Planning The Perfect Pantry — 5 Easy Tips

One of the most-used spaces in most kitchens is the pantry. Unfortunately, it’s also one of the least-planned spaces, as well. How can you design an efficient and attractive pantry? Here are 5 tips to get you started.

Avoid Long, Plain Shelves. Most people think of a pantry as a simple cabinet or walk-in space with long, basic shelving on which to place food. This, however, is a quick trip to disorganization, food waste, and frustration. Instead, try using a variety of shelf sizes and/or installing cube-shaped shelving to help you group and organize foodstuffs. An experienced cabinet company can help you brainstorm ways to maximize your shelf design. 

Make it Accessible. The problem with basic shelving or drawers in a pantry is that it can allow food to get lost in the shuffle or make it hard to get to everything. Solve this problem by including slide-out cabinets and custom shelving for things like spices or other small items. Wire baskets are another good way to corral groups of food items in a way that’s easy see, to pull out, and to access.

Decant Food. Taking food and liquids out of their original packaging is a good way to help organize it and prevent spoilage. Using coordinated clear containers and bottles purchased specifically to match your pantry design can make it easier to know how much is on hand, identify liquids or spices, and store more in less space.

Use all Space. Don’t let space go to waste in a small pantry. Instead, use hanging racks or attach wire shelving to the door of the pantry or to cabinet doors. Do you have a small leftover space next to shelves or walls? Tall, narrow spaces are great for storing baking sheets, racks, and cutting boards. Space above the pantry? Add a horizontal row of wine bottle holders. Work with your cabinet contractor to help utilize unusual spaces.

Keep the Food Together. Maximize kitchen efficiency by placing the pantry near the rest of the food in the kitchen — by the refrigerator. Incorporating storage for both dry and cold items into your work triangle (consisting of the sink, stove, and refrigerator) will help reduce excess steps and make cooking easier. 

By applying some or all of these pantry tips when planning your kitchen remodel, you can help turn an ordinary kitchen into a cooking mecca that you will love to use every day. For more information, contact local professionals like Gerald L Scott Custom Cabinetry.

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Get To Know The Signs Of Contaminated Drinking Water In Your Home

When most people think of environmental hazards that can pose a safety threat or health issue, they think of factors outside of their home. However, because most of your time is spent inside the four walls of your house, it is always best to look at the health hazards that start here, especially when it comes to your drinking water. Contaminated drinking water can be a really huge deal if it is not caught before it starts making everyone in your home sick, but recognizing the signs is not always an easy feat. Thankfully, there are a few signs which could indicate you have issues with contaminated drinking water. 

Your water has an odd consistency or reaction when it comes out of the faucet. Of all of the signs of contaminated water in a residential setting, this is one that is often missed because the change can be so slight that it is hard to recognize right away. A good example is water which foams when it is distributed quickly from the faucet into a glass. If the foam sticks around for a moment, it can mean the water is contaminated with detergents which are often used to dilute sewage. 

Your water is an odd color. If your water is anything other than clear, it is an almost definite sign of contamination. The contamination could be coming from inside your own plumbing lines, but could also be radiating from the public water supply or your well. If you water is milky or white, it is a sign it is contaminated with sediment or mineral deposits. If the water is reddish or has muddy tones, it could point to rusty water lines or excessive levels of iron. 

Your drinking water has an off odor. Clean water shouldn’t really smell like anything at all. While it is common for public water supplies to sometimes have a chlorinated odor, this should be a slight smell. If you start to notice your water has odors other than this, it is definitely time to have your water tested for cleanliness. A few examples of water odors that need more attention include water which smells like:

  • detergent or soap
  • strong chemicals
  • mildew or dirt
  • sulfur or rotten eggs

The bottom line is, contaminated water in your home of any level should be taken seriously. If you suspect your water supply is contaminated, talk to a water treatment contractor, such as Valley Drilling Corp, for testing and available solutions. 

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Keep Staff And Kids Cool With Air Conditioning Tips For School Administrators

If your school is like many today, you begin your fall semester in late summer. This early-to-late-August school onset makes sense from an academic or calendar standpoint, but your air conditioning system needs to be ready for the challenge of an August heat wave or your students will suffer.

In areas where late summer climbs into the extreme heat zone, your school’s air conditioning is essential to keep students comfortable and ready to learn. If your facility’s air conditioning bills are outrageous, or your units are not keeping your classrooms cool as you begin the school year earlier, consider one of the following solutions:

Grow a tree near your school’s AC unit

If there is space for landscaping around your building, design a school project to grow shade trees that will lower the temperature of the school building as they grow. Science teachers can make this an ongoing experiment in passive cooling methods by taking yearly measurements of the building’s temps as the trees branch out and cool more surface area.

Trees that shade your school’s air conditioning compressor(s) are also a wise idea, since compressors are metal, heat up, and must use energy to cool down when they’re in direct sunlight. The only rules are don’t plant anything that drops seeds or other messy tree debris that might gunk up the compressor, and don’t plant the trunk of the tree too close to the compressor.

Dwarf trees, shrubs and grasses will also provide cooling if there isn’t room for a full shade tree.

Start AC units a week before school begins

Some school systems are attempting to save money by eliminating their onsite maintenance crews and completely turning off their AC units during the summer breaks. When school begins, the AC units have not been serviced or maintained, so some school systems are having to do without any cooling in the hottest part of summer.

Don’t wait until school starts to fire up your buildings’ AC units. In the first place, turning off the school AC can encourage mold and insect infestation. Secondly, you will have to pay for emergency repairs if your unit fails to work on the first day of school, or you will have sick students and parents who refuse to allow their children to attend classes until you sort out the AC issues.

When you start the AC up at least a week prior to the first day of class, it gives you time to have any problems resolved without adding student discomfort to the mix. 

Any time there’s a heat wave, your AC units will be running steadily to keep up, so it may be wise to rethink the earlier school start dates. You definitely want to suspend outdoor athletic activities during extreme heat events, and provide materials for teachers to recognize heat stroke and heat illness in school-age children.

Regular maintenance of your campus AC system is the key to having appropriate office and classroom temperatures during the hottest months, and it should be a standard yearly budgeted investment to ensure your staff and students perform their best no matter how sizzling it is outside. For more information on AC units, talk to a professional like Nathan’s Heating & Air Conditioning, Inc.

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2 DIY Fire Pits For Your Backyard

Watching the dancing flames of a fire can be mesmerizing. If you want to take advantage of the relaxation and serenity that comes from sitting around an open flame, then adding a fire pit to your backyard can be beneficial.

Here are two unique DIY takes on the backyard fire pit that you should consider completing to incorporate the benefits of fire into your daily life at home.

1. The Modern Concrete Bowl Fire Pit

If your design aesthetic skews more modern, you may wonder how you can reflect your personal sense of taste in your outdoor fire pit. Making the choice to invest in a modern concrete bowl fire pit allows you to enjoy fires in a very modern and elegant way.

All you need to do to complete this project is invest in some quick-dry concrete, trowels, some non-stick vegetable spray, and two bowls or planters that can serve as molds (make sure that the bowl or planter you will use for the interior mold is slightly smaller than the other).

Mix your concrete according to the manufacturer’s directions, then apply non-stick cooking spray to the interior surface of your large container. Pour some concrete mix into the bowl, then use the trowel to spread the concrete evenly along the entire interior surface. Spray the outer side of your smaller bowl with non-stick vegetable spray and firmly push it down into the concrete to create a bowl shape.

Allow the concrete to cure (check the manufacturer’s directions for recommended curing time), then remove your molds. Add a few logs or some gel fuel canisters, and enjoy the crackling flame of a modern fire in your backyard.

2. The Washing Machine Drum Fire Pit

If you want your fire pit to have a more organic look, you can use recycled parts from a washing machine to achieve your goals. Start by sourcing a drum from an old washing machine.

The perforations designed to allow water to fill and empty from the drum provide access to oxygen for your fire. Once you have your metal drum you will need three pieces of wood cut to the same length to serve as legs. These can be treated with a fire-resistant coating and screwed directly into the drum with an electric drill.

With the legs attached, place your new fire pit in your backyard and add some logs to sustain a flame. Using a washing machine drum to create your backyard fire pit allows you to reduce the amount of waste ending up in landfills while adding a unique design element to your outdoor living space.

Take the time to create a modern concrete bowl fire pit or a unique fire pit made from an old metal washing machine drum for your backyard.

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Mineral Deposits On Your Faucets: A Closer Look

Have you noticed limescale or mineral deposits around your faucets? If these deposits are just starting to accumulate, they may be nothing more than a hindrance to the appearance of your fixtures, but if they’re more advanced, they may slow the flow of water from your tap. Some homeowner just replace their faucets when limescale becomes too advanced, but there are better ways of dealing with this issue. Here’s how to remove the limescale — and a look at how to prevent it from coming back.

How do you remove mineral buildup on a faucet?

There are numerous limescale removers on store shelves, but all you really need is a bottle of white vinegar. If it’s the head of your faucet you’re dealing with, fill a plastic bag with vinegar, and then immerse the faucet head in the bag. Rubber band the bag around the faucet, and let it sit for a day. If you’re trying to remove buildup from a flat portion of the faucet or the groove between the handle and the sink, soak a rag in vinegar. Set the soaked rag over the mineral buildup. Feel the rag every few hours to ensure it’s still moist, and replace it with a new vinegar-soaked rag if needed. After about 24 hours, the mineral buildup should scrub away with just a sponge.

How do you keep limescale from coming back, and why is that so important?

The scary thing about limescale or mineral buildup is that if it’s appearing on your faucet, it’s accumulating on the inside of your pipes, too. If your pipes become too clogged up with mineral deposits, you’ll need to have them replaced, which is a costly endeavor.

You can prevent limescale from returning to your faucets and from harming your pipes by having a whole-home water softener installed. This device removes the excess minerals — mostly calcium and magnesium — from your water before it flows through your home’s pipes. A basic water softener in an average-sized home will cost you between $500 and $1500, but it’s a worthwhile investment since it will save you from excessive plumbing bills in the future.

Mineral buildup on your faucets is not just an annoyance — it’s a sign that something more sinister is going on inside your pipes. Remove the limescale for now, but then also be sure to soften your water to prevent any further damage. To learn more, contact a plumber in your area.

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Remodel The Basement Into An Art Studio With The Help Of A General Contractor

As an artist, you may have always dreamed of having a space designed specifically for your creative endeavors, making it a good idea to look into how a general contractor can help make this space a reality. If you have a basement that you primarily used for storage and are interested in how to remodel it into an art studio of your own, it’s a good idea to look into the following ideas.

With the right projects, your basement can quickly become a space that you feel creative in and can draw, paint, or sculpt without any problems.

Install New Windows for Added Natural Lighting

One of the most important features of an art studio is good lighting, with natural lighting being the ideal option. If your basement is currently quite dark and the only windows are very small in size, you should look into the larger sizes of windows that can be installed in basements. These wider windows can take advantage of any natural light, especially if they are positioned towards the side of your home that receives the most sun.

To get the most out of your new windows, make sure the landscaping surrounding your home isn’t obstructing the light.

Get the Basement Properly Heated and Cooled

In order for your basement to be as comfortable as possible, you need to make sure that you’re not skimping on the heating or cooling system. While it can get expensive to incorporate your basement into the heating and cooling in the rest of your home, this can make it easy to control and can even reduce your energy costs rather than using only fans and portable heaters.

Opt for Bare Flooring Over Carpeting

As you look for new flooring to have installed in a basement, you may be drawn towards carpet due to its plush feeling and variety of styles. While carpeting does have advantages, you need to be aware of the fact that hardwood and tile is much easier to clean than the fibers of carpeting that paint and other art supplies can drip on and stain.

As you explore the projects that can make a big impact in your basement art studio, you’ll be able to get the finished look that is important to you. From making sure that lighting is plentiful to checking whether or not it will comfortable temperature-wise, these improvements can ensure that you can do your art confidently in the transformed art studio.

For general contracting, contact a company such as Countertops & Laminated Specialties Inc.

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Itsy Bitsy Entrance — 5 Landscape Ideas For A Tiny Front Yard

If you have a house lot with a small front yard, there may seem to be little you can do with it. But with the right focus, you can create a tiny but perfect oasis to welcome your guests. Here are 5 ideas to get you started.

Create a Destination. Paths and walkways are natural invitations to enter — or to meander. For a casual and warm feeling try laying flagstones or stepping stones into dark mulch and complementing the pathway with flower beds. The natural end of your walkway can be anything from the front door to a sitting area with bistro chairs or a bubbling fountain.

Go Cottage Chic. A cottage garden is perfect for many climates, including coastal areas. Cottage gardens are exuberant and overflowing with lush and colorful plants like lavender, poppies or sage. Because they originated with small yards set between the house’s face and a fence, they usually look best in limited space. 

Build a Patio. Just because it’s the front yard doesn’t mean you must have a lawn or a lot of greenery to maintain. To go for a low-maintenance, useful and fun look, why not opt to install a full front yard patio instead? Flagstones make a good casual patio, or you can choose a more formal look like brick or carefully-designed pavers. Still want colors? Use containers, plant boxes, window boxes and hanging baskets to add flowers and shrubs — even small trees — to the space.

Scale Down. If you had in mind the perfect front yard landscape design but simply don’t have the space to execute it, try creating a miniature version of your dream. Plant dwarf trees or smaller versions of trees like the colorful crab apple or Japanese maples. Want a formal row of hedges? Build a straight, symmetrical path and line it with small evergreen bushes (such as a dwarf boxwood) neatly trimmed and filled out with miniature roses. 

Create a Green Square. Even if you have just a very small space to plant, go all out with it. Create a square between your driveway and walkway, for example, to layer greenery in an eye-catching and vibrant display. A rear layer of dwarf or columnar trees may give way to a layer of dark green shrubs. In front of the bushes, add taller flowers and then shorter ones at the very front. Or install a short berm in the center and build your green display outward from it. Don’t be afraid to go wild with your small space and use it to express your individuality.

If you’re unsure what to do to maximize your tiny front yard, you may want to work with a professional like The Hilltop Landscape Architects & Contractors. But whether you do it alone or you ask for help, the end result will be a welcoming portal for your guests and family for many years to come.

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