Ways to Keep Your Outdoor Allergens OUT

Woman With Allergy sneezing From Flowers and winter indoor allergiesIf you suffer from allergies, you know that outdoor allergies are part of summer. We’re not saying you’re happy about it; after all, who wants to be sneezing and wheezing all summer? What we can do is give you tips that keep those annoying allergies outdoors so you’re symptom-free (or at least symptom-less) every time you head inside to get away from those pesky outdoor allergens.

Designate an area where you leave those allergens.

Bringing in allergens inside is inevitable. Allergens stick to your clothes and hair whenever you are outside. When you head inside for some relief, don’t relax on the couch. Instead, take the clothes you wore outside off in a designated area where you can isolate the allergens (i.e. mudroom, laundry room, etc.). Take a shower to rid your body of allergens—and keep allergy symptoms away.

Get your carpets cleaned.

Carpets can trap allergens; a deep carpet clean removes those allergens. As tempting as it may be to head to the hardware store and rent a carpet cleaner, those machines often do not completely remove allergens as well as a professional carpet clean. Schedule a professional carpet clean ASAP to get the dirt and allergens out of your carpet and away from your body.

Keep your windows closed.

If you want to create an allergy-free zone, take a very basic step to keep outdoor allergies well, outside. Keep your windows closed at all times, and don’t open the screens on your storm door.

Research your next vacuum cleaner.

A regular vacuuming plays a key part in removing outdoor allergens from your home. Choose a vacuum with a HEPA filter or double bag to remove allergens from your flooring and from the air (other tips for purchasing the perfect vacuum cleaner here). This is one step that can help you so you can remove the allergens without having an allergy attack.

Keep your furnace and ducts clean.

Outdoor allergens can stick to your clothes and body, releasing them into the air. Those allergens can get sucked into your ducts and circulate throughout your home, exposing you to outdoor allergens in your home. Stop the “allergy spread” at the source. Purchase a furnace filter with a high Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value (and contact an HVAC technician to make sure your furnace can handle a filter with a high MERV) and schedule a duct cleaning to keep them from circulating throughout your home.

Tips that Protect Your Wood Floors from Summer (& Maintain Their Beauty!)

warm wood floors in home that need deep cleanSummer is an awesome time of year for every kind of fun; all that fun can do a number on your hardwood floors. Between the sun, water from storms and pools, and humidity (an unavoidable part of hot Wisconsin summers!), wood floors are vulnerable to water stains, damage to the finish, scratches, and fading.

Fading

As much as we love the summer sun, UV rays from sunlight can affect both polyurethane and urethane finishes. Some kinds of wood can also fade from damaging sun rays. The result is a faded wood and finish that doesn’t resemble the original finish you chose during installation.

How to protect your floors from fading:

Window treatments are the cheapest and easiest ways to protect your floors. During the day when the sunlight is brightest, draw your curtains or lower the shades to keep the sun’s damaging rays at bay.

For a long-term solution, choose new windows with low-e glass (more information about low-e glass windows here). Windows with low-e glass have a protective film that filter damaging rays out of your home, protecting the wood and finish of your floors. If new windows aren’t on the horizon, purchase a protective film for your existing windows that can minimize the fading to your floors.

Humidity

High humidity is as much a part of our summer as ice cream and swimming. While it’s normal for wood floors to swell and shrink from humidity, repeated exposure to high humidity can crack or cause cupping to the floor boards.

How to protect your floors from high humidity:

The ideal humidity range for hardwood floors is between 35-55%. To ensure that the humidity in your home is in that range, purchase a hygrometer which can give you a read out of the moisture in the room or an appliance with a humidistat. If the humidity level is high, purchase a dehumidifier to remove moisture from the air. Your air conditioner can also play a part in maintaining an ideal humidity range for your wood floors.

Water spills

Between an occasional (or daily or hourly) dip in the lake or pool, or the surprise summer storms that come with summer, it’s hard not to track in a water puddle or two. Unfortunately, water puddles can cause stains and water damage to your wood floors.

How to protect your floors from water:

If you want to keep all water out of your home, place rugs by all your exterior doors. Ask guests to remove their shoes their shoes by the door and keep a soft towel close at hand to clean up all spills as soon as possible. For a home by a lake, pool, or hot tub, keep towels in a cabinet close to the pool or lake so everyone can dry off before they track water in.

Sand & gravel

Sand and gravel that gets stuck on your shoes (and everywhere else-just ask any kid in a sandbox or beach goer!) can damage your finish and scratch your floors.

How to protect your floors from sand and gravel:

It’s almost impossible to keep all small debris out of your home, but you can minimize the damage by asking your friends and guests to take off their shoes at the door (use these other organization tips for your mudroom). Vacuum up any debris you find so you are not dragging the sand and gravel across the floor.

Cleaning Tips

What floors work great in a house with a pool?

Wet kids having happy time on summer swimming poolA pool is a godsend when the mercury spikes in your thermometer and the humidity hits (what feels like) an all time high. On the flip side, a pool can also be rough on the floors inside your home when you and your kids walk in dripping wet or tracking wet footprints across your floors.

Not just any kind of flooring can take those footprints and water spills. When choosing flooring for a room near water, consider these factors:

  • Water-resistance
  • Clean up
  • Durability
  • Cost

Floors that are ideal for homes with pools

Luxury Vinyl

Pros: highly durable, easy-to-clean water and spills, available in tile or wood look, planks can be installed as a DIY project

Cons: higher priced option, some grout cleaning required if installed with grout

Porcelain Tile

Pros: water, odor and mildew resistant, comes in a variety of tile patterns and colors, can be a do-it-yourself installation, very affordable

Cons: can be cold under bare feet, some grout cleaning required

Sheet Vinyl

Pros: durable, can handle water, comes in different colors and patterns, relatively inexpensive

Cons: look may not be as smooth as some of the other options

Carpet tiles

Pros: soft to the feet, easy-to-clean, squares can be replaced if dirty, creative look

Cons: spills can get in and under tiles, not as finished look as other options

Flooring cleaning tips for home with pool

Whatever floor you choose, keep your floor in like-new condition by using these cleaning tips:

8 Steps to Keeping Your Hardwood Floors Beautiful

wood floorHardwood floors are timeless. Beautiful. Durable. An investment. The challenge can be to keep your investment in the same beautiful shape as the day of installation, especially when your floors are in high traffic areas and are continuously being tested by the ups and downs of our unpredictable Midwestern weather. We’ve put together steps that’ll help you face the challenge head-on so your hardwood floors can look as great as the day we installed them.

Put felt pads and protectors on all your chairs and furniture.

To prevent scratches on your new wood floors, purchase felt pads for your couches, chairs, tables, entertainment cabinets, and any other furniture. These pads do wear down over time so make sure you replace the pads as needed (usually once or twice a year).

Put rugs down by all the doors.

Keep the dirt, sand, gravel, and water off your floors to protect the finish, prevent warping and water damage, and keep scratches at bay. Place rugs by all your doors with protectors under the rugs to protect your floors.

Clean up puddles ASAP.

Hardwood floors and towels go hand in hand. Standing water on hardwood floors can warp the floors, leave water stains, or damage floor boards. Keep a paper towel and towels close at hand so you can clean up any spills or water tracked in (especially during winter or after a dip in the pool!). If you have a dog, train your pup to stop at the door so you can wipe off their paws.

Wait to put down area rugs.

Rushing to put down an area rug can damage the finish. Be patient and wait to put down an area rug until after the finish on your floor has had time to cure. Instead, ask your installer (or local experts) for a time frame; the answer is different for every floor.

Sweep on a regular basis.

Daily grit is the enemy of hardwood floors. Sweep your floors on a regular basis, and start every deep clean with a thorough sweep and vacuum (or vacuum cleaner attachment). When you purchase a vacuum cleaner for the job, make sure it is not abrasive when it cleans which could damage the finish on your hardwood floors.

Deep clean your hardwoods periodically.

A periodic deep clean is essential to keep your floors in the same condition as the day they were installed. Use an approved hardwood cleaner so the floor is not damaged (even vinegar and water can harm the finish). Steam cleaners can also damage the floors and void the warranty. Your periodic deep clean is not the time for experimenting; contact the experts if you need deep cleaning advice (or use our in-depth post on hardwood cleaning) or to schedule a deep clean for your wood floors.

As you mop, don’t leave puddles. Water is the enemy of hardwood floors. Wring out as much water as possible, and use fans to make sure the floor is completely dry when you are done.

Keep an eye on your home’s humidity.

There is some expansion and contracting of hardwood floors that happens with humidity so it is normal to have some small gaps in the floor when humidity is low, such as during winter. For the same reason, be selective about what rooms you install hardwood floors in. Rooms with high humidity, such as laundry rooms and bathrooms, are not ideal for hardwood floors. If you are concerned about humidity, buy a humidistat for your home. The ideal humidity for hardwood floors is between 35% and 55%.

Ask before you tackle those marks or stains.

Before you tackle those scuff marks and stains, ask your local flooring experts for tips on removing marks and stains so you can avoid scratching or damaging your wood floor (or schedule a deep clean and ask them to take care of the mark or stain as part of the deep clean).  A little bit of research now can benefit you in the long run, especially when your hardwood floor keeps looking beautiful.

5 Ways to Speed Up Your Summer Party Cleaning

summer grill out partyIt’s the dirty secret of hosting a summer party: the deep clean that has to happen before your guests arrive. The truth is there’s a lot of preparation and elbow grease that has to happen before the grill out fun can begin—and summer is a very busy time already! If you’re running short on time, here’s how to speed up your pre-party cleaning so the fun can start.

Do as much of the cleaning ahead of time as possible.

If you want a faster clean before your summer grill out, make your cleaning to-do list shorter. Wipe down your counters after a meal, sweep your floors regularly, and clean off your table after you eat. All your regular cleaning leads to an easier (and faster) cleaning later; it’s a lot easier when you don’t have to scrub off hardened food later or .

Make a cleaning list.

To speed up your pre-party cleaning, divide and conquer as much as possible. Make a list of all the cleaning that needs to be done (inside and out!) before your summer party and divide it up among your cleaning crew.

Take your cleaning supplies with you as you clean.

Make the most of your cleaning time; carry your cleaning supplies with you as you clean so you don’t waste time making multiple trips for supplies. This simple cleaning hack makes your cleaning efficient and quick because you can just keep cleaning as you go from room to room.

Use rugs to your advantage.

Technically, placing rugs by all your doors (inside and outside), in your mudroom and hallways may not be a cleaning task but it’s an effort that can save you a lot of cleaning later. Rugs are an important part of keeping the dirt out of your home and off your floors—especially when guests are tracking in and out of your home.

Bring in outside help.

When your time for cleaning gets short, don’t be afraid to bring in the pros: a carpet cleaner to deep clean your carpets (before and/or after), hardwood cleaner to get your floors shining, a cleaning service to get everything else. (For DIY floor cleaning tips, read this blog post.) With a little bit of elbow grease, help, and hard work, you and your guests’ll be enjoying a fun summer party in no time.

Practical (and Welcoming!) Ways to Dress Up Your Patio

patio with furniture and tile overlayMake your patio the go-to spot where everyone wants to hang out this summer—the spot that everyone gathers and enjoys a delicious brat, each other’s company, and your beautiful patio décor. Use these ideas to make a beautiful outdoor space that you, and all your guests, enjoy all the days of summer (and fall!).

Add tile

A tiled patio is the finishing touch that sets your patio apart from the rest. When shopping for the perfect tile, tell your sales person that your tile is going outside so they can recommend the right porcelain tile for your patio.

Use furniture

front steps with porcelain tileThe right furniture for your deck is the right color and coordinated so it doesn’t look like a mishmash effort. Don’t pack your patio so tight that your guests can’t circulate or buy furniture that is too big for the size of your deck. Choose pieces that coordinate both in color and size—some pieces can even serve a dual purpose (such as a planter or storage and a bench).

Think tranquil

If you want to make your patio relaxing or cover up background noise, make your patio a calm oasis with a water feature. A waterfall or pond can be your answer; make sure the water is circulating to avoid stagnant water and the problems that come with it.

Add green

Planters full of flowers, an herb garden, or evergreens can make your patio look like an inviting garden—or at least make it look more inviting. As an added bonus, an herb garden or container garden can provide fresh food for your next grill out.

Cozy it up

Everyone loves a nightly campfire, and a built-in (or portable) campfire is one of Wisconsin’s favorite past times. Add a fire to your patio for a welcoming end to the night, and arrange your furniture for optimal comfort and coziness.

Add privacy

Make your grill outs (and any al fresco meals) a private affair with privacy screens. Instead of adding abrupt privacy screens, coordinate your screens so they look like a part of your outdoor patio décor. Use greenery or latticework to make your nights on the patio a private—and aesthetically pleasing—affair.

25+ Fresh Home Décor Ideas for Every Budget

bedroom with new carpet and fresh home decor ideasThere comes a time in every home’s life when it gets, well, “stale.” You know what we’re talking about: when your home needs something new and fresh to give it new life. If you’re wracking your brain for ideas, we’ve started a list of fresh ideas that’s sure to fit your budget AND make you fall in love with your home all over again.

  1. Install new luxury vinyl flooring (it’s a DIY project that looks great!)
  2. Hang an arrangement of photos or art on the wall
  3. Add a laminate flooring accent wall to your bedroom
  4. Tile your front stoop
  5. Add a backsplash to your kitchen (ideas here)
  6. Choose new blinds (use this guide)
  7. Paint an accent wall
  8. Tile your concrete patio
  9. Add shelving & organization to your mudroom (ideas here)
  10. accent wall done with laminate flooring

    Courtesy Armstrong Flooring

    Paint your cabinets

  11. Install new tile in your bathroom
  12. Add new wood flooring to your home
  13. Redesign your laundry room
  14. Finish your basement (choose the right floor for your basement with these tips)
  15. Get a new area rug (order custom rugs for a personalized look)
  16. Put a new tile floor in your bathroom
  17. Revamp your entry way
  18. Redesign a whole room (ask for help from a pro for a coordinated look)
  19. Clean your carpet for a new look
  20. Repurpose an old piece of furniture
  21. Tile your entryway
  22. Add a chalkboard wall
  23. Get new countertops
  24. Add new wallpaper
  25. Organize your closet with new storage drawers and shelves
  26. Paint your trim
  27. Get new curtains for a room (tips to choose the best window treatments here)

5 (Easy) Steps to New Window Treatments

man sitting in sunroom with blindsAs wonderful as the longer days of spring and summer can be, there is a downside (yes, a downside!) to longer, beautiful sunny days. That downside becomes apparent when you can’t sleep because of the sun or you miss a key play by your favorite team because of the sun streaming in. That’s when it’s time to use these steps to finish your room with the blinds or curtains that’ll finish your room—and fix your problem.

Identify the function of your new blinds.

What do you need the blinds for? Darkening a room so you can sleep? Making your media room suitable for a movie night (even when the sun sets later)? Keeping the sun out of your sunroom? For privacy? Use the answer to your question as you shop, or mention it to your salesperson as you browse through your options. Their experience can help you make your decision.

Look at the rest of the room.

Your new blinds are not a stand alone; they are part of your room. Accordingly, make sure you look around to determine what kind of statement you want to make with your new blinds. For a room with a neutral look, choose a blind color that blends with your existing décor. To make a bold statement, choose bold colored blinds or blinds with patterns that stand out or coordinate with your bold home décor. If you want to start from scratch, consult with a designer at your local flooring store to coordinate all the details into your desired cohesive look.

Choose from the options.

Blinds and curtains are not a one-size-fits all. There are many options for your room, including:

  • Sheers are very light curtains that allow a large amount of light in—perfect for windows that need to be dressed up or that you look out often.
  • Blackout curtains create just what the name says: a “blacked out” or darkened room. Blackout curtains are perfect for bedrooms, family rooms, man caves, and media rooms. Made with an inner liner, blackout curtains block the light out from the room—ideal for third-shifters, sleepers who don’t like the light, or family members who want to watch TV without the glare.
  • Drapes are a long curtain option, typically floor-to-ceiling and are designed for privacy and high impact. Drapes can make a ceiling look higher, or a window look bigger if you get a drape that spans the height of your wall (even if your window doesn’t!).
  • Insulated/fabric blinds are high function window treatments, giving you an extra level of privacy. Some insulated or fabric blinds can even add energy efficiency to your home. Some models of insulated or fabric blinds come up from the bottom, ideal for privacy while still allowing the light in.

In some situations, the right window treatments may be a combination of several of these options, such as in a child’s room, bedroom, or media room. In these cases, curtains and blinds can combine to keep the light out—and achieve the purpose you set out to achieve with the window treatments.

Measure.

Measuring your window is not always as simple as holding a ruler up to your window. If you want your room to look taller, choose a window treatment that hangs above the window to the floor. To make the process even easier, hire a professional to measure and install your blinds or curtains.

Enjoy.

The last step of choosing blinds or curtains is the best: enjoying your new curtains and blinds—and all the functionality and beauty they bring to your home.

5 Home Projects You Can Finish in a Day(ish)

cherry colored laminate floor in kitchenThe never-ending project.  No one wants their house ripped up indefinitely—for what seems like FOREVER.  The kitchen project that gets started and never finished.  The bathroom that you can’t use for months (or years?).  The room with no flooring that you have to wear shoes in.  If you’re looking for projects that won’t make your home look like a indefinite road construction zone, we’ve compiled a list that you can have completed in a day(ish)—as long as you do your research and ask for advice first so you’re ready to get started and finished (or you can just call the experts!).

Laminate flooring

Laminate flooring is a durable, great-looking floating floor, making it the perfect do-it-yourself home project.  Use this step-by-step tutorial and video for a smooth laminate floor install, and stock up on flooring (and advice!) that can make a real statement in your home.  For a larger space, buy your product in bulk for a volume discount. If you do all your floor prep and get all your tools together in advance, you can have new laminate floors in by dinner time (and an easy clean up if anything falls on the floor!).

Backsplash

kitchen back splashNothing can make a kitchen look as finished as a tile backsplash. Once you’ve chosen the right backsplash, gather all your supplies and get ready for a day’s work.  Make sure your work is level and even as you work, and enjoy the beautiful finishing touch when you’re done.

Vinyl luxury plank flooring

For the look of wood without fear of water damage, start researching installing vinyl luxury plank flooring. Like laminate, vinyl plank flooring is a floating floor (and can be purchased in bulk!). Research the installation and your options for underlayment for a wonderful finished product after a full day of work.

Laminate wall accent

home design trend laminate flooring on wall

Courtesy Armstrong Floors

Laminate flooring on the wall is one of the newest home trends. Homeowners have capitalized on this trend and created an accent wall in the their basement or bedroom, a contrasting wall feature, or a fireplace surround (if you do this, make sure your project is stunning and safe).  Use this video so you know what kind of home project you’re in for, and talk to the experts to get the right laminate floors for your project.

Tile floor

Tile floors look great and are fairly easy to install—if you know what you’re doing.  As an added bonus, tile floors can be installed over radiant flooring.  As a natural conductor, tiles make any room warm and cozy.  You’re going to need the right saw, tiles, and grout for the job—and the patience to wait all day for your new, fantastic looking tile floors.

5 Floors that Can Handle Water (& spring cleaning tips that keep them looking great!)

one muddy boot and spring mudApril showers bring May flowers—and puddles, mud, and all the other messiness that comes with spring.  If you’re in the market for a floor that can handle all the spring messes (plus spills, wet paws, muddy footprints, etc.) our rainy weather can dish out, we’ve compiled a list of floors that are easy-to-clean (especially for muddy foot and paw prints), durable, and look great—no matter what kind of water gets tracked in.

luxury vinyl_showroomLuxury Vinyl

Luxury vinyl is the perfect floor for a high traffic area that gets a lot of muddy footprints.  Many of these floors look like wood, but do not have the traditional wood floor problem of water damage from sitting water.  If you do get muddy footprints or water tracked in, just use a cloth or dry mop to clean up the mess.  Luxury vinyl planks floors can also be installed as a do-it-yourself project if you’re handy.

Tile

tile flooring in entryway with front table and lampPorcelain tile is water, odor, and mildew resistant; the perfect recipe for a flooring that can withstand water.  Tile floors are also a great buffer for your wood floors.  Install tile floors in your entryways and mudrooms so you can “catch” all the water and mud that gets tracked in before it hits your wood floors. As an added perk, radiant heating can be installed under floors which keeps them warm to the toes and dries out any water tracked in.

Laminate floors

installing luxury vinyl plank in a basmentLaminate floors are incredibly durable and easy-to-clean, which is why they are ideal for spaces where the mud and rain is tracked in.  There is one note of caution: while laminate floors can take the mud and wet footprints, be careful with standing water.  Standing water on laminate floors can warp the floors, so make sure you clean it up promptly.

Sheet Vinyl

Sheet vinyl can handle water, even a foot of water.  That’s right we’ve seen sheet vinyl floors that have survived a flood and still look great.  Because there no seams, homeowners with sheet vinyl floors don’t have to worry about water damage from moisture seeping in between the planks.  Today’s sheet vinyl floors also come in a variety of styles that look great.

 

Tips to keep your floors looking great during spring

Use rugs for décor and a catch-all for mud and water.

If you don’t want water and mud tracked in, use rugs to catch all the water, gravel, and debris that gets tracked in.  Place a wide rug or long runner by each door to give your guests (and pets) a place to clean off their feet before they come in.

Leave your shoes at the door.

Once you (and your guests) walk in, take off your shoes and ask your guests to remove their shoes as well.  If you do leave your shoes on when you come in, clean your shoes off as well as you can.  Train your pets to stop at the door so you can clean their paws off before they leave muddy footprints across the floor.

Regularly sweep or dry mop your floor.

To prevent scratches and keep your floor looking great, regularly sweep or dry mop your floor.  A regular sweep picks up small debris that can scratch your floor and keeps stains from setting in.

Ask before you clean.

When you have new floors installed, don’t assume that you can use the same cleaners on the new floor as you did on the old one.  Some cleaners can damage your new floor and void your warranty.  If you have any questions about cleaners, ask the experts at your local flooring store to make sure you use approved cleaners that remove the spring messes and remove the stains.

Deep clean (or schedule) a deep cleaning periodically.

A regular sweeping isn’t enough; give your floor a regular deep clean (or schedule an appointment to get your floors deep cleaned) to keep your floor looking like the mud of spring never was (or at least never was in your house).