Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Improving the value of your home with bamboo flooring

If you are looking to increase the value of your home, replacing old carpets or tile with a beautifully laid bamboo floor will certainly help. And if your home isn’t up for resell and you just want to have beautiful flooring, using bamboo is an elegant and affordable way to go.

Bamboo flooring may only be a little over ten years old, but its beauty and environmental factors have spoken for itself. And, floor experts have discovered that bamboo is actually harder than hardwoods such as Maple and Oak. Not only that, bamboo is extremely eco-friendly, and stands up the look, feel, sound, and warmth of its hardwood peers.

When we think of bamboo, we see reeds of tall grasses growing in tropical locations. So how does a grass become transformed into a wood floor? For starters, only a particular type of Bamboo is used, most often the Moso variety. Once Moso poles reach 40 to 50 feet in height, they are harvested and dried. The drying process is slow, typically four years in the sun. The bamboo is then sliced into thin uniform strips and planed on all sides. The pieces are converted into flooring made of either two or three layered horizontal or vertical laminated pieces. Bamboo can either be nailed to a wood subfloor or glued directly to a concrete sub-floor. Floating is not recommended. There is a variety of moldings made available as well to hide expansion gaps and for staircases.

Bamboo flooring comes in a variety of colors. Pretreated, coloring choices are natural and smoky amber. If the product comes to the states untreated, stains can vary from pinks to a variety of browns. Because bamboo is a grass rather than a tree, its finished appearance is very distinctive. Most distinctive is the eye-catching pattern of slightly darker bands produced by its nodes – a feature that clearly sets it apart from wood. Bamboo’s other aesthetic features include the tightness of its grain and the uniformity of its color.

These untreated and stained pieces of bamboo flooring are then given a final coating, typically made up of an aluminum oxide and polyurethane scratch-resistant topcoat. Coatings can be matte or glossy, with glossy tending to scratch more easily than matte.

Bamboo’s popularity has continued to grow with its discovery. The fact that it is a grass, a quickly renewable resource that yields a product 25 times faster than timber, has been of primary interest to the environmentally conscious. The beauty is an added bonus. With the cost of bamboo equivalent to oak flooring, it isn’t hard on the pocketbook either. Bamboo is also easy to clean and considered ideal for allergy sufferers, as they do not harbor dust mites.

When cleaning bamboo, a soft touch is best to prevent minute scratches on the surface. A padded cleaning head on your vacuum cleaner or a damp mop is most appropriate. This method will keep dust and debris from accumulating and scratching your bamboo floor. You should also take care never to over wet your bamboo floor. While it is resistant to moisture due to its tropical origins, it is best to minimize moisture exposure to help preserve the material. Mop spills using a damp cloth and dry immediately.

Putting area rugs on pathways that may experience high traffic. This keeps the bamboo floor from scuffing due to the high amount of traffic in a certain area. To prevent dirt and other debris from coming onto the floor from the outside, place exterior mats in entryways. Gravel and debris stuck in the bottom of shoes may scratch the finish of your bamboo floor.

If you have pets, remember to regularly trim your pets' nails to prevent them from scratching and gouging the bamboo floor. And of course, when moving furniture from one place to another, lift them instead of dragging them along the floor.

So if you are ready to transform the look of your home, putting in bamboo flooring will give you a huge start.

About the Author: Greg Sullivan is the President of www.electronicappraiser.com, a leading provider of home appraisals offering a nationwide personalized instant information about house values. For more information, please visit www.electronicappraiser.com.

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Wednesday, December 12, 2007

What Makes A Home “Green”

Green is the new black, so to speak. Everybody is talking about going green and even building green. So what does it really mean to build green?

Defining green has been a challenge, even for those who are as green as you can get. To sum up green, the question would be – what type of environmental impact does the materials you are using have?

Assessing impact can mean on the front end or the back end. For example, in some instances, the product you use in building your home might not be green to build, but the results of that product can be beneficial. A good example would be if a window is installed in a way that maximizes the collection of low winter sunlight and blocks the summer sun, this saves energy and is green.

Because defining green is difficult, standards are starting to be organized and listed in the GreenSpec directory. This directory bases decisions about products on categories such as energy-consuming appliances and VOC-emitting paints, specific thresholds can be established relatively easily. But for many criteria, the lines are much fuzzier and judgment calls are required.

It is important also to note that multiple criteria often apply—in other words, a product may be considered green for more than one reason. Take recycled plastic lumber, for example: it’s made from recycled waste, it’s highly durable, and it can obviate the need for pesticide treatments. Straw particleboard products are made from agricultural waste materials, and they are free from formaldehyde off-gassing. A product with multiple benefits could qualify for GreenSpec on the basis of its overall environmental performance, even if it doesn’t meet a threshold in any one category alone. Conversely, a product with one or more green attributes might not qualify if it also carries significant environmental burdens. For example, wood treated with toxic preservatives has advantages in terms of durability, but it would not be listed in GreenSpec due the health and environmental hazards it represents.

The primary intent with any green building products directory is to simplify the product selection process.

Another way to build green is to conform to what is called LEED Standards. LEED or ‘The Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design’ is a Green Building Rating System™ that encourages and accelerates global adoption of sustainable green building and development practices through the creation and implementation of universally understood and accepted tools and performance criteria.

There are many resources available for consumers so that they can adapt their building materials and design to LEED standards. Building this way is probably the simplest way to go and there are many resources available to assist you.

So should you build green because it is popular? Not necessarily. You should build green because it is what will ultimately provide a ‘green’ future and not a black one.

About the Author: Greg Sullivan is the President of www.electronicappraiser.com, a leading provider of home appraisals offering a nationwide personalized instant home appraisal services. For more information, please visit www.electronicappraiser.com.

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Monday, December 3, 2007

Are you ready to buy your first home?

There are many great reasons to own a home. For one, the place is yours.

When you own your own home you have a place to raise your children and to be a part of a community. You can even pass your home down to your children and their children, creating security for generations to come.

Owning your own home can even help you reduce your taxes. You can deduct the interest on your mortgage and property taxes you pay on your home on the tax returns you file each year. These tax savings partially reduce, or offset somewhat, the actual cost of owning your home.

Another good reason to own your own home is that your monthly payments won’t ever go up, that is if you choose a fixed-rate mortgage! A fixed mortgage is one that stays the same for the life of the loan. If the mortgage is 30 years, you’ll pay the same mortgage payment each month for the entire 30 years of the loan.

So what are the risks of owning a home, you might ask? Overall, homeownership is a good investment for most people. If you understand the benefits and risks of homeownership, you can make the best decision about when to buy a home.

The first risk is that your monthly housing expenses can increase if your mortgage is higher than what you are used to paying in rent. On the flip side, rent goes up while your mortgage can stay the same. Another risk is that if an appliance breaks, you will have to pay for its repair or replacement. You are also responsible for the maintenance and upkeep of your home and your property.

If you are somebody who plans to move soon, the downfall of owning is that you have to wait to sell your home to move. Depending on the local real estate market, you might not be able to sell your home quickly. You should also factor in the likely expense of hiring a real estate professional. Fees can be negotiated and vary across regions. They also vary from professional to professional.

The last risk is that property values can depreciate. You can lose value in your home for a number of reasons, such as a recession, the condition of your home not being kept up, or a drop in a neighborhood’s home values. If your home loses value and you have to sell it for less than you owe, you will be required to repay the full mortgage.

Many people don’t even consider buying a home as they believe that you need great credit to become a homeowner. The fact is, you may still be able to buy a home with less-than-perfect credit. And remember, you can improve your credit over time.

Another myth about buying a home that often keeps people from looking is that you need to put 20% down. There are many types of mortgage products and programs that allow low and no down payments. But remember to factor in other costs such as closing costs, property taxes, moving expenses, and repairs.

So are you ready to buy your first home? Certainly the benefits outweigh the risks.
About the Author: Greg Sullivan is the President of www.electronicappraiser.com, a leading provider of home appraisals offering a nationwide personalized instant home appraisal services. For more information, please visit www.electronicappraiser.com.

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