Summer Threats to Your Pet’s Health

Categories: Uncategorized | Posted: June 30, 2018 | Comments Off on Summer Threats to Your Pet’s Health

Most of us love the summer weather – being able to spend more time outdoors, traveling, and celebrating all the warm weather holidays with cookouts and picnics. Your pets love to get into the summertime fun as well, but it’s important to take care to avoid certain hazards lurking outdoors. Here are some things to watch out for while your family is out and about this summer.


These little pests can carry several debilitating diseases, with the most well-known being Lyme disease. If your pets go outside at all, it’s a good idea to do a daily tick check to make sure there aren’t stowaways burrowing into your pet’s coat. Dogs are more likely to have problems with ticks, but cats can carry them as well. If you find a tick, make sure to remove it safely (The ASPCA has a great guide to dealing with ticks) place it in an airtight container and have it tested.

Fleas are also more plentiful during warmer months, so it’s important to keep your pet’s treatment up to date. Their venomous bites not only torture your dogs and cats – fleas love to dine on human family members as well.

Another insect to watch out for is bees. Most pets are curious and are attracted to the sound of bees, which can get them stung. Most of the time, you won’t have to do anything but wait for the pain and swelling of a bee sting to recede. However, if the sting swells excessively, call your vet for advice. There are some over-the-counter medicines you may be able to give your pet. If your pet starts biting or scratching excessively at the area, pulling out patches of fur, visit the vet right away.

Dehydration and Heatstroke

Hot weather poses a dual threat to pets who don’t get enough water and shade. Certain animals are more prone to heat-related illnesses than others. Dogs with short noses and flat faces, such as pugs and bulldogs, pets with dark fur, overweight animals or ones that have thick, heavy fur are at higher risk. Watch carefully for these symptoms:

  • Lack of energy
  • Reduced urination
  • Dry gums
  • Decreased appetite
  • Loose, non-elastic skin

Dogs will pant more as the temperature rises. Don’t worry…this is how they cool themselves off. You can also use fans, ice packs, frozen treats, ice cubes, wading pools, wet towels, hoses and sprinklers to help keep them cool.

Also beware of hot sidewalks, pavement and parking lots. If you think these heat-seeking surfaces are hot, imagine how they feel to the sensitive pads of your pet’s feet. Try to limit your walks to early mornings, cooler evenings and grassy areas.


While it is tempting to allow a dog to put his head out of the window as you drive, it puts his eyes at risk. Dust, debris and other possible irritants can blow into your dog’s eyes way too easily, possibly causing permanent damage to his vision.

It’s also important to never leave your pet in an enclosed car. Summer heat can build to dangerous levels in a closed car, boosting the temperature to almost 120 degrees. If you have to leave your dog in the car while you run errands, consider leaving him at home. If you can’t, make sure to always crack the windows, park in a shaded area and limit your absence to short windows of time.

People Food

Some of your favorite barbeque items are safe for dogs and cats and can be given to them in small quantities. Hot dogs, hamburgers and boneless chicken are fine as long as they aren’t seasoned with onions or garlic, which are dangerous for cats and dogs. Just make sure that overindulging in these treats doesn’t pack on the pounds for your pet over the summer months.

Beware of some of these favorites:

Meat with barbecue sauce:  The extra sloppy seasoning can cause diarrhea.

Corn on the cob: Dogs often have difficulty digesting corn cobs, and they’re also a choking hazard.

Bones: Any type of real bone is a disaster for your pet. Real bones splinter and can injure their GI systems, sometimes even piercing their stomachs or intestines. Serious injuries can happen, so keep bones away from your pets.

Foods with toothpicks or skewers: A toothpick or skewer can have the same effect as a splintered bone. Keep kabobs away from your furbabies!

Ice cream: While a little bit may do no harm, many pets are actually lactose intolerant. You also need to be careful of mix-ins…nuts, raisins, chocolate and other enhancements can be dangerous for your pets.

Summer Grooming Mistakes

Although it might seem smart to clip the fur of an animal down to a “puppy crew cut” during the summer, keep in mind that animals with thick fur also gain needed insulation from their coats. If you trim their coats too close to their skin, they have no protection from the sun, leaving them open to sunburn and overheating. Instead, make sure to brush your pet more often during the summer to remove loose hair and matted fur, which can weigh him down and increase his chances of heatstroke.

Your pets are important members of your family, and we know their well-being is one of your top priorities. With our handy tips, a little planning and a sharp eye, you can keep them safe and happy this summer!

Get Your Perfect Grill This Summer!

Categories: Uncategorized | Posted: June 25, 2018 | Comments Off on Get Your Perfect Grill This Summer!

As we welcome summer during the month of June, we’re exploring topics that get you ready for this sunny, steamy season. Earlier this month we talked a bit about saving energy during the summer, and one of the suggestions we made was avoiding using the oven during the hottest months. Many families depend on this mode of cooking quite heavily during the summer; it’s not unusual for some households to “grill out” for days on end.

But not everyone has joined the backyard revolution – and for many, it’s because the overwhelming number of choices when it comes to buying a grill can be more than a little baffling. If you’ve put off buying a grill because you don’t know where to turn, grab a pen and paper to take some notes and read on!

Grills fall into three basic types. If you go back a few decades, you’re sure to remember the type of grill almost everyone had…the charcoal grill. The lovely, smoky flavor is one of the reasons these old standards are still very popular today. Nothing matches the taste of meat grilled over charcoal! They also don’t use your normal household energy sources; the fire you light provides all the power you need. While these grills take a bit longer to warm up, sometimes delaying your dinner, many people won’t consider anything else. The ashes that remain after the briquettes burn themselves out require clean-up, but the lower price of a charcoal grill makes this choice very appealing. While there are a few high-end exceptions out there, most charcoal grills cost less than $300, with many, many choices under $100 for a larger models that can feed a hungry crowd.

Gas grills are increasingly popular among homeowners due to their adjustable temperature, infra-red cooking and easy clean-up.  They come in a wide range of sizes, so if you’ve got a big deck to fill or a relatively small patio in a tiny yard, there’s a grill to fit your needs.  Prices usually vary by size, durability, number of burners and the amount of heat from each burner. Typical backyard gas grill prices range from $300 to upward of $5,000. Some gas grills have a wide variety of “extras” and “bells and whistles”…but be sure not to spend extra on a grill with features you’ll never use. Gas grills can be powered by propane tanks, or, if your house is powered by natural gas, you can install a line dedicated to your grill. Another thing to consider…smaller portable gas grills are often sold in the box, with some assembly required, while larger, more stationary models are often sold pre-assembled.

Electric grills are popular because they’re the most convenient type of grill. You don’t have to purchase a special fuel source of any kind, and their lack of open flame makes them the safest type of grill to operate. Just plug the grill into an available outlet and you’re good to go! Electric models are great for grilling when the weather takes a nasty turn, because they’re suitable for indoor use as well. The even heat produced by electric grills provides a consistent end product every time. Smaller, portable models can be had in the $50-$75 range, while larger models can run up to $1000 plus, depending on the features of the unit.

After you’ve decided on the type of grill you want, think about where you’ll be using it. If you plan on parking the grill in your yard and never moving it, you’ll choose a very different model than if you want to grill at the park, at a friend’s house, or during a tailgate party. Speaking of parties…you’ll also need to consider how many people, on average, you’re cooking for most times you use the grill. If you typically cook for a family of four, a huge grill with six burners will expend a lot more energy than you need to get supper on the table. However, if you normally cook for a large crew, a smaller grill will require you to cook round after round of food. You’ll never get to sit down and relax with one of your own burgers!

And don’t forget a few necessary extras…a grill cover to protect it from the elements is a must if you’ll be leaving it outside. Unless you’re choosing a very small, portable grill that you’ll be taking on the go, make sure you get a good sturdy cart with shelving on the sides if you choose a model without a built-in unit. It’s also smart to get a restaurant-quality set of tongs and spatula – you won’t regret it!

Save Energy This Summer

Categories: Uncategorized | Posted: June 17, 2018 | Comments Off on Save Energy This Summer

If you shudder at the thought of opening your electric bill during the summer months, you’re sure to be in the mood for a few great tips for saving energy this summer! It’s easier than you think to cut some corners (and some dollars from your energy expenses) during the warmer months. We’ve gathered together a few of our favorite ideas to trim your bills while keeping your cool!

Thermostat Tricks

One of the best ways to reduce your electric bill during the summer is to narrow the gap between your inside temperature and the great outdoors. Don’t sacrifice comfort – it’s no fun to walk into an 80 degree room – but keeping your thermostat as high as you can will reduce both the shock of rapid temperature change AND your cooling costs!

Make sure you get a programmable thermostat. This handy gadget allows you to keep your home warmer when you’re away at work or on vacation, and can kick in to cool your home down again right before you come home. You can also set a programmable thermostat to get maximum energy savings. There’s a complete Energy Star set of guidelines available for programmable thermostats here…it will help you choose the unit that will work the best for your home.

And last but not least, resist the temptation to set your thermostat lower than you normally would when your home is overly warm and you want to cool it down. Your home won’t reach the target temperature any faster, and you’ll more than likely drive up your electric bill in the process.

Work with the Weather

When it cools down to a comfortable sleeping temperature at night, turn off your air conditioning and open your windows. When you wake up, close your windows and cover them with curtains or blinds to allow less sunshine (AKA heat) to enter your home. Turn the air on again, but at a higher temperature than you need when you’re at home. Be aware of the importance of weather stripping and caulking – sealing your doors and windows as tightly as possible helps keep hot air from weaseling its way into your house.

Be Your Own Biggest Fan

Use fans efficiently – only run them while people are in the room. Fans are designed to cool people by stirring air currents that cool their bodies; they don’t actually cool the air in a room. However, when used along with air conditioning, you can raise the thermostat in the room by four degrees and not notice a difference in your comfort level. Make sure you use the fans in your bathroom and laundry room – they are designed to remove the heat and humidity from these small, enclosed spaces. Make sure these fans vent to the outside rather than to an attic.

Watch Your Lighting and Appliances

Lamps, TV’s and appliances that run constantly – such as refrigerators – should not be placed near thermostats. They pick up heat from these units, causing them to run longer than they should.

Instead of using the oven, try options such as microwaves, crock pots, the stove top or a meal on the grill for summer eating. Make sure you wash dishes or clothes only when you have a full load, and consider allowing both to air dry. (And nothing smells better than clothes fresh off the line!) Reduce hot water usage (and increase your comfort) by opting for short, cool showers rather than hot baths.

Invest in lighting that saves energy by reducing heat. Only about 10% to 15% of the electricity that incandescent lights consume results in light—the rest is turned into heat. Try halogen incandescent bulbs, compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs), and light-emitting diodes (LEDs) instead.

Maintain to Gain…

Get the most out of your HVAC units by making sure they’re in tip-top condition. A thorough cleaning by a trained professional can help you get the best performance out of them for years to come. Be sure to keep registers in your home vacuumed to prevent buildup of dust that can cause reduced performance.

A few small changes can end up putting more cash in your pocket…that you can use to treat yourself to some chilly drinks or your favorite ice cream!

Your Community Pool – Be Cool, Follow the Rules

Categories: Uncategorized | Posted: June 10, 2018 | Comments Off on Your Community Pool – Be Cool, Follow the Rules

What is one of the most desirable amenities potential buyers want when they’re looking for the planned community of their dreams? Well…a common use pool, of course! You can lounge, swim and cool off without the personal expense and hard work involved in your taking care of your own pool. But remember that you’re sharing this privilege with your neighbors, and you’ll want to keep your relationships on great footing by observing a few rules of etiquette while you’re there.

First of all…follow all the posted rules. If the rules state no glass, beach balls, rafts or alcoholic beverages allowed, leave them home. If you’re asked to rinse off in the shower before entering the pool, make sure you get wet there first. If the pool closes at 10pm, swing the gate behind you at five of. There are good reasons for having the rules that the homeowner’s association sets, so it’s important to take note of them. However, if there is a rule that does really bother you, or you have one you’d like to add, don’t hesitate to bring it up at the next association meeting. There may be others who would like the pool to open an hour earlier for pre-work laps or devote an hour in the evening to adult only swims. It never hurts to ask…the worst that could happen is that everything remains the same.

Keep a close eye on your kids at all times. Not only do you need to make sure they’re completely safe and aren’t having trouble of any kind in the water, you also need to make sure that their behavior isn’t irritating other swimmers.

Make sure you clean up after yourself when you’re at the pool. Never leave trash behind or drop unapproved items into the pool. This may sound like unnecessary advice, but choose any random hot day and you’re sure to see someone leaving their soda cans or snack wrappers on the ground. Don’t be “that guy”. And heaven forbid…emphasize to your children that they should never, ever, ever think about peeing in the pool! If you have small children, make sure you use swim diapers every single time they visit the pool.

Don’t be a “fashion accident”. Remember that people of all ages visit the pool, and some may be more conservative than you are. This doesn’t mean you need to wear a “granny suit” or shorts to the knees, but it does mean you should be tasteful and appropriate. Cover your essential areas completely; no thongs, ultra-high cuts, minimal tops or suits that don’t stay put in the water. And hey…guys…no Speedos, please!

Share the pool nicely – no splashing, dunking or cannonballing. Most public pools don’t allow diving, so make sure you aren’t singled out for indulging in this dangerous behavior. Also, don’t monopolize one area of the pool to the exclusion of others. Sitting on the steps that let people get in and out of the pool, hogging the slides and playing pool games that take up large sections of water are some examples of what not to do. If the pool has swimming lanes, make sure you choose a lane where you’ll be swimming with others that match your style and speed. If you’re a slower swimmer, line up with other slow swimmers so faster swimmers won’t have to find ways to pass you.

Remember that if the pool has a lifeguard, he or she always has the final word. Never argue with the lifeguards, ignore a request, disobey an order or give them a hard time. They’re there to ensure that everyone stays safe, and ultimately, if something goes wrong and someone gets hurt, they’re responsible. Make their job easier by following their lead.

If your community pool allows you to invite guests, don’t go overboard. Inviting a dozen of your “closest friends” is a party – not an afternoon’s entertainment. You should check with your homeowner’s association to see if you can reserve the pool for a private event for a few hours to accommodate a large group. Be prepared to pay a fee if this is permitted. Otherwise, try to keep guests to 2 or 3 per session. Any more than that and you’re imposing on your neighbors’ rights to use the pool freely.

If you bring a radio or streaming device with you, your best bet is to use earbuds or headphones. If this isn’t possible, make sure to keep the volume down. Not everyone will have the same musical tastes that you do, and overhearing loud music that isn’t yours can definitely be annoying. You also need to keep your cell phone conversations as private as possible. Low volume here is also important, and try to keep them short. It’s awkward to be the one forced to listen to gossip, a long list of people’s problems or endless complaints, so be considerate of those around you.

If you keep these guidelines in mind, you and your family members will be the ultimate swim buddies…everyone will be glad to see you coming!

Home Security Systems; What You Need to Know-Part 2

Categories: Uncategorized | Posted: May 28, 2018 | Comments Off on Home Security Systems; What You Need to Know-Part 2

In our last post, we talked a bit about whether or not a home security system is right for you. And if it is, there are a few more decisions you’ll need to make before you take the big leap and invest in a system.

First, let’s make sure we’re all on the same page when we talk about home security systems. You may be confusing them with burglar alarms, and that’s a very common error. A burglar alarm is simply a set of sensors on your doors and windows that will let you (and perhaps local law enforcement, if the system allows it) know when you have a security breach in your home. While this is definitely helpful, a full home security system has many other features that help you protect your home. These can include alerts for environmental threats such as fire, carbon monoxide and possibly flooding, special devices to protect high value items, home automation services and technology that can assist you in case of an emergency.

The first thing you need to do is determine your budget. Check the prices for various packages with at least three providers in your area to see where you’ll fit on their spectrum. The cost of home security systems can vary widely from company to company, so you’ll want to compare systems of the same size and same features with each other to make sure you’re getting the best value for your money. Remember that almost every company will be willing to customize your system to your specific needs. It may cost a little more up front, but since you’ll only be paying for exactly what you need each month, it may save you money in the long run when you aren’t paying for services included in a set package that you don’t use.

Some services you may not use include asset device protection, personal safety and home automation. Asset protection devices can give you an added sense of security if you have high value items in your home. If you collect art, have high-ticket pieces in your jewelry box or have invested a lot of money in top tier electronics, these individual devices can let you know if someone has opened, tampered with or disturbed these items during your absence. They can provide greater peace of mind if you have housekeepers, babysitters or service people entering your home while you’re gone. Personal safety devices can include pendants or bracelets that feature buttons that can notify emergency personnel 24/7 when you’ve had an accident or need assistance when no-one else is home. Home automation services allow you to handle many tasks from your cell phone or tablet, including turning lights on and off, locking and unlocking doors, closing garages and communicating with your Alexa, Echo or Google Home device.

Once you’ve decided which services you need and what your price point is, you can look at some other factors. A big one is the type of monitoring you choose. Monitoring is the primary difference between burglar alarms and home security systems. Monitoring means that the system’s alarm is transmitted to a customer care center, which notifies the appropriate respondent for the problem for you. The least expensive monitoring is done through your landline telephone. It’s the least advanced technology, but is often sufficient if you’re going with a basic plan. It also may be your only choice if you live in a remote area that doesn’t get good cellular transmission. Broadband monitoring works through an Internet connection. It’s in the middle of the price scale, and will allow home automation. However, if your Internet goes down, so does the monitoring function of your home security system. You may choose to back up your broadband with landline coverage, or upgrade to cellular monitoring. The most advanced form of monitoring, cellular is the fastest and most reliable, and is the simplest to install. It is more expensive, but more and more companies are converting their systems to cellular only monitoring. If you don’t get good cell service, be aware of this limitation when choosing your company. Oh…and another thing to remember – a traditional home security system comes with a battery backup. If the power goes out, your system will continue to protect your home. Home security systems are also available in solar powered versions, which while a little more expensive, are the ideal “green” solution to protecting your home without electricity or battery power.

Another main concern is ongoing customer service. It’s important to research the track records of your top few providers for comparison before making a decision. Since most systems are long term investments, you’ll want a company that gets high marks. You also need to decide if you want the company to install the system for you – which may cost extra – or if you want to install it yourself. Many systems today are easy to hook up yourself if you have a basic knowledge of technology. Many companies also offer installation troubleshooting as part of their customer service.

Keep in mind that you should register your new home security system with the local police. Some locales may require that a system be registered before responders will be dispatched to your home to help, while others may send help, but charge you a fee later if your system is not registered.

Whatever home security system you eventually choose, remember that everyone at Ernest Signature Custom Homes wants you and your family to always feel safe and secure. If you have any questions we can help answer, don’t hesitate to let us know!

Home Security Systems; What You Need to Know-Part 1

Categories: Uncategorized | Posted: May 21, 2018 | Comments Off on Home Security Systems; What You Need to Know-Part 1

Now that you have the home of your dreams, your first thought may be how you should go about protecting it – and the most important things in it. The question of whether or not you need a home security system is one that can keep you awake at night. There are many things to consider before you jump into buying a home security system; you may decide that you need one yesterday, or it may turn out that you don’t need one at all.

How do you work through this important question? What factors should go into this decision? At Ernest Signature Custom Homes, we take your safety seriously, so we’re here to guide you through this process as painlessly as possible.

There are positives and negatives when it comes to owning a home security system, and for each family, they’ll each carry different weights. The first thing to take into account is the crime rate in your neighborhood. The lower it is overall, the less need you’ll have for a security system. Don’t forget, however, to take into account the crime rates of the cities and towns that are within a 50 mile radius of your home. It isn’t unusual for criminals to venture further afield if they feel they can be more successful outside of their home turf.

Most burglars, however, aren’t very sophisticated. They tend to take advantage of “easy scores”…such as homes that look unoccupied, or ones that leave doors or windows unlocked. They also prey on homes with weak or easily jarred locks and glass panes located near doorknobs. You may want to reduce the likelihood of becoming a statistic by ramping up your locks and being more vigilant about keeping them latched. You also need to review your safety habits. When you’re away, make sure you put your lights on timers and have someone pick up mail, newspapers or other delivered items at least every other day. Never post anything to social media that will indicate that you are out of town – wait until you’ve arrived safely home to post vacation photos or to describe your adventures.

Another method of home protection is getting a dog, which can be expensive in the long run, but also adds a loving member to your family. You can also install motion-sensing lighting on your property or “fake it” by posting a “Beware of Dog” sign or sporting home alarm protection stickers on your windows and signs on your lawn, even if you don’t subscribe to a service.

Consider the downsides of owning a home protection system as well. In order to do their job properly, most systems need to be set manually when you leave the house, and turned off as soon as you arrive. If you’re distracted on the way out, or dealing with the need to visit the rest room or put perishable groceries away as soon as you walk in the door, you may find yourself dealing with a system that never gets a chance to work, or sets off a false alarm when it isn’t deactivated right away. Some local governments assess fines for false alarms, so this can become a concern. Most systems also require a monthly test to maintain their highest level of efficiency.

You also need to remember that home security systems vary widely in price, and you must be sure that you’re getting what you need while not paying for things you aren’t going to use. There seems to be little correlation between the amount you pay for your system and how well it works. Consumer studies show that some of the highest rated companies are very reasonably priced, while some of the most expensive systems suffer from higher rates of equipment failure and substandard customer service. There are also unethical companies out there that will resort to high-pressure sales methods and scare tactics to force you to make a decision. If you decide that a home security system is for you, you’ll need to do some research to find out which companies near you have the best reputations in the price range you’re able to afford. Sources include the Better Business Bureau, Consumer’s Checkbook and other Internet-based review sites such as Yelp, Angie’s List and consumersadvocate.org.

So…have you taken stock of these questions and used your answer to make a decision? Is a home security system for you? If so, make sure to check our blog for the next segment on home security systems, where we’ll help you answer some crucial questions about the specifics you need from a home security system, and how to choose one!

Best Retro Touches for Each Room of Your Home

Categories: Uncategorized | Posted: May 14, 2018 | Comments Off on Best Retro Touches for Each Room of Your Home

One of the hottest themes in today’s décor is retro! Vintage items (or fantastic copies) are popping up everywhere, breathing new life into old-school trends. You don’t have to go top to bottom retro to take advantage of this popular design style – you can simply add a few pieces here and there to give a nod to the latest fashion in home accessories. Here’s a few ideas to get you started!


Small appliances are an ideal place to start, especially if they’ll be in full view on a countertop. Mixers, blenders, tea kettles and storage canisters are available in various colors to match or add color splashes to the room. You can also find vintage bread boxes, clocks, telephones or lighting fixtures. If you’re looking to deepen your retro footprint, you can go for a 50’s diner look table and chairs or a 70’s style Formica center island. You can even buy brand new large appliances such as refrigerators and stoves that look like pieces from the 40’s, 50’s and 70’s…in every shade from stainless steel to avocado and harvest gold! Bold tile flooring squares in teal, deep or bright red, black, white or cream can make a retro statement when arranged in vibrant patterns. Expand your vintage choices by adding dinnerware and glassware from past decades.

Living Rooms, Family Rooms and Great Rooms

Funky furniture is a great way to play with retro décor. Experiment with rounded corner, triangular, glass-topped coffee tables or mod couches from the sixties, or sleek, modern mid-century styles. Think outside the box with a compact vintage bar, complete with stainless steel barware and chic retro glassware. If you’re feeling brave, put your walls into the “way back machine” by adding paneling. You can mix this nod to the wood wall era with boldly patterned window treatments, zany wallpaper or heavily textured rug. Mod mirrors used as wall décor are also a great way to pay tribute to days gone by. If you’re a music-loving family, think about adding a vintage jukebox or chest stereo system with a turntable to spin your favorite tunes on vinyl!


You can pick up some of the ideas from your living room here too…especially wall mirrors and paneling. You can also find retro patterned bedding in a wide variety of colors and patterns. Bedside telephones, lamps and pendant lamps can easily set a vintage mood. You can even “tap into” the ultimate nod to retro in the snooze room…try a waterbed festooned with faux fur pillows! Add an eye-catching corner chair in a complimentary color and your bedroom takes on a style all its own!


Retro color is the way to go in the bath, especially if you’re fine with pink, green or powder blue ceramic tubs, sinks and commodes! If this seems over the top, replace your fixtures with ones that honor days gone by. Retro tile flooring is a great complement to your vintage-colored mainstays. If you’re going with this color scheme, keep your walls and curtains white and accent with like-colored pink, blue or green towels. Retro can take another path in your bath…outfit it with knobby fixtures, space-age shaped storage cabinets and glass shower doors.


Don’t forget your deck, patio or sunroom! Mid-20th century families created suburban living, and a vibrant, integral part of their lifestyle was entertaining outside. Metal or heavy gauge steel garden furniture with all-weather seat cushions in fun patterns like florals, stripes, or polka dots brings out the fun in retro décor.

New Construction Upgrades – Your Best Investments

Categories: Uncategorized | Posted: May 4, 2018 | Comments Off on New Construction Upgrades – Your Best Investments

Now that you’ve decided that you’re going to purchase new construction, you need to look closely at which upgrades you’ll add on to your new home. It’s almost inevitable that you’ll want a few, but if you’re like most buyers, you need to make some decisions when it comes to where you’re going to spend the extra money. Everyone’s pocket has a bottom, and you want to make sure you get the best long-term value for the upgrades you eventually choose. At some point in time, you may be looking to sell your brand new home to another family (even though you can’t imagine it now) and the upgrades you choose can boost its resale value in the future.

We’ve polled both experts and recent buyers to find out which upgrades “make the grade” with homeowners and prospective buyers. If these possibilities are on your list, they’re definitely worth a second look.

Premium Lot

While not strictly a construction or product upgrade, spending a little more to get a more desirable location in the community should certainly be a consideration. Corner lots, larger lots or lots that back up to beautiful views may have a higher price tag, but in the long run, you’ll be pleased with your choice.

Structural Upgrades

Adding a bonus room, adding extra length or width to rooms, raising ceilings, installing fireplaces, adding more windows, enlarging or adding closets or creating a larger master bath suite with additional sinks and bathing options is much more difficult to do once your home is built, making it much more expensive in the long run. And don’t forget your garage! Adding an extra bay to your garage may seem silly – why invest in a three-car garage when you only have two cars? Simple…people love stuff, and always run out of room to store their stuff. And keep in mind that your grinning two-year old toddler will be driving her own car one day, and you might want a place to stash it when the time comes.

Brick and Stone Upgrades

If you think you’d like brick or stone accents to the façade of your new home, it’s much more expensive (and unsightly!) to add these later. It’s wise to have your builder take care of these important external features.

A Bewitchin’ Kitchen

You can’t go wrong with most kitchen upgrades. Many families spend large amounts of time in their kitchens, and even if they don’t, a gorgeous kitchen with a few great upgrades makes selling your home easier when you’re ready to move along. Key items include larger (read this as taller) cabinetry that will give you more storage space, a kitchen island that can be used for meal preparation, additional storage or for a casual dining area, a roomier pantry, granite countertops, a trash compactor (how cool is it to take the trash out only once or twice a week!) under-cabinet lighting and garbage disposals in all sinks. Keep in mind that kitchen remodels are usually the most expensive (and inconvenient) home renovation projects, and plan accordingly.

Outlets, Switches and Lighting

You can never have enough outlets, so add as many as you can. Consider an outside outlet for Christmas lights, pantry outlets, additional garage outlets and extra outlets for media, computers, video games and charging electronics. You may also want to have your builder wire your new home for surround sound or enhanced connectivity while you’re at it. It can be expensive to have a house rewired after it’s completed. 3 way light switches or lights that can be turned off in two places are great, so go over your floorplan carefully to see how you will be entering and exiting each room. If you’re thinking about recessed lighting or skylights, these are much more difficult to add later. Make sure task-focused rooms like the kitchen, bath and potential home office have both overhead fixtures and lamps or sconces that shed additional light on key areas.

Energy Savers

Most people get energy efficient appliances in their kitchens and call it a day. But don’t forget that tankless water heaters, high-end windows, HVAC units with high efficiency ratings and additional insulation can make a big difference in your energy costs right away.


If hardwood floors are your dream, most of the time it’s smart to have these installed at the beginning. True hardwood is very expensive as a replacement material, especially if you’ll be covering large areas. When factored into the overall cost of a new home, the price tag for hardwood is much less shocking.

If you have any questions about ranking your upgrades, trust the professionals at The Gallery at Ernest Homes to walk you through the process. We’re here to help you build your ideal home!

How to Get Rid of Stuff You Don’t Want to Move

Categories: Uncategorized | Posted: March 30, 2018 | Comments Off on How to Get Rid of Stuff You Don’t Want to Move

Congratulations! You’ve closed on your new home and you’re ready to move into your new place. It’s an exciting time, but one that can be busy, stressful and more than a little overwhelming. One of the things that often shocks and dismays people during the moving process is how much STUFF they’ve accumulated.

Moving time is a great time to get rid of things you no longer want or use. If you’re using a moving company, keep in mind that some of them base their rates on the weight of what they’ll be moving. Culling out the things you can will save you money in the long run. You’ll also spend less time and money when it comes to collecting or buying packing boxes!

But what should you do with these things? Where should they go? It’s a question as old as time…or at least from the time man stopped living in caves. Luckily, you have the experts at Ernest Signature Custom Homes to give you some suggestions!

Consignment Savvy

If you have clothes, shoes, furniture, or household goods that are gently used, consider taking them to an appropriate consignment shop. Most shops are small businesses, so you’ll be supporting the local economy. Shops typically accept items they think will have a good possibility of resale, and will offer you a cut of the eventual profit if they do sell. Most shops will keep items on their floor for a set period of time, say 60 or 90 days. If the item doesn’t sell by that time, they’ll either return the item to you, if you want it back, or donate it to a charity.

Pawn Shops

Most people have the mistaken belief that pawn shops are only a place to get a loan against the value of an item that they fully intend to “buy back” later. However, pawn shops will also purchase items outright to sell to customers. Tune into an episode or two of the History Channel’s Pawn Stars to see how it works! Pawn shops accept all kinds of items, from jewelry to musical instruments, sports equipment, newer electronics, appliances, power tools, video game systems in good working order, toys, collector’s items, coins, vintage pieces of all types and unusual knick-knacks.

Sell Your Items Online

If you have enough time and a working knowledge of online commerce, you can also make some money selling items online. EBay and Craigslist are the places everyone knows of, but there are a bunch of other ways to connect your items with likely buyers. Post items you’re willing to sell to your Facebook account. Check out apps and sites such as:

  • LetGo
  • Ebid
  • Bonanza
  • 5miles
  • OfferUp
  • Close5
  • Wish Local
  • Carousell
  • SocialSell
  • Listia
  • Linger (Android)
  • ThreadUp
  • Poshmark
  • Mercari

Run a Garage Sale

It does take a little time and organization to pull this off, but you’ll be surprised how many unlikely things will march right off your lawn. Bonus…you’ll get a little money for your pocket as well. It can be a lot of fun to get your neighbors involved too – if you can put together a “block sale”, you can draw bigger crowds and move more items. Here’s a great, comprehensive article on how to put together a killer garage sale; it covers all the bases.

Donate Your Stuff

If you have leftover items from your selling activities, or just don’t have the time or inclination to try to sell them, look into donating them to your favorite charity. Goodwill and the Salvation Army are standards, but you can also donate to other organizations such as the Humane Society, church missions, crisis centers and youth organizations. Scan your local phone listings for thrift stores of any kind and ask if they’re accepting donations, or refer to this comprehensive list for ideas.

Recycle, Recycle, Recycle

You wouldn’t believe how many unlikely items can be recycled in many different ways. This amazing list gives you a bunch of great alternatives for decluttering your home and helping the environment. You can also stop by your local recycling center to see what they’ll accept.

Are Your Cleaning Mistakes Making Your Home Dirtier?

Categories: Uncategorized | Posted: March 24, 2018 | Comments Off on Are Your Cleaning Mistakes Making Your Home Dirtier?

If you’re like most people, you already think you’re spending way too much of your valuable time cleaning your home. Now imagine this scenario…all that time is wasted, because what you’re doing is actually making your house dirtier than it was before! As horrible as that sounds, it’s happening every day. We’ve talked to some professional house cleaners to get the scoop on cleaning mistakes that do more harm than good. We’re passing them along to you – we want your time spent with a mop and cloth to work to your advantage!

You walk around with a rag, swiping surfaces as you go.

Using the same cloth in different areas of your home is one of the easiest ways to spread germs from one room to another. Even if you’re spraying it with cleaning solution as you go, you’re transferring grime from your kitchen counters to your coffee table to your dresser tops. The solution – use a fresh wad of paper towels for every area, or designate a different color microfiber cloth for each room. Microfiber cloths can be washed after each cleaning spree to keep them fresh and grunge-free.

You use feather dusters.

No matter what the ad says, feather dusters don’t “trap and lock” dust particles. It’s much more effective to use your trusty microfiber cleaning cloth or paper towels moistened with an appropriate cleaner.

You’re using a dirty vacuum.

If you’re using an old vacuum filter, the decreased suction you’ll get won’t allow your vacuum to pick up as much dirt and dust as it should. You’ll also have dirt blowing back into the air and carpet through the dusty vent. Change or empty vacuum bags or canisters as soon as they’re full. Unplug your vacuum and clean the attachments, the hose and the vent with either a damp microfiber cleaning cloth or a moist paper towel.

You’re throwing all your cooking tools into the dishwasher.

Not all of your kitchen gadgets get a good cleaning this way. Items like garlic presses, zesters or graters that have uneven surfaces, nooks and crannies may not get the full effect of the wash cycle, leaving bits of food clinging to them. This residual food can spoil, possibly making your family sick. These types of gadgets should be carefully hand-washed.

You’re plopping your toilet brush right back into the holder after cleaning.

If you don’t let your toilet brush dry completely after each use, the holder traps the wet, germy brush and allows bacteria to multiply. You’re then spreading the bacteria back into your toilet with the next cleaning. Make sure to let the brush dry completely before storing it.

You’re ignoring the garbage disposal.

Your poor sink! You may be wiping it down after every use, but many people allow bacteria and germs to accumulate in the garbage disposal. Give it a good cleaning by pouring half a cup of baking soda down the drain, followed by a cup of white vinegar. Boil a few cups of water and pour the boiling water down the drain. Follow with two cups of ice and one cup of rock salt. Turn on the disposal until the ice is gone. Cut a lemon in half, and send each half down the disposal. Bye-bye germs!

You’re spraying your cleaner directly on the surface.

It’s much more efficient to spray the cleaner on the towel or cloth you’re using. If you spray the cleaner right onto furniture, windows or countertops, the solution can develop build-up that can lead to greasy surfaces or streaks. These greasy, streaky patches attract and hold dust, dirt and grime.

You haven’t cleaned your washing machine.

Skin cells, residue from stains and dust mites can remain in your washing machine drum, lids, doors and detergent dispensers. They get into your wash water and can remain on your clothes, causing stagnant, musty odors.

For a top-loading washer, set to the longest and hottest setting. When the washer is nearly full of water, add 4 cups of vinegar and 1 cup of baking soda. Leave the lid open and allow to sit for at least an hour. While the cycle is paused, clean the lid and any other visible nooks and crannies. Close the lid, allowing the wash cycle to run. When the cycle is done, wipe down the inside of the washer and leave the lid open to allow the washer to dry completely.

For a front-loading washer, pour a solution of 1/4 cup each baking soda and water into the detergent compartment and pour 2 cups of vinegar into the drum. Set your machine to the hottest temperature and let the cycle run. Afterward, wipe the drum, door, detergent compartment and outside of the machine. Leave the door ajar between loads for the best air circulation.

You’re abusing your cutting board.

It isn’t unusual for people to wash their cutting boards with soapy water. However, while the boards may look clean, the cut marks in the boards trap microscopic food particles that breed bacteria. Don’t put your cutting boards in the dishwasher – wooden ones can warp and crack, while plastic ones can melt. Soak your cutting board in a solution of two tablespoons of bleach and one gallon of water, then rinse well and dry completely.

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