Walk On Wood

Hardwood flooring is one of the most sought-after features in new and existing homes. This eco-friendly feature can turn your home into a warm and inviting space to relax and entertain. Selecting the right flooring can be a challenge, however, depending on your design style, budget and personal preference. Before choosing a wood floor for your home, here are a few things to keep in mind, courtesy of the National Wood Flooring Association:

There are two basic types of wood flooring. Solid wood flooring can be sanded and refinished many times and can be used in all rooms, including kitchens and powder rooms. Engineered wood is manufactured with multiple layers of wood veneers, so it expands and contracts less than solid wood flooring when temperatures and humidity fluctuate. Engineered wood is a better alternative for basements and other below-ground living areas.

Hardwood floors come in different finishes. Satin gloss offers the most shine and reflects the most light, so scratches and normal wear and tear are less noticeable, while matte finishes offer the least shine.

Light woods like ash or maple help make a room appear more open and airy, while darker woods like walnut or mahogany can give a room a more stately and refined appearance.

To keep floors looking new, clean them frequently using a dust mop or vacuum. Avoid using a wet mop as water can dull the finish or damage the wood over time. To prevent scratches, place scatter rugs at all entrances and floor protector pads on the bottom of furniture legs.

When spills occur, wipe them immediately with a dry or slightly damp cloth. When floors begin to look dull, use a wood flooring cleaner to renew the luster. Use only products that are compatible with your wood floor type. The wrong cleaning product can damage the finish and possibly the wood itself.

With these simple tips in mind, hardwood floors can provide comfort and enjoyment for many years.


9 Unusual Recycled Homes

These homeowners take recycling to the next level by living in recycled homes.

Converting airplanes, water towers, even satellite stations into living spaces is no easy task, but it’s done all the time around the country. By salvaging these otherwise unusable spaces, unique homes are created frequently for a lot less than buying new.

From churches to missile silos to fire houses, here are nine of the best (and, sometimes, most strange) home conversions out there.



Despite their humble beginnings, barn conversions are some of the more expensive home conversions out there, mostly because the barn is just a shell, so an extensive amount of work must go into making the space a true home. This home in Bryn Mawr, Pa. utilizes the exposed barn beams and rough-hewn hardwood floors. But its windowed entryway, four bedrooms, 3.5 bathrooms, built-in bookcases and gourmet kitchen make it feel more modern.

Water towers


Most converted water tower homes are located in Europe, but there are a few in the U.S. including this one in Sunset Beach, Calif. The home offers a 360-degree view of the mountains and the ocean and has an aquarium desk, circular fire pit, dance floor and Jacuzzi. The home is now featured as a special vacation rental — for $600 a night.

Warehouses or factories

Edmonds+Lee Architects    

What may be the oldest home conversion trend, the warehouse or factory conversion is fairly common in cities around the country. The Oriental Warehouse Loft building, in San Francisco’s South Beach neighborhood, added beautiful, modern spaces into an old warehouse while keeping many of the industrial details intact and the exterior untouched. The building offers units with one to three bedrooms priced at just under $1 million.

Fire stations


Fire station conversions are fairly common. Fire departments frequently outgrow their old stations as their communities (and even the size of their fire engines) grow, leaving behind a historic building with plenty of space. This 2,500-square-foot San Francisco home, worth nearly $2 million, was converted from a fire house, but it retained much of the original look including the “Commercial Fire Dispatch” sign and the front garage doors.


 JoAnn Ussery    

Believe it or not, this converted commercial airplane home isn’t the only one of its kind in the nation. JoAnn Ussery’s Benoit, Miss. home was destroyed in an ice storm and instead of rebuilding it, she purchased a salvaged Continental Airlines Boeing 727 for $2,000 and over four months, converted it into a 127-foot-long home for about $30,000 in the mid-1990s. The home has three bedrooms, a living/dining room, kitchen, laundry area and a master bathroom with Jacuzzi in the cockpit area. She’s joined in her aviation love by Oregonian Bruce Campbell, who lives in a Boeing 727, and Californian Francie Rehwald, who converted a Boeing 747 into a home in Malibu.



Houseboats are nothing unique, but a houseboat that no longer functions as a boat is a rare find. Nonetheless, ingenious homeowners across the country have salvaged old boats and turned them into homes. Some are just houseboats, stuck on land while others, such as the Benson Ford in Put-In-Bay, Ohio, are converted from a real boat. The boat was stripped of its engine and settled into an island in Lake Erie. It has a six bedrooms, sitting room, living room, dining room, kitchen bar area, garage and laundry room over four floors.

Shipping containers

Creative Commons/Flickr user Angel Schatz    

Branching off from the small home movement, converting shipping containers into homes or offices has become a bona fide movement. Whether using just one or dozens of stacked shipping containers, designers and architects around the country have transformed these humble vessels into elaborate homes. This home in Flagstaff, Ariz., used five recycled ocean-going shipping containers in a crisscross pattern that opens to an atrium space.


Yelp/Oak Street School Lofts    

Old brick schools have become a popular residential conversion lately. Through population shifts, budget cuts or rebuilding efforts, thousands of schools across the country are shut down and left abandoned. Savvy developers have bought up these buildings for their strong bones and converted them to artists’ lofts, apartments and condo buildings. The Oak Street School Lofts in Buffalo, N.Y. feature one-bedroom apartments, including the original chalkboards, though they have been painted over.

Old government buildings


Decommissioned missile silos, former army barracks and even old prisons have been converted into homes, apartments or hotels, but perhaps the most unusual government building conversion is the Jamesburg Earth Station in Carmel Valley, Calif. The satellite dish, originally commissioned by the Kennedy administration to send and receive messages from space during the Apollo 11 moon landing, was converted into a 21,000-square-foot home in the mid-2000s.

Source: http://www.cbsnews.com/media/9-unusual-recycled-homes/

Programmable Thermostats Enter The Mobile Age

By Paul Bianchina  Inman News®

January 18, 2013

It certainly comes as no big surprise to anyone that the heating and cooling systems in our homes consume huge amounts of power, and typically account for the lion’s share of our utility bills. So anything we can do to conserve on the amount of power these systems use will help lower those bills each month.

Programmable thermostats are one of the best ways to do that. Using internal computer circuits that raise and lower the thermostat set points at various times during the day in accordance with our occupancy and habits, they help keep the furnace or air conditioner from running when it doesn’t need to.

Programmable thermostats have been around for decades, but it’s only been recently that they’ve caught up with the Internet and smartphone age. Now they’re more intelligent than ever, and, used correctly, that can translate into even more energy savings.

Nest Learning Thermostat

One of the most talked about thermostats on the market today is the Nest Learning Thermostat. You probably don’t think of “attractive” when you think of thermostats, but this one definitely is, with a small round shape that glows blue when it’s in cooling mode and orange when it’s in heating mode.

Beyond its appearance, there’s the lack of buttons. Adjustments are done with the outer ring, and you see programmed settings on a screen in the center of the thermostat. As you make the various adjustments throughout the day, the Nest “learns” your habits, and programs those habits into its circuitry. Soon, it’s set up a temperature schedule that meets your specific lifestyle.

The Nest also has sensors in it that detect when no one is home. It switches into Auto-Away mode, automatically turning itself down to save even more energy. In that mode, the face switches to black. As additional motivation, there’s even a leaf symbol that appears periodically to show you when you’re saving more energy than what you’d originally programmed it for.

There are currently two generations of Nests. The first generation retails for around $198, and works with about 75 percent of the heating and cooling systems. The second generation retails for $250, is 20 percent thinner, and is compatible with an estimated 95 percent of systems. Both generations offer Wi-Fi remote control so you can control your thermostat remotely from your smartphone, laptop or tablet.

Ecobee EB-STAT

This thermostat takes programmable to a whole new level. At around $295, it’s not cheap, but with the flexibility it offers you should have the opportunity to recoup that investment within a couple of years on average.

The Ecobee is rectangular, so it looks a bit more like a conventional thermostat, but with a full color screen and animated icons it’s pretty cool, and very easy to program and adjust. It offers connectivity to the Internet, as well as control through a smartphone, tablet or desktop computer. It offers 365-day scheduling, free over-the-air software upgrades, and downloadable system reports. It’s compatible with most types of heating and cooling systems, including heat pumps, and can also be used to control humidifiers, dehumidifiers and ventilators.

Hunter Universal Internet Thermostat

At less than $100, this is a more affordable option, available from most home centers. Installation is quick and easy, with clear instructions. Everything you need except a screwdriver is included in the box. Once installed, it has an Internet gateway that connects to your router, and allows Internet access to the thermostat.

You can program the thermostat from your smartphone, tablet or computer. As with the other programmable thermostats, you can call it to change settings from a remote location, making it perfect if you’re delaying getting home from work, or for situations such as warming up the vacation home before you get there. It will also send you email alerts for low batteries and when it’s time to change the filter.

Nothing’s perfect

As with any technology, none of these thermostats are perfect. Online reviews from actual users of all of these thermostats are mostly positive, but they do indicate some compatibility issues and software glitches in some instances. Not all thermostats are compatible with all systems, and while they’re all OK for do-it-yourself installation, depending on your skill level you may still need the help of a pro to get them installed and operating correctly. And, of course, there’s always a learning curve involved.

In general, I like what these thermostats have to offer. I like the additional control options, particularly for vacation homes, and the flexibility of smartphone control. But do a little homework when selecting the right model for your home and your lifestyle. Make sure it’s compatible with your system, and that it has the features and operating modes that you like.

Source: http://lowes.inman.com/inmaninf/lowesnewsletter/news/208571

Looks Like Wood, Wears Like Tile

What looks like wood, but cleans up like ceramic tile? Wood tile, of course. For decades, homeowners have chosen wood floors over other coverings, including carpeting, because of the rich look of wood, as well as its durability and ease of care. With the availability of wood-look ceramic tile, however, some homeowners are making another transition, and incorporating this new tile design into many areas throughout the home.

What are some of the advantages of wood-look tile? Just as ceramic floors can stand up to heavy traffic, so do wood-look tiles. These tiles are resistant to fire, moisture, stains and are almost immune to damage from shoes, high heels, dropped pots or pets.

Because of their ability to stand up to moisture, homeowners who are interested in experimenting often begin by adding tiles to kitchens or bathrooms. But as the tiles become more sophisticated-looking, designers and residents are choosing them for living rooms and great rooms as well, in part because of the many varieties of styles and colors now available.

Wood-look ceramic “planks” can be purchased in widths of 6, 8, 12 inches or more, simulating wide-plank wood floors. Colors and grains abound, and tiles are made to emulate almost every type of wood, including chestnut, maple, oak, mahogany and teak. Some tiles even come with an aged or “distressed” look to create an old-fashioned style. Other tiles can create a sleek and contemporary feel with the use of tiles that look like narrow wood strips in dark colors. The tiles can be placed in fashion similar to traditional hardwood flooring patterns or can be used to create unique patterns of color and design.

In almost all cases, “wood” ceramic tile is less expensive than hardwood flooring. There is a range of pricing, but tiles can be purchased from under $2 a square foot to $7 per square foot. As with other tile, it is a good idea to purchase extra tiles when laying out a floor, for use in case of errors or mishaps. These tiles can be found in home improvement stores as well as on-line.

The choice of grouts is an important consideration to make sure wood-look tiles appear natural-looking. While some installers have suggested that these tiles can be laid without grout, most professionals disagree, noting that no matter how tight the titles butt up against each other, there is always the opportunity for dirt, debris and water to enter between them.

To keep grout lines to a minimum, allowing for the most natural look, any grout purchased should be fine-sanded grout.

When it comes to installation, some homeowners prefer the do-it-yourself method, while others prefer to have the tiles professionally installed. A tile-cutter is an essential tool for the project, but anyone who has laid ceramic tile in the past will have little difficulty laying wood-look ceramic tile.

In addition to kitchen and bathroom floors, homeowners are also finding use for these tiles on the walls, especially in shower stalls and bathroom enclosures.

Source: Huffman Inspections http://www.huffmaninspections.com/


What’s New In The Kitchen

by Huffman Inspections

What are contemporary kitchen designers doing in the kitchen these days? For starters, they are hiding appliances, adding color and using range hoods to make a statement!

In the 50’s, a homeowner could purchase aqua or pink refrigerators and no eyebrows were raised. Sixty years later, refrigerators and stoves are generally neither seen nor heard, hidden behind panels that match painted or stained wooden cabinets in a kitchen.

Identifying the dishwasher might be difficult as well, especially when it pulls out like a drawer from one or possibly both sides of the sink. Even if a dishwasher has a more traditional style, new units are often installed ten inches off the floor, making them easy to open, load an unload.

Kitchen islands are still popular, especially with the addition of a warming drawer in the center. The drawer keeps food at the appropriate serving temperature and allows for easy access. Pull-out shelving in the island and throughout the kitchen eliminates hunting for items located in the back of cabinets.

Range hoods are being installed not only for function, but for style, whether they appear underneath cabinets, against the wall or in a downdraft position. Range hoods are available in a variety of materials including copper, stainless steel, wood, glass, limestone and even marble and may more closely resemble mantles or fireplace hearths rather than the older metal range hood.

Kitchens and great rooms continue to be the gathering and entertainment centers in the home. To accommodate extra guests, seating that can double as storage is a sought-after accessory. Benches with underneath storage, bins, baskets, organizers and appliances garages are also incorporated into kitchens to reduce clutter and add efficiency.

Because kitchens have moved to the forefront and are no longer considered “the back of the house,” homeowners are paying close attention to style, color and design. Popular kitchen colors are bolder than in the past, and include shades such as apricot, yellow, red and turquoise, which are considered comforting and appetite stimulators.

Although granite’s popularity has shown no sign of waning, some consumers are individualizing their kitchens through the use of alternative materials such as concrete, glass, aluminum and slate for their countertops.

Lighting in the kitchen needs to do double-duty, illuminating countertops while creating an inviting atmosphere. Layered lighting is the answer in some kitchens, combining ambient (overhead) lighting with a task lighting layer and a decorative layer on top, used primarily to enhance the interior design.

Track-style lighting is still popular, but tracks often curve, rather than radiate in a straight line. Some contemporary tracks also allow for different individual lights to be hung. Under cabinet lighting is popular, and can give a kitchen new energy. Two or three pendant lights over the sink can also make a dramatic statement.

Many of the newer fixtures can accommodate LED (light-emitting diode) bulbs, which are popular for their durability and energy-efficiency. The initial cost of LEDs is more expensive, but the light bulbs are rated to last up to 60,000 hours or up to seven years.