(NewsUSA) - More Americans might be driving hybrid cars and recycling, but their hardwood kitchen and living room floors can be just as critical to climate change.

No one knows exactly how much illegal hardwood enters the United States, but estimates range from $250 million to $375 million worth per year -- much of which is used for high-end flooring.

Hardwood floor
Most illegal hardwood comes from tropical rain forests, delicate ecosystems with high biodiversity. Tropical hardwoods protect the soil -- removing them prevents other plants from growing and allows rain to strip away nutrients from the soil. Studies have shown that rain forest deforestation accounts for 18 percent of greenhouse gases.

In December 2008, the U.S. government amended The Lacey Act, its oldest wildlife protection statute, to discourage illegal hardwood imports. According to the amendment, anyone involved in the import, purchase or sale of illegal wood is subject to one to five years in prison and $100,000 to $500,000 in fines per violation.

The U.S. Customs Service monitors suspicious cargo, but too much wood is imported into the U.S. to catch every illegal shipment. However, consumers can take steps to avoid the purchase of illegal hardwood. Shaw, a company that supplies easy-to-install hardwood products, provides the following tips for Americans looking to enrich their homes with gorgeous hardwood without destroying rain forests:

- Look for hardwood that is made in the U.S. Choosing American-sourced wood not only supports the country's economy, it helps to ensure that the hardwood is legally harvested from managed forests, which are a truly renewable resource.

- Beware of exotic wood products. Woods like Brazilian cherry or mongoy are much more likely to have been harvested illegally than non-exotic woods.

- Do your homework. Ask questions before purchasing your floor to make sure it is from a retailer that sources its hardwood products from a trustworthy, legal distributor.

- Consider domestic species of hardwood. Although woods like hickory, oak, birch and maple are grown in America, advanced staining techniques allow these species to have the exotic looks many homeowners desire without the risk of purchasing illegally harvested products.

- Look for eco-friendly laminate products. Shaw's Luminiere collection mimics exotic woods like Ipe heartwood and teak, but doesn't require any illegal harvesting. Better yet, the laminate uses 98 percent less newly harvested wood than most hardwood products and features a high-density-fiber core made from recycled wood.

For more information, visit www.shawfloors.com

(NewsUSA) - Looking to update your home's exterior with a look that requires little maintenance? With a few simple changes, you can add character and upgrade your home's curb appeal without adding items to your to-do list.

Explore endless design and earth-friendly siding options.

House maintenance and upgrade
Is the siding chipping, staining or rotting? Your siding may need a power wash. If it does need replacement, talk with your local contractor about low-maintenance and environmentally friendly vinyl and fiber cement siding options.

Some styles, such as CertainTeed's CedarBoards Insulated Vinyl Siding, can increase the overall thermal performance of your wall by up to 30 percent, helping to reduce heating and cooling costs. Offering color retention along with resistance to wind, water, insect and chemical damage, vinyl and fiber cement siding is engineered to keep a home looking beautiful for many years.

Don't forget to look up.

Since a roof makes up 40 percent of a home's exterior, make sure yours is in tiptop shape. Use binoculars to look for missing, cracked, curling or decaying shingles. If any are spotted, it may be time to replace your roof.

Consider asphalt shingles, which can last many years and add dimensional appeal to your home. Shingles, such as CertainTeed's Landmark Solaris, can also reflect solar energy and radiate heat, making for a lower-temperature roof in the summer.

Create a comfortable "living room" outdoors.

Vinyl fencing displays consistent quality and appearance. It doesn't require painting, making it nearly maintenance-free and a great alternative to traditional materials.

A low-maintenance option to wood is Galveston with CertaGrain. Using an innovative texturing process, CertaGrain features an authentic wood-like appearance in an easy-to-maintain vinyl design while providing resistance to the decay, warping or splintering that are common with wood fences.

Adding a fence also functions as more than just a means of privacy. A fence provides security, enhances the curb appeal of a home and may increase the property value.

Make sure the work is done right, and partner with a qualified contractor.

Homeowners should be sure to work with a qualified contractor. Check with your local Better Business Bureau and seek contractors who are licensed, bonded and insured.

For more information on low-maintenance home improvements tips, call 800-782-8777 or visit www.certainteed.com

Get Your Garage in Gear For the Hottest Time of Year

Posted by Héctor H. Zorrilla On 5.19.2009 0 comments

(NewsUSA) - Whether used for hosting block parties, garage sales or serving as the main entranceway to the home, the garage is often a hub of activity during the summer months for many families. Now is the time to get your garage in gear.

Check out these tips from The Chamberlain Group, a residential and commercial access solutions manufacturer of LiftMaster garage door openers:

* With the additional traffic running through the garage during this time of year, it's wise to perform a periodic safety inspection of your garage door, especially those equipped with automatic openers.

* Test the opener's safety reverse mechanism monthly by placing a piece of wood or a roll of paper towels in the path of the door. Close the garage door. If it does not automatically reverse and retract back the open position, then the door is creating a safety issue and needs to be adjusted. Log on to LiftMaster.com to find a certified dealer near you and learn what they can do to fix the problem.

* Since storage and organizational needs change between spring and summer, it's a great time to pull out the patio furniture and keep other items you need for the season, such as the lawn mower, grill, and recreational items and toys near the exit to the garage so they are easy to access and use.

* It may seem like you're adding to the mess, but grass clippings are great for keeping dust under control in your garage. Next time you mow your lawn, sprinkle your fresh lawn clippings on the garage floor, then sweep it clean.

* Keep the garage clear of oily and greasy rags as they are easily flammable and can ignite spontaneously. Keep a fire extinguisher in an easily accessible area in the garage as well.

* Protect your garage (and entrance to your home) while you're away on a summer vacation. By installing a LiftMaster Fingerprint Keyless Entry, which recognizes up to 10 unique fingerprints as a way to access your garage, no one can enter or exit your garage while you are gone during vacation -- preventing it from being opened in your absence by a stranger. Also ideal for busy families, the Fingerprint Keyless Entry means no more digging for keys or worrying about kids in the neighborhood knowing the keypad's code.

For more information on these products or to contact a LiftMaster professional, visit www.LiftMaster.com

(NewsUSA) - In a struggling economy, Americans are taking a closer look at their heating and cooling bills. Keeping a home at a comfortable temperature can use considerable energy -- especially if hot and cold air fly out the window.

Windows can be a major area of heat transfer. During winter, cold air comes in through the glass. During the summer, heat enters the home through the window, making the HVAC system work harder to maintain its set temperature.

Windows insulation
If your home could use some upgrades, now might be the time to work on energy-efficient home improvement projects. In February, President Obama signed The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. The act contains benefits for adding energy-efficiency products into existing homes. Specifically, tax credits are available for up to 30 percent of the cost, up to $1,500, in 2009 and 2010, for windows, doors, insulation products and systems, roofs, HVAC, non-solar water heaters and biomass stoves.

Replacing existing windows with energy-efficient models isn't cost-effective in terms of energy savings, but insulating existing windows will help lower your heating and cooling costs while also making you eligible for a tax credit.

One product in particular, the Comfortex ComforTrack Plus Energy Saving Sidetrack Insulation System, uses a double honeycomb cellular shade with removable sidetracks to insulate windows. The insulation system seals all of the gaps between the fabric edge and the window frame, preventing heat transfer through the glass.

Consumers purchasing the ComforTrack Plus Insulation System will reduce energy loss up to two-thirds when compared to an uncovered window.

For more information on home improvement projects eligible for tax credits, visit www.energystar.gov To learn more about the ComforTrack Plus Insulation System, visit www.comfortex.com

Shake Up Your Space With Color, Indoors or Out

Posted by Héctor H. Zorrilla On 5.07.2009 0 comments

(NewsUSA) - Economic news got you feeling the blues? A little jolt of color can take care of that. Budget-consciousness doesn't always mean having to abandon your dreams for a more colorful living space. Using a little creativity and materials such as spray paint, you can still enjoy a love affair with color, without a big commitment of time or money.

Do-it-yourselfers choose spray paint because it's fast and easy to apply and leaves a smooth finish with no brush marks. Krylon has introduced a unique 360-degree dial spray tip that makes it even faster and easier to spray in hard-to-reach places without runs or drips. By using spray paint for simple fix-ups, you can quickly and easily make a striking difference around the home and yard.

Brightening architectural details such as shutters, garden gates and light fixtures with a punch of color can increase a home's curb appeal. Indoors, strategic use of color can transform attic treasures and bargain finds ranging from tables and headboards to picture frames and wicker baskets into fresh accent pieces.

"The key color drivers this year are the economy, nature and fashion," says Donna Schroeder, who develops color palettes for the Krylon spray paint brand. "Neutral colors are always popular during economic downturns, but today's more educated consumer loves color and seeks shades that are enchanting and beautiful, honest and natural."

Color has been proven to affect mood. Magical colors infuse energy, counter despair and fulfill a genuine need for art, culture and beauty in life. Examples from Krylon's Indoor/Outdoor color palette include Rich Plum and Jade, Raspberry and Hyacinth -- floral hues that impart a dream-like aesthetic.

"At the same time, the green movement is in everyone's consciousness, so consumers are exploring natural, honest colors and textures," Schroeder says. She points to Pistachio and Pebble as colors that are ideal for refreshing and repurposing the home with soothing, nature-inspired tones.

Once you've introduced a color you love, Schroeder suggests building on it with flower arrangements, pillows, throws and other accessories. For inspiration and home-improvement hints, visit the Krylon Web site at www.krylon.com

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