Pet Friendly Indoor Plants

Sep 08, 2020

Having a pet, no matter how old, is a lot like having a toddler around. You’re constantly having to make sure it’s not going to put itself in harm’s way by doing something unexpected, like chewing a cord, vaulting off the furniture like a circus performer or eating a poisonous houseplant. Saving your dog or cat from your houseplants isn’t always easy, but it sure helps if you know which plants are safest in a household with pets. Fortunately, most of the plants that are safe for dogs are also safe for cats, which can make life a little less complicated if you have both.

The Official Plant List

The ASPCA maintains an ever-evolving list of safe and unsafe plants for dogs, cats and horses. Since you’re unlikely to have a horse in your house, we’ve focused the advice in this article on the other two. This list is in no way meant to be totally exhaustive, but should help you get started if you’re shopping for new plants to add to the house or are simply curious if your existing plants could be a hazard. Poisonous plants, by the ASPCA’s definition, aren’t necessarily toxic, but they will make your pet very, very sick, and that’s definitely not something you want to experience.

Pet-Safer Plants

There are always exceptions, allergies and absolutely unexpected accidents that happen, but by and large, you can trust that these groups of plants will be fairly safe around your pets:
  • Carnivorous Plants. Believe it or not, the plants that consume insects are unlikely to be dangerous to your pets. You still want to check with your nursery specialist when purchasing exotic carnivorous plants, but the most common you’ll find in stores, like the California pitcher plant and the Venus flytrap, should be safe for Fluffy and Fido.
  • Ferns. True ferns, by and large, are great additions to a pet-friendly household. Not only do they tend to be hung or mounted on walls, which keeps them out of reach of pets, but true ferns also pose almost no threat to your beloved animals. Boston ferns, which are probably the most popular of the indoor ferns, and are a great choice!
  • Kitchen Herbs. Keeping live herbs in the kitchen is a great way to maintain a green living space with a lot of purpose. You have a lot of herbs to choose from when growing indoors with pets. Try basil, cilantro, dill, fennel, sage, savory (summer or winter) or stevia in indoor gardens. Strawberries are also a tasty and safe indoor food plant.
  • Orchids. A huge range of orchids are safe for pets, even if they’re not always the easiest things to grow. The popular epiphytic Cattleya and Phalaenopsis orchids will grow in different household conditions, as will the terrestrial jewel orchid.
  • Palms. True palms are generally safe, but cycads are not. Make sure you know which you’re purchasing before committing to a plant. Cycads tend to have squatty, highly textured trunks that resemble pineapples, where palms are much smoother generally. A few safe palms to look for include areca palm, bamboo palm, dwarf palm and the ponytail palm.
  • Peperomia. This huge group of plants is generally known for its intricately textured leaves and ease of care, making peperomias perfect plants for busy households. Most are pet safe, but if you’re not sure, you can stick to the basics like blunt leaf peperomia, ivy peperomia and metallic peperomia.
  • Succulents. Succulents and cacti, as a group, are pretty safe for pets, with a few notable exceptions. It’s important to consider how your pet may interact with plants before bringing anything covered in spines into your home, so while cacti by and large are safe if the flesh is ingested, they’re not safe when it comes to pointy things stabbing your animals, who probably have never encountered such a thing in the world.
If you must keep cacti, consider Christmas cactus or other fairly spineless varieties. Succulents like Echeveria and Hawthornia are good substitutes, as well as other, less cactus-shaped choices like Hoya. PLEASE NOTE: Aloe vera plants, jade plants, Kalanchoe and many others are considered to be poisonous to pets.

Need Help Choosing Your Next Houseplants?

Knowing beyond a shadow of a doubt that your plants are safe for your pets can be difficult, especially since many plants go by various common names, and sometimes several different plants share the same common name.
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Attic Ventilation Basics

Sep 03, 2020

When you think of your home, the last thing you probably imagine is that it can breathe. Well, maybe not literally breathe, but it does have a way of moving air in and out, whether you like it or not. One of the most important, and intentional, places for this to happen is in your attic. Attic ventilation is key to exceptional climate control in your home. This may seem a bit counter-intuitive; wouldn’t you want to keep all the warm air trapped up there when it’s cold?

Attics and Heat Retention

In an unfinished attic, the insulation that lays on top of your living areas is generally what keeps your home warm. The space above that is kind of a heat sink, just a place for the warm air in the summer (and, on a bright day, in the winter) to collect and move out of your living space. Since you can’t really have a safe indoor space without a roof on it, it makes sense to have a holding space that keeps all the warm and moist air tucked out of the way. But the more of that hot air that accumulates in your attic, the warmer your home can become. In the summer, that excess heat can cause your shingles to age prematurely. In the winter, extra heat may not seem like a bad thing, but hot attics with poor rafter insulation can cause rapid roof snow melts, which turn into ice dams when the water refreezes at night. On top of that, warm air can hold a lot more moisture than cooler air; that moisture is the absolute enemy of wood, especially in an unfinished space. In short, overheated attic spaces aren’t great for your house, inside or out.
Attic vents were developed to help deal with this problem of too much heat accumulating in unfinished attics, where it doesn’t belong. There are many different kinds on the market today, but they all have the same end goal of moving cooler outside air into your attic and pushing that hotter air out (known as the stack effect). When you’re looking for an attic vent, remember that it’s more than just the exit vent; you’ll need vents to bring cool air in, too. In many homes, these intake vents come in the form of soffit vents. These simple, easy to install vents let cool air come in to replace the hot air in your attic, which escapes through either a roof-mounted vent or a gable-mounted vent. That’s how a house breathes: soffit vents bring in cool air and roof vents let out warm air. In and out, in and out, helping to keep the climate in your home much more stable and drier than an exit vent alone would allow. In older homes, enlarging your gable vents may be enough to create the airflow you need, especially if your home is short on overhangs to install soffit vents. How much to enlarge them is pretty subjective, but a good rule of thumb is that you should have one square foot of attic ventilation per 300 square feet of ceiling space. A lot of factors can influence this number, but it’ll never be lower than 1:300.
Needed Some Help Venting Your Attic?
Venting your attic can be a challenge, even for the most experienced homeowner. Getting things just right can require complicated calculations based on the unique geometry of your attic and a solid understanding of the latest ventilation technology available.  
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Metal Roofing for Homeowners

Aug 10, 2020

 
There was a time when metal roofing was largely reserved for use on shop buildings or certain businesses. These days, however, you’ll see metal roofs on almost any sort of structure, including a wide range of home styles. If you’re in the market for a new roof, you might consider going metal. Before jumping on the metal bandwagon, however, here are a few things that you should know about metal roof installations and how to tell if a metal roof is right for your home.

The Look of Metal

When considering a metal roof, one thing that a lot of people think about is how the roof will look after installation. While some metal roofing materials are installed as bare metal, it’s not uncommon for the metal to be coated or painted (especially in the case of some materials such as aluminum.) The metal panels are often machined to produce creases, folds and bends that mimic the look of smaller panels, and in some cases even create a look similar to shingles or Spanish tile. While there are definitely options that look like what you would expect from a metal roof, there are a wide range of other aesthetic options available as well.

Metal Roofing Longevity

A properly installed metal roof can last a long time, in some cases outlasting many of the other materials in your home. A lot of metal roof installations come with warranties that can last anywhere from 20 to 50 years or longer, though painted metal tends to top out at around 30 years. These roofs are fire resistant and less likely to suffer wear and tear from weather that could otherwise reduce their lifespan, since they’re all but impervious to the effects of rain and snow.
The quality of a metal roof can vary depending on the material used in the roof and how thick it is. Common metals used in roofing include tin, copper, aluminum, zinc and steel, with each providing its own advantages in regard to aesthetics, strength and rust resistance. Aspects of the roofing material such as sheet size, design and mounting hardware used can have a big effect on the quality of the roof, as can the skill of the person doing the installation.

Metal Drawbacks

While there are a lot of advantages to metal roofing, it’s worth considering a few drawbacks as well. Some metal roofs, especially those that are made of softer materials such as copper, can dent or otherwise be damaged by hail or other large impacts. Metal roofing can also be louder than other roof materials if appropriate noise-reduction materials aren’t used during installation and insulating. Improperly installed metal roofs can leak around fasteners and screw holes, especially if specialized washers aren’t used with the connecting screws. The biggest disadvantage of metal roofing is the cost, however; the up-front cost of even a lower-end metal roof can be equal to or greater than the cost of a premium installation of other roofing types.

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Is Metal Right for You?

While metal can be expensive to install, its longevity combined with its weather resistance and minimal heat conduction during the summer can make it a good long-term investment. It’s also lightweight and can be installed quickly by a skilled contractor and their crew. With that said, some homeowners prefer the look and easy maintenance of shingles or other more traditional home roofing solutions. In the end, the choice between metal and other options comes down to personal preference and how much of an investment you’re wanting to make into your house.

Choosing the Right Installer

While you can always choose to install a metal roof as a DIY project, some parts of installation can be kind of tricky. If you want to go the easier route and hire a roofing installer for your metal roof, HomeKeepr is here to help. Sign up for a free account today to find roofing contractors in your area who can get you the best deal on a quality metal roof for your home.
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Stayin’ Cool With Ductless Mini-Split Systems

There’s nothing like a glass of cool lemonade on a hot summer day, unless of course the reason it’s so hot is that your air conditioner needs to be replaced. In that case, a new air conditioning system is pretty much the best thing ever. Maybe yours has lived a long and full life and is ready to be replaced, or perhaps you’ve added on to your home and need a solution for cooling that EZ Bake Oven you’ve created. In either case, installing a new ducted air conditioning system or plopping a window unit into the nearest window aren’t your only choices. You could go with Door Number Three: the ductless mini-split system.

What is a Ductless Mini-Split System?

Ductless mini-splits are air conditioning systems that are made to cool (and sometimes heat) smaller spaces. They can work together to improve climate control in entire homes and can even replace a traditional ducted system. Much like a central air conditioning system, there are two parts: the condenser, which is installed outside, and the inside air handler. The main difference from traditional systems is that they don’t use ductwork, so they eliminate a ton of temperature loss that would normally occur in your crawlspace or attic. And unlike a window unit, a ductless mini-split system can be hung out of the way of windows, since it only requires a three-inch hole to run the refrigerant lines and electrical controls.

Advantages of a Ductless Mini-Split System

There are a lot of reasons to love a ductless mini-split, but energy efficiency has to be up there among the top. These systems can have SEER ratings of around 28, which is substantially more efficient than a ducted system’s 13 SEER national minimum requirement. Of course, a ducted system’s rating will vary by unit, but generally speaking, the higher the SEER rating, the higher the price tag. Ductless mini-splits systems also boast these advantages over a traditional central HVAC system:
  • More precise control of room temperatures. Mechanically, one of the most important differences between ductless mini-split systems and traditional systems is that mini-splits are controlled by an inverter system that allows your heat or air to come out of the air handler at the temperature you set. This is different from a ducted air conditioner that only blows air at one temperature, constantly switching on and off to maintain room temperatures.
  • Ability to set room temperatures independently of one another. Although zoning is possible with ducted systems, it can be costly to install and is not a reasonable solution for many rooms that need different temperatures. This is especially a concern in multi-generational households or those where the home heats or cools irregularly throughout the day. With a ductless mini-split system, you can set the living room to stay a constant 72 degrees despite the heat baking your picture window, without your office having to become an ice cave. Everybody wins!
  • No more dirty air cycling endlessly. Ducts are filthy, there’s no question about it. This is just an inevitable side effect of their design, especially in an older house that’s had decades or generations to collect substantial amounts of dirt in the home’s ductwork. Ductless mini-splits are just that: ductless. Each unit has its own filtration system, and there are no ducts for dirt to settle in, keeping room air significantly cleaner all the time.

When Not to Split?

Not every house is going to be a great candidate for a ductless mini-split system, no matter how awesome they seem. Newer homes with highly efficient central HVAC systems that are in great shape or those that don’t generally have a lot of temperature differential across the structure likely won’t recapture the cost required to install these systems. However, if you’re not sure if your home can benefit from a ductless mini-split system, you can always consult an HVAC expert for more specific recommendations. Sign up for your free HomeKeepr account to find the professionals you need.
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Things to Consider When Buying Lake Property

Buying a lake house can be a great investment, regardless of whether you intend to use it as a vacation property or a year-round residence. With that said, you shouldn’t rush into buying a lakefront property just because it’s available. As with any house, there are some things that you should think about before you sign on the dotted line. Here are a few specific considerations you should keep in mind when looking at a lake property that’s for sale.

Higher Moisture Levels

One of the first things that you’ll notice is that there’s more moisture in the air close to the lake. Higher humidity can be unpleasant during the summer, but it also can have a negative effect on your property as a whole. Mold, mildew and other humidity-related damage can occur over time, so it’s important to make sure that properties you consider were built and furnished with this in mind.

High Water Table

Because the property sits close to the lake, you’re going to have a higher water table than you would with more landlocked properties. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but if the property has a basement or other underground area then you need to see what effects the water table has on those areas. Keep an eye out for leaks, flooding, cracks or mold that might be a result of the water table being higher than usual.

Lake Access

Having a home close to the lake is nice, but it becomes significantly less nice if it doesn’t offer you lake access that meets your needs. If you have a boat, see if you’ll have easy lake access from your property or if you’ll have to get on the water somewhere else. Likewise, if you just want peaceful evenings to watch the sun set over the water, make sure that there isn’t a busy lake access point or marina close to your property.

Inspect the Water Line

There’s more to consider when buying a lakefront property than just the view. Take the time to walk along the water line and see what sort of shape the shore and the nearby water are in. Look for signs of erosion in the shoreline and yard and see whether the water itself is choked with weeds or other plant life. You should also look for signs of debris or other indicators of how high the water tends to get when the lake is swollen from rain.

Take a Deep Breath

A lake house can be a feast for the eyes, but those aren’t the only senses you’ll experience your lake property with. Lakes often have a distinctive smell, and in some cases, it can be pretty strong. A little bit of lake odor is usually pretty easy to overlook, especially if your house is set back from the water a bit. For some lakes, though, it can be almost overpowering, especially during the summer months when you’re most likely to want to be out on the lake. Before you buy, make sure that any odors from the lake are tolerable not only for you but also any guests that you might want to invite out.

Check on Your Insurance

If you’re buying a lakefront home, you may find that it costs more to insure than a property that’s more inland. In some cases, the insurance can cost substantially more. That’s not even counting flood insurance or other disaster-related policies that you’ll likely want to take out. Just make sure that the cost of insuring your new lake property isn’t going to be more than you can really afford to take out.

Find the Perfect Lake Property

It can take a lot of searching to find a lakefront property that checks all of your boxes. Fortunately, HomeKeepr is here to help. Sign up for a free account today to find the experts you need to inspect and customize the lake home of your dreams.
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Basic Tools for Homeowners

When you own your own home, there are a lot of small repairs and similar tasks that you’ll have to do at some point. You may also want to tackle some DIY projects or make some changes around the house from time to time. Regardless of what’s going on, you’re going to need some tools to get things done. Which tools should you get, though? A lot of homeowners opt for basic premade tool kits but find that they don’t always contain everything that they’ll need for various home repair and improvement tasks. Whether you’re thinking of getting a kit or wanting to build your own tool collection from scratch, here are some of the basics that you should make sure that you have.

Measuring Tools

One big thing that you should always have around the house is a few tools for measuring things. The most obvious tool for this is a tape measure, but there are a few others to consider as well. Pick up a level (or two, in different sizes) and a carpenter’s square so that you can always tell when something is level and when corners are actually squared off. A stud finder and a plumb bob should also be in your collection.

Hammers

When it comes to hammers, most of the time you can get by with just a standard claw hammer. Picking up a rubber mallet to supplement your tool collection isn’t a bad idea, though, especially if you plan on working outside or want to go camping. There are a few other specialty hammers that you might have specific need for, but you should only pick one of those up if you actually need it.

Screwdrivers (Plural)

Despite what most people think, screwdrivers aren’t a one-size-fits-all tool. You should have both flathead and Phillips head screwdrivers (and star and square head screwdrivers wouldn’t hurt), and ideally you should have at least two or three different head sizes to accommodate different screws. While the wrong size driver head will often work, you can damage both the head and the screw by not matching the tool to the job. Picking up a screwdriver with interchangeable head bits is a great way to make sure your needs are met.

Wrenches and Sockets

You’ll almost certainly run into bolts at one point or another, and having a wrench and socket set will ensure that you have what you need to handle them. Get a decent wrench set and a decent socket set, making sure that you have both metric and imperial options. In most cases you can find a tool set that includes both, along with Allen wrenches (which are sometimes called hex keys); get that set, since it’ll cover you on all three fronts.

Pliers and Channel-Locks

There are a few different types of pliers and adjustable wrenches out there, and it’s hard to say exactly what you’ll need from the beginning. Having a set of channel-lock pliers, a good adjustable wrench or two and both basic and needle-nose pliers will meet your needs most of the time. You may run into a few instances where you need more specific tools such as a pipe wrench as well, but that’s not a must-have when you’re still building a tool collection.

Clamps

Locking clamps or adjustable clamps are great to have; even if you don’t use them very often, they’ll be more than worth it in those instances where you actually need one. Other fasteners such as zip ties are also good to have on hand. If you’re planning on getting into woodworking or similar DIY projects, then you might want to pick up some extras.

Other Tools

There are a many other tools that you might consider, though whether you need them will depend on you and the sort of work you plan to do. A drill with a basic assortment of bits is good to have, and an electric sander can be useful on some jobs. Utility knives, wire cutters and other cutting tools can be handy as well. You may even find a need for a table saw or other larger power tools. Just make sure that you have a good reason for bigger purchases to keep from buying things you won’t actually use.

Is the Job Too Big?

Having the right tool for the job is important, but so is realizing when the job you’re facing is a bit too much for you to handle alone. If you hit that point, HomeKeepr can help. Sign up for a free account today to find the professional you need to get the job done quickly.
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Are You Ready for Storm Season?

As spring turns to summer, more and more focus is shifting to outdoor activities and enjoying the wonderful summer weather. Unfortunately, not all of the weather is going to be so wonderful. Depending on where you live, you may face several severe storms during the summer as well as the usual summer storms and rain. Now is the time to prepare for storm season to make sure that you aren’t taken by surprise when bad weather hits.

Clean Your Gutters

One big thing that you can do to get ready for storm season is to make sure that your gutters are clean and free of debris. This is the time of year when everything is in bloom, and that can produce seeds that have blown off trees and plants, ending up in a nice wet gutter environment. Add in dust, decaying leaves and other items that may have collected over the winter then washed into your gutters, and you’ve got a lot of potential blockages to deal with. Clear them out to help your gutters work properly, diverting water away from your roof and home to prevent leaks and flooding during storms.

Trim the Trees

Falling limbs and trees are one of the big causes of property damage associated with storms. A lot of this can be prevented with some forethought, however. Trim back or remove heavy or dying limbs that hang over your house, vehicles or power lines. Diseased, damaged or dead trees should also be removed to prevent them from falling as a result of heavy winds.

Inspect the Roof

A roof is easy to ignore until it starts leaking, but at that point a significant amount of damage may have already been done. To help you get ready for storm season, take some time to walk around your home and see if you notice any visible damage such as missing shingles or notable divots in the roof material. You might also consider bringing in a roofing crew that offers roof inspections as part of your storm preparations. The more potential damage you find now, the easier it will be to avoid leaks and other damage when storms hit.

Secure Everything

Wind can do a lot of damage during storms. Double check any shutters, downspouts or other wall fixtures to make sure that they’re well secured, tightening screws or replacing securing straps as needed. If you have items in your yard that could be moved by the wind, such as a trampoline, consider getting straps and pegs to secure it to the ground as well. The more secure everything is, the less chance that there is for property damage to occur in strong winds.

Mind Your Electricity

Between high winds and lightning, storms can spell bad news for your electrical power. Installing a lightning rod or a full-home surge protector can help protect you in the event of lightning strikes or power surges, and hooking critical electronics up to an uninterruptable power supply (UPS) can keep them running for a little while even if your power drops out. If it’s in your budget, you might also consider getting a home generator that you can switch on if the power goes out.

Check Your Insurance

If you have homeowner’s insurance, it’s worth double checking to see what is and isn’t covered by your policy. While insurance might cover several common forms of storm damage, a lot of policies don’t cover flood damage unless you take out additional coverage. By understanding what is covered, you can get a better feel for what additional coverage you might need to be secure even in the worst of storms.

Get Storm Ready

If you need to do some work around the house to really get it ready for storm season, HomeKeepr is here to help. Sign up for a free account today to find roofers, electricians and other home pros who can hook you up with everything you need to protect yourself from the storms.
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Lawn Mowing Best Practices

Whether you love mowing the lawn or hate it, it’s a job that needs to be done. As with most things, though, there’s a difference between doing it and doing it well. If you find yourself wondering why your neighbors have an amazing lawn while yours looks all the worse for wear, it could be more than just a matter of perspective; it’s possible that the grass really is greener on the other side. This doesn’t have to be the case, though. Part of the problem might be how you’re caring for your lawn. If you haven’t put much thought into the specifics of yard care, here are a few things to think about. Changing how you think about mowing the lawn can have a big impact on the lawn itself, and your grass will thank you for it.

Prep Your Mower

Too many people approach the beginning of the mowing season the same way that they do the entire rest of the season: they put some gas in the mower and go. This is a good way to damage your lawn and wear out your mower at the same time. Start each season with an oil change and fresh gas, and check your mower blades for cracks, dullness or other signs that they need to be sharpened or replaced. Keep an eye on your grass as you mow; if it’s becoming ragged, this is a sign that your blades are getting dull again. Even a little bit of mower maintenance will make the cut easier on your lawn and keep your mower running in tip-top condition.

Learn Your Lawn

A lot of people think that grass is grass, but there are actually a lot of differences between grass species. Take a little time to find out what sort of grass you have growing in your lawn. If necessary, you can take a sample to your local agricultural extension office to get the job done. Once you know what kind of grass you have, you can learn the seasons when it actively grows, what sort of water and fertilizer needs it has, and even details about how it should be cut. If you need to reseed part of your lawn, knowing the existing grass type will also ensure that you get the right type of seed so that everything matches.

Cut to the Right Height

If your lawn is going to flourish, the grass needs to have enough blade area to absorb sunlight to meet its growing needs. Cutting it too short can damage it, causing the grass to wilt or brown, in some cases even killing off patches. As a general rule you’ll often hear that you should leave around 3 inches of grass when you cut, but this can vary depending on the type of grass you have. If in doubt, you can set the blade height between the 3-inch to 3 ½-inch mark to be safe, but you’ll have much more control over your lawn if you learn the grass type and find the optimal cutting height based on that.

Mind Those Clippings

It’s usually best to leave your clippings on the ground, as they provide much-needed nutrients to the lawn as they decompose. If you don’t like the look of them, consider a mulching blade and guard for your mower to ensure that they get cut into smaller pieces, or make multiple passes over the same area. The main exceptions to this are the first and last cuts of the year; in those instances, your lawn will do better if you bag the clippings instead.

Adapt Throughout the Year

One important thing to keep in mind is that grass is a living thing and grows differently depending on the time of the year and the local weather conditions. During the heat of the summer, make your lawn more drought resistant by adjust your cut height up a little; this gives the grass more blade area to collect dew on. In early spring and into the fall, cut less often to avoid shocking the grass. Even the direction of your cuts is important, especially if it’s been raining a lot; to prevent damaging the grass or compacting the soil too much, change direction every two or three cuts, switching to a cutting pattern around 90 degrees off from what you’ve been doing.

Keep It Under Control

A well-manicured lawn can be a big job. Fortunately, there are professionals out there who can take that burden off your shoulders. If you need to find a lawn service that comes highly recommended, sign up for a free HomeKeepr account today. You’ll be able to find a service based on real recommendations for mowers and landscapers that best match your specific needs.
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Update: Latest Construction Trends

Throughout the years, the construction industry, and the trends that it follows, have changed significantly. While some key elements in construction tend to stay more or less the same, in other areas the industry needs to be adaptable to keep up with the changing wants and needs of consumers and other clients. So if you’re considering a change, but aren’t really sure what you want in your home, here are a few of the recent and upcoming construction trends to keep in mind.

Children’s Playrooms

A lot of homeowners with children have come to feel that their kids need a place to play when at home. While children can and will play anywhere, giving them free reign of the house can be nerve-wracking, especially when you have to clean it all up every day. Establishing a dedicated playroom helps to contain the chaos, confining the clutter to a single area within the house. It’s possible to use an existing room as-is for a playroom, but a lot of parents would prefer to do at least a little bit of remodeling to ensure that the room both meets their kids’ needs, and is optimized for safety and storage.

Ditching the Dining Room

Big formal dining rooms have been popular for a long time, though that popularity has waxed and waned over the years. These days, many households aren’t using their dining rooms nearly as much as they did in past decades. As a result, more homeowners are looking for other things to do with that space other than using it to hold a table and chairs. This has led to surge in remodeling to make better use of that dining room area, with homeowners opting instead to create nooks or other smaller dining spaces that can be used much more efficiently at mealtime.

Smart Home Construction

Once a thing of science fiction, smart home technology and home automation are increasingly popular options for homeowners. A lot of smart home automation tech is designed to be plug-and-play, with smart lights, smart thermostats and various sensors being available as aftermarket purchases. For new construction, though, more people are opting for integrated technology. Built-in smart sensors to track things like water leaks, open windows and various aspects of security are all popular. Other construction options such as built-in Ethernet and design that avoids Wi-Fi dead spots are also being requested more and more frequently.

Home Office Spaces

As people work from home more often, they need a dedicated area to do their work in. In some cases, this is as simple as moving a computer into a spare bedroom, but many home workers require more customization for their home office space. This can come in the form of additional storage or custom work areas, improved soundproofing or electrical work such as improved lighting and added outlets. Other home workers may want a custom outbuilding to serve as a “shedquarters” so that they have a work area that’s at home but separate from the house itself.

Smaller Room Designs

While open room designs have been popular for years, there has been a shift recently to smaller and more distinct rooms within the home. This doesn’t apply to every room, of course; for living rooms and some other spaces within the house, bigger and more open continues to be popular. And having other rooms with a more compact design can make these seem bigger by comparison, even when you don’t have a huge amount of floor space to spend on big open areas.

Keeping Up with the Trends

Trends change over time… if they didn’t, they wouldn’t be trends. HomeKeepr can help you keep up with the Joneses and stay on top of the latest trends. Sign up for a free account today and see just how well it can connect you with the pros you need to stay on top.
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Tips for Bringing a Pro Into Your Bubble

While everyone is home trying to stay healthy, there are a lot of people who have taken to trying to do things around the house on their own. This has helped homeowners keep busy when they have little else to do. Unfortunately, there are some jobs that are just too big for a DIY; for these jobs, you’ll need to bring someone in to tackle the issue. This can be anxiety-inducing if you’re still trying to practice proper social distancing and avoiding contact with others. Fortunately, there are ways to reduce your risks when bringing someone into your home. Not only will these steps keep you safe, but they will also protect the worker who has to come in to do the job.

Schedule and Screen

When scheduling a service call, don’t be afraid to ask whether anyone at the company has been sick recently. While it won’t guarantee that the service person isn’t ill, knowing whether there have been sick employees in recent weeks can give you at least an idea of how well the company is managing social distancing and keeping its employees safe. There’s a good chance that you’ll have to answer similar questions, so the company shouldn’t have any problems with the questions that you ask.

Open Everything

Before the service call arrives, open any doors, cabinets or other barriers between the worker and what they’ll be working on. If there’s a wall panel or other basic covering that needs to be removed, go ahead and take that off too, provided that you can do so safely. The goal is to eliminate as many possible points of contact that the service person would otherwise have to touch or open. Once they arrive, explain what you’ve done and ask them to let you close everything back up. This will let them come in, do the job and leave without touching every door, panel or similar objects in your house.

Keep Your Distance

Social distancing is very important when someone new is coming into the home. Maintain a distance of at least 6 feet between yourself and the worker, and try to avoid being in the same room once they’ve started their work. Greet them and see if they have any questions once they arrive, then find ways to busy yourself elsewhere. You can check in periodically to make sure that they don’t need anything, but be sure to do so from a distance. It may be helpful to wear a mask while they’re in the home as well, which they should be doing already.

No-Contact Payment

If possible, opt for a no-contact payment option or request that an invoice be mailed to you. If you’re able to pay online, this is likely your best option; you can make a payment from your computer or smart device without having to hand anyone your credit or debit card. If online payments aren’t an option, you may be able to pay over the phone or through some other no-contact method. If you aren’t able to use a card for your payment, there are still no-contact options available. If you’re paying with cash, put the money in an envelope and place it somewhere that the person making the service call can easily pick it up. The ideal way to do this is to have part of the envelope hanging over the edge of a table or other piece of furniture so that they can pick it up without actually touching your furniture. This is also a situation where writing a check can come in handy, as you can simply fill it out and then leave it to be collected without having to bother with an envelope.

Clean Before and After

Before the service worker arrives, take the time to wipe down the area they’ll be working in with sanitizing wipes. This will present a clean, safe environment for them to work in that they will surely appreciate. Once the work is finished and they’re gone, go over everything again and clean up to remove any germs that might have traveled in with them.

Stay Calm

While this is a stressful time, it’s important to reassure yourself that it’s possible to have a service call while also staying safe. Keeping your distance and reducing possible points of contact will go a long way toward keeping yourself and your family healthy. You wouldn’t be calling in someone if it weren’t necessary right now, so treat the situation with the respect that it deserves, and you should be fine.
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