Tips for Homeowners


Older Homes and Asbestos

Older Homes and Asbestos

One of the fun things about watching home renovation shows on television is the demolition. The more dramatically someone swings a sledgehammer, the better the viewing. And make no mistake—demo can be fun! But before you start smashing everything up, there are some things to remember about stirring up the ghosts of a house’s past.

Unless your house was built after the mid-1980s or so, the chances of asbestos turning up somewhere in your house is pretty likely. The older your house, the bigger the chances your house has it somewhere. You’ll want to have your house tested for it and if it turns up, you’ll need to call a licensed and experienced professional to remove it.

So what is asbestos? Asbestos is six naturally occurring fibers that can be separated into threads. These fibers seemed like magic for a long time because they are strong, fire-resistant and do not conduct electricity.

The Problem

The problem is that it’s also toxic and linked to cancer. And yet it was in almost everything, dating back to the ancient Roman buildings. Here in the U.S., asbestos use increased dramatically during the post-war manufacturing boom. Asbestos is frequently associated with insulation, but it goes beyond that. It was everywhere—roofing, cement, plastics, floor and ceiling tiles, paints, wall panels, window putty, stucco, adhesives, vinyl sheet flooring. And on and on. It wasn’t just housing either. Shipyards, schools, offices. You get the idea.

When you start tearing apart a house without removing asbestos, those fibers can break free from where they’ve been hiding and become airborne. Once wafting around in the air, we breathe it in and it sticks to our lungs, causing inflammation.

Before you hit the panic button, here’s something to remember: asbestos products in good condition can usually be left alone because they won’t bother you. The problem arises when the products begin showing signs of deterioration or are ripped out improperly. Or, say, it’s time to change out the insulation.

As long as you take proper precautions, like hiring professionals for testing and removal, you’ll be okay. A little common sense and a good plan before redoing your older home can save a lot of time, effort and your health.


Landscaping for Four-legged Family Members

When you move into your dream home, chances are you’ve also taken your pets into consideration before signing on the dotted line. If you have a dog, your yard is probably a pretty important part of selecting a house. Some people call landscaping with pets in mind “petscaping” or “dogscaping” but the fancy names don’t mean you have to do anything complicated. Making a few easy adjustments to your backyard with your pooch in mind can make everyone a little happier. Here are just a few suggestions to get you started.

A Place to do their Business

Homeowners often complain that they spend a lot of time watering their lawns only to have dog urine make brown dead patches. That’s the ammonia in the urine and, really, it’s not like the dog can help it. We all have to answer to Mother Nature. But you can easily “spot train” a dog to go in a designated place, so long as it’s clean and comfortable on their paws.

A Place to Run

Many dogs have an instinct to “patrol” the yard and protect it. (Of course, some dogs just need to run and burn off energy!) It’s a sweet gesture but some dogs are so diligent that they wear “tracks” around the yard where they like to run. Keep in mind that by nature dogs are territorial and pack animals so they innately want to protect their homes and their packs—that would be you. Trying to fight or curb a dog’s natural instincts usually just leads to frustration. It’s much easier to incorporate their needs into the landscape and have it look good. To create a running area or track, watch for the areas where dogs like to run and turn them into paths with surfaces like decomposed granite, mulch or pavers. Without any sort of surface the soil can get worn down and that’s a bummer.

Digging Pit

Many dogs love to dig so if you have pooches that like to get down and dirty, do them and yourself a favor and provide a digging pit. You can easily train them where they are welcome to dig or you can go an extra step and make them an area. Dig a couple of feet down and place things like sturdy toys and chews in the hole for them to discover. Reward them so they know they’re allowed to dig in “their” spot and keep replenishing the goodies so it’s always fun for them. If there is an area you don’t want them digging in, placing smooth rocks over the area can help discourage them. Or you can even bury the rocks a little bit so that when they start to dig and hit the rocks, they can go no further. (Please do not use anything that a dog can catch its nails on or possibly injure itself.)


All dogs need adequate fencing to keep them safe and inside your yard. Unfortunately, some dogs love adventure and are prone to hop fences. To help keep dogs from escaping, consider an extra tall fence that helps discourage jumpers and climbers. Similarly, keep the bottom of the fence secure and make sure the foundation is deep so they can’t dig out from underneath. Anything that they can use as a springboard, such as picnic tables or lawn chairs, should also stay far, far away from fencing. Dogs are clever and it’s amazing what they can come up with when it comes to bolting out of a yard.

Swimming Pools

Safety fences around swimming pools have become popular in the last couple of decades and for good reason—they help keep children safe. But they can also keep dogs safe! Dogs can get tired when swimming, have trouble climbing out of a pool or even fall in unexpectedly. When supervision isn’t available, a secure gate can add an extra layer of security. Also, remember that not all dogs know how to swim. Please be very, very careful if your dog shows interest in swimming.

Organic Pesticides

Unlike humans, dogs walk around their yards without shoes, which means their feet can pick up whatever is on the ground. At some point, of course, dogs clean themselves and lick their paws. To keep lawns green and healthy without sacrificing pet safety, try topdressing with topsoil, grasscycling or using organic fertilizer. Because fertilizers need some time to dissolve, irrigate immediately.

For Older or Special Needs Dogs

Dogs age like humans do, which means mobility might be hindered as they get older. Similarly, some dogs require wheelchairs or have medical issues, such as hip dysplasia. A flat, smooth walking surface is best for these dogs.

You don’t need to be a master gardener to landscaper to create a backyard oasis for your dogs. Just some essentials and you are good to go!

Dogscaping basics:




Space to exercise

Potty area

Access to clean water


Don’t Scrap Those Wood Floors Yet!

When you’re in the business of fixing up old homes, it’s not uncommon to come across original hardwood floors in need of repair. Sometimes those repairs seem insurmountable: we’ve seen everything from warped boards to water damage, cracks, termite infestation, deep scratches or gouges and everyone’s favorite—pet urine. It’s no wonder some people feel like the best or easiest option is to rip the entire floor out and start again.

The good news is that most hardwood floors can be fixed. In some cases a floor might need sanding but in others maybe not but either way refinished floors can add character and charm to any home. Refinishing the surface (which is best done by a pro, by the way) can not only remove a lot of damage, it update the entire look of the room if that’s what you’re going for. Different colored stains can make a formerly light wood surface look like rich mahogany or vise versa.

When certain spots are beyond repair, all is not lost. Individual boards or sections can be removed with new boards patching in the holes. Then when the entire floor is refinished old and new will blend together. A properly refinished floor can last another couple of decades.

The look of a wood floor isn’t the only thing that can be fixed. Squeaky boards can be fixed. Termite and insect infestations can be treated.

Over the long term, a well-cared for wood floor can last for a hundred years or more. What’s even better is that refinishing a floor is MUCH cheaper than installing a new wood or laminate floor. And they last a lot longer than laminate, which is an added bonus.

The best thing to do before starting work on your floors is to research as much as you can about the topic. The more you know, the more likely you’ll be happy with the results when you’re finished.


22 Unique and Creative ideas for creating Coffee tables and End Tables

Looking to spruce up your home and add a little DIY touch to one of the rooms in your house.  Here are some great examples of ways to create coffee tables or end tables out of every day seen items that are either around the house or at yard sales.  They are easy refinished items and they look great inside your home too!



Read more


7 Costly Home Improvement Don’ts

A little prep and a few precautions on your next project can save money and help you avoid having to the job over again.


1. Don’t Ignore Safety

This goes for any home improvement project. Simple precautions like wearing safety goggles, not overloading outlets and turning off breakers will only take a few minutes or a few extra bucks, but these steps can save you from disaster.

Read more