South Orange County Blog from Bob Phillips

The Green Thumb: Four Easy Ways To Get More From Your Home Garden

The Green Thumb: Four Easy Ways to Get More From Your Home GardenGrowing a home garden creates beauty, oxygen and even food for our families to enjoy. If you’re looking to get more from your home garden, here are four easy ways to improve a green thumb.

A Good Foundation For Your Garden

Good soil is the foundation of a healthy garden. By using quality soil, you can give your garden plants the best start possible. Adding a variety of organic matter to soil will give plants a happy home to grow in.

Add two to three inches of organic matter to your garden bed at the beginning of each season. Compost, dried leaves, grass clipping and dry manure are all good organic materials to use in your garden.

Manures provides nitrogen, which is a great contributor to soil aeration and composting efforts. Being so far along in the decomposing process, the nutrients in manure are readily available for plants.

Fresh manure, however, is more likely to leach out of the soil into groundwater and streams (where the nutrients it provides can become pollutants).

Design Fundamentals To Achieve Harmony And Flow

Although landscaping your home garden is a matter of personal taste and preference, there are some fundamental principles for creating a good garden.

Balance and proportion establish the basic structure of a garden. Order is obtained through symmetry, repetition of plants, and colors or thoughtful contrast. This will create a garden space that is both balanced and proportioned.

Harmony and unity is achieved when different aspects of your garden work together as a whole. Strong focal points and a limited color palette can help with the overall look of your garden.

Prevent the eye from making sudden stops with good flow and transition in your garden. Gradual changes in height and color create the illusion of a larger space, and will make for a full and finished look in your garden.

Variety Is Important And Maintenance A Must

Have a good combination in your garden of annuals, perennials, shrubs, trees and food producing plants. Plants that require little maintenance and come back each year will take some of the pressure off when it comes to seasonal changes and garden preparation.

With more time to focus on bedding plants and vegetable gardens, you’ll yield a bigger reward for your gardening efforts. Water features and other structural focal points work in much the same way; they provide your outdoor space with added beauty and appeal that is easy to maintain throughout the year.

Don’t Be Bothered By Pests And Bugs

Although people have differing opinions on pests, at home a greener garden is always a healthier garden. Harsh pest control products can hurt wildlife and pollute groundwater.

You may be solving one problem, but using chemical pesticides contributes to another. There are many ways keep pests under control without chemical products.

With so many easy to make homemade pesticides to discover, gardeners can ditch the chemical alternative without sacrificing quality. There are also plants such as marigolds that can be incorporated into your garden that deter pests.

A garden is a labor of love that creates a welcoming outdoor space that your family can enjoy.

Need A Home With Room For A Garden?

Shoot me an email – BobPhillipsRE@gmail.com – or give me a call or a text – 949-887-5305 – and let’s go looking for one.

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Give Your Home An Instant Facelift – Wallpaper Is Back!

Posted in Around The Home, Around The House, Home How To, Home improvement, Homeowner Tips, Real Estate Tips by southorangecounty on April 4, 2014

Give Your Home an Instant Facelift: Wallpaper Is Back in a Big Way, Baby!Though it can be an entirely different story for a trend shift in the opposite direction, which then requires you to get out the soaking bucket and scraping tool, wallpaper coming back into style is a home décor blessing for many.

Wallpaper is back in – in a big way! – and it’s making your dreams of accomplishing a fashionable living space come true much faster and easier than you could have imagined.

Quite frankly, wallpaper can do the “fashionable home” trick to virtually any room in your house, adding that touch of warmth and personality you’ve so far only seen in show homes. It’s time to get with the trends, and give your home a quick and easy facelift!

A World Of Design With Wallpaper

Let’s face it: wallpaper can achieve a world of options that paint simply never could! Now that wallpaper has come back in to style, we are seeing plenty of homes being “glammed” and “dolled” up accordingly.

With many patterns and styles available, suddenly your home’s imperfections can easily be hidden. You can give the small room in your home a facelift with a wallpaper pattern with vertical stripes, instantly making the room feel larger.

Or you can suddenly have the accent wall you’ve always dreamed of but have been to afraid to commit to, creating a focal point behind the bed in your master bedroom, or behind the sofa in the living room. Or if you’re an artsy person, you can add more art to your walls without lifting a nail – instead just install some patterned, decorative wallpaper.

Modern Innovations: Digitally Printed Wallpaper

Wallpaper is certainly back in style, but not without new and creative innovations since its last time around. Now, homeowners can get ultra creative and get personalized wallpapers for their homes with the technical innovation that allows for digitally printed wallpaper designs.

Do you have a specific wall or room in your house that you want to transform for a particular theme? Do you have a photograph that you’d like to use as the inspiration for a one-wall mural in your living room? Well, with customized digital printed wallpaper, you’re in luck.

Vinyl Wallpaper: Easy Installation And Removal

Now that wallpaper is back in style, more innovations have been made in terms of how it is installed and removed. Luckily, for us wallpaper fans, we will no longer have to struggle when we choose to put it up or when we decide to take it down! Now there are many vinyl wallpapers that are self-adhesive and very simple to install.

They are also available in a range of textures and finishes, and make use of eco-solvent inks. Easy to install, easy to remove, and cleanable with simply a damp cloth, a vinyl wallpaper print might be just the key to your home’s quick and easy facelift.

Whether you opt for the vinyl or digitally printed innovation of wallpaper or choose to stick with the good old paper version, you’ll have your home beautified in no time. There’s no need to worry about changing trends either; regardless of what you choose, advancements in the modern return of wallpaper mean that less rigorous activity will be required should the wallpaper trend go back “out.”

So take advantage of this practical design trend, and give your home the facelift it deserves!

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What To Consider When Buying A Fixer-Upper

Posted in Home Buyer Tips, Home How To, Home improvement, Homebuyer Tips, Real Estate Tips by southorangecounty on February 14, 2014

What_To_Consider_When_Buying_A_Fixer-UpperIn your imagination it seems like a great idea – you purchase an older run-down property and you have the chance to fix it     up and turn it into the home of your dreams.

To Renovate, Or Not To Renovate

However, the renovation project that is simply a quick montage in your imagination will actually take several months or    years and thousands of dollars in real life.

The concept of renovating a “fixer-upper” property is exciting, but the reality is a lot of work and investment. How can          you make sure that you are making the right choice for you?

One of the main advantages of buying a fixer-upper property is that you will usually be able to get the property for a much cheaper price. But is it worth it for the amount of time and money you will need to invest in the property?

Here Are Some Questions You Should Be Asking Yourself When Making Your Decision:

  • Do you (or your friends and family members) have the skills to be able to perform most of the renovations yourself? If you do the labor yourself, you will be able to save thousands of dollars that you would have spent hiring contractors, which will make the renovation a much more profitable project.
  • Are you comfortable with the idea of living in a construction zone, perhaps for several months or more? There will be dust and noise everywhere and you might have to cope without a kitchen or a shower for a while.
  • Make sure that you have a thorough inspection of the home performed so that you can see whether the home has a sturdy foundation, good wiring and plumbing, etc. If your inspection reveals any structural issues or water damage, you might be in for more than you bargained for. You need to start with a house that has “good bones”.
  • If the home has serious structural, plumbing or wiring problems you should stay away – these repairs are very expensive but “invisible”, so you are unlikely to recoup your costs when you sell the home.
  • Add up the estimated costs for renovating the property along with the cost of the home – does it still work out to be a better deal or would you be better off buying a turnkey property – one that doesn’t require repairs.
  • What is your strategy for financing the renovations? If your only option is putting it on the credit card, you might want to think twice because this is a very high interest option. ( There are special loans, FHA and otherwise, that can help with such a project.)

Buying a fixer-upper property can be a great investment and can give you the opportunity to transform a run-down old house into the property of your dreams. Make sure, however, you that you consider the choice carefully before making your decision.

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4 Tips On Giving Your Mudroom A Makeover

Posted in Around The Home, Around The House, Home How To, Home improvement, Home Maintenance, Real Estate Tips by southorangecounty on October 11, 2013

4 Tips On Giving Your Mudroom A MakeoverFrom crunched-up leaves stuck to bottoms of shoes to bulky coats shed as soon as kids walk through the door, mudrooms are ideal for keeping outdoor dirt, wet clothing and outerwear from being strewn throughout your home.

Mudrooms not only keep the rest of your house clean, but they also designate a spot for those last-minute grabs, such as coats, umbrellas and purses, when you’re running out the door.

These rooms are great catchalls. However, an organized mudroom can make your life and those hectic mornings much less stressful. Below are smart tips for getting your mudroom ready this fall.

1. Put In Seating

After shedding outer layers, the next thing anyone wants to do after coming inside on a cold, wet day is to take off their mucky shoes. So make sure there is a built-in bench or convenient chair for people to sit down and tend to their tootsies. Whether taking off or putting on shoes, it makes life a little more comfortable.

2. Install A Sink

A mudroom is supposed to be the catchall for everything dirty from the outdoors. With this in mind, a sink for washing off the grime and mud makes sense. Then you can clean your clothing in the contained space without having to haul them to the kitchen sink or laundry room.

3. Create Cubbies

Even though this space is designated as a drop-off point before entering the main living space, you don’t want everything just thrown into one big confusing pile. Create individual cubbies for every person in your household. Each cubby should contain a shelf for purses and backpacks, hooks for coats and a low place for shoes.

4. Splurge On A Boot Warmer

While electric boot warmers can be a little expensive, you will definitely think it’s worth the money when it’s really cold outside and your shoes are damp. Electric boot warmers heat your shoes on pegs and dry them out at the same time. They also work well on gloves.

Fall is a mudroom’s busy season; so get it in shape with the tips above. With all the coats hanging on their hooks, shoes in their cubbies and dirt contained to this designated space, your life will be a little more organized and much less stressful!

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Do Fence Me In, Here Are A Few Good Yard Fencing Options

Posted in Around The Home, Around The House, Home How To, Home improvement, Home Security, Real Estate Tips by southorangecounty on October 4, 2013

Do Fence Me In… Your Yard Fencing OptionsWhether you just got a puppy, have newly mobile children or built a pool, there are a multitude of reasons for wanting to keep people and animals in your yard, while preventing other from entering.

Picking the perfect fence can be difficult, so below we’ve outlined the main fencing materials to choose from and characteristics to consider about each.

Wood

Wood seems to be the most common material used in yards across the country — especially when wanting privacy. Depending on the type of wood you purchase, you’ll probably want to stain the planks to protect them from rot and ultra-violet light. Be prepared to retreat and maintain your wooden fence about every four years.

Chain Link

This economical option does its job well as a security fence. It’ll keep pets in and people out. And with the new black or green plastic coating chain link comes in, it almost blends into any background.

Chain link fences shouldn’t require any maintenance for at least 10 years, and they usually come with warranties for at least that long.

Wrought Iron

If you’re in the market for an ornate fence that you can see through and provides high security, then wrought iron should be your pick. These fences are actually made from steel and aluminum and need virtually no upkeep. Don’t expect to see any issues for at least 20 years.

Vinyl

You like the look of wood, but you hate the upkeep. Well, if you’re willing to spend the extra dough, usually four to five times the cost of wood, then you can have a man-made product that looks like the real thing.

Faux-wood fencing is usually seen in white, but can come in a variety of colors and even look almost identical to actual wooden planks. The best part is — no maintenance required!

Whatever your reason for building a fence, such as privacy, security, safety or to add curb appeal, you’ll have hundreds of options to choose amongst. Be sure you carefully consider each of the main fencing materials above, along with their look and maintenance requirements before you make the investment.

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5 Cool Ideas For Green Home Remodeling

Posted in Around The Home, Around The House, Home How To, Home improvement, Home Maintenance, Real Estate Tips by southorangecounty on September 27, 2013

5 Cool Ideas For Green Home RemodelingEvery home seems to have a never-ending remodeling list. As you consider tackling your next project, it usually pays off if you also think about helping the environment.

Green remodeling can last longer, utilize recycled materials and typically end up saving you money in the long run. Below are several environment-friendly ideas that will have your neighbors green with envy.

1. Rain Gardens

Rain gardens are a shallow depressions in your yard planted with native shrubs and flowers. When there is a large rainfall, all the water rushes along roadways picking up dirt and pollutants along their way to drainage systems and eventually rivers and streams.

Rain gardens catch water run-off, which reduces the street flooding and makes for cleaner water sources.

2. Reclaimed Hardwoods

Using reclaimed wood is all of the rage right now – and it’s easy to see why. Reclaimed wood helps the environment by being recycled and repurposed from other structures. Turning an old barn into your new hardwood floors not only saves trees and looks great, but is an interesting conversation point.

3. Paper Covers Rock

Most kitchen remodels usually include the discussion of to go with granite or quartz countertops. However compressed paper or glass surfaces are actually better for the environment. Instead of harvesting natural resources, you’ll be recycling resources that have already been used.

4. One Shower Head

It’s tempting to use multiple showerheads and powerfully flushing toilets. However, reducing your water usage saves you money. Install low-flow water fixtures and limit yourself to just one fantastic showerhead in each bathroom. You’ll help the earth and your pocketbook by saving water.

5. Passive Solar Design

Solar panels are a great way to trap the sun’s energy and reduce your utility bills. However, if you’re not ready to directly tap into the grid, then there are ways you can remodel your home using passive solar design. Concrete floors and thick concrete, brick or plaster walls soak up the suns rays during the day and release them at night when the temperature drops.

Going green doesn’t have to hamper your lifestyle or your home’s design. With the five green remodeling ideas above, you’ll add value to your home, help the environment and put money back in your bank account.

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Don’t Overlook These Important Factors When Buying Your Next Home

Posted in Around The Home, Home Buyer Tips, Home buying, Real Estate Tips by southorangecounty on September 17, 2013

Don't Overlook These Important Factors When Buying A New HomeMost of the time when buying a property, there are a few obvious factors that you will consider – such as the location, the number of bedrooms, the accessibility to schools or your workplace, the need for repairs and any interior features. However, there are a few things that might not have crossed your mind during your house hunting but are still quite important.

Water Quality

Most home buyers don’t even think about the water quality at the property until they get to the inspection stage. However, if you find out that the home has hard water this will dull your clothes when you wash them and irritate your skin.

Hard water will also create calcium deposits within your showers and faucets and even inside your washing machine and dishwasher. Have the water tested so you know its quality and can look into options for a water purification system.

Cell Phone Reception

When looking at a house, don’t forget to pull out your cell phone and check to make sure that you get good reception. There are a number of “dead zones” throughout the country and you don’t want to buy a house where you can’t make a phone call on your cell.

If you have found your dream house but it has poor phone coverage, there is the option to buy a wireless cell phone signal booster.

Lead, Asbestos And Other Health Risks

When buying homes that are older, make sure that you have the home thoroughly inspected for any health risks such as lead paint or asbestos insulation.

These materials were commonly used several decades ago, before anyone realized how toxic they really are. If you find any toxic substances you can have them removed safely or look for a healthier home.

Slope Of The Land

Take a walk around the property and look at the land around the house. Is it flat, or does the earth dip or slope in one corner of the property? Keep in mind that when it rains, water will flow to the lowest point on the property.

If the house is at the bottom of a slope you might have issues with dampness collecting around the foundations. This can be corrected only with serious landscaping, so it’s much easier to buy a house on higher ground.

These are just a few factors to consider that you might not have thought of when buying a house.

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How To Create The Perfect Garage Workshop

Posted in Around The Home, Around The House, Home How To, Home improvement, Home Maintenance by southorangecounty on September 6, 2013

Creating The Perfect Garage WorkshopMost men, and even handy women, dream of a perfectly organized work space where their tools are orderly and they can tackle that list of home DIY projects.

However, renovations can get put on hold because there’s not a designated place to work. Tools are usually scattered throughout closets and the kitchen table serves as a workbench.

You can create a space for all of your improvement projects by turning a section of your garage into a construction-friendly, wonderfully organized haven for your tools and home makeover endeavors.

Below are easy steps to building the perfect garage workshop.

Make Sure You Have Adequate Space

Ideally, you’d still like to be able to get your cars in their designated space, so look for a vacant area at the back of the garage or along one side. If you’re garage isn’t quite large enough, then you might want to consider adding on to it or building an outdoor shed.

Create A Work Surface

For your work surface, you could repurpose old kitchen cabinets with a counter or build yourself a rough table using lumber from your local hardware store. Whatever you choose, make sure it’s sturdy. Cabinets will provide storage for all of the nuts, bolts, paint and little tools you’ll accumulate.

Clear A Wall

Whether this is above your workstation or alongside it, you’ll want an open area to hang up and organize your tools, so that they don’t clutter your surface. Put up a pegboard and create custom spaces with hooks.

There’s a certain satisfaction that comes will seeing all your tools hanging with in reach — and a desire to fill it up.

Install Decent Lighting

You need to see what you’re doing when working with power tools. High-intensity lights, such as halogens or LEDs are perfect for brightening up your space. Utilizing them in track lighting or on bendable gooseneck fixtures can help you adjust the light to exactly where you need it.

Don’t let the thought of a home improvement project send you scurrying all over the house for tools. Take one weekend to follow these four steps and create a designated space for your garage workshop.

Everything will be in one place and it won’t matter how long a project takes or how much of a mess you make!

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Preventing And Clearing Clogs In Your Home

Posted in Around The Home, Home How To, Home Maintenance, Real Estate Tips by southorangecounty on August 23, 2013

Preventing And Clearing Clogs In Your HomeYou’re brushing your teeth and you turn on the faucet. It’s not draining and starts to back up. Here’s the dilemma; do you spit and let it sit or run to the kitchen? One thing is for sure; having a clogged drain can be a major annoyance.

Clogs not only frustrate a homeowner but they can be hard on your plumbing. The added pressure they create puts stress on your pipes and can shorten their lifespan.

So end the issue by following the guidelines below. You’ll learn how to prevent clogging and clear the ones you already have.

No Food Down The Drain

Even if you have a disposal, it’s not good for your pipes to have sticky, mushy food shoved through them. Peel vegetables and scrape plates into the trashcan.

Also, avoid pouring grease down the drain. Animal fat can congeal into a solid and form a blockage. Instead, store it in a sealable container in the freezer. Once it’s full, trash it!

Only TP In The Toilets

All feminine hygiene products should be thrown away, because most don’t dissolve quickly enough and can cause a backup. And be sure to secure toilet lids from curious children, because you have to admit that it is pretty fun to watch almost anything go “bye-bye.”

Hair Today, Problem Tomorrow

Don’t wash loose hair down the drain. Collect it and throw it away after your shower. If you shed a lot, it might be beneficial to install drain screens to catch loose hair and make it easy to dispose. Be sure to clean these out every few weeks.

Chemicals Should Be Used With Caution

Be wary about using chemical drain cleaners. They can erode cast-iron pipes and usually don’t remove an entire clog, so it can easily recur. You should consider hiring a professional plumber to snake your drains; or better yet, buy your own augur at the hardware store for about $15.

Homeowners can be hard on their drains. From hair to food, clogs are a time-consuming frustration that might cost you big. Treat your plumbing with a little love and it’ll reward you by quickly removing water and waste from your sight!

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Quick Tips To Beat The Heat And Save On Your Electric Bill

Beat The Heat With A Programmable ThermostatSummer always brings with it a hard choice: Do you turn down the thermostat to stay cool and resign yourself to high power bills? Or, do you sweat it out to save some dough?

If you’ve been struggling with this dilemma, don’t fret.

With a programmable thermostat, you can beat the heat and save money, too. They are easy to install and can save you over $100 a year.

The key is that they have different temperature settings for certain times of the day. The latest models can be self-installed, are easy to program and can be controlled over the Internet.

Save Energy

This is obviously the biggest perk. Not only are you helping the environment, you’re also helping your monthly budget.

You can preset the thermostat to adjust the temperature when you’re away from the house, so you’re using less energy. Then it can kick back on just before you arrive home.

Save Money

You’ll immediately see a difference in your utility bills when you set your programmable thermostat to turn off for eight-hour periods while you’re at work. Every little bit counts!

Save Yourself The Frustration

If you’re going to be home early from work or are arriving back from a week long vacation, don’t worry about coming home to a sweltering sauna of a house.

Most modern thermostats allow you to access their controls online through a computer, or even your smart phone. With the touch of a button, you’ll arrive to a perfectly comfortable home.

Save Even More

Below are a few tips to keep bills down and your thermostat running efficiently.

  • Make sure you place the thermostat away from air vents, open doorways and windows with direct sunlight.
  • Try to set temperatures for longer increments, such as when you’re at work or while you’re asleep.
  • Every time you hit the buttons you’re using more energy.
  • If your thermostat runs on batteries, change them once a year.

Don’t waste any more energy! Make the investment in a programmable thermostat and start saving this summer. The convenience and lower utility bills will make you glad you did.

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