5 Tips for Keeping Your Pool Safe All Summer

Content Provided By: American Home Shield

With summer already here, your pool will probably get more use. Keeping everyone safe while they cool have and have fun in your pool should be made a priority. Use these tips to make your pool safer this summer.

Nothing says summer like splashing around in the pool. But while a backyard pool can be the source of many wonderful family memories, it can also pose a hazard to your children or any children who live nearby. That’s why pool safety is so important.

As a responsible homeowner, you should take steps to keep kids away from your pool when you’re not there to supervise their swimming session. Follow these tips to help keep your pool safe all season long – you can never be too careful when it comes to kids around water.

1. Put Up a Fence Around Your Pool Area

If you have young children at home, you need to be extra cautious to keep them safe from the drowning hazard a pool can present. You should supervise your kids at all times, especially when they’re in and around the pool area. Putting up an isolation fence is a great way to keep your kids from getting into the pool or hot tub behind your back.

A good isolation fence is at least four feet high and surrounds both the pool and the spa, if you have one. It shouldn’t have any protrusions that make it easy for kids to climb over, nor should it have any gaps or openings that kids can squeeze through. Gates should have child-safe latches that are high enough that kids can’t reach them. The gap under the bottom of the fence should be less than four inches high.

Even if you don’t have kids at home, an isolation fence around your pool and hot tub can save the life of someone else’s child. In many jurisdictions, pools are considered an attractive nuisance because neighborhood kids often succumb to the temptation to break into them for some unsanctioned swimming. Fencing in your pool area can protect neighborhood children and may protect you from legal liability.

2. Install Pool Alarms

A fence is a great idea, but lots of kids are little geniuses when it comes to getting around barriers. Locks, child-safe latches and alarms can all help alert you if your little one gets through any of the doors, gates or windows that lead to the pool area. Every such access point, including pet doors if they are large enough for a child, should be equipped with locks and alarms. You should hear a warning every time a gate, door or window that leads to the pool area opens. A sonar or floating alarm that alerts you when someone or something enters the water is also a good idea.

If your home forms one side of the barrier around your pool area, make sure the windows, doors, gates and locks are not only alarmed, but also self-closing and self-latching. Alarms should reset automatically after someone passes through. Check your pool alarms every month to make sure they’re working properly.

Girls in pool with pool safety floats

3. Keep Up with Pool Repairs

Missing or broken drain covers in your pool or hot tub can present a drowning hazard because young children can get sucked down or trapped in them. Install anti-entrapment drain covers in your pool and spa. If you do DIY pool maintenance, part of your routine should include checking these drain covers to make sure they’re present and in good working order. If you’re having your pool serviced, ask about updating your drains with anti-entrapment covers. Take advantage of your home warranty pool and spa coverage to help keep your pumps and pump components in good working order.

Your pool or spa should have two drains for every pump, because that way, suction from the drains will be less powerful, even if one drain gets blocked. Equip single-drain pools and spas with safety vacuum-release systems, which automatically stop suction if the drain gets blocked.

Finally, exercise good pool safety when preparing your children to swim – tie long hair back or put it under a bathing cap, avoid loose-fitting suits or those with dangling ties and tell your kids not to play near the pool drains.

4. Cover Your Pool When You’re Not Using It

If at all possible, you should cover your pool with a rigid safety cover when you’re not using it. A motorized cover is best for this because you should cover your pool any time you’re not using it, even during pool season. If you use a cover, make sure it fits snugly over the entire pool surface and that children or pets can’t get underneath or trapped in it. If you’re using an inflatable pool, empty it after each use – kids can drown in as little as an inch of water, and you’ll want to use fresh water for each swimming session, anyway.

5. Be Prepared for the Worst

While you might not want to think about your child drowning in your backyard pool, you should be prepared to call 911 if something goes wrong. Keep a phone nearby when you’re using the pool so you can call for help if you need it. Learning CPR can be lifesaving, because the most important thing you can do to save your child’s life if he or she starts to drown is remove him or her from the water and start performing CPR immediately. Familiarize yourself with the signs of drowning – it may not be as obvious as you’d think. And keep a life preserver and a shepherd’s hook near the pool so you can quickly rescue a drowning child or pet.

There’s no reason why you and your family shouldn’t enjoy long summer afternoons in and around the pool, but pool safety should be a top priority when you do so. Moreover, don’t let a broken pool ruin your summer. Have a plan and be prepared for unexpected breakdowns with a pool and spa pump warranty plan from American Home Shield®. 

6 Ideas to Spice Up Your Outdoor Area on a Budget

Content Provided by American Home Shield

6 Ideas to Spice Up Your Outdoor Area on a Budget

6 Outdoor Area Tips on a BudgetWhether it’s your front door or your backyard, we have some ideas how you can change things up without breaking the bank. Use these tips to spice up your outdoor area for the summer when you have family and friends over.

Whether you’re looking to boost your home’s curb appeal or simply create a more inviting backyard space, you can do a lot to improve your outdoor area without spending a lot of money. Planting trees and shrubs, adding custom accents, installing new lighting or just laying some new mulch in your garden beds can refresh and rejuvenate the exterior feel of your home, making your yard a more attractive place to relax with friends and play with the kids. Let’s take a look at some budget-friendly yard and patio ideas to spruce up your outdoor space:

Add Pops of Color in Planters

Planters are one of the easiest ways to add color to your porch, patio or backyard. You can buy planters of all kinds at your local home and garden store and fill them with the annuals or perennials of your choice. If you’re looking to sell, add curb appeal by arranging planters around your front door or on your front porch. Mix and match a variety of foliage and flowers in each planter to add interest.

Looking for a simple DIY project, or just not satisfied with the planter options on offer at your local home improvement store? Making your own unique planters is one of the easiest and most fun crafts to do at home, with or without the kids. Stack terracotta pots on a metal pole for a cool, topsy-turvy planter, or hollow out a log to add texture and dimension to a flower bed. You’re limited only by your imagination.

Refresh Your Beds with New Mulch

You’d be surprised how much a fresh layer of mulch can improve the look of your garden beds. Weed first and install any new plants you want to put in your beds. A one- to two-inch layer of fine mulch, or a three- to four-inch layer of coarse mulch will keep weeds from growing in your garden beds and give them a cleaner appearance. They’ll also help keep the soil moist for your plants.

Shed Some Light on the Situation

Don’t simply rely on your back porch light to provide the lighting you need, especially if you have a large backyard. Most trendy backyard designs these days include some additional lighting sources to make after-dusk hangouts more convenient. It’s easy to add more lighting to your yard and you don’t necessarily have to call an electrician.

Backyard fire pits, for example, make great DIY projects and add light and warmth to your patio or backyard design. Other backyard lighting options include solar lights, battery-powered lanterns, string lights, and candles or tiki torches. For the latter, choose a citronella option to keep insects away.

Install a Trellis

A garden trellis, perhaps combined with some climbing plants, can be an affordable way to add some striking personality to your front or backyard. Add one as a focal point in the back of your garden or to delineate the entrance to a vegetable patch or sitting area. Trellises can offer great support for rambling rose bushes and flowering vines or provide a place for a hanging planters, bird houses or other decorative elements.

Plant Perennials

Annuals are nice for adding quick color to a flowerbed, but perennials come back year after year. What’s more, a carefully cultivated perennial bed requires diminishing maintenance each year, as the plants thrive and fill out the space. Because many perennials can be easily propagated using rooting hormone or need to be separated regularly, they’re a more affordable way to expand your garden beds.

Trees and shrubs are also a good way to add shade or texture to your outdoor space, but if you go this route, save money by buying young plants. Young trees and shrubs are easy for anyone to plant, while large and medium-sized specimens may require specialized equipment and training. Trees and shrubs will grow to fill the space they’re in, so make sure you leave them enough room.

Customize Your Accents

There are all kinds of ways to create your own unique garden accents, from building a fairy tale village in your flower beds to creating concrete stepping stones or garden balls. Use colorful glass bottles or ceramic plates to create a one-of-a-kind garden border. Build your own garden statues from salvaged metal, construct a DIY water feature or train your own topiary. If it’s weatherproof, you can add it to your outdoor design scheme.

Changing your outdoor space doesn’t have to mean spending a lot of money. You can make over your yard with a little elbow grease, some creativity and a few inexpensive supplies. In the end, you’ll have a porch, patio or garden to be proud of – and one that calls your name at the end of a long day.

10 Home Updates That Quickly Increase Value

Content Provided by American Home Shield

10 Home Updates That Quickly Increase Value

If you live in an older home, or just bought a new one and want to make it yours, these 10 updates might be a great place to start. These updates will help increase your home value right away.

10 home updates that quickly increase the value of your home

Some home updates are all about making your home more comfortable for you and your family. For example, putting in a swimming pool won’t increase your property value by as much as you might think, but it will give you and your family many summer afternoons of fun. However, other home improvements are just as much about increasing your property value as they are about making your house homier.

If you’re thinking of selling in the relatively near future, you need to spend your home update budget where it counts. These 10 home updates will net you the biggest increases in property value and the highest returns on your investment.

1. Landscaping

Landscaping can increase your home’s curb appeal, and that can translate into an increase in property value of 5.5 to 12.7 percentMature plantings will net you the biggest return on investment, so ideally, you’ll begin landscaping long before you put your home on the market. A cohesive landscaping plan will give you the best return on your investment, so even if you can’t afford to hire a professional landscaper, you should take the time to plan out your new landscape before you plant anything.

2. Kitchen Remodel

Even a minor kitchen remodel can return 80.5 percent of the money you spend when it’s time to sell. Refacing cabinets, installing new countertops and floors, redoing the lighting, then installing a new sink, fixtures and range will cost roughly $15,000. In most cases, people look for bigger and more updated kitchens from what they already have. A kitchen update might just be able to seal the deal for your property when it comes time.

Bathroom remodel for home value

3. Bathroom Remodel

Bathroom remodels are another expensive update that buyers like to see already done – so much so that a minor bathroom remodel will actually increase your property value slightly. If you spend $20,420 to remodel a bathroom, you’ll get back about $13,717 at resale, on average. A complete bathroom redo might cost about $64,743, but you’ll recoup about 60 percent of that when you sell.

4. Adding a Deck

You’ll recoup about 75 percent of the cost of adding a 16×20 ft. wooden deck, although it varies somewhat depending on where you live – in the West, you’ll get back 100 percent of what you spent on a new deck, but in the South, where the air feels like hot soup, a deck addition will recoup about 83 percent of its cost.

5. Finishing a Basement

A finished basement will recoup an average of about 70 percent of its cost at sale. You may be able to recoup more than that in areas where basements are less common, such as in the West, but your ROI on a basement remodel will run closer to average in areas where basements are pretty standard. In the meantime, a finished basement can serve as a family rumpus room or a place to entertain.

6. Replacing Windows

Replacing your outdated windows with new ones is a good way to attract buyers and will get you back about 73 percent of what you spent at resale. If you live in a major city, you might even get back more than what you paid for your replacement windows when you sell. In desert climates, install low-e windows.

7. Replacing Your Garage Door

The average garage door replacement costs $3,611, and nets back $3,520, assuming it’s a two-car garage. A new garage door boosts curb appeal, making it one of the most valuable home updates in terms of ROI.

8. Exterior Door Replacement

Like new garage doors, new exterior doors boost your home’s curb appeal. 20-gauge steel doors also enhance your home’s security. The average exterior door replacement costs $1,826 and recoups $1,368.

9. New Siding

Your house can be the nicest one on the block in every other way, but if the siding is old and worn out, the whole house will look dilapidated. But installing new siding is like giving your home a facelift. For about $16,000, you can replace 1,250 feet of siding, and you’ll get back about 75 percent of that when you sell.

10. A Working Fireplace

If you have a working fireplace in your home, keep it. If you have a non-working fireplace in your home, it may be worth the cost of getting it in working order again. Each functioning fireplace in your home can add about 12 percent to its value.

Some home updates will improve your property value more than others. Before you start paying for home improvements, do your research and find out which ones will pay off the most when you put your home on the market. With careful planning and a little luck, you could get end up getting much more for your house than you’d hoped.

Mistakes To Avoid While Selling Your Home

Chances are would-be buyers see your home first the first time when they scroll through pictures online, not when they pull up to the curb. Ensure that your images are not only professional and crisp, but also portray your home at its best—meaning deep-cleaned and decluttered.

Pricing Too High

Of course you don’t want to leave money on the table when selling your home, but you may also be setting yourself up for a prolonged, less lucrative sale by leading with an unrealistic price. Here’s why: As your days on the market (DOM) tick upward, interest will decrease as buyers assume something may be wrong with the property.

Working With the Wrong Agent

Yes, there are plenty of numbers to consider when hiring an agent—but your decision shouldn’t be based on that alone. By working with a real estate professional, you are really working with an advocate for your interests, a marketer for your home and a concierge for your moving-related questions.

Ignoring Dust and Clutter

You may be used to overlooking the messes—big or little—in your home. You live there, after all. However, a potential buyer will likely not be so forgiving. Before your first showing, take the time to do a deep-cleaning and ruthless decluttering of your home. Then set a schedule to keep up with the cleanings until your home sells so you don’t have to turn down showings because the bathroom is dirty.

Getting Surprised by Inspections

If everything has been going smoothly and you have a deal in sight, the last thing you want is to get blindsided by a major repair revealed by a professional inspector. You can avoid this by either doing your own informed inspection before selling your home or make it even more likely you won’t be surprised by doing a pre-inspection with a professional. That way, you will have time to decide what you are prepared to fix—or can even get ahead of it by doing the repairs before listing.

Love Your Oak Cabinets | Make Them One of a Kind

Kitchen with oak cabinetsIf you’re tired of looking at your boring oak cabinets, a little bit of elbow grease and a fresh coat of paint can help you fall in love with them again. According to Kesha Franklin of Halden Interiors, an interior design influencer, deeper blues and grays are popping up in modern and traditional kitchens this year.

We suggest Sherwin Williams Silverplate – a cozy gray that will give your cabinets new life. Here’s a quick run-down on what you’ll have to do to revamp those cabinets to fall in line with the trend.

First, you’ll want to degrease the surface to remove the remnants of your cooking experiments. A simple and eco-friendly solution of equal parts water and vinegar spritzed on the surface should do the trick. For surfaces needing a little extra help, add a couple drops of dish-washing liquid to the solution.

After you’ve cleared the surfaces of any grease and grime, it’s time to sand. Remove the hardware knobs from the cabinets. Then, start sanding – where the real elbow grease comes in. If you can’t get all of the glaze off, it’s not the end of the world. Do the best you can and get ready to prime them. Apply the bonding primer and prepare for the fun part, painting!

After priming, it generally takes two coats of fresh paint to get the job done. Let your cabinets dry and then hang them back up. Doing this project yourself will cost you around 1/5th of what it would cost to have it done professionally. New cabinets, a cool project, and saving money – what’s not to love?

2019 Kitchen Trends to Inspire the New You

An Updated Kitchen

At the start of the New Year, we contemplate how to better their lives. Often, this focus is centralized around food. Whether you’re taking up a culinary hobby (like learning to recreate your French patisserie favorites) or gaining a meal prep mantra, kitchen updates can put you in the right mindset to pursue your goals. Here are the kitchen trends we love for 2019.

The clean lines in industrial-style kitchens are cropping up in the new year. Shaker-style cabinets and cabinet walls compliment the sleek appearance while offering a host of storage options. Tuck away your new kitchen gadgets behind these cabinet doors. Compliment the updates with matte black hardware.

Intermingling raw materials can add elements of warmth to a seemingly “cold” kitchen. Stained wooden range hoods bring a feeling of comfort while you cook. Stone sinks will fit well into the color scheme and offer a large workspace for cleaning vegetables (hello, meal prep). Don’t forget about options glass offers. Glass shelves installed on otherwise bare walls adorned with personal touches is a quick update to add a bit of class. Replacing traditional pantry doors with fluted glass adds to the visual appeal.

Kitchen renovations can be extremely exciting, yet time-consuming. However, the updates we’re into for 2019 can be done somewhat quickly. You can choose to work in a few to add a freshness to your kitchen that wasn’t there before. One of the best things about a new year is that it’s a clean slate. Take this opportunity to improve your kitchen while you work on yourself, too. It’ll help keep you motivated longer when you have a beautiful kitchen to work from in your home.

Creating a Kid-Friendly Home


The Center for Disease Control reports a startling fact about child safety: unintentional injuries are the number one cause of casualties in children. While not all of these injuries occur inside the home, many of them do. But there’s no need to panic. When that squishy bumble of brand new baby begins embarking on new adventures like crawling, walking and general mobile curiosity, there are some simple steps you can take to baby proof your home. These tips also won’t even break the bank.


For starters, think small. You don’t have to go overboard and bubble wrap your whole house, even if you may be tempted to. There are fancy baby proofing experts available for hire to search your home for potential baby hazards, but a little common sense on a small budget can go a long way in keeping your child safe. So think minimalism – especially in regards to decorating. Move your favorite, breakable trinkets to a tall shelf. They’re easy to admire from afar, and unreachable for little curious hands. And in a few years, you can place those fragile pieces to a lower space and enjoy them for years to come.

Moving those trinkets, along with other objects, costs no money at all. Those shiny glass coffee tables are another great thing to store for a later stage of parenting. The sharp corners are a bullseye for a clumsy toddler’s head, not to mention…the sticky little fingerprints are never ending.  So find a storage area, or unused room to keep them clean and safe for a few years. For all of your wooden furniture, and fireplaces edges, apply a simple cushy adhesive to mask the corners.

As for those critical essentials, they don’t have to break the bank either. Baby gates can be found at garage sales and baby consignment shops. Plus, they have more uses than just keeping stairways safe. Connectable baby gates can make great a safe haven while you’re cooking, or make a nice barrier around fireplaces. You can also keep that curious, roaming toddler safely in their room at night. Other affordable essentials include drawer and cupboard locks that are simple to install and remove when you’re done with them. Temperature guards on bathtubs give peace of mind, and if you’ve ever lost your car keys at the hands of a little one, you know toiled locks are crucial

Outlets are one of the most feared hazards because the injuries happen in the blink of an eye. But if you’re currently out house hunting, notice that most newer houses have outlet covers built right in. You can’t see them, and little fingers can’t remove them, but the design only opens when two prongs are entered at once. So say goodbye to the toddler with a butter knife fear. If your house isn’t equipped with this safety feature, a local hardware store and the help of an electrician can upgrade this hazard in no time.

Safety is the first concern when you start to considering babyproofing, but you still want to enjoy your house once the kids are grown. So cover beautiful wooden tables with decorative cloth or doilies, and use placemats to prevent scratches from those vigorous toys with wheels. You can also consider some trendy rugs to cover up the carpets from spills. In a few years when you’re out of the parenting trenches, you’ll thank yourself for keeping your children safe and your home beautiful.

Creating Creative Spaces


When it comes to using every space in your home effectively, some spaces are just easier than others to create exactly what you want. A room can be too small, lack windows, or just seem too awkward to be functional. Before you close the door on those rooms forever, take a look at this guide to creatively turn any space into a practical space.


The Non-Conforming Bedroom– Is it a bedroom or not? The non-conforming bedroom is typically a windowless room found in the basement that no one actually wants to sleep in. But it does makes a great office or craft room. The trick is to keep the colors bright and to bring in plenty of light. These rooms are often small, so limit the furniture to only what you need, an uncluttered look will do wonders to opening up the room. If you’d rather use your non-conforming bedroom as a storage space, don’t just stack boxes behind a closed door. Instead, install shelving to keep it neat and organized.


Long and Narrow– Sometimes the floorplan of a room can have your head spinning. A living room, for example, can be too long and narrow- tempting you to line up your furniture along each wall which creates a blocky (and boring) look. Don’t shy away from dividing a room down the middle and creating two unique spaces. Half can be a living area with television, and the other half makes a lovely reading area. Midwest Living offers up this great before and after of a living room that, at first glance, looks too narrow to work.

Image      Image


The Entryway– In many floorplans, there’s just not as much space as most of us would like in the entryway. We’d all love a spacious mudroom, but if you don’t have one, you can still create a clean and functional space at your front door. Use the walls for decorative and practical shelving. Hooks will also be a huge sanity saver. Aimee Weaver Designs does just that in their entryway makeover tips:



The Creative Corner– Finally, don’t chalk up a corner to wasted space. Mirrors, triangle tiered shelving, even a small chair can make a corner cute and functional; even in a bathroom!



Summer Maintenance

Summer_MaintenancePicSummer is the perfect time to keep your indoors clean and spend your days outside. But it comes with just a little bit of work. Here is a list of simple things you (yes, even you!) can do to keep your yards thriving all season.

Tree trimming. The key is to not go overboard. Trim branches that are dead. An easy way to tell if they are, is that they will look drastically different from the other branches. With a quick snip, chop and dispose of them properly.

The same principle applies to bushes. Certain types of bushes need to be shaped regularly, but others, like the Summer Wine variety, bloom gorgeous flowers in the spring. This means that any over pruning may affect your plant’s ability to re-bloom in the next season. This is an example of why it’s important to only trim off the dead branches.

Gutters are a pest for every season. If you happened to miss (ahem, procrastinate) fall gutter cleaning, do it now! If you happen to have teenagers, the more the merrier to get this job done quickly.

Also, be sure to check your air conditioning unit or heat pump. It may need to be cleaned or serviced (often by a professional). Our familiar Nebraska cottonwood trees send lovely treasures found inside the units, and now is the time to clean them when you are relying heavily on your unit to run efficiently through the summer heat.

Furthermore, while you’re cutting back and pruning, keep overgrowth away from your AC unit. Your cooling system and technician will thank you.

Tag team some weed pulling effort. Make it a game. See who can gather the most weeds, or set a timer and measure your progress. Weed killer works too, but we prefer a more environmentally friendly approach.

Pressure washing! Let’s all admit it, it’s liberating and fun. Get that siding and deck sparkling with a little power tool effort.

And lastly, if you love an adventure, (and are up to date on safety…we’re looking at you Christmas vacation enthusiasts) go ahead and take a peek at your roof to identify any wear and tear. Particularly after spring storms, even minor ones, documenting any changes will help you in the long run.

HomeOwners Plus – Star City Heating & Cooling

Star City_Blog post

Guest Post by: Star City Heating & Cooling

Star City Heating and Cooling is an independently owned Trane Comfort Specialist company specializing in the design, sale, installation, service, and maintenance of heating and air conditioning equipment, zoning, humidifiers, duct cleaning, and air purification systems for residential and commercial markets. Although we offer many services, we don’t just believe in selling a product or service, we believe in providing positive experiences that begin in the office that follows through to the service call and beyond.

Preventative Maintenance

A well-known fact within the HVAC industry is that regular maintenance is the most effective way to keep your heating and cooling system safe, strong, and efficient. One of the ways we provide the best value for our clients is through our unique VIP Maintenance Program. In hopes of encouraging home-owners to be proactive in caring for their heating and cooling investment, our VIP program not only offers year-round benefits but also includes two 50-point maintenance appointments.

Indoor Air Quality

The focus of building new homes and business is on energy efficiency, which causes indoor air to be tightly sealed in, causing 100 times more pollution than outside air. For this reason, higher quality filtration is of utmost importance to create a better fight against pollutants to create healthier air quality. Poor filtration will keep cycling the allergens, dust and bacteria back into the air, while proper filtration will stop the contaminants from entering back into the air. Other determining factors of air quality include temperature, humidity, and microbial contamination levels. For air quality improvements, consider upgrading to a Trane CleanEffects filter, utilizing our duct cleaning services, incorporating a humidifier and air scrubber, and regularly checking and cleaning filters. For more information on our product and services to help improve your indoor air quality give us a call or visit our website.

Community Involvement

In 2010 we wanted to show our gratitude for the loyalty Lincoln and Lancaster County residents have provided, in-turn, Lincoln’s first annual furnace giveaway was born. The Warming Your Home for the Holidays Furnace Giveaway is a nomination process for homeowners who need a helping hand, or have helped others to be placed into a selection pool to receive a new furnace. Seeing a positive response from our community, we branched out and began quarterly volunteer opportunities and sponsorships with different nonprofits by starting our Community Outreach Program.

If you know of a non-profit looking for corporate partnerships, tell them about our outreach program, or contact us; we’re always looking for new opportunities.”

Contact us today

For over 30 years, Star City Heating & Cooling has been establishing strong relationships by continuously exceeding our customers’ expectations with quality work built on a firm foundation of team values:

Trustworthiness               Integrity                             Honesty                 Communication           Reliability                          Determination                  Adaptability

We look forward to working with you to improve your indoor environment. Give us a call for a company you can rely on, we’re always ready to build new relationships.

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