’s time to renovate your bathroom instead. Tropical, spa-like bathrooms, are on trend for 2021. Think lots of greenery, natural materials, open walk-in showers and freestanding baths.

2021 home improvements: Bathroom with wood features

5. Renovate your kitchen

2021 home improvements: White kitchen with wood cabinets

Pantone has revealed not one, but two colours for 2021 – Ultimate Grey and Illuminating Yellow – which could look great together, especially in a modern kitchen. We love the sunny optimism of yellow and the balancing, refined feel of grey. If you’re not sure about bright yellow, introduce touches of this adventurous hue in the form of crockery or furniture.

Modern open plan kitchen living room

Looking for a kitchen specialist? ​Find a vetted professional to help you out by posting your job on Rated People​.

6. Spruce up your outdoor space

The ‘new normal’ will continue in 2021 with outdoor socialising and social distancing. Host small groups of friends and family (if rules allow) safely outside in your garden. Add seating, plants and decking to create an inviting space. Tidy up the garden and flower beds and when the darkness and cold sets in, make it cosy with candles, fairy lights, heaters or fire pits.

Outdoor entertaining area with rattan garden furniture

7. Upgrade your driveway or front porch

Paved garden pathway with edging plants

Sometimes the exterior of our homes can get forgotten about. Repave your driveway or smarten up your front porch ready for those doorstep catch ups with friends and neighbours. If you cycle, find a clever way to store your bike. Finally, don’t forget smart security lights and fencing to keep your home safe and sound.

8. Go green

Help the planet and your bank balance with eco-friendly home improvements. In 2021, we’ll see a continuing demand for green home updates. Stay ahead of the curve and think about installing smart heating and lighting, solar panels or better insulation.

House with solar panels and living wall

Are you thinking of making your home greener? Find a recommended tradesperson to turn your home into an eco haven – post your project on Rated People today​.

9. Convert your shed or build garden studio

Remote working is another trend that’s set to continue in 2021. Up your WFH game and turn your shed into a studio or build your dream garden office. You could even convert your garage into a dreamy work space. We love these home offices!

Small wooden garden studio
Garden office

10. Build an extension to create more space

Gym in house extension leading to garden

Reinvent your home and prioritise what you love doing most – watching films, working out, or cooking incredible food – with a home extension. Not only could a home gym, film room or extended kitchen add value to your home, but it could increase your home life satisfaction – especially if you found yourself experiencing cabin fever in 2020. Maximise square footage and building costs with a two-storey extension.

2021 home improvements: Home gym in loft conversion
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11 Tips for Choosing a Home Improvement Contractor

Contractor Measuring

It can be kind of nerve-racking to embark on a home improvement project when you don’t know who your contractor will be. Choosing the right home improvement contractor is paramount to the success of any home improvement project. Whether you’re getting a new deck, home addition, or getting some remodeling, the right home improvement contractor makes the process a win-win.

In fact, choosing a contractor is probably the most important decision you’ll make. You will want a contractor who is established, who has built a great reputation in the area, and who you know has taken on projects similar to the one you are planning.

If a contractor is not prepared for the project you hire them for and is not responsible enough to tell you this, you are playing a dangerous and high-stakes game. Bad contractors may leave a project before it is completed, which leaves an expensive mess for you and the task of finding someone to finish the job.

They may do a bad job that looks terrible or install something that will hold together for the time being but falls apart after a few weeks of use. Another danger is when a contractor underestimates the cost of a project and then has to charge you multiple times what they told you it would cost.

How do you know which contractor is right for you? With so many options, it can be overwhelming. Here are a few tips to pick the right contractor to help you out:

11 Simple Tips to Pick the Right Contractor

Guidelines for Selecting a Home Improvement Contractor - Household  Decoration

Here are some important things you may want to consider when choosing a home improvement contractor to ensure you are getting the best quality work for your dollar:

1. Know Your Home Improvement Goals

A good contractor can help you figure out exactly how you want to accomplish your home improvement goals. But, before you settle on a contractor, have as specific an idea as possible of what you have in mind. This will allow you to get accurate assessments from various contractors and will enable you to choose the one who offers the fairest price. Also, don’t be shy when getting bids from contractors; ask them for a breakdown of costs.

2. Find Contractors with the Best Reputations

Start by asking friends and family for suggestions on which contractor to hire. You can also check out the National Association of the Remodeling Industry to find good, high-quality contractors around you.

Ask a municipal building inspector which contractors normally meet code requirements, or go out to a local lumberyard to find out which area contractors buy top-quality materials and pay their bills on time. You can also go to a local hardware store and ask employees which contractors in the area might be the best to work with. These are all good tips to find a home improvement contractor for your list of options.

3. Interview the Candidates

Once you have a list of potential contractors, spend some time interviewing them to get more information and see who will be the best fit for you and your project. To be sure you’re getting someone reliable, who has a solid history of being good to clients, paying their bills, and who conducts their business in a way that makes sense, ask targeted questions during an in-person or phone conversation.

Having a list of questions to ask a home improvement contractor prepared for your interviews ensures you get the information you need and that you are asking the same questions to each candidate. This will make it easier for you to compare contractors post-interview to narrow down your list to the one(s) that could be a good fit for your needs.

You can also ask the contractor to provide financial references – suppliers or banks they’ve worked with before. Ask them how long they’ve been working with their subcontractors, if they have them, and how many projects they normally juggle at one time. You can even ask them for a list of previous clients, and then call those people for insight.

4. Consider How Long the Company Has Been in Business

Does the company you’re considering have a proven background of stability and service? If someone tells you they have 10-20 years in the business, find out what they mean. Even if someone has had a job in remodeling sales or installation, it does not necessarily mean they have any background or financial backing to run a business or make you a happy customer.

A good home improvement company can show that they can weather the changing environment of home improvements and have the satisfied customers to prove it. With over 50 years in the business in the home improvement industry, Zephyr Thomas has strived to build an award-winning reputation to be proud of.

Over 50% of our annual business comes from repeat and referral customers. That statistic speaks for itself! Zephyr Thomas is backed by membership in the Lancaster County Builders Industry Association, Better Business Bureau, and The Lancaster Chamber of Commerce.

5. Consider the Warranty Offered on the Company’s Products

Many companies offer lifetime warranties on their products. However, there are pitfalls associated with this. The lifetime warranty of a company that has been in business for a couple of weeks or months is very different from the lifetime warranty of a company that has been in business for over 50 years.

With new companies going out of business all the time, will your warranty with them stay in effect? With a long-standing, established company, such as Zephyr Thomas, you can rest assured that if you need a warranty issue taken care of, we will be here.

6. Does the Company You Are Considering Use Employees or Subcontractors?

While there are certainly some reputable subcontractors out there, there are also many that are not so reputable. A company that uses its own employees typically is always sending the same dedicated installation crews to its job site, rather than having a different subcontractor every day.

Employees often also specialize in certain areas of home improvements, such as vinyl sidingreplacement windows, or home additions, which improves the quality of the work you are receiving. Employees are also covered by the company’s liability insurance.

7. Does the Company Have Liability Insurance?

It is very important for the company you choose for your home improvement needs to have liability insurance. This not only protects the company but also protects you as a homeowner.

8. Does the Company Have an Office or Showroom You Can Visit?

“Oh, where, oh where has my contractor gone!” Have you ever noticed a lot of job signs and newspaper ads for home improvement companies with just phone numbers on them? And, then when you try to look for them on the internet, in the better business bureau registry, and in the telephone book, you couldn’t find an address? Do you really want to hand over hundreds or thousands of dollars to someone you can’t find?

The same as you like to test drive a car before you buy it, it is always nice to “test drive” home improvement products before you have them installed in your home. A showroom gives you that opportunity. At Zephyr Thomas, we have a state of the art showroom and design center. We encourage you to visit us and try out our products. You can tilt in windows, open and close entry doors, slide the patio doors, or just relax in our cozy sunroom to your heart’s content.

9. Quality Versus Dollar Value

Cost is always an important consideration when choosing a home improvement contractor. However, cheaper is not always better. “Pickup truck” type companies will sometimes be cheaper in price than some of the established companies but what is the sacrifice in quality? If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

It’s sometimes difficult for the untrained eye to compare apples to apples but our knowledgeable sales staff can explain the reasons why some of the cheaper products may not give you lasting quality. At Zephyr Thomas, our products are not only backed by us, but also by our manufacturers. Our windows even have a transferable lifetime warranty on them.

10. Don’t Get Stuck – Get Full Service

Is the home improvement company a full-service company? You should hope so. Unless you want to be stuck with loads of paperwork, work with an architect, and deal with your township’s permit process and requirements on your own.

Getting this kind of support and having a company that’s able to handle all of your project needs is one of the reasons to use a whole home improvement contractor. Zephyr Thomas is a full-service remodeling company. If your project requires inspections, architectural drawings, and township permits; Zephyr Thomas will take care of all the “dirty work” for you.

11. Make Sure You are Comfortable with the Contract

Home Improvement Ideas to Improve the Value of Your Home | Ready Steady Sell

Another one of the tips for choosing a home improvement contractor is the …

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Top 10 Home Improvement Tips Every Homeowner Should Know

Homeownership has a way of awakening the inner Bob Vila in all of us—even the ones who know nothing about home improvement. Whether you’re tackling huge renovations or tiptoeing your way into the world of DIY, these tips will help you set yourself up for success.

Have a plan

Renovations rarely go exactly to plan, but that doesn’t mean you should wing it. Last-minute changes are both stressful and expensive, so get the non-negotiable details hammered out first. At minimum, this means knowing what results you want and how much money—and time—it will take to achieve them.

Modeling and design tools like Floorplanner are super helpful in the planning phase. Create a couple different versions of the same project, then add a 10-15% buffer to your budget estimates to prepare for inevitable surprises.

Add value when possible

If you’re not sure where to start with home improvements, it can be helpful to prioritize projects that increase your home’s value. Updated kitchens and bathrooms are pretty much always a safe bet, as are any renovations that increase square footage, like finished basements and decks. But buyer preferences vary from market to market, so be sure to focus on what’s popular and valuable where you live—not broad national trends.

Tackle quick, time-sensitive projects first

Some home improvements are more urgent than others. If a project will save you money immediately or prevent devastating damage in the future, bump it to the top of the priority list. That goes double for quick, easy fixes, like sealing drafts and replacing filters.

Find your DIY threshold

Even if you’re an experienced DIY-er with a well-stocked workshop, not all home improvement projects are suitable for amateurs. Before starting a project, gauge your interest level: How much work are you really willing to put in? Is that effort worth the money you’ll save? Be brutally honest.

If you have no idea what you’re getting into, don’t commit until you’ve spent, at minimum, a solid couple of hours watching YouTube tutorials and pricing out materials. Remember: Just because you can doesn’t mean you should.

Bone up on DIY knowledge

Everyone should know a few basic repair skills, and thanks to the internet, learning them has never been easier. If you can, start with a specific question: Is my garbage disposal broken or just clogged? Do I really need to clean my dishwasher filter? How do you refinish a coffee table? You’ll click with some blogs and video personalities more than others; next time, start with them.

If you’re more of a hands-on learner, try volunteering: You’ll learn new skills and help people at the same time. Many hardware stores offer free clinics on basic home repair and improvement skills, too, so be sure to check the offerings in your area.

Save money by scrimping—and splurging—responsibly

Major renovations are expensive, but going full Scrooge on every single line item only creates more work later. Instead, identify where you can and can’t afford to be a little stingy. A good rule of thumb: Shell out for anything catastrophically expensive and/or difficult to replace, like hot water heaters and electrical work. For easily replaceable items—shower heads, light fixtures, drawer pulls—cheap is fine. You should also consider how much use and enjoyment you’ll get from an item. If you’re an avid cook, skimp on floor tiles so you can splurge on the stove of your dreams.

Understand your financing options

Unfortunately, most home improvements do not pay for themselves. If you can’t afford to finance the project in full with cash, you should know the different ways you can finance your home improvement without putting your home at risk.

Personal loans and credit cards can be useful for small-to-medium projects, depending on the interest rate and terms, while home equity loans (HELs) and lines of credit (HELOCs) can help finance major renovations and repairs. Improvements that increase your home’s value can cut down on private mortgage insurance payments, but keep in mind you’ll have to pay to get your home reassessed on top of everything else.

Get your tools right

You can’t really improve your home with just your bare hands—most projects require at least a multi-tool. Before you start a project of any size, be sure your toolbox actually contains the tools you’ll need. Keep in mind that some project genres need special equipment, particularly if they involve plumbing or electrical systems. When in doubt, Google it.

Find the perfect contractor

Finding a handyman or contractor you trust is a lot like finding the right dentist or therapist: Harder than it sounds, and with incredibly high stakes. It’s important to vet potential contractors carefully using these criteria:

  • Word of mouth: Ask friends, family, and neighbors for recommendations—especially if they have industry connections
  • Check for complaints: Look up your state’s consumer protection office and your local building inspection office
  • Learn which licenses and permits are required in your area for contractors, electricians, plumbers, and painters
  • Get proof of insurance: Ask contractors to provide you with their insurance details so you can verify it with the provider
  • Ask for references, then actually check them out
  • Meet with every potential candidate so you get a feel for their style
  • Get quotes—and track them with a spreadsheet or other list

For even more specific questions you should ask, check out our page or contact us for more information.

Always keep your next project in mind

When one project ends, another begins—such is the nature of home improvement. Planning your next move is a lot harder when you can’t remember the good ideas you had while working on something else. Keep a detailed list of your project goals in a spreadsheet, notebook, or even a good old-fashioned Pinterest board so you’ll always know what’s next.

This story was originally published in 2014 and thoroughly updated on March 15, 2021 with a new copy and links.

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Affordable Home Improvement Tips Find big savings on those high buck remodeling projects

home improvementZivicaKerkez/Shutterstock
You’ll save money on remodeling projects if you plan well in advance, get several bids, do simple parts yourself, shop for materials, design with energy savings in mind and follow these other easy ideas.

Tip 1: Plan your project and get bids well in advance

Advance planning pays off

You get the best contractor deals when contractors aren’t so busy.

Have you ever tried to find a contractor in March to start your new three-season porch that you want completed by Mother’s Day? It’ll cost more than if you’d found a contractor in January. Most contractors plan out months ahead and don’t want to disrupt their schedules. They’ll shoot you a high bid, because they really don’t want to fit you in … unless you pay a high rate.

Most building trades have busy seasons and slow seasons. Plan ahead, and you’ll get more competitive bids during the slow seasons. Best times to schedule:

  • roofing—cold or rainy months
  • indoor renovations—winter or during rainy months
  • heating—late summer, before fall
  • air conditioning—late winter or early spring
  • chimney cleaning— anytime except fall!
  • project design (architects)—fall and winter

Tip 2: Pay extra for energy-saving features

Invest in the future

Investing in energy-saving features now will save on future expenses.

With energy prices rising, many contractors are offering energy efficiency upgrades (at an additional price). These might include higher-efficiency windows; guaranteed air sealing; extra-thick insulation; and higher-efficiency heating, cooling or other appliances. If they don’t offer this, you can ask what additional measures they (or you) can take to improve your home’s energy performance. Then compare the estimated energy savings with the cost of each upgrade. A payback period of seven to 10 years is good. (Simple payback is the time it takes for the savings to equal the original cost.) Keep in mind that upgrades done during the remodeling process always cost less than upgrades added later.

Tip 3: Hire an architect or designer for at least an initial sketch

Don’t throw money away

Don’t waste money by building an addition you don’t like!

The most expensive mistake you can make is to build an addition or remodel a room that you don’t like when it’s finished. Professional design help during the planning stage helps you tailor the space to fit. Sometimes it takes only one or two key details to make that room special. Most architects and designers will walk you through the initial planning for a modest fee. Gather lots of visual material to illustrate your ideas. And be sure you’re on the same page as your spouse! Be prepared to do some legwork after going through these home improvement tips.

Tip 4: Pitch in and do parts of the project yourself

Sweat equity

Tackle the parts of the project within your skill range.

Doing the entire project yourself is by far the best way to save. But if you don’t have the time or skills, your part-time sweat equity can reduce costs. Consider taking on such labor-intensive jobs as demolition, moving materials, digging, cleaning up the job site after work, sanding trim or painting. Coordinate the jobs with the contractor in advance and agree on their value. Beware! Once you commit yourself, make sure to complete the work in a timely way. Tardiness can throw off the construction schedule and cost you more in the long run!

Tip 5: Plan for future upgrades if you can’t afford them now

You don’t have to wait until you can build your dream addition all at once. You can get started now and gradually add as your finances allow. But work from a master plan so you don’t have to go back and tear out or upgrade what you’ve already done.

For example, consider:

  • an electrical service with capacity for the future addition, workshop or hot tub
  • in-the-wall wiring for electronics in every room or a future home theater
  • rough plumbing for a future half bath or hot tub
  • wiring for future lighting fixtures
  • rough framing for future doors or windows
  • French doors that open to a future deck.

Tip 6: Compare the price of remodeling with the cost of buying new

Remodel or move?

It may be financially smart to buy a different home rather than invest in your current one.

Your house is your most important investment as well as the place you call home. Although you may love your house and neighborhood, check how much your addition would add to the value of your home. Creating a luxury home in a modest neighborhood may not make financial sense. A real estate agent or home appraiser can make a close estimate. If you can’t recoup at least 75 percent of the cost when you sell, at least consider the advantages of buying another house with the space or features you need. It may well be a better investment to move rather than to add on.

Tip 7: Shop for materials yourself

Shop smart

Shop for finish materials and appliances to take advantage of sales.

You won’t save much by trying to stockpile lumber, drywall, electrical wiring or other basic building materials. But when it comes to the finish materials—carpeting, appliances, faucets, countertops, light fixtures—your own footwork will pay off. Not only do you get exactly what you want, but you also can find bargains, especially if you start collecting these items well in advance. You can even plan to reuse a stylish old stove, distressed hardwood flooring or other items that add a creative touch to a room. But clear your decisions with your contractor; installation costs might be higher for unusual requests.

Tip 8: Don’t overdo windows and skylights

Windows are hot!

Excessive glass area will raise energy costs and decrease comfort.

Big windows and skylights can have a spectacular effect in a new addition, making it feel bright and cheery and offering great views. But more is not always better. Not only are windows and skylights expensive, but even energy-efficient ones will sharply increase your heating and cooling bills. Large skylights can make a room feel like a furnace in the summer! You may have to replace your air conditioner, heat pump or furnace with a larger one. Or perhaps add units to keep the room comfortable.

Tip 9: Avoid moving the plumbing or changing the foundation

You can’t always avoid it, but any alteration to these two systems typically adds thousands to a remodeling project. Neither is simple. New plumbing often requires breaking into walls and floors; resizing lines to meet newer plumbing codes; and replacing old, out-of-date pipes. New foundations usually require excavation, concrete and other heavy, expensive work. The price jumps whenever you add these two items, so ask yourself if you really need to move the kitchen sink during a kitchen remodel, or if you really need the extra space in a bathroom bump-out.

Tip 10: Order over the internet

Internet shopping

Internet shopping will save time and money.

Can’t find a nice-looking low-voltage light fixture at a nearby home center? The Internet puts a wide selection of products at your fingertips. Even better, it gives you access to hard-to-find specialty items at competitive prices. Often you can save 40 to 50 percent over the list price.…

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Top 7 Reasons to Renovate Your Home

Renovate your home

Home renovations are costly, time-consuming and messy. Still, many people choose to renovate their homes for a variety of reasons. There are almost as many reasons to fix up your home as there are projects to choose from. Here are the top reasons for renovating your home.

1. To increase your comfort or enjoyment of the home.

This one comes first for a reason. Although there are many good reasons to renovate your home, your own comfort and enjoyment are important factors that shouldn’t be overlooked. If you renovate solely based on how it will impact the future sales price down the line, you may end up living in a showplace that doesn’t feel like a home. Your comfort and enjoyment are more important than what improvements will make the most money when you eventually sell.

2. To fix a safety issue.

Some home renovation projects just can’t be put off. Electrical problems, roof leaks, or a crack in the foundation are some problems that must be taken care of to keep your family safe and prevent catastrophic or total loss of the home.

3. To improve the home’s value.

If you plan to sell the home within the next few years, you may want to renovate some or all of it with an eye toward getting the most you can when you put it on the market. Some projects that have the best immediate return are opening up the main living space, replacing the front door, and updating the kitchen or bathroom.

4. To upgrade the home’s function.

Maybe you need more space, or a second bathroom would make things a lot easier during those busy mornings. Maybe your husband wants a man cave, or you would like a deck or a patio for outdoor entertaining. Renovating so that the home functions better for the residents is a good idea, as long as the upgrades don’t hurt the home’s value or decrease usable space.

5. To increase the efficiency of the home.

New windows, a heat pump, and added insulation are examples of improvements that can decrease energy costs and pay for themselves over time. More efficient homes are also more attractive to buyers if you want to sell since they know costs will be lower on an energy-efficient home.

Renovate your home
Planning and dreaming together is part of the fun of home renovations.

6. To update the home’s style.

An older home can have a dated look that makes it less attractive to buyers or can look more plain than upscale. Updating your home’s style can be a whim based on new trends or a way to prepare a house for sale. The best bet is to use timeless styles that send the message of sophistication.

7. To prepare the house for sale.

When the main objective of renovations is to sell the home, choices should reflect what is most likely to help with the sale. Neutral colors, upgrades that add value, and fixing any cosmetic or functional problems will help get the house in tip-top shape for resale.

The experts can help with all your renovation needs. Call us for more information.…

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