Home Maintenance

  1. 6 Inspirational Luxury Kitchen Trends for 2016

    Whether you’re looking for a new luxury home or just thinking about a kitchen makeover, you’ll be needing some inspiration, and we wanted to help you with that. We’ve compiled a list of the best kitchen trends we’ve seen so far this year to help you get started.


    1. Muted color palettes

    muted color palette kitchen

    White has dominated American kitchens until this year. The new trend has shifted to muted colors like soft charcoal as well as neutral blues and greens. You’ll even see these color changes in accent features like backsplashes and trim. It’s also becoming trendy to pair those lighter colors with wooden chairs, tables and storage baskets.


    2. Traditional and minimalistic

    minimalist kitchen design

    This year, we’ve seen a lot of interest in backsplashes, shiny surfaces (think metal ranges and brass faucets) and windowed cabinets. These are all styles recycled from the 80s. Don’t worry, the style isn’t regressing. Homeowners are choosing elements that were popular back then and incorporating them into their contemporary kitchens to create a style called “transitional”.

    Kitchens are also looking sleeker and cleaner by uniting smooth lines and an uncluttered appearance.


    3. Additional storage space

    extra cabinet space in the kitchen

    Along with minimalistic design comes smarter storage spaces. People are incorporating additional cabinetry or more options for storing smaller appliances. Some examples include rotating shelves, pull-out drawers and multi-tiered drawers.


    4. Open kitchens and living rooms

    open floor plan kitchen and living room

    Over the years, kitchens that open up into living rooms have been getting increasingly popular, and 2016 continues to follow that trend. People want their kitchens and lounging spaces to feel united. This has become prevalent among those who enjoy hosting parties. Cooking while being able to entertain your guests is very important!


    5. Kitchen islands for dining

    counter top dining space

    More and more, people are replacing their family-style dinner tables and opting for a simpler solution, like an island or additional counter space. For the people who have kept their kitchen table, many are switching to taller, collaborative tables like you might find in a modern pub or networking space.


    6. Freezer-on-bottom refrigerators

    freezer-on-bottom refrigerators

    Homeowners are abandoning the typical stacked refrigerator/freezer and upgrading to a more modern style in which the freezer is located on the bottom and there are two doors that open to the refrigerator. The freezer opens like a drawer and resembles a chest freezer inside. This allows for additional storage space and provides stackable options.

    If you’re planning to upgrade more than one room in your house, take a look at our 2016 luxury bathroom trends, too! That should help you get a few more ideas for your remodel.


  2. The Best Maid Services in the Greater Pittsburgh Area

    The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that men and women spend about 2 hours per day cleaning and maintaining their homes. But you’re busy… You have a job, kids to care for and miscellaneous responsibilities to handle.

    Surely, at some point, you’ve thought about hiring a cleaning service. You would have several more hours of free time to relax, go to the gym, spend time with your kids, or check off another task on your priority list.

    We wanted to make it a little bit easier for you, so we’ve compiled a list of companies in the Greater Pittsburgh that perform house cleaning services. Each website provides an estimate for their services as well as optional scheduling. Many will clean your home with green, eco-friendly products, too!


    affordable maids cleaning company

    Affordable Maids

    This residential and commercial cleaning company is the largest maid service in the Pittsburgh area. They cover the North, South, East and West regions. All workers are insured, bonded and carry their own supplies. There are even a few newbie coupons up for grabs on their site.

    Packages are available for one-time or scheduled cleanings.

    Contact information: (724) 933 – 6000


    maid simple cleaning services

    Maid Simple Cleaning of Mars

    This cleaning service aims to give residence Mars the most comfortable and clean environment possible. They’re so seriously about it, they even offer a green cleaning option. Rates are available by home size, with a special estimate for homes over 3,000 sq feet.

    They offer one-time or scheduled cleaning packages.

    Contact information: (724) 900-8405


    maid pro cleaning


    Maidpro has expert-trained staff that work with their customers to set a cleaning plan that works best. All services and schedules are tailored to fit your needs and budget. Supplies are safe, effective and eco-friendly! This company also offers special offer coupons on their website.

    Packages are available for one-time or scheduled cleanings.

    Contact information: (724) 942-0356


    pittsburgh green clean - green maid services

    Pittsburgh Green Clean

    This fully-licensed cleaning company was named the Best Cleaning Service in Pittsburgh 2014. That’s always a plus when searching for a great housekeeper, right? If you live in the East End of Pittsburgh, this is the service to call. They make their own green cleaning products each time they visit a customer’s home. Products include everyday items like vinegar, baking soda, and natural cleansers that are safe your family and pets.

    They offer one-time or scheduled cleaning packages.

    Contact information: (412) 475 – 8193


    goovy maid cleaning service

    Groovy Maid LLC

    Housekeeping services can be questionable, but Groovy Maid, a highly rated house cleaning service, performs a thorough interview and background check to ensure that the worker they’re sending is the right person to care for your home. Pricing is based on the number of rooms and bathrooms in your home and frequency with which you’d like someone to clean. They pride themselves on communicating openly and honestly (that means no upsells or hidden pricing).

    Packages are available for one-time or scheduled cleanings.

    Contact information: (412) 419-6275


    mr maid website


    A local, family owned cleaning service, Mr. Maid tidies up homes in Pittsburgh and the surrounding area. Their staff is experienced, professional and reliable so they can provide you with a high-quality service. A free, detailed cleaning proposal to fit your budget is available upon request when you schedule an in-home visit. Additionally, staff will provide free services to women facing ongoing cancer treatments. Check out the Cleaning for a Reason Initiative to learn more.

    They offer one-time or scheduled cleaning packages.

    Contact information: (412) 837-8297


    naturally clean maid services

    Naturally Clean

    Another green cleaning service that uses all natural products! You won’t be experiencing bleach, ammonia or any other harsh chemicals when your cleaner visits. They make their own plant-based products from scratch, which allows them to cut back on wasteful plastic consumption. The mixture is organic, hypoallergenic and safe for everyone. Services are available to residents of Allegheny and Washington counties.

    Packages are available for one-time or scheduled cleanings.

    Contact information: (412) 996 – 9164


    the cleaning authority - tidying services

    The Cleaning Authority

    Want more than your house cleaned? The Cleaning Authority will clean your basement, garage and attic, too! If you live in the South Hills of Pittsburgh and want an environmentally-conscious, insured and bonded cleaning service, these are the people you’ve been looking for.

    One-time or scheduled cleaning packages are available.

    Contact information: (412) 257 – 3771

  3. Stain Removal and Other Household Cleaning Secrets

    house cleaning tips

    Cleaning your house is either a necessary evil or therapy. Regardless of how you feel about housekeeping, use this list of time-saving stain-removal tips to keep your house sparkling without having to break out the elbow grease.

    First let’s cover some cleaning basics:

    • Vacuum before you mop to avoid getting hair stuck to wet floors.
    • Let your stain or germ-removing cleaning products sit for several minutes before wiping them off.
    • Vinegar and water can clean just about anything.
    • When in doubt, use a toothbrush. It’s soft enough to avoid damage but tough enough to make your elbow grease a bit more effective.
    • Never spray liquid on your electronics. Using a dry microfiber cloth should do the trick.

    Granite/ Marble

    Stain removal can be tricky when it comes to something as predominate and expensive as your kitchen counters. To take the anxiety out of the stain removal process we suggest to test the products you use on an inconspicuous area before applying it to larger areas.

    Pro Tip: underneath the sink or any other place where the bottom of your counter is accessible is great to test products risk free!

    1. Mix baking soda and water to create a thick paste.
    2. Pile the paste on top of the stain.
    3. Cover the area and mixture with plastic wrap (or a plastic bag).
    4. Let the area sit for 24 hours.
    5. Remove the bag and wipe up the mixture with a damp cloth
      • Didn’t Work? Try this:
        1. Pour hydrogen peroxide to cover the stain.
        2. Place plastic wrap over the hydrogen peroxide.
        3. Let the area sit for 24 hours.
        4. Wipe the area clean with a damp cloth

    You can also try using bleach in the same way for granite but it’s not advised for use on marble.


    Don’t let grout ruin your day. With these tips, you can avoid messy re-grouting and save your effort for more extreme messes.
    Here are a few easy ways to wipe away the grime and leave your grout looking new again.

    1. Purchase Polyblend Grout Renew from a local hardware store, or online. There are colors to choose from so make sure you are ordering the shade you need.
    2. Apply Grout Renew into the grout lines with a small brush (a tooth or paint brush works just fine). As you apply, have a cloth handy to wipe any product from the tile surfaces, as it will dry quickly.

    It may sound tedious but it’s a far cry from scrubbing or re-grouting an entire area.

    Vinyl Flooring

    Scuffs happen, but they don’t have to be around forever. Make a paste of baking soda and water. Then use a sponge to easily buff out any scuffs or scratches.

    Vinegar & Water

    This combination can clean just about anything. Below is a list to prove that:

    • Dry thinset from tiling an area (50/50 mix of water and vinegar)
    • Remove ballpoint-pen marks from a wall (Vinegar only)
    • Scissors: instead of using water use vinegar to avoid rusting
    • Tough water rings? No problem, use a mixture of equal parts vinegar and olive oil. Make sure to wipe with the grain (if cleaning wood).
    • Leather can also be cleaned with vinegar.
    • Rugs can be brought back to life by brushing a solution of vinegar and water (1 cup vinegar to 1 gallon of water).
    • Carpet stains can be removed by using 2 tbsp. of salt in ½ cup of vinegar. After the solution dries onto the stain, vacuum the area. Pro Tip: for really bad stains create a paste out of 1 tbsp. of vinegar with 1 tbsp. Of cornstarch.
    • To clean exposed brick use the same 1 cup vinegar to 1 gallon of water solution.
    • To Brighten up the wood in your home use a mix of 4 tbsp. Of vinegar with 2 tbsp. Of olive oil and 2 cups of warm water. Let the mixture soak into the wood for a few minutes, then polish dry.
    • Remove Wax buildup by using a cloth dipped in equal parts water and vinegar. Use a clean dry cloth to remove any remaining liquid.
    • Residue on your shower head can easily be removed by putting vinegar in a plastic bag and securing it around your shower head with a rubber band. Let it set for several hours, then turn the shower on for just a few moments to remove the smell of vinegar.
    • If your dishes aren’t coming out of the dishwasher as clean as they used to it may be time to clean the actual dishwasher. Put ½ cup of vinegar into the machine and run an empty cycle.


    Looking around at a thin film of dust covering everything is discomforting. Avoid paying for boxes of special dusting pads by purchasing a pack of microfiber cloths. Unlike a paper towel, they don’t leave any residue behind and the best part is that you can throw them in the washer for infinite use.

    Extra Tips

    • For baked on messes on your pots and pans, leave a dryer sheet in the bottom of the pan and fill with water. Let it sit overnight and rinse it in the morning.
    • Microwave your sponges for three minutes to make sure no bacteria is lurking inside.
    • Remove tarnish from your fixtures with a little bit of ketchup. Rub it in and wipe it clean with warm water.
    • Put some wet paper towels in the microwave on high for 3 minutes. The steam will soften the grunge, making it easier to clean off.
    • Make ice cubes made with equal parts water and vinegar to clean and deodorize your garbage disposal.




  4. 7 Things to Expect When Buying An Old House in Pittsburgh

    Old Cabin at PittIt’s been over 250 years since Pittsburgh was founded in 1758. This city is old, and so are its structures! If you’re in the market to buy a house in Pittsburgh, you’ve probably browsed or even visited several old houses for sale in the area. Depending on their upkeep, some are in better shape than others. How do you know what to expect when you’re buying an old house in Pittsburgh? As local homebuilders, we have a few ideas… (more…)

  5. 8 Spring Cleaning Tips for Every (Heartland) Home

    make the interior shine with a seasonal spring clean

    Let’s face it: spring cleaning is not a popular subject.  No homeowner counts the days until they can shake the carpets and wipe down the walls.

    But that doesn’t mean it isn’t important.

    Several areas around the house go relatively untouched during the colder months.  That’s why it is time to give them a bit of TLC now.  This post will help you welcome the warm weather by reviewing eight spring cleaning tips that will (hopefully) put the long winter behind us.

    Tackle the closet.  One staple task involved in annual spring cleaning is tidying up the bedroom closet.  Throughout the year, we accumulate more things, add seasons and wear our clothes out.  Get a trash bag (or two or three) and head into the closet to sort through items like clothing and shoes.  There are at least a few things everyone could stand to kick to the curb—a pair of jeans that are too tight, a t-shirt with a small hole in the arm and much more.  These are the things we can’t really use anymore, so why not donate them to someone who could?

    Change the drawers.  Some people, especially when they have large collections of clothing, organize dresser drawers according to season.  Doing this involves leaving out the items that are likely to be worn and putting those that will not in plastic storage boxes or in the closet.  Just remember to keep a few long-sleeved items on hand for the occasional cooler days and evenings.  This is Pittsburgh, after all, and spring is chaotic.


  6. Best Types of Spackle & Joint Compound for Drywall Repair

    Pesky unaesthetic holes or gouges in drywall are unavoidable. Whether moving wall art or moving into a previously lived in home, there will come a time when a repair needs to be made to your walls. If you don’t feel like reading about the specifications of spackle, we don’t blame you. So we created a flow chart to to make your life a little easier. Otherwise, prepare yourself to become an expert on spackle.

    spackle type flow chartThe fix seems simple enough; you buy spackle, fill the hole, paint over it, and you’re done! The hardest part of this seemingly simple process may be the very first step. When you arrive at the “Paints” section of your favorite home improvement store you expect to see a container boldly labeled with the word “SPACKLE“. Unfortunately for you this isn’t the case. You begin reading each and every label on the multicolored buckets and suddenly you feel like you’re drowning in a sea of spackle. Do you need standard or lightweight? Dry mix or pre-mixed? Acrylic? Vinyl? Epoxy? And what’s the difference between spackle and joint compound? Keep calm and read on! We will have you looking like Tim “The Tool Man” Taylor in no time.

    Before you can begin to make decisions regarding what type of spackle will work best for you, there are some questions you will need to answer:

    • drywall repair productsWhat is the material you are trying to repair? (wood, drywall, vinyl plastic, etc)
    • How long & deep is the imperfection on the surface you are trying to repair?
    • Is this an interior or exterior surface?
    • Is the surface likely to get banged up again?

    If you were answering each of these questions as you read them, thank you for coming prepared. If not, you’ll need to do some investigating and find the answers before you can identify the perfect spackle type for you. You may have noticed that each container of spackle has a slew of descriptive words or features. We will now cover each of those features by describing what they mean and which one you should choose.


  7. Make a Home Repair Journal & Maintenance Log

    A list of home repair and improvement to-dos quickly becomes daunting for most DIYers. Regular maintenance and seasonal tasks always find their way to the top of the list, making it difficult to ever get to the bigger projects. There are only so many hours in a Saturday afternoon.

    The sheer number of things to keep track of leaves amateur repairmen confounded and results in a surrender before the job has begun. This feeling of helplessness often prevents homeowners from re-attempting any home improvement projects in the future, a vicious circle, particularly for a young or first-time owner.

    The good news is that this feeling of helplessness is often NOT the result of a core lack of home improvement skills, but rather a simple matter of organizing and understanding the requirements and steps in any particular task. Thus, as a homeowner, you can easily take on a project on your own by keeping a well-organized homeowner journal.

    Reasons to Use a Homeowners’ Journal

    Organization. The journal provides one place for all things home repair. You can now leave the world of Post-Its on appliances and permanent marker on paint cans. Everything from paint chips to repair companies go in one spot.

    History. Roeshel from Pittsburgh’s own DIYshowoff.com shared her experience with home repair journals and why she is thankful that the previous owner knew about them, too.

    “One of the things I loved about our home buying experience was that it came with a ledger. We found it after we closed in a cabinet. The previous owner recorded home related maintenance things dating back to the 1960s! What a great idea, right? It’s how we knew the strange lights lining an area in the back yard were added to light up a boccie court, something that had completely stumped us. We were able to see our home’s history and continue the tradition of adding our own notes to the ledger.”

    Finding the Right Home Repair Journal

    Creating a home repair journal is easy once you know the style that is best for you. Some find a digital file easiest while others, myself included, prefer a paper copy that can join us in the garden. I suggest that you look at both.


  8. 3 Essential Tips for Building a Green Home in Pittsburgh

    building a green house starts with the builder

    Everyone knows that Pittsburgh is a black and gold city. We see it at the park, on the field and at the rink. In some places, however, green might be the new black.

    Designing a green home takes place at three levels. Firstly, the builder must use green materials and practices. Secondly, the homeowner must be committed to energy-efficient fixtures. Thirdly, efficiency best practices must be followed to reduce the carbon footprint over the life of the home. Let’s start with the builders.

    1. View ENERGY STAR Credentials

    ENERGY STAR is an energy efficiency standard founded by the EPA and Department of Energy. The blue sticker that you have seen on appliances can also be applied to contractors. Home builders that have been designed as ENERGY STAR certified have to produce homes that meet strict testing.

    Agents visit new homes to perform inspections that examine construction practices and test efficiency throughout the house. The process involves blowers to evaluate the joints of ducts, windows and doors and a visual inspection of insulation to ensure proper installation. Testing is quite a spectacle.


  9. How to Get a Building Permit for Pittsburgh Remodeling Projects

    Image from twp.marshall.pa.us

    Pittsburgh was a booming steel town for the better part of the 20th century, providing an influx of people, money and new real estate.  As these homes find themselves over the hill, or even the century mark, it leaves residents searching for ways to update them into this millennium.  As you drift off to dream of a new sun room or finished basement, it is also best to prepare for the building permit process.  One major step must be taken for each home renovation, however: obtaining a building permit.  Greater Pittsburgh has its own set of standards in place for the use of land and getting a residential building permit to change a home, so be sure to follow protocol.  Let’s discuss the permit process.

    Before You Leave the House

    When do I actually need a permit? According to the Pittsburgh Bureau of Building Inspection, individuals require permits “prior to the construction, enlargement, alteration, or repair of any building, structure, or part thereof.”

    What if I am hiring someone? Regardless of whether you’re hiring a contractor or doing the work yourself, the building permit still is essential, even if the project is small.  Now, the contractor may help with the process, but it is important to know what the Bureau office needs.

    • Address of the job site
    • Owner’s contact details
    • Residential permit application
    • Deck worksheet, if applicable, indicating proposed size and material makeup
    • Check of money order
    • Building plot plan, in case an occupancy permit will be required
    • Construction plans, including drawings and blueprints, possibly signed by contractor
    • Contractor registration, if a contractor is to be used

    At the Bureau of Building Inspection

    Map of the pittsburgh bureau of building inspection

    Using the map above, look for the public parking lot located east of the Bureau of Building Inspection on the Boulevard of the Allies. Once inside, use the map below to guide yourself toward the Zoning Office.

    A diagram of inside the pittsburgh bureau of building inspection office

    1.  Zoning Office.  Pittsburgh residents wishing to perform a remodel and obtain a building permit must start the process with the Zoning Office.  Different classifications of zoning exist in Pittsburgh, and this office will need to review your project plans to approve your permit eligibility and determine whether or not an occupancy permit is needed, too.  Occupancy permits are usually required when the building serves as more than a single family home and must be obtained before proceeding with the project.

    • As-of-right Development Approval: Building plans are in line with the city’s zoning regulations and the Bureau doesn’t need to take additional action
    • Administrator’s Exception Approval: The Bureau notes things in the building plan that do not strictly meet the established zoning code, however may apply exceptions listed in the code.
    • Special Exception Approval: The plan does not conform to zoning regulations or established exceptions and will therefore need approval from the Zoning Board of Adjustments prior to permit issuance and building.
    • Conditional Use Exception: The zoning hearing board may require conditions to be met for approval on special exception cases, which will potentially be approved by the city council after a hearing with the planning commission.

    This is the File Room at the Pittsburgh Bureau of Building Inspection

    2.  File Room.  Upon obtaining zoning approval, building permit applicants will have to head over to the file room office at the Bureau.  This office has one simple duty: to check and see if any code violations occurred on the applicant’s part.

    3.  Engineer’s Counter.  Here is where your actual permit application will be taken from you.  If it’s easier, download the permit form online prior to going out for the permit and fill it out.  Otherwise, the application can be completed with the engineer or technician who is looking over your plans.  Sometimes building plans must be considered further, in which case they will be put into Plan Check and held for a few weeks prior to granting or denial of the permit.

    4.  Licensing and Cashier.  Congratulations!  If you make it to the licensing phase, you’re well on your way to obtaining a building permit for your home’s project.  The only thing left to do here is to show the land engineer’s approval and pay for the building permit.   Sorry, no plastic accepted at the counter.  So, what’s this gonna cost me?  That depends on what you’re building.  Most homes would likely fall into the R2 category for single-family homes, R3 and R4 being for 2-family homes like a townhouse.

    With permit in-hand, builders are free to begin their projects.  Different inspections of the job site may be required through the duration of the project, however, and builders must comply.

    • Footer Inspection.  When trenches are dug out and reinforcement is laid, an inspection may be conducted prior to placing a footer or pouring concrete.
    • Rough-In Inspection.  Any work done on the home involving wiring will require this, as it is an inspection of the wiring system.  This will have to be done prior to installing insulation and drywall over the wiring to ensure safety and functionality.
    • Final Inspection.  Once the project is completed, an inspector may wish to check the finished work, noting measurements from the building’s footing to the top of the wall.

    Acquiring a residential building permit is a thorough process, but it’s all in the name of abiding by Pittsburgh’s land and building regulations.  When all is said and done, your project will be underway and soon you could be enjoying a new pool, deck, second floor addition or many other home upgrades!

  10. 7 Ways to Reduce Heat Loss in Your Home this Winter

    Our hot summer and mild fall might make it difficult to think about the winter. But the Farmer’s Almanac suggests that we should. Most of the east half the US is projected to more rain, sleet and snow than normal. That means it’s time to think about winterizing your home to prevent heat loss in the cold months to come.

    This week’s 15-Minute Fix reviews seven ways to reduce heat loss in your home. Each one is a 15-minute fix—not all of them together. Don’t try to tackle the whole list during a halftime intermission. Break them into separate short projects.

    Tips for Reducing Home Heat Loss

    1. Replace air filters in forced air heating systems. Clearing the debris gets warm air from the furnace to you faster and reduces the spread of dust. That will save energy and keep everyone healthier during flu season. Our step-by-step tutorial on changing furnace filters shows you how to do it.
    2. Check heating vents. Floor grates serve as natural traps for dust that builds in the vents in the off months. Peer into the grate for dust bunnies and other build up and remove anything you find.
    3. Wrap the water heater. Insulating blankets for water heaters reduce energy use by 10 percent, which adds up over the course of a long winter. While you’re there, consider turning down the temperature. For every 10 degree drop in temperature, your bill drops up to 5 percent (depending on the water heater’s age and quality).
    4. Cover exposed piping. Start at the water heater and trace the pipes leading away from it, especially if the unit is located in an unfinished or insulated basement. This YouTube video shows what to look for and how to install insulation.
    5. Spot check the exterior. Look for any holes in the foundation or siding. These include cracks, rotten wood and gaps in sealing. Pay close attention to outlets and pipes. Insulation around them tends to shrink and split over time, creating chinks in your winter armor.
    6. Inspect shingles (or tile). Missing or cracked roofing suggests a point of concern. If you see a blemish, it is time to crawl into the attic for a look at the other side.
    7. Check joints. Windows and doors leak the most at their joints, where time and use have loosened the seal. An incense stick is a popular testing tool. Light your favorite scent and hold it next to window and door joints. If the smoke dances, you’ve found a spot that needs attention.


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