3 Tips (Including Virtual Reality) For Avoiding Home Improvement Blunders

(NewsUSA) – Sponsored by GAF – Want proof of how carefully you need to weigh the alternatives before making upgrades to your home?Look no further than the Florida couple who last year decided to have their house painted to look like artist Vincent Van Gogh’s famous canvas "The Starry Night." It wasn’t just that it was such an odd choice for an exterior that it attracted tourists – sort of the local answer to New York’s Madame Tussauds – it was that the city of Mount Dora took them to court over it."Graffiti," the city called it."First Amendment!" countered homeowner Lubek Jastrzebski, an immigrant from Communist-era Poland, who argued that the city code didn’t address house colors and aesthetics.Yes, that’s an extreme example of unintended consequences. But even though legally the homeowners wound up off the hook, anyone now contemplating shelling out significant bucks on home improvements should read on for some tips on avoiding costly missteps.* Don’t paint your house brown either. Since most people have it in the back of their minds that they’ll eventually want to attract buyers other than those obsessed with Dutch post-impressionist painters partial to yellow and blue swirls, know that Zillow.com just concluded that medium brown and taupe were the worst exterior color choices in terms of resale value.Both depressed the sales price by $1,970 compared to homes painted white, an analysis by the real estate website of more than 32,000 photos from sold residential properties around the country found. "Greige," on the other hand – a combination of gray and beige – was the big winner, fetching $3,496 more than its drab brown counterparts.* Tech is your friend. It was two years ago that a noted design guru had this to say to the New York Times about online virtual reality, augmented reality, and 3D rendering tools: "It’s definitely the wave of the future, because it allows the general population to make design decisions without feeling hesitant or insecure," said Khoi Vo, a professor and the chair of the department of interior design at Savannah College of Art and Design.Well, the future is undoubtedly here, with programs like Room Sketcher even allowing you to play architect by creating your own floor plan, furnishing the space, and then visualizing your work in 3D.But say what you’re interested in is boosting your home’s all-important curb appeal with a roof upgrade. The Virtual Home Remodeler from GAF (gaf.com), North America’s largest roofing manufacturer, lets you experiment with different looks by first either downloading a photo of your own home or choosing from among the many styles – everything from Victorian to ranch to French country – pictured on the website."It’s an easy way to see what would look best with your home," said Paul Dellanno, assistant marketing manager at GAF. "Because what may work for a ranch-style house may not work for a Tudor."Once you’ve picked a house style, the process continues. Do you prefer the Antique Slate color shingles from the company’s Camelot Shingle line you clicked on, for example, or the Golden Prairie color ones from the Glenwood Shingle line?And the house trim and exterior walls? White or something more daring?As Dellano explained, "you can even check how the result looks at different times of day and seasons."* Be wary of fads. "It looked like Darth Vader had moved in," is how a writer for Realty.com described the latest trend of painting houses black in her Brooklyn, New York, neighborhood.Word to the wise: The classics are classic for a reason. 

If You’re A Homeowner, It’s Time to Prep for Storm Season

It’s the time of year that homeowners most dread: storm season. And with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration predicting five to nine hurricanes – with as many as four “major” ones boasting sustained winds of 111-plus mph – they’re anticipating an “active” six months or so through the end of November.

And while no one’s saying there will be a repeat of last season’s devastating hurricanes, it clearly pays for homeowners to be prepared.

Read on for some of the best advice on readying for the next (inevitable) storm.

Yes, Homeowners, It’s Time to Prepare for Storm Season

(NewsUSA) – Sponsored by GAF – Here we go again?Five to nine hurricanes – with as many as four "major" ones boasting sustained winds of 111-plus mph – is what the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration just predicted for this year’s storm season. In other words, they’re calling for an "active" six months or so through the end of November.And while no one’s saying we’re in for a repeat of last season’s devastating triple whammy – yes, we do mean Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria – ask anyone still dealing with the havoc of having had their house battered in one of those storms if they don’t still wonder what more they could’ve done to be better prepared."It only takes one storm to devastate a community," said Acting FEMA Deputy Administrator Daniel Kaniewski.Read on for some of the best advice on readying for the next (inevitable) storm.* Check your insurance. The coups de grace for many of those hit hardest last year was discovering that they’d have to find a way to pay all or some of their rebuilding costs themselves. The reasons ranged from lack of flood insurance (only those with federally backed mortgages living in designated high-risk zones are required by law to buy it) to a local spike in the price of labor and materials."Hurricane Harvey (in Texas) showed that flooding can also damage properties outside the highest-risk zones," the Wall Street Journal noted, quoting a former New York insurance commissioner as saying that "even financially literate people" don’t understand that floods aren’t covered in the standard homeowners policy.* Clean your gutters. Even in perfect weather, Angie’s List says you’re looking at a possible "nightmare" if they’re so clogged with mounds of leaves, sticks, and other debris that it causes your roof to leak. And if you factor in a hurricane-strength rain, suddenly the very roofing system component meant to control the flow of all that water – thus protecting your roof, walls, foundation, and landscape from the aforementioned flooding – can be about as useful as spoiled milk."If you let gutter cleaning go by the wayside, it could cost you hundreds of thousands of dollars," the website warned.* Make sure your roof is in good condition. The Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety actually built a test chamber where experts could simulate the effects of hurricanes and other natural disasters on full-scale one- and two-story homes. So when its president and CEO, Julie Rochman, tells CBSNews.com‘s "MoneyWatch" that "it all starts with the roof," you need to pay attention."The roof," she said, "is the largest potential opening on the house, and wind and water can do terrible things if they get through (it)."Ergo, now’s the time to have a professional roofing contractor check for (and fix) any signs of wear and tear like broken or missing shingles, fractured fiberglass mat, and loosening of the self-seal strip. These tell-tale signs, especially if they resulted from damage from hail, can be difficult to spot yourself. And if you do decide to replace your roof? "Consider shingles that have passed the UL2218, Class 4 impact test," advised Jason Joplin, program manager of CARE (the GAF Center for the Advancement of Roofing Excellence).Joplin especially likes the Timberline ArmorShield II line of shingles from GAF (gaf.com), North America’s largest roofing manufacturer. In addition to looking good, they’re made with SBS modified asphalt, which he described as "a rubber-like material for enhanced flexibility and durability during extreme weather conditions."An added bonus: Depending on where you live, shingles like these could help you qualify for significant discounts on your homeowner’s insurance.* Trim weak tree branches. Need we say more than people have actually died from trees and branches crashing into their houses? 

Outdoor Spaces Offer Style And Comfort

(NewsUSA) – If you enjoy relaxing and entertaining on your porch or patio, you are not alone.Today’s homeowners love being outdoors, and design professionals are being tasked with creating extravagant outdoor living areas with all the creature comforts that are typically found indoors – a task they’re accomplishing with natural building materials such as cypress.Mark Tuck of the Southern Cypress Manufacturers Association, www.CypressInfo.org, says, "Cypress is a beautiful wood that looks exotic. More importantly, it is a durable wood that – when properly installed and maintained – provides long-lasting performance. It’s perfect for outdoor use!"Unlike other species that need to be pressure-treated with chemicals for outdoor use, cypress comes by its durability naturally. When growing, cypress trees produce cypressene in their heartwood. This preservative oil protects the wood from the elements, and it repels insects such as termites and carpenter bees that often feed on and nest in other species."Thanks to its natural characteristics," Tuck adds, "cypress has typically been used as siding or as an outdoor ceiling product. But more recently, design professionals are using it for a variety of other outdoor applications."Cypress for the Outdoor Floor"Outdoor rooms, peaceful spaces, and low-maintenance materials are the buzzwords I hear most from my clients," says Nancy Moore of The Porch Company in Nashville, Tennessee."I like to use cypress in spaces that are exposed to the elements. From my experience, it holds up well to blowing rain that may come in. I love its character, authenticity, longevity, and the fact that it is a renewable resource."Moore says that her clients prefer porch designs that flow from the inside to the outside, which includes the flooring."We typically use tongue-and-groove cypress for our porch floors because it makes the space feel like another room of the house – a room that just happens to have walls that breathe."The New Heart of the HomeThe heart of the home has long been the kitchen, right? So as today’s homeowners spend more time outside, creating a secondary kitchen outdoors is a top priority.When crafting cabinetry for outdoor kitchens, Rod Richardson of Associated Construction Group, Gonzales, Louisiana, relies on cypress, and for good reasons. "It offers value, appearance, and performance that lasts," Richardson says. "In my 20 years of building outdoor kitchens with cypress, I haven’t had a callback."There are many building materials available, but one has stood the test of time and that’s wood. It offers an appearance, feel, and even smell that you can’t re-create with man-made products. And when I show customers different cabinet materials – even different woods – they usually lean towards cypress."Incorporate cypress into your lavish outdoor space. See how at www.CypressInfo.org

Defining Luxury: American Hardwoods

(NewsUSA) – For everyone seeking to transform lackluster into extraordinary, the product choice is American hardwood. Distinctive, characterful, and unmatched in function, flexibility and sheer beauty, products made from American hardwoods are redefining "luxury," and adding warmth and grand style to both the charmingly rustic and the sleekly sophisticated.With color, texture and grain unique to each hardwood species, these magnificent products are as individual as you. And whether on the floor or over the fireplace, in the kitchen or in the office, they provide the opportunity and means to personalize each and every space. So step beyond cookie-cutter and ascend into lavish with the allure of cherry, the iridescence of sycamore, the elegance of walnut!The appeal is real. Today’s informed buyers recognize American hardwood as the gold standard, then and now! So isn’t it time to realize your vision of luxury?For answers and inspiration, visit the photo gallery of hardwood flooring, cabinetry, furniture and millwork at www.HardwoodInfo.com. And follow us on Facebook and Pinterest @AmericanHardwoods, and Twitter @AmericanHardwds.Watch the video here.

If You’re A First Time Home Buyer, This Primer Can Help

Finally ready to own instead of rent? Welcome to the club.

After waiting for what seemed like forever, first-time homebuyers last year made 38 percent of all U.S. single-family home purchases – the biggest share since 2000 – and the 2.07 million new or existing houses they bought ended up being 7 percent more than in 2016, Bloomberg.com reports.

But the market for house-hunting newbies has changed drastically from that most recent high mark of nearly two decades ago. Read on.

Three Reasons Why You Probably Shouldn’t Install Your Own Roof

Think you’re up to the challenge of taking on the fourth most dangerous job in America? If you decide to install your own roof, that’s exactly what you’ll be doing.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, even police officers have less chance of dying on the job than professional roofers do. And yet countless DIYers risk their lives every year just to try to save some money.

“There’s no better way to meet an orthopedic surgeon – or an undertaker – than by spending an extended amount of time on your roof,” cautions PopularMechanics.com. “One small slip or misstep, and it’s a long way down.”

More Buyers in The Market Means Certain Home Upgrades Can Pay Off

Don’t think of Millennials as just the early adopters of Uber. Think of them as the next generation of home buyers.

The newly released U.S. home ownership rate rose last year for the first time in just over a dozen years (it’s at 64.2 percent). This is driven mainly by the desire to own versus rent by the under-35 crowd who, to date, have been hesitant to commit for both financial and personal reasons.

With More Buyers Out There, These Home Upgrades Can Really Pay Off

(NewsUSA) – Sponsored by GAF – It’s time to stop thinking of Millennials as totally uninterested in owning anything just because they were early adopters of Uber.The newly released U.S. home ownership rate rose in 2017 for the first time in 13 years – it now stands at 64.2 percent – driven mainly by a shift towards owning over renting by the under-age 35 crowd who’d been wary of committing for both financial and personal reasons."This is happening because young households are buying homes. Full stop," Ralph McLaughlin, chief economist at home listings provider Trulia, told the Wall Street Journal.They’re not the only purchasers, of course. Which means if you’re looking to sell your house now or in the not too distant future, you might want to check out this generational roadmap to four upgrades experts say are worth it to help attract potential buyers.* Cross-generational: a new steel door. The only thing that beat it on Remodeling magazine’s annual Cost vs. Value Report for 2017 was loose-fill attic insulation, but this project – with a 90.7% return on investment – speaks directly to the report’s main takeaway: "Curb appeal projects, by and large, generated higher returns on investment than work done inside the home."Plus, as far as Millennials go, while their ideal interiors may differ from older generations – for example, they prefer open floor plans and hardwood floors – Architectural Digest says they’re still into "traditional exteriors."* Millennials: smart-home tech. Yes, there are Boomers and Generation Xers who are super tech savvy, but Millennials especially crave homes that allow them to control their heating, air-conditioning, home security, and lighting systems from their phones."They want to use their brains for other things, not for remembering whether they adjusted the heat or closed the garage door," Angie’s List stressed.* Cross-generational: a new roof. It’s the ultimate curb appeal enhancer and a perennial Remodeling magazine A-lister, with Credit.com having observed that "buyers pay a premium for one already in place."So if the first thing prospects notice even before exiting their cars looks like something out of "Twister," you’ve got a problem."It’s a huge turn-off," said Patsy O’Neill, a sales associate with Sotheby’s in Montclair, New Jersey, "and makes buyers of all ages predisposed to find even more things they don’t like."If your roof does need replacing, those particularly interested in targeting Millennials might want to consider the very affordable Sienna line of diamond-shaped shingles from GAF (gaf.com), North America’s largest roofing manufacturer, since they capture that generation’s sensibilities."They pick up on key Millennial style trends of natural, clean materials, clean lines, and the integration of artistic elements," said Leslie Franklin, executive director of residential marketing at GAF.* Millennials: all-new appliances. Realtors will tell you that major kitchen (and bath) upgrades aren’t generally worth their high costs, in terms of return on investment, since prospective buyers’ tastes can clash with yours.However, Millennials do love, love, love all-new stainless steel appliances. So much so that what RealtyTimes.com called "an astonishing majority of 75 percent" of respondents in a recent survey chose to spend their hypothetical home buying budgets on them. 

These 4 Tips Can Cut Your Home Energy Bills in Winter

You know it’s cold outside when Florida gets snow.

Which is exactly how 2018 began, thanks to a “bomb cyclone” that slammed the East Coast with heavy snow and temperature. Meanwhile, Embarrass, Minnesota won the unofficial title of “The Last Place in the Freezing Midwest You’d Want to Go Skinny Dipping” by hitting a low of 45 degrees below zero on New Year’s Eve.

While you’re imagining the heating bills in Embarrass (and with winter not yet over), the following tips might help you lower your own energy costs.