New Year's resolutions for the home

The new year is a time of renewal — maybe you're ditching the ice cream and promising to call your mother more often. But you're not the only one in need of some improvement. This year, think about your home.

Unlike traditional personal resolutions that are typically embarked upon cold turkey on Jan. 1, New Year's resolutions for your home can consist of a doable list that you will work to accomplish throughout the year.

The last thing you want to do is sabotage yourself by setting unrealistic expectations. Your resolutions should consist of projects that can be accomplished during the year with available resources.

We have taken the liberty of suggesting five New Year's resolutions for your home. They consist of five general tasks — in order of importance — that we believe apply to most homes and that you should consider before starting your dream bath or gourmet kitchen.

The best "home" resolution you can make is to make your home safer for yourself and your family. Check to make sure smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors are properly installed and in good working order. Test them regularly. Check major appliances for proper operation. Fuel-burning appliances should be properly vented to the exterior and gas connections should be checked for leaks. Make sure your electrical system is safe and in good working order. Flickering lights, burned fuses and popping breakers are signs of a problem. Make sure handrails, grab bars and other safety devices are properly anchored.

One of the best things you can do for your budget in the new year is to prevent small maintenance projects from becoming BIG repair nightmares. Repairing a leaking roof, sealing gaps in siding, painting bare wood, replacing damaged decking, patching cracks in concrete, caulking around sinks, tubs and showers and other preventive maintenance tasks will keep your home in tiptop shape and save you lots of money in the long run.

Whether you're worried about utility bills or the environment, this is a resolution for everyone's list. Some energy-conserving upgrades to consider: install a programmable thermostat, replace incandescent light bulbs with compact fluorescent lighting, prevent drafts with weather stripping around doors and windows, install low-flow shower heads and aerators, fix leaking faucets, install Energy Star appliances, install energy-efficient heating and cooling equipment, upgrade insulation, and install replacement windows.

It's never been easier to be green when it comes to your home. Environmentally friendly building products and materials are available for virtually every category — windows, doors, siding, decking, fencing, roofing, lumber, flooring and insulation, to name a few. Think "green" the next time you make a home improvement purchase. Chances are the material will last longer and you'll feel better about it.

Your home should be a refuge from the stress of the world. We suggest that you resolve to make your home as comfortable as you can. This can include adding comfy couches and seating; using a splash of color here and there with paint, fabric or flooring; getting rid of clutter and opening up the space in your home; allowing in more natural light with updated window treatments; and organizing closets and storage. Create a special place in the garden as a retreat. Add a water feature — the sound of trickling water can be very therapeutic.

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