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Six Sensational Hardwood Bathrooms

(NewsUSA) -  

Have you considered using solid hardwood cabinetry and millwork in your bathroom, but hesitated given the constant humidity? In fact, as long as the room is properly ventilated, and the wood surfaces treated with a moisture-resistant finish—like tung oil, polyurethane, or varnish—such favorites as oak, walnut, cherry, and maple will stand up well to a steamy environment. “Real American Hardwood® products can be used in the bathroom to add warmth, texture, and character to a space that may feel cold and clinical,” says Linda Jovanovich of the American Hardwood Information Center. “And it adapts to any style, from the cozily traditional to the coolly contemporary.” Here are six bathrooms that do just that.



Photograph by Spacecrafting

Everything’s bright and breezy in this Minneapolis bathroom by Swan Architecture (@swanarchitecture) and Lucy Interior Design (@lucyinteriordesign): nickel-gap shiplap on the end wall and bath surround; shiny chrome sconces and sink fittings; canvas duck Roman shades. But the beachy, upbeat vibe is cleverly balanced by the custom walnut vanity, a solidly handsome piece that strikes a more substantial note without being overly serious. Photograph by Spacecrafting


Photograph by Dan Arnold Photo

Architects Hsu McCullough (@hsumccullough) show mastery of subtle color and texture in this Los Angeles bathroom. Slate-gray cement tiles on the floor and pale-smoke marble tiles on the walls provide a quietly glamorous setting for the main event: a custom vanity of lightly bleached white oak with a clear matte sealer—Rubio Monocoat, derived from natural plant oils—that allows the full beauty of the wood to shine through. Photograph by Dan Arnold Photo


Photograph by Jason McGrail

Cerusing—also known as “liming”—is the application of white-pigmented, non-toxic wax sealers to porous wood to bring out the natural grain without changing its color. Architects Michael McKinley and Associates (@mckinleyarchitects) make expert use of the finish for this custom cerused-oak vanity in a Connecticut bathroom. White subway wall tiles, chrome fittings and mirror frames, and oak flooring set the honey-tone cabinetry off to perfection. Photograph by Jason McGrail


Photograph by Ken Hayden

Two firms, Milieu (@milieu_design_spokane) and Designology (@designologyluxuryinteriors), worked on the makeover of the guest bathroom in a Wellington, Florida, equestrian estate. The glass door lets the great outdoors in, but the interior is totally urbane. A pair of vintage mirrors salvaged from an old steamship set the sophisticated tone, which is echoed in the polished bronze faucets and matching pulls on the custom maple vanity—a sleek design finished in Rustic Gray stain by Sherwin Williams. Photograph by Ken Hayden


Photograph by Susan Gilmore

For the renovation of an undistinguished 1980s colonial house in Minneapolis, architect Meriwether Felt turned the bland main bathroom into a sophisticated retreat with a somewhat rustic feel by installing characterful cherry moldings, trims, and casings. “The stained wood warms up the bathroom and provides richness,” Felt says. “The client asked for a luxurious yet elegant feeling, and cherry fit the bill perfectly.” Photograph by Susan Gilmore


Photograph by Paul Barnaby Visit for more about using American hardwoods in the bathroom.

Modern Scandinavian design inspired the main bathroom in a Santa Monica, California, house by Hamilton Architects (@hamiltonarchla); ergo, the clean lines, warm materials, and uncluttered forms that characterize the effortlessly chic, spa-like space. Chief among the scene-setting elements are the sculptural tub, graphic black faucets, and the custom floating vanity. The rift-sawn white-oak cabinetry is an unbroken expanse that’s free of hardware or other visually distracting details. Photograph by Paul Barnaby


Visit for more about using American hardwoods in the bathroom.

Tips for Choosing a Portable Generator

(NewsUSA) - Inverter generators and portable battery stations are trending solutions for take-anywhere power. Small footprints, manageable weights, and simple charging or fueling options make both inverters and batteries an ideal solution for off-grid excursions, working where power is not available, or providing needed electricity during a power outage.

Inverter generators and battery-powered portable power stations have unique characteristics that can make the choice a little more challenging. The power experts at Generac Power Systems have outlined how both categories of ultra-portable power solutions stack up for use around the home.

The Mutual Benefits of Portable Inverter Generators and Battery Power Stations

Sized for Easy Transport and Storage. Lightweight design, built-in handles, and a compact footprint are all hallmarks of both portable inverters and battery power stations.

From Quiet to Silent. Don't worry about being a noisy neighbor while using an inverter generator, thanks to their fully enclosed design helping with quieter operation. Battery-powered portable power stations go the extra mile, operating silently.

Suitable for Sensitive Electronics. Generator energy has a THD – total harmonic distortion – percentage. Electronic devices like laptops and mobile devices require a lower THD. Portable inverters produce energy with a THD below 5%, making them generally suitable for sensitive electronics, tools, and appliances. Similarly, battery-powered power stations are also an ideal solution as they provide clean, emission-free energy.

Key Differences Between Portable Inverters and Battery Power Stations

Emissions. Inverter generators cannot be used indoors or in enclosed spaces due to the production of carbon monoxide. All gas-, diesel-, or LP-powered generators must be operated outdoors and away from windows and doors. Battery-powered solutions are ideal for use inside or outside of the home, as they release no carbon monoxide or other emissions.

Fuel and Charging. The Generac Portable Power Station can be charged via a wall outlet, 12V car outlet, or by compatible solar panels for truly on-the-go power. Charging sources can even be combined for an even faster recharge. Small inverter generators are powered by gasoline via a splash-lubricated engine that requires routine oil changes.

Price. As an emerging technology with indoor-outdoor capabilities, battery-powered solutions are typically priced higher when compared to inverter generators with a similar output. Over time, a battery powered solution doesn’t require any additional fuel or oil, making it a higher initial investment without downline costs.

Maintenance and Care. The difference between a gasoline engine and a battery creates a very different maintenance regimen for each unit. The splash-lubricated engine of an inverter needs adequate oil in order to run, and it’s best to check on the oil status before any planned use. Additionally, you should do an annual maintenance check on inverter generators. Meanwhile, for portable battery stations, follow the usual best practices for charging most battery-powered electronic devices: don’t let it fall all the way to 0% charge, try to reach above 80% when charging, and ensure its stored in a temperate environment.

Open-Frame Generators for Powering Even More

With tubular frames, large tires, and visible components, an open-frame generator is likely what comes to mind when one thinks of portable power. The product marketplace for open-frame generators is vast, and no one model is one-size-fits-all. While open-frame generators are available in significantly higher outputs, you can hear them run, and they offer less portability than fully enclosed generators.

If short term emergency backup power is a main concern, open-frame generators provide the best dollar-per-watt value on the market. For more information, portable generator sizing tools can be found at:

Five Tips to Prepare Your Portable Generator for Winter Weather

(NewsUSA) - When temperatures drop and snow starts falling, portable generators of every size need a quick check-in to make sure that they’re ready to go before a possible power outage during inclement weather.

The experts at Generac shared five tips to help you prepare your generator for the winter-weather season.

Easy-to Access Storage: When it is not in use, make sure that your generator is stored in an easy-to-access place in a garage, shed, or other area where it can be accessed during inclement weather. While it’s important to keep it in a dry space when not in use, most storage places are not suitable for a running unit. Any fuel-powered generator must be operated outdoors, away from doors, vents, or windows due to potential carbon monoxide buildup.  

Check, Change and Prepare Oil: Check your service manual for recommended timing between oil changes and be sure your unit is ready to run at a moment’s notice, including the use of oil stabilizers and winter-ready oil, if recommended.

Have Safe, Stable Fuel on Hand: Fresh is best. Gasoline begins to break down and become less effective at about 30 days and diesel, while more stable, runs the risk of developing sediment or sludge, particularly in low temperatures. Be sure fresh fuel is available for your generator and add stabilizers as recommended by your owner’s manual.

Double-Check the Components:  It’s important to give your generator a thorough check for any damage that may have occurred while stored. Make sure nothing is out of place and there is no corrosion or rust in critical areas. Rodents, bugs, and birds are also known to nest in engines, so clear any pest debris before operation. Manual choking to bring more fuel into the engine on an electric-start generator may also help with low temperature starting.

Maintenance: To ensure that your winterizing efforts have worked, regularly check up on your generator, running it for five minutes to ensure that it’s fully operational. Take this time to double check any of the above concerns and rest assured that your backup plan is in its best condition for an outage.

Generator technology has come a long way. While portable generators can easily power up a few appliances straight out of the box, automatic home standby generators offer greater peace of mind, starting automatically when the power goes out, and with the ability to run continuously until utility power is restored. Sitting outside of the home similarly to a central air unit, a home standby connects via an automatic transfer switch, either wired to power the entire house or just select critical circuits. The power of these generators is tailored to a home’s size and power requirements and is a failsafe for power outages while you’re away from the home. Larger fuel capacities or a direct connection to natural gas lines provides longer term, less complicated protection when properly maintained. Learn more about portable and home standby generators at


Staying Energy Efficient Amid Expected 10-Year High Heating Costs This Winter

(NewsUSA) - America’s homeowners can expect to shell out more cold cash to keep warm this winter as they face the highest home heating costs in more than a decade -- making optimal energy efficiency more essential than ever.       

Here are the financially frostbiting facts: The average cost of home heating is expected to increase by 17.2% since last winter from $1,025 to $1,202, according to the National Energy Assistance Directors Association (NEADA). Those who heat with natural gas will confront the largest spike, with their cost predicted to soar 34.3% over last year. Conversely, homeowners who use electric heat are forecasted to see the lowest increase at 6.9%.     

The good news is that families can prevent a utility bill blitz by following a few simple tips. With home heating and cooling accounting for nearly half of home energy use, small steps can go a long way.     

• Ease Into Electric:  According to Columbia University’s Earth Institute, electric systems are a solution to decarbonize home climate control. Among the most energy-efficient heating and cooling products, electricity-powered ductless mini-split systems, offered by companies including Fujitsu General America, can save as much as 25% on your energy bill. Plus, they are effective with temperatures as low as -15⁰F. Mini-splits use thin copper tubing to pump refrigerant from an outdoor compressor directly into an indoor air-handling unit, where the air is quietly distributed to the interior space.     

• Get “Smart” About Climate Control: When it comes to smart home temperature control, there are Smart HVAC Systems and Smart Thermostats. Smart HVAC systems have built-in Internet capability and can be controlled directly without additional equipment. Smart Home Thermostats create “smart” systems by enabling remote temperature control via a mobile or Internet-connected device or voice-operated home automation system.     

• Voice Your Preference: Take control of your comfort. Most HVAC manufacturers offer apps that enable systems to be controlled from anywhere using a mobile device. Voice-control capability uses digital assistants, such as Amazon Alexa or Google Home, to verbally dictate home temperatures. Easily controlling the temperature more closely allows homeowners to be more comfortable and improve energy savings.     

• Find Your Efficient Comfort Zone: Many of us live in homes designed for bigger families, but have yet to downsize. If you find yourself using a fraction of your home on a regular basis, consider upgrading to a zoned ducted, or ductless, system. This will allow you to save energy by not heating and cooling spaces where you and your family don’t spend a lot of time. With the need for less cooling and the gain from a more efficient system in the spaces you do still use, you can multiply your savings.     

• Try Low-Tech Fixes: Simple changes can have a big impact. Take advantage of the sun’s energy to heat your home by opening your south-facing curtains at sunrise to make best use of “passive solar gain.” Denser, cooler air stays closer to the ground, and warmer air rises. Force it downward with a low-speed fan. Another change you can make is to insulate and fill the gaps. Warmed air leaking out around poorly sealed window frames, power sockets, recessed light fittings, and other gaps is a big source of heat loss in homes. Additionally, thick curtains help to insulate glass at windows.     

If you’re looking to freeze out these record-breaking bills, a ductless heating and cooling system is definitely a worthwhile investment. Many Fujitsu systems with the Energy Star rating are more than twice as efficient as the minimum standard set by the government.     

To learn more or find a contractor near you, call 888-888-3424 or visit

A Primer for First-Time Homebuyers

After having waited on the sidelines for what seemed like forever, first-time homebuyers last year made 38 percent of all U.S. single-family home purchases - the biggest share since 2000 - and the 2.07 million new or existing houses they bought ended up being 7 percent more than in 2016, reported.

"Pent-up demand" is how the news site described it, citing Millennials as one of the driving forces.

But the market for house-hunting newbies like yourself has changed considerably from that most recent high mark of nearly two decades ago. And you know what they say: "Forewarned is forearmed." Read on.

* Inventory is tight.

So tight, in fact - especially for lower-priced starter-homes - that, as the Wall Street Journal wrote, even "buyers in historically calm markets such as Boise, Idaho, and Minneapolis are facing bidding wars, prompting them to dig deep into their coffers to win deals."

Not into bidding wars? Well, there's always Little Rock, Arkansas.

Unlike Denver, Seattle and San Francisco - which LendingTree named the "most challenging" cities in the nation for first-time buyers - Little Rock was rated a veritable paradise for house hunters.

* There's still a lot of all-cash buyers out there, so don't be afraid to get creative.

Though the number of all-cash transactions peaked at 40 percent in 2011 and 2012 - with savvy investors still taking advantage of the subprime mortgage crisis by buying up homes many then rented out - last year's 28.8 percent figure remains above normal. (One reason for the tight inventory: "Investors (are) making too much money as landlords to sell," according to

Granted, you're at a disadvantage if someone else waves $500,000 in cash in front of a seller even if you arrive pre-approved for a mortgage. However, tells the story of a couple who got a "great deal" on their Denver home - yes, Denver - by adding a contingency to their $300,000 bid that they'd pay $1,000 over any other competing offer up to a maximum of $329,000.

"Although unconventional," the site admitted, "a creative strategy like this can be very effective in today's market."

* Don't automatically reject a fixer-upper because you're not handy enough to fix things like the roof.

Everyone knows you can save a bundle by buying a house that needs work, but some things - including electrical system overhauls and extensive roof repairs - are safer left to the pros. So the question becomes this: How far ahead would you come out, financially, after deducting those costs from the house's likely post-renovation market value?

"An attractive roof is the ultimate curb enhancer, so it's important to figure that into your calculations," said Patsy O'Neill, a sales associate with Sotheby's in Montclair, New Jersey.

You can play around with different looks (i.e., Victorian vs. ranch) by using the free Virtual Home Remodeler launched by GAF (, North America's largest roofing manufacturer. And the website's GAF Master Elite Contractor database can help you find the most reputable and adequately insured professionals in your area.

* You may be being watched.


With owners leerier these days of strangers walking through their properties, they're increasingly employing devices capable of tracking prospective buyers' conversations and actions.

Yes, it can be creepy. The bigger danger, though, as noted, is that - if you don't watch what you're saying - there's "a real risk" of tipping your hand enough that you wind up overpaying.


Defining Luxury: American Hardwoods

With color, texture and grain unique to each hardwood species, these magnificent products are as individual as you. And whether on the floor or over the fireplace, in the kitchen or in the office, they provide the opportunity and means to personalize each and every space. So step beyond cookie-cutter and ascend into lavish with the allure of cherry, the iridescence of sycamore, the elegance of walnut!

The appeal is real. Today's informed buyers recognize American hardwood as the gold standard, then and now! So isn't it time to realize your vision of luxury?

For answers and inspiration, visit the photo gallery of hardwood flooring, cabinetry, furniture and millwork at And follow us on Facebook and Pinterest @AmericanHardwoods, and Twitter @AmericanHardwds.

Watch the video here.

Outdoor Spaces Offer Style And Comfort

Today's homeowners love being outdoors, and design professionals are being tasked with creating extravagant outdoor living areas with all the creature comforts that are typically found indoors - a task they're accomplishing with natural building materials such as cypress.

Mark Tuck of the Southern Cypress Manufacturers Association,, says, "Cypress is a beautiful wood that looks exotic. More importantly, it is a durable wood that - when properly installed and maintained - provides long-lasting performance. It's perfect for outdoor use!"

Unlike other species that need to be pressure-treated with chemicals for outdoor use, cypress comes by its durability naturally. When growing, cypress trees produce cypressene in their heartwood. This preservative oil protects the wood from the elements, and it repels insects such as termites and carpenter bees that often feed on and nest in other species.

"Thanks to its natural characteristics," Tuck adds, "cypress has typically been used as siding or as an outdoor ceiling product. But more recently, design professionals are using it for a variety of other outdoor applications."

Cypress for the Outdoor Floor

"Outdoor rooms, peaceful spaces, and low-maintenance materials are the buzzwords I hear most from my clients," says Nancy Moore of The Porch Company in Nashville, Tennessee.

"I like to use cypress in spaces that are exposed to the elements. From my experience, it holds up well to blowing rain that may come in. I love its character, authenticity, longevity, and the fact that it is a renewable resource."

Moore says that her clients prefer porch designs that flow from the inside to the outside, which includes the flooring.

"We typically use tongue-and-groove cypress for our porch floors because it makes the space feel like another room of the house - a room that just happens to have walls that breathe."

The New Heart of the Home

The heart of the home has long been the kitchen, right? So as today's homeowners spend more time outside, creating a secondary kitchen outdoors is a top priority.

When crafting cabinetry for outdoor kitchens, Rod Richardson of Associated Construction Group, Gonzales, Louisiana, relies on cypress, and for good reasons. "It offers value, appearance, and performance that lasts," Richardson says. "In my 20 years of building outdoor kitchens with cypress, I haven't had a callback.

"There are many building materials available, but one has stood the test of time and that's wood. It offers an appearance, feel, and even smell that you can't re-create with man-made products. And when I show customers different cabinet materials - even different woods - they usually lean towards cypress."

Incorporate cypress into your lavish outdoor space. See how at


Yes, Homeowners, It’s Time to Prepare for Storm Season

Five to nine hurricanes - with as many as four "major" ones boasting sustained winds of 111-plus mph - is what the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration just predicted for this year's storm season. In other words, they're calling for an "active" six months or so through the end of November.

And while no one's saying we're in for a repeat of last season's devastating triple whammy - yes, we do mean Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria - ask anyone still dealing with the havoc of having had their house battered in one of those storms if they don't still wonder what more they could've done to be better prepared.

"It only takes one storm to devastate a community," said Acting FEMA Deputy Administrator Daniel Kaniewski.

Read on for some of the best advice on readying for the next (inevitable) storm.

* Check your insurance. The coups de grace for many of those hit hardest last year was discovering that they'd have to find a way to pay all or some of their rebuilding costs themselves. The reasons ranged from lack of flood insurance (only those with federally backed mortgages living in designated high-risk zones are required by law to buy it) to a local spike in the price of labor and materials.

"Hurricane Harvey (in Texas) showed that flooding can also damage properties outside the highest-risk zones," the Wall Street Journal noted, quoting a former New York insurance commissioner as saying that "even financially literate people" don't understand that floods aren't covered in the standard homeowners policy.

* Clean your gutters. Even in perfect weather, Angie's List says you're looking at a possible "nightmare" if they're so clogged with mounds of leaves, sticks, and other debris that it causes your roof to leak. And if you factor in a hurricane-strength rain, suddenly the very roofing system component meant to control the flow of all that water - thus protecting your roof, walls, foundation, and landscape from the aforementioned flooding - can be about as useful as spoiled milk.

"If you let gutter cleaning go by the wayside, it could cost you hundreds of thousands of dollars," the website warned.

* Make sure your roof is in good condition. The Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety actually built a test chamber where experts could simulate the effects of hurricanes and other natural disasters on full-scale one- and two-story homes. So when its president and CEO, Julie Rochman, tells's "MoneyWatch" that "it all starts with the roof," you need to pay attention.

"The roof," she said, "is the largest potential opening on the house, and wind and water can do terrible things if they get through (it)."

Ergo, now's the time to have a professional roofing contractor check for (and fix) any signs of wear and tear like broken or missing shingles, fractured fiberglass mat, and loosening of the self-seal strip. These tell-tale signs, especially if they resulted from damage from hail, can be difficult to spot yourself. And if you do decide to replace your roof? "Consider shingles that have passed the UL2218, Class 4 impact test," advised Jason Joplin, program manager of CARE (the GAF Center for the Advancement of Roofing Excellence).

Joplin especially likes the Timberline ArmorShield II line of shingles from GAF (, North America's largest roofing manufacturer. In addition to looking good, they're made with SBS modified asphalt, which he described as "a rubber-like material for enhanced flexibility and durability during extreme weather conditions."

An added bonus: Depending on where you live, shingles like these could help you qualify for significant discounts on your homeowner's insurance.

* Trim weak tree branches. Need we say more than people have actually died from trees and branches crashing into their houses?


Smart Millennial Uses Down Payment Assistance for New Home

"Yeah, I've been moving since I was 18," says Matt, "and I was getting sick of it. I'm really good at packing and moving, though. I've had lots of practice."

Part of the reason Matt moved so frequently was that he enjoyed getting to know different areas of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. It also taught him which neighborhoods he'd want to live in on a more permanent basis.

"After working in the mortgage industry for three years, I became very aware of what a smart financial decision it is to buy a home," explains Matt. So, he began house hunting while living with a roommate and paying $525 each for rent.

Because Matt owns a motorcycle, a house with a garage was a must. Unfortunately, the area he wanted was comprised of older homes - many without garages. And, he was unwilling to go above his price range.

As a young first-time homebuyer with student loan debt, Matt didn't want to overextend himself. He also didn't have enough in his savings for a 20 percent down payment. So, when he finally found his four-bedroom home with a garage, and in his price range, he decided to apply for a low-down-payment loan. His goal was to put down five percent and use private mortgage insurance, which is required on conventional loans with less than a 20 percent down payment.

Yet Matt was still a bit uncomfortable about using all of his savings for his down payment and closing costs. He had the money, but wondered what would happen if his bike or new home needed expensive repairs. Matt wanted to ensure that he still had a rainy-day fund just in case, so he researched down payment assistance programs.

While there are different types of programs available, Matt took advantage of the Easy Close Advantage - Down Payment Assistance program offered through WHEDA (Wisconsin Housing and Economic Development Authority). In order to be eligible, buyers must be purchasing an owner-occupied home in Wisconsin and meet specific requirements, such as income levels, credit ratings and home-purchase price limits.

Matt easily qualified for the program, and closed on his home in July 2018. His monthly mortgage payment is $1,292, which includes escrow and $59 for the down-payment-assistance loan.

But what does a smart millennial do with a big four-bedroom house and a lot of former roommates? Yep. Even though Matt could afford the mortgage himself, he invited two of his buddies to live with him. Now, his roomies pay $550 each per month and Matt pays only $192 of the mortgage, so he's saving money while building equity. As Matt confides, "I see this house as a really good investment."

And on top of that, he can finally get rid of his moving boxes!

For more homebuyer resources, visit To find down payment assistance programs in your area, visit


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