Q: What are the popular trends in flooring for 2014?
A: For homeowners looking to update with hard surface floors, hand-scraped, wide-width boards are becoming more popular. Hand-scraped hardwoods, especially sustainable wood floors such as oak, hickory, maple and heart pine, are making a comeback. These boards offer a natural look that withstand the test of time and are forgiving for homeowners with pets and small children.
Luxury Vinyl Tile has become the most popular floor trend in recent months. Homeowners are pleased that LVT combines the high-end look of hardwoods with the durability of vinyl, and because it stands up to moisture, it provides a great alternative to wood in kitchens, bathrooms and laundry rooms.
While carpet still remains the most popular flooring choice, there has been movement away from Berbers and industrial-pile carpets to soft-strand styles that provide a luxurious feel underfoot.
Stacy Gross, AAAA’s Flooring America
Q: With all of the DIY and design shows and Internet sources available, why should I hire an interior designer?
A: Television and Internet can inspire great ideas, but they can’t provide personal service, local connections or resources to pull a project together efficiently and in a timely manner.
Arriving armed with education, skills and experience, the designer can take care of the research, collaboration and project management so you don’t have to. Designers have studied scale, proportion and special theory as it relates to the environment you want to transform and will use these skills to give you the best solutions, unique to your lifestyle or business.
Interior designers will save you countless hours of research, miles and the confusion of being inundated with too much information. Why not let an interior designer do what they do best. “Making your vision a reality, one masterpiece at a time!”
Chris Metz, Chris Metz Interiors
Q: What can I do with my backyard?
A: Outdoor living spaces in your own backyard are areas that you and your family can relax and enjoy anytime of year. What makes an outdoor living space truly tranquil is the natural environment around it.
Since you will be creating a living room outside, you have to consider natural elements. This includes the prevailing winds and sun orientation. This way, you can be sure that the area for your outdoor living space will not be too hot, especially at times when you use it most. It will also not be complete if you do not have good landscaping for your space. So, be sure that you create a landscape that is in harmony with the interior and architectural design of your home. Tie the space into your home with a patio leading to your kitchen or entranceway and utilize an outdoor grill to expand the way you use your space. Use plants and lights that make your outdoor living room a place you can enjoy year-round.
Holcombe Smith, Exceed Landscape Solutions, Inc.
Q: What is thatch in a home lawn?
A: Thatch is not a collection of grass clippings as is often thought, but it is, instead, a buildup of roots that have moved to the soil surface where fertilizers are present. These roots have become intertwined and matted, making water and nutrient penetration difficult, and provide a haven for insects and diseases. A soil that has been depleted of organic matter and microorganisms cannot break down this destructive layer which adds to the stress of the grass plant. Natural fertilizers penetrate the soil, building sub-soil and allow roots to move down instead of up. They also provide a source of food for microorganisms, which will actually feed on the thatch, breaking it down.
Louis Carta, Grass Root Technology, LLC
Q: Is it necessary to put something on my windows other than shutters or blinds?
A: The answer is yes! Many people forget how adding the softness of fabric around a window frame, even if you have shutters, will soften the whole look of the room. Adding fabric brings in color, texture and pattern. It also helps take the echo out of a room that seems bare. A favorite is to install drapery panels on either side of a window. Using the right hardware, sometimes very simple poles and a beautiful fabric, can make all the difference in the world. Even hanging a soft sheer fabric that is unlined will still make a statement. Windows should be “dressed” even if it is just a roller shade that you can open every morning to see outside. I imagine the look of a textured roller shade with a pair of drapery panels!
Karen Cotran, It’s The Little Things, LLC
Q: My fireplace has gas logs. Do I need a chimney sweep?
A: Building codes and gas hearth manufacturers require an inspection of the system before installation of a gas appliance in a wood-burning fireplace. If deposits or debris are found, a sweep service is required before gas logs are installed. A safety concern would exist if any potential debris, including creosote or animal nesting, were not removed from the chimney.
Gas-hearth appliances require periodic maintenance when system problems occur. Manufacturers also recommend preventative maintenance. Homeowners should look for soot deposits on the logs or any other operational problems.
The gas appliance should be serviced by a qualified technician yearly before the heating season begins. The gas technician will check for any safety concerns and perform the recommended preventative maintenance on the appliance. This applies to all gas-hearth appliances.
Steven Lantry, Mid Carolina Chimney Service
Q: How do I choose a contractor for outdoor lighting?
A: Choosing an outdoor lighting company can be tricky. There are many factors to consider before making the final decision. Here are a few things to look for.
Are they certified? The state of South Carolina currently does not require any special licenses or certifications to install low voltage lighting. Because of this, a lot of companies disguise themselves as experts in lighting and electrical work just to get the job. For a typical residential project, they should at least have a low voltage certification.
Find out how long the company has been in business. Are the products under warranty? Make sure the company offers a nighttime demonstration and a service plan. You want to ensure that your lights always look just as good as they did when they were installed. Ultimately, choose a company that fits your needs, provides great service and is one that you can trust.
Kenneth Kaufman, Outdoor Lighting Perspectives
Q: Is a pest control service for my home really worth it or can I just do it myself?
A: Many homeowners attempt to do their own pest control, but after trying the DIY method, most have found that calling a professional pest control company is far more cost effective. Choose pest control technicians who are trained on the behavior and biology of the target pests. Make sure they know where and how to perform a treatment in the safest, most effective manner. Professionals also have the proper equipment and products to perform the applications that are not readily available to homeowners. During their treatments, professional technicians will inspect for conditions conducive to a pest problem that a homeowner may not be aware of and will provide recommendations on how to correct them. There is more to a professional pest control service than just spraying chemicals. It is also about knowing your target pests, safety and protecting our environment.
Ken Smith, Palmetto Exterminators
Q: How can we be assured that a company can complete our renovation job on time?
A: This is quite simple for qualified companies. As a project first starts, be sure to initiate a written scope to work with the duration assigned to every task and make sure the company thoroughly and efficiently meets those assigned deadlines. Choose a team that is strongly built with an on-site manager/lead carpenter along with a team at the office including the owner and an experienced project manager; as well as a series of sub-contractors that have worked in the business for many years. This system creates a very well put-together team that follows a very detailed written schedule, which is shared with the entire team, the owner and our reliable suppliers. This process is what has earned the better companies a reputation for outstanding workmanship, creative design solutions and reliable, thorough service.
Tony Thompson, Remodeling Services Unlimited, Inc.
Q: I have always heard that gas is much quicker than electricity when bringing water to a boil. Is that true?
A: Surprisingly, gas is not faster. The old “coil” type burner that many of us grew up with has always been faster than gas. Lately however, magnetic induction, which has grown in popularity, is much quicker than gas, or even a microwave for that matter. Induction cooking safely gives you the instant “high” and “low” that gas provides, but without the open flame, which can be a concern with small children.
Robert Shealy, S & G Builder Appliances, Inc.
Q: What are some considerations when choosing a new roofing system?
A: Not all roofs are created equal. However, the goal of every system is to shed water and protect your home from the elements. Asphalt shingles are one of the most popular and affordable roofing products. In particular, the architectural style shingles have a very high resistance to wind speeds and impact. Slate roofing products are some of the most expensive but can last a century. Cedar shakes and metal products fall in-between the price range.
It is important to install adequate underlayment and accessories. Roofing felt and ice shield are standard underlayment products. Proper ventilation will ensure the longevity of your roof in addition to keeping your energy bills down. Once your new roof is installed, it is a good idea to have it checked out every five to 10 years to be sure it is functioning properly.
Wright Brennan, Seawright Renovations
Q: What happens to my security system if my phone line goes down?
A: If you have a traditional landline service and it goes down, your security service will also go down. But, you can bypass such a security lapse through our cell backup device. A cell backup allows you to keep uninterrupted service to your home when standard phone or power lines are down. It allows for an emergency signal to reach our central station if phone lines are disconnected or if your VoIP Internet phone service is unavailable.
By using cell backup, you will always have security coverage, and it also allows the user to control their security system through a smartphone app.
Michael Rama, Sonitrol Security Systems
Q: What is plant health care and how can it benefit my landscape?
A: In years past, broad spectrum pesticides and quick-release fertilizers were the standard for controlling pest populations and increasing plant growth. Today, the plant health care approach shifts the focus to keeping plants healthy from the start and keeping pest populations at a tolerable level so a healthy plant can effectively deal with them. We have realized that in most cases, plant problems are not the result of a single insect or disease.
Plant health care takes a holistic approach when making management decisions that focus on the living and non-living factors of the landscape that affect the plant and its success in the landscape. A successful plant health care program will enable the homeowner and plant health care technicians to create a plan that prevents problems before they become damaging. This proactive approach will manage plant health by using a wide range of practices that affect the plant and the environment where it lives, in a way that is effective and affordable.
Blake Roddy, Sox & Freeman
Q: Which method of carpet cleaning is best?
A: Most carpet manufacturers suggest hot water extraction to prolong the life of their carpet and maintain the manufacturer’s warranty. This method of cleaning uses hot water cleaning solution under high pressure forced into the carpet and extracted back out. This method is also referred to as steam cleaning even though steam is not used. Top carpet manufacturers have said that other processes just rearrange dirt instead of removing it.
The truck-mounted system provides a deeper cleaning because pressurized water (around 400psi) is heated to over 200 degrees which breaks up dirt and helps to kill bacteria in the carpet. The high-powered suction then draws the dirt out of the carpet without leaving a residue behind like other methods can. When done properly, this method will remove 95 percent of the moisture and leave carpets only damp to the touch.
Suzanne Pucci, Stanley Steemer
Q: What products will keep the heat and UV rays from coming through my windows?
A: EnerLogic® window film is an excellent choice. This film essentially turns single pane windows into double panes and double pane windows into triple panes. By filtering out excess heat, glare and Ultraviolet radiation, it will keep the summer heat out and the winter heat in as well as protect your furnishings from premature fading.
EnerLogic® window film will lower your energy costs year-round. Over the product life of EnerLogic® window film, homeowners with single pane windows may expect to save an average of $3,500 on heating and cooling costs. That’s a great deal of savings on keeping your home comfy without costly or disruptive window replacement. It’s time to start saving with EnerLogic® window film.
Jeff Carstetter, Sun Shades & Graphics, Inc.
Q: If I smell my fireplace, does it need sweeping?
A: The National Fire Protection Agency recommends fireplaces and flues be inspected and swept if needed, annually. If you notice odors from your fireplace and you haven’t had it inspected in the last year, it would be a good idea to contact a CSIA certified chimney sweep and set up an appointment. They will report on the condition of your firebox, smoke chamber, smoke shelf, damper assembly, flue area and top.
Be sure your chimney top and crown wash are in satisfactory condition. Protecting the exterior corbel areas of the chimney will also help protect from rain as well as protecting the brickwork and mortar.
If odors are noticed, you may need to open a window partially to allow replacement air into the home. It is best to open a window on the lower level of the home near the HVAC return or dryer. To find a certified chimney sweep, contact the Chimney Safety Institute of America (www.CSIA.org).
Ron Russ, Top Hat Sweepers