Tag: home

How Secure Is Your Garage Door?

How Secure Is Your Garage Door?

When you close your overhead garage door, do you assume that your home is secure? For the most part it probably is, but there are a few ways crooks can still get through.  Consider these measures to make sure your home is locked tight:

Look at the service door. The service door, or side door on your garage, is often one of the easiest points of entry for a burglar. Make sure the door has a deadbolt and a heavy-duty strike plate, as should all exterior doors in your home.

Install a garage door sensor. Sometimes your garage door security is compromised simply because someone forgot to close the door. This is where a sensor and monitor come in. Attach the sensor to the garage door and then place the monitor somewhere inside your house. If the garage door is open, the monitor will let you know.

Remove clickers from your vehicle. If you park a vehicle in the driveway, make sure you do not leave your garage door remotes in your vehicles (e.g., on the visor or center console). A thief can break into your car for entry into your house. Opt for a key-ring remote, which you can find online by typing in your garage door brand followed by “remote.”

Use an old-fashioned lock. If you are going to be away from your home for an extended period of time, you may want to lock your garage door track. Simply drill a hole in your garage door track just above one of the rollers and fasten a padlock through the hole. Even if a robber can fish the garage door lock open from the outside, he will not be able to actually roll up the door.

Install a smart home door opener. These high-tech garage door openers come with built-in security features such as monitors and lighting controls – all connected to your smartphone. This means that from anywhere, you can make sure your garage door is closed and your home is secure.

Source: The Family Handyman, Garage Security Tips

Wine Storage Solutions

Wine Storage Solutions

Comedian W.C. Fields once said, “I cook with wine, sometimes I even add it to the food.” Whether wine is part of your latest culinary creation, part of your overall cooking experience or a staple in everyday life, finding the perfect wine storage solution for your kitchen deserves more consideration than you may expect.

There are dozens of design elements to consider when installing a new kitchen. Hardware, colors, countertops, appliances and countless selections can be overwhelming. For the homeowner that pops a cork once every few weeks, wine storage may be an afterthought. For the connoisseur, however, making the wrong wine storage decisions could lead to a design flop.

Where and how you store wine will be driven by your passion for the vine. Casual partakers may be perfectly fine with a casual solution, but the enthusiast knows that wine storage plays an important role in preserving the contents of expensive bottles that may be used months or years later.

Proper wine storage is an exact science that is the basis for how most wine storage units are engineered.

The ideal and consistent environment for wine storage depends upon these elements:

  • Temperature: White wine should be stored at 45–50ºF and reds slightly higher at 50–55º
  • Humidity should maintain at 55–75%.
  • Bottles should be stored away from UV light.
  • Excessive vibrations from nearby appliances may prevent disruption of the aging process.

Style preferences, proper storage guidelines, frequency of usage and your level of wine interest will drive most of your choices in how solutions will fit into your kitchen. When considering choices, give these factors attention:

Unifying Trends

Wine bottles have become a permanent fixture in many kitchens. As the rack empties, homeowners purchase more bottles to fill their absence, and access is critical.

Whether you’re an oenophile that also has a fully-stocked cellar, or one of the thousands of homes stocking up on a few bottles for monthly gatherings with friends and family, finding a bottle need not take you beyond your kitchen.

Casual Choices

Wine Storage Solutions

For the occasional sipper, choosing a wine storage solution without climate control may be perfectly satisfactory. There is a whole world of current storage solutions to consider. Recent trends range from wall pegs, shelves, drawers and racks that come in countless variations.

The open wine racks pictured above can be designed into a kitchen island, built into nearby walls or under staircases, installed within lower or upper cabinets with glass doors or integrated into a piece of furniture.

Small, refrigerated units have also become increasingly popular kitchen appliances for even casual wine drinkers. These units are easily incorporated into cabinets with options for upper or lower storage. Units can also be built into walls, islands or nearby wet bars.

Serious Solutions

Wine Storage Solution

The enthusiast insists on controlling their collection’s environment. Climate-controlled units are an absolute must. From the smallest chilled wine drawers to units twice the size of an average refrigerator, manufacturers offer a wide selection.

In either case, bottles and their labels can be conveniently viewed. Wine appliances seamlessly match their neighboring counterparts. Glasses are in close proximity, ready to be filled.

Designing Your Kitchen with Wine Storage in Mind

Experienced kitchen designers can not only help you sort out the level of priority of wine storage for your space, but they will know the best options to accomplish your project goals. They have dozens of manufacturer resources to consider and should be familiar with how individual units rate among consumers.

If wine storage is one of the big priorities of your project, selecting the specific storage units with your designer may be something best decided sooner rather than later in the process. These solutions can impact other choices in the overall plan, so falling in love with a particular unit during the front end can help your designer to create a space that interacts well with it.

Here’s to grape expectations on your next kitchen design project!

Universal Design for the Bathroom

Universal Design for the Bathroom image 1

Regardless if homeowners plan to sell or stay for years, redesigning a bathroom is a common renovation most people will encounter. Bathroom design holds a key to making homes more usable for not only their present inhabitants and visitors, but also future owners and generations. Designing a space with that philosophy in mind is called Universal Design.

What is a Universally Designed Bathroom?

Universal design is sometimes mistaken to be solely intended for handicapped accessibility, but creating a space that will be suited for all ages or abilities is what gives Universal Design its name.

Effortless use and accessibility for family members of any size or condition will create bathroom designs that minimize lifting, reaching and other movements that could have a potential to cause bodily injury or difficulty.

Even if disabilities are temporary, a Universal Bathroom Design will ensure your family, future residents or visitors will be able to powder their nose with ease.

8 Universal Design Features for Bathrooms

Before falling in love with sink styles, faucet features or other visually stunning choices, consider how your decisions can address universal concerns while still creating a one-of-a-kind space you’ll love. Give thought to these 8 features:

1)  Location:  Including a bathroom on the first level of a home ensures that the challenge of stairs isn’t an issue. Larger pantries, closets, areas under stairs or portions of ground-floor rooms may provide the ideal spot for your new powder room.

2)  Lighting:  If possible, installing windows or skylights in bathrooms can provide increased natural visibility. Motion-sensing light switches eliminate the challenge of hunting for switches in the dark. Well-lit showers are a must – limiting the potential for slips in wet areas. Soft lighting that decreases glares and shadows will help people of all ages and mobility to navigate the bathroom with ease.

3)  Clearance:  Using 34”-36” entrance doors will also allow better access for mobility devices. Small bathrooms may be your only option, but when possible, provide ample clearance for turning and movement for canes, crutches and wheelchairs.

Bathrooms should be at least 60” x 60”, but ideally larger for those requiring transfer assistance from a wheelchair to a toilet or a shower. Whenever possible, install walk-in showers so the hurdle of a tub’s side is removed.

4)  Flooring:  Non-slip materials are a must for bathrooms, as falls in these areas can be potentially life threatening. Ceramic tiles aren’t an ideal choice, but if elected should be smaller tiles to allow for more non-slip grout areas. Use textured ceramics that are safer than highly glazed products.

Other great options for safer bathroom surfaces include non-slip vinyl, cork and bamboo flooring.

Universal Design for the Bathroom image 3


5)  Counter & Sink Heights:  Consider knee space at sinks for those in wheelchairs. There are beautifully designed wall-mount and pedestal sinks that could allow a wheelchair user to conveniently move closer to wash their hands and face or brush their teeth.

Certain sink designs with bowls above counters may also not be good choices for small hands and arms trying to reach above them to operate faucets.

Universal Design for the Bathroom image 2


6)  Faucets & Hardware:  Imagine someone trying to use sinks, toilets, doors and other access points with a closed fist. Choose hardware that can be easily used by small hands, those with arthritis or operated easily with one hand.

Likewise, touchless faucets, automatic flush toilets and lever door knobs will ensure challenges are minimized. Pay careful attention to position access points on faucets, toilets and showers to ensure that they can be reached standing or sitting, regardless of age.

7)  Toilets:  Comfort-height toilets are typically 2” taller than regular toilets and make the transition from a wheelchair easier. Be sure there is 30”-48” of floor space on at least one side of toilets for wheelchair transfers. The higher seat surface will also make it easier to access and exit for those with back or leg pain, or those who could be temporarily injured and using crutches.

8)  Storage:  For frequently needed items such as bathroom tissue, linens or toiletries, provide storage areas below your waist. Make it easy to find these items under or on top of vanities, or in adjacent cabinetry.

In the shower, include ample shelving for soaps, shampoos and razors. These shelves and compartments should hold these items securely.

Understanding and implementing smart Universal Design features will ensure that your home is easier to resell, and that its bathrooms are perfect for you, your family and friends, regardless of what life throws at them.


*Photos used in this article are stock.

Project Spotlight: A Country Farmhouse Kitchen

We were recently honored to have one of our kitchens featured as “Kitchen of the Week” on Houzz.com.  We built a beautiful country farmhouse style home in southern Lancaster County. Photos of the kitchen caught the eye of an editor at Houzz, who in turn did a feature story on the kitchen. The homeowners worked with Phil Clemmer of Swartz Kitchens and Baths on the design of the kitchen. The end result was a breathtakingly beautiful kitchen that will serve the owners well for years to come.

Project Spotlight: A Country Farmhouse Kitchen

Project Spotlight: A Country Farmhouse Kitchen

Classic white cabinets with glass insets, soapstone countertops and reclaimed hardwood floors give this kitchen the feel of an old farmhouse. The custom cabinetry with finished interiors includes specialized drawers and cabinets, including built-in trash cans next to the sink. A soapstone sink sits under a bank of extra tall windows that overlook a patio and backyard. The tall, clean-lined cabinets and walls of windows give the kitchen a bright and airy feel.

Project Spotlight: A Country Farmhouse Kitchen  Project Spotlight: A Country Farmhouse Kitchen








The large island seats four, includes plenty of storage and incorporates built-in shelves at the end to hold cookbooks. The soapstone surface creates an ideal space for prepping and serving. Three pendant lights provide additional illumination to the recessed can lights.

Kitchen Trends to Watch in 2017

Kitchen Trends to Watch in 2017


The kitchen is the center of our homes. The smells from something delicious baking in the oven or simmering on the stove are comforting, and the conversations that happen there can be the most memorable ones from our day. It’s no wonder the kitchen continues to be the top renovated space in homes, according to the 2016 Houzz & Home Report.

As we move into a new year, 2017 brings with it many new kitchen looks that homeowners are eager to try out. Their primary goal? To keep their kitchens functional but cozy, ready to host a gathering of loved ones.

Here are just a few of the latest trends. Which one will take your kitchen to the next level?

Wood Paneling or Shiplap

Homeowners are in love with farmhouse design kitchens, and wood paneling, especially white, will be a top trend incorporated into kitchens, on backsplashes or ceilings. Its vintage, clean look brings a kitchen together with a nod back to past times.

Tuxedo Cabinets

Black and white is a timeless color palette, and it has found its way to the kitchen. While there’s no need to interpret this trend strictly with those colors, homeowners find their kitchens come together nicely when they stick to basic colors that match others easily. A crisp, elegant look is simply achieved when tuxedo cabinets take center stage.

Farmhouse Sinks

A farmhouse, or apron-front, sink can be a unique focal point for a kitchen. Not only does it make a statement on its own with its many design options, but it is the most functional sink a kitchen could have. Gone are the hard-to-clean seams that trap food and dust.  Debris from countertops can be swept directly into the sink to be washed away. The sink itself is large and can attend to any cooking or washing need.

Kitchen Trends to Watch in 2017 A New Kind of Functionality

Many homeowners find themselves wanting their kitchen basics – their cabinet doors and drawers, for example – to work better. Kitchen storage manufacturers are moving toward solutions to this problem with unique options. For example, touch-activated doors to cabinets can be installed, making belongings easier to reach as the door simply elevates out of the way. New drawers can be installed with technology that prevents them from slamming shut, as well.

Unique Countertop Options

Kitchen countertops no longer look drab and outdated. The sky is the limit for countertop materials, and they are being used as statement pieces in the kitchen. From stainless steel to concrete and even butcher block, almost any resource is possible when adding a one-of-a-kind element to the kitchen.

Large Kitchen Islands

Kitchens are gathering places, and multi-functional kitchen islands continue to be a must-have trend for 2017. Long, spacious kitchen islands are taking their places in the center of a kitchen – blurring the line between the kitchen and the dining area. They’re perfect for the center of a party, discussion as a meal comes together, and as a game and homework hangout for young children and teens alike.

Hidden Appliances

While stainless steel appliances will continue to be a popular choice, you’ll start to see more “hidden appliances” in kitchen design – such as microwave drawers or covered refrigerators – that make the home feel more cozy.

Kitchen Trends to Watch in 2017 Home Automation

Technology available for today’s homes is incredible, and you can now have smart-home technology integrated into every corner of your home, including the kitchen. Lighting, security, audio, video, motorized shades and temperature control can all be controlled with your tablet or smartphone.  More kitchens have smart-home technology built in – for watching television, looking up recipes (on a big screen) or piping in music while creating culinary masterpieces.

Smart Kitchen Appliances

We are living in a time where smart kitchen appliances are now commonplace. There are a whole host of options, from refrigerators that are connected to the internet to ovens that are connected to engineers so they can diagnose issues remotely. Other clever kitchen gadgets include a smart coffee maker by Firebox that allows you to brew (and grind) coffee on demand, the Somabar that helps you make the perfect-tasting cocktail and the Tefal Actifry Smart XL – a Bluetooth-powered fryer that takes recipes directly from your smart device to prepare the perfectly fried dish. (Source: Connected cooking: The best smart kitchen devices and appliances)

Mixed Hardware Fixtures

Gone are the days of monochromatic kitchen hardware. With so many finishes – stainless steel, rose gold, copper, pewter, black steel – on the market, homeowners more than ever are encouraged to be creative by mixing up kitchen hardware and finishes.

If, after reading this article and seeing some of the many new kitchen products available, you are ready to sketch out plans, let us help you redesign your kitchen to make the most of your space and to fit your family’s needs.


Common Exterior Problem Areas


Before dog-days of summer are completely upon us, take a look around your house for at some common exterior problem areas. If you see any of these, make note of them, and try to check at least one off every week. Doing these little things around your house now not only will preserve the exterior, but it will also give you more time to watch football this fall!

Caulking around Windows, Doors, and All Exterior Finishes: Caulk is not designed to last for the life of your home and will eventually break down. This can lead to hidden air leaks and, in certain cases, disastrous results. We recommend checking the caulking on the exterior of your home each year. Our service department is available to do an exterior home inspection and let you know where re-caulking is needed.

Exterior Painting: Wood frames on your exterior doors, porch posts and other painted materials should be painted every 3-5 years to prevent rotting. Rotting door frames is a very common issue that we see and can be prolonged by painting and maintaining proper drainage away from the bottom of the door.

Tree and Shrub Branches: These are often planted close to the house, but as they grow, they can scrape the exterior and cause damage on windy days or completely fall over during a thunderstorm. Keep them trimmed to prevent damage to your property.

Wooden Deck Boards: If you notice a board warping, splitting or splintering, take the time to replace it. Steps can be particularly dangerous, as weak boards can cause someone to fall.

Erosion around Your Foundation: Over time, the soil around your foundation will settle, causing low spots around your foundation. These spots are where water can puddle, and water against your home’s foundation can cause greater damage. Fill in these spots with dirt (not mulch) and take special care make sure the soil allows water to flow away from your home.

Discover more home tips here.

Introducing Willow Bend Farm Community

Our 2014 Parade of Homes entry is located in beautiful Willow Bend Farm.


Willow Bend Farm is an artfully planned neighborhood community and is cloistered in the beauty of trees and rolling meadows of West Lampeter Township, just minutes from downtown Lancaster. Metzler Home Builders, Inc. and the Charlan Group, the award winning builder/developer team, have transformed this choice, serene Lancaster County location into a neighborhood for community living while preserving and enhancing the natural beauty and park-like setting.

This beautiful community features a mix of single family homes, semi-detached duplex units, and studio series townhomes. There are many plans to choose from, or you can hand pick your own lot and build a custom plan to fit your needs.

Four acres of open space, cobblestone curb and lighted streets along with two miles of walking path make this neighborhood a must see!


Currently, our Sheffield III Model is open for touring as part of the Lancaster Parade of Homes. This 2,460 square foot Craftsman-style home is attractive inside and out. The Parade is free to the public and open now through Sunday – weekdays 5-8 pm; weekends 12-6pm. Stop in and see the charmingly private Willow Bend Farm Community for yourself.

To learn more about the homes currently on the market or to schedule an appointment, visit www.willowbendfarmhomes.com.

Smart Home Safety Tips for Summer


The home is a sanctuary for your family, and there is nothing more unnerving that realizing that your home has been broken into. According to the FBI, there were over 2 million burglaries in 2010 – a decrease of 2 percent when compared to the year before – and although crime is a serious concern, our homes and neighborhoods are safer than ever before – much in part to awareness and the preventative steps we are taking.

Still, summer is a season when homes are burglarize the most. The weather is nice and many families go on vacation.  Additionally, because people are in and out of the homes more frequently – for strolls or a quick errand – they often get lax in securing their home.

Here are a few things to remember this summer to keep your home belongings and family safe:

  • Never allow strangers in your home, even if they look hurt or in distress.

  • Most contractors, such as HVAC or pool companies, will wear uniforms and/or show up in a company vehicle. If they are a smaller firm where their employees don’t have those items, they will present you with a business card and notify you ahead of time of what to expect when they show up to your home for the pre-scheduled appointment.

  • When you go for a walk or leave your home for a quick errand, take the time to secure your home. Lock your doors, put your garage door down and close and lock any sliding doors or windows that can easily be entered.

  • When you leave for vacation, make sure you tell a trusted neighbor. Ask them to pick up your mail, paper and other items that can make an unscrupulous person quickly see that you are away. Put your lights on timers so your homes looks lived in.

  • Invest in a safe to store valuable items such as jewelry and important documents. You may also want to consider buying one that is flood and fire proof.

  • One of your homes easiest entry points is the garage. Keep your garage door closed at all times and lock the door that leads from the garage into your home.

  • Don’t leave ladders and tools unsecured outside. These items can be used to gain access to your home.

  • Look at your shrubbery around your first-floor windows, and if you don’t have any, you may want to plant a few. They can deter a robber from entering your home – especially if they are thorny.

This summer, relax and enjoy the warm days, but also realize that break-ins can be avoided when you take some precautions. Get more home and neighborhood safety resources by visiting the National Crime Prevention Council’s website.

The Benefits of Building Your New Home

The National Association of Home Builders has proclaimed June as National Homeownership Month, and to kick-off this month-long event, we wanted to provide you with some obvious – and not so obvious – benefits of building or buying a new home.


The Obvious Benefits

There are many obvious benefits of building a new home instead of purchasing an existing one. Here are a few:

  • The science of building a home has improved greatly over the years. Today, new homes are built with a higher energy efficiency rating than older homes – even those that aren’t all that old.

  • Home technology is incredible. Every year, new technologies are being incorporated into homes – from the ability to monitor your home from your mobile device to behind the walls features that improve how we live within the home.

  • Floor plans have become more open – and attractive – in new homes.

  • New homes come with warranties. In addition to the builder warranty, there are warranties on many of the products within the home. Together, this gives home buyers a peace of mind that you don’t get by purchasing an existing home.

  • The ability to select your appliances, flooring, paint colors, cabinetry, exterior finishes … and more make building a new home very attractive.

The Not-So-Obvious Benefits

There are a many not-so-obvious benefits of buying a new home that customers have shared with us. Here are a few of our favorites:

  • When you build a home in a newer community, like Willow Bend Farm in Lampeter Township, you get the benefit of meeting others who are new to the neighborhood, too. Often it is these connections that form strong bonds of friendships for decades to come.

  • Many desirable amenities are built into new neighborhoods. For instance, Willow Bend Farm has wooded areas with walking trails, sidewalks, a community building and is located close to several golf courses. Many other neighborhoods across Lancaster County boast similar niceties that older neighborhoods don’t have.

  • There are many advantages of being a first-owner of a home. Everything is clean, and you don’t have to worry about stripping tired wallpaper from the dining room or repainting to suite your tastes. Outside, you can enhance the landscape by planning flowerbeds and gardens the way you envision.

If you are considering buying a home, we invite you to attend the BIA’s Parade of Homes where we’ll have one of our Willow Bend Farm homes on display. The Parade runs June 14-22, weekdays from 5-8pm and weekends from 12-6pm. It is free to attend.

Visit the Parade of Homes website to see all the details on our home in Willow Bend Farms.

Summer Cookout Safety Tips

Memorial Day weekend marks the unofficial start of summer, and across the country, families and friends will gather to cook out, enjoy the warmer weather and visit with each other.


Grilling is one of America’s favorite pastimes. Not only does it make for easy meal prep, but it also keeps the home cooler during the warm summer months. But the grill can also be dangerous, so keep these cookout safety tips in mind this summer.

  • Before you begin grilling for the summer, check the propane tank to make sure it is properly connected.

  • If using a charcoal grill, make sure that the lighter fluid and matches are stored in a safe place after the coals are lit.

  • Move the grill away from the side of your home and deck railing. The heat from the grill can melt vinyl siding and could also cause a fire. Additionally, never use a charcoal or propane grill indoors or in enclosed garages or patios.

  • Place your grill on a flat surface so it is stable and can’t be tipped over.

  • Keep children and pets away from the grill. It is natural for everyone to congregate around the chef while he is cooking the burgers and hot dogs, but make sure that everyone keeps a safe distance away from the grill so they don’t get burnt.

  • Don’t wear loose clothing around a grill.

Another favorite pastime in Lancaster County is gathering around the fire pit during the evenings. The kids toast marshmallows while the adults share stories and plans for summer vacations. Open fires can also be dangerous, so please keep these safety tips in mind:

  • Observe “burn warnings” in your area. Townships will post notices when it is too dry or windy to burn.

  • Build your fire pit in an open area – away from dry grass, leaves and overhanging trees. You don’t want windborne embers catching things on fire.

  • It is better to keep your fire small so it stays controlled – just a few logs at a time.

  • Keep a bucket of water and a shovel close to the fire, just in case. These will also be handy when you are ready to extinguish the fire for the evening.

  • Never leave fire pits unattended.

  • When you are ready to call it a night, take extra care to make sure the fire is completely out before heading indoors.

Read more of our blog articles for home tips and inspiration.