So You Think You’re a Lumberjack?

Follow these quick tips before you start chopping down trees.

Every year, mother nature likes to do a little house cleaning of its plant life in the form of storms, wind, lightning, ice, hurricanes, disease and more. Sometimes these forces of nature negatively impact the trees in your yard. Removing these trees is sometimes required by your local government, especially if they are interfering with power lines. Some places, like Seattle, also require permits.

Tree Removal Tips

Tree removal is something that should typically be done by a professional with experience. However, if you decide to take on the task yourself, it would be wise to follow these tree cutting tips.

Before you start wailing away with an axe or calling a professional arborist, first you should look for some of these common signs that you need to remove your tree:

  • Dead wood in the branches, or especially the trunk
  • Large crack in the core of the tree
  • Poor leaf growth
  • Bad bark on the stem of the tree (ie discoloring, separation, etc)

How Much Does it Cost?

This tree removal cost guide is a great place to start and will give you a good idea of all the things you need to consider such as size, location, type of tree, and more. You’ll also have to decide on whether you want to pay the stump removal cost. Once removed, you could even do something creative with it, like a tree stump garden.

Is It Necessary to Cut the Whole Tree Down?

Many times the tree is perfectly healthy and doesn’t need to be completely removed. Often, a good tree trimming or pruning will suffice. A good example is when a storm just takes down a branch or two, or when the tree hasn’t been trimmed in a while and starts to interfere with power lines. Trimming or pruning a tree is something is also often best left to a professional and certified arborist. Someone like an arborist that is familiar with the proper techniques will go a long way in preserving the life of your tree. As an added bonus – and something many people don’t think about – they’ll also make it an attractive element of your landscape. This will often provide a slight lift to your property value as well. And the cost of tree trimming is often quite reasonable.

One Step to a Relaxed Season

Step 1: Hire a Handyman
Life is hectic enough as it is. Why make it any busier by adding a whole bunch of home improvement projects into the mix? After all, you should be having fun and relaxing. To make sure you stay as relaxed as possible, we recommend that you hire a handyman to take care of all those tiresome little home maintenance problems getting in the way of your good times. Here’s what you need to know.

Get Organized
The hardest part about hiring a handyman is figuring out what you need him to do. Walk through your house, room by room, inside and out, and make a list of all the things that need attention. Next, organize the list into logical groupings, e.g. painting, wall repairs, etc. Once your list is ready, you’re ready to begin the selection process.

Handyman Costs
Most firms charge by the hour and most will charge more for the first hour than subsequent hours. This is where your list comes into play, because ideally you want the handyman to get everything done at once. Giving them a list also reduces the amount of time you have spend explaining everything to them. Last but not least, you get what you pay for. A handyman who is licensed and insured will cost more than one who is only insured, and much more than one who isn’t licensed or insured. We don’t recommend that you hire a pro that isn’t insured.

It’s Not Getting Any Cooler

So maybe it’s time to come up with a viable solution.

We understand when the end of July and early August comes, it can get so hot that nothing can help. We’ve been there. We’re talking especially to you folks wading through the air in humidity-heavy locales.

So if you’re sick of cold showers, sitting in warm water swimming pools, or paying for endless movie tickets just for the air conditioning, here’s a quick tip.

Change or clean your air conditioning filter regularly, especially throughout the summer, to make sure it’s running at full pace. This will make your home cooler, and will save on energy bills (PDF) since your unit won’t have to work so hard to get cold air out. Also make sure window units and your unit outdoor aren’t blocked by any leaves, vines, or other kind of debris.

Do this and do everyone a favor. It’s not like the rest of the world enjoys seeing (smelling) you as sweaty as you probably are by this point, either.

Carpets Can’t Talk

But if They Could They’d Thank You

Sure, you vacuum like a responsible homeowner should, but your carpets aren’t as clean as you think they are. In fact, deep down they’re really, really dirty. And while vacuuming does a great job of picking up the superficial layers of dirt and grime, if you want to really clean your carpets you need to have them professionally cleaned. Here’s why.

It Extends the Life of Your Carpets

All that dirt doesn’t just look bad; as it works its way deep into the carpet it breaks down the carpet fibers. The deeper into the carpet it goes, the more damage it’s going to cause. Having your carpets professionally cleaned every year reduces wear and tear. In fact, some manufacturers require cleanings as part of the warranty. Or you could just use a coir carpet, rug or mat to cut down on carpet cleaning costs!

It Improves Your Health

Did you know that 90% of the dust in your home is shedded skin? You might think it’s gross, but dust mites and parasites love it. Cleaning your carpets removes all those allergens and irritants, greatly improving the air quality of your home. If that’s not reason enough to have your carpets professionally cleaned we don’t know what is.

Spend Less Time Watering On Your Lawn

And More Time Lounging on It.

We like yard work as much as the next guy. But there’s only so much we’ll do for a green lawn. Babysitting a sprinkler all day isn’t one of them. Besides making life infinitely easier, an underground sprinkler system ensures your lawn gets the water it needs to stay healthy and green. If you’re considering installing a sprinkler system, here are a few things you need to know.

System Type

Most sprinkler systems consist of a combination of spray heads and rotor heads. Not surprising, they distribute water as their names suggest. Spray heads are great for lawns that are relatively flat while rotors are better for those that aren’t. If your lawn is xeriscaped, or you have a lot of plants and shrubs, you will probably want to install a drip irrigation system. These are an efficient and cost-effective way to conserve water while ensuring your plants stay healthy.


With the exception of basic drip irrigation systems, most sprinkler systems are not do-it-yourself projects. Though it’s not an impossible project, it’s one that’s best left in the hands of an experienced professional. When it comes to costs, there are many different variables that affect the cost. For that reason, it’s important to get at least three quotes for the project (be wary of any firm that gives you a quote without seeing your lawn).

When you consider how much time a sprinkler system can save you, not to mention how much easier it’ll make your life, it’s easy to justify installing a sprinkler system. In fact, there’s enough summer left to consider having one installed this season.

Splintered Decks, Splintered Lives

Anna and Gary planned the perfect BBQ. Little did they know that a hidden danger was lurking underfoot – a danger that was about to turn a joy-filled party into an experience that would shatter the innocence of walking barefoot on a ratty old deck. If only Gary and Anna would’ve listened to their neighbor Dennis and repaired their splintered deck when they had the chance.

“Seriously,” he said. “It’s easy. First, you spray down the deck with mixture of bleach and water to kill the mold and restore it to a uniform color. Then you sand it down and power wash it to get the wood all nice and smooth. Last but not least, you treat it with some water sealant.”

Gary laughed and pointed at his deck. “And that’s all I need to do to get this thing looking good as new?”

Dennis nodded.

“Maybe I’ll get to it next week,” said Gary.

But he never did and everyone got splinters.

Don’t be a Gary. Fix your deck before your guests get splinters.

Formica: It’s Not Trendy, But It Sure Is Popular

Rediscover the Versatility of Formica.
Remember when you were house shopping and came across a horribly dated kitchen? Chances are that was not the house you bought. If it was, the kitchen was probably the first thing to get renovated. We’re here to help you from making the same mistake those homeowners did. Be warned, our advice might shock you.

Forget the Stone

There, we said it. Granite, marble, and other stone countertops might be all the rage right now, but today’s trend is tomorrow’s renovation. Instead of spending the extra cash on countertops that instantly date your home, save your cash and install Formica counters. Worried about bucking the trend? Don’t be. 70% of homes today still prefer laminate countertops due to their resiliency, easy maintenance, and of course, affordability.

Chameleon Countertops

Forget what you knew about laminate. Today’s laminates are being produced to look like granite, marble, and other stone surfaces – giving you the natural stone look without the heavy price tag and maintenance hassles.

Affordable and Durable

Since Formica is so affordable compared to natural stone, it’s a great choice if you like to frequently update the look of your kitchen. In addition to being affordable, Formica countertops are incredibly durable too. With a little bit of maintenance your Formica countertop will last you as long as you want it to.

Hey Michelangelo, You Missed a Spot!

Pro Tips for Amateur Exterior Painters

You might not be painting the Sistine Chapel, but that doesn’t mean you don’t want to do a good job. Whether your home is due for a whole house painting or just a few touch ups, here are a few exterior painting tips that’ll have you painting like a pro.

Prep Not, Waste Lots
The key to a successful paint job is prep work. While it can be the most time consuming part of the whole process, you’ll be glad you took the time to power wash the siding and tape off the areas that don’t need painting.

Get The Right Gear
Most experts recommend one gallon of paint per 400 square feet. They also recommend that you invest in good paintbrushes and rollers since they do a better job of applying an even coat of paint.

Prime Time
Priming is a must. It gives the paint a better surface to stick to and helps bring out its true color. If you want to save time, look for paint/primer combos. It’s more expensive but it’ll save you a ton of time.

Consistent Color
If you’re using multiple cans of paint, buy a five-gallon bucket and mix the cans together to ensure uniform color.

Top Down, Body to Trim
Painting from the top down will ensure you don’t spoil your paint job with drips and splashes. When it comes to trim, do that last and use an oil-based paint to get a nice sheen that’ll make the trim pop.

Go With a Pro
Don’t have the time or desire to tackle the job yourself? Save yourself the hassle and hire a pro.

How Cool Are You?

You’re Not? Then it’s Time to Replace Your Windows!

If your summer utility bills are higher than you think they should be, your windows might be the reason. In fact, your old, inefficient windows could be costing you hundreds of dollars in wasted energy per year. So, if you find that your home isn’t nearly as cool as it should be, it might be a good time to upgrade your windows. Here are a few things to know before you do:

New Windows Add Value

Besides cutting down on your utility bills, installing new windows is a great way to give your home a facelift. Your new windows won’t just make your home look better; they’ll make it worth more too. Depending on where you live, you might be able to recover more than 100% of their construction costs in added resale value for your property.

From Simple to Complex

When it comes to window shopping you’ve got plenty of options. While you can easily swap out your old, drafty windows with new ones of the same dimensions, you might want to consider moving a little outside the box and install bay or picture windows.

Plastic Wrap Certainly Keeps The House Clean…

…But Boy, Does it Get Sweaty When it’s Hot.

Summer is here. Time to get outside and start having fun. Of course, playing outside can lead to bringing dirt inside, especially if you’ve got kids. And while you probably do a good job of keeping a clean house, summer fun can keep even the most diligent neat-nick from cleaning the house. What’s a person to do? Here are a few tips to keep things tidy…

Host a Small Get Together

This is a great way to trick yourself into keeping the house clean. By frequently hosting small parties or get togethers, you’ll motivate yourself to not let the house get too out of control.

Get Organized

One of the easiest ways to prevent clutter from piling up is to make sure you have plenty of storage around the house. Get a few plastic bins or baskets and you’ll quickly put an end to random messes.

Win the Chore War

If you’ve got kids or a significant other, give them a list of house cleaning chores and put them to work. They might gripe at first, but once you give ’em a gold star they’ll be happy.

Hire a Cleaning Service

It’s summer. You shouldn’t be spending your time inside cleaning. You should be out playing. Whether you want to hire a cleaning service to come in once a week or once a month, a cleaning service will make your life instantly easier. Don’t worry, they’re not as spendy as you think.

Prevent Rust Rings in Your Shower With This Great Tip

Homespirational Tip: Protect your bathtub rim from rust rings by slipping this foamy college relic over a can of Barbasol (rather than Budweiser).

via Beer Koozie as Shaving-Cream Holder | New Uses in Your Bathroom | Real Simple.

Using a Dryer Sheet as a Soap Scum Cleaner

Remove obstinate soap buildup from glass shower doors by sprinkling a few drops of water onto a used fabric-softener sheet and scrubbing.

via Dryer Sheet as Scum Buster | New Uses for Dryer Sheets | Real Simple.

10 Books to Help Inspire Your Home Decorating

I don’t know about you, but a bulk of my spare cash goes on books and magazines. I find so much inspiration from them and always have since I was a child. I purchase a slew of books in particular but not just any and all but only ones that truly resonate with me as I don’t want towering bookshelves filled with titles meant to impress my friends – my books are in my home to inspire me and my family.

via decor8 » Blog Archive » 10 Hot Books That Rock It.

Tip: Spring Thunderstorms vs Trees

Homespirational Tip: Spring thunderstorms can pose a serious threat to trees. After a storm, inspect for limbs that have broken but not yet fallen and branches that will likely fall in the future–particularly those that overhang power lines or your home. If you notice anything worrisome, make arrangements with a tree service to have these branches removed.

Home Protection Shouldn’t be Taken Lightly

Homespirational Tip: Unless you live in a gated community you should probably do something to protect your home from burglars.

Learn about the crime rates in the US and the UK.

Ever been worried about the safety of you and your family? See what this expert has to say about home protection from burglars in the UK.

Using Solar Panels to Save Money Can Cost You Money

UK Homespirational Tip: Understand the costs and potential savings before installing solar panels. It might not make sense to do this if you plan on moving soon!

If you live in the UK and are looking for a more efficient means of energy, ServiceMagic has a good resource to see how much solar panels cost and what solar panel prices are in the UK. You can also learn about the following:

PV solar panel prices
Solar thermal panel costs
Compare cheap solar panels
How much it costs to install solar panels
Solar PV FIT info
Solar panel grants

Learn More About UK Aerial Installation

UK Homespirational Tip: If you can, go ahead and get this done. You’ll be glad you did!

If you live in the UK you should know about the digital switchover. After determining if you’re in the right area, check out this TV Aerial Installation site. It’s a great resource and covers things like:

  1. How much does tv aerial installation cost?
  2. Digital TV Aerial Installation
  3. TV Point Installation
  4. TV Aerial Socket Installation

Some additional information from professionals in the UK can be found here and here. Or you can find UK TV aerial installers in places like London, Edinburgh, and Glasgow.

Need to Install a Combination Boiler?

UK Homespirational Tip: A combination boiler can be a worthwhile upgrade from an old central heating system. As always, balance the costs and potential savings to see if it’s a good idea for you.

If you live in the UK and are planning on installing a combi boiler, this is a great resource and guide for combi boiler installation. You can also check out a variety of boilers here. The CBI site has various guides that cover the following topics:

How to Install a Combi Boiler
New Combi Boiler Installation Tips
Gas Combi Boiler Installation Tips
Combi Boiler Installers (Tips for Hiring)
Combi Boiler Replacement Tips
Combi Boiler Costs
Combi Boiler Regulations

Good luck!

ServiceMagic Adds Cost & Price Guides

Homespirational Tip: It’s always important to understand the costs and scope involved in a home improvement project, but it’s equally important to understand the potential savings and returns as well.

ServiceMagic has added a new UK home improvement resource section that includes cost and price guides, such as:

  1. Combi Boiler Prices
  2. Gas Boiler Prices
  3. How Much Does a New Boiler Cost?
  4. How Much Does Boiler Service Cost?
  5. Boiler Installation Costs
  6. Boiler Replacement Costs 

Let us know of any additional cost-related resources in the comments.

ServiceMagic Complaints in the UK

Homespirational Tip: Hiring a home improvement professional doesn’t always go well. In fact, it’s one of the more inconsistent industries out there. There are lots of cowboys that can create a lot of frustration. It’s important to let these networks know so they can track these complaints over time and eliminate repeat offenders.

Have a complaint (or positive feedback) about ServiceMagic’s service in the United Kingdom? You can submit your feedback here. You can also contact ServiceMagic UK directly through their contact number and feedback form.

Finding Tradesmen in the UK to Help With Your Home Projects

Homespirational Tip: Sometimes, it’s better to get some help with those home projects. Check out ServiceMagic’s recommended UK tradesmen directory and start finishing some of those home improvement projects sooner! If you have a list of small projects, you might even be able to get a handyman to do multiple projects and save you a little time and money.

This will also help cut down on your chances of hiring a cowboy!