Is Company Coming? Clean up in a Hurry!

Easter Spring CleaningAre you having Easter at your house this year? Get your house looking picture-perfect before the doorbell rings!

Need to clean up in a hurry? Whether you’re expecting guests, the guests just left, or you want to at least pretend that yours is a life of clean and ordered bliss, pick a task, any task, for quick tips to fix your place up fast.

1. Brighten the Bathroom First, flush. Next, grab some bleach. Pour a cup into the bowl; brush around the sides and under the rim. Next, fill a spray bottle with equal parts water and white vinegar. Spritz onto paper towels or a microfiber cloth, and hone in on those telltale soap drips and toothpaste spatters on faucets, mirrors, countertops, and in the sink — a definite dirty-bathroom giveaway. Next, shake out your rug or bath mat to fluff it up so it looks recently vacuumed. Now, flush the bleach that’s been sitting in the bowl.

2. Put the Living Room in Order Run a microfiber cloth over the coffee table and other dusty surfaces, like the TV screen. Pile magazines or books into neat stacks on the end tables; gather all of the stray remotes in one place. Plump up throw pillows and chair cushions (even easier: flip the latter, if possible). Use a clean corner of the microfiber cloth to nab any obvious clumps of pet hair or dust stuck to upholstery or carpeting. Drape throws to hide dingy chair arms or furniture stains.

3. Speed-Clean the Mudroom Dry dirt is easier to remove than sticky mud, so don’t even bother cleaning until the footprints get crusty; then just open the back door and sweep it all out. Wash the floor the fast, no-bucket-necessary way, with either a water-dampened microfiber mop or an all-in-one mopping system like Swiffer WetJet. Zap any scuff marks as you go with a bit of baking soda on a damp sponge.

4. Think Sink Stop pretending you’re going to rinse those dishes piling up on the counter, and load them in the dishwasher (or if not, at least stack them neatly in the sink). Run some water over drippy detergent bottles, then stick those, pot scrubbers, and rubber gloves under the sink.

5. Skip the Oven If you haven’t run the self-cleaning cycle, and can’t commit to this hours-long task, spot-clean dead-giveaway grime — stovetop spills, grease on the door handle or inside the glass door — with a sponge and a dash of baking soda (it’ll rinse off easier than a sudsy cleaner, FYI).

6. De-hair the Chairs Don’t waste your time with a lint roller. Instead, don a pair of clean rubber gloves. Run your hands over the arms, seat, and back of the furniture, gathering and tossing the fur as it balls up. For water-safe upholstery (which doesn’t change or transfer color when blotted with a damp cloth in a hidden spot), wet the gloves for better pickup.

7. Overhaul the Front Hall Grab a laundry basket, storage bin, or large shopping bag to serve as a junk receptacle, plus a plastic grocery bag and microfiber cloth. Load up your bin with any shoes, gloves, or hats that litter the foyer. Stash hall-table clutter that could get lost (mail, keys) in the plastic bag; put the bag into the bin. While you’re near the door, shake doormats outside. Drop off the bin in the laundry room or a nearby bedroom, or hide it in a closet.

8. Combat Cooking Fumes Try this to erase the scent of yesterday’s broiled fish: In a saucepan, mix 3 tablespoons of white vinegar and 1 cup of water and boil for several minutes. Vinegar is acidic and odors are alkaline, so the former will neutralize the latter.

9. Quick-Wash Your Desktop Move light items like files and your keyboard or laptop out of the way (just work around the bigger stuff). If your work surface is laminate or another washable material, spritz on all-purpose cleaner, wipe with a sponge, and rinse. For sealed wood surfaces, use a vinegar-water mix. Let either cleaner soak on sticky stains for a few seconds, then scrape with your fingernail or a credit card; wipe and rinse. Ink stains will come off with a cotton ball dipped in rubbing alcohol; rinse with a sponge.

10. Fireplace Fix After the ash is completely cold, sprinkle it with damp tea leaves or coffee grounds to cover the stale smell and keep down dust (so you don’t inhale it). Then scoop the pile with a fireplace shovel (don’t worry if you can’t get it all — leaving an inch or two behind is fine), and dump it into a metal can, bucket, or even an old stockpot or clay flowerpot. Discard the mess outside, ideally in a metal trash container, but definitely away from your house.

11. Hide the Stains Maybe the covering is a little worse for the wear, too. Have your kids cut out paper snowflakes to discreetly tape over problem areas. Scatter a few extras, so the look seems intentional. If all else fails, set serving trivets on top.

12. Fluff Up the Carpet GHRI gives top marks to the Woolite Pod tool from Bissell ($4.39, for info), which cleans and fluffs fibers in minutes. Also, see previous rug fix for wood floors.

13. Fix Up the Walls Your best bet: A stain-repair stick like Minwax Blend-Fil Pencil in a close hue (assorted colors, $4.49 each, for details). It’s like concealer for your baseboard’s blemishes. Second best: A Crayola marker can help stained-wood boards.

14. Get the Nicks Out You’ve got two choices: Marker it or cover it. For the former, try the GHRI’s favorite furniture markers, the Guardsman Touch-Up Marker Kit ($4.50 for three, Apply to scratch, buff with a soft cloth, and top with a coat of furniture polish. Or just institute your own cover-up: For coffee or end tables, arrange books, coasters, or nibbles on top, or drape with a nice scarf. For the dining room table, need we even say it? Haul out that holiday tablecloth.

15. Fake a Super-Clean Bathroom Tuck stuff from the vanity into the cabinet or drawers, and close the shower door or stretch out the curtain (sure, nosy guests may still snoop inside, but at least you’ve cut down on visual clutter). Clean up spots and hair from the floor with a water-dampened paper towel. Finally, put out fresh hand towels.

16. Make It Easier Next Time Add a shoe bag to the inside of your entryway closet door: It makes a great stash spot for hats and gloves, unopened mail, and (yep) shoes when you’re picking up in a hurry.

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“Welcoming” Front Door Color Ideas

Gray DoorThe Grace of Gray

Gray is such an easy neutral to live with. It doesn’t pack a punch but rather has a quiet strength that is much sleeker and more current than nondescript beige. A gray door has a way of balancing a bright exterior and lending just the right amount of steely modernity to more traditional structures.


Royal DoorLike Twilight

A more complex and mesmerizing version of a basic blue, a deep purplish blue makes a front door as swank as a vintage velvet smoking jacket. This dramatically dark jewel tone is a nuanced shade that shifts in response to the light, going from brilliant to sultry in the course of a day.


Black DoorNo-Fail Black

Just like the little black dress, a black-painted front door in satin or gloss is elegant and classic.  Black mingles well with shingles, stone, and brick, but it is most striking when paired with white. As Mary Lawlor, manager of color marketing at Kelly-Moore Paints, says,  “A front door painted in gloss black with white trim never goes out of style.”


Red DoorReady for Red

With a mostly monochromatic color scheme inside the house, designer Jennifer Dyer of Jeneration Interiors in Los Angeles saw the front door as an opportunity for color. While citing the historic appeal of red as well as its positive feng shui vibe, in the end Dyer says she uses this hue because “more than anything, I just like the color.”

Lime DoorLikable Lime

When Austin, Texas-based architect Steve Zagorski chose the color for a client’s, he picked citrus green for “contrast, contradiction, and juxtaposition.” Lime, an unexpected, standout color in a mostly bland neighborhood, felt particularly lively against the gray-clad exterior, and Zagorski says it reflects the “true nature of its colorful inhabitants.”

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Let the “Tax Man” Pay for Your Home Improvements

Sitting by the mailbox, waiting for your tax refund? Stop waiting and start thinking about the best ways to invest that money in your home.

Your home is likely one of your biggest assets, so it makes good financial sense to take care of it. Keeping your home up to date will contribute to its longevity, heighten your enjoyment and help you sell your home if you ever decide to. So, instead of a fleeting ski weekend, why not consider investing at least a portion of your refund in your home?

Even modest investments can improve your home’s value and make it more livable. Drawing inspiration from Zillow Digs, here are five home improvement projects you may want to consider, all under $3,000:

New front door

First impressions mean a lot. A new front door can enhance curb appeal, improve security and lower utility costs. According to Remodeling magazine’s Remodeling 2014 Cost vs. Value Report, a $1,162 steel entry door replacement project returns 96.6 percent of your investment. Fiberglass doors are generally more expensive, but they’re still a smart investment. According to the same report, a $2,822 fiberglass entry door project will yield a return of 70.8 percent.

Garage door replacement

The appearance and condition of your garage door also plays a big role in your home’s overall appearance. According to the Cost vs. Value Report, an uninsulated, 16-by-7-foot garage door costing $1,534 will increase your home’s resale value by $1,283, a return of 83.7 percent.

Weatherized windows

For just a couple hundred dollars, a do-it-yourselfer with the most basic of skills can install insulation, caulk and door seals, reducing household energy consumption by almost 35 percent in the typical weatherized home. Willing to invest more? Windows can allow major losses of heat in the winter and cool air in the summer, requiring more energy — and money — to keep your home comfortable. Replacing old windows with Energy Star-qualified windows can reduce household energy bills by 7 to 15 percent and will shrink your home’s carbon footprint.

Fresh coat of paint

This may be the perfect time to kiss your dated mint bathroom or mauve rec room goodbye. A gallon of paint typically costs less than $40 and will provide one-coat coverage for about 350 square feet. If you think you might be putting your house on the market sometime soon, opt for neutral colors that have more universal appeal. Even if you’re staying put, a fresh coat of paint can update and personalize your space for a fraction of the cost of a total remodel.


Updated home lighting can enhance your decor, save on energy costs and increase your safety. Even if a new chandelier isn’t in your budget, dimmer switches will allow you to control the intensity of light throughout your home while saving electricity. A basic dimmer costs less than $15 while fancier, remote-control and programmable dimmers can be purchased for $40 and up.

Metal can or recessed lights will brighten dark corners while under-cabinet light strips can add much-needed light to kitchens, craft rooms and laundry rooms. Unless you have knowledge of electrical wiring, you’ll need to hire a pro to handle the installation.

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Combating Pollen in Your Home

Pollen and other allergens are unavoidable outdoors, but if you’re having trouble with your allergies inside your home, it’s time to do some interior detoxing. Allergy season has started and The Mather Company wants to make sure you are prepared and able to breathe easy despite the seemingly increased presence of allergens.

Wash your bedding. This might seem a no-brainer, but you should be washing your bedding at least once a week. Wash sheets, pillows and covers in hot water at least once a week. If you are allergic to dust mites, encase your pillows and mattress in dust mite proof covers.

Clean your curtains. Heavy drapes and window dressings can harbor loads of dust, dirt and allergens. Vacuum them with the hose attachment and hand wash them in cold water.

Love your feather duster? It’s time to pitch it! Dusting should be done with moist cloths to catch dust, where feather dusters simply spread dust particles around the room.

Keep shoes by the door. Tracking in dirt and other outdoor particles is an easy way to irritate your allergies. There could even be pollen on your shoes! According to the EPA, the bottom of your shoes can have pollen grains, mold spores, grass, ragweed, pet dander, and more—all of which are germs and allergens. Place a shoe rack next to the door and ensure anyone who comes in places their shoes there.

Unclutter your home. Magazines, mail, paper and collectibles are all dust harboring items. Clean these out of your home regularly. Less stuff means less places for dust to cling to!

Vacuum your home with a HEPA filter once a week. A HEPA (high efficiency particulate air) filter traps very fine dust particles that other vacuum filters only re-circulate these particles back into the air of your home. Yuck!

On the subject of filters, your air conditioning filters should be cleaned at least once per month, more frequently if you notice dust building up. These are all allergens and dust particles pumping into your home—get rid of them. Your air ducts should be inspected as well. Clean ductwork equals better air quality and less allergens floating around.

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Common Landscaping Disasters & How to Fix Them

Avoid disaster and make your yard look this beautiful. HGTV has brought together some of the best gardening experts to share their insider tips on how to avoid common landscaping disasters and what to do to fix them if it does happen.

Excessive Lawn Ornamentation
People often make the mistake of putting too many decorative items in their front yard, which can be a distraction from the beauty of the natural landscape. Before setting out that lawn ornament, ask yourself why are you putting it there and how it fits in to the context of your overall design and plant materials. Stick with one crisp choice, even if it is a little silly. One little whimsical statement goes a lot further than 10.

Planting in the Wrong Place
Improper plant placement is another common mistake. People often do not take into consideration the proper sunlight and exposure for their plants. Be sure to pay attention to the little tag that you get when you buy the plant. When it comes to planting trees, you need to remember how big they could get and how much space they are going to need. Also think about focal points — choose something that’s going to look good year-round.

Cutting Grass Too Short
It’s a common myth that cutting the grass shorter means you have to mow it less. That’s actually not the case, and you can do more harm than good. If you scalp the lawn, it could result in a bare patch, which could make it too inviting for insects and/or susceptible to disease. The key is to cut the lawn different lengths throughout the year. During the summer, the lawn needs a little more shade, so let the blades grow just a little bit more. That way the water doesn’t evaporate so quickly. During the winter, cut it a little bit shorter so that the sunlight can actually get into the soil.

Failing to Fertilize Properly
There are two ways that fertilizing can be a mistake. The first one is not doing it at all. The other is fertilizing too much or fertilizing improperly. Ask someone at your garden center to recommend a proper fertilizer for your yard. It’s a good idea to do it at least twice a year, once in the spring and again in the fall. You should never do so in the bright sun, and watering always needs to follow. It’s also a good idea to mix in fertilizer when planting new plants. Make sure that, when I dig the hole, I mix in new soil and I also mix in fertilizer. So the plant, over the period of a year, is going to have a nice time release of fertilizer.

Picking the Wrong Plants
Just because a plant looks pretty doesn’t mean it actually belongs in your yard. You have to take into consideration your particular backyard, with filtered light or shade, and what’s going to work best for you. If it’s a really hot, sunny spot, maybe you want to go with a succulent. Get a great landscaping book for your area to help you figure out what to plant and when, as well as how and when to fertilize.

Not Accounting for Wildlife
Before you decide what to plant in your garden, think about what pests you have in relation to what you’d like to plant. For example, pretty flowering plants can attract deer, so you might want to throw in some bitter-tasting ones among them. Once they taste the wrong one, they are likely to stop coming around. If there are wild rabbits around, you may need to shelter your garden bed by building a small fence. Chicken wire is another option.

Being Shortsighted
Being shortsighted is a common problem because many people don’t know what the eventual growth of their plants will be. You need to find out how they spread, how they reproduce and what type of maintenance they require. There are actually software programs available where you can design a landscape and then click a button, and it will show you the growth rate of those plants over a year or two years and so on.

Improper Pruning
Pruning can be just as much of an art form as it is a technique, but when pruning is improperly done, you can do more harm than good. In fact, in some cases, it’s better not to prune at all than to do it improperly. Every plant has a different pruning process. The fall is usually the best time of year to prune, but be sure to find out for sure. There are great books and manuals as well as websites that offer tips and explain proper pruning techniques.

Irrational Irrigation
Use the correct amount of water for your plants and lawn. A lot of homeowners make the mistake of over-watering. Most lawns just need about an inch of a water per week. The best time of day to water the lawn (and usually any plant) is early morning so that way it has all day to dry. You can buy a sprinkler with an automatic timer to reduce water waste, or even put in an irrigation system in.

Overlooking Maintenance
Part of planning a garden is also planning time to maintain it. Make up a maintenance schedule and abide by it. Garden beds need to be weeded at least once or twice a month, minimum. If you don’t have the time to take care of your garden, make sure you have enough money to pay somebody to do it.

Underestimating the Cost
There is a lot of sticker shock in the world of plants. People often think “it’s just a couple of plants, how expensive could it be?” Landscaping is actually 30 percent more expensive than any other type of home improvement project. Another area that gets underestimated is the budget, and one of the biggest factors in a budget is the labor involved. It always costs more, and people cost the most. When you’re starting a landscape project, make sure you have enough budget, because you want to do the job one time, and you want to do it right.

Not Having a Plan
Don’t start a landscaping project without a plan. Decide on a specific theme or look and then draw it out on paper. Figure out where you want to put your plants and shrubs in relation to the shape and style of your house. Examine ways to bring the inside out so that when you are finished, you have a nice, harmonious design. Don’t forget to factor in your budget, and when you hit the nursery, stick to it. If you follow the plan, you (and your landscape) will reap the rewards.

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Get Yourself Organized with Style

If you resolve to unclutter your workspace this year and tackle the piles of paper, let us help by showing you the tools to get the job done.

Pack It Up

Corral everything you can’t part with into one of these vintage-inspired suitcases. No one will ever know what’s inside — the’ll be too busy complimenting your retro-looking desk organizers

Rank and File

It’s the bland manila folder that makes you procrastinate, right? Not anymore. With file folders as pretty as these, you won’t be able to resist working through what’s inside. This decorative filing set includes a linen covered file holder with six coordinating folders.

Contact Points

Say good-bye to the purely functional Rolodex and hello to an index with both form and function in mind. Case in point, keep your contacts in tip-top shape inside this sleek index. This little chrome number will launch a revival of the old-school desk accessory.

Stick It

You’ll ask, “Why didn’t I think of this?” Incredibly simple, incredibly smart, incredibly versatile, this arcitects strap is made out of silicone and hangs outstretched on a wall just waiting to store anything from towels to shoes to magazines.

Filed Under Fabulous

“The only way to avoid piles of paper accumulating around your home is to have a home for your papers,” says organizing expert Jodie Watson.

And what a better way to house your papers than in a flashy filing cabinet? Just slide this under your desk, and keep all your important documents in one safe place.

Hidden Bookshelf

If the traditional bookcase seems a bit boring, look to these wall-mounted brackets to hold and display your collection. When filled with books (up to 15 pounds) the metal brackets virtually disappear and leave only the book spines visible.

Label Maker

A set of these bronze-finish label holders will help tame any unruly bins or baskets. Use them for the home office, front entry, or anywhere you need to distinguish the bills to be paid from the permission slips to be signed.

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Vacuums that are the Best For Your Health

The right vacuum is key for good health . “Dust can trigger allergies and asthma,” says James Sublett, MD, a spokesman for the American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology.

Vacuuming with a good machine cuts the amount of dust you inhale. We tested models with a high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter, which filters out 99.7 % of small particles. Here are our top picks.

Self-Propelled Vaccuum

The dirt: The WindTunnel nabbed deeply lodged crumbs and dirt, even when used on a sheepskin rug. Our testers loved the “dirt finder” — a red light tells you there’s dirt; green means you’re dust-free. The dust bag is made of a HEPA-grade weave, so irritating particles can’t escape.

Extra credit: You can turn on the self-propel feature for extra gliding power. “It saved my back,” reported one tester.

Budget-Friendly Vacuum

The dirt: The Eureka, with 8 amps, isn’t as powerful as some other vacuums. But this bargain-shopper’s delight gets the job done. It aced our spilled-dry-oatmeal test, and it’s low-maintenance: The bagless canister was the easiest we tested to dump, take apart, and wash.

“There’s nothing fancy about this vac, but it did a great job picking up spilled potting soil from my carpet and mystery food bits from under my fridge,” commented one tester.

Extra credit: It’s light and compact — great for small spaces!

Pet-Friendly Vacuum

The dirt: The Eraser’s secret weapon: a felt lint brush in front of the suction foot picks up fur and hair, while a rotating brush sucks it all inside. There’s a myriad of useful attachments, too, including a flexible contour tool for hard-to-get spots, like armrests and stairs where pet hair can collect. The vacuum also gets rid of chunky pet-food bits.

Extra credit: No need to mark your calendar for when to change the HEPA filter — the “clean filter” indicator light will come on when it’s time to get a new one

The Flexible Vacuum

The dirt: The Ball rolls on, well, a large yellow ball, which allows it to move back and forth and in circles. So it’s a cinch to get at cereal crumbs between the dining room chair legs, and stray hairs on the bathroom floor.

It’s got a big price tag, but at least you’ll save money on the HEPA filter, which only needs to be rinsed with water. (Once the filter is wet, allergens should go down the drain rather than becoming airborne, but if you’re an allergic family, rinse it outside to be safe.)

Extra credit: The Dyson is petite, so you can stash it in a small closet.

Tips From the Allergist

Consider the crowd. Don’t become Ms. Clean when the kids are around, because they’re closer to the ground where the dirt is.

Go outside. Reduce indoor irritants by taking your vacuum and trash can outside to remove the dust bag or empty the canister.

Check the filter. Generally, you should replace HEPA filters every six months, but check the manual — each machine is different.

Time it right. Don’t vacuum right before bed; even HEPA vacuums kick up a bit of dust, and it takes time for it to settle.

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The Cost of Building a Deck

Putting up a new deck can improve both the function and look of your home and its future resale value. The costs of new decks can vary significantly, however, depending on square footage, the type of materials used and whether you choose to hire a contractor or do it yourself. So, what can you expect to pay for a deck?

Deck type and size

The most important cost consideration is the size and type of deck you want. The bigger the square footage, the more you can expect to pay. The type of deck boards you use will also factor into your overall cost. For example, using the least expensive type of lumber available, you can build an 8-by-10 foot deck for approximately $500 in materials. A raised, 10-by-16 foot deck will cost around $1,500. Expect these costs to double or triple if you use a contractor. Multilevel or wrap-around decks will add an extra cost.

Where you’re putting your deck also matters. If it’s low enough to the ground, you may be able to place the joists on four-way deck blocks ($10 to $20), rather than digging post holes. It’s possible to level the soil and place these directly on the ground, but most homeowners choose to add gravel or a large paving stone to help keep the structure from shifting. Higher decks mean you need to pour concrete pilings for support pillars. (Your city or town will have rules about how high a deck can be before it requires certain supports.) Post holes will have to be augured and the posts set in place before any construction can begin.

Materials matter

Treated lumber is the most common type of deck material, but your options vary. Redwood, for example, is a high-quality wood choice, or you may choose tongue-and-groove pine decking ($300 to $600) to help keep bugs and plants from rooting through. PVC “boards” are also a popular option because they are weather resistant, won’t crack or splinter and don’t require painting. They are available both in designs that mimic wood grain and more vibrant colors as desired.

If you don’t want a raised deck, consider a flagstone or poured concrete option. Both require digging, leveling and tamping of large ground sections, but they don’t require painting or staining once complete. Hiring a pro is recommended for any stone or concrete work.

Pros versus DIY

If you hire a pro, expect to pay between $8 and $10 per square foot if you use standard lumber. Redwood will run you $27 and $35 per square foot. A large, multilevel deck off of a second story with staircases, for example, could run up to $15,000 if you hire a contractor, but you could do the same work yourself for half that cost.

There are several benefits to bringing in a pro, especially if you have a complex deck project. The first is experience: A contractor will know what works and what doesn’t and can advise you if a particular idea is too costly or simply won’t work with your house. In addition, contractors come with a crew and all the necessary tools, and they’ll bring or order all the materials, meaning you don’t need to worry about logistics. Make sure to get a guarantee in writing about the deck’s workmanship: typically, this will cover any structural issues over a certain number of years. You’ll want to make sure that the contractor you hire will take care of any permits that are required. Also ask about how your contractor will assemble your deck. Lag bolts will last longer than carriage bolts, for example.

Extras to consider

You can also improve your new deck with extras: for example, gas lines for a barbecue ($300), built-in speakers ($250) or a pergola ($300). Remember, too, that if you have an old deck, it needs to be removed. This can add up between $1,000 and $3,000 to a contractor’s cost, depending on how much he charges to have your old decking hauled away. Some may include this free of charge if your project is large enough. Other extra costs may include fixes to your home if proper flashing wasn’t previously used or if you have significant water damage.

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Caring for Your Laminate Flooring

Laminate floors are tough and resilient, easy to care for, long lasting, and beautiful. If you treat laminate floors right, they will reward you with many years of utility and pleasure. Here are 10 tips for protecting and maintaining laminate floors.

1. Lift don’t drag. Laminate floors are scratch resistant, but not scratch proof, so never drag or push heavy furniture or appliances across laminate floors. Instead, use a dolly or hand truck to move heavy items or lift and carry them.

2. Help floors and furniture coexist in peace. Use rubber casters or soft pads (stick-on felt pads are a good option) to protect laminate floors from furniture damage. Also, slightly reposition furniture occasionally.

3. Humidify, if necessary. Excessive expansion and contraction of laminate flooring as a result of wide swings in temperature or humidity can cause gaps in the joints between floor boards or even buckling. Therefore, if you live in an area with wide variations in humidity, you may want to use a humidifier to maintain a consistent level of humidity year round.

4. Keep laminate floors dry. If liquid of any kind spills on your laminate floor, clean it up immediately, since moisture can seep into the joints and cause long-term damage.

5. Remove stains with care. Always use a soft cloth when removing stains and, if you are scraping up hard-set material like dried food or candle wax, use a rubber spatula. Check with your laminate floor manufacturer for the proper way to remove tough stains like paint, nail polish and ink.

6. Clean regularly. Keep laminate floors clean by sweeping, dust mopping or vacuuming daily or every other day. For more thorough cleaning, follow the manufacturer’s instructions and be sure to check your manufacturer’s warranty for any maintenance requirement or limitations. For example, you may have to follow a specified maintenance schedule or use certain cleaning products to comply with the terms of the warranty. You may be able to buy a laminate floor cleaning kit from the manufacturer, but there also are effective general-purpose laminate floor cleaning products on the market. Never use soap or abrasive materials on laminate floors.

7. Don’t wax. If properly cleaned, laminate floors should retain their shine without waxing. In fact, waxing laminate floors can be counterproductive, since it will dull their luster.

8. Use door mats and consider a no-shoes policy. Dirt, gravel and other abrasive materials on the soles of shoes can take a toll on laminate floors over time. Therefore, be sure you have heavy-duty mats at all entrance doors so that shoes can be cleaned thoroughly whenever anyone enters your home. You also might consider a no-shoes policy indoors, especially for family members.

9. Keep pets nails trimmed. If you have dogs and/or cats, keep their nails trimmed to avoid scratches to the surface of laminate floors.

10. Repair with care. Damage to laminate floors usually can be repaired. Whether you can do it yourself or need the help of a professional will depend on your do-it-yourself skills and the magnitude of the damage. Surface scratches can be touched up easily using repair kits containing silicon filler and colored wax sticks. Repair kits are sold by laminate floor manufacturers. More extensive damage may require replacing boards. If you plan to tackle board replacement yourself, first check with the manufacturer for instructions and tips on how to complete the process.

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Interior Design & Remodeling Trends for 2014

The end of the year brought many things. Special time spent with family and loved ones. Presents from Santa. The promise of a fresh start. And, if you’re like us, an insatiable desire to change up your environment by updating it with the latest trends.

If you are feeling the pull toward renovating, redecorating, or revising your home for 2014, there are some exciting trends you may want to incorporate. We break it down for you below.

Color Trends

Radiant orchid is the Pantone color of the year, but color trends for 2014 are also feeling blue. Blues across the color wheel are predicted to be hot hues for 2014.

Navy, in particular, has captured the fancy of design experts. “Navy blue will be a big trend for 2014. I’m seeing a lot of the shade on the runways, on the streets, in editorials, in chic interiors… I actually think everyone will get it in 2014,” said designer Mark D. Sikes in House Beautiful’s Top Decorating Trends for 2014.

Glamming It Up

Another way to change up your space: inject a glam feel as a nod to art décor or the Great Gatsby. This is another hot 2014 trend showing up in wallpaper, textiles, furniture, and accessories.

“Move over white walls, in 2014 we’ll be seeing rooms with a lot more drama and glamour. Dark, moody walls in black will be the perfect backdrop to the metallic accessories that we’re all loving right now,” said Jeanine Hays of in House Beautiful.

In the Kitchen

When it comes to renovating, kitchens are going glam too. “The kitchen has long since become the heart of the home, and now designers are dressing it up accordingly,” said Elle Décor, “with elaborate custom cabinetry painted in rich gemstone colors, and accented with gleaming brass or chrome, all lit by unusual lighting fixtures. Kitchens are becoming downright glamorous.”

Floating shelves are also a hot 2014 design trend according to remodeling firm the Neil Kelly Company.

Bathroom Beauties

A recent Hanley Wood survey revealed that 58 percent of those planning to renovate in 2014 are planning bathroom updates.

The trend toward creating a spa-like environment in the bathroom continues, with “clean lines, fluidity and futuristic bath fixtures. Bring a spa-like feel to your master bath by indulging in floating sinks and softer, contoured shapes that bring a serene feel to the bathroom and give a feeling of spaciousness. Add depth to the bathroom by incorporating textures in the bathroom with mosaic tiles that feel luxurious and modern. Blend in futuristic trends like a waterfall shower, modern touch faucets, and heated floors to add interest and visual splendor,” said Scott Yancey from Flipping Las Vegas.

Kelly agrees, emphasizing oversized walk-in showers and elegant standalone tubs as strong bathroom trends for 2014.

The Tech Touch

For those who are remodeling, Kelly also points out the No. 1 trend for 2014 that brings some much-needed tech help to the home. U-Socket is a wall plug that “has two built-in USB ports to power devices including iPhones, gaming devices, digital cameras, Kindles and iPads… and features a smart sensor that allows it to shut off when the device is fully charged.”

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