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Helpful Home Tips

Tips to keep your house cool

Whether you are new to the Tucson area or have been here for a while, one thing holds true: Arizona summers are hot.

Temperatures in the Old Pueblo can reach well above 100 degrees. As the use of your evaporative cooler, air conditioner or heat pump increase, your electric bills may increase.

There are a lot of easy steps to control bills and still stay comfortable. Experts say seventy-eight degrees are quite acceptable. In summer, turning the thermostat up will keep the costs down.

Studies indicate that the cooling system will run less if you keep it at one temperature setting. Also, limit temperature variances to three degrees. Apply weather stripping and caulking around doors and windows to keep the chilled air inside.

Also use ceiling or oscillating fans to keep air moving, so you feel cooler without increasing air conditioner use and don't block vents or ducts inside the house. This enables your cooling and heating systems to work more efficiently.

You can plant trees and shrubs to keep the house and air conditioner's outdoor component in the shade, yet still allow air to circulate.

Shade west-facing windows and walls to reduce afternoon temperatures 30 to 40 degrees Also, in the summer use shades, blinds or curtains to keep the sunlight out, especially in the afternoon in rooms facing west.

Landscaping also enhances the appearance and value of your home. And finally remember to budget for higher summer electric bills.

Resolve to Check Out That Contractor

The allure of low interest rates may make you eager to embark on a home improvement project. But before you choose a contractor, SAHBA and the Arizona Registrar of Contractors (AROC) advise homeowners to do their homework.

AROC handles thousands of consumer complaints about poor workmanship, unfulfilled contracts and agreements, deceptive advertising, and violations of safety or labor laws. Several complaints are filed against licensed contractors

AROC holds the contractor responsible for workmanship problems for two years from date of completion.

For recovery, you can appeal to the Residential Contractors Recovery Fund that compensates consumers for claims up to $30,000. If you use an unlicensed contractor, you lose access to the recovery fund. Torres.

Another safeguard is The SAHBA Remodelers Council, which provides education and certification for local professional remodelers. SAHBA has a list of certified remodelers available to consumers.

How do you verify a licensed contractor's record?

By calling 1-888-271-9286 or searching online ( You may learn if the contractor's license has been suspended or revoked, or if consumers have filed prior complaints against the person or the company, according to AROC.

Here are more tips from AROC to avoid scams or poor work.

  • Get at least three written bids from licensed contractors. Be cautious of bids that seem too good to be true.
  • Ask for references and talk to previous customers.
  • Carefully plan and pre-approve the project.
  • Negotiate a clear contract in writing that includes:
    • A list of materials with specifications
    • Start and end dates
    • The total price and payment schedule. Ask if there is a cancellation penalty.
    • Special requests or features
  • Ask to see all necessary building permits
  • OK completion only after you've done a thorough "walk-through" and are satisfied with the work
  • OK all changes to plans and specifications

Take Your Kitchen to the Great Outdoors

Whoever said kitchens had to be strictly indoors? Now you can make your home stand out by moving your kitchen to the outdoors with professional-quality appliances.

These include freestanding and built-in outdoor gas grilles, slide-in refrigerators, freestanding and built-in outdoor bars, food serving carts, and high-capacity outdoor icemakers.

Outdoor appliances can transform any patio or yard into the perfect space for homeowners and their friends and family to gather, prepare foods, and enjoy professional-caliber cooking results."

Many of today's grill models start up quickly and easily using an electronic ignition mechanism. Many feature a smoke drawer for flavor enhancement and convenient warming rack, and most feature a rotisserie with an infrared burner. Grates, grille lids and sear plates are made from rust-proof stainless steel and work in tandem to balance heat evenly over all cooking surfaces, resulting in foods cooked to perfection every time.

Stylish freestanding and built-in outdoor bars offer everything needed to mix and serve drinks for guest, including a sink, faucet, 500 gallon water filtration system, ice bin, bottle storage compartment, and other perks.


Check Your Locks at the Door: How to Protect Home and Family

Most door and window locks might keep out someone who just rattles the knob, but they won't stop a determined burglar. Nationally, thieves enter homes through an unlocked entry in more than 40% of all residential burglaries.

Every exterior door should have a dead-bolt lock with a one-inch throw. If you have a key-in-the-knob lock, install an auxiliary lock like a bolt or a cylinder dead-bolt. When you move into a new house or apartment, re-key the locks because you never know who had keys.

Do not hide keys in mailboxes, planters or under doormats. Police suggest that you trade keys with a trusted neighbor instead.

Some additional security tips to consider:

Secure sliding glass doors with commercial locks, a wooden dowel in the track or insert a nail or pin through a hole drilled in the sliding frame that projects into the fixed frame. Lock double-hung windows with the proper sash lock or by sliding-bolt.

Consider grilles for street-level windows if you live in a high-crime area.

Locks are less effective when installed in flimsy or weak doors. Make sure outside doors are solid, at least 1-3/4 inch metal or solid wood.

Be sure doors fit tightly in the frames and hinges should be on the inside. Swing-out doors should have hinges with non-removable pins. Frames should be shimmed securely at the hinges and the strike-plate area. Also, be sure to secure the door between your house and garage since that is a common entry spot for thieves.

Install a peephole in all entry doors so you can see who is outside without opening the door. A short chain lock is not a good substitute because it can be broken easily.

Let it Grow, Let it Grow

Remember that timing is everything.

Prime planting season is late August through early October in Tucson to ensure your plants can develop a sturdy root system.

Unfortunately, some people wait until late October to Thanksgiving to begin their planting, thinking that daytime temperatures have finally moderated. But "nighttime temperatures, not daytime temperatures, make the biggest difference."

Homeowners should install three or four separate irrigation lines in their landscaping system, one for trees, one for shrubs, one for ground cover, and one for potted plants, a rose garden or a vegetable garden.

The keys to watering efficiently and effectively are long, deep, and slow doses. Remember to move emitters further out each year to accommodate tree root growth, he said.

What sort of drought-resistant shrubs, trees, and flowers can withstand the Sonoran summer?

Consider chaparral sage, silver cloud sage, and thundercloud sage, all of which are varieties of the Texas ranger plant family. Cassias, Texas mountain laurel, Mexican honeysuckle, chuparosa, and gopher purge are other hardy shrubs.

Trees that do well in our Tucson climate include Texas ebony, palo blanco, and, for patio shade, the Mexican bird of paradise with yellow blooms.

For pots and planters, vinca and salvia are resistant to critters and summer heat. In the peak of summer, star zinnia, purslane, sedum, a succulent, coreopsis, gazanias, and Mexican sunflowers are recommended.

As with tree irrigation, deep, slow watering sessions are best for pots and planters.

Finally, if you have a rock wall instead of greenery, remember that rock raises the temperatures around the house in summer. Instead, consider planting trees, particularly deciduous trees such as Arizona ash and desert willow, in strategic spots for shade in summer.

Deciduous trees are the cleanest trees, because unlike mesquite or acacia trees they only shed once a year.

Knob Appeal: The Latest in Home Hardware

Homeowners are setting their homes apart and showcasing works of art with custom drawer pulls and cabinet knobs.

These seemingly small details helps differentiate a home, and can update/upgrade the look of a kitchen or a bathroom.

What are the most popular styles and finishes?

Brass products of the olden days are gone as few builders or designers choose shiny finishes these days.

Now, the materials spectrum runs from stainless steel for a clean, understated and contemporary look to iron, bronze and stone. Also there are pulls available that coordinate with Corian, granite or stone counter tops.

Many of the more interesting and unusual selections are hand-made using shapes that suggest the Stone Age, colored glass in hues such as merlot and topaz, and the newest offering, leather knobs. These may accent or augment the décor in a home office, master bedroom suite, child's room, or hobby room.

In terms of color, rust remains the most popular hue because it complements stone, has a matte finish and fits traditional or contemporary décors.

The same design range follows for bathroom faucets and sinks. People prefer either the sleek, high tech look or the old world look of copper or bronze above-counter sinks and faucets, especially for a guest bathroom or powder room.

Homebuyers and people embarking on remodeling projects should not judge by the look the look alone, but also by the feel of the knob or handle and whether it fits the use and space.

Consider Upgrading Your Home During National Remodeling Month

If you're thinking about buying a bigger house but you really love your current neighborhood and feel at home in spite of the tight quarters, remodeling might be the solution to your space problems.

During National Remodeling Month in May, consider upgrading your home to increase your family's comfort and, at the same time, add value to what may be your most important financial asset.

Remodeling is an efficient way to enhance the value of your current home and allows homeowners to customize a home to meet their needs and desires. Whether you are looking to add space, incorporate new amenities or lifestyle changes such as new children or aging in place, remodeling can provide an alternative to moving.

Before you begin remodeling, decide what changes you want to make and examine options that may be most useful for you in the future.

Are you planning to stay in your home through retirement? Then you may want to consider features such as wider doors, grab bars and better lighting to allow you to comfortably "age in place." After you've evaluated the potential improvements you'd like to make to you your home, create a prioritized list.

A good rule of thumb is that any remodeling project which brings your home up to the level of the others in your neighborhood is a worthy investment," says SAHBA Remodeler Greg Miedema.

Talk to friends and neighbors who have remodeled their homes. Who did they work with? Were they satisfied with the process and the results?

Many factors other than price need to be considered before the best contractor for the specific project is found. For more information, visit .

Vinyl Floors: To Clean or Not to Clean

Keeping your vinyl floors looking like new doesn't have to mean wasting half your Saturday morning.

After installation of new vinyl flooring, don't wash your new floor too soon. Wait several days after installation to give your new floor covering a chance to completely bond to the sub-floor

Save time and avoid extra work with these care tips for new and existing flooring:

  • Sweep up dirt and grit early. Go over the floor with a soft broom, dust mop or vacuum cleaner.
  • Wipe up spills before they get sticky or hard. Most spills won't stain or harm vinyl floors, but you'll save time wiping them up before the spill dries and it's harder to remove.
  • Mop with clean, warm water if sweeping alone doesn't take off accumulated dirt. Just a little water does the job.

After every few cleanings, add a mild cleaning solution such as liquid detergent.

Using soap is not recommended. Rinse thoroughly with clear water to remove all traces of the detergent. If the detergent is not completely removed, the floor will feel sticky or tacky.

Scrubbing should not be necessary except to remove stubborn stains. Vinyl floors do not need to be waxed to protect them. In addition to normal cleaning, an occasional buffing will bring back a lot of the original luster. You can do this with an electric buffer and a clean, dry lamb's wool pad.

Proper care is quick, easy and inexpensive. Prevent soil accumulation, vacuum frequently, and always clean up spills promptly.

Transform Your Unused Space into a Useable Nook

Are you feeling claustrophobic in your own home with the amount of "stuff" you've accumulated over the years? Do your kids leave the toys out, teenagers never hang up clothes, or there is no space to put your crafts, tools or garden supplies?

Think creatively and consider spaces you've previously overlooked for a play area, reading nook or work room, such as under the stairs, above closets, or under a bed. Many homes have hidden, unused space that is perfect for a loft or child's hideaway.

You can create an unusual play nook for kids, check the space under the stairs as kids love spaces that are too small for adults, and under the stairs quickly becomes a kids' only zone. Adding light-colored walls and a Dutch door can make a big difference."

However, if you don't have usable space under the stairs, consider a closet or bed to make a loft.

Lofts can be created by simply putting a bed on stilts.

With a little creativity, lofts can be designed to "grow" with your child's changing needs. A flexible design would permit a child's play area to be transformed into a teen's study or TV room.

Before you get started with building a hideaway for your child or yourself, be sure to consult with a remodeler to guarantee that there is proper ventilation, lighting, electricity, and heating and cooling systems. Visit for qualified remodelers

Look to the Ceiling as a Fifth Wall

Open floor plans are a popular design trend because they allow activities to move from one part of the house to another. However, there is a drawback; sometimes rooms are not clearly defined.

Home owners have used furniture placement, wall colors or area rugs to help define these spaces, but now there is another option: area ceilings.

After the walls and floors, the ceiling is the largest surface in a home. Give it character and personality by adding texture and pattern.

New and exciting designs are available in ceiling tiles and planks. There are a variety of textures, designs and patterns to choose from, regardless of your decor or budget.

Tiles or planks can highlight any area by breaking up the boring, white expanse of a flat ceiling. The tiles have no visible grid system, can be painted, and with a tongue-and-groove design, can be easily installed. This assures proper alignment, a level surface and a smooth fit.

Define your personal decorating style by choosing from warm, wood tones, stylish raised panels, or an intriguing replica of pressed tin.

Choices like these help balance an interior by adding harmony to unify a decorating schemer. When combined with recessed lighting and perhaps a ceiling fan, you can appreciate just how important the ceiling is in the overall design and feel of your room.

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