Home Improvement's Popular Posts

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Home Depot Looks A Bit Too Pricey?

Home Depot Looks A Bit Too Pricey?

Home Depot is the world’s largest retailer of home improvement products primarily competing withLowe’s in this business. This past winter unleashed brutal snowstorms across the Midwest and East Coast and current storms throughout the Midwest and Southeast will lead home owners to purchase home improvement supplies for maintenance and repairs.
Harvard University’s Joint Center for Housing Studies expects spending on home remodeling to rise 9.1% in the first quarter to $125.1 billion from the same period a year ago. [1]
Given that home improvement activity across the U.S. is picking up with the recovery in macroeconomic conditions in addition to needs arising from unusually harsh weather, Home Depot should report continued improvements in its plumbing, electrical & kitchen units. We have a$35.61 price estimate for Home Depot, which is slightly below the current market price.
Home Depot’s Plumbing, Electrical & Kitchen market share
Home Depot generates a significant amount of value from its plumbing, electrical & kitchen division. We estimate that this division contributes around 31% to our price estimate for Home Depot. The company was able to maintain its market share in this category, even during the recent economic downturn.
High penetration levels in most U.S. markets enabled Home Depot to offset its losses from the hard-hit housing markets such as southern California and Florida. We estimate Home Depot’s market share in this segment to be around 22% currently and to remain roughly at current levels throughout our forecast period.
The improvement in the outlook for home remodeling should benefit Home Depot and help it to sustain market share. If the market share increases to 25% by the end of our forecast period, it would result in an upside of around 3% to our current price estimate. In other words, a 1 percentage point increase in market share would add around 1% to our price estimate.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Size matters when it comes to helping with home improvement

Size matters when it comes to helping with home improvement
By: Dan Shaffer

Anyone with a house has a list of items that need to be repaired. But how do you determine whether you need a contractor or handyman for your project? Angie Hicks of Angie’s List has some tips to help you decide.
“It can be really confusing as to who you need to hire for a particular project," she says. "Is it a general contractor? Is it a handyman? Or is it someone in a specialized trade? It comes down to knowing exactly the list of things you want to have done and making sure you find someone with the right skill set, training and licensing in order to do that particular task.”
These days, contractors and handymen are very similar, especially with more contractors developing an all-around approach – making the decision on who you should hire that much more confusing. Before you hire, make a list of what you need done. Include as much detail as you can so the company can determine if your requests are within their abilities. Have this list on hand when you call to make an appointment. Talk through your list with the handyman or contractor. Most professionals are going to tell you up front if it’s a job outside their area of expertise. And, in the case of some of the larger handyman shops, knowing what jobs you need done, often determines which employee they send to your house.

Hicks says, “A good rule of thumb when deciding whether you use a handyman or general contractor depends on the size of the job. If you have small honey-do type things that are usually billed out, for example, on an hourly rate, that fits the bill for a handyman. When you’re thinking about a general contractor, that’s when you're thinking of remodeling your kitchen, adding a sunroom, things like that which are longer projects that are going to involve multiple types of trade people is where the general contractor comes into play."
A handyman/handywoman service can be a great choice for home repairs, especially for homeowners who need help with smaller jobs, or those who have a variety of projects. Some of these tradesmen and women can even tackle complicated jobs that include electrical and plumbing work – but be sure they are licensed for those trades if it’s required in your area.
A contractor tends to concentrate on larger jobs or a more specialized field that could require a license or special certification. As Angie mentioned, if you are planning a room addition or a kitchen remodel, for example, a contractor would be better suited for your project. These jobs may last several weeks or months, whereas a handyman’s work may be done in just a few hours.
“When it comes to getting cost effective work out of your trades people," Hicks adds, "you need to make sure that you outline the scope of the project at the beginning. Make sure you are communicating directly with the handyman or the contractor who is doing the work so that you can tell them if something has come up that needs to be changed. The quicker you can let them know of change orders, the better. And then also, be sure that you specify your budget because that’s where some run into trouble where they go at or slightly above their budget and then find out that they stretched themselves too far.”
Prepping your home may save you money – especially if the handyman/contractor charges by the hour. For example, if there’s an issue with your sink, remove all the items from underneath it. Know what’s included in the price. Ask if they charge a flat rate or by the hour. Are they charging you a trip fee? Anything you can purchase or organize ahead of time may save you time and money. For example, if you’re willing to go to the store and purchase the bathroom faucet yourself, the company can get more done in less time. Also, remember that hiring a handyman may not be cheaper than hiring a specialized professional. A professional plumber may be able to diagnose and fix your problem much quicker than a handyman and if it is complex at all, you might need that licensed professional rather than a generalist.
Regardless of who you hire to help around your house, always look at these things: The company’s reputation. Does the company have the appropriate training, license and insurance? And does the company have a real address where you can contact later should something go wrong?

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Lego Builders Busy Creating Legoland Characters

Lego Builders Busy Creating Legoland Characters

WINTER HAVEN | At a "secret location" inside Legoland Florida, master model builders are snapping together what will eventually be 15,000 figures and objects made entirely of Lego bricks.

A WORKER puts pieces for a beard on one of the Lego characters created for Legoland Florida, scheduled to open in Winter Haven in October. A team of six builders is working in Winter Haven on many of the characters.
Legoland released video of the builders constructing a replica of the White House made entirely of Lego bricks. The scene includes miniature figures of President Barack Obama and his family on the White House porch.
The video clip also shows a row of children wearing goggles and rubber duck floaters around their middles and a tired old man in a Hawaiian shirt slumped on a bench.
Until recently, all the models for the Florida park were being made elsewhere. Pat Demaria, Lego model project manager, said a team of six is now toiling in Legoland Florida's model shop, working to prepare for the October opening of the attraction on the grounds of the former Cypress Gardens.
Models continue to be built at Legoland parks in California, England, Germany, Denmark and Malaysia.
Demaria said more than 50 million Lego bricks will be used at the park, and individual models weigh as much as 1 ton.
About two-thirds of those bricks are destined for Miniland, the centerpiece of all Legoland parks. Miniland will feature replicas of famous sites from Florida and throughout the United States.
Demaria said it took two employees in California about five weeks to create the replica White House containing nearly 50,000 bricks glued together.
"Imagine 50,000 bricks just in a pile in your living room," Demaria said.
Workers have already made about 150 oversized oranges from Lego bricks, Demaria said.
Demaria said model builders undergo 10 weeks of intensive training to learn about the 3,000 styles and colors of Lego bricks. All of the models are made entirely of the same bricks sold in stores, Demaria said, though some are reinforced with steel and some contain lighting or sound devices.
"One of our mottoes is, ‘If you had enough time and enough patience and enough Lego sets, you could build what we build,'" Demaria said.
Saturday is the final day to purchase tickets and passes at discounted prices. Tickets and passes may only be purchased online at www.legoland.com.
[ Gary White can be reached at gary.white@theledger.com or 863-802-7518. ]

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Kitchen Looks Totally Different Now

A Colorful Kitchen Makeover Via Posters

by Amy Preiser

A standard-as-can-be kitchen gets a pop art-inspired new look thanks to the most creative use for posters we've ever seen.

We've seen a lot of kitchen makeovers. There's Modern kitchen makeovers and retro makeovers. There'swife-mandated kitchen makeovers, and birthday wish makeovers that maximize space in small kitchens(and big kitchens), makeovers that make the best use of white and makeovers that blow you away with color.

But we've never seen a makeover like this.

Designer Jonathan Fong is a man who makes centerpieces out of paint cans and candles out of Spam containers. So how on earth could he live with a kitchen as blah and standard as this white one?

Perfectly nice, but perfectly boring. Photo: Jonathan Fong.
So naturally, when it came to redoing this white box, he went above and beyond paint. Fong found a slew of Andy Warhol posters for 40% off and instead of buying them to frame, he took it to the next level: Decoupaging them onto his ultra-plain white laminate cabinets. 

Photographs by Jason Radspinner of Image Locations, Inc.

How do you walk into this room and not grin and say "Wow!"? Really. Even after a long day at the office or coming in from the pouring rain. We know Fong has his haters -- he told the LA Times that people are constantly asking him how he lives -- or cooks -- with such a loud kitchen. But what we love even more than his top-tier creativity is his amazing attitude. "Why do you think I'm so skinny?" he says to anyone who wonders how he eats in a place like this (ha!). And how can you not fall head over heels for a man who approached his redesign with the question "What can I do to bring joy to my home, so I'm happy whenever I'm in it?"

We could all learn something from Jonathan Fong -- beyond how to cover our own dull-to-death kitchen cabinets with art prints. We could learn to look at everyday objects through a new lens, to never feel boxed in by the standard options available and to always, always remember that your home needs to make you happy. For him, that means Marilyn Monroe on his drawers. For you, maybe it means an electric pink dish towel. Or even a new kitchen mat in a just-left-of-white hue (we don't judge, neutrals-lovers!) We just hope this kitchen inspires you as much as it inspires us.

Monday, April 25, 2011

5 Keys to Remodeling on a Budget

5 Keys to Remodeling on a Budget 

By Pamela Cole Harris

We would all love to remodel our home. The evidence? Just look at the profusion of new programs dealing with remodeling rooms, houses, or yards by neighbors, mothers, or even complete strangers on a $1000, $500 or $1.98 budget. If you, upon viewing one too many episodes of Trading Spaces, have decided to take the plunge, here are a few tips to ensure your remodeling project is completed under budget.

1. Prioritize your needs and wants. Write down the top ten items you need, then write down the top ten items you want. Put your money towards your needs first, then you can use any extra money for things that you want.

2. So you want granite countertops and hardwood floors? You want wall-to-wall ceramic tile in the bath? Try alternative materials to give you the look you want for a lot less money. Try laminated stone countertops made with thin slabs of bonded granite and laminate flooring to resemble hardwoods or tile.

3. Do as much of the work as you can yourself. There are plenty of websites on the internet that will give you instructions and tips and your local home improvement store will be happy to advise you (especially if you are buying supplies from them!). If you use a contractor, you can save money by removing the old cabinets or flooring yourself.

4. If possible, try not to knock down walls or make other structural changes. Working with existing plumbing, electrical wiring and walls will dramatically reduce the cost of the project.

5 Take your time and have a plan. Taking it slow is the remodeling equivalent of "measuring twice and cutting once." Anything you have to re-do just adds to your total cost.

If you plan your project, take it slow and resist knocking down walls, you should have no problem staying under budget. On the other hand, if you wake up with the overwhelming urge to remodel that bathroom today and an irresistible itch to use a sledgehammer, prepare to open the checkbook and kiss your budget goodbye!

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Workers remodeling historic theater find some interesting surprises

Workers remodeling historic Lufkin theater find some interesting architectural surprises

The next phase in the remodeling of the Pines Theater is nearly completed, and has provided a few surprises that no one expected to find.

Crews are at work in the theater, demolishing most of the existing cosmetic features inside the building. Their work has run the gamut from removing old plaster ceiling tiles and asbestos to filling in the flood-prone orchestra pit. They’re also tearing up concrete in places so that new plumbing can be installed. And while they were breaking through the concrete inside an old storage closet, they made an interesting discovery: a staircase that led from the closet, underneath the building and outside. The staircase appeared to have been covered in concrete before the theater was used, but no one really knows what it was there for, or when it was built.

“It had to be something prior to the 1930s,” said Dale Allred, who acts as the city’s representative while the remodeling is going on. “When they broke through, they found these concrete steps leading outside.”

The staircase might be demolished completely, or it might be put back in once construction is complete, Allred said.

That wasn’t the only surprising find, though, Allred said. While crews were tearing down old acoustic barriers inside the auditorium, they discovered enormous, floor-to-ceiling brick arches that run the length of both walls.

“I assume they were probably put in there when the theater was originally built,” Allred said. “That would put it at some time in the early 1930s.”

Demolition at the Pines Theater revealed enormous, floor-to-ceiling brick arches that run the length of both sides of the auditorium. Construction workers also unearthed a concrete staircase that predates the theater itself and leads down from a storage closet to outside.

The theater was last used as a church, and was purchased by the city shortly before they began the restoration process, Allred said. Many items from the theater’s early days remain inside, including framed movie posters, a popcorn machine and two enormous carbon arc projectors tucked away inside the theater’s upstairs projection room. The architecture that remains spotlights moments in Lufkin’s history, like a doorway to the balcony that was used by African-Americans during segregation. The balcony, Allred said, was the only place African-Americans were allowed to sit during that time.

The demolition process has been ongoing for about a month, and is expected to last about nine more days, Allred said. Once it’s completed, the design will be finalized and the next phase of the construction will begin, which will include installation of vintage lighting, seats and fixtures.

“We hope to bring it back to an early era,” Allred said.

Larissa Graham’s email address is lgraham@lufkindailynews.com.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

REMODELING: Century-old Courthouse

Remodeling will be step up for century-old courthouse

There was no footing or foundation beneath the first of three staircases.

It seemed like a fairly routine project – fixing the staircases outside the historic Luzerne County Courthouse – until contractors removed the granite steps.
Nobody knew what to expect because the opening beneath the stairs hadn’t been visible since the structure was built a century ago.
Contractors found there was no footing or foundation beneath the interior support walls on the north side, which is the first of three staircases that will be repaired. Instead, the walls sat on concrete pilings tied to bedrock 15 to 20 feet below the surface.
Additional support walls are needed to hold the weight of the granite steps and prevent them from settling again, but there wasn’t any way to lay foundation for the new walls because the fill beneath the steps is “junk material” – ash, railroad ballast, leftover brick from the courthouse construction, said county Chief Engineer Joe Gibbons.
Architect Carl Handman touches peeling paint on a window sill of the historic Luzerne County Courthouse.
Workers Scott Gryczka and Tom Davis build walkways on the roof of the Luzerne County Courthouse for a restoration project.
The site had served as a canal holding basin and then a railway before the courthouse was built in 1909, said project architect Carl Handman.
The solution: the new support walls will be placed on “helical piles,” a new technology, Gibbons said.
Helical piles are rods with a sharp bit on the bottom. They will be hooked to a backhoe with a special machine that screws them through the dirt and into the bedrock, he said. The new walls are then placed on top of the new piles with rebar.
“We transfer these entire loads right down to the bedrock because the soil is no good,” Gibbons said.
The granite steps, each about 12 feet long and 1,000- to 1,500 pounds – were removed using a specialized piece of equipment acquired by the project contractor, D.A. Nolt Inc., if Berlin, N.J.
It’s basically a large suction cup that uses pressure to grip the pieces, allowing them to be lifted and moved without damaging them, Gibbons said. The steps, also called treads, are not reinforced and could crack if they’re jostled around by heavy equipment, he said.
“You really have to be careful lifting these up, and we obviously want to put them back when we’re done because they’re historic pieces of the courthouse,” Gibbons said.
Finding a match for a broken step would be difficult because the rock was mined from a quarry a century ago, and it’s doubtful any rock would be left from that seam, he said.
“We wouldn’t want to have a piece that stands out like a sore thumb,” he said.
A new drainage system is also being added under the stairs to stop water from pooling, Gibbons said.
Exterior stair repairs were added to the latest phase of the courthouse restoration project after the county building and grounds department noticed some settling of steps, Gibbons said.
The staircases at the eastern and southern courthouse entrances will be refurbished after the north side is completed, he said.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Best Cleaning and Organizing Apps

Best Cleaning and Organizing Apps
by Brooke Foster

We hunted down some of the best apps for whipping your home -- and your to-do list -- into shape. 

There are thousands of free apps in the iTunes "Productivity" store, but finding one that works for you -- now that's priceless. Here's a guide to some of the most fun and effective cleaning and organizing apps out there. A few will cost you.

organizing apps"Wait, there's an app for that? All this time I was paying a maid!" Photo: Age Fotostock

Custom Hypnosis: House Cleaning Edition, $1.99
Now this is an app we all could use. Custom Hypnosis: House Cleaning Edition uses suggestive music to allegedly hypnotize you into cleaning the bathroom, doing your laundry and dusting. Zachary Taylor, who created the app, has several "hypnosis" apps available for download; his theory is that if you're relaxed, you'll clean more. Surprising, since if I'm relaxed, the last thing I want to do is scrub a toilet. Still, at least one user on MacWorld claims it works, saying that she got caught up on her laundry just listening to the app.

HomeRoutines, $5

To help you keep up with your cleaning and organizing to-do list, HomeRoutines allows you to type in a list of chores and rewards you with gold stars as you complete them. You can separate them into morning and evening tasks, create reoccurring to-do lists and create custom daily lists. To motivate you to clean more efficiently, the app also offers a cleaning plan for your home. One week it will tell you to focus on decluttering the living room, another you'll be disinfecting the bathroom. Best of all, it offers a 15-minute timer to encourage you to get the chore done faster!

organizing appsPhoto: Clean Freak

Clean Freak Cleaning Schedule, $.99
This cleaning app, designed by busy working parents, feels a bit less sophisticated than others I've seen, but for 99 cents you will get a basic helpful to-do list. The app breaks down cleaning projects into small tasks, and you commit to doing at least one everyday. My favorite part: It tells you the last time you, say, wiped down your fridge or washed your sheets.

Green Shine, $1.99

Green Shine may be the coolest app we found. It offers green cleaning solutions for everything from polishing the furniture to mopping the floors. Not only will it tell you how to make a product that is as effective as a commercial cleaner, it also spells out how to clean with it and offers warnings, like "Test this method on a small part of your furniture first."It's a really neat idea, and the app itself seems easy to use. If you don't want to pay two bucks for it, Green Shine offers a "lite" version for free.

organizing appsPhoto: Chore Hero

Chore Hero, $2.99
Chore Hero tries to make cleaning fun through a little friendly competition. Rather than offering up a list of chores to check off your to-do list, the app allows you to assign different tasks to different people in your home. When they finish, say, making their bed, they get "points," and you figure out what those points can be redeemed for. If you're winning, you'll be deemed the "Chore Hero," while those who don't keep up with their cleaning jobs will be "Delinquent." Not sure if it will inspire extra cleaning, but it's worth a shot; the interface is fun enough to engage kids.

Good Housekeeping @ Home, Free
The popular women's magazine offers an A to Z guide to stains and spills. You type in what spilled -- maybe there's avocado mashed in your rug -- and it will tell you how to remove it. There's also a thorough guide to cleaning every surface and space in your home with expert tips from the Good Housekeeping Institute.

100 Uses for Baking Soda
 and Household Vinegar Tips, $.99 cents each

Made by the same developer, these two handy little apps offer dozens of tips for using baking soda and vinegar to make your own cleaning solutions. The 100 Uses for Baking Soda app offers more than cleaning ideas; expect health uses as well. Household Vinegar Tips has over 270 ways to use vinegar at home.

Photo: J's Job Jar

J's Job Jar, $.99 cents
This may be the least helpful of all of the apps I found, but it's certainly the most fun. You can write your cleaning to-do list on sheets of paper in a virtual jar. When you have a few minutes of time, shake your iPhone and the app will randomly select one of your tasks. You can click "OK," "Later," or "Never!" It's kind of a procrastinator's dream. 

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Cheap Ideas for Decorating Walls

How to Affordably Frame Large Prints

Don't limit your art options to what can fit inside a standard frame -- you can go beyond the 8"x10"without going broke.

By Jen Jafarzadeh L'Italien

Sometimes when you stumble upon art that comes in a big package, you shrink from the purchase, for fear that the framing will cost more than the art. But no fear -- there are other, more affordable options.

How to Frame a Large Picture: Supersize and Put Behind Plexiglass Blogger Mercie Ghimire of A Lovely Evening turned a 2"x4" inch mini Instax photo print into a giant 3'x5' print in her living room. She worked with a local framer and had them create a high-res scan of the photograph and then asked them to glue the enlarged photo on 1/4" thick gator board and glue 1/8" plexiglass on top of that. So the photo is free-floating -- there is no actual frame. The framer add a piece of beveled block on the back to make it easy to hang this 40 pound piece of art on the wall.

how to framePhoto: ReFrame

How to Frame a Large Picture: ReFrame It
Check out ReFrame's alternative framing solutions for hanging up poster-size prints. The frames are glassless but they're an affordable way to hang up a poster or large print for that cool gallery look. And the frames come in multiple sizes and three finishes -- natural, white, or black -- to suit your style.

How to Frame a Large Picture: Use a Ledge: Foam-core backing is another affordable solution for prints of non-standard sizes. Use spray adhesive to mount your print on foam core, which will make them sturdy enough to stand up on their own (and not bend.) Then you can place your print on a picture ledge, which gives you the flexibility of swapping out prints easily when you want a new look.

How to Frame a Large Picture: Attach It to WoodPlywerkmakes blank panels from sustainably harvested wood, with a special pH neutral adhesive, for hanging prints of all sizes. You can also use their digital reproduction service to reproduce a one-of-a-kind print and have the copy attached to a Plywerk panel.

How to Frame a Large Picture: DIY It!
We spotted this great DIY project on Design Sponge. Blogger Kimba of A Soft Place to Land created a DIY frame for an oversized map using door frame molding, corner blocks, and paint. How clever!

Depending on the print, another alternative is cutting up a large print to display in multiple smaller frames. That's something I'm considering for a gigantic blueprint I've been trying to tackle -- creating a grid of frames each displaying a piece of the blueprint.

Tip: Found a vintage frame that's the perfect size, but it's empty? Here's how to makeover an empty frame.

By Jen Jafarzadeh L'Italien