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By Linda Kemp | Agent in Naperville, IL
  • Designing a Flower Garden? Don’t Make These 5 Rookie Mistakes

    Posted Under: Remodel & Renovate in Illinois, Going Green in Illinois, Design & Decor in Illinois  |  June 5, 2012 12:52 PM  |  770 views  |  No comments
    I have had the pleasure of living in various cities in the United States from East Coast to the West Coast and many, many cities in between! Upon arriving here in the Naperville area I purchased a home that unbeknownst to me had all of the wrong trees and shrubs planted throughout the property.  Each year another tree or shrub bit the dust.  It was horrible to watch as these beautiful plantings died simply because the previous homeowner didn't do their homework and investigate the various types of plants that do well in the shade and the sun.  But let's not forget about getting your soil tested to see if it's lacking the proper nutrients to host these plants.  This article will open your eyes before you make the wrong move and waste your money and time.  Linda

    Excited about designing your first flower garden? Calm down before you make these 5 rookie mistakes.

    Nick Statton of Monrovia plant sellers says beginners don’t ask enough questions or read planting labels. The cure? Don’t be shy about bugging your local plant growers with basic inquiries — they’re there to help!

    George Pisegna of The Horticultural Society of New York says newbies don’t know enough about their soil. Get smart by testing your soil.

    What other mistakes do first-time gardeners make when designing and planting their flower gardens?

    Mistake 1: Disregarding the sun

    Do you know how many hours of full sun your garden gets each day in each season?
    If you can delay gratification, study your yard over a year before designing a garden. See how long the sun shines in the fall, spring, and summer. Read planting labels to determine how much sun a particular plant needs.

    Sun-loving plants, such as roses, need at least 6 hours of sun a day; partial sun/shade plants need 4 to 6 hours; and shade plants need little or dappled sunlight: more sun can burn their leaves.

    Mistake 2: Failing to consider color

    It doesn’t matter what color story you tell, just make sure you know the story before you plant. Here are some ideas:

        Pull out your color wheel and find plants with complementary colors, such as yellow coreopsis with violet salvia.

        Monochromatic gardens are stunners. Dot your one-color story with whites (daisies) and greens (hostas), considered neutrals in the garden world.

        If you want to attract birds, add plants with vivid colors. Hummingbirds like reds, and goldfinches fly to yellows.

        Pick blooms that contrast with the exterior paint color of your house, so plants will stand out and add to your curb appeal.

    Mistake 3: Over-planting

    When it comes to perennials, remember this rule: First year they sleep; second year they creep; third year they leap. Be sure to leave 2-3 feet between plants, giving them room to breathe and space to grow.

    Mistake 4: Favoring lines over bunches

    Tulips look like lonely soldiers when planted in lines. Instead, arrange bulbs and plants in more natural-looking, odd-numbered clusters of 3, 5, 7, and so on.

    Mistake 5: Forgetting that size matters

    Check labels for mature plant heights. Tallest go in back; medium in the middle; shortest in front. And don’t forget to install a focal point, like an ornamental tree or fountain.

    By: Lisa Kaplan Gordon
    Published: May 18, 2012

    Reprinted from House Logic with permission of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®.  Copyright 2012.  All rights reserved.

    If you would like to know more about growing plants in the here in the Midwest please refer to my blog post entitled, Color Your World--Landscaping Ideas for Spring 2012.  There you will find links and more helpful information on planting flowers and shrubs that do well in the Chicagoland Area.

    And if you need more information on buying or selling a home please visit:  www.SuccessGroupHomes.com.  You will find links to local real estate market information, you can search for properties, find more HouseLogic articles, school and village information and much, much more!  One stop shopping for all of your real estate needs!  And if you have any questions it is always my please to serve you!  Call Linda Kemp at 630.688.5121 for today!
  • How to Stay Sane Organizing Your Kitchen Part Two – The Pantry

    Posted Under: Quality of Life, Home Buying, Design & Decor  |  April 27, 2012 1:06 PM  |  403 views  |  No comments
    So here we are back in the kitchen!  This happens to be one of my favorite rooms in the house.  I have always loved cooking and entertaining for friends and family.  My kitchen is a place of comfort, good food and lots of laughter.  Even when my oldest daughter was studying abroad, my house was home to her friends who would always stop over and sit down to dinner with us.

    My intension is to help you create a kitchen that helps you enjoy spending time there without the least bit of stress or anxiety.   Even if you don’t like to cook you still might get great satisfaction from brewing your morning coffee and getting a small bite for breakfast.  Why not take the stress out of your morning routine and start the day off on a positive note!

    You will find that you eventually begin to enjoy your kitchen more and more because you have tackled the chaos and set up a comfortable flow.   If you haven’t had the opportunity to read part one in this series about kitchen organization then please refer back to my blog at :  Help! My New Home Has a Fabulous Kitchen and I Don’t Know How to Cook! Part One in a Two Part Series on Kitchen Organizing.

    All the nuts and bolts of getting your kitchen into shape are discussed in that article.

    Now, let’s get that pantry organized and well stocked!

    Start with removing everything from the pantry.  Wipe down the shelves so that you are working with a clean environment.  Take a look at your supply of baskets (either wicker or plastic) and bring those out.  If you need to purchase a fresh supply then by all means do so before re-stocking the shelves.  Today’s dollar stores carry a variety of both plastic and wicker baskets that are priced just right and suitable for just this purpose.

    Before we begin to stock the shelves take a moment to review your lifestyle.  Are you a gourmet cook or a short order cook?  Do you find yourself taking the kids from one after school activity to another without having the benefit of a sit down meal?  Do you prepare your kids lunches or lunch for yourself and your partner?  Are you solo and enjoy making your own lunch?  There are many people who fine with grabbing a quick lunch at a local fast food restaurant.  There are also many people who have restricted diets (gluten free, diabetic, high or low carbs, low glycemic, etc.) who much prefer to prepare their own lunches and dinner.

    Here is a helpful list of staples that do well in all kitchens:
    Canned or boxed kitchen broth
    Canned goods such as corn, black beans, pinto beans, garbanzo beans (chic peas), white beans
    Canned corn, diced tomatoes, canned yams
    Canned evaporated milk
    Clam juice, canned clams
    Jarred salsa
    Boxed cake mixes, boxed pudding mixes
    Assortment of chocolate chips (milk chocolate, semi-sweet, dark, etc.)
    White or unbleached flour, self-rising flour
    Extra virgin olive oil
    Vegetable Oil (I prefer safflower or sunflower as opposed to soy which is actually not a vegetable—check the label on your vegetable oil and you will be surprised)
    White, brown and powered sugar
    Assortment of pasta (including gluten free if needed)
    Salt, pepper and assortment of spices
    Grated Cheese
    Assortment of vinegars
    Canned shrimp
    Powdered chicken stock
    Jar of capers (optional according to taste)
    Dry buttermilk powder
    Dutch processed chocolate powder (no sugar)
    Jar(s) of red maraschino cherries
    Jar of roasted peppers, artichoke hearts
    Jar tomato sauce
    Peanut butter
    Grape jelly (and other varieties)
    Canned soups
    Mustards (sweet, spicy brown, golden, horseradish)
    Soy sauce
    Steak sauce
    Worcestershire Sauce
    Cereal assortments
    Napkins and paper towels

    Vegetable items to include:  garlic, onions and potatoes

    Food storage or wrapping items:  aluminum foil, plastic wrap, waxed paper, parchment paper, assortment of plastic baggies, small paper lunch bags

    For on-the-go sport moms and dads:  Include bottled water, bagged or boxed juice, granola bars, chips, dried fruit and nut snacks, power bars

    So let’s begin with the canned foods.  Place all beans in one section, vegetables in another, etc.  Add a section for condiments and another for cereals.  Group all of your sugars together (make sure you have an additional sugar bowl near your coffee maker station).   Now grab your baskets and fill them with the smaller items such pudding, spices, (there are also some great spice organizers out there), etc.  You can even put onions and potatoes into these baskets.  Remember to use the potatoes within a week or two otherwise they start to form nubs and get soft and old.  Now you can also make up a basket that you transport to your vehicle (van or car trunk) and fill it with all of the on-the-go foods for easy handling.  Keep it filled on a regular basis and it will save time and energy when you are hurried moving from one event to another.  Make sure your paper goods such as napkins and paper towels are stored together for easy grab and go.

    Make a special section dedicated to food storage items so that you have everything you need for a quick clean up or for prepping foods.  A few FYIs that might be useful:  I use waxed paper to cool cookies when they are fresh out of the oven.  I also use it to line the counter when rolling out pie dough so that I can easily transfer the pie crust to the pie plate.  I use parchment paper for lining baking pans, baking fish with vegetables, and lining fudge pans.  Small plastic sandwich bags come in handy for make ahead sandwiches or to store single serving lunches. I make my own varieties of stuffed bread and then after it has finished baking and has cooled down I slice it into individual servings and place into a sandwich bag and freeze.  When my kids need to grab a quick lunch to take to school or work they just throw it into their bag.  It defrosts just in time for lunch and they simply place it into the microwave—heat and eat!

    For those of you who don’t have pantries you can follow the same formula when creating a space in your cupboards for your grocery items.  Use a baker’s rack and place baskets with onions, potatoes or to store your on-the-go items. 

    It’s all about keeping your kitchen organized and ergonomic.  You might even find that since your space is a bit more structured your inclination to cook comes alive!  Since it’s a good idea to keep the above items stocked in your kitchen at all times you will never be caught without “no food” in the house blues.  In fact, for your added enjoyment (you just gotta love my love for cooking!) I have included two easy recipes that please any appetite!

    Quick Microwave Tomato Sauce
    2 small cans of diced tomatoes with juices
    2 cup garlic cloves
    2 – 3 tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil
    1 tablespoon of cappers
    ½ teaspoon of sugar
    2 teaspoons of powdered chicken stock (not chicken bullion)
    Fresh or dried oregano, sage and basil to taste
    Pepper to taste (you can even spice it up and use hot pepper flakes to taste)
    A splash of wine (optional)

    Place uncovered into a microwave safe bowl.  Microwave on high for 10 minutes.  Stir.  Microwave another 10 minutes.  Stir.  Microwave an additional 10 minutes and allow to sit for 5 minutes.  At this point you can blend with a hand blender (leave some chunks) or serve as is.  Blend in one or two tablespoons of grated cheese such as Parmesan or Romano and toss with your favorite pasta.  Serve up with some garlic bread or bread sticks and a salad.  Quick, easy and fast!

    Mexican Pizza
    1 large round pizza dough packaged or frozen and thawed (I usually make my own dough in a bread maker)
    Store bought salsa from a jar or container
    Pepper Jack Cheese

    Pre-heat oven to 425 degrees.  Place a few tablespoons of salsa on pizza dough.  Top with fresh or dried cilantro (coriander is the dried form of cilantro), and then cheese.  Pop it into the oven for 10 minutes check the pizza and cook for an additional 7 to 10 minutes until bubbly and crisp brown edges appear. 

    I hope you enjoy these two quick dishes and have many happy memories in your newly organized kitchen!

    If you are looking for a home with the kitchen of your dreams I can help!  Search right here for the latest properties and let me help you realize your dream!  Call Linda Kemp today at 630.688.5121.  It is always my pleasure to serve you!
  • Help! My New Home Has a Fabulous Kitchen and I Don’t Know How to Cook! Part One in a Two Part Series on Kitchen Organizing.

    Posted Under: Remodel & Renovate, Design & Decor, How To...  |  April 24, 2012 10:10 AM  |  627 views  |  No comments
    So my buyers have just closed on their new house complete with a great, state of the art kitchen.  What’s the problem?  Neither one of them knows how to cook—or at least cook very well!  Even as the furniture was delivered they both avoided the kitchen like the plague (except to brew some coffee, eat some Dunkin Donuts and munch down late night take out).  In great despair they called me and asked if I would help them get this room organized and functioning.  So I take off my Realtor® hat, smile and put on my Designer/Cook/Organizer hat. Then it occurred to me that they aren’t the only people having the same anxiety over their kitchen’s organization.  So of course, I set out to write this blog.

    Let’s begin by starting off with the basics. When unpacking dishes be sure to place your everyday dinnerware and glasses within reach of the dishwasher.  If there is room on the top shelves of the cupboard then this is a great place to store dishes and serving pieces that you won’t use often.  Position your utensils in the drawers to the right or left of the dishwasher near the dishes.  If you intend to do some baking or you own baking utensils, small appliances, and baking essentials then group them altogether for easy access. Next, set up your pots and pans.  If you have large pull out drawers you are in luck!  Put all of the lids together in one area for easy access.  If you don’t have large drawers don’t worry.  There are all sorts of kitchen aids specifically designed to hold and organize lids.  Next put all pots and pans together in another drawer or cupboard. Or if you prefer then invest in a hanging pot rack.  There are several designs to choose from including those that are wall mounted and others that hand over your center island.  Some of the newer kitchens even come equipped with a water faucet near the stove for easy filling of stock pots, etc. or to fill a large capacity pot with water for pasta or cooking lobsters.  Great time saver for busy cooks—for the occasional cook it serves as a great feature to make your kitchen more appealing when you are selling your home.

    Now the items that I have found to cause the most problems are plastic storage containers and lids.  You know the routine.  You open up a cupboard where these containers are stored and out they fly!  Every size, color and shape goes rolling across your kitchen floor!  Well fear not.  This is another ideal use for lid organizers.  Arrange all of your containers according to size and neatly store the lids close-by.  If you don’t have lid organizers then opt for a basket that will accommodate the lids and arrange the lids by size as well.  Problem solved.

    One favorite appliance to bond with is definitely the stove!  Get to know how the range hood works, and how the built-in grill works.  Familiarize yourself with the settings and especially the self cleaning oven features and automatic cooking timer. If you have convection oven then learn how to use it properly.  And then when you’ve mastered the stove, oven and its components, be sure to place serving spoons, spatulas, and tongs in a handy container or crock next to the stove.  If your microwave is located above your stove then store microwavable cookware close by.  There are some great gadgets that make microwave cooking easy and a no brainer such as a bacon tray, muffin pan, and pasta cooker are made out of microwavble safe materials.  Place oven mitts, hot pads and dish towels in the same draw or cupboard.  Now it’s all starting to come together.

    Since this article is written for all types of kitchens I would like to point out that those of you with pull out organizers in your kitchen cabinets are blessed!  And for everyone else help is here!  Home improvement centers offer an array of kitchen cabinet organizers that will help keep pots, pans, dishes, etc. neat and tidy.  Before you run out and make your purchase be sure to do a walk through of your kitchen noting how you use the space.  You can even find easy to install organizers for recycling bins that store neatly away in the lower cabinets.  Do your homework before you load the back of your car with these hard to resist organizing kits.  It will save you money and time.

    For those of us who love to cook and collect cook books we know that we always have more than we really need!  Not too worry.  Sort through them and take out the ones that you refer to on a regular basis.  Make a space for them on the counter, a shelf or baker’s rack.  If they happen to be colorful then they will do double duty by adding that small pinch of color to the room.  Store the others in a convenient location so that they don’t get placed where they will be forgotten.

    Set up a coffee or breakfast station.  Set up a coffee maker, coffee grinder and/or toaster either at one end of your kitchen’s countertop or in a storage nook with a rolled door if your kitchen is equipped with one.  Store coffee cups, mugs, coffee varities and teas close by for convenience.  You can also place your sugar or honey jar within reach.  This simple strategy can save precious time in the morning when you are on on a hectic schedule and running out the door.

    I have found that most kitchens have beautiful center islands that double as an eating/snack area, prep area or gathering spot when entertaining.  If you don’t have one then consider investing in one.  Portable center islands come in all sizes, price ranges and materials.  When your space is limited then consider purchasing a rolling shelving unit that doubles as a prep area but can be positioned any where you need it.  If you are a baker then a marble or granite surface is perfect for rolling out dough.  If you are wine enthusiasts then you might want to look for an island that has a place for wine glasses as well as a wine rack.  The options are limitless.  If you are handy then by all means go for it and make your own.  You can salvage antiques or older furniture pieces by restoring them and giving them a faux finish.  Top it with an island work surface made out of materials that are best suited for your kitchen.  Use your imagination and create a one of kind piece. 

    I’m sure by now I’ve got you thinking about getting your kitchen into shape!  And I know you are all wondering about the pantry.  Well that’s a topic that we will be covering in part two.  That is another article in itself.  You won’t want to miss out on all of the great information on not only what you can do to get your food items organized but which foods serve as the basic, simple ingredients to make meal prep time quick and easy.

    Until next time—happy eating!

    Are kitchen important to you when you are looking to buy a home?  Do you often wonder what updates would bring add to your home’s value?  The call Linda Kemp today at 630.688.5121 for help in getting your questions answered!

    If you are frustrated with your online search and would like to peruse properties that are currently for sale then search right here!  Find hundreds of home that meet your criteria and then call me for help.  It is always my pleasure to serve you!
  • Extend the Outdoor Living Season--Part Three and Final Post Entitled Decks and Patio Maintenance

    Posted Under: Design & Decor in Illinois, How To... in Illinois  |  April 10, 2012 1:37 PM  |  463 views  |  No comments
    As promised here is the last part in a three part series about decks, patios and outdoor spaces.  This last posting is my all time favorite.  This is where we get to put all the finishing touches and some out-of-the-box ideas into play for your outdoor living space. In today's world of outdoor accessories there are so many unique items to choose from.  How about an outdoor rug to cozy up the deck?  Add a lamp and some outdoor cushions and you have the ideal setting for an intimate gathering.  You can even paint a rug onto your deck or concrete patio. Be sure to do your research on the best type of paint to use and make sure if you are married you are both in agreement! My articles are just suggestions--I don't do marriage counseling!  So get ready, get creative and get it done!  Happy designing!  Linda

    By: Jan Soults Walker
    Published: October 3, 2011

    Make an outdoor living area comfy long after the sun sets or the leaves turn with outdoor lighting, a patio heater, and a glowing firepit or portable fireplace.

    With both lighting types, you can:

    • Light deck railings and stairs
    • Define the patio perimeter
    • Illuminate the edges of paths and walkways
    • Draw attention to a planter or tree
    • Other fixtures light up dining tables, grill surfaces, and even underwater in swimming pools.

    Low-voltage fixtures clip onto a safe, 12-volt cable connected to a transformer, which plugs into a GFCI-protected 120-volt electrical outlet. A timer or light-sensitive control automatically turns lights on and off.

    A low-voltage lighting kit with eight LED stainless steel fixtures, 50 feet of cable, and a transformer starts at $60. Individual low-voltage fixtures range in price from $7 for a simple poly-resin fixture up to about $150 for architectural-grade, cast-brass models.

    Solar outdoor lighting fixtures don’t need cables and transformers. They simply turn themselves on automatically after dark. Each stand-alone fixture stakes into the ground or secures to a deck or exterior surface. You’ll save energy, as a sunlight-charged battery powers the bulb.

    The downside to solar fixtures is a dimmer glow than low-voltage fixtures, and fewer lighting hours – many solar fixtures run out of stored energy after 4-5 hours on the job. Cloudy days also reduce power.

    A four-pack of solar light fixtures that mount on top of deck posts starts at about $30. Or, check out a cast-aluminum solar lantern for about $60.

    Get glowing with a firepit or portable fireplace
    Bring a cozy glow and a stylish focal point to your outdoor living area with a firepit or portable fireplace. Irresistible for gathering, warming up, and roasting marshmallows, firepits and portable fireplaces come in a variety of materials, sizes, and styles. You’ll also find options for fueling your fire with wood, propane, gas, or gel cans.

    Check local fire codes first to find out if your community allows the use of a firepit or portable fireplace on the patio or lawn. (Never use a fire feature on a wood deck.)

    A firepit ($100-$500) is an open bowl, dish, or pan that varies in size from 24 inches across to about 40 inches. A firepit may come on a stand (some with wheels) or nestle into a tiled tabletop. Select a model with screening to contain flyaway sparks.

    A portable fireplace ($100-$600) features a chimney to vent smoke up and away from people. Some portable fireplaces offer 360-degree views of the fire.

    Warm up with a patio heater
    Boost the warmth of your outdoor living area by as much as 15-25 degrees in the fall or spring with the addition of a portable patio heater. You’ll find three basic models:

    Freestanding units resemble large floor lamps. Set them anywhere on your patio that will accommodates their 7-8 foot height. Some models include wheels for mobility. Expect to pay from $150 to $1,500, depending on heat output and fuel source.

    A tabletop patio heater rests on a table, bench, or garden wall. These compact units typically produce less heat than tall, freestanding models. Prices range from $100 to $450.

    Ceiling- or wall-mount patio heaters free up floor and table space, and typically emit heat via a halogen lamp. Prices vary from $175 to $1,500.

    Make your selection based on how much outdoor living area you want to heat and whether you want a model powered by electricity or natural gas (each requiring a connection) or with a propane tank, which allows mobility.

    As a rule of thumb, a 47,000 BTU propane-powered, floor-standing patio heater ($200) will heat an 18-foot diameter space. A 20-pound propane tank (about $36, plus $13 for fuel) offers about 10 hours of heating time.

    Electric patio heaters use a quartz tube or halogen lamp that emits radiant heat. An infrared wall-mount electric patio heater ($450) equipped with a 1500-watt bulb heats a 9-foot area around the heater and uses about 14.4 kilowatts for a 10 hour period. At 8 cents per kilowatt for electricity, you spend about $1.15 to operate the unit for 10 hours.

    Now that you have completed the final touches to your outdoor living space it's time to begin the process of enjoying it! Invite the family and friends for an intimate barbeque and a glass of wine.  And when the conversation turns to real estate remember Linda Kemp!  Whether you are buying or selling in this unusual market you need the advice of a professional.  It is always my pleasure to serve you!  Call Linda Kemp today at 630.688.5121 to find out more today's market or search right here for current and available listings from the comfort of your living room.  Here's to a great Spring!
  • The Easy, Fun Way to Spring Clean Your Deck or Patio Part Two in a Three Part Series

    Posted Under: Design & Decor in Illinois, How To... in Illinois  |  April 5, 2012 9:52 AM  |  462 views  |  No comments
    Okay it's time to get started!  Let's roll up our sleeves, grab some sunscreen and turn on the hose!  I must admit that was always a daunting task for me, however, focusing on the end result helped motivate me to put muscles to use that were dormant all winter long!  Feel yourself quietly sitting on the finished deck or patio, enjoying a glass of wine, with the faint smell of steaks grilling on the barbeque. . . and then remember it's 5 o'clock somewhere!  Linda 

    By: Lisa Kaplan Gordon
    Published: March 28, 2012
    The spring cleaning chore with the most fun potential is prepping your deck or patio for spring. Here’s how to do it with a touch of fun.
    Water toy #1: A pressure washer
    If you don’t have a pressure washer in your tool shed, you’re missing out. Spring is a good time to add one to your arsenal of lean, green cleaning machines. They blast away dirt mostly without harsh chemicals, which is good for the planet and your deck and patio plants. 

    Plus, they’ve come down in price, and are easier to manage than they used to be, making pressure washing your deck and patio much more fun and much less hassle. 
    A 1,500 to 2,000 PSI machine, gas or electric ($90-$300), will take care of most outdoor spring cleaning chores — decks, patio furniture, umbrellas, flagstone. 
    Most models have a detergent chamber or two, so you can add a little earth-friendly soap if you need more cleaning macho.
    You also can rent one for $40-$75 a day. 
    Tip: Don’t rent one heavier than you can handle. That will take all the fun out of it. It’s tempting to go for power, but your deck and patio shouldn’t need the heavy hitter unless you’ve become an expert at deferred maintenance.
    Once you start playing with a power washer, you might find yourself looking for more to clean, like your siding.  
    Water toy #2: Standard garden hose
    If you’re not the power washer sort (maybe you don’t like the noise), arm yourself with a hose. It’ll still be fun. Just pretend you’re a kid again and launch an attack on an unsuspecting family member or neighbor. Before you know it, everything will have a good soaking.
    Now that you’ve got your water tool of choice, here are some tips to make the job go easier:
    Patio umbrella: When you open your patio umbrella for the first time in spring, don’t be surprised to see spiders and moth cocoons. Blast them off with your garden hose. Scrub fabric with a gentle water-and-dish-detergent mixture to avoid stripping the umbrella’s water-resistant coating. When you place the umbrella back into its stand, don’t forget to tighten stand screws.
    Outdoor furniture: Heloise, our favorite cleaning tipster, says a scrubbing solution of ¾ cup beach and 1 tablespoon of laundry detergent mixed into 1 gallon of warm water will brighten dingy resin lawn chairs. Vacuum wicker furniture with an upholstery attachment. 

    Patio pavers: Scrub with a bleach solution (1 part bleach, 10 parts water), which will get rid of stains. More stubborn stains may require treatment with muriatic acid, which is best left to professionals. To prevent future stains, lay outdoor mats on stain-prone areas, like under the grill or patio table. 
    Grills: The best time to clean baked on gunk is to scrub when the grill is still warm — not hot! — Which is nature’s way of softening grease and crunchies. Use a wire brush with scraper to strip off charred food. Or, soak grates in soapy water for 30 minutes, then scour with steel wool. Don’t forget to clean drip pans and ash collectors, too. To keep grills clean, spray on cooking oil before lighting, which keeps food from sticking and makes cleanup faster. 

    Another tip: Cut an onion in half and rub it on a warm grill either before or after you grill to keep the grill clean.
    Water features: Scrub scum from your birdbaths and fountains. Mix a 1:10 bleach: water solution to kill algae, but make sure you rinse thoroughly until the water stops foaming. Use a water wiggler to keep water moving and discourage breeding mosquitoes. 
    Have fun and be sure to get a little wet!
    Reprinted from House Logic with permission of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®.  Copyright 2012.  All rights reserved.
    When you are all settled into your newly revived outdoor living space I would appreciate you thinking of me when you or anyone you know needs the help of a knowledgeable real estate professional.  Whether you are buying or selling I can assist you in providing information that will allow you to make the right and perfect choices for your lifestyle.  Call Linda Kemp today at 630.688.5121 and let's started!  It is always my pleasure to serve you!
    Looking for properties on line?  Stop the frustration and safely search here for accurate information on properties currently for sale in your area! Relax and enjoy your viewing time!
  • Care and Maintenance of Your Deck Part One in a Three Part Series

    Posted Under: Design & Decor in Illinois, How To... in Illinois, Home Ownership in Illinois  |  April 4, 2012 7:31 PM  |  557 views  |  1 comment
    Happy Spring to everyone!  The deep winter months are behind us with people out and about enjoying the beautiful weather, longer days, and bright sunshine! The flowers and trees are starting to bloom and soon everyone will be in planting mode.  And what a great time to get your deck ready and in shape for summer fun. This is the first in a three part series designed to give you helpful tips and information on the cleaning, care and out-of-the-box ideas for creating your ideal outdoor deck space. Be sure to bookmark this page so that you can review the materials needed on you will need on your next trip to the local home improvement center. These tips will also carry you through to the Fall when additional maintenance is required.  Keep on smiling! Linda
    By: Dave Toht

    Published: November 30, 2009
    Annual deck maintenance will forestall repairs, protect your investment, and boost your enjoyment of your outdoor space.
    Late spring: Wash the deck
    Aside from general dinginess, one of the sure signs a deck needs washing is a film of mold and grunge. Left unchecked, mold and dirt and can trap moisture and cause rot.
    Begin cleaning your deck by removing debris from between deck boards using a putty knife. (For a makeshift extension that’s a real knee-saver, try pushing the handle of your putty knife into a length of 1¼-inch PVC pipe. Some putty knives squeeze right in.)
    Or, buy a pole-type groove and crevice cleaner. Pay special attention to the areas where deck boards cross the joists—the structural members underneath the decking. Thoroughly sweep the deck.
    For a wood deck, use a standard deck cleaner--about $20 for 250 sq. ft. coverage. Or, make your own with a half bleach, half water solution. Choose a cloudy day when the decking is cool and the sun won’t evaporate the cleaner. Protect all shrubs and plantings with plastic sheeting. Apply the cleaner according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
    Once the decking is cleaned, tackle the railing. Working from the bottom up, apply the cleaner, scrub, and then rinse. Working from the top down splatters the cleaning solution onto dry wood where it can double-bleach the surface, leaving marks that don’t go away when the lower area is washed. Working from the bottom up means you’ll be splattering onto a wet surface where the cleaner is diluted, leaving no marks.
    For composite decks, use a cleaner specifically formulated for use on composite material. Scrub with a soft brush. Do not use a pressure washer—it can permanently damage the decking and will void any warranty. Remove rust and leaf stains with a deck brightener containing oxalic acid. Attack grease and oil stains with a commercial degreaser and detergents. Mold and mildew can be kept under control with the use of a deck wash solution twice a year.
    For vinyl (cellular PVC) decking—the closest thing to a maintenance-free material—you’ll only need to use warm water and a mild soap to remove mold, mildew, and dirt. Scrub in a circular motion using a stiff broom, then rinse thoroughly.
    Late spring: Seal the deck
    The finish on your deck may be so woebegone that it’s obvious it needs resealing, but if you have doubts, try the water test. Splash some water onto the deck. If it beads up, all’s well. If it soaks in, it’s time to wash and reseal the deck.
    Wash the deck as described above and allow it to dry for 48 hours before sealing. Use a pole sander equipped with 80-grit paper to remove any furriness caused by washing.
    Sealers and stains are available at home improvement centers for about $30/gallon—enough to cover 250 sq. ft. of decking. Your finish options include:
    • Clear sealer that lets the wood’s natural grain and color show through
    • Toner that adds a bit of color but fully reveals the grain and provides some protection against sunlight (ultraviolet or UV light)
    • Semi-transparent stain that tints the wood, but lets some grain show
    • Solid stain and opaque color that seals weathering damage and completely covers the grain

    Expect to recoat clear sealers and toners annually. Recoat stain finishes as needed (every other year is a good routine), using the same or a slightly darker color. Be sure to wear gloves, a safety mask, and eye protection when applying stain and sealers. Use a roller to apply the sealer to the decking, covering three or four boards at a time. Use brushes and small rollers for railings, planters, and benches. 
    Some composite decking can be stained to restore its color. Be sure the product is intended for composites. Don’t expect the same density of color that you would achieve with wood. Deck sealants aren't required or recommended.

    Midsummer: Inspect and repair your deck
    When the weather is warm and dry, it's a good time to give your deck’s structure a close inspection. Pay particular attention to any areas within 6 inches of the ground or close to sources of water, such as downspouts and planters.
    Look for signs of rot by probing structural members with a flat-blade screwdriver. Begin by checking stairs, especially where the stringers (the saw-tooth notched pieces that support the steps) meet the ground. Also check each perimeter post. If you can push the screwdriver a quarter-inch or more into a suspect area, you probably have rot.
    Areas of rot that are no bigger than a silver dollar can be removed with a chisel and the hole can be treated with wood preservative. Larger areas may require the structural member to be replaced. Consult a professional carpenter or builder for an estimate for repairs. 
    If the underside of your deck is accessible, use a flashlight to inspect joists, posts, and beams. Pay special attention to the ledger—that all-important piece of framing that attaches the deck to the house. An estimated 90% of collapsed decks resulted from the failure of the ledger. However, not all decks have ledgers. Some are free-standing—a beam and posts located within a few feet of the house indicate a free-standing deck system.
    The ledger should be attached with lag screws, not just nails. The flashing—the metal cap that covers the top of the ledger and prevents moisture from getting behind the siding—should be free of rust and holes. Check all the hardware underneath, especially joist hangers, and replace any that are seriously rusted. Probe for signs of rot on the posts and joists. If anything looks doubtful, call in a pro to provide an estimate for any needed repairs.
    If a framing member can’t be easily removed and replaced, reinforce it. For example, if a joist shows areas of rot, you can add a splint of comparable pressure-treated lumber along side it, attaching the splint with two or three 3-inch deck screws every 12 inches. Then chisel away the rotten area and paint the raw wood with preservative. 
    Topside, look for cracked or rotten decking boards. Not all cracks are a structural threat, but they’ll get worse with time. If you find damage, replace the piece. Areas of cupping can be sanded down. 
    Give the railing a good shake to be sure posts are not loose or damaged—loose connections may be remedied by drilling pilot holes and adding galvanized lag screws. Look for cracks that, over time, may have developed around fasteners such as nails or screws. To remedy, remove the fastener and seal the crack with an exterior-grade adhesive. Then, drill a new pilot hole and add a new galvanized deck screw.
    Early fall: Preventive measures
    If the decking was nailed, you’ll likely find some nail heads popping out. A short-term solution is simply to pound them back in using a hammer and a thick nail set. For a longer lasting solution, pull out each protruding nail and drive in a deck screw slightly longer than the nail. (When pulling out the nail with a hammer or pry bar, use a scrap of wood as a fulcrum for greater leverage and to avoid damaging the deck.) If a nail only slightly protrudes, you may do more harm than good trying to pull it out. Pound it home.

    To slow mold, moss, and rot, keep nearby bushes and trees cut back at least 12 inches from the deck. Don’t let leaves and other debris pile up in corners. Move planters, chairs, and tables occasionally to avoid discoloring the decking. Keep nearby gutters and downspouts in good repair.
    Reprinted from House Logic with permission of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®.  Copyright 2012.  All rights reserved.
    Spring is in the air and so are the buyers! If you are thinking about selling and need to know if this is a good time for you to sell why not call Linda Kemp at 630.688,5121 today for consultation. There is a time and a season for all moves. If you feel you are ready for change I can help by providing you with information that will allow you to make the choice for your future goals.
    Buyers search right here for properties online! Don't fall prey to websites that give you false information about a property you have interest in. As Realtors we are governed by agency rules. so grab a cup of Joe and get comfy and start your search today!
  • Can Granite Film Really Fool The Eye?

    Posted Under: Remodel & Renovate in Illinois, Design & Decor in Illinois  |  March 21, 2012 12:20 PM  |  587 views  |  No comments
    In one of my earlier posts I blogged about kitchen remodeling and countertop choices. I had such a overwhelming response that I thought it would be a great idea to elaborate on the product and technique.  As one of the newest items to hit the kitchen design scene, faux granite film that can be applied to your countertop much like contact paper.  It is, however, much easier to work with and very durable.  The following article and video will help you decide if this faux countertop is right for your kitchen makeover.  For your added information Ubatuba is type of granite which is primarially green and black in color and usually can be found in granite tiles in 1cm and 2-3cm slabs.  It is the most cost effective real granite product.  So is this faux granite film cost effective?  You betcha!  Enjoy!  Linda

    "We install a vinyl granite film on an old countertop to see if faux really is fabulous. Here’s what we discovered.

    Dying to give your house some high-end glam at bargain basement prices? Welcome to our ongoing “Why You Should Fake It” series on faux products that mimic the look of big-ticket items.

    Today, we look at vinyl adhesive sheets that aim to give your old countertops the look of polished granite for a fraction of the cost of the real thing.

    OK, we were skeptical, too. So we tried it out for ourselves.

    The problem: An old solid-surface countertop in my mudroom/office.

    The fix: EZ Faux imitation granite adhesive film.

    I had salvaged the countertop during a demolition project a few years ago, and it has annoyed me ever since. It’s scratched, rust-stained, and generally sad-looking. I’ve been dying to replace it, but real granite isn’t in my budget. Actually, no “real” material is in my budget, so a good-looking fake for less than $100 seemed ideal, if too good to be true.

    I ordered 18 square feet of the Ubatuba-style film, which arrived in a roll along with a plastic squeegee tool and a utility knife.

    Since I have a times-three learning curve on most DIY projects, I opted for a “wet” install, which requires spritzing the film and countertop so you can reposition the film when you don’t get it right the first — or second — try.

    For the most part, the install was easy. I wiped the surface clean with a microfiber cloth, measured and cut the film around the sink — I didn’t want to take the thing out — then smoothed the film over the countertop. Working from the middle to the edges, I ran the smoothing tool along the film and easily removed most of the puckers.

    Only the edges gave me trouble. The film didn’t adhere to the underside of the lip, and covering the right angles where the two sides meet was messy, like trying to make a wrapped package look like a solid block.

    But, customer service told me to heat up the film with a hair dryer, which softened it and allowed it to grasp the lip. I got creative and made a few patches, filled in gaps with a black Sharpie, and solved the messy edge problem. The whole install took about an hour.

    When the sun hits the surface at a certain angle, you can see a few bubbles and puckers and realize it’s not real granite. But when the sun hits me at a certain angle, I don’t look so good, either.

    Compared to my old countertop, the new faux top looks 100% better. In fact, after I finished the install, a neighbor dropped by and oohed and aahed and thought it was real Ubatuba.

    You can buy the film online at Appliance Art, the manufacturer, or EZ Faux. A 3-by-6-foot roll is $60; a 3-by-12-foot roll is $95.

    So, for the price of a nice dinner, I’ve got a nicer counter. It’s not the real deal, but it was a real steal.

    Have you installed a granite film on a countertop? How’d it go?"

    By: Lisa Kaplan Gordon

    Published: March 9, 2012

    Reprinted from House Logic with permission of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®.  Copyright 2012.  All rights reserved.

    What a great Spring season we are having here in the Midwest!  The streets are filled with smiling faces as we leave the cold weather behind. This is also a great time to think about buying a home.  Search for the right and perfect properties right here from the comfort of your iving room!  Then call Linda Kemp at 630.688.5121 to help you make it a reality!

    Are you looking to sell your home?  Do you need some more information about the current real estate market?  Call Linda Kemp today at 630.688.5121 to schedule a consultation.  It is always my pleasure to serve you!
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