The Essential Guide to Winter Home Improvement - Bob Vila

The Essential Guide to Winter Home Improvement

Give your home the gift of comfort, performance, and beauty this winter by calling in the experts at Sears Home Services for all your seasonal repair and replacement needs.

Photo: istockphoto.com

When the cold weather kicks in, many homeowners find themselves snowed under by a host of holiday to-dos. Whether you’re preparing to feed and entertain guests, or simply buttoning up the house for a cozy winter, you’ll want to make sure your home is up to the challenge. Get your home ready to greet this busy—and chilly—time of year by inspecting your heating system for signs of weakness and prepping your kitchen for the heavy use (and abuse) of the holiday season. Now is the time to repair faulty HVAC units, or replace them with high-performing models that keep your home warm and comfortable. Then, head to the kitchen to take stock of your cabinetry and work surfaces. Are your countertops looking the worse for wear? Will your cabinets hold up to the storm of guests coming through your kitchen this season? If you find that your HQ could use a little TLC, turn to these insights from the experts at Sears Home Services. With their help, you should be able to zip your way through any holiday home improvements, so you can get back to family, food, and fun.

HVAC

Neglecting a faulty or inefficient HVAC unit can send it into overdrive, or worse, leave you without heat on the coldest day of the year. Inspect your heating unit now for the sights, sounds, and smells of trouble, and repair or replace underperforming units to make sure your family stays warm all season.

Furnace upkeep: Although “a surprising number of homeowners rarely even go near the furnace,” says David Kenyon, a product manager with Sears Home Services, that’s exactly what it takes to identify early signs of exterior damage or underlying performance issues. Now is the right time to get a closer look. First, check for cracks or corrosion on the unit, then listen for sounds of squealing, screeching, or frequent cycling on and off. While you’re at it, “pay attention to how the furnace room smells,” as a musty aroma that lasts more than a few days can indicate trouble. If you see, hear, or smell anything out of the ordinary, call in a professional to repair or replace the unit. Even if you don’t detect any obvious trouble, keep in mind that an older furnace may operate inefficiently. “The typical unit lasts about 15 or 20 years,” says Kenyon, with older units being less energy- and cost-efficient. While “repair may be able to deliver an efficiency boost,” Kenyon advises that the higher operating costs involved with an older unit could be reason enough to install a newer, more-efficient model. New furnaces deliver better performance and energy efficiency, so you’ll be able to maintain warm indoor temperatures while consuming less energy.

Radiant heating: Do you feel a noticeable difference in temperature as you walk from room to room? Uneven heating, “the hallmark of single-speed blower furnaces,” according to Kenyon, can be remedied by replacing outdated heating technology. As far as replacement HVAC systems go, a radiant heating system is an interesting choice, one that can heat your home more uniformly, reducing those frequent trips to adjust the thermostat. Unlike forced-air systems that blow warm air into a room only to have that heat rise above your head, radiant floor heating emanates heat from the ground up, warming you from toe to top. There’s much to be said for the comfort and energy efficiency that today’s advanced electric or radiant floor systems offer. Let the experts at Sears Home Services walk you through the basics of installing radiant heating, or other HVAC options, by scheduling a free in-home consultation.

Photo: istockphoto.com

COUNTERTOPS

Whether your kitchen can withstand the frenzy of holiday meal prep will depend largely on the condition of your countertops. Soft or porous materials can take a real beating over the holidays, suffering from scuffs, stains, burn marks, and other unsightly accidents. Upgrading your countertops, either as part of a full kitchen renovation or as a stand-alone project, can enhance the elegance of your kitchen while providing you with a resilient work surface that will continue to perform for years to come.

Materials: Replacing outdated countertops with modern surfaces gives you the opportunity to improve both the utility and aesthetics of your kitchen. This is why in choosing a countertop, “homeowners often look for a material that provides the best of both worlds—that is, something that looks great and performs even better,” says Joe Maykut of Sears Home Services. Whether you opt for warm hardwoods, sleek solid-surface countertops, or modern cultured or natural stone countertops like quartz or granite, Maykut recommends consulting professionals. Experts at Sears Home Services “bring the showroom to your home,” giving you the advantage of “seeing the products in the setting where they would be installed.”

Durability: The beauty of newly installed countertops can quickly fade if the surfaces aren’t built to last. That’s why it’s so important to factor durability into your choice of countertop material. Opt for kitchen surfaces that can withstand the daily stress of kitchen prep with minimal wear and tear. Quartz and granite, which Maykut predicts will continue to dominate kitchen design trends beyond 2016, are both easy on the eyes and hard to damage. Their rugged composition, resistant to heat, scratches, and stains, makes them well suited for hardworking kitchens.

– Cleaning and disinfecting: Regularly maintaining your countertops is the best way to prolong their life and protect your investment. In the kitchen, where “maintenance really matters,” according to Kenyon, you want countertops with minimal care requirements. Cleaning sealed granite and quartz, for example, is often as simple as wiping down the surface with a soapy sponge. These nonporous materials also have better-than-average resistance to food-borne bacteria, so they’ll keep your kitchen more hygienic throughout the holiday rush. Renovation experts at Sears Home Services can help you choose the low-maintenance materials you need to build the no-fuss kitchen of your dreams.

CABINETS

Your cabinets are the face of your kitchen. If cosmetic imperfections or dated designs are turning your kitchen into an eyesore, consider refinishing or replacing your cabinet doors. This relatively simple upgrade will roll back the years and restore a youthful facade without the investment of time and money that a full cabinet replacement requires.

Materials: For homeowners whose cabinets are in good shape structurally, refreshing only the cabinet doors while keeping the frames intact can “save a small fortune on labor and material costs,” says Maykut. Your options for updating cabinet doors “depend on what material the cabinets are made of.” Wood cabinet doors, for example, can be easily refinished with a new coat of stain or paint. But Maykut acknowledges that “traditional refinishing isn’t always possible,” in which case homeowners may want to add a veneer to the doors. If the existing style or condition of the cabinet doors is less than optimal, replacing them with all-wood, wood veneer, or laminate doors can restore a like-new appearance to the kitchen. To ensure a professional and cohesive look, consult with the experts at Sears Home Services on cabinet material selection.

Door styles/hardware: After you’ve selected a material for your cabinetry, choose door styles and hardware that complement the overall ambience you hope to establish in your kitchen. Shaker-style doors with traditional nickel knobs, for example, accentuate the natural undertones of all-wood cabinetry, making them a perfect choice for rustic kitchens. On the other hand, flat-panel doors with stainless steel bar pulls deliver a more modern aesthetic. Homeowners can even play with color on cabinet doors to highlight subtle details in the hardware, or color-match their cabinetry with other amenities in the kitchen. Maykut notes, however, that “many choose to contrast light-colored cabinetry with darker countertops, flooring, and accents” to achieve a balanced—and still beautiful—look.

Photo: istockphoto.com

This post has been brought to you by Sears Home Services. Its facts and opinions are those of BobVila.com.

 




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