Archive for December, 2009

Backyard Office Makeover

Sunday, December 27th, 2009


For people who work at home, a quiet place to work is a necessity. Journalist Martha Mendoza spent years trying to work in an improvised space in her laundry room.  Then she decided to remodel an old backyard potting shed. With the help of carpenter David Aguirre, she now has a detached office that allows her to focus on work while still being near her family. When work time is over, she can leave her work in her office and give all her attention to her husband and four children. 

Read more about this potting shed makeover in Sunset Magazine.

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Reimagine Your Surroundings

Tuesday, December 22nd, 2009


If you’d like to start the New Year with a fresh look for your home, think “repurpose” instead of “replace.” Refinishing or applying a coat of paint can freshen up a tired piece of furniture. Instead of redecorating with new furniture, save money by shopping at garage sales and thrift stores for hidden treasures that can give your home a distinctive look. You’ll also be helping the environment by recycling .

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How to Paint a Room

Tuesday, December 15th, 2009


Giving the walls of a room a fresh coat of paint is one of the easiest and most inexpensive ways to freshen the look of a room.  In order to get the best possible results, it’s important to do the correct prep work ahead of time. 

  • Before painting, wash the walls with a large cellulose sponge and mild dishwashing soap.  Dirt, dust and grease can ruin a new paint job, so it pays to take the time to clean the walls first.
  • Use blue painters’ tape to tape off trim, floorboards, doorknobs and window and door frames.
  • Apply primer to the walls using a paint roller.  Follow manufacturer’s instructions for drying.
  • Paint the trim with a paintbrush.
  • Apply wall paint with a roller.  Move the roller to create large “w” shapes on the wall (see photo).  Continue until the entire wall is covered.
  • Remove the painters tape while the wall paint is still wet.  Use  a straightedge to apply wall paint in areas adjacent to trim. 

  • For a step-by-step painting demonstration, see this YouTube video.

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    There’s Still Time for 2009 Tax Credits for Home Improvements

    Monday, December 07th, 2009

    There’s still time this year to complete home improvements that will make your home more energy efficient and qualify for a 2009 tax credit. U.S. homeowners can receive 30% or up to $1500 in federal tax credits for qualifying improvements. Installing an Energy Star Appliance is an example of the type of improvement that qualifies for the credit. Total credits of up to $10,000 can be earned if multiple improvements are completed.

    Examples of qualifying improvements include new windows, doors, non-solar water heaters, insulation, and HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning). The biggest credits are for sustainable energy equipment, including small wind turbines, geothermal heat pumps and solar energy systems. For these improvements, there is no cap on the 30% credit for costs. The sustainable energy credit applies to new and existing homes and to new home construction, and will be in effect until 2016. To find out more about solar energy for the home, see this earlier post.

    Many state and local areas offer additional tax credits. To find out what’s available in your area, check the Database of State Incentives for Renewables and Efficiency.

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