The Origins of 62 Last Names

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SasinParaksa iStock via Getty Images

Last names. You've probably got one or two, and they definitely came from somewhere. Whether it's ancient or modern, signifies the beauty of nature or an abstract concept or a job, or is something Grandma came up with on the fly, last names are intimate things that anchor us to our heritage.

Here are the meanings and origins of 62 last names (maybe including yours).

1. Green

Woman in a forest with binoculars
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Welcome, It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia fans. Did you know that the last name Green has been around since before the 7th century? You could have gotten that name by playing the role of the "green man" on May Day, which involved dressing in green clothing and leaves. But people were also given the name Green if they just liked wearing the color green a lot. So if you're interested in changing your last name, look no further than your closet.

2. Smith

Blacksmith forging a horseshoe
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Smith is an old English name given to those who worked with metal. It's probably related to a word that meant "to strike" or "to smite," which means it may have referred to a soldier or to the person hitting metal to form it into armor.

3. Schmidt

Wrought iron detail on wooden door
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Similarly, Schmidt is basically the German version of Smith, which also derives from the word smitan, which pre-dates written history.

4. Lopez

Red wolf
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The popular Spanish last name Lopez came from lupus, the Latin word for wolf.

5. Thomas

Twin babies crying
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It's from the ancient Aramaic word תאומא, meaning twin, but you can use it on singles or all three triplets.

6. Hill

A small white house on a green hill in the sun.
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Hill is an English name referring to, you guessed it, someone living on a hill. Other people got the name not from location, but from the name Hildebrand or Hilliard.

7. Lynch

Man on a sailboat
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In parts of England, Lynch meant someone who lived by a hill. In Ireland, though, it may have meant seaman

8. Murphy

Vikings rowing in boats
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Slightly different, Murphy comes from the Irish term for a sea warrior, which is basically a Lynch during war time. There's most likely a Viking connection here.

9. Novak

Woman giving a casserole to a neighbor
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Novak comes from the Slovak word for new or newcomer. Good to know if people start calling you that as soon as you get to Serbia. 

10. Gomez

Man kissing his toddler son
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Gomo, which comes from old Spanish, meant man, and the "ez" at the end there makes it mean "son of man."

11. Cook

A male chef's hand seasons a rack of ribs.
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If your last name is Cook, you probably have some ancestors who did that for a living.

12. baker.

Man at potting wheel
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Dating back before the 8th century, Baker could have referred to someone baking bread, running a communal kitchen, or owning a kiln for firing pottery.

13. Baxter

Man holding a loaf of bread
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Baxter is the masculine version of the word bakester, which originally meant a woman who bakes.

14. Becker

Small house by a forest stream
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Becker is the German word for baker, and the name might have sprung up for the same reasons Baker and Baxter did in England, but it's also possible that the last name denoted someone living by a stream, or bach.

15. Hall

Long old-fashioned hallway
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They were the people who worked in a house or a hall. Or even if you just lived near one.

16. Adams

Stained glass depiction of Adam and Eve in the garden with a snake.
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Adams means "son of Adam" in England and Scotland. They borrowed the Adam part from Hebrew, of course.

17. Rogers

Statue of Athena holding a spear
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Rogers means "son of Roger." Roger isn't the first man in an alternate version of the Bible, though: His name comes from the legend of the Danish king Hrothgar, who can be found in Beowulf. Hrothgar, by the way, means "famous spear."

18. Thompson

Celtic crosses in old graveyard
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There are of course, a ton of these "son"s. Let's just get a bunch out of the way. Thompson, which is Celtic, means either "son of Tom" or refers to a place called Thompson in Norfolk.

19. Robinson

European robin in a snowy tree
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You would be correct in assuming that Robinson means "son of Robin." Or Robert.

20. Roberts

Sunlight through clouds
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Roberts means "son of Robert," and Robert means "fame" and "bright."

21. Johnson and Jones

Mosaic of John the Baptist
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Johnson and Jones both mean "son of John." The name John comes from the Hebrew Yohanan, which means "Yahweh has been gracious."

22. Jackson

Statue of John the Baptist on the Charles Bridge in Prague
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The name Jack is also derived from Yohanan, so Jacksons and Johnsons are really kinda the same.

23. Evans

Warrior holding a sword and shield
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Evans—besides meaning "son of Evan"—is a name that changes definition depending on your background. In Welsh, it also evolved from Yohanan. In Celtic, it means "young warrior." We're learning a lot about what people used to value: warriors, fame, religion, hills.

24. Martinez

Statue of Roman god of war Mars
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It's a Spanish last name meaning "son of Martin," and "Martin" comes from the Roman god of war, Mars.

25. Anderson

Man lifting weights in a gym
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The Greek word for "manly" gave us Anders and Andrew, and therefore Anderson, the son of Anders.

26. Wilson

Cat looking longingly at food
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The Will part of Wilson is from the Germanic word meaning "desire." Gives an even deeper meaning to the Tom Hanks' best friend in Castaway.

27. Olsen

Old family photos for genealogy
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The name Ole came from an Old Norse word meaning "ancestors' descendants". So I guess the Olsens of the world are the "sons of ancestors' descendants."

28. Philips

Man and horse
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The Greek name Philippos, meaning "lover of horses", gave us the name Philip. Therefore, every Philips in your life is the son of a horse lover.

29. Fox

Sleeping red fox
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The name Fox was taken from the animal's name. It's one of those last names that started out as a nickname. Usually, people who were called Fox were clever or else had red hair or both (probably just one or the other).

30. Russell

An intricate braid in the hair of a redheaded woman.
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Then there's the name Russell, which is an Anglo-Norman word meaning "red haired" or even "red-skinned."

31. White

Curvy river in green landscape
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White probably referred to a person who had white hair or a very light complexion. It's also referred to people living near the bend in a river.

32. Brown

Man in brown suit holding a drink
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The original Brown was someone with brown hair or who wore a lot of brown clothes. But really, wasn't that everyone in like the 5th century? I guess that explains why there are so many Browns.

33. Kim

Pile of gold bricks
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Kim means "gold." It's also the most popular surname in South Korea. One in five people living there is a Kim.

34. Li

Bowl of plums
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Li can mean "plum" or someone who lived near a plum tree. It's the second most popular surname on the planet.

35. Lee

A meadow filled with purple wildflowers
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The direct translation of Lee from Old English is "an open place," so it might have referred to a meadow or a water meadow.

36. Stewart

Butler at a door
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The Scottish name would have denoted a guardian who handled administrative tasks for a big royal household. It comes from the ancient word "stigweard."

37. Clark

Vintage typewriter with paper
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Clark means "professional scribe." So if I live near a hill and I'm something of a scribe, would be a Lynchclark?

38. Walker

Raw wool and tools
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Walker could have been someone who did fulling, which was walking on cloth to improve its quality.

39. [Another] walker

Two park rangers
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Another occupation related to that name: military officers who would monitor a forest area by, you know, walking.

40. Allen

Vellos in an orchestra
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This name means "little rock" or "harmony." So please enjoy using your Harmony Wrench to build your next swanky piece of IKEA furniture.

41. Myers

A black sign with golden letters reading City Hall
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In English, Myers means "son of the mayor." It may have also been used as a nickname for someone pompous.

42. Singh

Regal lion
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Singh means "lion." Sikh in origin, it's given to a son on achieving manhood.

43. COHEN

Hot priest
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It's Hebrew for "priest." But the name might also come from Gaelic Irish where it meant "son of wild goose."

44. PARKER

Female park ranger with lions
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The original Parker was a gamekeeper. Or maybe a park keeper. Makes sense.

45. Wright

Woman using a power tool
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The name comes from an Old English word for "craftsman," and usually denoted someone who made things with wood, like windmills or wheels.

46. Carter

A donkey in front of a green cart that has a sack in it
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Carter is also English. It originally referred to a job in which someone would transport goods via cart, hence Cart-er.

47. Schneider

Female tailor
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Schneider means "tailor" in German. The English version is, of course, Taylor.

48. Muller

Windmills and tulips
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In German, Muller meant someone who operated a mill. The English version of that one is, also of course, Miller, and they both would have needed a wright to build their mill.

49. Cooper

Warehouse full of barrels
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In England, a cooper was someone who made barrels. If you get a bunch of barrel makers together in tiny cars you have many coopers in Mini Coopers.

50. Moore

Yorkshire moors
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Moore has multiple meanings. It may have meant someone who lived by a moor or someone who worked on boats, or someone who was dark-skinned, like Othello.

51. Perry

Close-up of a bunch of golden pears on the branch of a pear tree
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In Old English, if you were named Perry, it meant that you spent a lot of time near pear trees. That sort of feels like a lazy nickname situation. In French, it was someone who worked in a quarry.

52. Turner

Wood being turned on a lathe
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Turner also has a couple different origins. It might mean "turn hare," or someone who can run faster than a hare. It could also mean "one who works with a lathe".

52. torres

Belem tower in Lisbon Portugal
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In Portuguese and Spanish, Torres means "tower." So, someone with that last name was someone who lived by a tower.

53. Hoffman

Female farmer in a wheat field
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In German, Hoffman meant someone who was a steward on an estate. Or someone associated with a farm. Either way, do not hassle the Hoffman. 

54. LEWIS

Cannon overlooking a river
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Lewis comes from many cultures and has a few different meanings. An English Lewis was the son of a Lowis. Lewis also developed various first names in France and Germany and Normandy and so on. Those with the last name Llewellyn, in Welsh, usually becomes Lewis in English. They all came from the Frankish name Hludwig which meant "famous battle."

55. Young

Female teacher and children in preschool
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Young referred to the youngest child. You might also might have earned the surname if you were young at heart.

56. Weber

A woman weaving at a hand loom.
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Weber is German for "weaver." It probably stemmed form the Old English word webbe, which meant "to weave."

57. King

Statue of King Edward VII
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In English, King obviously means leader, but many people adopted it who weren't rulers, and it was used as a nickname quite often. You'll notice, for instance, that the Queen of England is not named Elizabeth Queen. But the name became popular among American immigrants from Ireland, and in the 16th century it was also common to give orphans in France the last name Roi, meaning "king."

58. Garcia

Brown bear cub climbing a tree
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The etymology of Garcia isn't certain but most believe it came from a Basque word meaning "bear," or "young bear."

59. Rodriguez

Female chief executive officer
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Rodriguez means "famous chief." But it may also have come from a word meaning "red-haired one." So, if you're a famous red-haired chief, you're all set.

60. Campbell

Model of teeth with braces
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Campbell derives from two Scottish-Gaelic words: cam meaning "crooked" and bell meaning "mouth." Shout out to all the crooked mouths out there.

61. Abdullah

Muslim women praying
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Abdullah means "servant of God." It's popular among Arabic Jews, Christians, and Muslims.

62. Mwangi

Tall skyscrapers
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Mwangi is the most popular surname in Kenya, and it means "rapid expansion."

In this episode of The List Show, John Green examines the origins of 62 surnames. For a transcript, click here.

The 10 Best Air Fryers on Amazon

Cosori/Amazon
Cosori/Amazon

When it comes to making food that’s delicious, quick, and easy, you can’t go wrong with an air fryer. They require only a fraction of the oil that traditional fryers do, so you get that same delicious, crispy texture of the fried foods you love while avoiding the extra calories and fat you don’t.

But with so many air fryers out there, it can be tough to choose the one that’ll work best for you. To make your life easier—and get you closer to that tasty piece of fried chicken—we’ve put together a list of some of Amazon’s top-rated air frying gadgets. Each of the products below has at least a 4.5-star rating and over 1200 user reviews, so you can stop dreaming about the perfect dinner and start eating it instead.

1. Ultrean Air Fryer; $76

Ultrean/Amazon

Around 84 percent of reviewers awarded the Ultrean Air Fryer five stars on Amazon, making it one of the most popular models on the site. This 4.2-quart oven doesn't just fry, either—it also grills, roasts, and bakes via its innovative rapid air technology heating system. It's available in four different colors (red, light blue, black, and white), making it the perfect accent piece for any kitchen.

Buy it: Amazon

2. Cosori Air Fryer; $120

Cosori/Amazon

This highly celebrated air fryer from Cosori will quickly become your favorite sous chef. With 11 one-touch presets for frying favorites, like bacon, veggies, and fries, you can take the guesswork out of cooking and let the Cosori do the work instead. One reviewer who “absolutely hates cooking” said, after using it, “I'm actually excited to cook for the first time ever.” You’ll feel the same way!

Buy it: Amazon

3. Innsky Air Fryer; $90

Innsky/Amazon

With its streamlined design and the ability to cook with little to no oil, the Innsky air fryer will make you feel like the picture of elegance as you chow down on a piece of fried shrimp. You can set a timer on the fryer so it starts cooking when you want it to, and it automatically shuts off when the cooking time is done (a great safety feature for chefs who get easily distracted).

Buy it: Amazon

4. Secura Air Fryer; $62

Secura/Amazon

This air fryer from Secura uses a combination of heating techniques—hot air and high-speed air circulation—for fast and easy food prep. And, as one reviewer remarked, with an extra-large 4.2-quart basket “[it’s] good for feeding a crowd, which makes it a great option for large families.” This fryer even comes with a toaster rack and skewers, making it a great addition to a neighborhood barbecue or family glamping trip.

Buy it: Amazon

5. Chefman Turbo Fry; $60

Chefman/Amazon

For those of you really looking to cut back, the Chefman Turbo Fry uses 98 percent less oil than traditional fryers, according to the manufacturer. And with its two-in-one tank basket that allows you to cook multiple items at the same time, you can finally stop using so many pots and pans when you’re making dinner.

Buy it: Amazon

6. Ninja Air Fryer; $100

Ninja/Amazon

The Ninja Air Fryer is a multipurpose gadget that allows you to do far more than crisp up your favorite foods. This air fryer’s one-touch control panel lets you air fry, roast, reheat, or even dehydrate meats, fruits, and veggies, whether your ingredients are fresh or frozen. And the simple interface means that you're only a couple buttons away from a homemade dinner.

Buy it: Amazon

7. Instant Pot Air Fryer + Electronic Pressure Cooker; $180

Instant Pot/Amazon

Enjoy all the perks of an Instant Pot—the ability to serve as a pressure cooker, slow cooker, yogurt maker, and more—with a lid that turns the whole thing into an air fryer as well. The multi-level fryer basket has a broiling tray to ensure even crisping throughout, and it’s big enough to cook a meal for up to eight. If you’re more into a traditional air fryer, check out Instant Pot’s new Instant Vortex Pro ($140) air fryer, which gives you the ability to bake, proof, toast, and more.

Buy it: Amazon

8. Omorc Habor Air Fryer; $100

Omorc Habor/Amazon

With a 5.8-quart capacity, this air fryer from Omorc Habor is larger than most, giving you the flexibility of cooking dinner for two or a spread for a party. To give you a clearer picture of the size, its square fryer basket, built to maximize cooking capacity, can handle a five-pound chicken (or all the fries you could possibly eat). Plus, with a non-stick coating and dishwasher-safe basket and frying pot, this handy appliance practically cleans itself.

Buy it: Amazon

9. Dash Deluxe Air Fryer; $100

Dash/Amazon

Dash’s air fryer might look retro, but its high-tech cooking ability is anything but. Its generously sized frying basket can fry up to two pounds of French fries or two dozen wings, and its cool touch handle makes it easy (and safe) to use. And if you're still stumped on what to actually cook once you get your Dash fryer, you'll get a free recipe guide in the box filled with tips and tricks to get the most out of your meal.

Buy it: Amazon

10. Bella Air Fryer; $52

Bella/Amazon

This petite air fryer from Bella may be on the smaller side, but it still packs a powerful punch. Its 2.6-quart frying basket makes it an ideal choice for couples or smaller families—all you have to do is set the temperature and timer, and throw your food inside. Once the meal is ready, its indicator light will ding to let you know that it’s time to eat.

Buy it: Amazon

This article contains affiliate links to products selected by our editors. Mental Floss may receive a commission for purchases made through these links.

7 Smart Steps You Can Take to Weatherproof Your Home

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iStock

If you’re new to home ownership, you may think that finding a house, getting approved for a mortgage, and closing were the hardest parts of laying down roots. And while buying a home is a big accomplishment, it’s just the beginning! To keep your dwelling in tip-top shape for years to come, you’ll need to outsmart its biggest threat: the weather. Luckily, there are plenty of things you can do to keep its structure safe and your utility costs low—and most of them don’t require contractor-level skills.

1. INSULATE, INSULATE, INSULATE.

Whether you live in a cold region of the country or a warm one (or both!), insulating your attic and basement is one of the best things you can do to keep heating and cooling costs down. Upkeep is minimal: Every spring and fall, do a spot check to make sure there aren’t cracks or gaps allowing outside air in (and inside air out).

2. GET TECHY.

Installing a programmable thermostat that automates indoor temperature is an easy way to save about $180 a year in heating and cooling costs. Decide if you want a unit with remote access, i.e., smart home technology, or without. If you’re replacing your old thermostat, it’s easy to do yourself; if you’re putting in an entirely new system, hire a pro.

3. PAINT YOUR HOME RIGHT.

Exterior paint is the first layer of defense against the elements. Harsh UV rays can cause paint to crack and peel, while extreme temperatures force the surface covering your home to expand and contract. In areas of the country where rain and humidity abound, moisture can seep into paint, causing mold, mildew, and algae to take root. Fortunately, the right paint, formulated for the conditions where you live, can make all the difference. Valspar® Reserve ® Extreme Weather Paint + Primer with SeasonFlex™ Technology forms a flexible bond with your home’s exterior throughout summer and winter; Valspar® Reserve ® Extreme Weather Paint + Primer with SunStopper™ Technology refracts light while neutralizing harmful UV rays; and Valspar® Reserve ® Extreme Weather Paint + Primer with RainRelief™ Technology forms a watertight bond with your home, while the included mildewcide fends off unwanted nasties.

4. GIVE YOURSELF A NEW OUTLET.

This is a tiny, easy thing to do, which makes it perfect whether you rent or own your place. Wave your hand in front of outlets to see if air is coming through. If yes, install a foam outlet gasket. They’re inexpensive and easily removable, so you can even take them with you if you move.

5. ALLOW YOURSELF TO VENT.

Yes, your home needs ventilation, especially around the dryer, over the stove and in the bathroom. But don’t allow air to escape. Look for a magnetic cover for your kitchen exhaust fan and an internal flapper for your bathroom fan to handle moisture. As for the dryer, be sure the external vent has a flap over it—and check it periodically to make sure it remains lint-free.

6. TREAT YOUR FLUE.

Yes, that real fireplace is quaint. When it’s not in use though, its chimney is also letting warm air out, as it’s designed to do. Always remember to close the flue when you don’t have a fire going. And if you’re just moving in, contact a professional to check the chimney’s physical state. They’ll examine it from roof to hearth, and may also install a balloon that inflates automatically underneath the flue to keep air from escaping. It will also deflate when there’s heat present, allowing the chimney to do its job.

7. STRATEGIZE YOUR REMODEL.

In some cases, weatherproofing your home requires more than keeping rain out and the right temperatures in. If you’re building or remodeling a home in a flood or tsunami zone near the ocean, consult an architect that specializes in extreme weatherproofing. Living areas can be raised, glass can be fortified and classic shingles can be replaced with composite tiles for ultimate gust and downpour protection.

Finally there’s a paint formulated to stand up to the extreme weather where you live. New Valspar® Reserve® Extreme Weather Paint and Primer in three regional, weather-specific formulas: SeasonFlex™, SunStopper™ and RainRelief™ . Find the one for you exclusively at Lowe’s or go to Valsparpaint.com/ExteriorPaint to learn more.