Articles Tagged "Home Hacks"

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September
22

Make Your Home Smarter Without Spending A Fortune

Everything from security cameras and thermostats to light bulbs and locks is now available with wireless connectivity, and when multiple devices communicate, they join an "Internet of things" that instantly makes life more convenient and customizable. Some even learn your preferences and household habits, then adjust themselves accordingly. However, some homeowners still assume that "smart home" technology is still out of their price range.

If you want to smarten up your home and take advantage of the latest gadgets, you don't actually have to invest in a six-figure rewiring job. Instead, just take some of the following steps to keep your home compatible with the 21st century.

  • Swap Out Your Light Bulbs for Smart LED Bulbs
    Traditional light bulbs generate heat, use electricity, emit one color, need to be replaced every so often, and only respond to physical switches. Smart LED bulbs, on the other hand, generate no heat, use far less electricity, may change colors, last much longer, and can be controlled wirelessly. Whether you care about the planet or you need more lighting options, WiFi LED bulbs like the Philips Hue system or single LIFX bulbs are the way to go. If you want to spend less than $20 per bulb, opt for Bluetooth-enabled bulbs like the GE C-Life instead.

  • Plug Your Appliances into Smart Plugs
    Do you want to control your oven, computer, TV, or any other appliance remotely? You don't have to wait until a "smart fridge" is in the budget. Now, it's possible to connect your mobile devices to anything that plugs into your wall, thanks to pass-through plugs like the Belkin WeMo Insight Switch or the mydlink Home Smart Plug. Download an app to turn appliances on and off, monitor usage patterns, and more.

  • Invest in a Nest
    It's hard to overstate the value of a programmable thermostat, especially when it's as striking as the popular Nest. This wireless-enabled thermostat is easy to plug into your existing HVAC wires, and once it's installed, you can use your phone to adjust the minimum and maximum temperatures, set specific temperatures, program fluctuations, and more. Best of all, the Nest knows where you are and adjusts your temperature accordingly. You can even set it to conserve extra energy by turning off its screen until you walk up to it.

  • Greet Visitors with the Ring Video Doorbell
    Who's at the door? If you had a Ring doorbell, you would never have to ask that question again. Ring integrates two-way audio for speaking back and forth through the door, a camera that allows you to see your visitors in HD from anywhere in the house (or the world) in any lighting, and motion sensors that make it easy to start recording when someone arrives. With Ring, you can even set up mobile alerts when someone rings the bell or comes near your door. Ring's doorbells range from $150 per doorbell to more than $600 for whole camera systems, but peace of mind is priceless.

How will you turn your house into a smart home? Investing in a few wireless gadgets now may save time, money, and energy for years to come, but let's be honest: it makes your house look a whole lot cooler, too. Whether you hope to attract buyers soon or you want to make life in your new home more convenient and futuristic, these smart products are a great place to start.

September
8

3 Decor Finds That Are Always Better At Estate Sales

Moving is exciting, but once the dust has settled and the boxes are unpacked, new homes are still blank slates devoid of character. You have a mortgage to pay, but you want your new house to look and feel like home, so consider shopping estate sales for your home décor. New items don't come with character, and if they're not expensive, they're often cheaply made or already outdated. If you hope to decorate your space without spending a fortune or wasting your money on flash-in-the-pan trends, estate sales and tag sales are difficult to beat. These household blowouts are great sources of timeless, gently used, high-quality pieces that can truly complete your home for years to come.

Mortgages don't mix well with overpriced furniture shops and art galleries, but that's okay. When it comes to the following décor finds, your best bet is usually to peruse someone else's gently used décor at an estate or rummage sale, anyway.

  1. Holiday Decorations
    When people downsize or clear out a home, they often ditch holiday items like costumes and masks, place settings, yard signs, decorative figurines, artificial trees, candle holders, wreaths, and more. Seasonal decorations are only used for a month at most, so they're usually in great shape even after years of use. Nothing says "home" like a festive holiday display, so keep your eyes peeled for Easter, Halloween, and Christmas decorations at estate and yard sales.

    Ordinary household items — including some of the most common estate sale staples — are also easy to re-purpose as holiday decorations. For example, glass bottles and vases can be distressed and turned into spooky potion jars or filled with tiny lights for a romantic Christmas or Valentine's Day display. Books, mirrors, dolls, and picture frames are also full of Pinterest-worthy holiday crafting (and home improvement) potential.

  2. Books
    Speaking of books, you don't need a library in your new place to benefit from stacks of used books. Books are heavy and take up space. Estate sales are usually overflowing with paperbacks and hardcovers. Why snatch them up? While a home full of books is bliss for avid readers, books are also some of the cheapest and most versatile interior design staples. Home improvement is about elevating the spaces you already have, and books get the job done. A couple stacks of colorful hardcovers will bring life to your coffee table and side tables, while rows of books instantly fill out empty bookshelves and cubbies. Experiment with color-coded books to establish or complement a room's color scheme, or turn the books around for rows of classy, monochromatic pages. The decorative potential of books is practically boundless.

  3. Plates
    While immaculate dish sets are fantastic estate sale finds, single plates are also full of re-purposing potential. Do you have a big, blank wall or hallway that needs something funky to spice it up? Look for mix-and-match stacks of plates at yard sales and estate sales. Get creative, and mount a collection of different patterns, colors, and sizes to those blank walls. Nice plates range from a dime to a dollar each because they get much less valuable when they're not in a set, so you can transform a whole wall into an eclectic, colorful piece of art for next to nothing.

Whether you're moving in or moving out, add a second-hand sale to your to-do list. Garage sales are a great way to lighten your load after selling your house, while nearby estate sales and garage sales leave room in your budget for home improvement after you buy a new house.

August
11

7 Easy Ways To Save Water & Money In Your Home

Conserving water is one of the best ways to save money. The good news is that there are plenty of ways to cut down on water use throughout the year, and you don't have to give up comfort to keep those water bills to a minimum.

  1. Low-Flow Is the Way to Go
    Old shower heads are among the most common culprits for water waste and also one of the easiest to address. Purchasing a low-flow shower head is a great way to cut down on water use, and it's an affordable, easy fix to make. You can find a wide selection of low-flow shower heads at your favorite big-name home improvement store.

  2. Don't Forget the Faucets
    Just like your shower head, your faucet can cause quite a bit of added waste if it hasn't been upgraded recently. Adding new faucets to sinks around your home will help manage water use, and you can also add some style to the room by choosing fixtures that match the décor. Efficiency and home improvement go hand-in-hand.

  3. An Efficient Toilet
    If you're starting to notice a theme, you're right — the bathroom is one of the most common places for water waste. A new toilet will cost a bit more than a faucet or shower head, but it's more than worth it. Old toilets can use up to six gallons of water per flush, while the current standard is much lower at 1.6 gallons per flush.

  4. Find and Fix Leaks
    Big water leaks are often pretty hard to miss, but the smaller leaks may take a bit longer to reveal themselves. In addition to helping minimize the chance for major water damage, having leaks addressed by an expert can help you save significantly on water costs by reducing waste.

  5. Install an Irrigation Controller
    Do you enjoy gardening and maintaining your lawn but don't want to use up too much water in the process? Installing an irrigation controller will help you manage your outdoor water use and keep your garden looking gorgeous in the process.

  6. Wash When Full
    This tip applies to both your dishwasher and your clothes washing machine. Rather than run a load as soon as possible, wait for the machine to fill up completely before starting a wash cycle. Everything will still come out nice and clean, but you'll be using a lot less water than if you split those loads into multiple cycles.

  7. Shorten Showers and Turn Off the Tap
    Shortening your showers is a really easy way to start conserving water around the house. Even a few minutes makes a difference. You can also save water by turning off the tap while you brush your teeth and wash your hands. Just turn the tap back on when it's time to rinse, and you'll be good to go.

Conserving water is as good for your bank account as it is for the environment, and there are simple steps that every homeowner can take to minimize water use around the house. There are so many ways to save that we could never cover them all, but upgrading your fixtures, purchasing efficient appliances, and being conscious of your water use is a great start.

March
17

Upgrade A Concrete Slab Patio With Simple Fixes

Maybe you've been pondering all those cool ideas seen on TV and the web about redoing your drab slab of a concrete patio so that it's a standout feature of your indoor/outdoor entertainment area. Here's the deal. We are all in love with the idea of extending our living and entertainment area into the outdoors. And why not? There are dozens of relatively inexpensive and yet innovative hacks that will make your outdoors as inviting as the indoors, so let's start working from the ground up by renovating that boring, cracked, or scuffed-up concrete patio and see how dazzling it can be.

  1. Paint it.
    For basic painting, you will need: concrete binding primer; concrete paint; painter's tape, roller tray with liners (for fast cleanup), paint roller, nap roller covers, and paintbrushes.

    Pressure wash the patio and let it dry. Cover up with painter's tape everything you don't want to be painted. Apply concrete binding primer, allowing it to dry one to four hours prior to painting. Apply two coats of paint, allowing the first coat to dry overnight. Wait 72 hours before you move furniture back onto the patio.

  2. Stain it.
    Apply a stain over the patio, then seal it. 

  3. Paint a pattern.
    Using a circular saw, score a concrete slab with a diamond pattern, then paint it with two shades of gray concrete paint. You can also use a stencil to create interesting patterns like a carpet design.  

  4. Lay decking on top of the concrete.
    Not a fan of concrete? You can lay decking on top of the concrete and attach white fascia boards along the sides.

  5. Create a stamped concrete patio.
    Stamped concrete is wildly popular these days. A bit cheaper than pavers, it comes in a variety of patterns and colors. Installers will try to delay cracking (be advised, it will crack someday) by installing control joints. Obviously, you will have to pour concrete and stamp the new concrete before it hardens. So if you've already got a concrete slab there, you'll have to figure out how to get rid of it. 

  6. Fake a stone look.
    Another redo that involves pouring new concrete is to fake the look of brick or stone with a patterned rubber roller. You'll need a concrete roller to create indentations that look like brick or stone, and those rollers can be costly. Concrete stamping mats are a more affordable option. These flexible pieces of rubber have embossed patterns. Stamp them on wet concrete and apply pressure. Lift the mat and repeat the process. 

  7. Resurface with pavers.
    How about resurfacing your patio with clay pavers? These bricks are hard-fired in a kiln, so they are extra-strong and can stand up to the harsh sun and inclement weather. Less expensive than stone, clay pavers cost more than concrete pavers. 

Although all these projects are relatively inexpensive, you can obviously spend more on some than others. So if cost is a factor, then you may want to go with simple painting or staining.

Once you're done with your new floor, it's time to think about decorating. You might start with a weather-resistant outdoor rug, perhaps in the dining area. Decorate with flower boxes or containers of flowers that can change with the season and move indoors when it's cold. Hang up strands of lights. Add a water feature, which could be a fountain with plumbing or a self-contained model that runs on electricity and recirculates the water.

Let your creativity and inner interior decorator run wild as you think up ways to jazz up that formerly dull space and make it shine.

January
13

How To Personalize Your Home The Right Way

Buying a new home is a big deal. Whether you're buying your first home or moving to a different home in a new community, you want to put your personal stamp on the home. It's important to get rid of the previous owner's touches and make updates that reflect your personal design tastes and lifestyle. Take a look at 10 simple changes you can make to personalize your new home.

Paint the Front Door

Your home's exterior should create an inviting entrance that welcomes guests to your new home. Perhaps you can't afford to repaint the entire house, but you can give your front door a fresh new paint color and shiny new hardware that showcases your personal design style.

Put Up Coat Hooks

Adding a coat tree or coat hooks to your entry is a great way to personalize and organize your home. Instead of scattered coats, hats, umbrellas, and rain boots, everything will be right at your front door when you need to run an errand or take the kids to school.

Make a Place for Keys

If you're like most people, you've likely misplaced your house and car keys on occasion. By creating a special place for your keys, you will always know where they are. Hang a row of decorative wall hooks or place a decorative tray or bowl on a console table near the front door.

Roll Out a New Rug

Rolling out a beautiful new rug in the entry, living room, dining room, or bedroom will quickly personalize your home. Whether you prefer neutrals, soft patterns and textures, or bold, bright colors, an area rug will show off your personal design style and add focal elements to your room. 

Install a New Chandelier

When you move into a new home, you're likely to find light fixtures that reflect the previous owner's taste and style. To reflect your own personal style, take down the old ceiling fixtures or chandeliers and replace them with updated fixtures that compliment your furnishings and color scheme.

Change the Kitchen Faucet

Replacing the kitchen faucet is a simple, affordable way to upgrade personal style and convenient features. With so many different faucet styles, finishes, and prices to choose from, it's easy to give your kitchen an updated new look, even when you're on a tight budget.

Upgrade Window Treatments

Depending on how long the previous owners lived in the house, the window treatments may look a little dingy and outdated. Making upgrades with new window shades, draperies, or shutters will instantly give your home fresh design appeal. Whether you choose ready-made or custom window treatments, your home will have a brand new look.

Wallpaper the Bathroom

A colorful or pattern statement wallpaper in the powder room or bathroom will quickly put your personal stamp on your new home. A powder room is a great place to experiment with bold patterns and colors. If you're wallpapering a bathroom, make sure the paper you choose will withstand water and moisture.

Display Personal Photos

Displaying collections of personal family photos is an easy way to make a new place feel like home. Choose some of your favorite photos, buy matching frames, and create a display on a special wall down the hallway or on shelves or bookcases in the living room, family room, or bedroom.

Add Special Outdoor Features

Special outdoor features will increase your time outdoors for family gatherings, special events, and outdoor activities. Think about all the possibilities with a cozy porch swing, relaxing hammock, warm fire pit, an outdoor grill, and an alfresco dining table for candlelight dinners.

November
18

Why Wait For Spring? Clean These Parts Of Your Home Now

Spring cleaning gets a ton of attention, but what if we told you now is actually a great time to do some deep cleaning in your home? Before you pull out your holiday decorations and start making plans to host dinners and parties, think about tackling these often-overlooked cleaning projects.

  • Clean Your Fridge Inside and Out
    With the holidays coming up, it's a great idea to take everything out of your refrigerator and give it a deep cleaning. Check expiration dates before putting anything back in, and make sure you only keep items you plan to eat before they go bad.

    When you're done, it's time to wipe down the outside and clean your coils. Vacuum using a crevice tool and use a long-handled brush to remove pet hair and other debris from in between the coils. If your refrigerator isn't built-in, move it away from the wall and clean underneath.
  • Launder Like It's Going Out of Style
    There are few things more satisfying than tackling a large laundry project on a cool fall day. Plan to set aside a day (or a weekend) to wash all of your blankets, throws, curtains, slipcovers, bed skirts, pillows, mattress covers, and all washable comforters.

    Before you re-make your bed, turn all of the mattresses over, vacuum them, and spray them with fabric refresher.
  • Get the Dust Bunnies Off Your Ceiling Fans
    If you haven't turned your ceiling fan off for a while, you might be shocked by the amount of dust that has collected there. To make the job easy, climb up on a stepladder and put one blade at a time inside a pillowcase. Then, slowly pull it off, catching all of the dust inside.

    When you're done, take the case outside, shake it out, and toss it in the laundry. While you're up there, you might also want to switch your fan's direction so it's turning clockwise. This will create an updraft and help circulate warm air around the room.
  • Give Your Baseboards a Once-Over
    It might not be the most fun task, but removing dust and scuffs from your baseboard will make a big difference. You can vacuum them with an upholstery attachment to remove dust, then use a Mr. Clean Magic Eraser to remove scuff marks. If you really want to deep clean, use a Q-tip to remove dust and dirt from the tops and ridges of your baseboards.
  • Soak Your Shower Heads
    Mineral build-up can wreak havoc on your stainless steel showerheads. The good news is, it's easy to fix this. Simply put some distilled white vinegar in a small plastic bag and wrap it around your shower head, holding it in place with a rubber band.

    Let it sit for a couple of hours so the scale can dissolve. Then, use a toothbrush to scrub it away. If you're cleaning a bronze or brass shower head, note that these are more delicate. In this case, you'll just want to rub the scale away with warm water and a soft cloth.

Don't let this list overwhelm you. Start by choosing just one task, then put on your favorite music and dive right in! You'll be surprised by how quick and easy it is to do and how much of an impact each task will have on your home.

October
14

Scared Of All Those Cobwebs? Here's What You Can Do

Cobwebs might make for a spooky Halloween decoration, but finding them in your home throughout the year can be even more frightening. Cobwebs can make any room of the house appear unclean and unkempt. If you're noticing cobwebs in your room corners, attic, basement, or garage, you're undoubtedly anxious to get rid of them. But is there a way to prevent them from appearing in the first place? Below, we'll review some common tips for cleaning and preventing cobwebs in your home.

What Exactly Are Cobwebs?
Cobwebs are an abandoned collection of sticky thread spun by a common house spider, also known as "cobweb spiders." Unlike traditional spiderwebs, which follow a symmetrical pattern, webs spun by house spiders tend to appear as a chaotic mess. Regardless, all spider webs serve the same purpose — to capture insects as prey. House spiders make their way inside through cracks, nooks, and crannies. They often come indoors in an attempt to escape the cold weather, so fall is the best time to start taking proactive measures.

Because cobwebs are so sticky, they often collect hair, dust, debris, and unwanted particles. As a result, it's important to remove them as soon as you can.

How To Clean Cobwebs
Luckily, cleaning cobwebs is relatively easy. They typically appear in room corners or near windows, as these are areas where house spiders like to hang out and capture insects. Use a vacuum cleaner hose or a duster with a long handle to reach the corners of your rooms. If cobwebs develop on furniture, clothing, or carpet, a simple lint roller can work as well. Just be sure to wash the fabric after removing the cobwebs.

How To Keep Spiders Outside
Preventing cobwebs is as simple or as difficult as preventing spiders from entering your home in the first place. Below are some ideas to help keep them outside:

  • Block Their Access - Spiders come in through cracks, windows, doors, or any small opening in your home. To keep them out, you'll need to block their access. Add caulking to your window, seal any gaps underneath your front door, and use insect screens where possible.
  • Use Scents - Spiders typically steer clear of certain smells. If you have a major cobweb problem, apply light dabs of lemon, peppermint, or cinnamon scents to areas where your spiders like to frequent.
  • Minimize Clutter - Spiders like to take cover and build their webs in dark, protected areas. Eliminating clutter can help to remove their favorite hiding spaces. Keep your basement organized, and make sure to empty your trash and recycling regularly.
  • Tend To Your Landscaping - Spiders love to make their home in shrubs, plants, or grass clippings. Try to keep the areas around your home clean and free of debris. Avoid keeping potted plants near your windows.

Remember, spiders do have benefits as they help to capture and eat other pests and insects, so try not to kill them. By keeping them outside of the house, you can limit those pesky cobwebs and maintain a nice, clean home.

June
24

Here's How To Paint Over Wood Paneling

A popular choice in the 1970s, wood paneling isn't nearly as loved today. In fact, if you have it in your home, you may have noticed that it makes your space seem dark and dated.

The good news is, there's no need to deal with the expense and hassle of tearing out your wood panels. A fresh coat of paint can brighten things up and give the room a clean, modern look. You'll just need to follow some simple steps to ensure it comes out looking great.

  1. Clean the Entire Surface
    Prior to doing any painting, you'll want to make sure the surface is free from dust, dirt, and oily fingerprints. Wiping the entire surface down with a wet sponge may be enough. However, if the area seems grimy, consider using a solution of trisodium phosphate (TSP) and water. Remember that this is a toxic cleaner, so you'll want to wear protective gear and exercise caution while using it.
  1. Fill and Caulk
    If you're dealing with wood grain paneling, take the time to fill in any holes with a high-quality wood filler. If there are any cracks in the paneling, do the same. Since most paneling has been around for decades, there's also a good chance you'll also need to add some caulk around the molding and the trim.

  2. Lightly Sand Your Panels
    Once the surface is completely rinse, dried, and repaired, lightly sand your wood paneling. For best results, use 220-grit sandpaper in even, circular motions. The goal here is to scuff up the surface so the paneled wall can bond well with the first coat of primer.

    Depending on the type of paneling you're covering, you may be able to skip this step. However, taking the time to sand the panel surface will help ensure long-lasting results. 
  1. Prepare Your Work Area
    Save yourself the hassle of clean-up later by putting dropcloths on the floor. It's also helpful to use painter's tape along the ceiling and any molding that you don't want to be covered in your new paint color. 
  1. Apply Stain-Blocking Primer
    A stain-blocking primer will help ensure the wood grain of your paneling and any imperfections won't show through your new paint job. If your paneling is made of solid wood, you'll need a water-based primer. If it's veneer, choose a shellac-based one instead.

    For best results, plan to apply two coats of primer. Make sure to check the instructions for the recommended drying time between each coat. 
  1. Paint Your Paneling
    Now that you've done all the prep work, it's time to paint your paneling! Apply your first coat, paying close attention to any paint that builds up in the grooves. Make sure you wipe out any excess, so it doesn't get too thick and become tacky after it dries.

    Leave plenty of time for the paint to dry, then lightly sand it and repeat. You'll likely need two to three coats of paint before you're happy with the results. Don't forget to let each layer dry completely before moving on to the next step.

    Since there are many different types of paneling, it's always a good idea to test a small, inconspicuous area first. To do this, follow all the steps above exactly as you will when you take on the entire project. 

Make sure you like the way it looks after it dries. If not, you may need to consider removing the paneling or exploring other options, such as covering it with a mural, whitewashing, or adding wainscoting. 

June
3

Interior Design Rules You Can Break

When it comes to interior design, most people follow a defined set of rules or standards in order to achieve a visually appealing look. However, the truth is design trends are constantly changing. In order to break from the ordinary, you sometimes must abandon traditional design rules and let creativity take hold. In fact, some of the most beautiful rooms we've seen don't follow traditional interior design standards.

If you're looking to shake things up in your home, you need to think outside of the box. Below are some traditional design rules that you shouldn't be afraid to break:

  • Forget About Symmetry
    Symmetry has been the cornerstone of traditional design practices for centuries, but the end result is often very predictable. On the other hand, throwing things off balance creates a lively, creative vibe. In fact, when used subtly, asymmetry can actually create some really stunning design trends. For example, try placing an end table on one side of the couch and a lamp on the other. Or, maybe hang your art so it appears slightly off-centered. Getting creative with asymmetrical designs can really give your home a unique look.

  • Don't Be Afraid To Put Large Furniture In Small Rooms
    Many design experts agree that large furniture pieces can make a room appear smaller; however, if your room is in fact, small, then a large piece of furniture can actually help anchor the room. For example, consider a big table in a small dining room or a large bed in a small bedroom. Just be sure there is enough room to add a couple of smaller furniture pieces to keep things balanced.

  • Try A Dark Color In A Small Space
    Using light colors and maximizing natural light to make a room appear larger is a common practice; however, this rule can sometimes be broken when dealing with certain small rooms in the house. For example, using a deep red or blue in a small half bathroom may actually create a stylish, trendy look.

  • Design Your Ceiling
    Ceilings are often painted white and occasionally textured, so why not use this space to do something creative. Consider a bold color, unique paint designs, fun patterns - the opportunities are endless. Incorporating your ceiling into your design is a good way to add a creative touch and break from tradition.

  • Contrast Isn't Always Necessary
    Contrasting colors is a good way to make certain room elements stand out, but it's not always necessary. Keeping a consistent color theme throughout an entire space can actually create a calming vibe. Instead of striking a balance between light and dark tones, why not try varying shades in the same color palette?

  • Your Decor Doesn't Have To Match
    While we're conditioned to match our furniture, room colors, and art pieces, the interior design of a room doesn't have to be ruled by a specific color scheme. You can combine mismatching colors and patterns and still have an aesthetically pleasing look. Just be sure to keep your colors in the same family (neutrals, bolds, etc), and don't go too crazy with mismatching patterns.

Traditional design trends can sometimes lead to predictable, boring rooms. If you're looking to get creative, breaking the rules is the best way to develop a unique design that works for you.

February
25

Easy Renovations for Your Laundry Room

One of the best things about being a homeowner is being able to renovate your space. You're not stuck with someone else's ideas about what you need or what looks good. You can improve the functionality of the space, or just opt for something with more personality or style.   

If you've been thinking about undertaking some renovations or upgrades to your home, the laundry room is an excellent place to start. Lots of the solutions you can do for the laundry room are quick and easy fixes. In many homes, the laundry area was built as a very basic space. So giving this room some added functionality and style can make a big difference. Here are some ideas to get you started.

  • Add some color. This is a good place to start, especially if your laundry area is tucked into the corner of a dark basement. A fresh coat of paint can do wonders. Other options are bold patterned wallpaper or window treatments.
  • Change the light fixture. Many laundry rooms don't have enough light. And basic builder-grade light fixtures are almost never stylish. Changing out the fixture can make the area more functional and more appealing.
  • Change the look of cabinets. There are a few options for changing the look of your laundry room cabinets. Of course, you could paint them a different color. But if you don't want to do that, you could remove doors so you have exposed shelves and add baskets or bins. You could also swap out the doors for ones that have glass fronts. Changing cabinets to have drawer pulls is yet another option.  
  • Add a folding area. This can be a countertop built over the top of front-loading machines or along another wall. It could also be a table that folds up against a wall. In a very large laundry room, a regular table or an island in the middle of the room is an option as well.
  • Change the flooring. Many laundry rooms have unfinished or concrete slab floors. That situation is uncomfortable under your feet and unpleasant to look at. Or maybe your laundry room floor is just looking a little dated and out of sync with the rest of your home. Floors are one of the biggest surfaces in the room, so an update here can make a big difference.
  • Add more or better storage. If you don't have shelves, cabinets, or cubbies of course you can add them. But there are other ways to add storage too. You can add a fixture to store the ironing board and iron on the back of the laundry room door. A drying rack that folds up against the wall when not in use is another example. Adding baskets or bins and hooks can increase your storage options. A screw-in closet or shower rod can be used to hang clothes on. Making sure everything has a place will keep things looking neat and tidy.
  • Add some artwork. If your laundry room lacks a little personality, a few well-placed pieces of artwork can add some flair. This can be a fun DIY project. Otherwise, there are plenty of inexpensive prints available online. Or you can check out the second-hand store or flea market for something vintage.

Doing a few quick and easy renovations to your laundry area can take it from boring to amazing. It will also give you a sense of accomplishment, and it might make doing the laundry just a little more fun!

February
11

Growing Herbs in Your Kitchen

If you enjoy whipping up special recipes, you know having the right ingredients is essential. Adding quality herbs is a must for top-notch flavor. With that in mind, you can have fresh herbs at your fingertips all year long by adding an herb garden to your kitchen. Here's what you need to know to get started.

Natural Light

Kitchens with south-facing windows get the brightest light and maximum sun hours throughout the day, even during the winter months. Herbs like basil, bay laurel, oregano, rosemary, and thyme will thrive because they originated in tropical and semi-tropical climates. East-and west-facing windows provide cooler temperatures and morning or afternoon sun. Herbs like chives, chervil, mint, and parsley prefer less light and cooler temperatures, so they grow best in east-and-west facing windows.

Grow Lights

There are a variety of full-spectrum grow lights on the market in different styles, sizes, and prices. Grow lights are ideal for all types of herbs and make kitchen herb gardens viable for any light conditions. Plants should be placed within one foot of the bulbs and get at least 4 to 6 hours of light each day. You can set the lights to stay on for 12 to 16 hours, then adjust the timer to different settings as you see results.

Choosing Herbs

Fresh herbs can grow in your kitchen, even with limited space and indirect sunlight. Perennial herbs like bay laurel, chives, mint, oregano, rosemary, and thyme are easiest to grow from young plants available at any garden center. Basil and mint can be started from cuttings and root easily in a glass of water. Basil, chervil, and cilantro grow best when started from seed and replanted throughout the year.

  • Basil — Basil loves bright light and heat, so it grows best in south-facing or west-facing windows without drafts or cool air. Basil will last for several weeks but should be discarded when stems become woody.
  • Chives — With an onion flavor, chives add a kick to casseroles, egg dishes, salads, and soups. You can clip plants with scissors, but be sure to leave at least 2" of growth, so plants will re-sprout. Chives grow best in bright light.
  • Mint — Mint comes in a variety of flavors like apple, banana, chocolate, orange, peppermint, and spearmint. It's a flavorful herb for salads, desserts, mixed drinks, and teas. Best growth requires medium to bright light, moist soil, and lower temperatures.
  • Oregano — Oregano is part of the mint family, so it provides robust flavor when added to any dish. For an extra kick, you can use dry leaves instead of fresh leaves. For best growth, provide moderate to strong light and water when soil feels dry.
  • Parsley — Parsley is a great garnish for many meat and vegetable dishes, and it's great for fresh sauces. It should be grown in a deep container with organic potting soil and bright light. Leaves should be pinched off near the base.
  • Rosemary — With needled leaves, rosemary is a fragrant herb that can be added to chicken, lamb, pork, potatoes, sauces, and soups. Rosemary likes hot, sunny, dry locations in the summer but prefers bright light and cooler temperatures in the winter.
  • Thyme — Thyme adds flavor to many dishes with its tiny, robust leaves. To thrive in your kitchen, it needs a warm, sunny window and fast-draining soil. Add water when soil feels dry, but don't let the plant wilt.

          Fresh herbs are great for cooking a variety of dishes. Starting a kitchen herb garden can make cooking easier and your favorite dishes even more flavorful.

          January
          14

          Cleaning Before Spring Cleaning

          There's a reason why so many people enjoy spring cleaning. Nothing is quite as satisfying as relaxing in a freshly deep-cleaned home. However, there's no reason why you have to wait for spring weather before giving your home a thorough cleaning. In fact, deep cleaning before and during harsh winter weather will let you enjoy the time you spend indoors leading up to spring.

          The following tips will help you enjoy a spring-clean home all winter long.

          1. Get Rid of the Clutter
            Decorating, baking, wrapping, and exchanging holiday gifts all create extra clutter. Once the holidays are over, do yourself a favor and purge as much as you can. Clutter causes unnecessary stress and makes it harder to keep things clean. Get rid of things you don't need so you can start the New Year out as calm and stress-free as possible. 
          1. Degrease Your Oven
            If you did a lot of cooking this holiday season, your oven probably needs a thorough cleaning as well. It's easy to use the self-cleaning cycle on your oven; just make sure you stay home while it runs. The cycle uses high heat to burn off caked-on food. Sometimes this creates a lot of smoke and may cause your smoke alarm to go off. 
          1. Clean the Ceiling Fans
            You would be surprised by how much dust collects on your ceiling fan blades. To clean them, use a stepladder and an old pillowcase. Gently cover the blade with the pillowcase, then pull it back slowly. All the dust bunnies will come off inside the pillowcase, instead of all over your house! 
          1. Wash and Disinfect the Trash Cans
            One of the dirtiest things in our homes is also something we rarely think to clean. On a warmer day, bring your trash cans outside and spray them down with the hose. Then add some disinfectant. One part bleach mixed with six parts water is a good option.

            Let the cans sit with the solution for an hour, then dump it out, scrub them with a bristle brush, and rinse. Let them dry thoroughly before bringing them back in. If it's too cold to clean them outdoors, you can do the same thing in the bathtub. 
          1. Vacuum the Underside of Furniture
            Another dirty part of our homes that we rarely think to clean is the underside of our furniture. Turn over your upholstered chairs and couches, then use the vacuum cleaner to remove all the dust bunnies and other dirt collected there. Pro hack: This chore is much easier with two people. 
          1. Clean Up High and Down Low
            Now is also a good time to clean those hard-to-reach high places. This includes the top of the refrigerator, tops of your cabinets, entertainment center, and so on. Then, get down low — use a scrub brush and some soap and water to clean those floorboards. 
          1. Clear Out the Dryer Vents
            If your dryer vents are full of lint, this can create a fire hazard, especially in the dry winter months. Pull the dryer away from the wall, disconnect the back pipe, and clean both the pipe and the outlet hole thoroughly. You can either do this using a vacuum or purchase a dryer snake. Once you've removed most of the lint and dust, run your dryer. This will flush out additional loose lint. 
          1. Replace Your Air Filters
            All this cleaning is sure to kick up some dirt, which will likely get caught in your air filter. When you're done with your winter deep clean, replace the filter with a new one. This way, you'll enjoy clean, fresh-smelling air all winter long! 

          Deep cleaning your home in the winter is a great idea! Start a few of these tasks today, and you'll have a little less to do this spring.

          December
          24

          Purge Your Closet of These 9 Things

          Colder weather, and the current state of things, means you're spending a lot of time in your home, which makes now the perfect time to clean out your closet. If you've been busy with other home improvement projects, then this part of spring cleaning might have slipped through the cracks. Luckily, following a few simple guidelines will make it easy to purge your closet in no time. Start by getting rid of these things. 

          1. Shoes That Don't Fit Right
            We all have shoes that are adorable but just don't fit right. Keeping shoes that hurt your feet will just lead to you trying to wear them again and ruining your day. Plus, they're taking up valuable space! Do yourself a favor and get rid of them.
          2. That Ugly Bridesmaid Dress
            Let's face it, almost every bridesmaid dress isn't something that you would actually want to wear again. If you don't see yourself realistically using it, then it's time to stop being sentimental and create some space by giving it away. 
          3. Anything That's Stained or Worn Out
            You might want to keep a couple of beat-up t-shirts for when you're gardening or working on home improvement projects, but for the most part, there's no reason to keep clothing that's worn out or stained. 
          4. Low-Quality Clothes and Shoes 
            Clothes and shoes made of cheap materials are rarely flattering and will quickly wear out. If you have these items and you're not wearing them regularly, go ahead and give them away. 
          5. Clothes That Are Too Revealing
            There's nothing wrong with showing a little skin sometimes. However, if you have revealing clothing that you're no longer comfortable wearing, then let it go. This will allow you to make some space for pieces that are more appropriate. 
          6. Duplicate Clothing
            If it's been a while since you've cleaned out your closet, there's a good chance that you have at least a few clothing items that look almost the same. Choose the best ones and get rid of the duplicates. 
          7. Things You've Never Worn
            It happens to the best of us. We see something on sale that we just can't resist and then it sits in the closet for years. Sometimes it doesn't feel great to get rid of items that are still new with tags, but if they've been there for more than a year, it's time to let them go. 
          8. Borrowed Items
            Obviously, you don't want to get rid of things you've borrowed, but now is the perfect time to return them. It's the courteous thing to do and improves the chances that the answer will be yes next time you need to borrow a dress for an event or a tool to complete your latest home improvement project. 
          9. Cheap Hangers
            One of the best ways to give your closet an upgrade without taking on a major home improvement project is to get rid of your cheap plastic hangers and replace them with ones made of velvet or wood. This will instantly give your closet an upscale feel. 

          Once you've removed all the extra stuff, you can consider making some more serious upgrades to your closet. Since you use this space every day, this is a home improvement project that's well worth the effort. 

          October
          22

          6 Ways to Reduce Your Carbon Footprint at Home

          More homeowners are concerned about doing their part to protect the environment. When you reduce your carbon footprint, you not only leave the Earth a little cleaner for future generations but also save more money. You can make a big difference by using just a little less electricity, fuel, and water.

          A carbon footprint is a measure of greenhouse gasses emitted as a result of one person's activities. Home energy use is a big contributor, as is transportation and all kinds of consumption – from food to commercial goods. Some emissions are inevitable, but many are the result of day-to-day choices.

          The average U.S. carbon footprint is estimated at 16 tons of carbon-equivalent emissions annually. Luckily, there are plenty of home improvement projects that can help you reduce your impact fast.

          Let's review some of the best ways for homeowners to lower their carbon footprint:

          1. Update Your Aging Roof
            Your roof doesn't just keep you safe – it can also make your home more efficient. A new roof using "Cool Roof" reflective shingles keeps you warmer in winter and cooler in summer while reducing AC use. Want to go further? Metal roofing has the potential to save hundreds of dollars in electrical costs every year.
          2. Refit Your Heating, Ventilation, and Cooling (HVAC)
            A new HVAC system can be four times more efficient than an older model. Not only that but replacing a low-performance system could save nearly $900 a year. Newer HVAC models are also more compatible with "smart home" systems that maximize efficiency by adjusting the temperature automatically.
          3. Manage Your Natural Light
            Natural light is good for you and does an excellent job warming rooms. When it's time to cool off, look to low-tech solutions like drapes, window shades, and shade trees near east-facing windows. For easier temperature control at any time of the year, install double-pane windows that reduce heat loss.
          4. Replace Old Insulation
            Insulation in your attic is often "out of sight, out of mind." Over time, the stifling heat of an attic joins forces with moisture intrusion to destroy insulation. This hampers airflow and the natural rise of warm air, leaving your HVAC to struggle. New insulation and roof ventilation can resolve the issue.
          5. Seal Up Leaks
            Any irregularities in your home's outer envelope have the potential to waste energy. Beware of warped doors and windows: Replace them if the damage is too severe to get a tight seal when they are closed. Weatherstripping can improve the performance of otherwise functional doors and windows.
          6. Unplug Electronics That Aren't In Use
            To create an easy, seamless experience when the "ON" button is pressed, many consumer electronics use small amounts of power at all times when plugged in. If you are not going to be using an item for a while – especially if it's a fully-charged laptop, tablet, or phone – consider unplugging it.

          From small things like switching your light bulbs to LEDs to larger ones like eating locally, there are endless ways you can reduce your carbon footprint without missing out on comfort and enjoyment. With these home improvement projects, you can make a real difference right away.

          September
          10

          Ten Tips for Happy Housekeeping

          When it comes to home improvement, one of the easiest things to overlook is housekeeping!

          Housekeeping improves how you relate to and enjoy your space. That enables you to feel energized and peaceful in your home and makes it easier to muster enthusiasm for long-term home improvement projects.

          Here's how to make housekeeping easier and even fun:

          1. Make the Bed
            A daily habit of making the bed puts you in the right mindset to get other cleaning tasks done during the day. Making the bed also means your bed will be much more welcoming and comfortable when it's time to return there after a long day.
          2. Start Sooner
            When you know you have cleaning to do, jump into it with this habit-building formula: Start with a timer and set five minutes. For those five minutes, focus entirely on the task in front of you. Afterward, set the timer again. By the time you've done ten minutes, you usually won't need the timer anymore.
          3. Put Clothes Away Daily
            Piles of clothes can easily accumulate and drain your energy for other home improvement goals. Aim to put them away daily. If you notice certain areas always end up with piles, put a hamper nearby to make tidying up even easier.
          4. Wipe Surfaces After Each Use
            Counters, sinks, and more – it's much easier to clean them up right after use instead of waiting. This is another case where having the right cleaning supplies nearby makes a tremendous difference. Keep the supplies handy, so you won't have to interrupt to get them from somewhere else.
          5. Keep Shoes by the Door
            No matter whether you have carpet, tile, or hardwood, keeping shoes by the door will help you extend the life of your flooring: That can save you on your home improvement budget later! Taking off shoes at the door keeps various pollutants out and ensures you always know where to find your shoes.
          6. Keep Up with Laundry
            It's best to do smaller loads of laundry once a week rather than waiting for every two weeks or each month. While you might use more water, you'll make up for it in the added convenience that simplifies your life.
          7. Clean Out the Fridge
            The day before you're set to shop for groceries (or have them delivered), get rid of items that are past due. If you find things you really want to use that are nearly out of date, be sure to place them upfront so you'll see them. A whiteboard on the fridge can help you keep track.
          8. Don't Have a Cleaning Day
            Instead of having a cleaning day, strive to do some cleaning every day throughout the week. Spending just fifteen minutes on cleaning every day can mean you don't find eight hours of chores piling up for your precious weekend, "me time."
          9. Find Ways to Enjoy the Process
            When you don't enjoy a task, you have to deploy "willpower" – and that's a finite resource. Find ways to have fun, even if it's just as simple as playing your favorite music whenever you're cleaning around the house.
          10. Reward Yourself for Cleaning Up
            Habits are more likely to stick around with positive reinforcement. If you've cleaned every day in a week or gotten a particularly challenging task done, don't be afraid to give yourself a little reward. The sooner after the task, the better.

          Cleaning may not be exciting, but it is worth it. Keep up with it, and it's one of the things that will make your house a home.

          August
          27

          Create a Classroom in Your Home

          Of the many home improvement projects on the to-do list, few homeowners imagined that creating a classroom in their homes was going to be a top priority this year.

          Due to the ever-changing impacts of the coronavirus, students from preschool all the way to doctoral programs now have to learn, study, and test within their own homes. It's uncertain when traditional in-classroom learning will return to full capacity, and there's a good chance that remote learning opportunities will continue to be present throughout your student's life.

          Thankfully, creating an effective and engaging "classroom" space is an easy home improvement project that homeowners of all budgets can accomplish.

          • Decide on an Area
            First, you need to find an area of the home that your student can use as a classroom. Ideally, dedicating an unused room for their studies would be best, but lofts, dining rooms, patios, and even garages can be great spaces. The area that you choose needs to be able to accommodate all of the supplies necessary to keep your student prepared, productive, and comfortable. If you don't have the space to devote to a large home improvement project, finding a cozy corner of a little-used room like a guest room can be a perfect space for your makeshift classroom.
          • Determine Necessary Materials
            Don't forget that this home improvement project requires materials like notebooks, pencils, printer paper, glue, and folders. Depending on grade level, your student may require a range of materials. Make a list of everything they'll need throughout the semester, including items they may only need on occasion. Once your list is created, consider creative storage options that keep everything within reach without making the space feel cluttered.
          • Get the Student's Input
            Ultimately, the student will be spending the most time in this space, so be sure to let them have a say as much as possible. Whether it's picking out the types of pens and pencils they'll use or deciding where the desk will be located, let your student be as involved in this home improvement project as often as possible.
          • Create the Right Environment for Learning
            Be careful not to go overboard or do too little on this home improvement project. Too much stimulation in the room can break a student's concentration, while too little stimulation can make the classroom feel like detention. Make sure the area for this home improvement project feels spacious but offers privacy, utilizes natural light that can be shaded, and contains comfortable furniture that will help the student keep a good posture.
          • Create a Mobile Learning Box
            Of course, if your child is home all day, going to "school" won't feel like they're leaving the house. Along with this home improvement project, you'll need to also have a plan to help them stay on-task when they want to study in another location. To keep them stimulated, consider creating an easily transportable mobile learning box so you can take your education out of the "classroom." Whether it's bringing notebooks and textbooks to the backyard for studying under the sun or driving to a library or community center for a change of scenery, use this mobile box to help your student escape the monotony of their homeschool life and keep them engaged.

          Homeschooling, even if your child is still enrolled virtually, is challenging for all members of the family. Thankfully, a few quick home improvement projects can help you create an effective classroom where your children can accomplish their academic goals.

          July
          23

          Baking Soda and Vinegar Aren't Your Only Pantry Cleaners

          Whether you're out of your usual cleaning products or prefer a more eco-friendly home improvement alternative to chemical-based cleaners, the natural cleaning solutions found in your kitchen might surprise you. And we're not just talking about home improvement standbys baking soda and vinegar! You can clean almost every part of your kitchen with supplies on our list, and get great results.

          • Lemons for Cleaning and Brighter Whites
            The natural acidity and pleasant scent of lemons make them ideal for a variety of home improvement purposes, but you can also use lemons to brighten white clothes? Put a few sliced lemons into a pot of simmering water, then add any clothes that you want to whiten and let the mixture simmer. When you remove the clothing items, they should have a lighter look.
          • Clean Tough Grease Buildup with Coffee
            Scrubbing your grill grate can be a tough home improvement task no matter what cleaner you use, but one of the best grill cleaners is likely already sitting on your kitchen counter. Make a large pot of coffee, pour it into a large pan, and let your grill grate soak for at least 30 minutes. After you remove the grate from the coffee, it should be much easier to scrub away stubborn grease buildup.
          • Coarse Salt Is Great for Cleaning Cooking Surfaces
            If you're looking for a natural way to clean cooking surfaces – especially anything made from cast iron – then coarse salt is an excellent candidate for the job. Coarse salt absorbs grease, so it's useful for scouring kitchenware, stovetops, and any surface where grease builds up.
          • Natural Wood Polish with Olive Oil and Lemon
            For a natural wood polish that brings the best out of wood surfaces without leaving behind chemical residue, mix olive oil with a splash of fresh lemon juice. This combination is excellent for polishing wood floors, but you should always polish a small, out of the way area first to make sure that the mixture works for the type of wood in your home.
          • Club Soda for Stain Removal
            Whether on carpets or clothing, club soda is one of the best stain removers in your home. The carbonation of club soda helps lift stains to the surface, making them easier to remove. Just pour some club soda on the stain, allow it to soak, then give it a thorough cleaning.
          • Cream of Tartar Cleans and Refreshes Stainless Steel
            Cream of tartar is mildly acidic, but still gentle enough to use for cleaning and home improvement projects. It's an especially good cleaner for stainless steel surfaces, including your sink. Just mix the cream of tartar with a small amount of water to create a paste, spread the paste on the surface you want to clean, and wash it off with warm water.
          • Freshen Your Microwave with Lemon Juice and Water
            Any leftover used lemons can be put to work cleaning your microwave. Just place the use lemons into a bowl of water, place the bowl in the microwave, heat it until it boils, then remove it. The steam adds a fresh scent and makes it easy to wipe away messes with minimal effort.

          While natural cleaners may sometimes require more elbow grease than their store-bought counterparts, the results are more than worth it. Using natural cleaners is an easy way to save money on home improvement, embrace green living, and tackle tough messes.

          July
          2

          How to Seal a Deck

          Outdoor entertaining is even better when you have an attractive deck in your backyard. Decks provide hours of fun and relaxation; however, they also endure constant exposure to the elements. Like most outdoor amenities, your deck requires regular maintenance to retain its beauty, functionality, and safety. Over time, wear and tear from weather and walking can damage the planks. Thankfully, a water-resistant sealant can help your deck stand up to harsh weather.

          Whether you're installing a new deck or have an existing wooden patio, you should take measures to protect your investment throughout the year. A deck sealant protects the wood from moisture, sunlight, and UV rays to help it retain its aesthetics and strength. Most new decks should be stained between two weeks and one month after installation. The deck should be resealed every one to three years, depending on the strength of the sealant and the amount of weather-related trauma the deck faces across the seasons.

          1. Choose a Sealer
            Most stains will have a sealer property, including weather-resistance and increased durability against typical wear and tear. Some stains/sealers are clearer, while others are opaquer. A good rule of thumb is to remember that the clearer the stain, the more frequently you'll need to clean and reseal the deck.
          2. Test the Deck's Water Resistance
            If you're unsure of why your deck requires a sealer—or if it even needs one at all—test its water resistance. Simply spray water from a hose onto the deck. If water begins to bead up on the surface, it's sealed. If the water starts to seep into the wood, it needs to be sealed.
          3. Clean the Deck
            Before you apply the sealer, you need to clean the deck completely. Spray it down with water and scrub the plants to remove all mold, debris, and superficial staining. This includes the cracks between each board. Anything that isn't removed during the cleaning will get trapped under the sealer.
          4. Clear the Deck & Let Dry
            After you wash the deck, rinse it and clear all remaining debris from the surface. You must let the deck dry completely before applying the sealer, which may take one or two days.
          5. Apply the Deck Sealer
            Now it's time to apply the sealer to the entire deck. You can use a mop or a paint roller for the deck flooring and stairs and use a paintbrush for railings and banisters. Apply the sealer on days when the temperature is between 50 and 90 degrees Fahrenheit during a forecast that has no precipitation. Make even strokes without letting the sealer create a puddle in a single area. Cover the entire area in a single coat, working in sections from top to bottom or left to right.
          6. Let Dry & Enjoy
            The deck sealer needs to be completely dry before walking on it again. This may take one or two days. When the entire area is dry, it's ready to use!

          Sealing a deck isn't expensive or difficult, but it one home improvement task that many homeowners may neglect. Use these tips to seal and reseal your deck once every year or two so your deck looks great, stays safe, and keeps providing your family with hours of outdoor fun for years!

          June
          11

          Safety Tips for Backyard Fire Pits

          If you're considering a home improvement that the whole family is sure to love, a backyard fire pit is a perfect answer. Not only will this give your space a cozy and upscale feel, but it also creates heat so you can enjoy your time outdoors even when the temperatures start to dip. 

          Before you light up that fire, though, it's a good idea to reacquaint yourself with some simple safety tips. This way, you can make sure everybody has a great time without worrying about the potential for property damage or someone getting hurt. 

          Check the Weather
          Not only do you want to check and make sure your fire won't get rained out, but you'll also need to make sure it's not going to be unusually windy. A lot of wind will make it difficult to light your kindling, and, even worse, it could cause sparks to fly and unintentionally ignite a fire. 

          Choose the Right Spot
          If you're not up for a major home improvement, starting with a portable fire pit is a great option. Before you light it, though, you'll want to make sure it's in a safe spot. This means keeping it far away from low-hanging trees, yard waste, building overhangs, and other flammable materials.

          Remember that even if it's not extremely windy, sparks can easily blow at least a few feet. Check that your fire pit isn't too close to dry wood, leaves, and other similar materials. Otherwise, you could end up with an emergency. 

          Keep a Safe Distance
          It's common sense that you don't want to sit too close to the fire, but, when it's s'more season, it's easy to ignite a sleeve or some wayward hair accidentally. Remind your guests to roll up their sleeves and pull back their hair before they start roasting over the open fire. 

          If your fire pit came with a screen, keep it on whenever you can. If not, you might want to think about heading to the home improvement store to get the materials so you can make a protective barrier. This is especially important if there will be children around the fire. 

          Be Ready to Put it Out
          As long as you've followed the tips above, it's unlikely that you'll end up with a wayward fire. However, there's always a chance that things could get out of control. Always make sure you have a source of water nearby or a shovel so you can cover the fire with dirt if needed. You might consider purchasing a fire blanket from your local home improvement store. This can be used to quickly smother an out-of-control fire in the pit, one that has started nearby, or if (heaven forbid!) one of your guests catches themselves on fire. 

          Never Leave Your Fire Unattended
          You must never leave a fire unattended, even if it has died down to only glowing embers. If you have to leave, even for a moment to get something from the house or use the restroom, designate someone else to keep an eye on things while you're gone. 

          When you're done with your fire for the night, douse it with water and turn all of the logs over to make sure they're completely extinguished before you go inside. 

          Add a Fire Pit to Your Home Improvement "To Do" List! 
          If you don't have a fire pit yet, or you're using a temporary one, this is a home improvement project you might want to consider! Nothing screams summer quite like gathering with your friends and family to enjoy a cookout and s'mores. This is a super-easy project that is well worth the investment. 

          May
          14

          Simple Cleaning Tips to Turn Your House into a Home

          Now, more than ever, people are spending their time working on home improvement projects and spring cleaning. Whether you love to clean or hate it, there's no denying that a refresh can make your house feel more like home. 

          Luckily, you don't have to spend all day scrubbing to make your home look great. These simple cleaning tips will help you get the job done fast so you can relax and enjoy the fruits of your labor. 

          1. Gather Your Supplies 
            Gather everything you need before you get started. The last thing you want is to find out part-way through that you need to run to the store because the vacuum bag is full or you're out of paper towels. Avoid this problem by making a checklist and verifying your inventory before you start. 
          2. Remove Everything You Can
            The next thing to do before you start cleaning is to clear out each room. It's much easier to deep clean a space when there isn't a bunch of clutter in the way. Start by getting rid of anything you no longer need and finding a "home" for everything else. Once you've opened the space, you can start to get down to the nitty-gritty. 
          3. Tackle Built-Up Dust
            Most homeowners are surprised by how much dust accumulates in their homes. Tackling one room at a time, start at the top, and work your way down. Turn off ceiling fans and clean each blade with a pillowcase to trap the dust, then wipe them down with a damp microfiber cloth. Remove the grates from your air vents and wash them to remove dust. Use furniture polish and a dust cloth to clean your furniture. This will remove built-up dust and also add a nice shine and a pleasant smell. 
          4. Clean Windows and Treatments
            To clean windows and treatments, remove your drapes and wash them or refresh them in the dryer. Use the brush attachment on your vacuum to clean blinds, shades, and windowsills. Then, clean your windows inside and out. Check your screens to ensure there are no holes or other damage. If you find problems, go ahead and fix them now. You'll find that this is an easy project that you can DIY in just a few minutes. 
          5. Shine Appliances 
            No matter how clean your appliances might be, if they're stained or covered in fingerprints, they'll make your home look dirty. Use a microfiber cloth dipped in a mixture of hot water and dish soap to remove any surface dirt. Use mineral oil to buff out stainless steel surfaces and give them a beautiful shine. Avoid using food-based oils (like olive oil) as this can go rancid.
          6. Clean Grimy Grout 
            Stained grout is another issue that can make the cleanest of floors look dull and worn out. To bring it back to its like-new state, start by sprinkling the grout with a thin layer of baking soda. Then, spray it down with white vinegar. Allow the mixture to fizz for about five minutes, then use a scrub brush to remove the dirt easily. Don't let it sit too long, though, or the dirt will settle back in. 
          7. Freshen Your Curb Appeal
            One of the best ways to give your home a spring refresh is to update your curb appeal. Choose a few small projects, like adding a new coat of paint, planting flowers, or replacing the numbers on your home. This will make your home look fresh and welcoming from the minute guests arrive.

          Get the whole family involved, and you can tackle all of this in just a day or two. Once you've finished the tasks above, your house will look clean and fresh and will feel more like a home! 

          May
          7

          6 Ideas for Your Summer Staycation

          If you can't take a vacation, why not bring the vacation to you? While this would normally be prime time for planning a summer vacation, this has been anything but a typical year. Fortunately, there are still plenty of ways to enjoy the summer close to home, and planning a summer staycation is the perfect way to add some spice to your day while sheltering in place. Whether spending a night under the stars or working on fun home improvement projects with your whole family, a staycation keeps things fresh while helping you see your home through new eyes.

          1. Spend an Evening Stargazing
            There's nothing quite like spending an evening beneath the stars with the people you care about most, and stargazing truly never goes out of style. Summer is the perfect time for an evening of backyard stargazing, with warm nights, clear skies, and some of the most dazzling meteor showers of the year. Plan an evening of stargazing to soak it all in, whether you dust off your old telescope or simply lay on a blanket staring up at the sky.
          2. Plan a Backyard Camping Trip
            Stargazing is great, but what if you want to spend the whole evening sleeping under the stars? Then it's time to organize a backyard camping trip! Break out your camping equipment, grab the ingredients for s'mores, and get ready for an evening around the campfire. Kids will love taking a camping trip, and it can really feel like taking a vacation even if you're just a few steps from your back door.
          3. Order a Family Feast from Your Favorites
            Enjoying a fantastic meal is often one of the best parts of a vacation, and you're sure to have a few restaurants close to home that you love. Order a feast of family favorites, and mix it up by ordering different courses from different restaurants in the area. You can make your feast as fancy or laid-back as you like. The key is simply to have fun!
          4. Create a New Space for Family Fun
            While painting walls or pulling weeds probably don't qualify, the right home improvement project can feel like a little vacation. The key is to focus on home improvement projects that add something fun to your property, like an outdoor fire/barbecue area, a new play area for your kids, or a space to enjoy your favorite sports. Be sure to spend time enjoying your new space when it's finished.
          5. Enjoy a Family Movie Night
            There's never a wrong time for a movie night, with a few extra bells and whistles to make it feel like a special occasion. Pick up your favorite movie theater treats, let everyone in the house contribute to the playlist, and settle in for a night of cinema. If you have a projector, this is the perfect excuse to set up a big screen.
          6. Set Up a Scavenger Hunt
            Are you looking for a way to keep younger children entertained during your staycation? You can't go wrong with a scavenger hunt. Scatter items around the home, set up a list of clues that leads your kids around your property, and pick up a few fun prizes to reward your kids for all of that searching.

          Family fun starts at home this summer, and there are so many unique ways to enjoy your home while staying safe. Customize your staycation to suit the needs of your household, let your creativity shine, and enjoy a well-deserved break from the norm.

          April
          30

          When It's Time to Call in the Professionals

          Remodels and renovations can transform your home in powerful ways. Whether you're preparing to list your house or if you've recently moved into a space that needs a facelift, a home improvement project will make any room feel refreshed. There are plenty of home improvement projects that you can accomplish with a few supplies and a little hard work, however, homeowners should acknowledge that some tasks are best left to professionals. Let's take a look at the most common home improvement projects and identify which ones require the help of licensed, trained, and certified specialists.

          According to the National Association of REALTORS® Magazine, here are eight of the most common home improvement projects:

          1. Kitchen Remodels
            A renovated kitchen can increase a home's value and make it feel like the heart of a home. There are a number of tasks you can complete yourself like painting, replacing the backsplash, and refinishing cabinetry. However, any rewiring of electrical sockets or installation of smart tech that involves electrical work should be left to a professional electrician.
          2. Bathroom Remodels
            Aside from the kitchen, a renovated bathroom is one of the top DIY projects homeowners tackle. Thousands of homeowners quickly and efficiently replace their flooring, tubs, toilets, and vanities without assistance. When it comes to any serious plumbing work, however, a licensed and certified plumber should be called.
          3. Repairing Property Damage
            Property damage comes in all shapes and sizes which is beneficial for homeowners who want to replace a property fence or repave a driveway without hiring a third party company. Unfortunately, many serious property damages — especially those which require an insurance claim — will likely require professional repairs.
          4. Roofing Repairs/Replacements
            As a vital element of the home, roof damage should not be taken lightly. Leaks, missing shingles, and other forms of trauma to the roof could turn into serious issues that impact the integrity of your house. Not only is it dangerous to attempt to complete repairs or replacements alone, but your homeowner's insurance may require the work to be completed by a professional to ensure the structure is safely preserved.
          5. Garage Repairs/Replacements
            All homeowners should know that the garage door is actually one of the most dangerous aspects of your home to try to repair or replace. We recommend that all homeowners allow only licensed and trained garage door specialists to complete all garage door work.
          6. Basement Finishing
            A finished basement is a huge perk for those who desire more functional space throughout the home. This is one area where you can DIY nearly everything. From new flooring to installing cabinetry, most improvements in the basement can be completed with a little patience and skill. Keep in mind that any electrical or plumbing work in this room must only be handled by a professional.
          7. Structural Changes
            Depending on your local laws, you may need permits before undertaking major renovations or remodels such as adding additional rooms or building outdoor structures like sheds or decks. Many of these projects may require inspections as well which is why we suggest that homeowners perform thorough research and consult professionals before attempting large-scale projects.
          8. Windows/Door Replacements
            Similarly, permits are often required for the replacement of windows or exterior doors. Some state laws will allow homeowners to act as their own contractors for these replacements, however, we encourage homeowners to investigate further before starting the project.

          Home improvement projects can transform a house into your dream home — but many of these remodels and renovations require the expertise of a professional. Before attempting any home improvement project, be sure to conduct thorough research to determine if you legally need the assistance of a licensed professional.

          March
          26

          How to Keep Shower Doors Sparkling Clean

          Few rooms in the home have the same presentation factor as the bathroom. When the master or guest bathroom is freshly cleaned, every detail can sparkle with an immaculate shine. Unfortunately, when a bathroom is slightly dirtied, it can make the entire space feel less than inviting. This is especially noticeable with showers that feature glass doors. Thankfully, keeping your shower doors sparkling clean is surprisingly simple. Here are a few home improvement tips that will help you keep your bathroom looking and smelling fresh.

          Why Should I Clean My Glass Shower Doors?
          Of all of the home improvement projects, routine chores are often a homeowner's least favorite chore. While cleaning your shower doors regularly may seem excessive, you should know that the hard water, soap scum, and grime that builds up can permanently damage the glass. Regular cleaning can prevent this from occurring, especially when you wipe down your shower after each use in between your thorough cleaning routine.

          How to Clean Glass Shower Doors
          |Your bathroom is a haven for germs and bacteria which means you need powerful solutions to keep it clean. However, you must also keep in mind that each feature of the room may require a specific cleaning technique. Glass shower doors should be cleaned with natural solutions and the only chemical solution that you should use on the glass is a glass cleaner.

          To clean your glass shower doors, you'll need:

          • Spray bottle
          • Non-abrasive scrubbing sponge
          • White vinegar
          • Baking soda
          • Ammonia
          • Glass cleaner
          • Non-abrasive towel or cloth

          You can choose to either use ammonia or vinegar and baking soda as the primary cleaning agent. For an ammonia mixture, use one-part ammonia with three-parts water. When using vinegar, you don't need to dilute it with water. Fully clean your shower doors in five easy steps:

          1. First, wet the shower doors with fresh water. If you're going to wash the doors soon after showering, make sure you still spray the glass to remove any leftover soap.
          2. Second, use either your ammonia or vinegar spray to coat the glass from top to bottom. Let the spray sit on the glass for up to 10 minutes.
          3. Next, you'll need to take your scrubbing sponge and loosen up the hard water or soap scum stains on the glass. If you're using vinegar, dip the sponge in baking soda then begin scrubbing.
          4. Then, once you believe that you've removed all of the hard water spots and soap scum possible, rinse the doors with fresh water.
          5. Finally, dry the doors with a towel. You can also apply a glass cleaner to give it a beautiful shine.

          For the best results, follow these steps at least once each month, during your regular bathroom cleaning routine, or anytime you're working on a bathroom home improvement project. To help reduce the build-up of soap scum and hard water stains, get in the habit of rinsing your shower doors with fresh water and using a squeegee to wipe the glass down after each shower. Use these simple steps to keep your glass shower doors looking stunning!

          March
          12

          How to Increase Humidity in a Dry House

          High humidity levels can be unbearable, but what really catches homeowners by surprise is low humidity levels. With so much of a focus trying to cool a home down in the summertime, we often forget just how dry our homes can become in the winter. An increase in the use of our heaters and furnaces will lower the moisture levels in the house, making our skin dry, worsening allergies, creating static electricity, exasperating breathing issues, and even increasing our susceptibility to viruses like the flu. Luckily, there are a handful of easy ways to humidify your home even without the help of a humidifier.

          Why Homes Become Dry

          Aside from significant problems that would require home improvement solutions, it's normal and expected that many homes become drier during the colder months. However, dry air can certainly impact your level of comfort and potentially contribute to damages throughout your homes such as peeling wallpaper or wood cracking. Our homes are humid during the summer because warm air holds moisture. When temperatures outside begin to drop, the air holds less moisture. When cold, dry air makes its way inside, it settles beneath the hot air pumping through your air vents.

          How to Increase Humidity in a Dry House

          Adding moisture to the air in your home can offset the dryness you're experiencing. Except for air sealing your home, which can be a significant home improvement project or require a professional, there are plenty of ways to create moisture in rooms throughout your home.

          • Invest in a Humidifier
            The most obvious solution is typically the most effective. Humidifiers come in all shapes and sizes, many of which can comfortably fall within your home improvement budget. If you feel particularly dry when you wake up or spend a lot of time in a specific room, a portable humidifier is an excellent solution. For homeowners who feel dryness throughout the home, a whole-home humidifier will restore healthy moisture levels evenly and consistently across each room.
          • Cook on the Stove
            Cooking meals on a stovetop, or even boiling water in a kettle, releases moisture into the air. If you're not cooking but still want to use this trick, boil a pot of water. After the water and pot have cooled, place the pot of water onto your heat registers or radiator. When the furnace turns on, it will heat the pot again and release humidity into the air.
          • Shower with the Door Open
            Who doesn't love a hot and steamy shower in the dead of winter? Leave your bathroom door open and let the steam drift into the surrounding areas. Though it likely won't increase the humidity much farther than your bedroom, this trick works very well for increasing humidity levels to help you fall asleep more comfortably.
          • Air Dry Your Clothes
            Although it may take hours longer than a normal dryer cycle, air-drying your clothes can also increase humidity levels in the home. We suggest using this home improvement trick before heading out for the day. When you return home, your clothing will be dry, but your home will feel more humid.
          • Use Houseplants to Generate Humidity
            Houseplants go through a process called transpiration in which moisture on the leaves or stems evaporates. By placing a plant in front of a sunny window, you'll double the humidity output as the sunshine evaporates the plant's water supply. Just be sure to continually check on the water levels of your plants — a dry home makes them just as uncomfortable as it makes you.

          Humidity levels will fluctuate throughout the year, but that doesn't mean your comfort as to do the same! Say goodbye to dry air and hello to humidity with these easy and affordable home improvements tricks.

          March
          5

          Tea and Coffee for Healthier Plants

          Who doesn't love a cup of tea or coffee to start your day off on the right foot? If your day runs on these delicious fuels then you may not be surprised to learn that humans aren't the only living things that benefit from tea and coffee. Believe it or not, coffee and tea are excellent sources of nutrition for gardens and houseplants alike. If you're planning a landscaping home improvement project, or simply want to give your existing plants a healthy boost, look no further than your kitchen!

          Tea & Coffee — Nature's Fuel

          Drinking coffee and tea can provide the human body with a number of health benefits. Unsurprisingly, the nutrients in these natural ingredients can also promote plant growth. Coffee grounds and tea grounds or leaves can be added directly to the soil of your houseplants or outdoor garden. However, there are a few things you need to remember if you're using direct applications:

          • Remove all artificial packaging from your tea bags before placing the tea leaves in soil.
          • Only use coffee grounds that haven't come in contact with any other substances.
          • While you can dump the last bit of your coffee beverage into your potted plant, you should only do so with straight black coffee.
          • You should not place coffee or tea remnants into the soil more than once a week.  

          A Note About Acidity

          Most homeowners know that tea and coffee are acidic, but few realize that these acids can be harmful to some plants. All plant species are unique, but we can divide them into two categories — those that thrive on acid and those that need limited acidity. pH levels in the soil must be properly maintained to help a plant continue its healthy development. Introducing coffee or tea grounds into the soil could upset these levels and harm the plants. If you use tea or coffee grounds in your soil, be sure to check the pH levels on a weekly basis.

          Compromise With Compost

          Although it won't completely solve the problem of acidity, a more measured way to introduce the nutritional benefits of coffee and tea grounds into your plant beds is to use compost in the soil. Organic material like fruit rinds, eggshells, and scraps of food can be composted to create a natural fertilizer. You can even recycle cooking water to use to hydrate the composted soil.

          You don't need to start a huge home improvement project to enhance your home and minimize your waste. Improve the soil of your plants with used coffee and tea grounds, along with other environmentally friendly fertilizers, to help your greenery grow!

          February
          27

          How to Weatherproof Your Home

          While you may be ready to soak up the summer sun, welcome spring showers, turn your collar to the autumn breeze and trudge your way through the snow, your home might not be. Although all homes are built to shelter you from the elements, most houses will need additional weatherproofing over their lifetime.

          No matter where you live, your home will experience all four seasons with varying levels of severity. To keep your property in tip-top shape, we recommend these weatherproofing projects be completed to make every season manageable.

          • Add Insulation
            Adding new insulation to your home is well worth the investment. By adding insulation to your attic, basement, and crawl spaces, you can control the transfer of heat and regulate your home's internal temperature.
          • Clean Gutters
            When your gutters become clogged with debris, they can prevent precipitation from draining properly. Snow or rainwater that builds up in your gutters causes damage to your roof and mold spores to enter into your home.
          • Use Draft Door Stoppers
            Although you can't seal every crack in your home, you can prevent air from entering and exiting through the house with draft door stoppers. These great tools, which you can easily and affordably make yourself, eliminate the drafts that seep in through the bottom of your exterior doors.
          • Caulk Window and Door Gaps
            Even the tiniest holes or gaps around your doors or windows can make your home lose comfort. Recaulk these areas or have a professional run an air leakage test of your home to identify exactly where the leaks are occurring.
          • Close Electrical Outlet Gaps
            Believe it or not, significant amounts of air travel through the small gaps around your electrical outlets. Use foam gaskets to seal these areas.
          • Repair Roof Damage
            Missing or damaged tiles, water stains or standing water, and a variety of other roof issues can spell trouble for your home throughout all four seasons. Have your roof professionally inspected and have all damage repaired as soon as possible.
          • Repaint or Power Wash Your Exterior
            Exterior walls that are dirty or darkly colored will absorb heat constantly. Consider repainting your walls to a lighter color or power washing them so that they can reflect as much sunlight as possible.  
          • Install Weather Strips
            An alternative to caulking, you can seal leaks around your home by installing or upgrading your existing weather stripping.
          • Inspect Your Fireplace
            You'd be surprised how much heat can enter and escape through your fireplace. Have a professional check everything from the hearth to the flue to ensure that moisture stays out and airflow stays in.
          • Utilize Smart Home Technology
            Innovative smart home technology gives you better control over your heating and cooling costs. In the event that you aren't able to weatherproof your home as optimally as you desire, resources like programmable thermostats and wirelessly controlled water heaters, HVAC units, or other appliances allow you to remotely turn these machines on and off to control output and maximize efficiency.

          Weatherproofing your home is a home improvement project that will safeguard your property for years to come. Use these helpful tips to keep your home comfortable no matter what each season brings.

          February
          20

          Conquer the Clutter in Your Home

          Clutter can make even the nicest home look messy and disorganized. It also causes stress and makes it hard to find what you need, but the idea of decluttering can seem overwhelming. By paring down your belongings, you can make your home more beautiful and functional while reducing your level of stress.

          The following are ten ways to help you conquer the clutter in your home:

          1. Think before you bring an item home.
            Once something makes its way into your home, it may take up permanent residence. Be particular about what you bring home by avoiding unnecessary purchases and limiting what you buy to what you love or need.
          2. Donate throughout the year.
            Instead of waiting until the end of the year or a during a spring cleaning session to donate unwanted household items to charity, give away items throughout the year. Keep a shopping bag open and ready to store items such as clothes you don't wear and books that you've finished and won't read again.
          3. Follow the one item in, one item out rule.
            Most people continue to accumulate more and more possessions over the years. If you bring an item you don't truly need into your home, make sure to donate, sell, or trash at least one thing you already own but don't love or use.
          4. Take photos of your home.
            You've probably grown used to seeing the clutter in your home but taking photos of its different areas can help you see how much excess stuff you have. As you declutter small areas, take a new photo to compare and be inspired to keep going. 
          5. Remove yourself from mailing lists.
            Between junk mail and catalogs, chances are good that you bring clutter into your home when you get your mail. Call to remove yourself from mailing lists, and if you still receive items, keep a trash bag in the car to put them in so they don't make it inside your home.
          6. Emphasize quality over quantity.
            For birthdays and other gift-giving holidays, place a higher priority on the quality of what you give family members rather than on the quantity. And as you emphasize fewer - yet nicer - gifts, your recipient will probably love your gift and be more likely to remember it afterward.
          7. Take the trash bag challenge.
            Take a trash bag around your home, trying to fill it with items to either toss or donate. After it's filled, put it with your garbage or take it to a thrift store to donate.
          8. Don't buy things you'll only use once.
            Buying an item that you'll use only once wastes space as well as money. If, for example, you need a tool for a home improvement project but probably won't use it again, see if you can rent one or borrow it from a neighbor.
          9. Digitize old documents and photos.
            Scan old documents, photos, kids' artwork and other paperwork you need to keep a record of. Back them up on an external hard drive so they'll be saved and then shred any sensitive documents.
          10. Customize the inside of your closets and cabinets.
            Most closets and cabinets don't efficiently maximize space. Make these spaces work for you with shelving, baskets, lazy Susans, and other items that will help you stay organized.

          Although conquering your home's clutter can seem like an endless task, you'll reap countless benefits as you start to make progress on the transformative home improvement project. The preceding tips will have you well on your way to reclaiming your home from clutter and making it a relaxing place to live.

          January
          23

          9 Ways to Squirrel-Proof Your Bird Feeder

          Squirrels are cute, curious little creatures, but they can dominate your bird feeders and nibble their way through all the food. To make the situation more annoying, they can even chew on your feeder and destroy it.

          If you'd like to feed birds without interference from squirrels, try the following tips to help squirrel-proof your bird feeder:

          1. Place your feeder in the right location
            Squirrels are little acrobats that can jump distances of about 10 feet, so if your bird feeder is too close to a jumping-off point, a squirrel will be able to feast on your birdseed. To make their job more difficult, put your feeder at least 10 feet away from trees, roofs, porches, gutters, and wires.

          2. Serve food that birds like but squirrels don't
            Choosing birdseed that contains sunflower seeds, corn, fruit, or nuts will attract squirrels, who love these foods. Fortunately, they don't love everything that birds do, so choose safflower seed, nyjer seed, and white proso millet, which appeal to but not to squirrels. You can also buy bird food with capsaicin, an active compound found in chili peppers. It irritates mammals, including squirrels, but not birds.

          3. Protect your feeder with cages
            Buy a feeder that's surrounded by a cage or add mesh to a feeder that you already have. Smaller birds will be able to fly through the spaces between wires, but squirrels won't be able to fit through.

          4. Use a baffle
            Add plastic or metal domes called baffles below feeders on poles. These curved barriers help make it hard to squirrels to climb over them to reach the food. Baffles should be wide and long enough so squirrels can't simply reach around them. They should also be attached high enough so squirrels – who can jump several feet high – can't jump over them.

          5. Cover bird feeder poles
            Make it harder for squirrels to climb up a birdfeeder pole by adding layers of plastic tubing around it. Some bird lovers have even had success using a child's plastic Slinky for this purpose.

          6. Remove their shelter
            Squirrels will be more likely to raid your bird feeders if they have a nest located conveniently nearby. Keep areas in sheds, under eaves, and in your attic free of squirrel nests.

          7. Try a new feeder type
            Some feeders are specially designed to deter squirrels, so when it's time to replace your old feeders, consider buying one of these. They often have doors or latches that close when they're triggered by a squirrel's heavier weight.

          8. Suspend your feeder on a wire
            Find an area between two mature trees that are at least 10 feet apart. Run a thin wire horizontally between the trees, pulling it tight and making sure it's far enough off the ground. Use objects that can spin – such as thread spools – and string them on the wire. Hang your bird feeder in the center of the wire, and squirrels who try to access the feeder should be tripped up by the spinners.

          9. Provide them with their own food
            If you can't beat them, feed them! Lure squirrels to their own feeder that's a good distance away from your bird feeders. Stock it with corn and/or nuts, so squirrels can enjoy some of their favorite foods and not be tempted by what you set out for the birds.

          Although squirrels can interfere with your efforts to feed and enjoy birds, these methods can help deter them. Each is a humane way to encourage them to move onto another food source and let the birds eat in peace.

          January
          16

          How to Clean a Dishwasher

          When is the last time you washed your dishwasher?

          When it comes to home improvement projects, rarely does appliance maintenance top the list. It's wise to keep in mind that all appliances throughout your home require routine maintenance and thorough cleaning is one of the most important tasks you can complete. Even though it may seem like your dishwasher doesn't require intensive cleaning — after all, its job is to clean itself during every use — you actually need to give this machine the same care and upkeep that you give the other water-based systems of your home.

          Believe it or not, your dishwasher is much dirtier than you realize. When regular cleaning is neglected, food particles, water minerals, grease, undissolved detergent, and other undesirable substances build up inside the machine. Not only can this create odors and a less than flattering appearance, but these particles also prevent your dishwasher from running optimally. Keep in mind, a dirty dishwasher means dirty dishes even after you've "cleaned" them.

          When to Clean a Dishwasher

          Thankfully, cleaning your dishwasher does not need to be an arduous task. In fact, once you understand where particles and substances get trapped, you can easily stick to a cleaning routine that can be completed in minutes.

          How often should cleaning your dishwasher be added to your home improvement checklist? At the very least, you should give your full dishwasher a thorough cleaning once a month. However, we recommend performing certain tasks on a daily or weekly basis to see the best results:

          • Remove all leftover food particles that collect in the bottom of the dishwasher after every cycle.
          • Wipe away the grime that settles on the inside, edges, and outside of the door.
          • Take out the filter and scrub it with hot water.

          How to Clean a Dishwasher

          Performing these tasks daily or weekly can help you keep your dishwasher cleaner, however, the machine still requires the occasional deep clean to remove built-up grime and strong odors. Follow these steps monthly to ensure that your dishwasher looks and smells clean:

          1. Remove components from the dishwasher including any racks, filters or grates that are easily removable.
          2. Clean these components using soap and water. You can also use a toothbrush or scrub brush with fine bristles to ensure all food particles and water deposits are removed from every nook and cranny.
          3. Clean the inside of the dishwasher using soapy water or a rag soaked in vinegar. This includes the inside of the door, all walls, the base, and the door seal.
          4. After you've cleaned the machine by hand, fill a measuring cup with vinegar and place it in the dishwasher during an empty cycle. This will help clean out hard water deposits.
          5. Once this cycle is complete, run another short cycle with baking soda lining the base of the dishwasher. Let the dishwasher dry with the door open to leave it smelling fresh.
          6. If there are lingering odors or discolorations, there are many products that can remove these problems such as bleach, detergent additives, hard water removing solutions or a dishwasher cleaner. Be sure to check your manufacturer's instruction manual before using bleach or any other harsh solutions on your machine.

          Keeping your dishwasher clean will keep your dishes spotless! By adding our step-by-step guide to your home improvement checklist each month and performing a quick weekly wipe-down, you can eliminate odors and ensure that your dishwasher runs efficiently all year long!

          December
          19

          8 Tips for Cleaning Your Dryer Vent

          If your dryer isn't working quite as well as it typically does, it may be time to clean your dryer vent. In addition to making sure it stays in top working condition, keeping your dryer vent clean also helps eliminate the fire hazard that comes with dirty vents. It's not a home improvement project you'll need to do every month or even every season, but that doesn't make it any less critical. Learn how to keep your dryer running properly, with our eight tips for cleaning your dryer vent.

          1. Clean Vents Every 6 to 12 Months
            For most newer dryers, you'll want to clean your vents every 6 to 12 months. If your dryer is older or sees unusually heavy use, then you may need to clean the vents more often. It's also a good idea to check the vent any time that you're having issues with your dryer.
          2. Start By Turning Off and Unplugging Your Dryer
            The first step in cleaning vents is making sure your dryer is turned off and unplugged. You may also want to clear some space in your laundry room so that you can you'll have room to move the dryer out of the way before you access the vent.
          3. Move Dryer Away from Wall to Access and Remove Vent Clamp
            Once your dryer is turned off, move it away from the wall to gain access to the vent. Before you clean the vent, you'll need to remove the vent clamp. Depending on the design, you may need a screwdriver to remove the clamp.
          4. Clear Clogs Close to Interior Vent
            With the vent clamp removed, the fun part of this home improvement project begins. Start by clearing out any clogs and debris you can reach with your hands. Depending on how long it's been since you've cleaned the vents, there may be substantial build-up to remove. Get rid of as much as possible with your hands before moving on to the next step.
          5. Use a Vacuum for Deep Cleaning
            You won't be able to reach everything with your hands, so you'll also want to have a vacuum handy to clean deeper inside the vent. Try to remove as much debris as possible with a vacuum attachment.
          6. Remove Clogs and Obstructions from Exterior Vent
            After the indoor vent is clean, you're nearly done. The final step before reattaching your dryer is cleaning the outdoor vent, repeating the same process as you did to clean indoors. 
          7. Reattach Indoor Vent
            With your vents clean, all that's left is putting things back together. Start by reattaching the indoor dryer vent, before you move your dryer back into place.
          8. Plug Dryer In, Turn on and Enjoy
            Now plug your dryer in, turn it on, and enjoy the efficiency that comes with clean dryer vents. Stick to a regular schedule for cleaning your dryer vents to make the process as painless as possible.

          Cleaning your dryer vent is a home improvement project that doesn't require a huge investment of time, and the results are more than worth the effort. Stay on top of dryer maintenance once or twice per year, and you can get more mileage out of one of the most-used appliances in any home.

          December
          5

          5 Things Burglars Don't Want You to Know

          No one wants to be the victim of a burglary. By knowing more about how they go about choosing a target and what they're looking for, you can decrease your chances of becoming a victim.

          The following are five things a burglar doesn't want you to know:

          1. They May Look Familiar
            Burglars often live within two miles of their victims, so you may actually recognize their faces. People who live close to you can easily take note of your routines, such as when you leave for and return from work.

            ​​​​​​​You may also recognize a burglar from a recent encounter at your home. Home improvement service or delivery people can leave a window unlocked so they can return later to burglarize your home.

            Tip: Check your window locks frequently and look for easy ways to vary your routine.
          2. They Know Your Hiding Places
            Many people hide valuables in dresser drawers and bedside tables. Burglars are aware of this, so these can be among the first places they look. And those somewhat realistic-looking rocks that you can stash an extra set of keys outside? They know to scan for those as well.

            Tip: Find different hiding places for your valuables and give an extra set of keys to a trusted neighbor instead of hiding them in a "rock."
          3. They love looking on social media
            Burglars are known to check out social media for clues that you're away from home. If you post a photo, a thief may be able to its embedded GPS data to see that you're an hour away, enjoying a nice evening out. Your impressive vacation photos are also a gold mine for burglars. They tell a crook where you are, and in many cases, you also post about when you'll be home.

            Tip: Set your account to private, and don't post about times when you're away from home and when you'll return.
          4. They don't like security systems and practices A security system sign will often make a burglar move onto the next house. If you've already installed a system, keep your keypad clean of grime that may indicate which numbers are repeatedly pushed. Even low-tech deterrents like locked windows and doors and motion sensor or timed lights can make a burglar decide your home isn't worth the time and risk.

            Tip: Be diligent about locking up and invest in some home improvement lighting. You may also want to consider a home security system, whether it's a DIY version or one through a company.
          5. They look for signs of valuables
            If a burglar is scoping out your home for a possible burglary, leaving an expensive phone or tablet near a first-floor window with open blinds or draperies may make you a target. The same is true of an expensive car in a garage that has a window with a clear line of sight to the street. Even your garbage can give burglars clues to big purchases. A large flat-screen TV box that's left out beside your trash lets them know what they can find inside your home.

            Tip: Keep valuables away from windows and use your window coverings. And take large boxes for expensive items to the recycling center yourself rather than leaving them out with the regular garbage.

          The previous home improvement tips can't guarantee that you'll never be burglarized, but they can help you make sure you're not inadvertently creating a target. Burglars want to get in and out as quickly as possible without getting caught, so by taking some reasonably small measures, you may be able to deter them.

          November
          7

          Simple Steps for Clearing the Clutter in Your Home

          You shouldn't wait until spring to get a jump on your home improvement checklist. Cleaning can be quite the chore, but all home improvement projects are much easier once you have an organized living space that's free of clutter. Here's how you can ruthlessly declutter your home and enjoy the serenity that comes with an area devoid of distractions.

          When you're scouting your home for items that you can do without, you'll find possessions that make you hesitate. It may be a piece of clothing that you love but hardly wear or a gift from a loved one that wasn't your preferred present. As you pick up these items, keep these three steps in mind:

          1. Acknowledgment: Take a moment to see the article for what it is and what it's worth, including its actual and personal value. Consider what purpose it serves, how much you use it, and if it gives you positive or negative feelings.
          2. Rationalization: Based on those thoughts, now it's time to rationalize whether you should keep it or get rid of it. If you've got a closet full of everyday clothing that you haven't worn because you don't like how it fits or looks, remove them from your home. This step also applies to décor, appliances, toys, books, and any other possession. You need to rationally assess each item and honestly answer the question of whether or not you truly need/want it.
          3. Acceptance: Once you've decided that an item has no use or value to you, you must accept that you're getting rid of it and move on. Hesitating on the decision or feeling apprehensive about discarding these items will not help. Any things you're not sure-of from the onset will likely continue being clutter if you keep it in your home.

          Here are five additional home improvement tips you can use to create a clutter-free home:

          1. Remove Trash Immediately
            No home should have garbage located anywhere other than the trash can. Discard all empty boxes, packaging, papers, and other debris as fast as possible.
          2. Stick to One Room at a Time
            Decluttering your space may take more than an afternoon. Before you feel overwhelmed, choose a single room, and focus on it until it's entirely decluttered.
          3. Declutter Section By Section
            When you've chosen a room, start on one side, and gradually move to the other. For instance, begin in your bedroom with your nightstand, then the dresser, then your partner's nightstand, and finally the closet.
          4. Separate Into Trash/Donate/Sell Piles
            One of the toughest aspects of decluttering is knowing how to get these items out of your home physically. As you declutter, create three distinct piles for garbage, donations, and things you wish to sell. Dispose of the trash pile as soon as possible and load up your donation pile so you can drop it off next time you leave the house. Determine if you can sell your items online or in a store and make a plan to begin this process during your next day off of work.
          5. Create Clutter-Free Habits
            The key to decluttering is to manage your clutter responsibly for the long-term. Create cleaning or decluttering habits that your family can easily follow. For instance, never go to bed until items on the kitchen table and living room furniture are put away. You can also make a rule that any time you purchase something significant in a store, you must remove one unused item of the same category.

          Commit to a clutter-free home, and you'll be amazed at how easy it is to keep your living spaces clean and organized!

          October
          24

          6 Bedroom Hacks to Get a Good Night's Sleep

          It's no secret how important a good night's sleep is for our health and our mental wellbeing. While a full eight hours of ZZZs might sound great, actually making it happen is a different story.

          There may not be much you can do about your busy schedule so it's important to optimize the hours you do have. Once you finally get to bed, falling asleep fast and staying asleep all night are the keys to waking up feeling great.

          You don't need a major home improvement to turn your bedroom into the perfect sleep oasis. Try these six simple bedroom hacks to make sure your space is as cozy as can be. 

          1. Get the Temperature Right
            There's nothing worse than waking up in the middle of the night feeling freezing cold or drenched in sweat. If you want to sleep the whole night through, you need to figure out how to regulate the temperature. Installing a separate thermostat in your bedroom is an easy home improvement that can make a huge difference.

            Also try using lightweight, breathable sheets and blankets if you run hot or a down comforter and fluffy pillows if you tend to wake up feeling cold. Either way, adding fans for additional air circulation will also make the space more comfortable. 
          2. Take a Look at Your Mattress 
            If you find that you're tossing and turning every night, your mattress could be to blame. Is your mattress too hard, too soft, or just worn out? If so, it's definitely worth the money to buy yourself a super-comfortable replacement. 
          3. Layer Your Lighting 
            If the only lighting you have in your bedroom is a single bright overhead light, you'll find it hard to drift off to sleep. Installing a dimmer with a bedside remote control is another easy home improvement that will give your bedroom some extra flexibility. This way, you can make the room nice and bright in the morning and super relaxing at bedtime.

            Add some accent lights and dimming bedside lamps to give the room even more character and give you more lighting options. 
          4. Clean Up the Clutter
            If your bedroom is constantly a mess, it can create anxiety which will keep you up at night. Consider adding some shelving or other creative storage options to help keep clutter at bay. Make sure you have a hamper for dirty clothes and clean clothes are put away right away. Before you go to bed, pick up anything that's lying around so you don't have to worry about tripping over things in the middle of the night. 
          5. Consider a Color Change 
            A simple paint job is another home improvement that can make a major difference in the bedroom. Try a relaxing color scheme that incorporates colors like pale or deep blue, soft gray, soft green, or lavender. Once you've got your bedroom painted, choose a duvet, accent pillows, and other decor.

            Once you've created a beautiful space that makes you feel happy and comfortable, you'll be surprised how easy it is to drift off to sleep each night. 
          6. Add Soothing Scents and Sounds
            It's amazing how much sounds and smells can impact our ability to sleep. To up your relaxation game, try an essential oil diffuser or a relaxing pillow spray.

          Some of the best scents to encourage sleep include lavender, chamomile, sandalwood, bergamot, vanilla, and rose. Adding a white noise machine to your bedroom will also help block out any disturbing outside noises and lull you off to sleep. 

          Any of these simple changes can make a huge difference in your overall wellbeing. Combine two or more and watch the magic happen. Happy sleeping!  

          October
          17

          8 Things You Should Never Throw in the Trash

          "Trash" is generally considered an all-encompassing term for anything we don't want to keep. In reality, there are a number of common household and home improvement items that should never find their way into a garbage can for health and safety reasons. Some are actually illegal to dump, which means you could incur serious penalties.

          The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) maintains a list of products and substances that pose a hazard to the health of humans and nature if not disposed of properly. Think twice before tossing any of these eight items into a dumpster.

          1. Electronics
            The race to keep up with the latest and greatest tech devices leaves many old models by the wayside. Lead, cadmium and other metals used in electronics can release toxic materials into the environment. Most communities have electronics recycling centers so devices and their parts may be reused.
          2. Household Batteries
            Not only are batteries full of toxic metals and chemicals, but they are actually combustible under the right circumstances. Rechargeable, button and uninterruptible power supply (UPS) batteries should always be taken to a household hazardous waste (HHW) facility. Alkaline batteries are now classified as safe for common waste, but it can't hurt to take them to an HHW facility along with the others.
          3. Paint
            Once you're done with that home improvement project, don't pour leftover paint down the drain. Leave the can open until the paint dries and take it to a scrap metal recycling center, or take it directly to an HHW facility.
          4. Light Bulbs
            Old-school incandescent light bulbs are considered common waste, although they should be wrapped in cardboard or paper before disposal. On the other hand, fluorescent light bulbs contain mercury and should go to an HHW facility for recycling.
          5. Thermometers and Thermostats
            The digital revolution has reached thermometers and thermostats, but older models contain mercury. If your home improvement to-do list includes updating the thermostat, find a proper recycling center online or consult your contractor about disposal.
          6. Lawn and Garden Chemicals
            When used correctly by carefully following instructions, lawn and garden chemicals have a purpose. But if they're spread indiscriminately via the water supply or landfills, these products can cause serious damage to the ecosystem. Dispose of them at a HHW facility or recycle by sharing leftover products with neighbors.
          7. Pharmaceuticals
            In the past, it was taken for granted that flushing unused or expired medications down the toilet was the safest method of disposal. That was shown to be false when investigations discovered the presence of drugs in the drinking water of several large metropolitan areas. As a result, many communities have created pharmaceutical take-back sites or events. If there are no programs in your area, check with your pharmacist or local police department about safe disposal options.
          8. Motor Oil and Transmission Fluid
            ​​​​​​​If you're a weekend mechanic, cap off your DIY maintenance sessions with a trip to the nearest auto repair shop or HHW facility to dispose of the old motor oil or transmission fluid.

          Home improvement doesn't have to mean environmental destruction. Make it a habit to learn and follow safe trash disposal methods. 

          October
          10

          Prepping Your Home to Get a Pro-Level Paint Finish

          Painting requires patience because how your job looks at the end depends so much on how you prepare at the beginning. Skipping steps in the prep process is often the difference between a pro-level finish and a paint job that you'll have to revisit in six month's time. The good news is that prepping for painting isn't hard to do, it just takes an investment of time. Follow these key prep steps to get a pro-level look from your next DIY painting project.

          • The Right Tools for the Job
            Before you get started, make sure you have everything you need for the job. You'll want painter's tape, drop cloths, brushes, rollers, roller pads, a roller extension, scrapers, sandpaper, plastic, primer, and paint. Choosing high-quality roller pads and brushes will cost more up front, but makes it much easier to get a professional look.
          • Cover Anything You Don't Want to Paint
            If you're painting rooms inside your home, then you'll want to cover or remove everything that you don't want the paint to touch. Painting can be a messy job even when you're careful, which is why even pros cover everything. Use painter's tape to cover edges, plastic for furniture you can't remove, and drop cloths to cover the floor. Removing the outlet and light-switch covers will also make your life much easier when it's time to start painting.
          • Pick a Dry Day
            Even painting indoors, it helps to choose a day that's not rainy or humid. High humidity causes the paint to take longer to dry, which can lead to drips and inconsistencies in the finish. If you have to paint on a humid day, take your time and fix drips before they dry.
          • Prep Before You Prime
            The real secret to a professional finish is in how you prep the surface. If you're painting an older, outdoor surface, then you may have to wash the surface, scrape old paint, and sand away damaged wood before you start. Even indoors, you'll want to do some light sanding and wash walls before you apply primer. On older surfaces, prep can take almost as much time as painting, but the results are more than worth the effort.
          • Prime Every Time
            Once a professional painter has the surface prepped, they apply a coat of primer to seal the surface, prevent stains, and create a smooth surface for painting. After you apply your primer, wait for it to dry completely before you start painting. If prepping is the biggest pro secret, primer ranks just behind. It's an extra step, but it leads to a more attractive, durable finish.
          • How to Apply an Even Finish
            When it's time to break out the rollers and brushes, you'll really begin to see your prep work paying off. It's much easier to apply an even finish to a properly prepared surface, but there's still work ahead. To apply an even finish, start by cutting in around the edges with your brush, then work from top to bottom with your roller. Let the roller do the work of applying the paint, and use a roller extension to reach high places. Make sure you let your first coat dry before applying a second coat for a truly professional finish.

          It may be a cliché among professional painters, but that's only because it rings so true. The time that you invest into prep work is the key to an attractive, durable finish, and preparation will make your life much easier when it's time to start painting.

          October
          3

          8 Houseplants that Clean and Purify the Air

          Toxins are hiding in your home that may be diminishing the air quality of your house. These toxins can come from a variety of sources, including furniture, cleaning products, fragrances, electronics, and more.

          While these toxin sources might be right under your nose, the good news is there's a simple solution to remove these toxins and get your home smelling fresh--house plants. Because plants breathe CO2 and exhale oxygen, they're well-suited for freshening your air and removing common toxins. Below are eight indoor plants for air purification.

          1. Bamboo Palm
            The bamboo palm is a common choice to add greenery. This plant is an indoor palm acclimated to shade and indirect light, so you don't need to place it near a window. Water it enough to keep its soil only moist, about once or twice a week.
          2. Blue Echeveria
            Blue echeveria is a succulent from Mexico that looks similar to a lotus flower. This plant loves light, making it great for window sills and other areas with daily sunlight. Like most succulents, the blue echeveria doesn't need to be watered often. Water it only when its soil is completely dry.
          3. Boston Fern
            The Boston fern is the archetypal house plant. Even if you've never had one, chances are you know someone who has. This plant is a bit finicky about its living conditions. It does best with indirect light, high humidity, and cool temperatures. You might need to mist it to give it the moisture it needs. As for watering, keep its soil damp. Potting soils that include a lot of peat moss are your best bet for keeping this plant growing.
          4. Cast Iron Plant
            The cast iron plant is another house plant that does well with shaded or indirect light and minimal watering. Moist soil is okay, but it's better to err on the side of dryer soil. Like most house plants, the key to watering is making sure its pot and soil allow proper drainage.
          5. Friendship Plant
            The friendship plant doesn't just look beautiful. It's cool to touch too. This tropical plant's leaves are fuzzy, and its color runs dark green to olive with bright, pale green edges. Because it's tropical, it requires shaded or low-light environments and humidity. Keep its soil moist, and mist it when the humidity drops below 50%.
          6. Prayer Plant
            Another high humidity plan, the prayer plant likes moist soil, bright light (though not direct sunlight), and frequent misting in low humidity areas. The prayer plant is named so because during the day its leaves are flat, but at night they fold up as if they're praying hands.
          7. Spider Plant
            The spider plant is one of the easier house plants for those who lack a green thumb. This plant does best with plenty of indirect light and damp soil. It has long and thin green leaves with a white stripe running down the middle. The name comes from its plantlets which look like little spiders, in a not creepy way. 
          8. Swedish Ivy
            The Swedish Ivy is neither Swedish nor an ivy, but it is easy to grow. Most people keep it in hanging baskets with good drainage. Water it about once a week after its soil has dried slightly. This plant likes bright, indirect light.

          Indoor plants that clean the air and remove toxins are a simple home improvement hack that also adds beautiful greenery to your home. The plants above are well-suited for the task of removing toxins, require minimal care, and won't poison your pets who take a nibble. Add one to any room and enjoy fresher air in your home.

          September
          19

          How to Get Rid of Pink Mold

          If you're doing a deep clean because it's time to sell, you may find a few places that aren't quite as clean as you thought. Or maybe you took a good look around and realized you've been really busy after moving into your new home and the need to clean has gotten out of hand. It doesn't matter how or why it showed up, but if you noticed some pink mold in your shower, it's probably the next thing on your home improvement list. Here's how to get rid of it and how to keep it from coming back

          What is it?
          The pink mold in your shower actually isn't mold at all. It's a build-up of a bacteria called Serratia marcescens that can flourish in the warm moist conditions of bathrooms, and loves to feed on the residue and mineral deposits left by personal hygiene products. The slimy bacteria most often appears in the tub and on shower walls, but it can form on shower curtains or doors, sinks, or the toilet too. Color can range from pale pink to orange, to bright red.

          Is pink mold bad for you?
          It isn't likely to cause symptoms in healthy people, but it can pose a risk for the elderly, children or those with compromised immune systems or if it enters the body through an open wound. It can cause urinary tract and respiratory infections. Pink mold is also quite unsightly and could possibly permanently stain some surfaces. Just like any other mold or bacteria, it can get worse and spread if not taken care of promptly.

          Cleaning it up
          Clean up is usually a quick and basic home improvement. If you want to minimize your exposure, you can wear a facemask and clothing with long sleeves and full-length pants during cleaning. This can also help if you are sensitive to cleaning products.

          For hard surfaces and grout, make a mixture of ½ cup baking soda, 1 Tablespoon dish soap, and enough water to make a runny paste. Use a soft scrub brush to apply to the affected areas. Rinse the area thoroughly. After the area has been cleaned, disinfect it with diluted bleach. Let sit 10 minutes. Scrub the area again and rinse thoroughly.

          For washable shower curtains, machine wash in warm water on the gentle cycle. Use bleach if the washing instructions on the shower curtain say it's ok to do so. Air dry.

          The diluted bleach will disinfect the area and can lighten any stains. After cleaning and disinfecting, dry the area immediately

          How to keep the pink mold from coming back
          A few preventative measures will help keep this home improvement from having to be repeated very often.

          • Run the exhaust fan in the bathroom during and 20 minutes after showers.
          • After showers, towel dry or squeegee the shower walls and shower doors if you have them.
          • Clean up soap and shampoo residue and spills as soon as possible to eliminate this bacteria's food source to help prevent growth.
          • If your shower curtain is machine washable, wash it monthly.
          • Repair leaking or dripping showerheads and faucets.

          Keeping your home clean helps prevent damage and keeps small problems from becoming big problems. Luckily home improvement projects like a little bit of pink mold don't take a lot of effort to tackle, so you'll be done in no time!

          September
          12

          6 Ways to Make Your Home Smell Fresh

          When someone enters your house, one of the first things he or she notices is the scent. Do you know how you sometimes smell a weird odor when you get home from a long holiday? That is what your dwelling smells like to visitors. The fact is that the longer a person is exposed to an odor, the less they notice it. That is known as nose-blindness. Therefore, it's important to take measures to ensure your home smells fresh.

          As most people know, the best smell is no smell at all. However, getting your home to smell like nothing might not be possible. Amidst the cooking, children, pets, and everyday duties, you are bound to end up with a mix of aromas. But there are multiple ways in which you can mask those scents without using artificial air freshening sprays.

          Check out the following six simple ways to make your home smell fresh.

          1. Clean Your Garbage Disposal
            If your kitchen has a funky smell, the source might be the garbage disposal. You can eliminate the unpleasant smell with the help of baking soda and vinegar. Measure a half cup of baking soda and sprinkle it into the disposal. After that, fill a cup with vinegar and pour it over the baking soda. Let the mixture sit for five to ten minutes, and then pour hot water into the drain with the disposal on. 
          2. Pour Some Essential Oils On Your Air Filter
            To make your entire house smell fantastic, try adding a few drops of your favorite essential oils on the air filter. The HVAC system will push the fresh aroma through the home and make everything inviting. Additionally, essential oils have natural healing properties and are free from artificial fillers. 
          3. Deodorize Your Carpets with Baking Soda
            Baking soda is an affordable way to make your home odor-free. Sprinkle some baking soda on your carpets, especially those in high traffic areas and let it sit for 15 minutes or more. Vacuum as usual and enjoy the fresh air.
          4. Spray Dry Shampoo on Smelly Shoes
            The pile of shoes next to the front door may cause your house to have an unpleasant smell. Spray some dry shampoo onto the soles of the footwear. That will help to neutralize the odor.
          5. Try Eucalyptus Leaves
            Natural eucalyptus leaves are not only beautiful, but they also release a pleasant aroma that can help to make your whole home fresher. Keep some of those leaves in a vase in your bathroom or other odor-prone room for elegant and practical deodorizing. Other than eucalyptus, other indoor plants can be used to clean the air and beautify a home including jasmine, gardenias, and corsage orchids.
          6. Get Rid of the Obvious
            Things like garbage cans, pet beds, diaper pails, and litter boxes are all spots that emit funky odors. That is rather obvious, but due to sensory adaptation, you might not notice the smell as much. It is important to be proactive.  Remember to wash the inside of the garbage bin and the lid at least once a month. Try putting some kitty litter or a dryer sheet at the bottom of the can to absorb smells. Additionally, wash pet beddings regularly and scoop litter boxes daily.

          Strong scents are not always the best. While making your home improvements, you also want to put visitors into consideration. Without a doubt, some might be sensitive to strong scents, and you do not want to make them feel uncomfortable in your house. 

          September
          5

          Houseplants That Reduce Anxiety and Stress

          Do you feel more calm and relaxed when you're surrounded by greenery? It's not your imagination. Scientific studies show certain houseplants reduce stress and anxiety, elevate moods, improve air quality and even promote healing.

          As a bonus, many of these houseplants are low-maintenance. Reduce stress and beautify your decor by adding these popular houseplants to your home.

          1. Aloe Vera
            You're probably familiar with aloe vera as an ingredient in many skincare and medicinal products. Aloe vera also removes formaldehyde and benzene from the air, making it the most powerful natural air purifier in the world. The minimal amount of required maintenance has earned aloe vera the nickname of "plant of immortality."
          2. Chrysanthemum
            Chrysanthemums offer a dual benefit. In addition to providing a vibrant touch of color to your home, the dried blossoms can be steeped in boiling water to make tea. Its healing, anti-inflammatory powers are often used to treat high blood pressure, fever, swelling and type 2 diabetes.
          3. Jasmine
            Do you find yourself tossing and turning the night away? Keep a jasmine plant on your nightstand for better quality sleep. Instead of feeling groggy in the morning, you'll be alert and clear-headed. Jasmine's soothing scent transmits messages to the body's limbic system, which regulates emotions. Be sure to give a jasmine plant plenty of sunshine.
          4. Lavender
            Commonly used in aromatherapy, lavender is another fragrant plant with a beautiful hue. Use the dried buds to make sachets, potpourri, bath salts or infused oil. While there's no hard scientific evidence, many grateful moms swear by lavender's calming effects on fussy babies.
          5. Areca Palm
            Known as the "butterfly palm" due to the graceful sweep of its fronds, the Areca palm produces yellow flowers in the summertime. If the air in your home tends to be dry, Areca palms serve as natural humidifiers through water vapor emitted from the fronds. Areca palms are also good air purifiers, and with proper care, they can live up to 10 years.
          6. Fiddle-Leaf Fig Tree
            Photogenic fiddle-leaf fig trees have gained popular status from frequent appearances in magazine photos, but it's not just a pretty face. The tree's broad leaves are efficient air purifiers and they also help control humidity.
          7. English Ivy
            As its name implies, English ivy is literally a "transplant" brought over by European colonists. This attractive plant reduces airborne toxins, particularly ones that may cause mold infestations. English ivy's purifying properties are so strong that it benefits people with respiratory ailments such as asthma and bronchitis. 
          8. Snake Plant
            The visually striking snake plant has a sleek look that blends well in most decors. Snake plants produce oxygen at a higher rate than other plants while controlling carbon dioxide emissions, resulting in stress-free days and restful nights along with an overall energy boost.
          9. Peppermint
            Peppermint's fresh taste and scent make it a popular ingredient in chewing gum, mints and dental hygiene products. Proximity to peppermint has been found to reduce frustration and improve alertness. Menthol, a substance in peppermint, helps relax the muscles, so chop up a few fresh peppermint leaves and toss them in your bathwater. 
          10. Tillandsia
            Tillandsia, more commonly known as an air plant, is uniquely adaptable to various displays because of its propensity to cling to a wide range of surfaces. Like snake plants, air plants keep air quality high by producing oxygen and controlling carbon dioxide. Their light, airy aesthetic also creates a calm and relaxing ambiance.

          "Go Green" is a widespread initiative promoting eco-awareness. Embrace nature and improve your well-being by "going green" at home as well. 

          August
          29

          8 Ways to Kill Your Weeds Naturally

          Man vs. weed has been a difficult and long-standing battle common to all homeowners. With the current focus on eco-friendly methods instead of harsh, toxic chemicals, the stakes are even higher.

          So how do you defeat stubborn weeds without potential risk to the health of the planet and its occupants? Use these tips from home improvement experts for natural weed-killing methods that are tough on pesky yard growth but gentle on people, pets and plants.

          1. Boiling Water
            What could be safer for the environment than water? Boil a generous amount in a kettle or pot, carry it directly outside and pour on the crown of unwanted growth. Tougher weeds may require one or two additional treatments. Be sure to protect yourself by wearing long pants and close-toed shoes.
          2. Weed Torch
            A weed torch is another method to apply the destructive forces of heat. This handy home improvement tool literally boils the water inside plant cells, turning it to steam and causing the cells to explode and die. Just heat the weeds to the point of wilting. Never use a weed torch on poisonous plants, as it can release toxic elements into the air.
          3. Vinegar
            The classic jack-of-all-household-tasks is equally effective at destroying weeds. Add a tablespoon of dish soap and two tablespoons of vegetable oil to a spray bottle of vinegar and apply directly. Note that vinegar can also damage healthy plants, so avoid spraying on breezy days.
          4. Lemon Juice
            Jolt weeds with a dose of acid by spraying fresh-squeezed or store-bought lemon juice on them. Mix lemon juice with vinegar for a super-charged solution.
          5. Baking Soda
            Baking soda is another multi-use household product that's usually on hand. Keep weeds out of hard-to-reach cracks in driveways and walkways by sprinkling baking soda on the adjacent pavement and sweeping it into the cracks.
          6. Newspaper
            Perform environmental double-duty by recycling old newspapers as a weed removal tool. Simply place ten layers of damp newspaper over the soil and cover with mulch. This technique cuts off sunshine and oxygen supplies to essentially smother weeds. If you've moved recently, this is a handy use for those cardboard boxes as well.
          7. Shower Curtain
            Give new life to an old shower curtain as an alternative to newspaper. Spread the curtain across the appropriate area between the weeds and a layer of mulch.
          8. Corn Gluten
            Corn gluten may seem more relevant to cooking than home improvement, but it's a valuable weapon in the anti-weed arsenal. More accurately, corn gluten serves as an effective weed suppressant as it prevents roots from forming.
          9. Tall Grass
            No, this doesn't mean you're released from lawn-cutting duties, but adjusting the mower to leave a length of two to three inches can make grass less vulnerable to weeds. 
          10. Elbow Grease
            The tried-and-true method of manual weed removal is always effective and leaves no toxic residue. A successful weed-pulling session lets you enjoy fresh air and sunshine and relieves stress by letting you take it out on the weeds.

          Curb appeal boosts the value of any home. Make sure weed removal is on your list of important home improvement tasks.

          August
          8

          5 Steps to Declutter Your Home

          Stuff is like dust. It multiplies when you aren't looking, and before you know it, you can't turn around without bumping into something. Whether you're selling your home or not, decluttering is a perfect opportunity to get rid of your excess stuff and enjoying a simpler, more relaxed life.

          Use these five easy-to-do decluttering tips to help you keep your home clutter-free all year long. 

          1. Start Slow and Build Up Speed
            It can be hard to get into the decluttering groove. Ease into the decluttering mindset by choosing one or two items a day to give away or set aside for a garage sale. Taking it one step at a time can help you build momentum and establish a habit of getting rid of the things you no longer need or want. Once you get rid of that first item, it becomes possible to get rid of one hundred more.
          2. Garage Sale It or Give It Away
            Garage sales are a great way to declutter quickly and put a few bucks back in your pocket in the process. When you are organizing a garage sale, be sure to cast a wide net when advertising. Also, don't set your prices so high that people won't be willing to buy. Always be prepared to negotiate a lower price for that treasured item. When the sale is over, and the garage doors come down, load up the remaining pieces and take them straight to the nearest donation center. Your belongings can help others get back on their feet plus you will receive a receipt for you to claim the donation on your taxes. It's a home improvement win for everyone involved.
          3. Set a New Schedule
            Clutter doesn't appear overnight. It builds up slowly and creeps into your life. One way to avoid the slow creep of clutter into your home is to set a regular decluttering schedule for each room in the house. Once a week, once a month--whatever works for you. On the assigned date, go through the designated room and remove any broken, damaged, or outdated items.
          4. Invest in Organization
            Custom storage solutions fall into the category of "stuff you must have." Purchasing special hangers, storage containers, vacuum-sealed bags, etc. can help keep your things organized and out of your way. Custom storage solutions protect your possessions from season-to-season from insects, moisture, or damage.
          5. Get Selective with Your Purchases
            Once you get everything cleared out and freed up more space than you thought possible, you will want to keep your home free and clear all of the time. To do this, limit your shopping trips, avoid making those "cute" purchases around the holidays, and inform family/friends to limit gifts on Christmas, birthdays, anniversaries, or other celebrations.

          Decluttering is a simple way to simplify your life that makes it easier to relax and enjoy sharing your home with friends and family. Incorporating these five steps into your life will help you maintain a clutter-free home year after year.

          June
          27

          Consider Laminate Flooring Today

          There are so many choices when remodeling the floors in your home that it's easy to get overwhelmed with options. While classics like hardwood, carpet, and tile are still popular, laminate flooring has become an increasingly popular option for homeowners. Laminate is sturdy, long-lasting, versatile, and can match the style of a wide variety of hardwood types. It's also easy to install with minimal mess, making it a popular choice for DIY home improvement projects. If you haven't looked into laminate flooring, now is a great time to learn more.

          • Easy to Install
            Unlike other types of flooring which often require a lengthy installation process, laminate flooring is easy to install as a DIY project. Many types of laminate snap together without the need for glue or nails and can be installed in less than a day. If your choice of flooring features intricate patterns or requires any specialized techniques, it's easy to find a pro who can handle the installation.
          • Works in Any Room
            By choosing the right laminate product for your needs, you can put laminate flooring in any room of your home. If put it in a kitchen or bathroom, make sure to purchase waterproof flooring and follow all manufacturer's instruction for sealing the floor.
          • Simple to Keep Clean and Maintain
            Laminate flooring is suitable for high-traffic areas because it is resistant to stains and other common types of damage. Sweeping or vacuuming a laminate floor is a breeze, and spills are cleaned up easily without causing any damage to the floor. If a plank is damaged in any way, it's easy to replace it without the hassle that comes with fixing other types of flooring.
          • Sturdy and Durable
            Laminate flooring is long-lasting and can stand up to quite a bit of punishment. It holds up well in children's play areas, and in rooms that see heavy foot traffic all day long. Many manufacturers offer warranties or guarantees with their flooring, and it's wise to choose a brand with a substantial warranty. Quality laminate flooring can last decades, with minimal maintenance compared to other types of flooring.
          • A Style to Fit Every Home
            One of the biggest perks of laminate is that it can be used to simulate a huge variety of hardwood types, with intricate patterns and designs. You can even combine different types of flooring to create something truly unique. Skilled design teams can create lifelike floors that look just like the real thing, for a fraction of the cost.
          • Budget-Friendly Flooring
            Compared to the cost of installing other types of flooring, laminate flooring is cost effective. The quality of the laminate will naturally have an impact on the cost, but even high-quality laminate is usually much more affordable than its hardwood counterpart. You can save even more by installing the flooring yourself, while professional installation should still be more affordable than having a pro install a different type of floor.

          Laminate flooring is being installed in high-traffic businesses, with great results. The right laminate flooring offers high quality at a budget-friendly price, with a nearly limitless choice of styles. Since it works in every room, laminate is well worth considering any time that your planning a home improvement project for the flooring in your home.

          June
          20

          Tips to Prevent Mold and Mildew in Your Home

          Mold and mildew are two things that no homeowner ever wants to see, but they are also fairly common problems. Both can cause health issues for people residing within the home and can grow unseen in places you may not expect. Mold thrives on moisture, spreads quickly, and can be especially prevalent during the hot, humid summer months. Water damage in walls, crawlspaces, and basements can provide just the right conditions for mold to gain a foothold. Learn how to prevent and address mold in the home, with these six home improvement tips.

          1. Clean, Disinfect, and Dry Surfaces
            Bathrooms and kitchens are common places for mold to develop, thanks to all the moisture present in both areas. That's why it's important to regularly clean, disinfect, and dry surfaces in those rooms. When you're cooking, cleaning, or working on a home improvement project, always clean up thoroughly to leaves as little moisture as possible behind.
          2. Be Vigilant about Spotting and Fixing Plumbing Leaks
            For mold prevention and many other reasons, it's critical to spot and address plumbing leaks as quickly as possible. Undetected leaks and the water damage they leave behind provide the perfect environment for mold to thrive. The longer that leaks in basements, crawlspaces, and walls remain, the more damage that they can cause to your home. 
          3. Increase Air Flow to Decrease Moisture Levels
            Increasing air flow is an easy step that can help reduce the chance for mold to grow in your home. Use an exhaust fan in the bathroom during and after showers. When possible, open windows to let air flow throughout the home. Dehumidifiers and fans can help reduce moisture in the home no matter the season.
          4. Deal with Basement and Crawlspace Moisture Problems
            Basements and crawlspaces, especially in older homes, can be moist, musty places, perfect for mold to establish itself. Check those openings are sealed to prevent rainwater from getting inside and consider a dehumidifier if moisture is a frequent problem in your basement. Make sure there's sufficient airflow, and don't be afraid to call a pro if you're having trouble getting basement/crawlspace moisture problems under control.
          5. Make Sure Outdoor Gear Is Clean and Dry Before Storing
            Moisture from outdoor gear, wet towels, laundry, cleaning supplies, and other items can provide an ideal environment for mold to grow. Make sure any outdoor gear that's stored inside is clean and dry before putting it away. The same goes for any household item that can retain moisture. If you do track moisture into the home accidentally, simply clean it up right away to avoid any issues.
          6. Keep Up with HVAC Maintenance
            Your HVAC system is one of the last places that you want to see mold within your home. For that reason and many other home improvement purposes, it's important to keep up with maintenance on your system. Make sure that you change filters according to manufacturer's instructions, and have your HVAC system checked out regularly by a pro. If you believe there's mold in your system, it's important to address it right away.

          Managing moisture is the key to limiting the chance for mold to thrive within your home. You can greatly aid in that process with a variety a simple home improvement and maintenance steps, along with vigilance for spotting mold where it's most likely to grow. Clean surfaces, increase airflow, fix leaks, and make sure that anything you store in your home is dry. While you can't completely eliminate the possibility of mold, these steps will make your home a much tougher target.

          June
          6

          What to Do About Foundation Problems

          There's no doubt that "foundation problems" are two words that no homeowner, buyer, or seller ever wants to hear. While foundation problems are indeed serious business, they don't have to ruin a home that you own or derail a deal on a home. The trick is knowing how to deal with foundation problems, addressing them quickly, and understanding when it's time to call in a professional for assistance. That starts with knowing the signs of foundation problems, and what to do when you spot a potential problem. Get started with our home improvement guide on what to do about foundation problems.

          1. Understand What Causes Foundation Problems
            While foundation problems can happen anywhere, there are some common factors to look out for that may put your home at increased risk. Foundation problems can be caused by the type of soil that the home was built on, plumbing damage, severe shifts in temperature, floods, earthquakes, overgrown tree roots, or poor drainage around the home. It's especially important to check regularly for foundation problems if your home has any of these fairly common risk factors.
          2. Check for Signs of Foundation Problems Outdoors
            Foundation problems are not always easy to spot without a trained eye, but there are a number of common signs that can help you know when it's time to call in a pro. Outdoor signs of foundation problems include cracked bricks, cracks in concrete, rotation of walls, displaced moldings, and gaps in doors, windows, or garage doors. A larger crack may be a sign of a more serious underlying issue in the foundation.
          3. Indoor Signs of Foundation Problems
            Signs of foundation damage can pop up inside the home as well, even if you don't spot anything outdoors. The most common indoor signs of foundation problems are uneven floors, cracks in the walls, sheetrock, or floor, and misaligned doors or windows. While plumbing leaks aren't a sign of foundation damage on their own, a serious leak can lead to issues with the foundation so it's important to be aware of any leaks.
          4. What to Do When You See Signs of Trouble
            Even if you're normally a DIY home improvement expert, foundation problems are best left to the pros. The equipment and expertise required to address foundation problems are extensive, so calling a professional contractor is simply the way to go if you're experiencing foundation problems. A pro can assess whether there's a problem, where the problem is located, and how to fix it with minimal disruption to the home.
          5. How to Choose a Foundation Repair Contractor
            Addressing foundation problems can an expensive home improvement issue, so it's important to choose a contractor you can trust. Start by educating yourself on common foundation problems, and the specific repair methods that may be used to address any issues. Make sure that your contractor is licensed, insured, and offers a warranty on their work. Don't be afraid to "interview" multiple contractors, ask plenty of questions, learn everything you can about the process, and choose the team you feel most comfortable to have working on this important repair project for your home.

          While foundation problems can grow into a big issue over time, knowing how to spot signs of trouble and checking your foundation regularly can help you deal with small foundation problems before they become big ones. If you believe that your home is showing signs of foundation problems, then the best thing that you can do is call a professional to assess and address the issue.

          May
          30

          5 Ways to Conserve Water at Home

          We learned in grade school geography class that roughly three-quarters of the Earth's surface is water, but less than one percent is available for human use. A study by the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) found that water managers in 40 out of 50 states anticipate water shortages in all or part of their states by the year 2024.


          Do you really know how much water you use? Your water footprint may reveal some surprises. Save the environment and your wallet with these five home improvement projects and lifestyle modifications to reduce water usage in your household.

          1. Repair Leaks Promptly
            According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), leaky faucets and pipes in the average household can result in a staggering 9,400 gallons of wasted water in one year. That amount is equivalent to the water used for more than 300 loads of laundry.

            Periodically inspect faucets and pipes for leaks and repair them immediately, no matter how small they may seem. A sudden spike in the water bill can also be a tip-off to hidden leaks.
          2. Install a Low-Flush Toilet
            When the government mandated low-flush toilets in 1992, the first models were inefficient and often resulted in more water usage than conventional toilets. Today's low-flush toilets are greatly improved to the point that even dual-flush toilets use up to 60 percent less water.

            If you don't want to replace your toilet right now, place a water-filled plastic bottle inside the tank for a DIY solution. Avoid the traditional brick in the tank, which can break down and release sediment in the water.
          3. Plant a Drought-Resistant Garden
            Gardening is a great home improvement activity that many people also find relaxing. Unfortunately, you can't always rely on Mother Nature to provide a sufficient amount of rainfall to keep plants healthy, so they must be manually watered. Fill your landscape with lavender, purple sage, cacti and other drought-resistant plants that require less moisture.

            It's estimated that nearly one-third of the country's water supply is used on lawns. For an even greater impact, replace your grass lawn with a xeriscaped lawn that incorporates ground cover, succulents and wild plants that tolerate dry conditions. In addition to conserving water, you'll reduce the impact of herbicides and other chemicals on the environment.
          4. Add Aerators to Faucets
            Installing faucet aerators is an easy and inexpensive home improvement fix with a big payoff. The screw-on devices mix air into water for a narrow flow formed by tiny droplets rather than an uninterrupted stream. While the faucet functions the same, this simple fix can save the average household about 700 gallons of water in a year.
          5. Fill 'Er Up
            Be sure to run clothes washers and dishwashers on full loads only. Not only does this practice cut down on the total volume of water use, but these appliances also work more efficiently with full loads so clothes and dishes will be cleaner. One more tip: scrape large food particles into a disposal or composting bin, but it's not necessary to rinse dishes before loading them into the dishwasher.

          With a little planning, you can take a socially responsible approach to home improvement projects. Reducing your household's water usage pays environmental and financial dividends for years to come.

          May
          23

          Natural Carpet Stain Removers

          You may cringe at carpet stains, but they're actually a sign of a house full of life. When you share your home with friends, family, kids, and pets, spills are bound to happen.


          Replacing a carpet is a costly and disruptive home improvement project. Extend the life of your carpet with these DIY natural stain removers made with everyday household products. As a bonus, you'll avoid harsh chemicals in commercial products that can be health and environmental hazards.


          General Stain Removal Tips

          • For best results, treat stains as soon as possible. Use a clean, dry towel or cloth to blot up as much as you can first.
          • Always test a solution on an inconspicuous part of the carpet to check for color fading or other undesirable effects.
          • Spray or apply the solution to a clean cloth and use a blotting motion instead of rubbing to keep from working the stain deeper into the carpet. This method also prevents damage to carpet fibers.
          • Start at the outside of a stain and work toward the center so the stain doesn't spread.
          • If a stain has already soaked deep into a carpet, use a soft-bristled toothbrush to gently work in the appropriate solution.

          Vinegar Solutions

          Vinegar is the MVP of natural household cleaning products and it works on a number of common carpet stains.

          • For an all-purpose cleaner, mix 1/2 cup white vinegar with two tablespoons salt. Add two tablespoons borax to treat larger or heavier stains.
          • If you're working on home improvement projects, a solution of 1-1/2 teaspoons each of vinegar and laundry detergent in two cups water cleans up spilled paint.
          • Rid a carpet of stains and smells with a mixture of one cup white vinegar, two cups water, two teaspoons salt and 15 drops essential oil (lavender is a good choice, but feel free to use your favorite). Store in a spray bottle for easy use. 

          Salt Solutions

          • Were the kids eating fries in the living room again? Sprinkle salt on ketchup spills and let sit for a few minutes before vacuuming. Repeat as necessary until the stain is gone.
          • Grease causes some of the most stubborn stains. Mix one part salt with four parts rubbing alcohol and apply in the direction of the carpet's nap.

          Baking Soda Solutions

          • Vomit and urine compound carpet stains with a lingering odor. After cleaning up the excess, sprinkle baking soda on the affected spot and pat with a paper towel. Vacuum the residue once the solution has dried. In addition to cleaning, baking soda will sanitize and deodorize the spot.
          • Baking soda provides another solution for grease stains when mixed with equal parts of salt. Work the powder into the stain with a stiff brush and let it sit for four to five hours before vacuuming.

          Other Solutions

          • Club soda is a classic treatment for red wine stains, but it's also effective on pet urine, coffee, and tea. Simply pour club soda liberally over the stain and blot dry.
          • Sticky chewing gum in a carpet may seem hopeless. Just put some ice cubes in a plastic bag and use them to freeze the gum, then scrape carefully with a butter knife.
          • Believe it or not, squirting shaving cream directly on the stain removes fruit juice, oil, and grease. Wipe the spot clean with a damp sponge.
          • Clean fresh blood stains by pouring hydrogen peroxide directly on the spot and blotting with a clean towel.

          Save your money and labor for more interesting home improvement jobs. These natural stain removers will keep your carpet looking clean and fresh.

          May
          9

          How to Clean Painted Walls

          When it comes to dirt and stains, walls are one of the more vulnerable areas of your home. Unfortunately, there are only so many pictures you can hang to hide the evidence.  The good news is that you can clean painted walls successfully. Use some TLC and these helpful tips to have soiled and scuffed walls looking like new again.

          1. Determine Paint Type
            Semi-gloss or enamel finishes are more durable than flat, stain or eggshell so they can stand up to stronger cleaning products. Regardless of paint type, always use a soft sponge rather than abrasive wipes to prevent scratches.
          2. Remove Dust and Debris
            Run your vacuum cleaner's soft brush attachment over the walls to clear dust and other loose debris.
          3. Protect the Floor
            Place towels alongside the baseboards to absorb runoff from excess water. Wring out the sponge frequently as you work to reduce the amount of dripping.
          4. Work from the Top Down
            Visually section off the wall and start at the top, working your way down. Be sure to dry each section with a soft towel to prevent streaks.
          5. Start Simple
            The key is to use the most gentle cleaning solution possible that's still effective. Begin by wiping the wall down with warm water alone. If that doesn't work, add dishwashing liquid to the water. For tougher jobs, use a DIY solution of one-gallon warm water containing one cup ammonia, 1/2-cup vinegar, and 1/4-cup baking soda. Pour into a spray bottle for easier application.
          6. Treat Stains Separately
            Mix up a paste of 1/2-cup baking soda and one-ounce water. Do a patch test on a less noticeable part of the wall. If it passes with no watermarks or dulled finish, apply the paste to any stains. Use a soft circular motion to avoid disturbing the paint finish. Rinse and dry as usual.
          7. Use Commercial Products Carefully
            Some cleaning jobs are so stubborn they require additional reinforcements. Look for solvent-free cleaning products that are eco-friendly and non-toxic.
          8. Follow Preventive Maintenance
            Once the walls are sparkling again, take preventive steps to minimize the effects of dirt and stains. Periodically vacuum walls using the soft brush attachment, then go over them with a cloth-covered broom or mop sprayed with a dusting product. Treat fingerprints and other marks as soon as possible.

          Experts recommend repainting most interior walls every five to seven years, so use that as a rule of thumb. In the meantime, these steps will keep walls looking clean and fresh.

          April
          18

          How to Host a Successful Garage Sale

          A garage sale is an ideal way to get rid of clutter, earn extra cash, and make your home look more appealing--especially if you're listing it for sale. People don't want to see your kids' toys or the book you're reading when they come to an open house. They want to imagine their things in the house. A garage sale can also help you save on moving costs. Instead of paying to move everything you own to your new home, a garage sale will lighten the load of moving plus put money in your pocket.

          Here are three pointers to plan your way to a successful garage sale.

          1. Increase Your Curb Appeal
            When you have a yard sale, the front of your home is like the entrance to a conventional store. People may choose not to check out your sale if your yard looks run down or unkempt.

            Taking care of your yard will make your home easier to sell and get you higher prices for your garage sale items. Mow your lawn, remove weeds, and have any cracks in your driveway or your sidewalk repaired. If needed, repaint your siding and your front door. Make sure items like bikes that aren't for sale are out of sight. If your property is large or you have lots of overgrown trees and shrubs, you can save time by using a landscaping company to trim all your vegetation and plant some appealing flowers.
          2. Advertise
            You can post free classified ads on many websites. Add photos of the items you're offering if possible. You should also let your friends know about your garage sale through social media and post an ad in your local paper. On the day of the event, add a few signs to your front yard, and put signs around your neighborhood with your address, the time of the sale, and arrows to let people know which way to go.
          3. Organize Your Items
            Sort through your belongings to ensure you don't inadvertently dispose of anything you want to keep. Then, put the items you want to sell on folding tables or clothing racks, and put the things you want to get rid of most in the front. Dust knickknacks or furniture and wash musty clothing or blankets. Don't place small items on your lawn or your floor. Most people don't want to have to bend over to shop, and some people could have trouble reaching objects on the ground. Also, make sure that you have plenty of change and a way to accept payments electronically.

          Having a garage sale that's easy to find with reasonable prices will help you let neighbors know that you're moving. It can even attract potential buyers. After the garage sale, much of the work you do to prepare will continue to attract people and help you get a higher price for your home.

          April
          4

          7 Tips for Using Rainwater Around Your Home

          Rainwater is pure gold that falls from the sky. Harvesting this clean and clear resource can trim your utility bills and minimize your environmental impact while reducing strain on regional water treatment facilities. When properly designed and installed, a rainwater collection system is an investment whose dividends benefit the entire community. The following are seven tips that will help you squeeze every last drop of value from your rainwater collection strategy.

          1. Determine Consumption & Availability
            Rainfall is variable, and the amount of rain that falls in your area may not be sufficient to meet your needs. You must calculate the water consumed by your lifestyle and landscaping needs. For example, water consumed by dishwashers, toilets, showers, sprinklers, etc. Next, you will want to determine whether regional rainfall is sufficient to meet these needs. As a general rule, you can expect annual rainfall to meet about 50% of your water needs. 
          2. Consider Your Roofing
            Shingled roofs can leach toxins into rainwater making it unsuitable for drinking. If you want to use your water for cooking, etc., consider replacing your roof with terra-cotta, slate, wood shingles, or concrete.
          3. Choose Barrels Carefully
            Choose barrels that are sufficient in size and construction to meet your collection needs and any freeze/thaw cycles inherent to your climate. Barrels should be opaque to minimize algae growth and comprised of materials (either wood, metal, or ideally, plastic) that won't leach toxins into the water. 
          4. Regularly Clean and Cover Your Barrels
            Position your barrels so that you can access and clean them every six months. Once every two years, your tank should be thoroughly de-sludged. This helps to inhibit the growth of bacteria and ensures your water remains fresh.  

            It is also advisable to conduct monthly tank inspections to ensure that filter screens, covers, and locks are functioning properly and preventing access to the tank by children, insects, pets, and other wildlife. If any damaged seals or locking mechanisms are discovered you will want to replace these without delay. Keeping your system closed off is essential for keeping the water clean and free of biological pathogens and insect infestations.  
          5. Shield and Clean Your Gutters
            Installing gutter shields and regularly cleaning the gutters on your home will help limit sludge buildup within your rainwater collection tanks. If you want to use your rainwater for human or animal consumption, you may also want to replace any soldered seams with rivets as soldered seams can leach lead into the water supply.
          6. Be Careful When Installing the Spigot
            Screw your spigot down so that it is hand tight. This helps prevent stripping of the threads and damage to the plastic, wood, or metal of the rainwater collection barrel. If you screw the spigot down too tight, the damage you create can cause leaks that negate your efforts. 
          7. Stay in the Grey
            Safely using rainwater for drinking requires significant investment and training. For this reason, most homeowners opt to use the rainwater they collect for showers, dishwashing, clothes washing, and irrigation. Using your water for these purposes will significantly reduce your water consumption without putting the health of your family at risk. 

          Rainwater collection systems are worth their weight in gold. Using this free, 100% natural resource helps reduce your utility bills and minimizes your impact on the regional water supply. Collecting rainwater is an eco-friendly solution that is guaranteed to help beautify your landscape while adding a little extra padding to your monthly budget. A small investment of time and resources is all it takes for you to reap these rewards season after season.  

          March
          28

          Make Your Home Smell Better Without Chemicals

          There's nothing better than a clean, fresh-smelling home. Whether it's an inviting floral scent, refreshing citrus, or the unmistakable scent of fresh-baked cookies, the way your home smells can make it feel warm, cozy, and welcoming. 

          Unfortunately, most popular air fresheners, plug-ins, and candles are full of toxic chemicals that can pollute the air, make your pets sick, and even cause respiratory issues. Luckily, there are plenty of ways to make your house smell great without chemicals. Here are seven ideas to help you get started. 

          1. Use Your Stove Top
            Add some orange slices and cinnamon sticks to a pot of water and bring it to a light simmer. Let the mixture sit on your stove top and watch as the amazing scent spreads throughout your home. 

          2. Add Essential Oils to Pine Cones
            Toss some pine cones in a wicker basket and add a few drops of your favorite essential oils to each one. The smell will radiate from the basket, and you can easily move it from room to room.  For even more variety, try making different scented baskets for your dining room table, kitchen counter, and bathrooms. 
          1. Deodorize Your Carpets
            It's easy to make a natural carpet deodorizer by mixing together baking soda, Borox, and essential oils. Shake the mixture onto the carpets, let it sit for 15 to 20 minutes, then vacuum it up. The powder will absorb any lingering odors and leave your home smelling fresh. 

          2. Make Your Own Room Spray 
            Purchase a small glass spray bottle and mix a cup of water with three or four drops of essential oils. Scents like lemongrass and rosemary are great for the kitchen, while lavender spray is an excellent option for the bedroom. You can spritz the mixture into the air or lightly spray it on furniture, pillows, and carpets.

          3. Use an Oil Diffuser
            Essential oils don't just smell good, some can actually help you sleep better, improve cognitive function and emotional health, and even boost your immune system. Essential oil diffusers fill your home with pleasant scents while also allowing you to enjoy the positive physical and mental benefits. Consider placing diffusers in your bedrooms, living room, and kitchen. 

          4. Add Cloves to Oranges
            When you're having company over, you can easily create a wonderfully inviting scent by pushing a handful of whole cloves into the peel of an orange. Place a couple of the clove-covered oranges in an attractive bowl on your kitchen counter or use it as a centerpiece on your table. 

          5. Use Fresh Cut Flowers
            Fresh-cut flowers look beautiful and also add an unmistakable scent to your home. For best results, choose strongly-scented options like roses, lilacs, hyacinth, freesia, lilies, or peonies. 

          It's so easy to make your home smell great naturally, there's really no reason to take chances with chemical-based products. Now that you know the basics, you can have fun experimenting with creating a variety of different scents. The possibilities are endless! 

          March
          21

          Keep Your Hardwood Floors in Top Shape

          Hardwood flooring is a coveted feature in homes both old and new. It radiates feelings of warmth and tradition and creates an extremely classy look. Since so many older homes still have original wood flooring, it's clear that it's an extremely durable option when cared for properly. 

          While natural wood flooring is fairly easy to care for, it does require some preventative maintenance. The following simple care guidelines will help you keep your floors looking shiny and new for years to come.

          1. Leave Your Shoes at the Door 
            Wearing your shoes inside tracks in dirt and increases the chances that you'll scratch or scuff your flooring. Consider taking your shoes off at the door and asking your family and friend to do the same.
          2. Sweep or Vacuum Regularly
            At least once a week, more often if you have children or pets, sweep or vacuum your entire home. If you use a vacuum cleaner, make sure you have it on the hardwood setting to avoid accidental scratches. 
          3. Protect High Traffic Areas
            Protect high-traffic areas like entryways and hallways by adding strategically-placed area rugs. This will help cut down on normal wear-and-tear and keep dirt from scratching the floor's finish. 
          4. Mop the Right Way
            Allowing water to sit on hardwood floors or using the wrong type of cleaner can cause serious damage. Take care of your floors by damp mopping with a gentle cleaner that's specifically designed for hardwood floors. Instead of using a traditional mop, choose one with a reusable microfiber cloth. This type of mop attracts dirt, is easy to clean, and won't scratch your floors.
          5. Use Velvet Furniture Pads
            Protect your floors from scratches and gouges by placing velvet pads on the bottom of all your furniture legs. This is particularly important if you tend to rearrange your furniture frequently. When moving objects across the floor, always avoid dragging them as damage can happen even after you add the padding. 
          6. Wax Your Floor Occasionally 
            If you have floors with a wax finish, consider waxing or polishing them every few months. This will help keep your floors looking well-maintained and can buff out small scratches that occur between maintenance sessions. 
          7. Protect Your Floors From Moisture
            Standing moisture and wood flooring are a bad combination. If something spills on your floor, clean it up right away. Keep moisture from pooling up on your floors by adding absorbent mats near your entryways and making sure to keep your windows closed when it rains. 
          8. Minimize Damage from Pets
            ​​​​​​​Minimize the chances of scratches by keeping your dog's nailed trimmed as short as you comfortably can. Also, place area rugs in parts of your house where your dogs tend to spend their time. This will prevent them from digging up your floors if they jump up and take off running. 

          Despite your best efforts, you might end up with some scratches, dents, or gouges in your flooring. Take care of them right away so they don't lead to bigger problems. If you aren't sure you can fix the problem yourself, contact a professional to handle the repair for you.  With just a little bit of care and ongoing maintenance, your hardwood flooring will look gorgeous for decades. 

          March
          14

          5 Ways to Achieve Hygge in Your Home

          There's been a lot of buzz in the U.S. lately about the Danish way of living known as Hygge (pronounced hoo-gah). If you're not sure exactly what it means, that's okay. It's somewhat difficult to explain since the word doesn't translate into English and is based more on a feeling than on anything concrete. The general concept revolves around creating feelings of intimacy and coziness, connecting with the people you love, and taking pleasure in the small things.


          If this sounds appealing to you, you're not alone. After all, it could be one of the reasons that Denmark is ranked as one of the happiest countries in the world.  While many of the concepts are based around staying warm and cozy during the winter months, it's easy to apply Hygge to your home all year round. Here are five tips to help you get started. 

          1. Pay Attention to Lighting
            When asked what they associate most strongly with Hygge, candles are typically mentioned. The warm glow of candlelight creates an atmosphere that will lift your spirits and make your home more welcoming. In addition to lighting candles, focus on taking advantage of natural light whenever possible and using strategically-placed lamps to create a soft, warm glow.
             
          2. Incorporate Natural Elements
            Although there's not always a lot of nature around during the harsh Danish winters, they make a point to bring a bit indoors whenever possible. Apply this to your home by adding some easy-to-care-for houseplants and accents like natural wood flooring and real wood furniture.
             
          3. Create a Book Nook
            Curling up to read a good book is one of the cornerstones of the Hygge lifestyle. The Danish refer to the cozy space where they go to read as a hyggekrog (nook). Your book nook can be any quiet and comfortable space in your home where you can relax. Add some soft blankets to the area and display a real book on a shelf or in the corner of your home to give it a lived-in look that's so common in Danish homes.
             
          4. Use a Warm Color Palette
            When choosing the color palette for your home's décor, opt for warm colors like tones of red, orange and yellow. Choose neutral colors for your wall paint and add soft accents like overstuffed pillows. Before you add anything to your home, think about how it will feel there, rather than how it will look.  

          5. Keep it Simple
            The Danish lifestyle is all about keeping things simple. This means getting rid of clutter and adopting more of a minimalist lifestyle. It's also about deriving pleasure from your immediate surroundings. Only keeping items in your home that make you truly happy will help you accomplish both of these goals.

          Once you've adopted the Hygge lifestyle, you'll naturally start noticing even more opportunities to incorporate it into your home. Eventually, it will begin to feel like second-nature. 

          February
          7

          12 Tips for Organizing Our Home

          Your home is where your life happens. Your home is also where you happen to have every piece of clothing, every birthday gift and nearly every purchase that you've made over the last few years.


          Organizing all of these items can seem like an overwhelming task, especially when all of life's other responsibilities seem to get in the way. Thankfully, tidying up around the house can be accomplished in a stress-free way with these 12 simple home organization tips.

          1. Break down this large project into small chunks.
            Do you have an entire day to organize your home? Neither do we.  The best way to tackle this project is to divide it into mini-projects that you can integrate into your schedule. When do you have time available to focus on your home? Even if you only have 10 minutes per day, you can organize your home within a few minutes just by concentrating on one small area.
          2. Finish the task you start before beginning a new one.
            There are distractions aplenty when you're organizing your home and with those distractions comes the temptation to stop what you're doing and focus on other tasks. Nip this idea in the bud and make sure you always finish what you started before moving on.
          3. Get rid of what you can.
            Everyone has a pile of items that sit unused for years in the closet or drawer. Purge this clutter from your home and make sure you save that space for efficient storage.
          4. Don't buy more until you know where it's stored.
            Purchasing storage bins to "store your stuff" can instantly create bulky boxes full of clutter. Before adding anything to your home, including storage tools, make sure these items have an organized home.
          5. Ditch your junk drawer.
            It's called the "junk" drawer for a reason. Cull through it and find real homes for what you need to keep.
          6. Sort wisely.
            If your sock drawer has extra room, it's okay to store another similar item in there. Though some items should be separated, you can sort two small groups together to manage your spaces wisely.
          7. Eliminate common clutter spots.
            Does your mail stack up on the kitchen counter while your dining room table collects shopping bags or school supplies? Identify these "dump spaces" and find these items a convenient home that won't create additional clutter.
          8. Clear your mind.
            Stop and breathe. Organizing a home is a mighty task, and it can feel overwhelming at times. Be sure to take breaks to clear your mind and rely on checklists or voice memos to help keep you organized as you organize.
          9. Take your family to task.
            Once you've organized a space, make sure your family understands the importance of that area's organizational system.
          10. Clean out your car.
            If you've got a trunk or backseat full of items that belong in the house, find a home for them while you're organizing instead of waiting until you're finished. 
          11. Define your spaces.
            Is your workout equipment in the spare bedroom because that's where you exercise or because it doesn't have a home? As you define what each space is used for, make sure to clear out items that don't belong in that designated area.
          12. Don't overdo it on the labeling.
            A label maker is a great tool but be cautious before your label your entire organizational system. You may need to modify it shortly which will create an unnecessary new labeling project.
          January
          31

          10 Skills Every New Homeowner Should Have

          Homeownership is an investment in your future. As with all investments, your home requires constant vigilance and a little maintenance along the way to protect its value. When you buy a home, the following are ten skills you should master as soon as you sign on the dotted line. 

          1. Gutter Clean-Out
            You should clean your home's gutters of leaves and debris twice a year. A leaf blower, hose, and broom handle can make this job a little bit easier. Cleaning the gutters help protect your roof and siding from water infiltration. It also helps ensure proper drainage away from the foundation.
          2. Adjusting the Water Temperature
            Learning how to set the thermostat on your water heater can generate significant energy savings. Most homeowners find that 120 degrees are sufficient for their needs. Raise the temp when company comes, lower it when they go home. If you do this, you will have plenty of hot water, and your energy bills won't go through the roof.
          3. Air Filter Replacement
            Air filters do more than protect the air quality within the home. They are an integral component of your heating system that regulates the flow of air into the unit. When the filter is clogged, the airflow is reduced. This diminishes operational efficiency and can shorten the lifespan of the unit. Depending on the filter and pollution levels, you should change the air filters every 30-90 days.
          4. Faucet/Toilet Repair
            Leaky faucets can drain your wallet. Learning how to tighten the valves, replace rubber washers, and adjust the water flow can help you stem the flow of cash to the water company. The same is true for toilets that can flow uncontrolled when the float, chain, or flapper within the toilet tank break.
          5. Natural Gas Shut-Off
            It is crucial to know how to shut the gas off in an emergency. When natural gas leaks occur, it is critical to vacate the home immediately, contact the gas company, and turn the shut-off valve which is typically located on the outdoor meter.
          6. Controlling the Power
            Your circuit breakers should be labeled, and you should know where the grounded outlets are within your home. It is a good idea to experiment and determine which breakers control which outlets, and the capacity of each of these outlets. This can help you prevent overloading the breaker as you settle in and unpack.
          7. Landscaping 101
            You should know how to mow the grass, trim the shrubs, rake leaves, etc. You will also want to learn how to care for the plants, flowers, trees, etc. within your existing landscape. 
          8. Sealing Air Leaks
            Air leaks around doors and windows can suck your wallet dry. Learning how to detect air leaks and apply weather stripping or caulk is a valuable homeowner skill worth mastering. Sealing air leaks can save you up to 15% on your heating and cooling bills throughout the year.
          9. Appliance Maintenance
            Refrigerators, stoves, microwaves, washers, and dryers all require regular maintenance. This is outlined within the owner's manuals which you should keep together for easy reference. Failing to perform these maintenance tasks can void the warranty, so it is not something you want to ignore. 
          10. Painting & Patching Walls
            You don't have to become Michelangelo, but you will want to know how to paint over scratches and repair holes. Learning how to fix the damage and paint over your handiwork can keep each room within your home in pristine condition.  
          January
          24

          What a Smart Idea: Using Tech for a Safer Home

          Purchasing a home is one of the most substantial investments you'll ever make. To protect this investment, you want to make sure that you're proactively ensuring that your home is as safe as it can be, inside and out. Thankfully, keeping your family safe couldn't be easier!


          Recent advancements in home improvement technology enable you to secure your property and belongings from the palm of your hand. Read on to discover how integrating the latest tech is a smart way to create a safer home.

          • Surround Your Home With High-Tech Security
            Home safety is a home improvement project that you can quickly and affordably accomplish. The number of high-tech alarm systems alone is a massive upgrade over the old deadbolt door lock. Motion sensor lighting and smart security cameras are affordable options for every home. These devices can be timed or run continuously to deter strangers from lurking around the house.

            Most recently, the invention of smart doorbells has enabled homeowners to know who is at their doorstep. All of these devices can also be controlled and monitored via smartphones which means you're never far from home.
          • Secure Your Living Space With Smart Tech
            Although your exterior may be well-protected, you should also be concerned about the interior of your home — particularly your family. Remote home monitoring devices can track the movement within your home and send alerts to your smartphone. You can also monitor and control smart appliances to confirm that these machines are off and don't accidentally cause a fire. One of the most useful resources is a smart carbon monoxide detector that sends updates to homeowner's smartphones alerting them of smoke detection and low battery life.

            For those who may have loved ones living alone, these security home improvement projects can also help you care for them from afar. Fall detection monitoring equipment and emergency notification necklaces can immediately alert you to any accidents or injuries that your older or disabled family member may sustain.
          • Protect Your Digital Home as Well
            With a reliable home security system, it's easy to forget that there are other ways your privacy can be invaded. Unfortunately, your automated home systems can be compromised, especially from the smartphones or computers that control these systems. You always want to ensure that your data and devices are protected by strong passwords that are not easy to hack.

            One way you can achieve this is by using a password manager. These services store all of your passwords in a secure vault that is reinforced by layers of digital protection. This keeps all of your information protected while managing all of your different passwords under a single, secure account. 

           

          January
          10

          Getting the Dirt on Composting

          Memorable landscapes don't just appear out of thin air. While many people consider the trees, shrubs, and the flowers in the flowerbeds to be the anchors of a magnificent landscape, the reality is less glamorous and far dirtier. Anchoring these elements to the landscape is an easily overlooked foundation of thick and healthy compost. Without the compost, the flowers won't blossom and bloom, and the trees won't grow as tall as they can. When home improvement is on the agenda, overlooking the compost is a mistake that you don't want to make.

          Compost 101
          Healthy compost suitable for home improvement projects contains a balanced combination of ingredients that are rich in nitrogen and carbon. Sometimes called the "browns and greens," your brown ingredients are rich in nitrogen. These components include dried leaves, straw, cardboard, paper, and dried grass. On the green, carbon-rich side, you can use fresh grass clippings, vegetable scraps, egg shells, and leaves. It also includes manure. 

          Creating Your Compost Pile
          It is best to use a closed bin for your compost pile. This gives you a little bit more control over the process. Many gardeners recommend placing the bin in a sunny area as the warmth from the sunlight helps expedite the composting process.

          Once the bin is positioned, fill the bottom 6-8 inches of the bin with brown material. This helps absorb moisture and facilitates aeration within the pile. From there, you will want to layer your greens and browns. Each layer should be between 4 to 6 inches thick. A good rule of thumb is to build your pile at a 4 to 1 ratio of browns to greens.

          Once your pile is built, cover the top with a cap of green material that is 3-4 inches thick. This helps seal the pile and helps control the amount of moisture that can leach into the pile. When you want to add to the pile, set aside the green, carbon-rich cap, place the new material in the bin, and place the cap back on. 

          Managing Your Compost
          For the most part, composting is a waiting game that takes between 6 months to a year to complete. However, there are some minor things you need to do along the way. Many people find that turning the compost pile every two weeks helps speed the process up by dispersing the heat evenly within the pile. You may also want to add redworms, coffee grounds, and microbes as the pile matures.

          A Word About Watering
          Compost should be no wetter than a sponge that has been wrung-out. It should not be soggy and boggy. It is advisable to check the moisture within the pile in the spring, summer, and fall. If the pile is dry, add just enough water to moisten it. During the winter, you will want to add water sparingly and only on those days when it won't immediately freeze.

          Applying Your "Black Gold" to the Landscape
          When the compost is ready, there are four ways you can use it for home improvement around the landscape. You can spread it as a mulch 2-3 inches thick in flowerbeds. You can bury it 4 inches deep as a soil amendment beneath planted flowers. You can steep a shovel full in a 5-gallon bucket and create a tea that you can spray on the grass or around flowers and shrubs. Finally, you can spread about an inch on your grass, rake it, and let it settle into the soil. Each of these methods will help you create a healthy and vibrant landscape around your home.   

           

          January
          3

          Trees Add Beauty and Value to Your Home

          The right trees can offer many valuable benefits for homeowners. Trees are a well-recognized symbol of stability. They convey the owner's dedication to home improvement and maintaining the property. When chosen with care and strategically planted, trees are capable of adding plenty of greenery to your wallet when you decide to sell your home.  


          How Trees Add Value to the Home


          Adding well-trimmed trees as part of your home improvement plans creates considerable curb appeal. This attracts buyers and can increase the value of a property by 15% or more. Healthy, well-maintained trees convey an ambiance of longevity. They also promote privacy while providing places to hang swings and build tree houses. These benefits make the home more valuable for homebuyers with young children and those seeking to own a peaceful retreat to relax within. 

          There are many other added benefits to including trees in your landscape. Trees can help deter and reduce property crime. They also create a peaceful, friendly atmosphere within the neighborhood. These factors have a positive influence on the value of the home as well as homes on surrounding streets.    

          Trees Provide a Firm Foundation for Landscaping


          Effective landscaping requires creating a healthy ecosystem within the yard. Trees perform numerous tasks in this regard. They help stabilize the soil and reduce erosion, provide biomass that promotes healthy lawn growth and provide shelter for birds and insects that pollinate flowers and control pests. During the summer months, the canopy helps protect the lawn from scorching and reduces water evaporation. They also help to filter the air around the property which can reduce air pollution. 


          From the perspective of landscape design, trees define the yard. They provide firm boundaries between property lines, flower beds, and other fixed features. They determine pathways, create shade over a patio, or block a neighbor's view of the backyard.  

          Trees Trim Utility Bills, Protect the Home, & Reduce Pollution


          Tall trees with broad foliage can provide shade and reduce the amount of sunlight that reaches the home. This reduces heat gain which in turn lowers cooling costs in the summer months. This is a significant benefit that eco-conscious home buyers will notice and appreciate as they consider their real estate purchase.


          Trees also help protect the property from damaging winds. Tall trees located around the boundaries of the property can reduce wind speeds on the home by as much as 60%. This helps reduce the potential for damage to siding, windows, shingles, etc. Further, trees reduce noise pollution on the property and can significantly reduce noise from nearby streets, highways, airports, trains, etc.    


          The Most Valuable Trees


          Trees that are visually appealing and require minimal maintenance are the most appealing home improvement choices. In this regard, Maple trees, Crepe Myrtle, and various species of Evergreens are ideal choices. These trees provide plenty of shade in the summer and create beautiful displays in the fall. Evergreens provide year-round color and privacy to the yard. However, you will want to avoid Evergreen Conifers, and Leylandii Cypress as these particular fast-growing trees require significant maintenance and can create fire hazards as they grow. 


          Other popular tree choices for home improvement include fruit-bearing trees. Cherry, peach, and plum trees are beautiful in the spring and provide plenty of fresh fruit for homeowner's to enjoy. In more temperate climates, lemon, lime, orange, and mandarin trees are some of the most popular. As with all landscaping choices, it is advisable to choose trees that are native to the area and well-suited to survive the seasonal changes in the region.

          December
          20

          5 Ways to Brighten Your Home This Winter

          Winter has arrived again and brought darker, colder days with it.  Those gloomy days may make your home, and its surroundings feel drab as well. Before you let winter get the best of you, try some of these easy home improvement tips for brightening up your home.

          1. Declutter and Redecorate
            A cluttered home gives an oppressive and unwelcome vibe. Begin by removing any unused furniture since an open space appears not only cleaner but brighter and happier. Rearrange the furniture, so it highlights your windows, lighting, and mirrors.  Avoid placing furniture near windows or the door wall. Consider adding some reflective mirrors because they will let in even more sunlight.
          2. Let More Natural Light In
            Improving your windows is the number one way to brighten up your home. Sometimes, that's as easy as washing them and removing the winter grime that's blocking the sunlight. Clean them at least once a month during the winter to keep this up. Consider removing the window screen as well, since it also blocks the sun.  Change your drapes to white or sheer ones, and open them first thing in the morning to let the sunlight in.
          3. Change Your Lightbulbs
            The right lighting impacts your home's vibe, but it's an easy home improvement fix. Nowadays, light bulbs come in a plethora of colors to enhance the feel and look of a room. Certain shades and tones may work better in different rooms or even different fixtures. Consider using cool bulbs that mimic sunlight to brighten your home during the day, but placing softer bulbs in lamps for an evening rosy glow.
          4. Lighten Up Your Color Palette
            Darker rooms absorb light. With that in mind, consider painting your walls white or cream and pops of color to brighten it up. You can leave one wall a brighter color like blue.  Also, adding white or cream slipcovers over your couches the room seem lighter and gives it a brighter feel. Again, supplementing it with some colorful throw blankets and pillows gives it a pop of saturation.  Gold and pink throw pillows brighten up a room and add a comfortable yet stylish décor.
          5. Let Hardwood Floors Shine
            If you still lack some natural light, consider removing your area rugs for the next few months.  The light that peaks through the windows reflects of your beautiful hardwood floors and onto your walls. If it's too cold without a rug, at least downsize to a smaller cream or white area rug.

          These are just a few of many ways to brighten your home during the cold, dreary winter.  What are your favorite home improvement tips to brighten up your home?

          December
          6

          Is a Fix in the Mix When I'm Selling?

          When you're selling your home, it is to present it in the best possible light. From tackling home improvement projects to staging an open house, small details can make all the difference in the world to a potential buyer. 

          When it comes to fixing up your house, it's important to pick your battles carefully. Some home improvements can help boost the resale value of your property, while others spend money you won't get back. Here's what you need to know about what to fix, and what not to fix when you're selling your home. 

          Fixing Cosmetic Problems
          There are two ways to look at minor cosmetic blemishes – the kinds of issues that don't affect a home's functionality but do make it look run-down or outdated. 

          Painting a room is an inexpensive way to correct a home's cosmetic problems.  However, many of today's buyers are willing to overlook flaws dive into DIY projects after they buy a house. 

          Fixing cosmetic flaws is a judgment call. Weigh the value of your own time and effort against the relatively small effect that cosmetic improvements are likely to have on your home's value, and decide if it's worth it. Either way, most of your efforts should be focused on making sure your home's major systems are in good shape. 

          Fixing the Big Stuff
          While buyers are usually able to overlook flaking paint and outdated carpeting, they're much less likely to spring for a house that needs new plumbing or has major electrical issues. It's essential that you make sure the "bones" of your house are solid. That means making sure the plumbing, wiring and HVAC systems are up to par, and that the roof and foundation are sound. If any of these areas are lacking, it's important to fix them up – or hire a professional to do so – before selling your home. 

          Kitchen and Bathroom Updates
          Conventional wisdom says that the kitchen and bathroom are the essential rooms in the house to a potential buyer, and this is true – up to a point. The problem is, many sellers sink a ton of money into kitchen and bathroom remodeling right before they sell their house, only to discover that they might not get that money back. 

          Many buyers plan to remodel these rooms anyway, so anything you do could end up being erased as soon as your home changes hands. Besides, do you want to finally create your dream kitchen and bath, right before selling your house? As a general rule, don't spend too much on your kitchen and bathroom, unless they are in such bad shape that they would prevent anyone from ever wanting to buy your house.  

          Avoiding Trends
          When you do decide to make home improvements before selling, it's important to avoid doing anything too trendy. Tastes change so quickly that today's hot color or design could look hopelessly out of date within a year.  Stick with neutral colors and timeless design elements, so your house will appeal to the broadest range of buyers for as long as it may be on the market. 

          December
          6

          Tips for Picking an Interior Decorator

          Have you decided to hire a professional interior decorator? Perhaps you are moving into a new home, or maybe you want to update your current décor. An interior decorator can offer you insights and skills that go beyond aesthetics. They can help with space maximization and turning unused space into livable areas.

          Expertise for Any Home
          Interior decorators aren't just for the rich and famous. Yes, the affluent do use them to plan their home furnishings. At the same time, interior decorators excel at optimizing your budget to make your home stunning, well planned, and more useful. You can choose an interior decorator to design and execute a project for your whole house, or you can hire one to help with a smaller project.


          An interior decorator can assist with advice on paint colors, fabric sourcing, lighting, space planning, and furniture shopping. Hiring an interior decorator can also be on an "as needed" basis when your budget allows. This gives you access to expertise and insight while enabling you to fulfill your vision of a perfect home for you and your family.


          Once you have decided to hire an interior decorator, you need a plan to select the right professional for your project. Here are some tried and true recommendations for finding an interior decorator.


          Where to Look
          Doing a quick internet search may be a good starting point, but you need more information before actually hiring an interior decorator. Consider these three steps as well:

          1. Interview your prospective interior decorator. You may fall in love with a particular look in a model home or ad in a magazine, but the best way to know if that decorator can produce the same effect in your home is to sit down and talk to that person.
          2. Ask friends and family for recommendations. If you have family or neighbors who used a professional decorator, talk to them about the experience. If it was positive, consider contacting that interior decorator as a starting point.
          3. Go through a professional organization. Your city may have a chapter of the American Society of Interior Designers (ASID). You can search their list of local members or use their referral service.

          Professional Certification
          If this is your first time choosing an interior decorator, you may feel more comfortable hiring one with professional certification. Some states regulate the interior design industry and require specific education and degrees to obtain a state certification. Also, an individual may be required to pass a certification exam by the National Council for Interior Design Qualification (NCIDQ).


          ASID accreditation means that your decorator has completed the required experience and education to meet state guidelines. Also, they will be up-to-date on building codes as well as project management. This is especially pertinent if your project involves construction and subcontractors.


          If your interior design project does not need an accredited interior designer, you can interview interior decorators that focus on less complex projects.


          As with any project, assessing your specific needs and desires is the best place to start. Do you want help coordinating colors and fabrications? Do you want expertise in maximizing space in a small kitchen? Once you have your objectives clearly defined, finding the right interior decorator will go much more smoothly.

          November
          29

          7 Ways to Use Essential Oils In Your Home

          There are a ton of reasons to incorporate essential oils into your family's daily lives. Not only can they infuse every room with uplifting scents, but many also have medicinal and anti-bacterial properties. This makes them perfect for treating common ailments and cleaning your home without toxic chemicals.

          When you're first getting started with using essential oils, it can feel a bit intimidating. However, once you understand the ways to use them around your home, you'll see just how easy it is. Here are a few ideas to help you get started.

          1. Freshen the Air
            Make a homemade air freshener spray by combining half a teaspoon of rubbing alcohol, 10 to 20 drops of your favorite oil, and water. Use a dark-colored glass spray bottle to help keep the oils from breaking down or oxidizing.

            Orange, grapefruit, and lemon are favorite scents to use in the kitchen and bathroom. If you like a stronger smell, try using peppermint, rosemary, or eucalyptus.

          2. Deter Bugs and Rodents
            If you don't feel great about using pesticides or poisons in your home, you're in luck. Peppermint essential oil deters ants, spiders, mosquitoes, and even mice. Dab some on your skin, clothing, and furniture to keep pests away. You can also soak cotton balls with the oil and leave them in the areas in your home where these unwelcome guests are likely to enter.

          3. Wash Fruits and Veggies
            Most fruits and vegetables are covered in harmful pesticides as well as germs from all the hands that have touched them before they've reached your kitchen. Plain water isn't effective, and store-bought veggie washes are expensive. Instead, make your own by mixing apple cider vinegar, baking soda, water, and ten drops of lemon essential oil. Store the mix in a glass spray bottle for convenient use.

          4. Make Bath Time More Relaxing
            Adding essential oils to your bath is one of the best ways to relax and unwind after a long day. Start by filling your tub with warm water, then add a mixture of either a few tablespoons of olive oil or two cups of unscented Epsom salts with a few drops of your favorite essential oil. Some of the best oils for bath time include jasmine, sandalwood, rose, or lavender. 

          5. Clean and Disinfect
            The anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, and antiseptic properties of essential oils make them perfect for including in homemade cleaners. Try mixing lemon, sweet orange, lavender, melaleuca, or tea tree oils with diluted castile soap. For a stronger cleaner, combine 1/4 cup of white vinegar, 2 cups of water, and 30 drops of essential oil like wild orange, eucalyptus, a mix of grapefruit and lavender, or a protective blend like Thieves.

          6. Natural Headache Relief
            Essential oils also help ease headaches. Mix almond oil with a drop or two of chamomile, frankincense, rosemary, or lavender essential oil. Rub the blend on your temples, back of your neck, and pulse points. Close your eyes, breathe deeply and watch your headache pain disappear.

          7. Get a Better Night's Sleep
            Lavender is known for its relaxing properties, making it the perfect oil to diffuse right before bedtime. You can also mix it in a spray bottle with water and spray a fine mist on your bedsheets or pillowcases. Some users also like to soak a cotton ball with a few drops of lavender oil and keep it in their pajama drawer.

          This is just the beginning of the incredible things you can do with essential oils. Don't be afraid to experiment with more fun projects like making your own hand lotions, dryer sheets, candles, and more. Once you start to get comfortable, the possibilities are virtually endless!

          November
          22

          7 Steps to Make Your Home Guest Ready

          Are you hosting guests anytime soon? You may wonder how to have your home ready to receive your guests when they arrive. Leave the stress behind and follow a simple plan to ensure that you can focus on family and friends rather than worry about mopping floors or washing windows. 


          Instead, do these seven little things, and your guests are sure to feel comfortable and relaxed in your home.


          You can make this your low-pressure checklist to keep on hand each day during the holiday season. If you can't do each one every week, don't worry! Put aside about an hour each day to tidy up, but target these areas for the greatest return on investment for home improvement even beyond the holidays.

          1. Vacuum. You may want to consider getting a lightweight electric broom, but quickly running the vacuum in the rooms where your guests will be is a must. These include the entryway, dining room, bathroom, guest room, and living room.
          2. Clean the bathroom. If you only have time to clean one room thoroughly, this should be the guest bathroom. Many guests will overlook a little dust under the coffee table or some lint on the carpet. However, a dirty bathroom is rather unpleasant. Clean the sink and toilet. Wipe the mirror, and keep extra toilet paper within reach. Put out fresh hand towels, empty the trash can, and consider lighting a scented candle in the bathroom before everyone arrives.
          3. Wipe down the kitchen counters and sweep the floor. Cooking for guests is hard work sometimes, and your kitchen counters may show it. Take a few moments to clear the counters and wipe them down. The same goes for the floor. You may not have time to mop, but sweep the floors to remove fallen food particles and other debris.
          4. Clear the kitchen sink of dirty dishes. Load the dishwasher and start it. Do this before your guests arriving. If you have a little time, you can unload it before everyone sits down for dinner. If not, at least the sink is clean without dirty dishes stacked high.
          5. Dust and straighten. Target the areas where your guests will be and remove the clutter. Then dust all the surfaces. This means the electronics, side tables, coffee tables, and shelves. At the same time, you can adjust the lighting by turning off overhead lights and turning on lamps instead. Add some candles for warmth. This will help draw the attention away from areas you didn't have time to deep clean while making everyone feel cozy.
          6. Fluff the pillows on the couch and chairs. Home improvement can be as simple as this. Did you take a nap on the sofa while dinner was cooking? That's great! Remember to fluff the pillows after, and your living room will look inviting.
          7. Have a place set for handbags and coats. This one step will help you appear completely ready for guests at any time. If you have an entryway coat rack, clear it to make room for your guest's coats and umbrellas. Or pick a bed in one of the bedrooms to clear in advance for everyone to place their items.

          Finally, put on some music, relax and enjoy your guests!

          November
          15

          Preparing Your Home for Winter Weather

          A successful open house can hold the key to unlocking the sale of your home. If you're selling your home during the coronavirus pandemic, showing your home while following health and safety guidelines is a challenge. However, it's not impossible thanks to virtual open houses and showings.

          Virtual open houses and showings make it possible to keep your home sale going. There are plenty of things you can do to prepare for your virtual open house. Let's take a look at how to prepare your home.

          1. Plan the Walkthrough Path with Your Sales Associate
            Work with your sales associate to select the best path to walk through your home to show its best features during the virtual open house.
          2. Declutter & Depersonalize
            Clean and organize your home. Declutter spaces by finding homes for all objects. Before selling your home, remove all family photographs and other personal belongings that make the buyer feel like they're in "someone else's" home.
          3. Use the Right Lighting
            When you're preparing your home for a virtual open house, eliminate shadows and dark areas by opening the blinds and drapes and turn on lights throughout your home.
          4. Paint Walls Neutral Colors
            One way to make your space feel like a blank canvas for the buyer is to paint your walls neutral colors. Use whites, beiges, and grays to create a clean slate throughout.
          5. Stage the Home
            Although you may love your furniture, your buyers might not. Professional staging companies will gladly come into your home and highlight the best features of your home. Their choice of furniture and décor will also appeal to a wider audience, allowing buyers to envision themselves living in the home.
          6. Make a Cheat Sheet for Your Sales Associate
            Collaborate with your associate to prepare a "script" for them to use during the open house--highlight recent updates and renovations. Provide your associate with information about your home to make the best online presentation possible.

          Selling your home is an endeavor that requires patience, dedication, and hard work if you want to maximize your offer potential. 

          November
          8

          Want a Worry-Free Winter?

          Winter is well on its way, and let's face it, there are some home improvement projects that no one wants to tackle when the weather is frigid. Whether you're an optimistic do-it-yourself champion or prefer leaving the work to pros, these home improvement ventures can make a big difference in your home's comfort, efficiency, and safety.

          1. Revamp Your Roof
            If you've noticed missing or damaged shingles or any other visible signs of extreme wear on your roof, now's the time to take care of the problem, and a small leak when it rains only means there is a problem overhead which will get much worse over time. You may not need to replace your entire roof, and addressing damaged areas now will ensure that the added weight of ice and snow this winter won't compound the problem.

          2. Check Your Deck
            Just like your roof, your deck is under pressure to perform, especially when winter weather strikes. Areas that are already distressed or beginning to warp or rot are super susceptible to further damage and can be a real safety concern during the winter. Even if your deck is in good structural condition, it may have a buildup from several seasons of weather which could leave the surface slick and unsafe. Cleaning, treating, and painting it now will help avoid accidents this winter.

          3. Be Greedy With Your Heat
            It's bad enough that your electric and gas bills increase during the winter as you turn up the thermostat to keep your home cozy.  What's worse is some of that precious heat may be escaping from your home. One of the most important home improvement projects is to make your home more airtight and energy efficient. Check your windows now for damaged seals, cracks and drafts. Replacement windows are a relatively inexpensive way to boost your home's efficiency. Weatherstripping around doors can make a dramatic difference in keeping your home comfortable, and sealing leaky ductwork connected to your heating system will save you in energy costs.

          4. Schedule a Heating System Checkup
            Whether you heat with electric or gas, all home heating systems require regular maintenance. A heating professional can perform a maintenance check quickly, make necessary repairs, and offer suggestions for improved efficiency. Don't forget to change your furnace filters every month during the heating season to get the most out of your heating system.

          5. Avoid Plumbing Woes
            No one wants the headache and expense of frozen or burst pipes during the winter. Before the cold arrives, make sure any pipes that are exposed or prone to freezing are insulated. Outdoor spigots should be turned off, and the line leading to it drained. Also, drain and store garden hoses so they'll be in top shape next spring.

          6. Added Insulation
            To increase your home's warmth and ease the strain of heating bills on your wallet, consider adding insulation in a few places throughout your home. Putting insulation in the attic helps keep those winter drafts at bay and makes your furnace run less frequently. Insulating your water heater is an easy way to make it operate more efficiently especially when it is in the basement or crawlspace where it tends to be cooler.

          All of these simple home improvement ideas will make it much easier to remain worry-free throughout the winter months ahead.

          November
          1

          6 Easy DIY Insulation Projects

          Winter is on its way, and with temperatures creeping a little lower every day, many homeowners are turning their attention to their home's insulation. Boosting your home's insulation is a great way to keep the cold from creeping in. It's also a home improvement that helps energy efficiency and can significantly lower your heating bills. 

          If you're wondering whether that might be easier said than done, we have some good news. These simple DIY insulation projects can have a significant impact on your home's efficiency and require only a modest amount of time and effort. Get started today, and enjoy a more well-insulated house this winter!

          1. Get a Door Snake
            Here's a test. Hold your hand near the crack at the bottom of your door on a cold day. Feel a draft? If so, it is costing you. Placing a door snake at the foot of your door is quick, easy, cheap, and an incredibly effective way to insulate drafty doors. A rolled-up blanket or towel will do in a pinch. 

          2. Hang Heavy Curtains
            Light, flowy curtains might look nice in summer, but winter requires something different. Hanging curtains made of a heavier material helps insulate your windows, keeping precious heat inside where you want it.

          3. Seal Up Your Windows
            A lot of cold air can seep into your house through tiny gaps and cracks around windows. Seal these gaps with weather stripping – narrow pieces of vinyl, rubber, foam or metal – and be sure to check around door frames as well. And of course, while your attention is on your windows, it's always a good idea to put install storm windows in fall to provide an extra layer of insulation.

          4. Caulk Around Dryer and Bathroom Vents
            The place where dryer and bathroom vents enter your house is an often-overlooked air leak. These vents often go years without being properly sealed, which can cost you a lot on your heating bills in the long run. Checking your vents for a proper seal is an easy DIY home improvement job, and make sure you have a tube of caulk on hand to make that seal a little more secure. 

          5. Add Attic Insulation
            In many homes, the attic is the number one place where heat escapes, so it's essential it be well insulated. Adding insulation is a surprisingly simple job, whether you plan to install rolled insulation or spread around some loose paper insulation. One key to remember is that the floor of your attic must be well insulated to prevent heat from rising and only warming the attic. If you have a door on your ceiling that leads to the attic, you can buy and easily install an insulating insert to keep all your heat from seeping through that door. 

          6. Insulate Your Water Heater
            Your water heater could be another major source of energy loss, especially if it's an older model, or if it isn't insulated properly. Adding an insulation blanket to your water heater can cut your heating bill by as much as 16%. Just be sure you know whether you have a gas water heater or electric; the insulation will need to be installed differently depending on the type. 
          October
          25

          Picking the Best Windows for Your Climate

          When it comes to home improvement projects, window replacement offers a variety of advantages. From increased efficiency and comfort to the added home value and enhanced curb appeal, you simply can't go wrong.


          Considering the vast number of options on the market today, it's understandable how picking the best windows for your climate can be a bit overwhelming. 


          So when it's time to replace your windows, it's important to carefully consider a number of factors in order to make the best choice for you and your family.  Here's what you should know about choosing the right windows for your home and climate. 


          Glass Considerations 

          For homes in average climates with cold winters and hot summers, consider a low-E coating. This will help to reflect the sun and reduce glare, providing you with better climate control for your home year round. 


          If you live in a warmer climate that's mostly sunny, choosing a glass that has a very low SHG coefficiency will help to reduce the amount of solar heat gain. Adding a low-E coating can help you to further reflect the sun and maintain maximum efficiency for your home. 


          For homes in colder climates, a single or double-glaze for your glass can help reduce utility costs by as much as half! You'll also want to look for glass options with a higher SHG to utilize the heat from the sun. 


          Material Choices

          As technology and science advances, new window frame material choices offer a number of additional advantages for homeowners. For relatively warm and sunny climates, vinyl makes the best choice. Vinyl windows can be insulated to keep heat from entering your home and require little to no maintenance. 


          For low-moisture climates, wood and vinyl-clad wood windows are great for home improvement projects. It's important to note that these types of window frames can have a higher cost and requires a moderate amount of upkeep.


          Fiberglass and vinyl-clad windows are best suited for colder climates that experience ice and/or snow. These materials offer superior insulation and thermal performance during winter storms. 


          Final Considerations

          Regardless of what type of climate you live in, it's highly recommended to choose a double or triple pane window. This will provide your home with the best climate control and help to keep your home and family comfortable year round. It's important to note that poor installation can render your windows useless, regardless of the quality of your materials. As with any home improvement project, quality workmanship and professional installation services are essential to getting the best performance and efficiency from your new windows. 

           

          October
          18

          How to Find a Home Fire Extinguisher

          As you plan home improvement projects, consider focusing on fire safety. As the National Fire Protective Association explains, home fires occur more frequently during winter than any other season. Candles, open flames, and holiday decorations cause winter fires, but home heating equipment is the biggest contributor. You need fire extinguishers in your kitchen, garage, and other critical areas of your home.

          Just as with any home improvement project, you have options. When you choose fire extinguishers for your home, it's essential to make the right choice. Consider these options:  

          • Get the Right Type
            It's important to buy the extinguisher type that best fits your circumstances. Type A for wood, paper, and plastic, etc. Type B is for flammable oils and vehicle fluids. As Type C units don't conduct electricity, you can use them on electrical fires.

            Use Type D extinguishers on flammable metals in industrial operations. Restaurants use Type K extinguishers for vegetable and animal oil fires. Type ABC is a multi-use extinguisher. You can also purchase a BC extinguisher for use on class B and C fires.

          • Get the Right Size
            Home fire extinguishers come in a variety of sizes. You should choose the largest size you will feel comfortable handling in an emergency.

          • Rechargeable versus Disposable
            As you plan your home improvement safety project, you should consider whether you want to purchases rechargeable or disposable extinguishers. Disposable units have plastic fixtures while rechargeable units are mostly metal. The metal units are more durable and also more expensive. They're your best option when you want to cut back on plastic products.

            A rechargeable fire extinguisher could be more cost efficient in the long run, but you'll have two fundamental issues:

            • You'll have to remember to get it recharged.
            • You have to find a location that will recharge it. Firstalert.com advises consumers that only certified fire equipment dealers or service companies should refill them. Refill costs vary depending on the contents and unit size. Local fire departments in some areas will do a recharge for free or for a reasonable price.

            Disposable extinguishers are a good option if you don't want the hassle of finding a service company for a refill. They're disposable, but because they're hazardous waste, you can't put empty units in your household trash or recycle bin. You'll have to check around for a recycling center that takes them. 

          • Know If It's Charged
            Each extinguisher has a small round gauge that tells you if it's time to recharge or buy a new one. When your extinguisher is charged, the needle inside the gauge points to the green or full area. If it points to red/empty, that means it's empty, or it's lost pressure.

          • Fire Extinguisher Safety Tips
            To make the most of your fire extinguishers, you should place them in convenient locations in rooms with potential fire hazards: kitchen, workroom, garage, etc. You should also keep them in good working condition and understand how to use them. Think PASS: Point, Aim, Squeeze, Sweep. Never try to use an extinguisher to fight a fire that's out of control and never get too close. 

          Your Home Safety Plan

          Fire extinguishers are a perfect idea when you're planning a home improvement project with a focus on safety. They work hand-in-hand with your smoke detectors in keeping your home and family safe.

          October
          11

          How to Choose the Right Grass Seed

          For many people, a beautiful lawn is one of the most enjoyable parts of homeownership.  If your lawn isn't quite how you'd like it, sprucing it up is a great home improvement project.


          If you've never had a lawn before, it can be a little overwhelming at first. There are many different types of grasses, fertilizers, and rules for lawn care to learn.


          Luckily, you can pick up the basics quickly with a few fast facts.  And, once you do, the results you get can be marvelous. 

          What Grass Do You Need?


          There are two main types of grass to know about:

          1. Warm Season - Warm season grass tends to go dormant and turn brown in cool or cold temperatures. Bermuda, Zoysia, Bahia, and St. Augustine are some of the most common types of warm season grass. For optimal year-round growth, they should be planted in spring and reseeded during the winter.
          2. Cold Season - Cold season grass will tend to grow dormant and may brown in the height of the summer months. Fescue, Ryegrass, and Kentucky Bluegrass are among the most popular cold season selections. Since these types originate in northern climates, they grow in the spring and the fall.

          Buying the Right Seed


          Types of seed for sale include:

          1. Straight Seed - This type of package includes just one kind of seed. It's common with warm season grass.
          2. Seed Mixture - These packets contain various seeds that each balance one another's strengths and weaknesses.
          3. Blended Mixture - These mixes contain several types of the same grass species, leveraging their unique strengths.
          4. Lawn Repair Mixture - Grass seed, fertilizer, and mulch are combined in these packages, which help fix lawn damage.

          When choosing a seed mixture, there are some considerations you need to know. Any good seed mix will indicate precisely how much of each type of seed the package contains. Avoid any packets that are labeled "variety not stated," as this may indicate poor quality seeds.


          You should also look out for the germination percentage. This percentage gives the expected percent of seeds that will develop into grass under ideal conditions. Since conditions are rarely perfect, it's important to look for a germination percentage over 75%.


          Planting Your Grass


          Before planting new grass, work the soil with a sharp garden tool and remove all weeds and hard debris. Mix in organic material to aid in water retention, then rake the soil smooth. Spread the fertilizer evenly over the readied area, then plant the seeds. For best results, be careful to sow your seeds evenly. Every seed package will have directions for you to follow.


          Watering Your Grass


          Grasses have different water needs and tolerances for the amount of hydration they receive daily. While some grasses native to desert climes barely need water at all, most traditional turf grasses must be watered regularly. Daily watering is required at the outset of planting regardless of type.


          In the early growth phase, it's a good idea to layer straw or hay on top of the seeds. This process helps them get more moisture as the soil begins its development. Daily watering should continue until the grass is three inches high. Usually, watering can be scaled back to every other day after that.


          Creating a lawn you can be proud of is a home improvement project that gives plenty of joy to homeowners around the country. Unlike many other things you can do around your property, this is one home improvement project that could become a fascinating hobby for years to come.


          A strong start is all it takes – and now you know how.

          August
          30

          How to Remove Concrete Stains

          Tired of looking at concrete stains on your driveway, patio, or garage? Whether it's a new mess or an old stain, there are plenty of tricks to help you remove tough stains from concrete surfaces around your home. The key is finding the right tools for the job, and sometimes those tools vary depending on what type of stain you're working to remove. So let's roll up our sleeves, get the cleaning products ready, and learn how to tackle some of the most common types of concrete stains.

          • Removing Oil Stains
            Oil stains are among the most common concrete stains, especially in garages and driveways. The first key to removing oil stains is, if possible, to start working on the stain right away. Absorb as much oil as you can with clay or cat litter, and rub it into the stain with a stiff brush. Leave the cat litter or clay for at least an hour – or overnight for tough stains – then sweep it up. For new or small stains, this may be all you need.

            For severe oil stains, try using oven cleaner. Spray the oven cleaner over the stain, work it in with a stiff brush, and let it sit for 10 minutes. After that, spray it off with your hose on the highest setting.
          • Removing Rust Stains
            Rust stains can have many origins, from hard water in your irrigation system to metal patio furniture that has seen better days. Just like with oil stains, it helps to start working on rust stains as soon as possible when you spot them. For a new rust stain, a simple solution of white vinegar rubbed into the stain and left for 10 minutes before you wash it off, may be enough to get the job done.

            Older or larger rust stains may require a stronger cleaning solution. For those, you'll want to use a commercial rust remover, while making sure you wear the correct protective gear like eye and hand protection. 
          • Removing Mud and Other Organic Stains
            Whether you live in a forested area or merely have a few trees around, it's relatively easy for organic stains to form on concrete from leaves, mud, and other plant matter. Typically, these stains won't require a strong commercial cleaner. Instead, you can mix a solution of 1/8 cup dishwashing detergent with warm water in a spray bottle. Spray the stain, let it sit for ten minutes, then scrub vigorously with a stiff brush. When you're satisfied that the stain is gone, hose the area down thoroughly.
          • What about a Power Washer for Removing Stains?
            While we have focused on DIY tips that you can try mostly with items that are already around your house, there are other tools available that may help. Renting a power washer can be a great way to remove stains from concrete surfaces, though it won't always get rid of the toughest stains on its own. You can rent a power washer for a day from a local home improvement center, and the cost shouldn't be too expensive. Just make sure that you follow all of the instructions for using the machine, including wearing goggles and gloves to help protect you from the high-pressure water flow.

          Removing concrete stains can be a challenge, but it's easier when you remember that there's a tool for every job. Learn what works best for the type of stain you're trying to remove, and you can dramatically improve even the toughest stains.

           

          August
          2

          5 Simple Ways to Allergy-Proof Your Home

          Allergy sufferers of all ages are always on the lookout for ways to avoid the onset of symptoms. There are a number of steps you can take around your home to help relieve and prevent allergy symptoms. Here are five simple ways to allergy-proof your home.

          1. Doorway Deterrents
            One of the best ways to allergy-proof your home is by reducing the number of allergens that can gain entry to your home. Place 2 doormats at each door, one outside the door and one inside the door. This will greatly reduce the amount of irritants that make their way inside. It's also a good idea to ask family and friends to remove their shoes before venturing further into your home.

          2. Say Goodbye to Carpet
            One of the best ways to reduce the allergens in your home is to get rid of carpeting and padding. Carpeting is notorious for accumulating all types of allergens including dust, pollen, and even pet dander.

            Allergens are released into the air with each step you take on carpeting. By installing impervious flooring, you can significantly reduce the amount of allergens that may accumulate in your home.

          3. Upgrade to HEPA Filters
            HEPA filters are designed to trap microparticles of allergens and other contaminants in and around your home. By using HEPA filters with your heating and cooling system, you can minimize the potential allergens in your home year round. It's important to follow the manufacturer's guidelines for cleaning and replacing the filters in your heating and cooling system.

            You may also consider upgrading your vacuum to a model that includes a HEPA filter as well. This will help to reduce the allergens and other contaminants that may be trapped in carpeting, upholstery, and window treatments. Regularly vacuuming will help to prevent dust, dander, and pollen from exacerbating allergy symptoms.

          4. Curtain Call for the Curtains
            Curtains and drapes are known for harboring dust, mites, and other allergens. Binds and shades will harbor fewer allergens and are much easier to maintain. Dust-removal once a week with your vacuum's brush attachment will keep your window treatments allergen-free all year long.

          5. The Humid Factor
            High levels of humidity can lead to a greater risk of mold growth within your home. This not only increases the severity and frequency of allergy symptoms, mold growth poses a serious health risk to your family and guests.

            Making a small investment in a hygrometer can help you get a better understanding of your home's moisture levels. This device enables you to take a measurement of the humidity levels in each room—allowing you to pinpoint areas of concern. Adding dehumidifiers can also help to reduce excess humidity and relieve allergy symptoms. 
          July
          5

          Is Your Garage a Disaster?

          6 Easy Ways to Organize Your Garage


          Although you may have the best intentions for organizing and cleaning your garage, busy schedules can sometimes keep you from achieving this goal. If you find your garage space disappearing under clutter and you can no longer find your lawn chemicals, then it's time to organize it.

          1. The Big Clean-Out
            Set aside ample time for cleaning and organizing your garage – this could be a full day or a weekend. Make de-cluttering and organizing a family and friends project to make the process faster and fun. Make sure to go through everything in your garage. A good idea is to start by taking out everything that is in your garage.

          2. Sort All Items into Categories
            Once everything is outside, clean your garage thoroughly before putting anything back. Then sort all the items outside into four piles: Keep, sell, donate, and trash. Throw out outgrown toys, expired household chemicals, and items broken beyond repair.

            Sort all the items you plan to keep into categories (think hand tools or car supplies) and place them in either stackable clear-plastic bins or well-marked boxes. Donate the giveaways and toss the trash items as soon as possible.

            Remember to use overhead space wisely. Hang seasonal sports gear, ladders, and other items that you don't use every day. Make sure that these items don't scrap the roof of your car or interfere with your garage door's operation.

          3. Draft a Garage Floor Plan
            Take down the dimensions of your garage and note the location and size of everything from switches and receptacles to windows and doors. Also, note how much space your car(s) takes up.

            • Store items commonly used together, such as lawn chemicals and gardening tools, close to one another.
            • Put bulky equipment such as lawn mowers in corners or areas they will not easily get knocked over.
            • Place items you frequently use like bikes close to your garage door.
            • Stash rarely used or seasonal items in the harder-to-reach spots.

            Always think ahead when planning your garage. Leave some space for storing additional stuff or outdoor items such as summer toys and furniture during winter.

          4. Go Vertical
            Think vertically when looking to store items inside your garage. This allows you to keep items off the ground and create more space. If you install ready-made shelving cabinets or units, ensure that they are raised on legs, which allows you to clean the garage floor easily. Suitable vertical organizing systems include Pegboards, track-based systems, and panel systems.

          5. Open Shelves vs Closed Cabinets
            Open shelves are better for your garage than closed ones because:

            • They allow easy access so there is no need for added clearance space to swing cabinet doors open.
            • Closed cabinets give you an excuse to remain disorganized because you can simply stash away everything and hide the evidence.

            However, you need at least one lockable cabinet for storing sensitive or dangerous items, such as lawn chemicals, away from the reach of your kids. These cabinets are also suitable for storing items that need protection from airborne dirt and dust.

          6. Maintain Garage Organization
            After cleaning and organizing your garage, do not neglect the space. Maintain your organization scheme and clean your garage regularly. This should be easy if the garage floor is easily accessible and everything is in its rightful place.

          The Bottom Line

          The garage is a high traffic space that needs regular organizing and cleaning, which is why it's important to make it an ongoing concern. Always try and re-organize your garage once or twice a year.

           

          June
          14

          10 Reasons to Start Green Cleaning Today

          Our world changes around us daily, and with so many modern advances, it's easy to forget that sometimes simplicity has its own benefits. It's common to find an assortment of chemical-based cleaning products in most people's homes since most are prone to thinking that we need something different and specialized for each cleaning job. If you've never heard of green cleaning, you might be surprised to learn that there are alternative to all those different cleaners lurking beneath the sink or in the cabinet and that they offer plenty of benefits to you and your family. Here are a few reasons you should consider transitioning to green cleaning.

          • Chemical Cleaners Aren't Healthy
            Most cleaners marketed to the public contain various chemicals that simply are not good for you. If you see a warning label on your cleaner, it's there for a reason. From eye irritants to poison hazards, these products put your family at risk for harm. Natural based products aren't toxic and present far less potential for danger.

          • Less Chance of Chemical Reaction
            Commercialized, chemical cleaners usually also warn consumers that they are not to be mixed with other cleaners because of potential and dangerous chemical reactions including breathing hazards. Green cleaning products are plant-based and pose little to no risk.

          • Protect The Environment Instead of Damaging It
            Each of those sundry cleaning products has an impact on the environment each time you use them. Green cleaners are far better for the air, the ground, and the water we use.

          • Save Some Green by Going Green 
            You can actually save money by using green cleaning products since most of these cleaners are effective for multiple tasks. Buying green cleaners in larger containers or in bulk can help multiply your savings, and you won't have to worry about restocking as often.

          • Be Confident About the Products You Use
            Many chemical cleaners won't list exactly what's in the container, so you are left in the dark. Natural, green cleaners are usually transparent in disclosing their ingredients so you will know exactly what you're putting on your home's surfaces.
          • Streamline Your Cleaning Routine
            Since you can use green cleaning products for various chores, you'll save time being able to get more done in less time. No more switching from product to product.

          • Green Companies Care
            Not only do the makers of green cleaning products care about the natural environment, they often support it financially by giving back to charitable causes either locally or on a wider scale.

          • Influence Others To Make a Change
            Once you start seeing the benefits of green cleaning for yourself, you'll want to spread the word to friends, family, and colleagues. Why not be a green leader in your neighborhood?

          • Breathe Easier
            The use of chemical cleaners may get the job done, but they also put harmful chemicals right into the air you breathe. Green cleaning products won't harm your air, and there are no harsh odors involved when using them.

          • Customize Your Cleaning Products
            You might want to try making your own green cleaning products to save even more money, and you'll be able to experiment with scents by using different essential oils. There's plenty of online information to help you get started, and perhaps even some local resources or classes to show you how to make your own green cleaners.

          Your home is important both as a place of comfort and a place of safety. Green cleaning helps you make both a priority, giving you the confidence that your home is clean and healthy.

          May
          24

          Green Cleaning: All About Using Baking Soda in Your Home

          When you consider how often you have to clean, it makes sense to avoid exposure to the harsh chemicals some household cleaners contain.  One of the most versatile and effective green cleaning products you can use is baking soda. Here's how to get the most out of your cleaning routine with this powerful pantry staple. 

          • Why It Works
            Baking soda, also known as sodium bicarbonate, is a salt. Like other salts, baking soda is a neutral compound. If you remember high school chemistry that means it's not acidic. It's the base part of an acid-base reaction. And that reaction is what allows the baking soda to be effective at absorbing odors, cutting grease (when combined with vinegar), and general dirt busting.
          • Getting Rid of Odors
            There are tons of places this can come in handy. An open box in the refrigerator absorbs unpleasant smells (just remember to change it periodically). A small bowl of baking soda can absorb general room odors as well.  Sponges, carpet, upholstery, mattresses, pet beds, garbage cans, drains, garbage disposals and shoes can all benefit from its odor busting power.  Sprinkle it on, give it some time to absorb the odors and clean it up or wash it away. Add it to the litter box to help prevent unpleasant smells.
          • Use as a Mild Abrasive
            Have a surface that needs a good scrubbing? Try a baking soda and water paste. The outside of pots and pans, food containers, dishes, sinks, countertops and the white rings on your coffee table are all good candidates for a thorough scrubbing. Although it is gentler than many of its non-green counterparts, it's still a good idea to test in an inconspicuous area first. Used with vinegar, it's an effective grease cutting agent.
          • Outdoor Cleaning
            Try using baking soda to clean your grill or patio furniture. Baking soda is absorbent too so sprinkling some on spilled grease from your grill or an oil stain from your car can make clean up easier.
          • Grout and Tile Cleaner
            Mixed with hydrogen peroxide, baking soda is an effective grout and tile cleaner. The abrasiveness cleans off dirt and soap scum and the peroxide helps whiten and brighten.
          • Clean the Bathtub
            Baking soda can be used anywhere you would normally use a cleanser. Sprinkle it in the bathtub with some dish soap, scrub away the soap scum and rinse.
          • Clean the Inside of Your Oven or Refrigerator
            For the oven, sprinkle baking soda inside and spray with vinegar until it foams. This will help cut through grease and burned on spills. In the refrigerator, simply mix with water and use a sponge to clean. Rinse off afterward.
          • Laundry Stain Remover
            You can use baking soda as an add-in to help freshen your laundry. But it's also an effective stain remover. A mixture of one part lemon juice, one part water, ½ teaspoon salt and ½ teaspoon baking soda scrubbed into the fabric can have your white shirts free of sweat stains in no time.

          We spend a lot of time making our homes look their best and green cleaning with baking soda can have your whole home sparkling clean in no time.

          June
          7

          6 DIY Projects for Newbies

          Home improvement is a great way to build value in your home while you enjoy working with your hands.


          Many people enjoy DIY projects. Even if you never picked up a hammer before, there are plenty of projects that easy to start especially for the first-time homeowner.


          Some people discover that they love home improvement projects so much, they end up using their newfound skills to "fix and flip" homes for a living.


          Even if you have humbler ambitions, tackling some DIY projects is a great use of time and saves money on minor improvements.


          Let's look at some of them right now:

          1. Replace Door Knobs, Switch Plates, and Furniture Hardware
            All these items can be replaced quickly with a simple screwdriver. All you need to do is buy some replacements of the same size, pop them in, and re-tighten the screws. You'll be pleasantly surprised by how this can revitalize a room.
          2. Apply a Quick Coat of Paint
            Painting might look like a big job, but it's easier than it seems at first. A can of paint and a simple brush and roller combo will give you the chance to completely transform a room. With the right color palette, it can add thousands to your home's sale price.
          3. Refresh the Floors
            The floor may be down low, but it's one thing you should never overlook when renovating your home. The fastest and easiest DIY project for flooring is to rent a commercial carpet cleaner and do some deep cleaning. It can take as little as an hour per room.
          4. Brighten Your Light Fixtures
            Light fixtures are easier to replace than they are to repair, of course, and they can add a touch of beauty to any room when they're new. This fix uses the existing wiring, so all you have to do is be sure you've turned off your electric at the breaker panel before you go to work.
          5. Do a Little Landscaping
            You don't have to be a gardening aficionado to update your front yard and add a lot of curb appeal in the process. Putting in some shrubs and decorative paving stones from the local garden store can do the trick. Just be sure you select a hardy plant that doesn't need constant attention.
          6. Show Your Furniture Some TLC
            Everyone has a favorite chair, couch, table, dresser, or other item that's been around the block. You may not want to replace it, but you can give it new life. It's especially easy to bring wooden items back with sanding and a fresh coat of lacquer.


          Getting involved in a bit of DIY can give you a tremendous sense of satisfaction. Once you see the results you can get from a tiny bit of time and effort, the inspiration is likely to start flowing.


          All in all, these subtle touches – occasionally fixes, repairs, and updates – could make your home feel more comfortable and might even help you catch a buyer's eye when that time comes!

          May
          31

          Use Lighting to Transform Your Home

          Interested in giving the interior of your home a fresh, new look, but not interested in home improvement projects that require knocking down walls or major remodeling? While it is often overlooked by homeowners when redecorating, the lighting that you choose plays an important role in bringing out the best of your home. The right lighting can help you decorate your home in style, bring life to lesser used rooms, and even help small spaces appear bigger than they really are. Today, we're going to take a closer look at key tips for transforming your home with interior lighting.

          Lighten the Mood: Tips for Transforming Your Home with Interior Lighting


          Choosing the right lighting to transform your home depends on an understanding of the latest trends, along with the classic concepts of interior lighting. By taking advantage of both, you can create a unique, new look for your home.

          • Pendant Lighting Is In – Pendant lighting, which hangs from the ceiling, is a very popular look, especially in kitchen areas. It's perfect over a kitchen island, or for making a small room with a tall ceiling feel roomier than it actually is. You'll find plenty of unique, modern looks if you choose to shop for pendant lighting as part of your next home improvement project.

          • Spreading the Light Around – No matter what type of lighting you choose for a room, it's important to make sure that the light is spread around. One lamp or large light in the center of the room just isn't enough, and spreading the light around is another easy way to make a room feel bigger.

          • Ceiling Fan or Chandelier – Looking to bring new life to a den, living room, or master bedroom? Consider installing a chandelier instead of a ceiling fan, which will provide plenty of light while serving as a centerpiece of your interior decorating in the room. Of course, chandeliers are also a great, classic choice for dining areas.

          • Lovely Lamps – In addition to the light that they provide, the lamps in your home are the perfect place to show off your sense of style and accent your interior design. Lamps come in all shapes and sizes, from attractive antique pieces to one-of-a-kind DIY creations, so with a little digging you're sure to find something that fits your sense of style. Since you can move them around, lamps are also great for spreading the light around each room.

          • Bringing Light to Darker Places – While the lighting fixtures that you choose are naturally a key part of the process, sometimes transforming your home with lighting is as simple as making sure that light is reaching all of the right places. Dark corners and heavy shadows can make a large room look small, so be sure that each room has enough lighting to look its best.

          • Wall Lights for Tight Spots – Not every room or alcove will have enough space for large light fixtures, so consider using designer wall lights in tight areas that could use some extra light. Wall lights are ideal for corners, closets, and other tight spaces in your home.

          Smart, stylish lighting choices can make such a difference in the interior of your home, and new lighting is often inexpensive compared to larger home improvement projects. There's also a ton of room to customize your lighting based on what suits your taste, and what you hope to accomplish with your lighting in each room. Next time you're thinking about ways to re-imagine your home's interior, be sure that lighting is near the top of the list.

          February
          8

          5 Secrets Your Contractor Doesn't Want You to Know

          If you're planning a home improvement project, you're probably considering many different contractors, and wondering how in the world you will choose the right one.


          Some renovation projects run like a dream, but the wrong contractor can lead you down a road paved with delays, mistakes, and headaches. Picking a quality contractor means taking a lot of things into consideration—including a few things that contractors might not want you to know. 

          1. He's not the only game in town.
            There's no surer way to make a bad decision than feeling like you have no other choice. So remember, no matter what your contractor might like you to believe, there are always other options. Be sure to solicit at least three bids from three different contractors, and go with one that you're sure is right for your project.
             
          2. Cheaper isn't always better.
            We all like to save money, but some things are cheaper for a reason. Resist the temptation to go with a budget contractor who will cut corners to save you money. A lot of factors go into the dollar amount of each contractor's bid, including their experience, the quality of their work, and—let's face it—how much they think they can charge you. The bottom line is, don't go with a contractor just because they offer the cheapest bid. 

          3. He isn't going to be there every day.
            It's easy to imagine that your contractor will be there in person, day in and day out, working on your house. But the fact is, contractors are mainly delegators who farm out the work to other carpenters, electricians, and plumbers. These may be permanent members of your contractor's team, or they may work for any number of sub-contractors. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, but it's important to understand that your contractor may not be there overseeing the work all the time, and he almost certainly won't be hammering any nails himself. 

          4. Your contractor is not a designer.
            While some contractors absolutely have some design skills, contractors are really businessmen, and no matter what they may promise, they can almost never do the work of a designer. With a complex home improvement project, all kinds of professionals are necessary, including a designer in most cases. If your contractor says he has the skills to replace a designer, don't take this claim at face value; insist on seeing a portfolio that can demonstrate his design chops to your satisfaction. 

          5. He's going to mark up materials as well as labor.
            Contractors mark up everything they pay out over the course of a project, which is fine. That's how they pay for overhead and the salaries of their employees. But that markup can be as much as 50 percent, so it's wise to do everything you can to bring that number down, like picking out and buying certain items yourself. By buying your own plumbing fixtures, wall tiles, flooring countertops, cabinets, and hardware (i.e. light fixtures, handles, and doorknobs) you remove these items from the contractor's bid, potentially shaving 10 to 20 percent off the cost of the entire project.

          When things really click between a homeowner and a contractor, the result can be an amazing renovation of your dream home. When they don't, it can be a disaster. That's why it's so important to choose carefully. When in doubt, go with your gut—if you get an untrustworthy vibe from a potential contractor, that's usually a sure sign that you should take your home improvement elsewhere. 

          February
          1

          Removing Wallpaper Without Losing Your Mind

          Removing wallpaper is a fun, simple home improvement task that always goes to plan and... just kidding.

          While wallpaper can certainly look great after it goes up, removing wallpaper is generally pretty frustrating even under the best of circumstances. There may not be a magic secret to removing wallpaper with ease, but there's plenty you can do to get those walls clean without losing your mind. We're here to help, with a guide to removing wallpaper while keeping your sanity (mostly) intact, and leaving your walls looking great when you're done. 

          Simple Tips for Removing Your Wallpaper without Losing Your Sanity 

          The first thing to realize about removing wallpaper is that you're not just taking off one layer and that each layer requires its own tricks for easy removal. First, you'll be dealing with the top layer, which includes all of those pretty patterns covering the walls.

          • Removing the Top Layer of Wallpaper
            Good news and bad news. You don't have to deal with too much glue while removing the top layer, but you will have glue to deal with later. To deal with the top layer, you'll want a bottle of water, a scraper, some paper towels, and a lot of patience. Spray the paper thoroughly, and look for peeling spots where you can slide your scraper underneath to loosen the top layer. Sometimes it'll come off in big, beautiful chunks, and sometimes you'll be picking at tiny pieces just to get rid of that last stubborn bit. The spray bottle makes it much easier to get big pieces off in one shot.
          • How to Remove the Stubborn Second Layer
            Once you get the top layer off, it's okay to take some time to celebrate! But maybe just a little time, because there's still work to do. Removing the stubborn second layer of wallpaper will take some serious elbow grease, but you've already got the right tools for the job. Your squirt bottle filled with water will do a great job of saturating all of that glue-covered paper, and your scraper makes it easy to remove once the glue has softened up. Just be sure that you always have a trashcan nearby, so you can get rid of those glue-covered scraps quickly and easily.

            You can also choose to purchase a steam-based wallpaper removal tool. Buying the steamer does require an upfront cost, but many DIY home improvement experts find steamers to be great for removing wallpaper.
          • Finishing the Job and Leaving Your Walls Clean
            Once you get those stubborn first and second layers of wallpaper removed, you've got the most challenging part of the job out of the way. But your walls likely won't be completely clean just yet, so there's still work to do. A simple scrubby and some warm, soapy water will make your life much, much easier while you're cleaning those final bits of glue and paper off of your walls. Take your time, scrub thoroughly, and leaves those walls ready for whatever comes next.

          If you're brave enough to put new wallpaper in place of the old, be sure to prime your walls first so that it will be easier to remove if you ever decide to go for a new look. If you're painting, just make sure your walls are nice and clean before you apply a fresh coat.

          And there you have it. Removing wallpaper isn't an easy home improvement task, but there's a ton you can do to keep the process from driving you crazy. When you're done, the interior of your home will be ready for a fresh, new look. 

          November
          30

          5 Decluttering Hacks to Get Your Home Buyer-Ready

          If you're thinking about selling your home, the next few months may be a great time to do it.

          Selling a house requires presenting it in the best possible light. For some, that means spending time, money and effort on cleanup and repairs. For others, the project starts at decluttering. Don't cringe... decluttering your home doesn't have to be a headache. These cleaning hacks will get you well on your way to a home that anyone would be happy to call their own.

          1. Work on one room at a time. If you try to clean your entire house at once, you're likely to wind up feeling overwhelmed and defeated. It's much better to break it up into manageable chunks. Tackle one room per day until your whole house sparkles. If you don't have time to polish every square inch to a high shine, focus the bulk of your efforts on the most important areas – kitchens, bedrooms, bathrooms, and entryways. 
          2. Focus on horizontal surfaces. One shortcut to making your home immediately feel less cluttered is to zero in on horizontal surfaces like counters, shelves, tabletops, kitchen islands, mantels, and dresser tops. Clear off these surfaces, leaving only a few basic decorative items. You'll be amazed at how much more open your house feels after performing this one simple trick. 
          3. Look with a buyer's eye. It's hard to emotionally disconnect yourself from a place that has been home to you for years, but it's important to do so. Look at your house dispassionately, and ask yourself, as a potential buyer, what do you see? Chances are, you'll notice little things to clean or fix that had gone unnoticed for ages but would jump right out at someone who had never been in your house before. 
          4. Clear out personal items. Sellers often leave lots of family photos and other personal items on display, with the idea that they make the place look more lived-in and homey. Unfortunately, that's not usually a good tactic. Your house should appear to the buyer as a blank slate for their future life. Hard as it may be to pack up all your personal belongings, remember that the buyer should be able to envision their family photos on the walls, and their kids' drawings on the refrigerator, not yours. 
          5. Don't forget the yard. The first thing a potential buyer sees isn't your clean kitchen or your perfectly organized entryway. It's your front yard. So it pays to make sure the outside portion of your house is just as thoroughly decluttered as the inside. Make sure the porch is clear, put kids' toys away, and stow all your garden tools in the garage. A clean front yard makes a lasting first impression. 

          When the time comes to sell your house, remember that presentation counts. Making repairs and improvements can definitely increase your home's resale value, but these simple decluttering tricks will go a long way toward presenting your home in the best way possible.

          December
          7

          5 Things You Should Do Once Your Home is on the Market

          It took a lot of dedicated effort to get your home on the market. It would be nice if you could just sit back and wait for the offers to roll in. Unfortunately, it's not that easy.

          Once your home is on the market, your REALTOR® will work hard to complete the sale but you'll have to do your part to keep things moving forward. Here are five things you can do to help keep your marketing efforts on track.

          1. Never say no to a showing
            When you're too tired to handle a last-minute showing, do it anyway. Home showings are a crucial part of the home-selling process. While they don't guarantee a sale, they do bring potential buyers to your door. When a home buyer decides to view your home it means that your listing made it through their initial process of elimination.

            Of course, no one can predict the outcome of a showing. The right buyer might walk in the door as soon as you list your property or your sale could require multiple showings. Opening your house on demand is the best way to find out.

          2. Keep your home white-glove clean
            When you open up your home for a showing, potential buyers inspect and evaluate areas of your home you might not even think about. They will notice dirty tile grout and remember dusty dining room corners, and these things could cost you a sale.

            It's a good idea to pay a service to do your initial cleaning as well as regularly scheduled cleanings while your home is on the market. If you enjoy doing your own cleaning, you'll still have plenty to do. You'll need to give your home a once-over before each showing or open house and you'll want to clean up afterward.

          3. Stay pet-odor vigilant
            If you have a cat, dog, or other indoor pet your realtor probably discussed odor issues early in your marketing process. You likely worked hard to rid your home of telltale odors before you had your first showing. That's great, but if your pets are still in your home, odors will be a recurring problem.

            If you've lived with pet odors for years, your nose might be insensitive to smells that are obvious to everyone else. It's important to stay vigilant.

            • Clean pet living areas regularly.
            • Use a quality pet deodorizer spray.
            • Clean up pet hair daily.
            • Remove pets, litter boxes, bowls, etc. from the premises during a showing.
            • Burn a scented candle before a showing to disguise odors.

          4. Keep working on your curb appeal
            If you worked hard to give your home a look that brings buyers to your door, don't forget to keep it fresh. Getting the right curb appeal is worth the time and effort. If your home is on the market for more than a few months, you'll need to refresh the look.

            • Hire a landscaper to maintain your yard.
            • Keep your gutters clean.
            • Wash dirt and mud from walkway, driveways, and porches.
            • Check for new problems or issues you might not have noticed before.

          5. Create a pleasant atmosphere
            When potential buyers visit your home, give them an atmosphere that says, "Welcome home." Remove throw rugs and other trip hazards. Open bedroom and bathroom doors. Brighten rooms with natural and artificial light by turning on lamps and opening up curtains, drapes, and blinds.

            Adjust your climate control system to a pleasant temperature. Burn a lightly scented candle just before a scheduled showing, but don't forget to blow it out before you leave.

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