Sunday, February 14, 2016

Home Improvement Inspiration, Tips and Solutions for Home and Business Owners


English: Riccarton House with scaffolding for ...
House repairs (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Are you looking to add a little pizzazz to your current abode? Of course, there are some projects you can handle yourself, like adding a new splash of colorful paint to the walls, or changing up your decor. If you really want to make a change, it might be time to look for a reputable home improvement contractor. First things first: you should only hire a company that is licensed, bonded, insured and certified to perform home renovations, additions, and remodeling. That way you won't have to worry about losing money or losing sleep. What else should you look for?

1) Do some research and see if they are accredited by organizations such as the Better Business Bureau and Angie's List.

2) Visit the company's website, and look for examples of their work. If you're looking for specific improvements such as masonry, kitchen and bath, siding, roofing, drywall, home repairs, and additions, make sure they have experience in those areas, and check out pertinent photos and references.

3) Verify that they offer free home inspections and estimates. It shouldn't cost you anything to talk to their experts and make decisions about what work you need done before you make a financial commitment.

4) Find out what kind of warranty and guarantees they offer. Are they running any specials or promotions?

5) Look up their building contractor's license using the state's website, and make sure their license is current and valid.

6) Follow your gut instinct, and only choose a reputable company. Ask to see any customer surveys or ratings they may have.

It can be fun and exciting to transform your home office, bedroom, living room, or driveway. Your home is your castle, so why not show it off? If you are not a licensed contractor, it is not wise for you to attempt plumbing, construction, electrical or cement work. It can be dangerous. It's better to hire a company that has the proper training, safety gear and equipment needed to get the job done right the first time. An upstanding home improvement organization should offer affordable financing plans, loan options, fast service, and quality materials for your renovation project. It's amazing what a few changes around your house can do to improve your quality of life. Getting started is easy, start doing research now and you will find the perfect construction firm to give your house the "wow" factor.

Call Allpoint Construction at 734-407-7110 for your free home inspection and estimate. Meet your friendly home remodeling contractor and the #1 company in your neighborhood. For home improvement in Downriver, Michigan you won't find any better. Check out our website at http://www.allpointconstructionmi.com/ to see why we're the best. Look at our sample projects and browse photos. Your dream home is waiting! Be sure to like our Facebook page and follow us on Twitter, too.

Article Source: http://EzineArticles.com/expert/Laura_A_Hipshire/2014115

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Does Apple Circumvent US Labor Standards by Outsourcing Production to China?

From our partners at Earth Talk:

Dear EarthTalk: Is it true that Apple gets around U.S. labor standards and laws by outsourcing production to China?     — Josie Walsh, New York, NY

Apple isn’t the only tech giant outsourcing much of its production to Chinese manufacturers nowadays, but the sheer popularity of the California-based company’s products makes it an especially easy target for activists concerned about worker health and safety. China Labor Watch and other groups have exposed inhumane conditions at huge Chinese factories of suppliers like Foxconn and Pegatron that support many U.S.-based tech firms. Workers at these facilities, many who are underage, are often required to work 18-hour shifts and are routinely exposed to toxic chemicals—but still can barely make ends meet. The problem came to a head in 2010 when journalists got word that 14 workers had committed suicide at Foxconn’s massive iPhone-assembly manufacturing facility in China.

China factories supplying US retailers. Image: D. DeMers
Another issue dogging Apple’s Chinese partners is worker exposure to toxic chemicals and a higher than average incidence of leukemia among employees. Apple agreed to discontinue using two of the worst offenders, benzene and n-hexane, after the non-profit groups China Labor Watch and Green America collected upwards of 40,000 signatures from consumers demanding action from the company. But China still allows its manufacturing sector to use several other carcinogenic chemicals long outlawed in the U.S. and Europe. Repeated exposure to these substances is another threat Chinese workers have to contend with when working on the assembly line making smartphones and other tech gadgets. 

Guangdong province factory, China. Image D. DeMers
Despite knowledge of the dangerous conditions, Apple’s Chinese suppliers rarely struggle to find workers, many of whom are willing to take the relatively high paying jobs despite the risks—especially if they are supporting loved ones at home who depend upon the extra money to survive.

China’s huge population creates an infinite supply of workers, such that even a large-scale walkout would be pointless. The assembly line system gives each person a repetitive, simple job that can be taught in an hour.

For its part, Apple continues to claim they are investigating the situation and doing everything they can to ensure satisfactory working conditions. In 2010, the company revamped its supplier responsibility standards and threatened it would terminate relations with Chinese manufacturers that refuse to toe the line, and also called for new audits on all of its “final assembly” facilities in China. Two years later, Apple became the first technology company admitted to the Fair Labor Association, a non-profit that conducts independent monitoring and verification to ensure acceptable workplace standards. While this affiliation doesn’t mean Foxconn, Pegatron and other Chinese high tech suppliers are beholden to standards as stringent as U.S. labor laws, activists consider it a step in the right direction and continue to keep an eye on the situation.

Of course, whether or not Apple steps up on the issue may depend more on if consumers are willing to forego the company’s products due to worker exploitation issues. And that’s not likely to happen anytime soon, as Americans and others continue to buy iPhones, iPads and Macs as fast as Apple and its Chinese partners can produce them.

CONTACTS: Apple Supplier Responsibility, www.apple.com/supplier-responsibility; Foxconn, www.foxconn.com; Pegatron, www.pegatroncorp.com; China Labor Watch, www.chinalaborwatch.org; Green America, www.greenamerica.org; Fair Labor Association, www.fairlabor.org.

EarthTalk® is produced by Doug Moss & Roddy Scheer and is a registered trademark of Earth Action Network Inc. View past columns at: www.earthtalk.org. Or e-mail us your question: editor@earthtalk.org
earthtalk@emagazine.com. 


Friday, May 23, 2014

From the Ground Up: Smart Building Product Choices for Homeowners

 

SidePartiallyPainted
House renovation (Photo credit: grongar)
Whether you're building a new house or remodeling a cherished older property, the product choices you make are critical to the long-term enjoyment of your home.

"I advise consumers to 'start from the ground up' when thinking about the product needs for their home projects," says Mark Clement, professional contractor and co-host of MyFixitUpLife home improvement radio show. "Invest time to research products so you're comfortable with the final outcome."

Clement says the basement is a great starting point. "The foundation selection can determine if you'll be able to use the basement for simple storage space or as an active living area," says Clement. "By starting with energy-efficient precast concrete panels from Superior Walls, you can get a basement that is dry and comfortable for year-round use that also adds resale value to the home."

Moving up the house exterior, the largest "holes" in the home need special attention. Of course, we're talking about windows.

"When you think that a pane of glass is all that really separates you from the weather outside, it becomes very important as to what that glass and its frame are made of," says Clement. "For my money -- and for my home -- we selected Simonton windows with fusion-welded vinyl frames and argon gas fill to maximize energy efficiency."

Other "holes" that need filling are the main entry door and secondary doors leading to your patio, deck or garage. Clement recommends fiberglass doors for the main entry due to their resilience to dents, dings and rot.

"I've seen many fiberglass doors in the Therma-Tru product line that either have a smooth finish for painting or have a realistic woodgrain that can be stained in oak, mahogany, walnut or cedar," says Clement. You can also "dress them up" with low-maintenance urethane and PVC trim pieces. "Decorative Fypon products I've worked with are easy to install, resist rot and insects along with adding curb appeal to the home," he says.

Finally, Clement reminds homeowners not to overlook the roof. The right roof selection can last for 50 years, while a bad choice could be "gone with the wind" if severe weather strikes.

"We invested in a DaVinci Roofscapes polymer slate roof for our home and have never regretted the choice," says Clement. "This composite roof resists impact, fire and high winds."

For additional ideas for your home, visit www.myfixituplife.com and download the free "FRESH Color Schemes for Your Home Exterior" e-book at www.sensationalcolor.com. Above article via (NewsUSA).

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Monday, March 31, 2014

The Benefits of Rain Barrels

Rain barrel on Philadelphia street.
It's been a long and tiring winter. Now that spring is here, things are beginning to look green again. Children are playing outside, buds are popping up on trees and spring showers will soon be sprouting gardens. With that in mind, it's a great time to be thinking about rain barrels - their importance in helping manage stormwater and how they can help you save on your water bill.

First, a bit on stormwater.

As communities expand with development, they become increasingly built up with impermeable surfaces such as big parking lots at big box stores. The result is that rain has few places to go; it hits the hard surfaces and just runs right off into our streams.

In urban areas, stormwater management has become a critical issue because of the adverse impact from combined sewer overflows on a watershed and a city's clean drinking water. A rain barrel helps limit this because it holds that first bit of rain coming off the roof or your driveway and prevents it from running into sewers and streams and causing overflow pollution and erosion from high flows of water.


Illustration of a combined sewer system
Illustration of a combined sewer system (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
In addition to helping the environment and helping reduce your community's need to build costly new grey infrastructure, rain barrels enable you to harvest rainwater for use with watering plants, lawns, mopping floors, washing clothes or washing cars. You don't want to use rainwater from runoff to drink or to water edibles in the garden - it may contain unknown contaminants. But there are a plethora of other uses.

The other side of this is that as you conserve water, you'll also benefit from saving on your water bill. And in Philadelphia, the water department has gone as far as to provide free rain barrels and workshops to city-dwellers.



See the short video below from the EPA to learn more about the great dollar and environmental benefits of rain barrels - a simple and effective investment to conserve water, save money, and help the environment.



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Thursday, March 27, 2014

Which Upgrades Are Worth It to Help You Sell Your House?

(NewsUSA) - Is it finally time to sell your house?

That's the question on homeowners' minds as house prices just posted their largest annual gain since 2005 -- congrats to those no longer "underwater" on their mortgages -- even as interest rates remain tantalizingly low. But here's the catch: Those same higher prices can make buyers as choosy as a Michelin restaurant reviewer.

"A house with a $1,600 mortgage payment last year now has a $2,000 mortgage payment," one broker told the Wall Street Journal. "Buyers are saying, 'I better like it.'"

To increase your home's "like" quotient, read on to see which upgrades are worth making and which aren't.

Worth It: A new front door. Strictly in terms of return on investment, a steel one topped the list of Remodeling magazine's annual Cost vs. Value Report for 2014 -- recouping 96.6 percent of the average price. But a fresh coat of paint can work wonders, too.

Not Worth It: A home-office remodel. We know what you're thinking: With so many more people working from home, wouldn't it be brilliant to rewire the space for electronic equipment, say, and install commercial-grade carpeting? Not really. The magazine gave it the lowest return on investment (48.9 percent), and the guy who oversaw the study says, "Home offices don't sell houses."

Worth It: A back-up power generator. It's the biggest gainer in the study, jumping 28 percent over last year, and plays especially well in areas brutalized by storms.

Not Worth It: Major bathroom work. "You could install the most spectacular jetted tub, and it still might not suit a buyer," says Patsy O'Neill, a sales associate with Sotheby's in Montclair, NJ. "Meanwhile, you'd have spent tens of thousands of dollars." That explains why it made Bankrate.com's list of "6 Worst Home Fixes for the Money" and why you should stick to things like re-grouting the shower.

Worth It: Roofing replacement. There's a reason this ultimate "curb appeal" enhancer consistently makes Remodeling's list and is up 11.2 percent over even last year: A roof is the first thing prospective buyers notice even before exiting their cars, and you can kiss that sale good-bye if yours looks like it's been through hell.

"It's a huge turn-off," says O'Neill, "and makes buyers predisposed to find even more things they don't like." For the look of luxury at very affordable prices, check out the Value Collection Lifetime Designer Shingles from GAF (www.gaf.com), North America's largest roofing manufacturer.

Not Worth It: Major kitchen renovations. Again, the key word is "major," and again it's a "taste" issue.

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Monday, October 21, 2013

Thinking Creatively About Lighting

 By David Robert Bowen.
 
Overarching Floor Lamp - White
Overarching Floor Lamp - White (Photo: West Elm)
One of the easiest ways to transform the look of your home's interior is by getting the lighting right. After all, we've all seen the impact of a dark and dingy room; the effect is to lower energy, motivation and general enthusiasm, as well as to make it harder to carry out functional tasks and day to day life. Yet many of us do still have outdated and inadequate lighting in our homes that we've simply grown used to and 'stopped seeing'.

Hallways are a classic example; many people are still using old fashioned incandescent bulbs or first generation energy efficient lightbulbs that are largely unwieldy and vastly inferior to the latest generation models. These will often be accompanied with an old-fashioned lampshade that does nothing for the space, yet the porch or hallway is the first thing that you and your family, as well as visitors, see when they come into the home. It should be attractive, welcoming, warm and forgiving - not harshly lit and poorly considered!

There are various good options for porches and hallways. Pendants can be very attractive, especially if you invest in something attractive such as small mirrored lamp, a Tiffany style colored lamp, an art inspired patterned lamp or something with an eye-catching element that provides plenty of illumination. Make sure that the shade doesn't hang down too low and bop people on the head as they walk in! The light should be bright enough to carry out all the regular functions of a hallway - finding keys, doing up shoes and getting ready to leave the house. Save atmospherics and dimmers for the living areas.

In the living room

Use the lighting triangle to create a warm glow, functional areas and great ambient lighting. This means using a combination of soft overhead lighting, ideally with a dimmer, task based lights such as floor lamps and desk lamps for reading and some atmospheric lights such as wall sconces, or spotters to highlight a certain feature.

Decorative lights such as those pooled into glass bowls or hung around a mantelpiece can also look very pretty. Allow the light to be balanced and add something to the decor of your living arrangement. It should allow your family to do all the things they want to in the living room, whilst allowing for different activities to happen in different zones. For example, a dimmed area could be available to watch the television, whilst a floor lamp could provide brighter illumination for someone to read.

Lighting can also quite effectively zone up a room into different sections, without needing to add furniture.

In the kitchen

You'll want a mix of bright lighting for tasks and background lighting. If you have a kitchen diner, you might also want a dimmable pendant or series of hanging lights over a dinner table. Old fashioned glass bulbs with lit filaments are very popular right now, but they aren't particularly energy efficient! If you want these, only use them occasionally and have other lighting, such as LEDs or halogen recessed lights, to provide good illumination for activities.

Under cabinet lighting and floor tracker lights can also be very useful and attractive in kitchens and provide flexible home lighting for a variety of purposes.

Browsing through a good home lighting store online can help you decide on what type of lighting would be suitable for your home. Click here to visit All Lit Up, the UK lighting specialists.


Article Source: ezinearticles.com.

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Thursday, September 26, 2013

Hidden River

A new green space along Philly's Schuylkill River brings calm to the stress of city life.  


On a bike commute across Philadelphia the other day I came across a wonderful new park along the Schuylkill River, which is said to be part of an extensive placemaking project named Schuylkill Banks. The river was named the Schuylkill by Dutch explorer Arendt Crossen, the name translates to Hidden River in Crossen’s native language. Although it remains unclear why he chose this name, it has clearly remained a hidden river for many Philadelphians, including me.

The new park, located in the Greys Ferry area, is part of a city initiative to make green spaces along Philly's waterways, which the website visitphilly.com describes as "part of the Schuylkill River Trail, a 23-mile link from Philadelphia to Valley Forge National Historical Park, and part of the nationally designated Schuylkill River National Heritage Area. Plans call for a continuous trail following the river, which starts in the headwaters of Schuylkill County and winds 130 miles down to its confluence with the Delaware River, at the southern tip of the city of Philadelphia."

In any case, what I came across was apparently the new southern leg of this effort, which is not well charted yet on city websites. A view from Google Maps that has not yet been updated from earlier in the year shows an older original outline of the park's path labelled as the Dupont Crescent Trail. It begins just over the east side of the 34th Street Bridge and hugs the river for about a mile until it lets out back onto the city grid near Wharton Street and Schuylkill Avenue.

The ride by bike is alluring: there are places to view sites along the river, a cool little skateboard park, elegantly restrained contemporary landscaping features and the inclusion of plaques along the way to highlight the historical significance of the area. At the end of the trail is a beautiful river landing with picnic tables and benches. The park is a perfect antidote to the congested, industrial part of the city that surrounds it - a commendation is well deserved for the planners of this great project.--D.A. DeMers


New trail paved over the original Dupont Crescent trail.

Serenity along the banks of the Schuylkill River.
Great reading spot with benches.

New skateboard park.

Landing area with green infrastructure landscaping.






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