It’s time to plan for cleaning

Use an all-purpose liquid cleaner, which costs less and cleans better than most special-purpose cleaners.

Spray cleaners are usually expensive. You pay extra for the packaging and convenience. If you want convenience, choose a pump spray product that offers less expensive refill bottles. Liquid cleaners are usually more expensive to use then powders. Pay attention to dilution recommendations to figure true cost per use.

The presence of ammonia or pine oil in a product doesn’t mean it will clean better. These chemicals can create fumes that could reach unhealthy levels of concentration in small enclosed spaces. They also can be harsh on painted surfaces.

While ordinary household chlorine bleach alone is not a good cleaner, it kills mildew and other molds much less expensively and often more effectively than specialized bathroom cleaners. Still, make sure you thoroughly rinse surfaces cleaned with bleach to avoid marring them. Chlorine bleach should not be mixed with other cleaning products. Bleach reacts with ammonia and other alkaline chemicals to produce noxious gases. Bleach mixed with acids instantly makes toxic chlorine gas. Use cleaners and bleach separately.

Read labels, and select less toxic products. Avoid solvents when you can. They emit hazardous organic gases and should not be stored indoors. Especially try to avoid products containing methylene chloride, benzene and formaldehyde.

Some of the cleaning and disinfecting may be best done by professionals – Jan-Pro Cleaning Systems of Southern CT .

Many common cleaners can mar aluminum, brass, chrome and other surfaces if left on too long. Check labels, and follow directions carefully. More doesn’t mean better.

Ideas for Great Kitchens

How the kitchen looks, how it greets you each morning and its functionality are important. That’s why paying attention to details such as kitchen cabinets reaps such great rewards. Just as a friendly smile is welcoming, so to are handsome kitchen cabinets.

This week, we’ll show you how to choose the best quality cabinets that you can reasonably afford. We’ll do this as we review the book, Ideas for Great Kitchens.

Cabinets are generally manufactured and sold in three different ways. The type you choose will affect both the cost and appearance of your finished kitchen.

Stock cabinets are mass produced, standard-sized cabinets. While purchased “off the shelf,” you can always specify door styles, the direction they swing as well as finishing details.

Custom cabinets are, in turn, more expensive. Made by professional cabinet makers, these cabinets can accommodate non-standard configurations and complexities that can’t be handled with stock modular cabinets.

Custom “modular” cabinets combine the best of both worlds. While still manufactured, they are of a higher grade and offer more design flexibility than stock cabinets.

Whichever model you choose, you must still judge for quality. While not always easy, you can usually look to a cabinet’s drawers to find elements of fine workmanship. Literally a cabinet within a cabinet, drawers take a greater beating than any other cabinet component. As such, they offer the first signs of sub-standard quality.

Look for drawer guides that run smoothly. Check that the drawers are properly aligned and make note of whether or not they fully or only partially open.

Because cabinet costs can vary so greatly, determine a budget before shopping. You’ll quickly find a range of cabinets whose prices you can afford. You can then begin judging for quality and looking for a style that suits you and your kitchen.

For other great kitchen renovation ideas, read our book, Ideas for Great Kitchens. Its 96 pages include design basics, measuring guidelines, actual case studies from 18 remodeled kitchens as well as a shopper’s guide for everything from cabinets to counter tops.

If you plan to do much of the renovation work yourself, ask for our book, the Kitchen Remodeling Handbook. It will guide you through even the most complete kitchen makeover.

Quick kitchen cures

Looking for ways to dress up your kitchen quickly for far less than the cost of a complete makeover?

Here are three tips to do just that. All are taken from one book, Ideas for Great Kitchens. n Replace a counter top. Counter tops are not only the most used and abused aspect of any kitchen, they also go a long way in giving your kitchen character. For example, while wooden counter tops provide a warm country feel, white counter tops are known to liven up a dull kitchen. n Change your lights, both for practical and esthetic reasons. Use large bright lights for cooking but switch to soft track lighting or under the cabinet lighting to accent the style of your kitchen when all the cooking and cleaning is done. n Change floors. Linoleum flooring is now available in all sorts of designer styles. Wood flooring provides added comfort for long days spent standing in the kitchen, for more information, please visit this website.

Beautiful kitchen cabinets can completely update a tired, old kitchen.

Home design tips

Made in the shade: Shading fabrics for windows used to be pretty predictable. You could almost always count on them being ugly. But all that’s changed.
New, pleated-shade fabrics provide a wide array of choices. Advanced techniques in printing, weaving and pleating have given people affordable options in color, texture and fabric.
The Mystic Moods collection from Hunter Douglas, for example, features a semi-opaque shade with a random open weave and a texture that appears embossed. Viewed from indoors, one can see the fabric’s highlights across the surface as sunlight seeps through the small openings in the shade. A glowing effect is achieved.

Want to add the elegant look of marble to your home but can’t afford to do the floor of an entire room? Go small. The powder room. It won’t take much marble flooring to create the impression you’re looking for. Please, Follow This Link.

Lighting up: So you spend countless hours working in your yard only to watch it fade to nothing as the sun goes down.
By nightlighting your yard or garden, you can transform it into a place of beauty even if the sun has decided to call it quits for the day.
Lighting trees, shrubs, and flowers brings out their color, form and texture, and brings an air of magic and excitement to any landscape after dark.
Landscape lighting increases the number of pleasurable hours you spend outdoors, enhances the beauty of your property and makes your home safer and more secure. Plus, it’s an investment.

Kitchen and bath remodeling kit

If you’ve ever remodeled a kitchen or a bath, you’ve got to know that it’s a simple deal to get in over your head fast –  real fast.

Planning’s the key. A lack of solid planning and you could end up spending tons more than you’d anticipated and not get the function and the look you’d hoped for.

That’s where the new Kitchen and Bath Remodeling Kit comes in. It’s a well-produced, idea-packed package that covers just about any question you might have concerning kitchen and bath remodels.

The kit is a product of  a leading manufacturer of plumbing and specialty products, plus nine other kitchen/bath manufacturers ranging. Add baths and kitchens created by designers and stylists from seven of the country’s leading design magazines and the picture of how a kitchen/bath remodel should work comes clearly into focus.

The kit includes a design guide, a nut-and-bolts workbook, a color guide, a video and software for home computers.

What impressed us most was the workbook. It’s a 45-page, spiral-bound guide to putting together a kitchen or bath with the least amount of tribulation. There are tips for measuring specific spaces; critiquing your current bath or kitchen; selecting plumbing and fixtures, tile, laminates, solid surfaces, windows, appliances and wood flooring from Sherman Oaks floor store.

There also are grids and cutouts of various kitchen/bath features that allow you to design the space step by step before you begin the actual work.

To give you a better idea of what you can expect from the kit, here is a sampling of tips for kitchen remodeling that are included. They, like the rest of the information in the package, are quite specific, which leaves little room for guessing and making costly mistakes.

Eating counters take up less space than tables. Allow a minimum of 21 inches of counter space per person. Rounded corners create a smoother look and are safer.

You don’t need a lot of cabinets. Open shelving is a good place for frequently used items. Walk-in pantries can store food and cooking supplies in an out-of-the-way area, reducing the amount of expenisve cabinetry needed.

Island designs are ideal for work areas, but don’t attempt an island of less than 10 square feet.

Vary work surface heights if possible. Not only will your back appreciate this during long cooking or baking projects, but varied heights accommodate people of different heights, including children.

If you have decided to build custom cabinets, raise the height of the dishwasher above the baseboard. This will make loading and unloading easier, and the counter above the dishwasher makes an ideal bookshelf.

For refrigerators, industry guidelines range from 16-20 cubic feet of storage space for the first two people in the household, and then 1-2 cubic feet for each additional family member.

Side-by-side refrigerators offer proportionally more freezer space and easier viewing than other units but do not accommodate large items as well. If the work area is small, side-by-sides also require less door swing space.

Plan on at least 1 foot of counter space on each side of your range or cooktop. Unlike ranges, cooktops can be set at any height you desire.

Sofa beds are so good

No-one, not even the salesperson at your local sofa-bed shop, will recommend these as a permanent source of bedding. This is not a replacement for your deluxe bed-and-base ensemble. This is an emergency measure: a casual doss down for the friend from interstate, the place for the in-laws to nod over. And let’s face it, a spare bedroom is something of a luxury these days.

Luckily, while the need for sofa beds has risen, so too has their quality. Sofa beds first appeared, according to John Gloag’s Short Dictionary of Furniture, around the late 18th century, and although more elaborate than contemporary versions, they had a similar pull-out mechanism. In the late 19th century they were known as bed-settees, but Anne Watson, the furniture curator at the Powerhouse Museum, Sydney, says the concept of a dual-purpose bed really only came into its own in the 1920s when houses began to shrink. A popular style at the time, she says, was a fabric-covered, wooden, box-frame bench with a kapok mattress inside (now, thereUs a way of getting rid of unwanted guests).

In the 1950s a Queensland company started a line called the Nite’n’Day, as recorded for posterity in Norman Gunston’s talk shows in the 1970s, and which became part of the vernacular, like Esky or Hoover. The trademark is still in existence and is held by the Moran of Melbourne group.

“The original Nite’n’Day came in three pieces and you lifted it up, rather than unfolded it, but they were pretty much the same thing (as the modern sofa bed),” says Watson. “The `sofa bed’ is considered a more sophisticated term, which is probably meant to make it sound nicer.”

Peter Journeaux of Sofas by Design in Melbourne makes all sorts of couches, including sofa beds, but heUs sufficiently sceptical about them to give the lowdown on their shortcomings. Here are his tips: Get a good `action’ (the mechanical part that makes the mattress spring out of the sofa). Journeaux recommends the action made by the Australian manufacturer Wynns, which he says supplies most sofa bed manufacturers. A good action costs $200 wholesale, so you get what you pay for. “There are sofa beds advertised for $690 with a matching regular sofa, and I can guarantee that the action isn’t the best you can buy.”

Don’t pay any less than $650, and consider paying up to $3,000.

Splash out for a 10 cm innerspring mattress if you are going to use it regularly. “The foam one is all right if you’re just going to dive in for one night, but not for a whole week,” Journeaux advises.

Make sure the frame is made of hard-wearing wood to withstand the opening and closing of the action.

Look for spring-cell cushions (a sandwich of foam and pocket springs).

The action makes a pretty hard base for your cushions to sit on, so the usual feather and foam cushions are not springy enough.

Don’t put your sofa bed on castors. “We believe it’s dangerous, especially on polished floors, as any movement and the bed might start to close.”

Although Sofas by Design does have a sofa with a loose cover, most don’t, so look for a good, hard-wearing fabric that won’t show the dirt, or else your sofa will have to be recovered each time it becomes soiled.

Look for a solid-back loveseat sleeper sofa, rather than one with cushions. If you are using it regularly, taking the cushions off each night means it ends up looking a mess.

Clean apartment when moving and save deposit money

It’s moving day. You pack the last box in the truck and survey your empty apartment – the dusty blinds, dirty linoleum, and empty boxes and garbage strewn across the floor. The thought crosses your mind that you should clean more thoroughly, but instead you shrug your shoulders and leave.

Three weeks later you receive a letter from your landlord, notifying you that he or she is keeping $200 of your security deposit for cleaning. You are outraged – $200 seems an exorbitant sum to charge for cleaning. Besides, you didn’t leave the apartment that dirty.

Rental experts say the most common security deposit deduction is for cleaning and that these deductions typically cost tenants $100 to $200.

Defending your cleaning

In some states, including Arizona, landlords are allowed to collect non-refundable cleaning deposits. If you have a landlord who has taken advantage of such a law, leaving your apartment a mess is OK, since you’ve already paid the $75 or so for your landlord to clean when you’re gone.

But if your landlord doesn’t collect a cleaning fee, you’ll want to leave your apartment as clean as it was the day you moved in. If you don’t, you could lose part of your security deposit.

In order to avoid a dispute with your landlord over cleaning, document the fact that you’ve cleaned thoroughly.

Cleaning tips

Doing the cleaning yourself may seem easy enough, but there are areas that are commonly overlooked by amateur cleaners. Here is a list of frequently forgotten spots:

Wash cabinet fronts.

Shower, sink and toilet – Clean with mildew stain remover. Don’t leave the shower or sink wet. Also remember to clean inside the crevices of the shower door frame and wipe down the body of the toilet.

Mirrors – Be sure to use an anti-streaking glass cleaner.

Floors – Vacuum and sweep the entire apartment (the closets and cabinets, too).

Walls – Dust and clean the drapes, curtains or blinds.

Hidden areas – Dust the tops of door frames and molding.

Before you leave, ask your landlord if you should shampoo the rugs. If they have stains, you will want to hire a professional rug cleaner in Las Vegas or rent a rug-cleaning machine,  especially if you have grease stains.

Cleaning up

The tons of rain that drenched the county can affect your health and home if you aren’t careful. Here are some hints from experts on minimizing damage:

Stay out of the ocean for at least three days after a big rain. The ocean will be dirtier than usual and could make you ill, said Dr. Gerald Wagner of the county Health Care Agency. Call the agency’s environmental-health office.

Watch the drinking water in your home or office. Wagner said the drains in his office building backed up the water supply, which might have affected water from drinking fountains. If you think your water supply is tainted, boil water for 5-10 minutes before using it.

Dry your carpet so it doesn’t get moldy, aggravating allergies and asthma, Wagner said.

Flood-damaged interiors and furniture can be salvaged. Here are some tips:

Odors: Set out pie tins of baking soda to absorb odors.

Draperies: Take drapes to a dry cleaner to find out if they can be cleaned and restored. An extra $2 per section usually is charged for water damage.

Carpets: For spot water damage, pull up the carpet and aim electric fans at it to speed drying, or use a water-extraction device. Companies that provide carpet-repair services will dry carpets for 21-25 cents per square foot.

Fast-dry blowers can be rented for $20 a day and water-extraction devices for $25 a day. Steam-cleaning devices from supermarkets are less expensive, but the equipment usually will not remove water as effectively.

Once the carpet is dry, use a carpet-cleaning product or sprinkle on baking soda and vacuum.

Wood floor: To minimize damage to wood floors, use a household fan to dry wood. Use a moisture meter, available from home centers or hardware stores for about $10, to determine if the flooring is dry. With three-quarter-inch Flooring Options, it might be possible to sand and refinish. Damaged sections might have to be replaced. With a veneer floor, replacement is advisable.

Sticking doors: Moisture causes wood to expand, but it should shrink in the coming weeks. If it remains a problem, the door edge can be planed down. It’s important to plane the interior edge where hinges are located, and it might be necessary to deepen hinge areas.

For interior drains that are clogged, off-the-shelf products are often sufficient. For landscape drains, use a garden hose with high-intensity nozzle. Commercial drain services charge $58-$75.

FURNITURE: Towel-dry upholstered furniture by applying pressure (do not rub), changing towels frequently. Once you’ve toweled off as much moisture as possible, use a fan to complete the drying process.

Upholstered furniture might need professional cleaning.

Leather furniture can crack as it dries, so apply a leather rejuvenator ($5-$15 per container).

Foundation: Remove standing water near the foundation as soon as possible. Build up the earth with a shovel, and pack it firmly. The water will drain away.