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Jennifer Ratcliff's Blog

By Jennifer Ratcliff | Agent in Knoxville, TN
  • Backyard oasis planning made easy - Simple ways to spruce up the outdoors for entertaining or simply enjoying

    Posted Under: General Area in Fountain City  |  June 4, 2013 11:23 AM  |  362 views  |  No comments


    (BPT) - Hooray for a holiday. You've got the day off, you've sent out the backyard barbecue invite and all your nearest and dearest are coming over to eat, drink and be merry.

    So, what's next? Whether you're a seasoned entertaining pro or a new host, The Home Depot has tips to make your backyard an oasis for a long holiday or any weekend.

    A week before

    About a week before the long holiday weekend, check off your heavy cleaning jobs like power washing, mowing the lawn or cleaning the grill. Whether you're washing the outside of the house or the back patio, new innovations like the Ryobi 3100 psi Pressure Washer make the job a breeze. Powered by an 187cc Honda engine, it has five spray pattern adjustments and a 25-foot hose - making it easy move around freely and customize water flow for different areas.

    With the neighbors over, you want to be the envy of the neighborhood where the grass really is greener. -Give it a fresh mow and clean up the edges with a hedge trimmer. Outdoor power tools that use the latest technology like the Ryobi ONE+ Lithium Ion Hybrid Trimmer make the job easier. The battery charge lasts four times longer, the tool is lighter and easy to maneuver.

    Cleaning the grill used to mean getting a bicep workout, but simple cleaning products on the market today make it a lot easier. An example would be a non-toxic, multipurpose cleaner like Simple Green Concentrated All-Purpose Cleaner and Mr. Clean Outdoor Pro Magic Eraser - versatile enough for your grill, patio furniture, car rims and hand tools.

    If you're in the market for a new grill, it's time to strike while the iron is hot with great holiday deals - a Brinkmann 5-Burner Gas grill is $399 with a free propane tank. You'll look like a gourmet using this grill with its 634-square-inch cooking area - it can handle burgers, veggies and your other sides all at once. Color is a huge trend in grills this year - the Brinkmann 5 Burner makes a stylish statement in copper while other grills, like the Aussie Walk-A-Bout, pop in cheerful bright red.

    Nothing is more inviting outdoors than some fresh flowers in pots or in the garden. The Home Depot offers easy options like the new Drop 'n Bloom flowers or stress-free design options like Thriller, Filler, Spiller. For Thriller, Filler, Spiller, choose your favorite large plants - the thriller - to serve as the focal point.- Smaller plants - the filler - are used to fill in the space between the focal point plants. Finally, low-growing, cascading plants - the spiller - are used to cover the ground of the garden.

    The day before

    Prep your decor for tomorrow. If you're looking for a creative way to display your American flag, try a DIY project like The Home Depot's DIY American Flag, made from lumber. This folk-art inspired flag is an easy project to complete in 24 hours. Look to Pinterest for table inspiration and know that a beautiful tablescape doesn't have to be expensive. Combinations of burlap, mason jars filled with wildflowers and potted plants are beautiful and inexpensive. Small, clustered arrangements aren't as pricey as large floral arrangements and make a bigger impact. Buy your supplies today and check off any last-minute cleaning projects. Prep your arrangements and water the plants - one less thing to deal with tomorrow.

    Weekend time: Relax and barbecue. Congratulations on being the envy of the block. With all the prep work you've done, all you have to do today is decor detail. Assemble your table and check off the last of your finishing touches. Now, put your feet up on your patio furniture and wait for the guests to arrive.

  • Add curb appeal to your home with new exterior trim

    Posted Under: General Area in Fountain City  |  October 10, 2012 5:43 AM  |  138 views  |  No comments


    (ARA) - When it comes to selling your home, curb appeal means everything. And nothing makes a worse initial impression than exterior trim that is peeling, cracked, rotted or falling apart. Replacing old or damaged exterior trim is a great way to freshen up your home today and make it stand out among others tomorrow.

    According to the National Association of Realtors, curb appeal sells 49 percent of all homes. Potential buyers start evaluating a house as soon as they pull up. That's why it's important to make your house look great from the street, long before putting it on the market.

    “You only get one chance to make a first impression. Exterior trim that is cracked, rotted or peeling can turn away buyers,” says Peggie Bolan, vice president for Chicago-based CMI, a building products manufacturer. “Homes with beautiful exterior trim have that wow factor that attracts buyers. Making a good first impression can be the difference between getting a signed contract and keeping the 'For Sale' sign in the yard.”

    Inspect your trim

    Fall is an ideal time to inspect your home's exterior trim. Walk around your house and look at the trim around your windows and doors, at the corners, and near the roofline. Warning signs of potential problems include peeling or blistering paint, mold and mildew, warped boards, and spongy or soft spots. Check for termite damage too; they cause more damage to U.S. homes than fire, floods and storms combined.

    If the trim is damaged beyond repair, the only solution is replacement. Depending on your carpentry skills, replacing exterior trim can be a do-it-yourself project, but it is often best to hire a local contractor or remodeler. One product option that has become a preferred choice among homebuilders and remodelers is a treated exterior composite trim called MiraTEC. This engineered wood trim is ideal for nonstructural applications, such as roofline fascia, window and door trim, corner posts and porch trim.

    Find the right trim

    Although traditional wood trim often looks good when installed, it can split and swell, and is prone to knots and defects. Other materials, like PVC and fiber cement trim, may be difficult to install and also have performance limitations.

    With a clear cedar, wood-grain texture on one side and a contemporary smooth finish on the other, MiraTEC trim is ideal for many home styles from historic to modern. It is made from eco-friendly materials, looks and handles like wood, and is coated with a mildew-resistant primer, making it easy to paint. MiraTEC is very durable and it resists moisture, rot and termites.

    Don't put your house on the market until you've taken a good look at your exterior trim. If you don't like the way it looks, neither will a buyer. To learn more, visit www.miratectrim.com.

  • Plumbing primer: The most important system behind your home's drywall

    Posted Under: General Area in Fountain City  |  September 5, 2012 4:40 AM  |  124 views  |  No comments

    (ARA) - Do you know what's behind the drywall in your home? Unless you've ever had a home custom-built or have personally worked in construction, you might be unaware of the vital systems hidden within the walls of your home. But knowing how those systems work can help you make smart, money-saving decisions when building or renovating.

    Typically, when builders construct a house, they conceal electrical wiring, air ducts, insulation, home networking wires and plumbing within the walls. It's important for all those systems to be well-made and high-functioning, but in the case of plumbing it's especially vital.

    When you're thinking about plumbing as part of a renovation or a new build, what you don't want it to do is almost as important as what you do want it to do. Ruptured or leaking pipes can cause massive damage to other parts of your home, so it's important to choose a type of pipe that can withstand decades of rigorous use - even in harsh water and soil environments.

    In the past, builders of American homes used metals that ranged from lead (obsolete now) to copper (the most common metal pipe found in homes today). These days, plastic is the go-to material for home plumbing. Crosslinked polyethylene products (commonly called PEX) offer many advantages. Flexible Uponor PEX can last longer (rated for 100 years of use), are quieter than metal pipes, and resist corrosion, freezing, scale buildup and harsh chemicals. When used with properly installed expansion fittings using a PEX-a ring, Uponor systems also resist leaking at joints and connections.

    If you decide to use PEX, it is best to hire a plumbing professional trained to install this material. That's because PEX requires slightly different installation techniques compared with copper or even rigid plastic systems such as CPVC.

    Also, be sure to check the warranty: Some PEX manufacturers offer up to a 25-year warranty if their systems are installed by a trained professional.

    Why PEX? PEX plastic tubing has been proven to be more effective in plumbing systems over copper, CPVC and other materials due to several factors:

    * Improved energy efficiency - PEX tubing provides better insulation than copper, so less heat is lost from the hot water moving through the plastic tubing. Less heat loss means less energy is needed to keep water hot.

    * Less wait = less waste: The superior flexibility of PEX results in pipe runs that deliver hot water more quickly to every outlet, as compared with traditional copper trunk-and-branch layouts. Less waiting time at the tap and shower is not only a great convenience, but also means much less water is wasted down the drain. That savings in water can add up to major savings in dollars over time.

    * Longer life span - Because of its flexibility, PEX tubing can expand up to three times its original diameter. This makes it much more resistant to freeze damage than copper systems, meaning weather extremes are less likely to cause problems with leaks. Plus, PEX won't rust or corrode the way metal pipes do, giving it the potential to last 100 years.

    * Improved creature comfort - If you've ever been kept awake by a "singing" water pipe or blushed at the loud whoosh that announces your flush to the entire household, you're aware that metal pipes can be noisy. PEX plastic tubing is quiet, eliminating common noise problems like "water hammer" and singing pipes; it even muffles the sound of rushing water.

    * Safety-enhancing options - PEX plastic tubing works well with a home fire sprinkler system that incorporates sprinkler heads into the water-supply lines - a safety enhancement that the National Fire Protection Association says can decrease the risk of someone dying in a home fire by 80 percent.

    When it comes to assessing what's behind your home's drywall, opting for a plumbing system made of quality products of proven reliability can help save you money on water and energy, while keeping your home comfortable and safe for as long as you live there.

    For more information on PEX, visit: "Plumbing Systems for Homeowners" at www.uponor-usa.com.
  • Creating curb appeal on a budget

    Posted Under: General Area in Fountain City  |  May 30, 2012 7:21 PM  |  172 views  |  No comments

    (ARA) – The arrival of summer has many homeowners outside planting, preparing the patio for cookouts, and taking evening strolls through the neighborhood. Often, this extended outdoor time brings on a desire to improve a home’s curb appeal.

    But home improvement projects can be expensive, and many homeowners are still wary about spending money on renovations, despite the improving real estate market. So what’s the best way to spruce up the appearance of your house without breaking the bank?

    There are many budget-friendly exterior changes that will make a big difference in curb appeal. A fresh coat of paint can work wonders, whether it’s applied to the entire house or just on the front door. If your house is painted a neutral color like white or cream, be adventurous and try an energizing red or soothing aqua on your front door; the pop of color will add appealing interest.

    While a landscaping overhaul can be very expensive, window boxes or planters are an easy and cost-effective way to add natural beauty to your home’s facade. Learn how to build a container garden that will provide extra dimension and color to a front porch or patio.

    Take a look at your house from the street. Do your windows look bare? Try adding shutters, but make sure they are appropriately sized. Buying shutters that are smaller than the windows they flank is an all-too-common mistake homeowners make, which leads to the windows looking disproportionately small.

    And if you have a garage, don’t overlook the importance of a good-looking garage door. A garage door can account for up to 30 percent of a home’s exterior that is seen from the street, so having an attractive one is vital to good curb appeal. But, like shutters to a window, a garage door should be appropriately matched to its house’s architectural style. Not sure which door fits your home the best? Try out the handy Door Designer tool at www.amarr.com, which lets you choose from six different home styles and then matches an appropriate garage door based on that style.

    Of all these budget-friendly improvement projects, a new garage door will give you the best return on your investment and provide the most value for your home. Over the last few years, surveys conducted by the Remodeling Cost vs. Value Report indicate that installing new garage doors has been the project moving up the most in the rankings.

    Most people, to some degree, factor in resale when making their home improvement decisions. Both structural and decorative curb appeal is important when it comes time to sell a home, bringing in a larger number of prospective buyers and making it more likely that they will make the purchase.

    According to principals at Smykal Renovations, a contracting firm in suburban Chicago, curb appeal projects “may not have the ‘wow’ factor of a major kitchen remodel, but [they] pay off more in the end.”

    So don’t let budget constraints keep you from improving the appearance of your home’s exterior. There are many low-cost changes that can be made that have a big impact on how your home looks. Whether you’re making these changes to enjoy for yourself, or to make your home more marketable, the summer is a great time to get outside and focus on curb appeal.

  • Planning spring home improvements? How to find the right contractor

    Posted Under: Remodel & Renovate in Fountain City  |  April 15, 2012 6:44 AM  |  298 views  |  No comments
    (ARA) - You've got a list of spring home improvements to do, a vision for getting them done, and you even have a budget. Now all you need is someone to do the work; it's time to hire a contractor. Yet even the best-laid home improvement plans can go awry if you hire the wrong person or company to do the job.

    Even if this is your first home improvement project, and your first time hiring a contractor, you've probably heard some horror stories: contractors who overcharge, underestimate the actual cost of a job, drag a project out weeks longer than it should take, or simply leave a job unfinished. While the majority of contractors are honest, you still need to check a contractor's business license, and the business's financial stability, before you hire anyone for your spring home improvement project.

    Fortunately, with a few simple steps, you can help ensure you choose the right contractor for your job:

    Find out about his finances

    Credit issues are common during difficult financial times. While the presence of issues concerning a contracting company's financial background doesn't necessarily mean the owner is a bad person, credit problems could directly affect his ability to do a job. Contractors with limited access to credit may be unable to buy the materials they need or hire the help required to complete your project.

    Online resources like ContractorCheck.com, by Experian, can help you check a contractor's credentials. Experian maintains a database of more than 5 million contractors and their businesses' information, and ContractorCheck.com allows you to view this data, which includes critical information such as:

    * Company name, address and phone number
    * Multiple operating addresses
    * How long the company has been in business
    * License, bonding and insurance information
    * Contractor specialties
    * A credit review that will reveal any past collection or derogatory credit events
    * An easy-to-understand contractor rating

    Additionally, ContractorCheck.com reports include public record information such as liens or judgments against the business - important information considering that according to a recent review of Experian's database, 8.4 percent of contractors had a lien on file and 6.2 percent had a judgment filed against them.

    Stay alert for signs of trouble

    Most contractors operate within the law, but it pays to know the warning signs of one who is not honorable and honest. Consider these tips from the Federal Trade Commission:

    * Contractors who solicit door-to-door, only accept cash or who don't have a phone number associated with a valid business address should ring your warning bell. Beware of offers to discount a job by a contractor who says he will use materials left over from a previous project.

    * Steer clear of contractors who expect you to obtain necessary permits for your project, or who want you to find them new customers in exchange for discounts. It's his responsibility to obtain permits and new customers.

    * If a contractor's offer seems too good to be true, it probably is. Watch for warning signs like an extremely long guarantee period or an offer to discount your job as a "demonstration."

    * Shut down contractors who engage in high-pressure pitches. If a contractor tells you he needs an immediate answer from you, tell him your answer is "no." Or, if he or she wants you to fund your project through a preferred lender, consider taking your business to a more flexible contractor.

    Finally, find out what others are saying about the contractor you're thinking of hiring. Word-of-mouth is one of the most reliable reporting methods when it comes to evaluating how well someone might do your job. Ask the contractor for the names and numbers of past clients he's worked with. But keep in mind, even a reputable contractor is only going to give you contact information for customers he knows were happy with his work, so use these references as one more piece of information, but don't base your decision on them.

  • Ideas for flooring in your home

    Posted Under: General Area in Fountain City  |  February 21, 2012 12:49 PM  |  223 views  |  No comments

    Ideas for flooring in your home
     by: Builder Brian

    Your home is your paradise and if you are planning to renovate your home, goes for the changes that are not only eye catchy but also comfortable for you and your family. Remodeling of the home is associated with revolutions and amendments adjusted in every nook and cranny of the home. If you are going to change the flooring of your home there are some tips for flooring of different parts of you house.

    Bedroom flooring:

    There are plenty options when it comes to flooring in your bedroom. Being the most private and personalized part of your home, your bedroom is the place which grabs a big part of your budget whenever you are remodeling your home. You can use carpet, tile, hardwood, bamboo, cork or laminate. Play with different materials in different rooms. You can opt for striped light and dark shades in your boy's room so that if your son is going to create mess, which is unavoidable, the flooring can withstand the burden. Also the flooring can bear heavy traffic of the folks coming in the bedroom. For more powerful scratch and water resistant flooring you can choose laminate.

    Living room flooring:

    It is the most used part that withholds most of the traffic coming in and out of the house. It is highly recommended that the flooring should be strong enough that it can endure all such amendments done with your furniture or to the increasing and decreasing ratio of visitors. For this purpose you can opt for hardwood flooring. Being classy and sophisticated in look it is the perfect choice for your living room whenever you are remodeling your home.

    Kitchen flooring:

    Design the floor of your kitchen in such a way that it not only looks pretty but also gives a practical impression. You can choose from vinyl, tile, natural stone, wood, cork or laminate. A floor covering that is water resistant and durable such as tile is a best choice to protect against potential water damage. Make sure when you choose your floor to order a little extra of the product in the event that you drop something like a pot on your floor. If the flooring material is damaged, you will be sure to have enough to repair the floor because often floor manufacturers have high turnover of their products to insure a continual buying cycle. Most flooring contractors add 5-10% additional square footage of the flooring product to their purchase order to insure they have enough for the project and to provide the client with a little extra flooring for future use.

    About The Author

    Putting on the Fix is a premier bathroom remodeling, kitchen remodeling and flooring company servicing the Dallas Ft. Worth metroplex.For more,please visit http://www.puttingonthefix.com or http://www.atyourdoorfloors.com .
  • Today's boomers downsize homes, but upsize the amenities

    Posted Under: General Area in Fountain City, Home Buying in Fountain City  |  January 4, 2012 5:37 PM  |  412 views  |  No comments

    (ARA) – Say goodbye to the McMansion. According to a leading real estate website, Trulia.com, 2010 was officially the year that homes over 3,200 square feet ended their dominance and appeal. But don’t think that downsizing means downgrading. In fact, homeowners are looking to upsize their amenities to help them enjoy every inch of their homes.

    And, while many different generations are following this trend, Boomers are a unique group, looking to enjoy their smaller nest now that the kids have flown the coop – yet ensure that their homes are filled with the many amenities they’ll require for their golden years.

    Anything but basic baths
    While they may purchase a smaller floor plan, mature adults are looking for ways to turn ordinary rooms into extraordinarily indulgent experiences. In the bath, that means the ultimate spa experience – from elaborate showers to heated floors and towel warmers. But when it comes to the bathroom, it’s just as important to keep it safe. Luckily, safe can also equate to stylish. Try installing comfortable seating for the shower with a beautiful fold-down shower seat made of teak and aluminum; or updating common bath accessories such as a paper holder, towel bar or shelf with a new integrated version that combines each accessory with a grab bar  for added safety.

    “Our goal is to make every bath a safe bath. And, for savvy homeowners looking to incorporate safety at any age, it’s essential we provide products to meet their safety and style requirements,” says Laurie Birko, Moen Home Care brand manager. “Our newest products, such as our Fold-Down Shower Seat and Grab Bars with Accessories look like decorative pieces rather than safety devices, so homeowners no longer have to choose between safety or style … they can have both.”

    Kitchens that cook … and more
    Different generations have very specific desires in terms of creating a kitchen to meet their needs, and according to findings from the Research Institute for Cooking and Kitchen Intelligence, boomers are looking for kitchens with amenities that will assist with entertaining. These upgrades may include cooktops with special-purpose features, such as a built-in grill or wok; commercial or professional-grade appliances; a built-in coffee pot connected directly to plumbing or an oven that dramatically reduces cooking times without microwaves.

    Bedrooms that sizzle
    Mature adults still know how to spice up their bedroom with hot amenities, including fireplaces, heated mattress pads and large-capacity warming cabinets for blankets, robes, towels and clothing. Convenience-based bedroom trends include a laundry room off of the master suite, remote-controlled window treatments and voice controlled lighting and electronics, making your mature boudoir much more magical than your childhood bedroom.

    The greater outdoors
    No-mow lawns have sprouted up as a time-, water-, fuel- and money-saving alternative to the traditional lawn. These lawns have been around for over a decade in parks and other public spaces. Now they’re catching on with homeowners – particularly with the growing population of second-homeowners who don’t want to spend their precious getaway weekends mowing the lawn. They’re also becoming popular with mature adults who are simply tired of the rigors and high cost of constant lawn upkeep.

    For homeowners in colder climates who are tired of the hassles and hazards of snow removal, driveway heating systems are an ideal amenity. Radiant driveway heating systems provide heat similar to indoor in-floor heating systems. Heat is delivered with either electric cable (electric systems) or by hot water pumped through plastic tubing (hydronic systems) compacted in the surface. Most driveway heating systems have automatic smart sensors that turn the systems on when it begins to snow, providing great consistency and reliability for snow removal, whether you’re home or not.

    And, with safety always a concern – both indoors and out – driveway heating systems are not only convenient; these systems are potentially lifesavers, helping prevent heart attacks, frostbite and back pain commonly associated with snow removal. Driveway heating also helps reduce injuries due to slips and falls, and possibly liability due to such accidents.

    Regardless of the size of your home, whether you build new or buy used, filling your empty nest with hot amenities will help to make your golden years as good as gold. For more information about Moen Home Care bath safety products, visit www.moen.com.

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