How to Select Flooring

July 16, 2008 by  
Filed under Home & Garden

how to select flooringThe flooring in a home is arguably the most important style element. Deciding what type of flooring to install should not be done rashly or without considering all of your options. Each kind of flooring material is suitable for a multitude of different purposes, so before you install something you’ll regret a year from now, be sure you know how to select flooring.

Use of Space

The first thing you need to consider is how you will use the space. A bedroom might call for a different flooring option than a kitchen, although some options such as laminate flooring make sense for both. Is the room large and spacious or small and dark? Light, airy rooms can easily handle dark flooring, whole small spaces benefit from lighter flooring options.


Traffic Patterns

Next consider the amount of traffic that passes through the room. Bedrooms receive relatively small amounts of foot traffic while entryways and family rooms receive plenty. Carpet in rooms with heavy foot traffic will become worn down quickly and need to be replaced. Heavier choices such as Pergo flooring or tile will last for decades without showing signs of wear or tear. Save carpet for rooms with little traffic, or at the very least, consider leaving a stretch of tile or hardwood where most walking occurs and carpet in the space where more sitting occurs.


Your lifestyle should be a third consideration. Pets and small children can wreak havoc on hardwood and carpet. But carpet is more comfortable for playing on the floor with young children. If you are looking for easy flooring, avoid hardwoods as they require more maintenance than laminate, tile or marble. If you entertain frequently, those same options are great for cleaning up spills and keeping mess to a minimum.


Flooring Aesthetic and Comfort

Once you know your basic needs and style, consider the aesthetic and comfort of the various options. Hardwood flooring is beautiful. It can warm up any room, but you must be willing to work to keep it looking that way. Carpet soften a room and makes it feel cozy, but will need to be replaced in about five years to keep it looking at its best. If you spend time playing on the floor with children or pets, carpet is a nice option, but if you prefer a cleaner, more modern look consider hardwood, laminate, or even stained concrete flooring.

Flooring Cost

Finally, consider cost. There are options for most flooring choices in every price range. Some, such as hardwood and bamboo flooring, will be more expensive as a whole than basic carpet or laminate. Your cost should be figured over the number of years the product will last as well as any potential impact in home value. Home values are positively impacted by quality flooring choices, so it might make sense to maximize an investment.

Carpet will need to be replaced and hardwoods must be refinished periodically which can impact cost calculations as well. Once you have a rough idea of how much to spend per square foot and a material you like, invite a professional over to give you an estimate or speak with a supplier about installing flooring yourself. Once you’ve made your decision and had your new flooring installed – celebrate your home’s new, refined look.

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How To Increase Your Home Value

July 16, 2008 by  
Filed under Home & Garden

how do I increase the value of a homeRead a home decorating magazine or watch a cable-TV home improvement show, and you might easily conclude that any upgrade will pay off when you sell. This is simply not so because even in good times, not all projects have widespread appeal. You’ll earn back virtually your entire investment in a kitchen or deck, but less than 75 cents on the dollar if you add a home office or sunroom, according to "Remodeling" magazine’s annual cost vs. value survey.

What’s worse, some renovations can even hurt you in the eyes of home buyers, a costly problem if you hope to sell in a softening market like today’s.

The Swimming Pool:

In some areas, especially hot-weather spots like Arizona and Florida, a pool is a must-have. In the Southwest, adding one boosts your home’s value by 11 percent on average, according to a National Association of Realtors study. But elsewhere it can just as easily turn off buyers, who worry about affording the upkeep and insurance. And if the most likely buyer of your home is a family with small children, think long and hard before installing a pool.


"People with younger children may be leery of houses with pools for safety reasons," says Barry Graziano, a real estate agent with Prudential Rand Realty in White Plains, N. Y. "I’ve had families walk away. A pool can cut down on the number of people who will want to buy your house."

The Addition:

You’ve thought about how that great room and master bedroom wing will let the family spread out. But what you probably haven’t considered is what the space will look like from the outside.

"A badly designed addition can kill your resale value," says Sal Alfano, the editorial director of Remodeling. "People focus on the floor plan and the flow, but not on how it fits into the neighborhood or even the house itself."

Watch out for boxy, poorly detailed additions and be careful of a style that will look dated when you throw your open house. Spotting the trend that’s on its way out is trickier than you think. While it is easy to assume that sleek red European kitchen cabinetry is tomorrow’s harvest gold fridge, other design staples that seem like sure bets can quickly drift into obscurity too.


That’s what Mark Johnson, a Whirlpool design manager, says is happening to stainless-steel appliances. "For a period of time, people aspired to a commercial kitchen" he says. "What I am seeing is more interest in warmer finishes."

You want a design trend with legs. Johnson says custom panels that dress appliances in maple or mahogany finishes are likely to remain popular for several years. Also, think about the materials for hardware like hinges and light fixtures. Polished brass or anything shiny is out. Brushed nickel is a better option. Johnson is betting that oiled-bronze finishes will take off next.

The Jacuzzi:

The elaborate master bath is okay, but the big circular tub with 15 jets that can pulse or massage is risky.

According to Holly Slaughter, brand manager at, you’re better off with an oversize shower that has a rain showerhead and multiple jets (think of it as a car wash for humans).

Baby boomers have little time to spend hanging out in the bathtub, and parents with small kids prefer a conventional tub. Ultimately, don’t expect a future buyer to pay up for the luxury you considered an essential.

How to Use a VA Loan

July 11, 2008 by  
Filed under Business & Finance

how to use a va loanIf you served in the military, you may well be eligible for a VA loan. A Veteran’s Affairs mortgage loan allows qualified veterans to purchase a home with and interest rate lower than the typical California mortgage rate, and VA loans don’t require down payment. As the VA loans are backed by the government, they are also helpful to borrowers who might not otherwise qualify for the best interest rates. Here’s how to use a VA loan.

Determine if You Qualify

The first step to using a VA loan is to determine if you actually qualify. To qualify you must be on active duty in the United States military for a specific period of time. Military personnel who served prior to 1980 (1981 for officers) must have been on active duty for 90 days or more in World War II, The Korean War or Vietnam. You also qualify if you were on active duty at least 181 days during peace time.


After 1980/1981, you must have served at least 24 months on active duty unless you were discharged with a service disability. If you’ve already been discharged, you must be honorably discharged. If you served six years as a reserve, you also qualify for a VA loan. Finally, if you attended a United States military academy, you’re qualified.

Get Preapproval

As with any home loan, you’ll want to go through the preapproval process before shopping for a home. Determine how much home you can comfortably afford and work with a bank to cleanup your credit and apply for a preapproval. This tells sellers you can get a loan to buy their home, upping the chances of your offer being approved.


Shop for a Home

Shop for a new home once you’re preapproved for a specific price range. When you find the home you want, put in an offer and follow through on the sale and purchase procedures. When your offer is accepted, complete any outstanding areas of the financing, which shouldn’t be many thanks to your preapproval, have the home appraised and follow the bank and government procedures for closing on the loan. This will likely entail obtaining proof of your eligibility from the local VA office, having the home valued by the government and signing countless pieces of paper.

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