Quick tips to prepare your home for holiday guests

(BPT) – As the holidays approach, the decorator in us gets excited about how to deck the halls and drape the tinsel to create a festive home for the season. Social media is full of inspiration, but before you embark on decorating projects, the following are a few easy ideas to ensure your home is as functional and welcoming as it is festive for family and friends.

‘Tis the season to repair, repaint, refresh

A pristine paint job is the perfect backdrop for holiday entertaining. Throughout the year, the walls of your home take a lot of abuse, from kids banging their toys into the corners and chairs hitting the walls, to the nail holes and cracks that appear over time. To restore your walls to their former glory, fill in those dents, holes and cracks before you repaint with ALEX Plus Spackling, which delivers professional strength and durability when making repairs on a range of surfaces such as drywall, wood and metal. If you have troublesome reoccurring cracks that just won’t go away, ALEX Flex Spackling is the perfect solution for a lasting, seamless repair. And for the ultimate professional finish, use ALEX Flex Premium Molding & Trim Sealant to fill gaps and cracks around interior window and door frames and along baseboards, chair rails and crown molding for a crack-proof, seamless finish. With your walls repaired and looking like new, you’re now ready to paint and decorate for a fresh, updated look.

Create a safe, cozy area for fireside chats

A warm, roaring fire is a cozy centerpiece for after-dinner storytelling and catching up with family and friends. Whether your home is equipped with a gas or wood-burning fireplace, it is important to ensure the unit is in good working order. First, inspect the area and repair any damage to key pieces, such as the baffle, damper or mantle, that may have occurred during the year. Next, schedule a time for a thorough chimney sweeping to remove excess buildup of soot and creosote. A clean, maintained fireplace not only makes for a festive environment, but can also serve as an element to heat your home, reducing seasonal stress on your furnace.

Corral guest clutter in your main living areas

There’s nothing like visiting with old friends or reconnecting with family members you haven’t seen in a while. Of course, with the increased foot traffic in and out of your home comes the question of where to put your guests’ belongings so they are out of the way and organized. If you have a coat closet, be sure to clean it out and make room for your guests by storing your coats in another room. You might also consider using an additional coat rack and strategically placing some festive decorative baskets for holding shoes and purses.

Create a kid-friendly space

If you plan on hosting friends and family members who have small children, take some time to kid-proof your home, particularly anywhere they are likely to play. Along with putting plug covers on all of the outlets, remove any common hazards young kids might get into. Secure electrical and window treatment cords, protect hard-edged furniture and put breakables out of reach. Once the groundwork for a safe, kid-friendly space is cleared, add toys, games, comfy pillows and more, so they’re entertained and feel welcome.

Prepare the outdoors, too

When it comes to prepping for holiday guests, don’t forget about high-traffic areas outside the home. Be sure to clear the walkways of any snow and ice and replace outdoor lights with fresh bulbs to help guests safely navigate their way to your home.

These quick and easy preparations will help you and your guests feel more at home, setting the stage for all to enjoy the festivities and fun of the season.

Easy winter weatherproofing: Keep the chill out as temperatures drop

(BPT) – Households heating with natural gas, which is almost half of U.S. homes, are expected to spend an average of $635 on heating this winter — 22 percent more than last winter, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration — but some easy seasonal maintenance tips can make a big difference.

“There are several simple, inexpensive ways consumers can save money on utility bills this winter, and still stay warm and comfortable as temperatures begin to drop,” said Jill Murphy, a home heating and energy efficiency expert with Lennox Industries. “By taking the initiative to weatherproof their home before the start of the cold-weather season, homeowners will be able to enjoy a warmer and more energy-efficient house.”

To help consumers combat high utility bills and achieve optimum indoor comfort this winter, Murphy and Lennox suggest a few easy tips for staying safe, dry and comfortable as the cold comes:

The attic. The attic is one of the biggest culprits when it comes to heat loss. Without adequate attic insulation, your heating system will have to work harder and will be less effective as it tries to maintain a warm temperature in the home. Statistics show that older homes, especially those built before 1980, often don’t have enough insulation.

Windows and doors. Air leaks caused by cracks or holes around windows and doors can enable warm indoor air to escape and cold outside air to seep in, preventing you from maintaining a consistent indoor temperature. Murphy suggests sealing cracks with caulk or weather stripping.

Exterior walls. It’s also important to look for cracks and holes around the perimeter of your home. To identify air leaks in outside-facing walls, try holding a candle near suspect areas to reveal drafts and then seal leaks with caulk or weather stripping.

Fireplace and chimney. To prevent warm indoor air from escaping the home, Murphy also reminds homeowners to keep fireplace dampers closed when not in use; however, always make sure the damper is fully opened before starting a fire. You also should inspect the chimney cap to ensure that the chimney won’t have a smoke or water leak when you fire it up this winter.

Heating system. Keeping your heating system running efficiently is the most significant way to reduce utility bills and stay warm this winter. To reduce the potential for a breakdown in the middle of winter, Murphy recommends having your furnace inspected by certified technicians before old man winter arrives, and consider replacing a system that is more than 15 years old.

Programmable thermostats. To further maximize savings on your heating bills, Murphy recommends installing a smart thermostat, such as the Lennox iComfort E30, which works with Amazon Alexa smart home devices and is compatible with any brand of HVAC system.

The roof. The roof is your home’s first defense against falling rain, ice and snow, so it’s important to inspect it to make sure shingles are in place to prevent water from seeping inside the house. If large gaps are found, hire a professional roofing company to repair the problem areas.

By making a few minor adjustments around the house, homeowners can help alleviate safety concerns and reduce the amount of wasted energy, all while staying comfortable during the chilly season. To learn more about home energy efficiency and how to save money on utility bills, visit https://www.lennox.com or on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/Lennox.

Raising the bar(n) in your home: Say hello to a barn door this winter

(BPT) – Amid the many trends ebbing and flowing through home improvement, one in particular seems likely to stick around. Known for their versatility, barn doors have been popping up in homes across the country — in contemporary and rustic designs. With this design element found on such opposite sides of the style spectrum, one might wonder what it is about barn doors that people love so much. If you’ve found yourself asking the same thing, read on to discover why adding a barn door is an ideal winter home-improvement project.

Barn doors provide the perfect transition between rooms

As homeowners seek more open floor plans, interior doors are evolving. Barn doors meet homeowners’ desire for fluid room flows by seamlessly connecting adjacent rooms, allowing the flexibility to close spaces off or join them.

“The rolling feature of barn doors creates a fresh look in any home,” says Brad Loveless, product development manager for Simpson Door Company. “The functionality of a door mounted on a barn track allows homeowners to control the degree to which spaces are opened or closed.” Unlike conventional hinge-mounted doors, barn doors open up previously divided rooms with an air of intentionality.

Barn doors make an unexpected statement piece

Like a distinctive piece of art in the home, the right interior door can showcase a homeowner’s style and personality. An unexpected door style tells a story that creates a great discussion point when entertaining friends and family. Is your home lacking something that inspires creativity and sparks conversation? You may find that a barn door is a simple solution to this problem with its eye-catching rolling feature. They’re subtle, but bold. Innovative, but not over the top. Barn doors catch your eye, without taking over the room.

Barn doors are adaptable to changing style trends

Do you ever worry that the sweater you bought last week will be out of style in a year or two? Are you forever a trend skeptic since the bell-bottom era? (If those can go out of style, anything can, right?) Contrary to what may feel like their recent popularity, these farmyard-meets-indoors statement pieces have been around for over a decade. Today you’ll find barn doors with a modern, sleek look, rustic wood paneling or even those made with a chalkboard.

Barn doors are available from a number of companies. For homeowners who like the look and feel of wood doors, Simpson Door Company offers rustic-style barn doors, as well as sleek, contemporary doors that can be mounted on barn track hardware.

Why now?

You won’t regret moving this installation to the top of your priority list of winter home-improvement projects. Adding a barn door while you’re stuck inside for the cold months makes an immediate visual difference in your home and can provide a scenic backdrop for holiday photos.

Raising the bar(n) in your home: Say hello to a barn door this winter

(BPT) – Amid the many trends ebbing and flowing through home improvement, one in particular seems likely to stick around. Known for their versatility, barn doors have been popping up in homes across the country — in contemporary and rustic designs. With this design element found on such opposite sides of the style spectrum, one might wonder what it is about barn doors that people love so much. If you’ve found yourself asking the same thing, read on to discover why adding a barn door is an ideal winter home-improvement project.

Barn doors provide the perfect transition between rooms

As homeowners seek more open floor plans, interior doors are evolving. Barn doors meet homeowners’ desire for fluid room flows by seamlessly connecting adjacent rooms, allowing the flexibility to close spaces off or join them.

“The rolling feature of barn doors creates a fresh look in any home,” says Brad Loveless, product development manager for Simpson Door Company. “The functionality of a door mounted on a barn track allows homeowners to control the degree to which spaces are opened or closed.” Unlike conventional hinge-mounted doors, barn doors open up previously divided rooms with an air of intentionality.

Barn doors make an unexpected statement piece

Like a distinctive piece of art in the home, the right interior door can showcase a homeowner’s style and personality. An unexpected door style tells a story that creates a great discussion point when entertaining friends and family. Is your home lacking something that inspires creativity and sparks conversation? You may find that a barn door is a simple solution to this problem with its eye-catching rolling feature. They’re subtle, but bold. Innovative, but not over the top. Barn doors catch your eye, without taking over the room.

Barn doors are adaptable to changing style trends

Do you ever worry that the sweater you bought last week will be out of style in a year or two? Are you forever a trend skeptic since the bell-bottom era? (If those can go out of style, anything can, right?) Contrary to what may feel like their recent popularity, these farmyard-meets-indoors statement pieces have been around for over a decade. Today you’ll find barn doors with a modern, sleek look, rustic wood paneling or even those made with a chalkboard.

Barn doors are available from a number of companies. For homeowners who like the look and feel of wood doors, Simpson Door Company offers rustic-style barn doors, as well as sleek, contemporary doors that can be mounted on barn track hardware.

Why now?

You won’t regret moving this installation to the top of your priority list of winter home-improvement projects. Adding a barn door while you’re stuck inside for the cold months makes an immediate visual difference in your home and can provide a scenic backdrop for holiday photos.

It’s time: Signs your heating system needs a tune-up

(BPT) – Temperatures are falling, pumpkin spice everything has reappeared and stores have already put out holiday displays — all signs that winter is either on the way, or already here, depending on where you live. If you haven’t already had your heating system tuned up, now is the time.

Neglect is a top cause of heating system inefficiency and failure, according to ENERGYSTAR.gov. Proper maintenance can help ensure your system works as efficiently and cost-effectively as possible throughout the winter. Failing to care for your heating system now could leave you without heat or with hefty emergency repair bills if the system breaks down during very cold weather.

A tune-up is an inexpensive way to ensure heating equipment is operating properly, and provides peace of mind that no potentially harmful blockage exists in a flue or exhaust vent. While it’s best to service a heating system before the cold weather arrives, it’s also never too late to perform routine maintenance.

According to the home repair experts at HomeServe USA, a typical professional heating system tune-up will include:

* Inspect safety features and controls

* Check thermostats (including adjustment if needed)

* Inspect burners (with adjustments if necessary)

* Check and clean the pilot light

* Check and clean any gauges

* Flush low-water cutoff

* Inspect filters, belts, oil motors, pumps and condensate line (if applicable)

* Check the flue pipe and chimney draft

* Inspect and clean the blower assembly

A thorough tune-up before the heating season starts can help reduce the risk of a problem in the dead of winter, but you should still be aware of your system’s performance. Symptoms that may warrant having a professional check the system include:

* The system takes a long time to warm the house after the furnace comes on.

* You hear unusual noises when the furnace turns on.

* You’ve noticed an unusual amount of dust coming from heating vents.

* The system cycles constantly.

* The burner flame is yellow or flickering. The flame should be blue in natural gas furnaces; a yellow flame means the unit is not burning efficiently and may even be producing harmful carbon monoxide.

* You notice your heating bills have increased more than you would reasonably expect given the temperature outside.

* You experience excessive moisture building up on windows, walls and other cold surfaces.

* You find visual evidence, such as streaks of soot around the furnace, rusting on flue pipes or pipe connections or the vent pipe visible from outside the home, or water leaking from the base of the chimney, vent or flue pipe.

If you act quickly at the first sign of a problem, you may be able to avoid a costly and potentially dangerous failure of your heating system. For more information about why you should schedule a tune-up, visit www.nationaltuneupday.com.

HomeServe offers home heating protection plans, including ones that cover tune-ups. A 24-hour repair hotline ensures plan holders can be connected with local, licensed and insured technicians 365 days a year. Visit www.HomeServeUSA.com to learn more.

Raising the bar(n) in your home: Say hello to a barn door this winter

(BPT) – Amid the many trends ebbing and flowing through home improvement, one in particular seems likely to stick around. Known for their versatility, barn doors have been popping up in homes across the country — in contemporary and rustic designs. With this design element found on such opposite sides of the style spectrum, one might wonder what it is about barn doors that people love so much. If you’ve found yourself asking the same thing, read on to discover why adding a barn door is an ideal winter home-improvement project.

Barn doors provide the perfect transition between rooms

As homeowners seek more open floor plans, interior doors are evolving. Barn doors meet homeowners’ desire for fluid room flows by seamlessly connecting adjacent rooms, allowing the flexibility to close spaces off or join them.

“The rolling feature of barn doors creates a fresh look in any home,” says Brad Loveless, product development manager for Simpson Door Company. “The functionality of a door mounted on a barn track allows homeowners to control the degree to which spaces are opened or closed.” Unlike conventional hinge-mounted doors, barn doors open up previously divided rooms with an air of intentionality.

Barn doors make an unexpected statement piece

Like a distinctive piece of art in the home, the right interior door can showcase a homeowner’s style and personality. An unexpected door style tells a story that creates a great discussion point when entertaining friends and family. Is your home lacking something that inspires creativity and sparks conversation? You may find that a barn door is a simple solution to this problem with its eye-catching rolling feature. They’re subtle, but bold. Innovative, but not over the top. Barn doors catch your eye, without taking over the room.

Barn doors are adaptable to changing style trends

Do you ever worry that the sweater you bought last week will be out of style in a year or two? Are you forever a trend skeptic since the bell-bottom era? (If those can go out of style, anything can, right?) Contrary to what may feel like their recent popularity, these farmyard-meets-indoors statement pieces have been around for over a decade. Today you’ll find barn doors with a modern, sleek look, rustic wood paneling or even those made with a chalkboard.

Barn doors are available from a number of companies. For homeowners who like the look and feel of wood doors, Simpson Door Company offers rustic-style barn doors, as well as sleek, contemporary doors that can be mounted on barn track hardware.

Why now?

You won’t regret moving this installation to the top of your priority list of winter home-improvement projects. Adding a barn door while you’re stuck inside for the cold months makes an immediate visual difference in your home and can provide a scenic backdrop for holiday photos.

Raising the bar(n) in your home: Say hello to a barn door this winter

(BPT) – Amid the many trends ebbing and flowing through home improvement, one in particular seems likely to stick around. Known for their versatility, barn doors have been popping up in homes across the country — in contemporary and rustic designs. With this design element found on such opposite sides of the style spectrum, one might wonder what it is about barn doors that people love so much. If you’ve found yourself asking the same thing, read on to discover why adding a barn door is an ideal winter home-improvement project.

Barn doors provide the perfect transition between rooms

As homeowners seek more open floor plans, interior doors are evolving. Barn doors meet homeowners’ desire for fluid room flows by seamlessly connecting adjacent rooms, allowing the flexibility to close spaces off or join them.

“The rolling feature of barn doors creates a fresh look in any home,” says Brad Loveless, product development manager for Simpson Door Company. “The functionality of a door mounted on a barn track allows homeowners to control the degree to which spaces are opened or closed.” Unlike conventional hinge-mounted doors, barn doors open up previously divided rooms with an air of intentionality.

Barn doors make an unexpected statement piece

Like a distinctive piece of art in the home, the right interior door can showcase a homeowner’s style and personality. An unexpected door style tells a story that creates a great discussion point when entertaining friends and family. Is your home lacking something that inspires creativity and sparks conversation? You may find that a barn door is a simple solution to this problem with its eye-catching rolling feature. They’re subtle, but bold. Innovative, but not over the top. Barn doors catch your eye, without taking over the room.

Barn doors are adaptable to changing style trends

Do you ever worry that the sweater you bought last week will be out of style in a year or two? Are you forever a trend skeptic since the bell-bottom era? (If those can go out of style, anything can, right?) Contrary to what may feel like their recent popularity, these farmyard-meets-indoors statement pieces have been around for over a decade. Today you’ll find barn doors with a modern, sleek look, rustic wood paneling or even those made with a chalkboard.

Barn doors are available from a number of companies. For homeowners who like the look and feel of wood doors, Simpson Door Company offers rustic-style barn doors, as well as sleek, contemporary doors that can be mounted on barn track hardware.

Why now?

You won’t regret moving this installation to the top of your priority list of winter home-improvement projects. Adding a barn door while you’re stuck inside for the cold months makes an immediate visual difference in your home and can provide a scenic backdrop for holiday photos.

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