Benefits of using ceramic tile, tips on hanging art, how to take advantage of daylight, and more.

Home Improvement: Top tile trends for today's renovations


The National Association of Home Builders foresees "decent growth" for the renovation industry in the coming year, according to the association's National Outlook report. And kitchens and baths continue to top the list of the rooms both current homeowners and potential buyers most want to update.


Ceramic tile continues to be a favorite choice of savvy designers, builders and homeowners looking to remodel their kitchens or baths.


So what are the hot trends in ceramic tile for 2010? The Ceramic Tile Manufacturers Association of Spain offers insight into what's new and hot:


Green is still great


Homeowners continue to demand more eco-friendly, sustainable building practices and materials for both renovations and new construction. Ceramic tile meets the demand for green renovation materials:


- Manufacturers have improved production methods to be more environmentally responsible.


- Ceramic tile aids in heat retention.


- It's naturally resistant to bacteria.


- Tile does not require cleaning with harsh chemicals or solvents, so fewer toxic elements are flushed into the ecosystem.


- It doesn't release volatile organic compounds or other gases into your home's atmosphere.


Slim is in


You can now buy ceramic tile in thicknesses of just 3, 4, 5 and 6 millimeters. Slimmer tile means it's easier to handle, cut and lay, so installation is faster.


And you can apply it directly over old tile, eliminating the hassle of removing old tile and reducing the construction waste sent to landfills. Plus, because the tile is lighter and slimmer, it works well for walls and other vertical applications.


Additionally, a slim tile means green building benefits such as maximum energy savings, and a decrease in the amount of raw materials used and carbon dioxide emitted during manufacturing.


The best form of flattery


Advances in digital printing technology allow ceramic tile to imitate almost any finish. You can now find ceramic tile that mimics the look of some of the most popular types of stone and wood flooring, including marble, slate, granite, classic parquet, exotic woods - even distressed, reclaimed and weathered planks.


Bright on color, big on texture


Glossy tiles, with surfaces that feature both gloss and matte patterns, are enjoying new interest from designers and homeowners. Metallic patinas are also prized. As more Americans strive to shed recession blues, bright colors are on the rise. Pantone just announced that turquoise is the color of the year. Whether it's the color of the day or the year, you can find it in tile.


-- ARA


Did You Know …


Interior paints can qualify for a number of earth-friendly certifications: Green Wise, Green Promise, Green Seal, Greenguard, and GreenSure. – Consumer Reports


Home-Selling Tip: Make pictures professional


Preparing to list your home online? A good photo of the outside of your home can attract potential buyers. It should be well-lit, focused and show your home in the best way possible. And don’t forget about interior photos, either.


-- RE/MAX


Decorating Tip: Plan your paintings


Looking to add some framed art to your walls? Create templates to visualize the layout and help determine the best design.


1. Lay the individual pieces of art out on a large span of paper and trace around them.


2. Cut out the patterns and tape the templates to your wall to get a feel for the way you would like the art arranged.


3. Now that you have determined your design, you are ready to hang your pictures.


-- Home Depot


How To: Take advantage of daylight


Daylighting is the use of windows and skylights to bring sunlight into your home.


South-facing windows are most advantageous for daylighting and for moderating seasonal temperatures. They allow most winter sunlight into the home but little direct sun during the summer, especially when properly shaded.


North-facing windows are also advantageous for daylighting. They admit relatively even, natural light, producing little glare and almost no unwanted summer heat gain.


Although east- and west-facing windows provide good daylight penetration in the morning and evening, respectively, they should be limited. They may cause glare, admit a lot of heat during the summer when it is usually not wanted, and contribute little to solar heating during the winter.


-- U.S. Department of Energy


Garden Guide: How to prevent tomato blight


Tomato blight is here to stay; all we can do is try to minimize the damage. Composting all dieback and debris in the fall and cleaning up winter kill in the spring removes host sites for insects and diseases.


Blight is a mold, and molds right now are sporing like crazy. Mix up some dish detergent and bleach in a hose end sprayer (one-third cup of each per gallon of water) and spray the vegetable garden and the planting beds around the garden. Turn the vegetable beds and spray them again.


Every two weeks during the growing season, mix dish detergent and ammonia in the hose end sprayer (same ratio) and wash all of the plants in the yard. If you use liquid fertilizer, you can add it to the mix.


-- Peter Coppola, principle master gardener from Burlington, Mass.


Backyard Buddies: Birds pass on organic seed


A study by Newcastle University found that wild garden birds prefer conventional seed to that labeled organic.


The researchers set up feeding stations in more than 30 gardens. Organic and non-organic wheat seeds were placed in adjacent bird feeders, and the rate at which the birds ate the different seeds was monitored over a six week period.


Half way through the experiment the feeders were swapped around. The experiment was repeated in a second winter with different wheat samples.


The birds showed a strong preference for the conventional seed, eating significantly more of it than the organic.


-- Newcastle University


GateHouse News Service