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Residential and Commercial plumbers and plumbing contractors available in Orland Park, Tinley Park, Oak Lawn, Palos Heights, Midlothian, Oak Forest, Homer Glen, Mokena, Frankfort, and the surrounding Chicago South Suburbs. 24 Hour Emergency plumbers.

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Kevin Szabo Jr Plumbing Blog

Kevin Szabo Jr Plumbing is Tinley Park, Orland Park, Oak Forest, Midlothian, Orland Hill, Homer Glen, Mokena, Frankfort, Crestwood, Palos Heights, Oak Lawn, local plumber. Read our blog for advice, tips, a good laugh, and basic home improvement.

**We are moving our old blog to our new and improved website. Too see all our posts visit kevinszabojrplumbing.blogspot.com

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Building Your First Home: The Essentials

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Building Your First Home: The Essentials

Since the real estate market is currently not quite blossoming, many people actually decide to build their first home rather than buy it. Aside from the fact that this enables them to flat out create a house of their dreams it also allows them to choose the materials their new house is going to be built from, among other things.

That being said, building your first home is no easy job. Aside from making sure that you have the necessary budget for the project you also need to ensure that you’ve picked the right area, contractors and materials. With that in mind, let’s see what the essentials of building your first house are.

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The budget

As mentioned earlier, you need to ensure that you have enough resources to see your project through before you actually get down to organizing it. This will require you to do some thorough research and try to find out the estimated prices of things your budget will need to cover. Chances are that you probably won’t have that amount of money stacked and ready to go, which means that you will most likely need to find some alternative budgeting options. This will probably require you to apply for a loan which means that you’ll also need to ensure that your credit history and credit score are healthy and optimal.

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The location

Aside from securing the funds, you will also need to find the perfect location. First, you should check out all the available pieces of land and see which location suits you best. Here, you should assess how far away you’d be living from your job/your kids’ school if you were to build your home at a particular location. This will help you significantly with the elimination process. Another thing that can help you when choosing a piece of land is how much work will it require in order to connect your home on the water and electricity grid. The more work the piece of land requires pre-building, the more expensive the project will be, so keep that in mind as well.

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The contractors

The contractors you choose for the job also play a huge role in this type of projects. By ensuring that you’ve found the best possible fit for the task at hand, not only will you guarantee quicker and more seamless completion but you’ll also ensure that everything’s done the way it was originally intended. With that in mind, in some countries, such as Australia, hiring different contractors for different parts of the project is actually quite a common practice. That’s why so many Aussies chose to hire professionals in Sydney Commercial Carpentry when building their homes to ensure that all their desires are being met – and sometimes even exceeded – and all the right materials are being used.

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The materials

Finally, when it comes to choosing the right materials, the majority of homeowners want to ensure that they’ve gone green and sustainable as much as possible. It’s important to mention here that if green and sustainable is your goal as well, aside from looking at the material’s stats and traits, you should also see where it is from. What this means is that while bamboo, for instance, is a very sustainable material, the place it originates from is Asia. So, when you account for the distance it needs to travel to get to you, it will actually lose quite a bit of sustainability. That’s why it would be best to focus on finding salvaged and locally-sourced materials for your building project.

These were just the essentials of a house building project you should keep in mind when building your first home.  Aside from them, make sure you think ahead of time when deciding on particular features, layout and similar things because who knows? The fact that you’re building your first house doesn’t have to mean that you’re also building your forever home. So, consider including some popular elements in your house design that will boost your property’s value and make it more appealing to potential buyers if you ever decide to sell it.

 Guest Contributor, Diana Smith

7 Things To Do Before You Move Into A New House

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7 Things To Do Before You Move Into A New House

Moving to a new place can be quite a stressful task. Anytime you move it comes with a lot of changes which can be uncomfortable. This is why it is crucial to put some things in place before you pack up and move. Doing these things would make you better prepared and would also make the new place you would be moving to more comfortable. Florida realtor, Danny Margagliano with 30a Local Properties (https://destinpropertyexpert.com) says, "Many of my customers that are moving asked me my number one piece of advice. Every time it's the same thing, you can't have enough of boxes." Here are some of the things you can do to prepare you for moving easily and stress-free.

Get proper supplies for moving

It is important to get appropriate supplies when moving so that your things do not get damaged during the moving process. Getting strong and adequate boxes for whatever item you want to pack is necessary. For instance, using a weak box to move dishes or valuable artwork is just calling for trouble. After sorting items and putting them in their proper boxes, the next step is to label all the boxes. When doing this be mindful that fragile items would be handled carefully. Reducing the risk of damaging them en-route.

Get a moving company

Moving can be quite a tedious task. Therefore it is essential to make sure you enlist the services of a trusted, licensed, and fully insured company. This way, you can rest assured that your property is in the hands of competent people.

Forwarding the mail 

As you would be moving to a new place, it is important to forward your mail before leaving your present house. You can get in touch with your local snail mail provider service and choose the day you would want to start receiving your mail at your new address. Neglecting to do this would make you miss out on receiving valuable letters or packages.

Transfer or cancel all utility service

 A few of the primary utility services to keep in mind includes electricity, gas, telephone, heating services. If you don't cancel it or transfer them to your current location, it could lead to several issues. First and foremost, it could delay service from being transferred to your new residence. Secondly, both services may remain on, and you will be paying for someone else's utilities. Either scenario is not a good one for you.

Look for suitable schools around

If you have children that are still going to school, the best thing to do would be to look for suitable schools and register them before-hand.

Finding new healthcare providers

If you would be moving very far away from your current health care provider, look for another one close to your new place of residence. You can ask your current health care provider to refer you to another Doctor. Be sure to verify that the new physician accepts your current health insurance. Alternatively, you can contact your health insurance company directly to find a doctor that is in your network of providers.

Clean up your new house

Before moving day either perform a walk-through yourself, I have your realtor do one for you. This way, you will know whether or not the home is clean and move-in ready. In some cases, the former residents will have taken care of cleaning the house for you, and in other cases, it will be up to you. Cleaning a space when it is still empty is much easier than having to clean it when it is filled with people and pieces of furniture.  

Final thoughts

There are still many other things to be done like painting the new space, changing the locks of the new place for security reasons, cleaning out your former home, sending out moving announcement to friends and family members, changing some electrical fixtures if necessary, hiring internet services, equipping the new place with fire extinguishers, and looking for a new pharmacy. The list can seem endless. If you follow the tips above for moving into a new home, the entire process will be a smoother one.

started on the moving process.

Guest Contributor, Daniel Margagliano

Common Home Emergencies and How to Deal with Them

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Common Home Emergencies and How to Deal with Them

Every homeowner faces a few home emergencies that end up in expenses and repairs. This happens regardless of how well maintained your home is. Therefore, it’s best to be prepared for them as much as you can be prepared for an unexpected repair.

There are two main components of such preparations. Firstly, you need to have some money put aside to be sure you could purchase spare parts or hire a professional to make the repairs for you. Secondly, every homeowner should know how to do a few basic repairs quickly and have the proper tools to do so.

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A power blackout

There’s not that much that you can do to prevent a blackout since it’s usually a problem with the power grid. That’s why it’s best to prepare for a blackout by preparing the supplies that you’ll use while the power is out.

If this happens every once in a while, you might want to invest in a generator that will keep your home powered through the blackout. The emergency kit for a blackout should artificial lights, some water and food, a supply of medication, and a way to communicate with emergency services.

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A blocked toilet

A blocked toilet is one of those unpleasant emergencies that you need to react quickly upon without waiting for the professional to come and to make actual repairs. The first step to fixing a blocked toilet is to shut down the water supply coming to it. That will prevent the toilet from overflowing and give you time to make actual repairs.

This is where it’s best to call the plumber to help you out since it might require you to take out a pipe to remove the clog within it.

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Small fires

It’s crucial to be prepared for small fires, especially if you live in a large city such as Sydney. That often means that you need to alert the authorities right away since it might be difficult to evacuate quickly.  It’s best to hire an electrician from Northern Beaches to install a small smoke detector. This is useful in the most sensitive parts of the home such as the kitchen.

It’s also useful for a home to have a small fire extinguisher and for you to learn how to use it before it’s ever needed.

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Damaged roof

A damaged roof is probably the most serious emergency on our list and it will require a rather costly repair. Things are made even more difficult if the leak happens during the winter when you need to close it right away.

The best way to go is to inspect the roof on a regular basis. You may need to rent scaffolding and inspect the roof for damage or leaks at the start of every season. It’s easier if you catch the problem before it starts damaging your ceiling or requires the whole roof to be replaced.

Water leaks

Water leaks aren’t that big of a problem to fix, but they can be rather complicated to find or even notice. It’s usually noticed only when you figure out that your water bills are getting higher or that you’re losing water pressure somewhere in the house. 

When you notice the problem in the first place, it’s best to cut off the water for the whole home to avoid the waste. That’s where you need to hire a plumber to replace the busted pipe and install a new one.

Small home emergencies happen regardless of how well maintained your home is. That means you need to take the time to prepare for them, to avoid unnecessary expenses.

Guest Contributor, Diana Smith

Bathroom Design: How to Make It Warm and Welcoming

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Bathroom Design: How to Make It Warm and Welcoming

Even though it’s probably the tiniest room in your home, the bathroom still deserves a ton of attention. Every bathroom needs to be as warm and welcoming as possible, and if that’s the atmosphere you’d like to create as well, here are a few design tips you should follow.

Use stone tile

Even though most people prefer ceramic tile when redoing their bathroom, you can always explore different ideas as well. Stone tile is one of these ideas, and it could easily turn into one of the best ideas you’ve ever had.

Incorporating stone tile into your bathroom might seem a bit strange at first, but if you do it right, this is a project that will make your bathroom the nicest and cosiest space in your home. Still, don’t forget that stone has its pros and cons, so check out all these features before you start incorporating stone tile into your bathroom.

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Explore wood

This is a controversial decision not all homeowners are going to support, but the reason is still unknown. We’re all afraid that wood won’t work well in wet and moist environments, but the truth is quite the opposite. If properly protected, wooden furniture and décor pieces can be easily incorporated into your bathroom and stay there for years and even decades.

You can add a wooden vanity and mix it with the aforementioned stone tile, contrasting the colours and textures of these two materials. You can even add a tiny stool or a table, especially if you’re lucky enough to have a massive bathroom. Finally, you can add small decorating pieces made of wood, taking the entire design of your bathroom to a whole new level in just a few easy steps.

Add a rug

Speaking of unusual solutions that actually work better than you’d think, here’s another idea you need to look into. Yes, adding a rug to your bathroom may seem strange at first, but if you give this idea a thought, you’ll realise that’s actually an amazing way to introduce a new dose of cosiness to this space.

Still, not just any rug will do, and you need to make sure the rugs you choose are comfortable, warm, and visually appealing. You might look into some comfy rugs, as those offered by Miss Amara NZ, as these are made from high-quality natural materials, feature amazing designs, and are great for your bathroom. Keep in mind that having a rug in your bathroom will help you feel better all year long, especially during those freezing winter nights.

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Try out new materials

No matter where you live and what kind of a bathroom you have, the chances are it will be packed with the same materials as every other bathroom in the world. Ceramic, metal, steel, and chrome are so common nowadays that you can rarely see a bathroom without all of these. But, what if you used other materials instead?

Copper, golden, and brass details could make your bathroom special, while still remaining as practical and functional as those old school choices. What’s even better is that these elements will help you turn different parts of your bathroom into focal points, which is something all bathrooms deserve. With local rent reports like this showing us that the prices are on a slight decline, landlords can also implement such solutions to make their properties more attractive to potential tenants.   

Install in-floor heating

If you want to make your bathroom warmer than before, this is the right way to do it – literally! Installing an in-floor heating system is something all homeowners should consider, no matter where they live, how old their home is, and how big their bathrooms are.

These systems come with a number of benefits – from practicality to easy maintenance, and everything in between – and the best thing is that you can install them on your own. It may take some time, energy, and patience, but it’s definitely worth the investment you’ll make, particularly in the winter and fall.

Just because your bathroom is not large, it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take care of it. This is particularly important if you’re one of those people who spend considerable time in the bathroom, getting ready for their day and relaxing before going to sleep. So, show this space all the love and attention in the world, turning it into a warm and welcoming area where you can relax and take your mind off everyday problems.

Guest Contributor, Lillian Connors

How to Make Your Bathroom Look Expensive

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How to Make Your Bathroom Look Expensive

 

Your decorating budget doesn't have to be big to create a luxurious bathroom. If you know how to match and contrast colours, if you are the master of accessories and you know how lighting can bring the best out of existing features, you can spice things up without breaking the bank. Here are the most effective ideas.

Inexpensive luxuries

Although not many bathrooms feature specialised seating, having one is indispensable for larger families. Instead of perching on the side of the bath, bring in a classy stool that you and your partner can both use, while a pair of upcycled garden chairs can prevent kids from fighting at the sink when the toothbrush time comes. Swapping boring bath mats with Persian rugs, or custom linoleum patchwork doesn’t cost much, especially since it saves you from having to replace the old tile floor.

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Nature indoors

If you couldn’t make those luscious ferns and philodendrons take root in the dry, air-conditioned environment of your home, keep in mind that they will thrive in the bathroom. Tropical plants trailing down from windowsills can spruce up the element of luxury in any bathroom, while bundles of eucalyptus branches, exposed to shower steam, release the plant's natural therapeutic oils. If you're aiming for a clean and classic hotel finish, consider potted orchids, which also thrive in humid, low-light conditions. Even a few well-placed succulents like aloe can bring a sense of vitality to your bath space.

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Mirrors and lights

Have you ever wondered why everyone looks better in hotel bathroom mirrors? It all boils down to lighting. If you illuminate mirrors evenly on both sides, you can eliminate shadows. You can use rather rectangular wall lamps or hanging brass bulbs. If you have a penchant for glowy, low-lit, spaces swap simple bulbs for recessed LED lights hidden in alcoves or behind opaque bath panels. Although at the end of a stressful day nothing really beats a relaxing bath under candle lights but instead of a modern mood lighting considers soft, dimmable floor spotlights.

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Black and white

Reinvent your bathroom with a classical and striking noir palette by choosing black and white elements, accessories and fixtures. Classy black soap dispensers, tumblers, and dishes are a great inexpensive way to accent your décor. Even bathroom appliances can help you with this décor idea since manufacturers of best washing machines today offer their front and top loaders in black or white colour schemes. If you don’t know where to start, chose a remarkable black or white centrepiece such as a freestanding stone bath with a contemporary curving design.

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Neutral wainscoting

Even a simple change like painting the wainscoting a neutral colour other than white can change the mood of your bathroom completely, from nursing white to luxurious. Nowhere does it say that wainscoting and beadboard must be white. For such a painting project, first, you'll want to sample the new colours. Use a piece of wainscoting or trim to try out the colours, so you can move it around the bathroom to get a look at different lighting angles.

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Scents and essences

Use essential oils, scented soaps, and multi-layered shampoos to replicate the feeling of being pampered and relaxed while staying in a luxury hotel spa. Transform the boring shower routine into a multi-sensory experience. Give your hair a full spa treatment using products made of natural ingredients, like rosemary, cucumber or green tea. This way, every shower will have the additional benefit of improving your mood.

The bathroom is often cited as the most expensive room in the house to renovate, second perhaps only to the kitchen. However, you don't have to gut everything to make your baths space feel expensive. Most of the ideas listed here are budget-friendly and easy to restore, which makes them ideal for homeowners who are renting.

Guest Contributor, Diana Smith

 

 A Plumber's Guide: What Your Address Says About Your Business

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 A Plumber's Guide: What Your Address Says About Your Business

The plumbing industry is booming. Some reports have found that in the United States, the number of working plumbers has increased by 1.7% over the past five years, which has resulted in $110 billion in revenue. Even greater news is that the plumbing industry is expected to continue to perform well through 2026, with an expected 16% potential growth. 

But, as with any booming and growing industry, competition is fierce and reports estimate that no individual plumbing company accounts for more than 1% of the entire industry’s revenue. In order to stand out from the competition, you need to make sure that you have a strong business strategy in place. 

This strategy should include elements such as knowing your niche, specializing in certain types of properties, marketing your services correctly, having a logo, having a business card, actively engage on social media, and have a clear lead generation and sales process in place. For the purpose of this guide, we will focus on what your address says about your plumbing business and how the right address can significantly improve your marketing and sales efforts. 

The Importance of a Business Address

In business, as in life, first impressions matter. In today’s digitally connected world, your first impression is your online presence, which should provide potential clients with all the relevant information about your business.

If your business address is not listed, it’s listed in a residential area, or it’s somewhere people aren’t familiar with,  potential clients might question the legitimacy of your company. Potential clients could think that your plumbing services are a side gig, therefore that you’re not a professional, or they might be skeptical about sharing their private information (such as home address and phone number) if all they find is a name and an address in a neighborhood they’re unfamiliar with. 

This is why having a professional business address is key to plumbing business success. 

But a Business Address is Expensive…

Yes. But it doesn’t have to be. A virtual office for plumbers could enable you to have access to a renowned business address, as well as a place to meet with clients, workspace, access to business tools and resources (printing, faxing, copying, secretarial support, customer service support, etc.). The great news? Virtual offices come at a fraction of the cost, which means you can significantly reduce your overhead costs and instead use the funds to buy equipment, invest in marketing, create your website, etc. 

Not only can a virtual office help you with the above, but it can also come in handy when you’re applying for a plumbing license, contractor license, and plumbing permit. Keep in mind that oftentimes, these certifications require specific documentation, including a business address. While some organizations accept residential addresses or P.O. Box addresses, some don’t.

Your Business Address and Marketing + Sales

To be successful today, it’s imperative that you have an online presence. This doesn’t just mean having active social media profiles, but making sure that your plumbing business shows up at the top of the page when people search for plumbing services in Google. 

One way to improve your chances of being ranked higher is by registering your business in Google My Business. What Google My Business does is that it puts your company on Google Maps, and it’s especially useful for local searches. If someone in your town or city searches for a plumber, 

Ranking higher on search engine searches means that more people are likely to visit your website, which can translate into more leads and, therefore, more sales.

More than that, a renowned business address can go a long way in establishing trust and a sense of legitimacy with potential and existing clients. It also adds some privacy to your life, as you won’t be receiving any business mail in your home address, but rather through a virtual office. 

Conclusion

There’s a lot of potential and opportunities for growth in the plumbing industry. As you’re setting up or growing your plumbing business, try to take advantage of the available tools and resources you can leverage to reduce expenses, increase your exposure, and make a good impression. 

Plumbers need to have a professional and positive image if they want to attract new clients. Keep in mind that clients are inviting you into their homes or offices, and they want to make sure that whomever they’re hiring is legitimate and trustworthy. 

If you want to make a good impression from the get go, have a professional business address in an area people are familiar with. So, what can your address say about your plumbing business? It can say that you’re running a  legitimate and trustworthy operation, or it can say the exact opposite. 

Guest Contributor, Mat Calica

4 Factors That Make All the Difference in Your Bathroom Remodel

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4 Factors That Make All the Difference in Your Bathroom Remodel

Usually, when talking about bathroom remodels, people tend to think that it simply can’t be done without a lot of patience and a huge budget in place. However, this is not always the case. The fact is that you can completely change the look of your bathroom on a budget if that is the only change you wish to make.

On the other hand, if you are looking to conduct a more elaborate remodeling project you will need to set aside a hefty sum. So, depending on what you wish to achieve with your bathroom you will need to calculate the budget accordingly. With that in mind, here are some factors you should consider beforehand to make the remodel go as smoothly and as stress-free as possible.

Know what you want

Before you actually start hiring contractors left and right and start browsing various stores in search of the items you wish to incorporate into your new bathroom, you should first decide what you want to achieve with your bathroom remodel. If it is only a new look, you are going for the entire remodeling project shouldn’t last too long or require too big of a budget. However, if you are planning on completely relocating your existing plumbing and drains, do know that it will cost you much more and it will require appropriate funds. So, make sure you determine exactly what you want to achieve before you move on to the next step.

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Determine the budget accordingly

As mentioned, in order to determine the budget, you need to first define the scope of the project. If you are just changing a few things up in order to bring in a breath of fresh air to your bathroom you can easily focus solely on the cost of a new paint job, some new fixtures and a couple of new décor pieces. However, if you are looking for more elaborate plumbing upgrades, make sure you account not only for the estimated price of the project but the contingency as well. With projects like these, things can easily go wrong or you may even come across an issue you didn’t even know was there so you need to make sure that you are financially ready to cover anything that might come your way.

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Know how you want to achieve it

Once you have clearly defined your project, decide how you want to proceed further. If upping the style of your bathroom is the only thing you are interested in, turn to ever-so-fashionable Aussies for some inspiration. To up the style in their personal oases, many Aussies choose to incorporate a custom made vanity from Sydney in their bathrooms. Introducing such stunning yet simple pieces in any bathroom can easily elevate the style and pizzazz of the room to an entirely new level. On the other hand, if you are after bigger projects, you will have to clearly determine the order in which you want things to be done as well as the final goal you want to achieve in the space.

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Come up with a plan and stick to it

Finally, once you have all the answers and you know how you want to approach the matter, it would be wise to come up with a game plan and stick to it as much as possible. While it is easy to change your mind mid-way about the new wall paint you wish to have in your bathroom, doing so when relocating plumbing and drains can not only be extremely expensive, but it can also significantly set back the entire project. Additionally, keep in mind that the contractors you have hired are usually working on a tight schedule, so making any bigger changes mid-project can even result in them not having enough time to finish the work in one go because they need to move on to their next client and the next project they are hired for. There are numerous mistakes you can easily make when remodeling your bathroom, so it would be wise to get familiar with them so that you can avoid making any of them.

Bathroom remodels are usually stressful for people because more often than not, they don’t really know what they want to achieve with the space. However, if you have a clear idea in mind, based on which you can estimate the necessary time and the average budget you will need to set aside, successfully finishing this project should be as easy as one, two, three. 

Guest Contributor, Chloe Taylor

Beauty in Cohesiveness: 4 Excellent Tips for Creating Rooms That Flow Well Together

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Beauty in Cohesiveness: 4 Excellent Tips for Creating Rooms That Flow Well Together

An important aspect of designing appealing interiors, creating a sense of connectedness in a house is no easy task (unless you’re a professional interior designer, that is). If you take a look at their homes and the way they are decorated, you will notice that there is always something that ties the whole space together and creates a visual flow. Now, you can choose to pay them to do that for you or you can learn how to do it yourself and spend your hard-earned cash elsewhere. Read on!

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Make your home look cohesive by using the same design style

When it comes to decorating your home, deciding on the design style that you’re going to use throughout your house is the key to doing it successfully. When you have a defined style and you know what pieces, colors, and patterns you should be aiming for, the whole decorating process becomes so much easier as opposed to not having a clear idea of what your home should look like. Whether it is coastal, traditional, contemporary, or farmhouse, pick a style that speaks to you and that perfectly captures your personality. The last thing you want to have is a contemporary coffee table mixed with a vintage chair and an industrial lamp, as it will look messy and not cohesive at all. Instead, opt for pieces that complement each other so that the way you design your space looks intentional and well-thought-out.

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Connect the rooms by using similar colors throughout the home

Now, as much as you may like colors, it’s important to avoid painting every room in a different shade. This is especially important if you’re working with smaller square footage, so try using a palette that consists of 2 to 3 similar hues to create a sense of connectedness. When someone loves renovating and updating their spaces as much as Australians do, they do whatever it takes to make their home more appealing, and a good paint job is sometimes all you need to refresh your dated property and make it cohesive. When they’re in need of stunning property facelift, they turn to house painters from Brisbane to make this cosmetic improvement and ensure their home looks as appealing as possible. A relatively inexpensive upgrade, painting is definitely one of the easiest ways to visually connect your space and create a sense of unity in your home.

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Keep the floors consistent to create a visual flow

Another way of creating a sense of cohesiveness between the rooms is by choosing the right type of flooring. Keeping the floors consistent is a must when looking to create a visual flow and connect all the rooms in your home. Although different areas of your home will require different types of flooring (e.g. tiles in the bathroom and hardwood in the bedroom), as long as you use the same color palette for your flooring, your home will look like a cohesive whole. Nowadays, you can even get tiles that mimic the look of hardwood, so have that in mind when designing your living space. However, if changing your floors is not an option, you can still use area rugs that are the same color or material as an alternative to connect the rooms in your home.

Repeat the materials to achieve a cohesive look

Materials can be used as a common thread that will appear in each area of your home and help create a sense of unity. If you find yourself being drawn to a particular material, consider using it throughout your home, even if it’s something as simple as brass or gold detailing on the cabinetry and lighting fixtures. Marble pattern can appear on your floors, your benchtops, or your coffee table, while velvet can be used for the pillows in the bedroom, a sofa in the living room, and chairs in the dining room. Finding that one element and repeating it in each room will help tie the space together without going over the top. You can apply this design trick to any material of your choosing and create a nice connection.

With these four tips up your sleeve, we’re sure you’re going to create a home that will be worth showing off. Not only will you be saving a ton of money by designing your home by yourself, but you’ll also give it that authentic personal touch that no interior designer can do for you!

 Guest Contributor, Mike Johnston

About the author: Mike Johnston is an avid freelance writer and blogger from Sydney, Australia. He is a regular contributor to numerous lifestyle blogs and online magazines, where he writes about interior design (his specialty!), travel, family, sustainable living and other related and unrelated topics. Mike’s goal is to create insightful and compelling content that will help readers navigate through these vast and ever-changing fields.

 

How To Remove Clutter From Your Yard

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How to Remove Clutter from Your Yard

Many home owners notice that their yard never looks as they imagined it would. That’s because it’s not neat and there’s always clutter in the yard that makes it look less than what it could be, even if your plants are all doing rather well.

There are ways to fix this problem and return your yard to its true glory. This doesn’t require that much work or that much investment, if you discount the work that you’ll need to put in. However, making sure your garden is clean will be a long-term job.

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Throwing things out

The first step may seem like a rather simple one, but it’s the one that will take the most work and the most planning. You should start by throwing out everything in your yard that isn’t actually used. It’s possible to hire professional junk removal from Sydney if there are a lot of items that you need to throw away at once.

It’s important to be strict with this and to throw away just everything that isn’t supposed to be there, regardless of how old it is and whether it could be useable at some point.

Shed

There are many tools that you’ll need to maintain your yard and most of them are used seasonally, which means that storing them until they are needed becomes a problem of its own. That’s why some yards have a pile of tools laying in a corner somewhere until they are actually used.

It’s best to avoid this by setting up a small shed. That’s both better looking and it will keep the tools useable for a longer period of time, simply by hiding them from the elements. The sheds could be pre-made and installed in a yard within hours.

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Pruning

A lot of the times, the yard isn’t crowded and ill designed at all – it’s just not maintained as it should be. Plants grow faster in the summer and they could quickly overtake your yard if they aren’t pruned and maintained on a regular basis.

It’s best not to wait for the plants to grow, but to have a schedule for pruning and mowing the lawn that you’ll stick to regardless of how grown the plants are at any moment. The same goes for watering, which should be done on the schedule based on what plants you are planting.

Garbage

The yard needs to have at least a few garbage bins and recycling cans. You’ll end up using them more often than you think and it’s best to always have one nearby. However, these cans don’t look that nice, especially if you’re going for a clean look for your yard.

There are ways to hide them, that will still keep the recycling accessible and easy to organize, but won’t damage the overall look and feel of the yard. The cans could be painted green and hidden behind bushes or within wooden and decorative containers, for instance.

Yards can easily get crowded and cluttered if they are not maintained properly and with care. This can make even the most beautiful of yards look bad and it can easily be avoided with a little bit of work and a little bit of planning.

The work starts with throwing away all the things that are laying in your yard and that shouldn’t be there. It’s also important to have a storage area for the yard alone, since you’ll need a lot of tools and you need a place to store them away. The yard should also have plenty of recycling bins but they could be hidden not to spoil the overall look.

Guest Contributor, Diana Smith

6 Common Culprits Behind an Unexpected Energy Bill

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6 Common Culprits Behind an Unexpected Energy Bill

If you recently opened your electric bill only to see an astronomical figure, chances are, once you picked your jaw up off the floor, you asked, "Why is this so high?" Multiple factors can impact your overall bill. Aging appliances, several devices left plugged in constantly and leaky windows and doors can result in you paying much more.

The good news? You can reduce your electric bill by following the six tips below. Stemming the flow does require you to be a bit more conscientious about your behavior, but it will save you money and reduce your carbon footprint. Here's what to look out for and how to solve each issue.

1. Have You Recently Bought New Electronics?

Many people leave electronic devices plugged in and turned on all the time, even when these items are not in use. If you live in a four-person household where everyone has a laptop and tablet, that's a lot of devices!

Save money by powering down devices when they're not in use. If you need the ability to hop on a laptop in seconds for work or school, at least put them in sleep mode. Better yet, power them down and shut them off altogether, especially at night. Doing so saves energy and helps protect devices from hackers who need sophisticated tools to power devices on remotely.

2. Your Fridge Gasket Is on the Fritz

Did your mama ever tell you, "Stop standing there with the refrigerator door open! What, are you trying to cool the whole neighborhood?" While she was right — holding open the fridge trying to decide what to eat does waste energy — another culprit may lurk behind your astronomical electric bill.

Your refrigerator gasket refers to the springy plastic material that seals when you close the door. If this seal breaks down with age, you'll lose a ton of cooling out the cracks. Luckily, you can replace your fridge gasket quite easily, and all you need is a screwdriver, an Allen wrench and some petroleum jelly (plus the gasket itself, which costs about $75 at most hardware stores).

3. Your Appliances Are Aging Poorly

If your appliances are older overall, you may need to replace them to save energy. Today, every appliance comes with an ENERGY STAR® rating that gives crucial information about how much electricity the appliance consumes. As a result, engineers now design appliances double or more the efficiency of earlier models.

Are you a renter whose landlord refuses to upgrade? You can still save money and energy. Simply invest in a countertop microwave and toaster oven, and hand wash dishes instead of using the dishwasher (except for with large loads, like Thanksgiving dinner cleanup).

4. Your Air Filters Are Filthy

Be honest: How often do you change your air filters? Experts recommend changing them once per month, less often in the summer if you have a heating-only system. If you have pets or smokers in the residence, you should change them monthly year-round.

Filters cost less than $10 at many grocery and hardware stores. If your filters become clogged, the reduced air flow through your heating and cooling system can cause your heat exchanger to overheat and shut off too quickly. This issue will cost you approximately $175 to repair, and in the meantime, your house won't feel warm even as your electric bill soars.

5. Air is Leaking out Windows and Doors

Take a look at your front door (go ahead, do it now!). Do you see light leaking through cracks between the frame and the outdoors? You're bleeding heat and AC right out to your neighbors if you do. Unless you have a vested interest in keeping your front porch squirrel visitors happy all winter, invest in some inexpensive weather stripping to save significantly.

Do you feel hot or cold when you're sitting near a sunny window? If so, you may need to upgrade your windows. Renter? Instead of improving your landlord's property (they get enough of your hard-earned money), invest in some blackout curtains. These curtains can reduce the amount of heat transferred by your windows by as much as 24%, and as an added bonus, they reduce noise from outside, so urban dwellers rejoice!

6. You Need to Call an Electrician

Finally, if you've unplugged and checked the items above, you may need to call in a pro. An unusually high electric bill can indicate a problem with the meter or a short somewhere in the house. Since electric work carries a fire hazard, let a licensed professional do the work. This requirement is one area where renting has advantages — structural issues such as electric shorts are the landlord's problem to deal with.

Cutting Your Electricity Costs

There's no need to pay astronomical electric bills to feel comfortable in your home. By identifying the culprits sucking your energy like vampires, you can save money and protect the planets' resources.

Guest Contributor, Holly Welles

Holly Welles is a home improvement writer who believes anyone can make the most of their space. You can find more of her work on her blog, The Estate Update.