3 Ways a Deck Can Make Staying Home More Enjoyable

(BPT) – With so many people across the country staying put in their homes right now, a fun and functional outdoor space is more important than ever. Amusement parks and concerts are closed or canceled and spring is around the corner, beckoning families outdoors. Millions of people are working remotely and looking for a more natural option for their home offices. A well-thought-out deck could be the answer to making a staycation, whether forced or planned, more enjoyable.

Here are three ways a deck can improve the at-home experience.

Fewer screens, more fun

When kids are out of school, screen time usually goes up. Whether it’s TV, computers, video games, phones or tablets, screen time is usually a sedentary activity.

A deck can provide an alternative outdoor play space where kids can be active and stretch their imaginations, enjoy the outdoors and do things like bring their favorite toys like building blocks, action figures or doll houses outdoors.

Worried about splinters hurting those little toes and fingers? Composite decking is a beautiful option that makes sanding, staining, sealing and splinters a thing of the past. While composite decking has historically had a higher price tag than traditional wood, boards like Envision Ridge Premium deliver the exotic hardwood beauty and low maintenance of composites at a budget-friendly price.

Home office with a side of vitamin D

Millions of Americans have moved to work-from-home situations recently and are looking for a way to get out of their stuffy home offices in favor of a workspace with natural lighting and a great breeze. Soaking up a safe amount of sun every day can reap big benefits for your health, according to physicians and the World Health Organization (WHO), including elevating mood, improving sleep, promoting bone growth and strengthening the immune system.

With the right patio furniture, a deck can make a great option for an outdoor workspace to soak up the benefits of the sun’s rays. Choose a table of the appropriate height and a comfortable chair for extended work sessions, or a cushioned chaise lounge for shorter periods. Adding a screen or pergola to a deck can provide some protection from the wind (fewer important work papers blowing around).

Family time all year long

If there’s an upside to the increase in people staying home, it’s the ability to connect with the other people living in your home. Life can get so busy with work, friends and other commitments that it’s difficult to find time to connect or have a family game night. A deck is a great place to gather the members of your household for a laid-back evening of stargazing or a rowdy game night.

And those family connections don’t have to end due to summer’s heat or fall’s chill. By adding an outdoor heater, firepit or fans, you can extend your deck’s use as a family space to the majority of the year.

As you can see, a deck is a great way to expand the living space of your home and to provide an alternative space for all members of the family to enjoy.

Unlock the Smart Home You Never Knew You Had

(BPT) – With everyone hunkering down, many of us are thinking about how to maximize what’s already in our homes. What many don’t know is that the benefits and efficiencies of a smart home might already be at their fingertips. With a little research and time spent with your appliances and technology, you can start enjoying the convenience of the smart home features you never knew you had – with added benefits like tips and alerts that will help you take care of your appliances to avoid service issues.

Reacquaint yourself with your tech

Start online by doing a search of the make and model of your TVs, speakers and appliances to determine if your items have smart capabilities. If they do, you can easily locate online instructions for setup and user-friendly tutorials on how to use them to their full advantage. Have you recently purchased a premium new TV or appliance? If you have, there’s a good chance that it’s smart-enabled.

Start exploring your smart app

After selecting a smart-enabled appliance or TV that you’d like to focus on, download the accompanying smart app to your smartphone or tablet. Many brands have one central app for their appliances and electronics to make this even easier. For example, LG’s is called ThinQ. A central app is the easiest way to keep yourself organized.

Get notifications directly to your phone

Apps like ThinQ allow you to track the status of appliances like your Wi-Fi-enabled washing machine. Download unique wash cycles on the ThinQ app like the Waterproof cycle, which washes waterproof material like mattress covers and rain jackets. Through the app you can receive notifications to your phone when cycles are completed, and start and stop your machine. If you have a ThinQ-enabled LG TV, you can even receive these notifications directly on the screen – making sure you don’t miss any binge-worthy television.

Avoid service calls

You may be surprised just how advanced some of these features get; LG now offers customer support technology that alerts smart appliance owners to potential problems before they occur, which is more important than ever these days. For example, if you used too much detergent in an LG washing machine, “Proactive Customer Care” will send you an alert followed by specific care instructions to fix the problem. It can even tell you if your dryer vent needs cleaning or your fridge is not cooling properly, providing guidance for how to take the right action to avoid a problem.

Hands-free is carefree

Most smart appliances and devices can be connected to the Google Assistant and/or Amazon Alexa. Some smart TVs like those from LG have both built in. This feature lets you use voice commands to control your enabled appliances or devices so you don’t have to lift a finger!

If you recently bought a new appliance or TV, your home may be smarter than you thought. Interested in learning more about what smart appliances and smart TVs have to offer? Visit LG.com and take a look around.

6 Tips For Advancing Your At-Home Cooking

(BPT) – With everyone spending more time at home, the kitchen is becoming a major hub for daily activities. Whether it is dusting off an old cookbook, perfecting a family recipe, mastering the latest recipe to take over social media, or baking cookies with the kids, people are creating new memories in the kitchen.

That’s why we asked the cooking and baking experts in LG’s home appliance consumer insights lab in Chicago to compile a list of the best tips, tricks and hacks to help get the most out of your time in the kitchen right now.

Create recipes that need less cleanup time

With more cooking comes more cleaning. Try to ease the cleanup burden by creating one-pot meals. Casseroles are great dishes that require less cleanup. Pro-tip: Most casserole dishes should be covered for most of their cooking time, but you can remove the cover and continue to cook the casserole for 5 to 10 minutes until the top is browned.

If things do get messy

First, see if you can do a simple cleanup. Functions like “Easy Clean,” for instance, allow you to simply spray water inside your LG oven and then in 10 minutes wipe away any leftover grime without chemicals or high heat. And since you may have more time at home right now, it might be a good time to use the full “self-clean” cycle on your oven. Be sure to ventilate the area and take your next activity outside if you can! Before you start, make sure to remove all racks in the oven and don’t forget to check the lower oven drawer for anything you may have stored down there like sheet pans.

Get to know your oven’s settings

For example, convection mode is best for baking. Some ovens have specific settings to make baking better. The “ProBake” convection range from LG circulates the air inside the oven for even heat distribution on every rack. When baking, make sure to allow enough space around each pan and rack to let heat circulate properly.

A dish’s placement in your oven is important

Most smaller items benefit from being placed in the middle of the oven while larger items should be placed on the lower third. Tent your larger dishes with foil to avoid browning of the food before it is properly cooked.

Avoid cramming contents into a pan

It may be tempting to avoid using two different pans, but overcrowding your pan prevents even cooking. If you make this mistake, you might steam your food instead of browning it.

Try a recipe you haven’t been able to before

With more time on your hands to prepare food, you can try recipes that take longer like baking bread. While it can be a laborious process, the results are always worth the trouble. Create a moist environment for yeast doughs to thrive in when using the Proof function on the oven; this is achieved by placing a bowl of water in the oven with the dough while proofing.

Now more than ever, families across the country are spending more time in their kitchens – from trying new cooking techniques and recipes to maximizing baking and cleaning. For more information about ovens and ranges, check out lg.com/us/ranges-ovens.

5 Steps to Painting Like a Pro at Home

(BPT) – Nothing transforms a home quite like a fresh coat of paint. In fact, painting your own house is one of the smartest and easiest DIY upgrades a homeowner can accomplish, especially as they find themselves spending more time at home. With 71% of homeowners undertaking improvement or renovation projects that include paint, according to an iProperty Management Study, here are surefire tips to ensure you are painting like a pro.

Clean your canvas

Paint adheres better to a smooth, clean surface. While living room walls may only need a dry dusting, kitchens and bathrooms, where dirt, grease, oil or mildew can build up, need extra attention. Wash surfaces with soap and water, rinse well and allow to dry completely. For bathrooms, remove mold and mildew by applying a solution of one part bleach to three parts water and allow the solution to sit for 20 minutes. Then scrub mold and mildew with a soft-bristle brush, rinse the surface and allow it to dry. Be sure to wear safety glasses and rubber gloves when working with this bleach and water solution. For surfaces that are particularly grimy, spray with Rust-Oleum® Original Krud Kutter Cleaner & Degreaser, wipe off with a clean cloth and allow to dry.

Ensure a smooth surface

Now that the surface is dry, smooth down any uneven or rough surfaces with a bit of fine-grit sandpaper. Another pro tip is to shine a bright light at a low angle across the surface to spot any problem areas. After you have sanded or scraped the area, wipe it down with a damp cloth to remove any dust or residue and allow to dry.

Don’t forget the details

Anyone can paint over a wide, smooth surface, but it’s the attention to detail around windows and doors that truly gives a job that professional look. Start by removing any loose or cracked caulking from windows, doors and trim, and apply a fresh bead of sealant for a smooth, sealed surface. DAP ALEX FLEX™ Premium Molding & Trim Sealant is paintable in just 30 minutes, saving time and resulting in a seamless, more professional finish. Next, use painter’s tape to protect windowsills, molding, baseboards, door hinges and the ceiling perimeter, taking your time to ensure that all areas are properly covered.

Fill in imperfections

Now it’s time to tackle the main surface. Cracks, holes and dents will mar the finished project, so apply spackling to fill in these areas. Open a container of pre-mixed spackling compound and apply a small amount over the damage with a flexible putty knife. Spread the compound over the hole or crack in a smooth, downward motion. Overfill slightly and sand smooth using fine-grit sandpaper. Need to tackle a larger drywall repair? Reach for DAP® FAST DRY Premium Spackling. This professional-grade spackling compound is uniquely formulated to provide strength and durability while drying fast. Depending on the size of the repair, it can be painted in as little as 15 minutes.

Paint with precision

Make the job go easier and faster by having a variety of brushes and rollers on hand. Rollers are great for covering large, wide surfaces, but for a professional look around edges and corners, you’ll need smaller brushes for the right amount of detailed work. Allow the first coat of paint to completely dry, and then apply a second coat to ensure smooth, even coverage. Once the second coat is dry, carefully pull up any painter’s tape and voila! Your space is transformed!

For more information on DAP products for your next DIY project, visit DAP.com.

Turn Your Backyard Into a Safe Space For Healthy Play

(BPT) – As Americans across the country retreat to their homes to help slow the spread of COVID-19, many are rediscovering the value of their yards as places to take in fresh air, engage their children in outdoor games and enjoy physical activity in a safe environment.

3 tips for safe, healthy outdoor fun for the family

Kids who can no longer participate in organized sports activities or meet their friends at the park need creative ways to burn off energy at home. Unplugging and stepping outside can be good for the whole family’s physical and mental health. Consider these three tips as you explore ways to take advantage of the green space around your home.

Educate: The backyard offers a great setting to learn about plant biology and the creepy crawlers that call our lawns home. Take a magnifying glass to your lawn and explore the habitat nestled between the blades.

Exercise: Lace up your sneakers and take to the yard for a 30-minute workout or arrange an obstacle course on the lawn for the kids. Encourage children to compete for the fastest time or create a course of their own.

Rejuvenate: As the days get warmer, enjoy a little self-care by soaking in the sun on the lawn. Consider laying out a blanket and reading. Whether it becomes family story time or some quiet time to yourself, spend some time enjoying your own personal piece of the great outdoors.

Take this time to give your lawn some TLC

Now is a great time for some DIY spring maintenance to get your lawn ready for summer and the likely heavier-than-usual use it will see as you spend more time at home. To create a lush, healthy, low-maintenance lawn that is summer-ready, follow these spring lawn care tips from the experts at Grass Seed USA, a coalition of American grass seed farmers and turf specialists.

Interseed for a thicker lawn. Lawns that are sparse or have worn patches coming out of winter can be interseeded when the soil warms up in the spring. In addition to enhancing the overall appearance of the lawn, interseeding will help keep turf dense, which is a natural defense to keeping pesky weeds out.

Simply rake away lawn debris or accumulated thatch, broadcast seed widely or target bare spots on your lawn and irrigate regularly until the seed germinates. Be sure to use a high-quality seed that is a good match for your geographic region and your lawn’s soil type, sun exposure and irrigation patterns. Seed can be ordered online and shipped directly to your home from most home improvement retailers.

Water deeply and infrequently. Rather than irrigating lightly every day, begin to water more deeply, only once or twice a week, which will encourage strong root growth and make for a hardier lawn in the summer. Most turf grasses will stay vigorous if they receive about 1 inch of water per week, including rainfall (and drought-tolerant species such as tall fescue do well on even less).

Mow early and leave the grass taller. Start mowing your lawn before it gets too tall. Scalping an overgrown lawn will stress the plants and potentially cause problems all season long, so make sure you never cut off more than one-third of the grass blade height at a time. A good rule of thumb for most species is to mow when the grass reaches a height of about 3 inches. That means you can cut it to 2 inches – or you can even leave it a little taller to protect the growing point at the base of the blade and improve your lawn’s wear tolerance.

Feed your lawn. Grasscycling – leaving the clippings on the lawn after you mow and allowing them to decompose – can save you time and provide up to 25% of your lawn’s fertilizer needs. To meet the rest of your turf’s nutrient requirements, you’ll likely need to fertilize in the spring and fall. The spring application should be relatively light and should feature slow-release nitrogen fertilizer to avoid causing rapid but weak growth, which can make the lawn less durable.

If you’re among the many Americans seeking activities for energetic kids, suddenly finding time for long-delayed home improvement projects, or just needing a breath of fresh air, step out the backdoor and take advantage of your home’s lawn. By engaging in a few DIY spring lawn projects now, your lawn will be ready no matter what summer brings!

Tips To Protect From the Unexpected: Necessary Home Essentials

(BPT) – While spending more time at home, it’s important that you take the necessary steps to make sure your family is ready for the unexpected in the event a home fire or carbon monoxide (CO) leak occurs. You might be surprised to learn that CO poisoning is the number one cause of accidental poisoning in the United States each year and, according to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), three out of five fire deaths occur in homes without working smoke alarms. Make sure your family and home are prepared by following these tips and tools.

Every level, every bedroom.

Even if you have smoke and CO alarms in your home, you and your family may not be sufficiently protected if you don’t have enough devices throughout your entire home. To help ensure the highest level of protection, the NFPA recommends installing alarms on every level of the home, inside every bedroom and outside each sleeping area.

Test, maintain and replace.

Even though testing your alarms is as simple as pressing a button and waiting for the beep, a First Alert survey showed that more than 60% of consumers do not test their smoke and CO alarms monthly. Test alarms regularly, change the batteries every six months if battery-powered and be sure all alarms have a battery backup if hardwired, for protection during a power outage. To eliminate battery replacements for a decade, upgrade to 10-year sealed battery alarms to make battery replacements a thing of the past. Also, if you can’t remember the last time you installed an alarm, chances are, it’s time to replace it. Alarms are on duty 24/7 and need to be replaced at least every 10 years.

Double-up on safety.

While many homeowners know the importance of protecting their home from the threats of smoke and fire, studies show that fewer households are equipped with CO alarms. CO is responsible for an average of 450 deaths each year. CO is an invisible, odorless gas that is impossible to detect without an alarm. For ultimate home safety, install combination alarms for 2-in-1 protection, such as the First Alert Combination Smoke and CO Alarm with a 10-year sealed battery for long-lasting protection.

Be prepared to fight small flames.

According to the NFPA, the number one cause of home fires is unattended cooking. Cooking fires are expected to increase significantly with incremental cooking occurring at homes across the country right now, so it is important for you to stay alert and be watchful in the kitchen. Beyond alarms, having fire extinguishers – and knowing how to use them – is an integral part of a home safety plan. Place a fire extinguisher in the kitchen and keep it within reach so it is easily accessible in the event of a fire. First Alert manufactures a model, the First Alert Kitchen Fire Extinguisher, which is rated to fight flammable liquid and electrical fires and features a durable metal head.

Form an escape plan.

In the event that your family needs to evacuate your home, every second counts – and yet the NFPA reports that only 32% of American households have actually developed and practiced an emergency escape plan. Involve everyone in your household when developing an emergency escape plan. Identify two exits out of each room, including windows and doors, and set a dedicated meeting spot outside. Once outside, stay outside and call 911. Be sure to practice your escape plan with the entire family at least twice a year.

To learn more about how to keep your family and home safe, visit www.FirstAlert.com/BeReady.

Spring Into 2020 Design Trends

(BPT) – The year is already off to a stylish start, but there are plenty more trends that will be coming into focus in the coming months. Designers around the country are exploring a dynamic mix of patterns and unexpected colors, plus creative new approaches to flooring, accents and lighting.

Here are the go-to trends making a splash in design studios and homes this spring.

Florals are blossoming

Just in time for spring, floral designs are bringing walls and furnishings to life. Floral wallpaper is coming back in a big way, turning rooms into virtual gardens. But not to worry – the latest designs are not your grandmother’s wallpaper. Intriguing, modern and sophisticated floral designs in vibrant color choices are available to suit any taste.

Biophilic design

Another great trend for spring combines people’s passions for naturally occurring aesthetics and nature, often brought to life through indoor gardens, small trees or “living walls.” These design statements allow plants and other aspects of nature to become a visual focus in any home.

It is also inspired by natural materials like wood and stone, earth tones and natural colors, and organic shapes. These elements are showcased throughout the home, including in wooden architectural beams, stone-based accent pieces and naturally colored accent walls. Yesterday’s linear furniture designs are being replaced by softer, curvier shapes that mimic forms in nature.

Naturalistic flooring

Designers and homeowners alike are making a statement in flooring that combines intriguing design with a natural flair, such as geometrically patterned flooring created from naturally beautiful hardwood.

“Patterned flooring is beginning to dominate today’s interior designs,” says Katie Allen, design and trend director at Lumber Liquidators Flooring. “It can be used in a wide variety of spaces to add texture and character to any room.”

For example, it is easier than ever to create a warm, visually exciting look in almost any home with a chevron pattern using Bellawood Engineered Hardwood Flooring from Lumber Liquidators. Each patterned plank is arranged in a custom zigzag pattern, meaning homeowners won’t be wasting time installing individually angled boards.

The handcrafted distressing of the wood also reveals the natural grain and rich brown hues, appealing to homeowners wanting a natural look.

Color your world

Along with the emphasis on nature-based color palettes comes a shift away from the neutral tones that have become popular over the last couple of years. Jewel tones like deep blues, a variety of green hues and even subtle pinks are seeing a comeback for walls, rugs, cabinets and furnishings.

Designers are often choosing strongly contrasting colors to make visually bold statements, like pink against blue, rich blue against a lighter green or any color paired with black or white.

Mix and match

Unusual juxtapositions of color are being matched by contrasting textures and materials. Architects and designers are getting creative with the interplay of materials such as marbles against woods, plus geometric patterns created by tiles used for accent walls or as a backsplash.

Fiber art – like handcrafted rugs, throw pillows, blankets and wall hangings – is popular again, and will help make any room pop. Rattan and cane furniture also provide similar variety in terms of texture, color and pattern.

Brighten it up

Lighting is no longer just a way to illuminate your space, but a bold detail to add visual excitement to any room. Champagne gold lighting fixtures are one fun trend that really stands out, seen in every room from living and dining rooms to kitchens and baths.

Some of this spring’s overall trends can easily be brought to life through lighting choices, from wicker or caned pendant lamps to rounder, more organically shaped lighting fixtures.

Let your own personality and design sensibility shine through when decorating your living spaces, using these trends as inspiration.

Want to see more flooring options and ideas to help transform your home this spring? Visit LLFlooring.com to see the latest in flooring materials and designs.

Boost Your Home’s Curb Appeal

(BPT) – Looks matter and first impressions count! So to pique the interest of potential buyers, refresh your home’s exterior and boost the curb appeal with new siding. In-the-know design pros are choosing cypress siding for the upgrade. It looks great and can last a lifetime, no matter what Mother Nature might have in store.

“Cypress siding offers the complete package,” says Zack Rickman of the Southern Cypress Manufacturers Association, www.CypressInfo.org. “It’s not only beautiful, it offers proven outdoor performance by naturally repelling insects – like termites and carpenter bees – and minimizing decay, chemical corrosion and other damaging elements.”

Be informed

Wood siding offers a timeless look that is often imitated, but never really duplicated. And while there are many siding products to choose from, homebuilder Stephen Ellis, MGB Fine Custom Homes of Sarasota, Florida, chooses cypress. And for good reasons!

“Often we clad our homes entirely in cypress,” he says. “It’s a material we enjoy working with because it’s dimensionally stable and holds up well in our humid, coastal environment. And it’s locally sourced, which is something homeowners are valuing now more than ever. Ultimately, the decision comes down to the architectural style of the home, maintenance and cost. I do my best to help homeowners make an informed decision based on their goals.”

When it comes to picking a siding style, cypress is available in all the popular patterns, like traditional bevel or modern shiplap. Yet in Ellis’ area, he’s seeing a different trend. “These days, we’re putting up a lot of board and batten,” he says. “It’s always been popular for farm houses, but it looks great on beach homes and complements the casual, relaxing vibe.”

Expert advice about finishing options

“If you’re drawn to cypress’ natural honey-like hues and want to enhance the natural richness of its color and grain pattern, focus on semi-transparent, oil-based stains,” Rickman advises. “These products provide superior protection because they penetrate the wood and allow it to breathe, whereas water-based stains sit on the surface and are prone to peeling and cracking.”

If a cleaner, solid color look is more your style, Rickman says 100 percent acrylic latex paint, with a compatible primer, is the way to go to ensure cypress’ best performance.

Architect John Harrison Jones, Memphis, Tennessee, says some of his clients prefer the weathered wood look. “It’s contextual to our region and environment,” he says. “And while cypress is naturally decay and water resistant, I still recommend applying a water-repellent sealer to provide added protection. Some products include an ultraviolet light inhibitor to block the sun’s rays and prevent premature graying. Nevertheless, cypress will weather to a light gray patina over time.

“If you want the weathered look now, consider applying a bleaching stain with a subtle gray tint. But, be careful not to apply too much because it can get too light. Test it out on a piece of scrap wood first.”

Whichever finish you choose, Rickman recommends always applying stain, primer or sealer to all sides and edges of the boards. “This will protect the wood from moisture and prevent problems down the road,” he says. “And perhaps most importantly, make sure to follow the finish manufacturer’s instructions.”

For more ways to boost your home’s curb appeal with cypress siding, visit the Southern Cypress website at www.CypressInfo.org.

4 Outdoor Cleaning Tips That Could Help You Save Thousands

(BPT) – The sounds of birds chirping, longer daylight hours, and budding trees and flowers are early signs that warmer weather and spring are on the way. That means more time outside to enjoy nature, but it’s also a sign it might be time for a little spring cleaning.

“Cold temperatures, snowfall and winter rains can have a big effect on houses and landscaping, so now’s the time to check for potential home repairs and maintenance,” said Christopher O’Rourke, Mercury Insurance vice president of property claims. “Spring cleaning isn’t just about getting rid of belongings you no longer want or need – it’s also a time to get your home in tip-top shape so you can enjoy it throughout the rest of the year.”

Here are four tips O’Rourke recommends to welcome the new season and save some money down the road.

Clean your gutters.

Gutters collect debris over time, especially when rain, snow and wind causes twigs, pine needles and leaves to settle on your roof and in your rain gutters. Accumulated debris can create blockages that direct water into the home or, in areas without much precipitation, can act as kindling in the event of a fire. Buildup also allows mildew and mold to develop, which can slowly decay a home’s exterior and roof.

“Preventable damage like mold or mildew that develops and rots a home’s exterior isn’t covered by homeowners insurance,” said O’Rourke. “It’s important to routinely clean out gutters – even if you have gutter guards installed, they don’t completely protect against debris building up eventually. An hour or two spent cleaning or checking your gutters is time well spent compared to the alternative.”

Trim branches and remove dangerous trees.

Thunderstorm frequency picks up in summer months, and high winds can occur year round, so it’s best to get a jump on tree maintenance in early spring. Regularly trimming tree branches reduces their chance of breaking during a storm, which could cause power outages or property damage.

“Properly trimmed branches present a lower risk of falling onto your home, power lines or possibly injuring someone on your property,” said O’Rourke. “Also, in areas that are prone to wildfires, trimmed trees create a buffer zone to help lower the chances of flames easily jumping onto your roof.”

Consider having the trees on your property inspected by an arborist to determine their health and have diseased trees removed before they topple over unexpectedly. Removal costs vary depending on height and difficulty, but range from $100 to around $1,800. These preventative costs are not covered by your homeowners policy, but can be a wise investment that saves you time, money and anxiety.

Watch out for service lines.

Homeowners who want to plant gardens, trees or install additional landscape features to enhance their outdoor living space should be aware of potential underground utility lines. Most service lines – a network of exterior, underground utility lines or pipes that supply a home with electricity, gas, water and sewer functions – are only buried a few inches beneath the ground. Accidentally hitting one when digging can result in loss of service, expensive repairs or a serious injury.

If a break to a service line happens on a homeowner’s property, special machinery may be needed to excavate pipes from beneath the ground, which may require digging under your home, garden or driveway. The homeowner is responsible for repair or replacement costs, and this damage can be inconvenient, expensive and isn’t covered by a standard homeowners insurance policy.

“The average cost to repair a break to a service line is about $5,000 and most Americans wouldn’t welcome such a large surprise bill,” said O’Rourke. “Homeowners should definitely consider purchasing an endorsement to their insurance policy to protect against losses of this nature. Mercury offers this coverage as an addition to our home insurance policy and it costs as little as $8 a year, depending on the home’s age.”

To be safe, homeowners should call 811 before digging so the utility companies can send a locator to mark the approximate locations of underground service lines.

Service your air conditioning unit.

Regular maintenance of heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) systems is essential to ensure the equipment is in proper working order, which can save money on energy bills, as well as protect against expensive repair and replacement costs.

“No one wants to unexpectedly find themselves living in a sauna during the dog days of summer, so the start of spring is a great time to have your air conditioner inspected,” said O’Rourke. “You should also change your air filter to make sure it’s operating at its highest efficiency, so when that heat wave hits you’ll be nice and cool inside your home.”

Have a professional inspect your HVAC unit to make sure its exterior condenser coil and compressor are clean and free from blockages – the average cost for an inspection is about $300.

Your home will bring you security and joy for many years to come. Taking the time to maintain it is well worth the investment.

Focus Your Bathroom Remodel With a Striking Visual Statement

(BPT) – There is nothing more inviting than a luxurious, well-appointed bathroom, but no matter how ambitious the remodel, there are unique challenges that come with every project. Whether updating the guest powder room or redesigning the master bathroom of your dreams, from plumbing and lighting to budget and space limitations, there is a lot to be considered. One way to approach a project is by defining the space through singular choices that will move an everyday interior into a space to remember: an extraordinary marble vanity, exquisite lighting fixture, classic vessel sink or deep soaking tub – pivotal pieces can set the stage upon which all else revolves.

How you choose that signature piece to take your room to the next level can be intimidating. Here are some approaches to help make your dream space a reality.

Make a statement

Once you’ve decided on that one stand-alone piece, it’s time to draw in all the secondary players to complete the interior and fit your particular style. What do you want to visually highlight or contrast to bring the design center stage? Is it a particular color or family of colors that are more welcoming than others? Are there certain textures that naturally appeal to you – smooth and polished, or organic and irregular to the touch? Do you prefer classic design elements or those with a modern edge?

Innovations in the bathroom have revolutionized what’s possible. Large bathrooms have the space to create inspired retreats, from scene-stealing freestanding bathtubs to spacious glass-enclosed, walk-in showers equipped with multiple showerheads and the very latest in technology.

Another stylish alternative is the vessel sink. Whether making a grand statement by pairing them or as a singular statement in a smaller space, a vessel sink is a beautiful addition to any bathroom. Most require the same standard footprint as a drop-in basin, and there are quite a selection of vessels to choose from, including designs handcrafted from glass, carved from stone or cast from bronze and other metals.

One of the latest designs is the KALLISTA Myam Decorative Vessel. Crafted from solid bronze, the Myam Vessel has an interior of satin bronze, polished bronze or white satin bronze, contrasted by a textured eggshell exterior of matte black or matte white. With its classic lines and rich finishes, the Myam is just one example of how a vessel sink can visually impact your interior in a significant way.

Color and texture

Neutrals remain a confident, versatile choice, allowing you to layer varying shades to create depth and weave in pops of color to add visual excitement. If you do select a vibrant color, highly veined marble or elaborate detailed flooring allow it to play a larger role within your interior design. Mix in metals or other neutrals to complement and support those key design elements.

Texture also adds character and personality to a room. Fixtures featuring hand-rubbed multi-layered finishes create warmth, highly-figured marble and stone add dimension and irregular patterning only nature can provide, while natural wood lends an organic component to the interior. Playing with textures and surface finishes has never been more interesting – and today’s choices are more varied than ever.

Know the limitations of the room

If you have a small room to work with, you do not want to overwhelm the eye with too many elements. Keep lines clean and simple, and let the one signature piece command without competition from other design elements.

If there’s limited natural lighting, consider adding mirrored effects to enhance the lighting within the room. Antiqued mirrored cabinet finishes and wall tiles such as recent innovative designs by Robern and ANN SACKS reflect light within the room, adding dimensional depth and glamorous sophistication.

For rooms with high ceilings, a chandelier can center and balance a room while adding dramatic flair. Choose a traditional or modern chandelier that suits your style. If ceilings are lower, decorative flushmount ceiling lights or wall-mounted sconces provide a beautiful addition to an otherwise unremarkable room. Switching out lightbulbs with vintage Edison-inspired bulbs can completely change the character of a light fixture, adding charm by giving the lighting design an acquired feel.