Articles Tagged "Home Improvement"

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September
29

6 DIY Projects Better Left To The Pros

Conquering do-it-yourself home improvement tasks can give you one of the best feelings of accomplishment ever.

Whether a big or small home improvement project, you may choose to take it to save cash, acquire a new skill, and simply be proud of accomplishing something on your own. However, there are some tasks that you should avoid doing yourself. Most of these projects may be difficult and require specific technical knowledge to complete them

Below are six home improvement projects that you should leave to the pros.

  1. Home Extensions and Structural Works
    Adding extensions to your home is not as simple as it seems. The process may require laying the foundation, plumbing, and ensuring the installation of electrical and gas systems. In some situations, you will be required to knock down walls which can be unsafe since you may be risking the stability of the entire building.

  2. Repair or Replacement of Electrical Systems
    You should avoid working on electrical systems in your home, whether you are mounting new cables or fixing a problematic circuit. All these tasks should be left to experienced professionals with proper electrical knowledge. Projects involving electricity are normally very dangerous without the necessary knowledge and training. Inappropriate installation of electrical cables might cause a fire in your home.

  3. Replacing Plumbing
    Frequently, old homes require replacing plumbing systems; new homes often face plumbing issues such as clogged sinks and toilets. You can do the unclogging yourself. However, there are other problems that should be left to the pros, like a mysterious leak or burst pipes. In addition, the process of plumbing involves a fragile network of pipes that must be installed in a definite style for proper functioning.

  4. Installing a Gas-Fueled Appliance
    The installation of gas-fueled appliances such as an oven, water heater, and clothes dryer must be installed correctly. This should be done to ensure the gas lines are safe and there are no leakages. This will help in avoiding gas buildup in your home. You can only do it yourself when you clearly understand what you are doing and the ways of checking for gas leaks. If you are not sure about this, then find a professional to do it.

  5. Painting Your Home's Exterior
    Painting is one of the common DIY home improvement projects. However, it is only safe when you are doing the painting at ground level. But, if the painting goes beyond the ground level, it should then be done by a professional painter because to reach high places you will need the right equipment, such as extension ladders.

  6. Tree Removal
    If there are trees that need to be removed from your property, think twice about doing it yourself. An expert will have the know-how to cut down a tree with it falling on your home and doing damage.

For tricky home improvement projects, hire a professional to get the job done correctly and safely. A professional will have knowledge of local home safety codes and regulations that could result in a penalty, fine or worse.

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
15

3 Reasons To Pick Quartz For Your Kitchen Remodel

Let's talk countertops. Whether you're selling your home in the future or just giving your kitchen a new look, at some time you're likely going to need to pick a new countertop.

So many choices... granite or butcher block? Concrete or quartz? During your kitchen renovation, choosing a countertop material may just about be your hardest decision. Which one is the best option? One of today's top choices is quartz. Here are three reasons why quartz is the logical choice for your new countertops. 

  1. Beautiful Look
    Aesthetics is one of your primary concerns when tackling any home improvement task, including remodeling your kitchen, and quartz countertops are going to give you a beautiful look. Quartz looks quite a bit like natural stone, so if that's a look you like, you're going to love it. With quartz,  you also have a large number of colors to choose from, with everything from bright reds to subtle earth tones available.

    If you were looking at counters a decade or so ago, you mmightbe wondering at the claim that quartz is an attractive option. In the past, quartz was overly flecked and looked unnatural, with uniform patterns that gave away the fact that the material wasn't naturally occurring. Today, manufacturers have found new techniques that give it a far more natural appearance, so only the trained eye can really tell the difference between natural stone and marble versus quartz.

  2. Easy to Care For
    While quartz looks like stone, it's not nearly as difficult to care for. In fact, it's considered one of the most durable countertop options. Because quartz countertops are factory engineered, they are non-porous and quite durable. They ever have to be sealed and are resistant to the nicks and dings common on kitchen countertops. Quartz also repels stains naturally, including tricky items like food coloring, and won't be damaged by acidic foods, unlike natural countertop options.

  3. Affordable Countertop Option
    Finally, quartz is worth considering because it's an affordable option for your kitchen remodel. It looks great without breaking the bank. It's typically right around the same price as natural granite but will last longer without the need for ongoing maintenance. This combines to make it the budget-friendly solution to your kitchen remodeling needs.

As you can see, quartz offers a number of benefits for your kitchen. It's growing in popularity among those looking into home improvement, so it will also give your home a boost in value should you decide to sell. With all of these benefits, it's no wonder more and more homeowners are choosing quartz countertops as they redo their kitchens.

September
1

6 Home Remodeling Projects That Pay Off

No matter what kind of dream renovation project you may be planning, make sure to understand your potential return on investment before you begin.

These six home projects can maximize your home's value paying off in the long run.

  1. Landscaping
    If your yard could use a little TLC, a landscaping redesign can increase curb appeal and the equity in your home.  

    Invest in a few flowering shrubs — a splash of color at the front of your home will catch the eye of potential buyers. Use one color and vary the height of plants for impact. Trim overgrown shrubs. Add two or three large planters that feature a variety of colorful flowers.

    Spread fresh mulch around plants and trees. Add a charming focal point like a flagstone walkway or fountain.

  2. Exterior Improvements
    First impressions are key — giving the outside of your home a fresh look can increase its value and improve the chances of a sale.

    Paint the exterior, including the trim. Paint color cards can help you choose color combinations that look amazing. Don't forget the front door. Remove old awnings for an updated look.

    Get rid of damaged railings and replace them with inviting natural wood.

    Add a pergola and columns to give a humdrum porch an elegant makeover.

  3. Minor Bathroom Remodel
    A minor bathroom remodel can make your home look much more modern and inviting. Re-caulk the tub. If your bathtub is chipped and worn, consider installing a new tub surround that fits snugly over it and makes it look brand-new.

    Remove old wall coverings (especially old wallpaper) and give the walls a fresh coat of paint in a neutral color. Spackle and sand holes before painting.

    Put in new flooring — linoleum or tile.

    Replace or remove old shower doors. A curtain that can be opened or pulled back will create an illusion of space.

  4. Minor Kitchen Remodel
    To many people the kitchen is the most important room in the house, so improving it can add quite a bit of value.

    Sand and paint cabinets and drawers. Replace cabinet hardware to give the kitchen a fresh look.

    If countertops are very dated or worn, install new ones. If you are on a tight budget, Formica® or other affordable man-made material will do. If your budget will allow, consider stone or granite.

    A worn, vinyl floor can be a turnoff; consider replacing it with new luxury flooring. New appliances update your kitchen and can be a real plus for potential buyers.

    Add detail by changing curtains, towels, and other accessories.

  5. Windows
    New windows can make a dramatic difference and increase the value of your home. New windows increase energy efficiency and can keep the indoor environment more comfortable. There is an array of materials from which to choose — including vinyl, wood, and composite materials. In hotter climates, consider double-pane windows with low e-glass. It reflects heat, and argon gas inside the pane prevents heat and cold transference within the window.

  6. Roof
    If your roof is over 20 years old, it may be time to replace it. Missing or curled-up shingles are a precursor to a leaky roof. If you see daylight or the roof's leaking, it is definitely time to replace it. There are a few options when it comes to roofing, such as shingles, tile, slate, or rubber. Make sure to do your research and be clear about what will work best for your house. Don't forget to ask about proper drainage, too.

If you're hoping to add value to your home, then you can't go wrong with these projects.

August
25

Red Hot Ideas For Planning A Green Remodel

Does your home need a reboot? Remodeling projects don't have to be major to make a major difference in your home. If you're considering an update, you're already on the right track because most permanent updates offer a return on your investment eventually. But some investments actually pay off two-fold. These upgrades increase the value of your home while decreasing your carbon footprint, and some decrease the ongoing cost of utilities too. From energy-efficient appliances and light bulbs to more eco-friendly floors and windows, green renovation choices are red hot right now, and for good reason.

Whether you care about the environment or you're worried about rising utility costs, start with making greener choices around the house. When it comes to home improvement, it's hard to beat a green remodel, but here are some of the smartest planet-saving upgrades to date.

  • Retrofit Your Bathrooms with Low Flow Plumbing
    Water is necessary for your everyday routine, but how much water? If your toilets and faucets haven't been updated in the past few years, you're probably wasting — and paying for — more water than you actually need. Consider replacing or modifying your plumbing fixtures with newer units that are designed to reduce water waste. For example, low-flow toilets often come with tax credits because they save so much water, while flow reducers are available for your existing sink faucets and showerheads. You'll notice the difference next time you get a water bill, and your bathroom updates will also add value for potential buyers who always look for modern fixtures in bathrooms.

  • Reseal or Replace Your Windows
    Inefficient or improperly sealed windows are bad news for your energy bill. If you have outdated windows, broken seals, or both, these openings could be your biggest sources of summertime heat gain and wintertime heat loss. Low-E window tints can seriously reduce the glares, UV rays, and temperature changes that make it indoors, while a new application of caulking and window stripping is essential for every single window to prevent drafts and keep your house insulated. If there's room in the home improvement budget for new panes, look for double or triple pane windows that contain multiple panes and moisture-absorbing spacers between them.

  • Opt for Sustainable Surfaces
    Are you planning a renovation that includes a new living room floor? Do your home improvement goals include replacing your kitchen cabinets or countertops? If you want to replace any surfaces in your home, make sure you choose materials that are sustainable, recycled, or both. Bamboo flooring is a fantastic alternative to hardwood or carpet because it's durable, waterproof, soft, and made from carefully harvested bark. It also happens to be on-trend right now, thanks to its distinctive patterns and textured child-friendly surfaces. Your countertops are another great place to go green. Today, you can get beautiful countertop slabs composed entirely of recycled glass, paper, or wood.

  • Upgrade to Energy Star Appliances
    Sometimes, the smartest home improvement decisions are appliance purchases. If your fridge, washer, dryer, dishwasher, oven, furnace, AC unit, or other major appliances are more than a decade old, replacing them will improve your home's value and bring your indoor aesthetic into the 21st century. It will also save you money on a daily basis by seriously reducing the amount of energy you need to cook, clean, and store your food. Any new appliance is probably more energy-efficient than the older models in your home right now, but make sure you look for Energy Star appliances for extra savings and sustainability. These appliances are certified to conserve resources and make your home greener.

With these tips, you'll be on track to having a greener, more energy-efficient home.

August
18

9 Ways To Fall In Love With Your Bathroom

You have to love it because it's always there for you. It's your essential space for daily readiness rituals like showering, shaving, makeup, and. . . other stuff. Then again, you might hate your bathroom because it's shabby, outdated, or looks just like it did a decade ago.

No matter how you feel about your bathroom, you can make it better with these inexpensive home improvement ideas.

  1. Play With Color
    With a few hours and an upbeat DIY home improvement attitude, you can use color to transform your bathroom into a space you love. Modern paint formulas include antimicrobial, mildew-resistant, washable, stain-resistant, and low VOC benefits. Use the paint you prefer to color-coordinate your walls, cabinets, woodwork, and trim. Experiment with two-toned walls or painted accent rails. Accessorize with refurbished framed mirrors and shelves. Add color-coordinated shower and window curtains. Stack a shelf with towels in complimentary hues.

  2. Go White-White
    If you prefer to rid your bathroom of unloved or outdated colors, use the above paint ideas for a clean white renewal. Of course, a white scheme works best if you include a new white toilet, sink, and bathtub in the makeover. White sinks and toilets are affordable, even on a tight budget. Unfortunately, you might have to wait to upgrade your tub. Tub replacement, re-glazing, and re-lining are all complicated and expensive.

  3. Rethink Your Tile
    Changing your tile gives your entire bathroom a brand new look. Consider retro, mosaic or traditional tile layouts. Add personality with edge treatments or contrasting strips. Search for tile features you like.

    • Materials: Porcelain, ceramic, glass, stone
    • Style: Designer patterns, smooth, natural textures
    • Colors: White, retro shades, earth tones

  4. Enhance With Glass
    Glass features allow light to fill your bathroom. They also add sleek elements of style. A hinged glass tub door is a classy substitute for a shabby shower curtain. A framed or frameless door or enclosure modernizes your free-standing shower. Glass shelves complete your look.

  5. Add Mirrors
    A strategically placed mirror or two give your small bathroom the illusion of space.

    • Replace your medicine cabinet with a designer mirror.
    • Place a bold decorator mirror on your largest wall.
    • Install mirrored shelves for towels or storage.

  6. Install Me-Time Features
    Admit it: sometimes your bathroom is a getaway destination. Why not add a few luxury features to make it an escape-worthy sanctuary?

    • Built-in TV
    • Stereo-connected Bluetooth speakers
    • Waterproof sound system

  7. Save Money With Watersense Labeled Fixtures
    When you include water-efficient bathroom fixtures in your home improvement project, you see an immediate return on your investment. EPA statistics reveal that Watersense-labeled showers save an average family 2900 gallons of water annually. Faucets save 700 gallons, and toilets save 13,000 gallons. The cash you save can help pay for your new bathtub.

  8. Coordinate Metal Fixtures and Accessories
    Manufacturers create beautiful chrome faucets and shower heads, but they make them in other metals too. Experiment with bronze, copper, brass, or brushed nickel fixtures. Then add metal-coordinated towel bars, rings, toilet paper holders, and light switch plates.

  9. Add Charm With a DIY Vanity
    When you re-purpose a chest, table, or flea market furniture find, a bathroom vanity upgrade is less expensive and more fun. The process is time-intensive, but you'll be proud of your effort when you finish it off with a ceramic, marble, or porcelain vanity top basin.

    • Purchase your basin and fixtures
    • Smooth and sand your furniture finds
    • Finish it with paint, stain, or a distressed look
    • Cut out holes for faucets and a drain
    • Complete the plumbing connections

With these fixes, your bathroom will look and feel like it popped out of a home design magazine.

August
4

How To Eliminate Clutter And Make Money With A Garage Sale

Clutter accumulates quickly in homes of all sizes, but that doesn't mean you should have to live with it. Whether you're selling your house or you just want more space, the warmer months are a great opportunity to clear it up once and for all with a garage (or yard) sale. Here are a few simple steps to help you get started.

  1. Gather everything you no longer use.
    Before you organize the yard sale, you have to decide what to sell. Designate a space to collect your potential inventory, and spend several days going through each room in your home. If you have multiple family members, turn this into a challenge (for example, the heaviest load wins a prize). Throughout this process, stick to a simple rule: have you used it in the last year? Outdated and ill-fitting clothes shouldn't take up space in your closet, and your kids don't need toys they've long outgrown.

  2. Ask friends & neighbors if they want to participate.
    The bigger the yard sale, the better. If you want to attract a good crowd, invite neighbors, friends, and family members to clear their own clutter and join forces with your yard sale. You can keep your stuff separate for payment purposes, or offer a certain percentage of your profits to people who chip in piles of valuable stuff. If your driveway and front yard are not big enough — or your home isn't in a location that gets a lot of traffic — you might even offer to organize the sale on someone else's property.

  3. Make signs and advertise online.
    Without good marketing, it doesn't matter how much high-quality stuff you have. You need to make sure people actually know about your yard sale, especially the hobbyists who spend every weekend scouring tables for hidden gems. Craigslist, Facebook, your local newspaper, Next Door, and even designated yard sale websites and apps are all great places to start. Of course, you'll need physical advertisements, too, so stock up on brightly colored poster boards or pre-made picket signs. After you mark each sign with your address and big, bold arrows, map out nearby intersections and neighborhood entrances that get a lot of traffic. This will be your route the morning of the yard sale.

  4. Separate your stuff into categories & start pricing.
    Before you start sticking price tags on everything, spend a few days organizing your unwanted stuff into categories and bundles. For example, all the books belong together, but you might have a stack of romance novels that can be bundled and sold as a set. Make sure your clothes are on hangers, your electronics have half-full batteries or working plugs, and everything is clean, dust-free, and unbroken. Then use brightly colored stickers to mark every single item (or set of items) with a reasonable price. Keep your prices very low, because people expect bargains at yard sales.

  5. Create a miniature "store" with aisles, departments & special offers.
    When it's finally Yard Sale Day, you should be ready at least an hour early, with racks and tables arranged just like a miniature department store. If that means setting up the night before, so be it. The best option is long, narrow tables with wide aisles between them. The idea is to make it easy for bargain hunters to go straight to the categories they want to browse, like dishware or children's clothes. When your items are priced and on display, you're ready to make money!

With these tips, you'll have a successful garage sale and a happier and cleaner home.

July
28

Worried About Carbon Monoxide? Here's How To Keep Your Family Safe

It can come from a number of sources throughout your home: a vehicle running in an attached garage or any kind of heater, stove, fireplace, or oven that burns traditional fuel.

Since carbon monoxide is colorless, odorless, and tasteless, it can be hard to detect. When breathed in, it replaces the oxygen that cells need to function. This can happen over several minutes to a few hours, depending on the source of the gas, potentially leading to unconsciousness or worse. In some cases, a leak is small enough that symptoms can persist over long periods without becoming fatal.

Luckily, there are ways to defend yourself against gas leak dangers:

  1. Be Alert to Unusual Smells
    Although carbon monoxide is odorless, many potential sources create an odor if malfunctioning. A stale or stuffy smell in a clean room can be a sign of a gas leak. Items such as stoves often give off a burning smell when they are leaking. Also, look for the unexplained appearance of excess moisture on windows near fuel-burning appliances.

  2. Double-Check Risky Appliances
    Protective steps for carbon monoxide leaks should start in your kitchen, where the majority of high-risk appliances will be found. Be sure all appliances are well-ventilated and get regular service to reduce the odds of a mechanical problem. If you have an attached garage, never warm up your car in the winter by idling it in the garage itself.

  3. Take Action Immediately if You Feel Symptoms
    Recovery from carbon monoxide poisoning is possible, but it's vital to get away from the source of the leak right away. Once victims lose consciousness, the danger increases exponentially. Flu-like symptoms, including nausea, indigestion, headache, and light-headedness, are common. If all the members of the household feel better after going outside, a gas leak may be the culprit.

  4. Install CO Detectors
    Many homeowners are opting to install CO detectors throughout the house. This significantly curbs the risk of a carbon monoxide leak by alerting you as soon as CO levels start to rise above the norm. In general, you can achieve good coverage throughout the house by installing CO detectors right next to smoke detectors wherever they might be found around the house.

  5. Have Your Heating System Double-Checked
    Homeowners who use wood-burning stoves for heating are perhaps at the greatest risk of CO complications. Still, it's a good idea to be proactive about your heating system — no matter what style it is. A professional inspection of your heating system should be conducted once a year. If you notice that it's taking longer and longer to heat up, there may be a leak or electrical issue.

  6. Use a CO Detector Badge
    A stationary CO detector is great for getting an early alert about a gas leak, but what if you have to track down a leak yourself? A CO detector badge gives you the opportunity to test CO levels in specific areas of the house since you can easily carry it to the site of suspected leaks. It takes about 15 minutes for a CO detector badge to darken, indicating the presence of CO.

Detecting CO early on is essential to protecting your home and family. The longer a CO leak is allowed to continue, the more dangerous it becomes. Likewise, if a mechanical failure is at the root of a leak, the odds are good the situation will only become worse until a professional can fix it. With these tips, you'll be alert to the dangers of CO and able to protect yourself more easily.

July
21

How To Oust Odors From Your Home

When you're ready to sell your home, odors can be your worst enemy. You can spend as much as you want on home improvement, only to find your investment is worthless when the home won't sell. Bad odors in your home will detract from its appeal, turning potential buyers away. If you notice unusual smells in your home, here are some things you can do to remove them fast.

  1. Eliminate the Source
    The first and most important thing to do is to eliminate the source of the odor. If you can't find it, contact a specialized cleaning service to help you locate and remove the odor at its source. Whether it's a moldy piece of cheese that slipped under the refrigerator or some mildew growing in the basement, you'll be fighting an uphill battle if you don't tackle the source first.

  2. Clean the Dishwasher
    The dishwasher can harbor unwanted smells, and chances are high your potential buyers are going to look inside when they tour the house. To clean and freshen the dishwasher, place a cup of white vinegar on the top rack, and run the cycle as normal without any other dishes in the dishwasher. This will eliminate many of the smells.

  3. Clean the Carpets
    If your carpets are the source of the smell, you can have them professionally cleaned, but do so long before you've got a showing scheduled. Sometimes professional cleaning can bring odors to the surface, and they need time to dissipate. Another option is to sprinkle baking soda on the carpets, let it sit in place for about an hour, and then vacuum it up. The baking soda will pull out some of the odors.

  4. Check the Drains
    Sometimes food can get stuck in the drains in your kitchen sink, where they turn rancid and start to stink. If you have a garbage disposal, you can deodorize it by placing some slices of lemon or orange in it, turning on the water and running the disposal. If that doesn't work, send some mouthwash down it, or try some white vinegar.

  5. Tackling Mold
    Musty odors mean you have a mold problem, so tackle them with the help of a professional. No amount of home improvement know-how can fix mold. Once you've eliminated the mold, take measures to control the humidity in your home so that the mold spores can't spread.

  6. Kill Urine Smells with Vinegar
    The acidity of the vinegar will help it to kill the smell of urine, as well as bacteria. If you've had some accidents from pets on the carpet, mix one part vinegar and three parts water. Rub the mixture into the carpet with a cloth, rinse, and allow to air dry. This will help neutralize the odor without covering it with cleaning chemicals.

  7. Tackle Cooking Odors
    Finally, make sure you tackle cooking odors quickly, so they don't build up in your home. Someone who tours your home should walk in and notice a fresh, clean smell, not the smell of last night's dinner lingering in the air. To ensure cooking smells don't linger, wash counters and dishes thoroughly after every meal. If you're cooking something particularly pungent, consider opening the windows while you cook.

Remember, smells make it hard to sell a house, so during the time you have your home on the market, you have to be vigilant to ensure you aren't filling it with bad smells. In addition to home improvement tasks, be proactive about smells, you will make your house more appealing to potential buyers.

July
14

Make Your Lawn Stand Out With These Steps

Outdoor landscaping not only adds value to your home but it also offers attractive curb appeal for people buying a house. According to the National Association of REALTORS®, "Curb appeal is important to 71 percent of homebuyers when choosing their abode."

Begin your yard maintenance around one month before you list your house for sale. Follow these strategies for making your yard look just right for a quick sale this summer.

  1. Container Plants – Creating container gardens add color and a welcoming aura to your yard. Position garden pots filled with your favorite flowers and plants outside your front door, creating a warm welcome for homebuyers. Another area to place container gardens is around patios and decks.

  2. Weed Flower Beds – Tend to your perennial and annual flower gardens, removing all weeds or roots hiding your flowers. Remove any dead plants and replace them with another one, or use a decorative potted plant in its place, adding contrast and color.

  3. Mulch – Topping off the mulch in your flowerbeds and around shrubbery gives your yard a fresh scent and tidy appearance. Mulch also makes your plants and flowers stand out. Walk around your yard and check for any bald spots on the lawn. These bald areas make your yard look rundown. Apply mulch to these areas along with hardy plants, such as hostas, ferns, and landscaping grass. You can also purchase fast-growing grass seed that will sprout in a few weeks.

  4. Prune Shrubs – Remove any dead and broken branches from your shrubs, especially those hanging over your driveway and walkway. Shape your shrubs with hedge clippers to give a neat appearance for added curb appeal.

  5. Backyard Hangout – Create a welcoming, comfortable area in your backyard for relaxing. Most people buying a home want a yard they can enjoy, and nothing is more relaxing than a fire pit and patio. You can find economical, attractive fire pits and cobblestone patio blocks at home goods stores.

  6. Remove Clutter – Remove any unsightly clutter, such as an old swing set or unused above-ground swimming pool. Also, store all yard tools like shovels, rakes, and wheelbarrows in a shed or basement.

These six-yard maintenance tips can give your yard inviting curb appeal for anyone buying a house. A simple, well-maintained yard will have house hunters flocking to your door.

June
30

Adding Closets Can Give Your Home Value A Boost

If you're looking for a way to increase the value of your home, consider looking not in the kitchen, but rather in the closets. Updated, custom closets help add additional storage to your space, making it more usable for you, and more appealing to future buyers. Here are some reasons why closets can make a home more valuable to potential buyers.

Closets Make a Home Move-In Ready

Unless they're specifically shopping for a "fixer-upper," today's buyers want to purchase a home that is move-in ready. The little features that show the homeowner has given the home plenty of TLC and attention are invaluable in this. When a buyer opens a closet and sees a professional organizing system, they know that the home has been well maintained. This makes it seem more valuable in their minds. 

Custom Closets Have a High Return on Investment

If you invest in a custom closet, you'll have almost all of that investment when selling your home. Custom closets sell homes, and they can mean the difference between a home that sits on the market and one that sells quickly for a good price. You will be able to enjoy the use of the closets while you live in the home, and then enjoy the financial benefit when you're ready to sell.

Adding Closets Improve the Home's Function and Value

If your home doesn't have enough storage space, adding a closet can add value significantly. Consider a den in your home that doesn't have a closet. When you add one, you instantly add a bedroom. Adding linen closets in the hallway or the bathroom or a storage closet under the stairs adds additional storage space that buyers will want.

Following Current Trends Improves the Home's Appeal

When thinking about closets, consider the current closet trends. Purposeful organization is essential to making a close appealing. Built-in shelving, pull-out drawers and bins, ironing boards, and built-in shoe racks all have a reason for being in a closet and a benefit to the home's owner. A dresser in the closet is another current trend, keeping all clothing storage in one convenient location.

If you have the space to do some remodeling, consider adding a second closet to the primary bedroom. Individual closets go hand in hand with dual vanities to make a master suite more practical and comfortable, and modern homeowners, particularly in larger homes, are look gin for these kinds of features.

Use Custom Closet Space in Small Closets

Many homeowners with smaller homes make the mistake of assuming that custom closet space isn't for them. This couldn't be farther from the truth. When selling your home, you need to remember that your buyer is looking for a home like yours, even if it's become too small for your needs now. So, consider using a custom closet organizing system in your small closet. It will maximize your storage space and give your home a polished look that makes it sell well.

If you're thinking of selling your home in the near future, consider those improvements that make your home shine in the eyes of potential buyers. Closets are one of these, so give your closets a makeover and see how much more quickly the home will sell.

June
23

Budget For Your Next Home Improvement Project

Many homeowners dream of completing their first home improvement project. Kitchens, baths, and additions top the list of projects that improve the functionality and aesthetics of your home. One of the biggest barriers to achieving your home remodeling dreams is money. However, it's possible to make it happen if you take the correct steps to create a budget that will get you to your goal.

  • Get Realistic
    The first step in creating a budget for an entire home remodel is to be realistic about the costs. Even if you skimp here or there, you have to consider potential issues and added time. Working with a reputable contractor may cost more in the beginning, but it often saves money in the end because of experience and better adherence to estimates. It's also essential to be realistic about how much time you have to dedicate to the remodel. If you are looking to save by doing some of the work yourself, determine if you really possess the skills, or if it would be more efficient to work extra and find the money to cover it.
  • Find Your Number
    Once you've decided to be realistic about the process, it's time to figure out a number. List what you want done and an estimated cost of materials and labor. Factor in additional costs, like a storage unit to put things in during the renovation or increased heating or cooling bills while a part of your home is exposed to the elements. Getting estimates will also help you zone in on a number.
  • How Long Will it Take?
    There are two ways to fund your remodel. The first is to get a loan. If you decide to go that route, take a good look at your monthly budget. Break down where your money goes, how much you need to put aside for expenses and savings, and how much you may have left to cover a loan payment. You can even look at ways to increase that amount. Start by cutting luxuries, like daily lattes or cable for six months. You can always use an online streaming service or invest in a coffee maker. Once you have an amount, shop for lenders and secure a loan that fits your budget over the right amount of time.

    The second way to get your remodeling money is good old-fashioned savings. Like you would a loan payment, set aside a chunk each month and put it in a special remodeling savings account. If you want to make the remodel happen sooner than later, find ways to earn some extra cash, like increasing your work hours or selling off things you don't use anymore.
  • Be Careful About What You Take On
    Homeowners really can contribute to remodeling projects. Most people are capable of taking on small elements or portions of jobs. For example, you can easily pull the carpet and prepare subfloors for new flooring installations. It will cut the overall cost but leaves the part that requires more skill to the experts. Look carefully at where you can make improvements, and leave the rest to the professionals.

  • Do It Right
    It may be enticing to use Uncle Bob, who used to be a contractor, and pay him cash. You would probably save on permits and work, but it could cost you a lot more in the end in legal fees and having to redo things that weren't covered as they would be with a licensed and bonded contractor. Doing it right is often the best route to take.

If you're ready to budget for a remodel, sit down and look at how to make it happen today.

June
16

Maintenance Hacks That Will Make Life Easier

There's no law that states cleaning and maintaining your house has to be complicated and expensive. You won't believe how much easier home maintenance becomes once you incorporate some simple tips into your daily life.

  1. Fasten a Tennis Ball to your Mop Handles
    Never get on your hands and knees again to scrub scuff marks off your floor. Simply attach a fuzzy tennis ball to the end of your mop handle, and whenever you find a difficult scuff, flip the mop over and use the tennis ball to buff the mark from the floor.

    Bonus Hack: Keeping a couple of tennis balls in your swimming pool helps remove the oils, lotions, and sunscreens from the water.

  2. Plunge the Clogs from the Drains
    The next time your bathtub or sink drain backs up, don't reach for a bottle of expensive chemical drain cleaner. Grab your toilet plunger instead. Fill the basin with a few inches of water, use a bit of cloth to cover the overfill hole, and use the plunger over the drain. More often than the clog loosens after just a few plunges.

  3. Easy Spackle
    If your drywall cracks, make your own spackling compound by mixing a small amount of baking soda with glue.

  4. Loosen Stubborn Nails
    Whenever you engage in a home improvement project, there always seems to be that one nail that refuses to come out. A homeowner's trick that frequently works involves using a hairdryer to warm the nail, causing it to expand, creating a larger hole so that after the nail cools and returns to normal size, you can easily remove it.

  5. Repair Windows
    If you have a small hole or crack in your windows, fill the space with clear nail polish. It prevents the hole/crack from spreading when the temps drop below freezing.

  6. Caulking Made Easy
    Caulking isn't always a favorite home maintenance chore. Many struggle to keep the tip of the caulk gun straight, or they find that they get caulk everywhere but the spot they want it at. Rather than having a professional come into handle routine caulking for you, stock up on painter's tape. Simply place a strip of painter's tape above and below the area you need to be caulked. Caulk the area and peel the tape away while the caulk is still wet. All the mess goes on the tape.

  7. Unstick Sticky Doors
    If your doors get stuck whenever the humidity climbs, there's a simple trick that will save you a great deal of aggravation. Rather than fighting with the door, use a bench plane and grind down the top, bottom, and inside edge by a few centimeters. Sandpaper the freshly ground areas. Keep grinding until the door stops sticking. Be careful to remove only the minimum required for the door to close.

  8. Fix Holes in Drywall
    Don't worry if you get a small hole in your drywall. Fixing it is easy. Home improvement experts will tell you that you'll need to invest in paper tape or mesh. However, those with strong home maintenance skills know that all they really need is a small makeup brush to spackle their walls. Use the brush to fill the hole with spackle and sandpaper to sand down the spackle.

  9. Take the Elbow Grease Out of Shower Cleaning
    Rather than scrub by hand, easily clean your shower by fastening a foam ball to your cordless drill attachment. It'll have your shower gleaming in no time.

Owning a home may not feel worth it if you don't get to enjoy living in it. Use these tips to speed up your home improvement and spend more time enjoying your house.

June
9

Giving Your Home A Custom Look On A Budget

We all fancy living in one of those posh places from Pinterest. Yet sometimes, we feel our budgets hinder us from splurging on that luxury look we've been dreaming about. No need to worry. Here are five ways to add a high-end look to your home without a steep price tag.

  1. Light Fixtures
    One of the easiest ways to change the feel of your home without making a huge impact on your bottom line is by updating light fixtures. Modernizing from some past-their-prime styles or stepping back in time for some inspired lighting can help change the feel of every room in your house quickly. It's also a great way to flex your personal style without overstating it.

  2. New Faucets
    Another change akin to changing your fixtures is your faucets. It's another subtle change that can bring a whole new feel to a room. New faucets also bring a ton of new features over faucets from even a couple of years ago. New innovations, finishes, and feels give those upgrading via faucet a lot of control over their home improvement.

  3. Paint Color
    Another fun way to alter your home's perception is with paint. Splashing a new color on a wall or two is guaranteed to get a second glance, but to make an impact pick an unlikely target. Pick your favorite shade of red and grab your front door, and soon your home becomes the one on the block with the red door. Or, sand and prime your laminate floor before giving it a different sheen.

  4. Crown Molding
    Crown molding is the old standby when it comes to making a home uniquely yours, and there's a reason for that. It has a timeless quality to it that really leaves a room feeling finished. It's also available in a wide array of sizes and designs, making it easy to give your room just the right feel.

  5. Hardware
    Cabinet and drawer knobs can be another way to give your home a unique feel while also allowing you to develop your own personal style. You can peruse the aisles at your local big-box hardware stores for an almost faint-inducing number of options or seek out truly unique sets at flea markets and estate sales.

You can take joy in knowing that by using a few of these tricks of the trade from interior designers, you too can create an elegant look in your home even on a tight budget.

May
26

Make Your Own Green Cleaning Products At Home

You want your home to be clean, but you don't want to hurt your health or the environment — that's why so many homeowners have made the switch to chemical-free cleaners. Some of the many benefits of using chemical-free cleaners include that the non-toxic cleaners won't harm your lungs, negatively impact the environment, trigger allergic reactions or have the potential to poison your pets.

Baking Soda

It's difficult to imagine anything that plays a bigger role in homeownership than baking soda. It's likely that you already know you can use it to brush your teeth, keep the interior of your fridge smelling great, and to remove minor splinters, but did you also know that baking soda can keep your home clean and shiny?

  • Sprinkling a little dry baking soda on your carpet and letting it sit for 15-20 minutes removes musty smells and pet odors. You can use the same trick to deodorize furniture and pet beds.
  • Mix baking soda with a little water and use the mixture to remove built-up gunk, spilled food, and smears from all kitchen surfaces.
  • Did your kids decorate the walls with greasy fingerprints? Just use a sponge dipped in a baking soda/water combo and wipe the prints away.

White Vinegar

White vinegar is another example of an excellent non-chemical, affordable product that will keep your home clean and safe. White vinegar won't harm you, but it does remove debris, dust, and bacteria from the interior of your home.

When it comes to cleaning your home, there are several different ways vinegar helps with daily housework.

  • Deodorize and clean your drains and garbage disposal by mixing half a cup of white vinegar with a couple tablespoons of baking soda.
  • Place a bowl that is filled with half water and half vinegar solution in your microwave uncovered until it boils over. Then just wipe and clean any stains from the interior of your microwave with ease.
  • Spray white vinegar on your countertops and use it to wipe them down. DON'T USE VINEGAR ON GRANITE OR MARBLE SURFACES!

Lemon Juice

Most of us know that there are many ways lemon juice improves our physical health, but not all people realize that it can also be a key component in cleaning your home. That's right, lemon juice helps keep your home cleaner, safer, and smelling fantastic.

  • Rubbing lemon juice on your wooden cutting boards and letting the juice soak into the wood overnight before you rinse the next morning removes bacteria.
  • Spraying lemon juice on your sink and bathtub fixtures and letting it sit for ten minutes removes hard water scale.

Coconut Oil

You won't believe the number of uses for coconut oil in your home.

  • Conditioning wooden furniture as well as leather couches and chairs.
  • Polishing stainless steel appliances.
  • Rubbing a little coconut oil on hinges stops them from squeaking.
  • Rubbing some in the interior of your sink can prevent hard water stains.
  • Mixing a little coconut oil and baking soda together and rubbing it on a spill goes a long way to lifting the stain from your carpet and upholstery.

With these homemade cleaning supplies, you can rest assured your home will be clean and completely safe for your family and pets.

May
19

Is It Time To Replace Your Windows? These Are The Top Signs

Next to your home's outer envelope and insulation, your windows are the biggest factor in reducing heating and cooling costs. When windows are warped or damaged, a huge amount of thermal energy can be lost through them in a single day. The total cost of faulty windows may total in the hundreds or even thousands per year if several windows have issues.

Watch for these five signs that it may be time to replace those windows:

  1. You Notice Windows Are Damaged, Warped, or Broken
    Sometimes, damage to a window might be very superficial. If all the window needs are some new weather stripping, for example, you might invest in repairing it. In most cases, however, simply replacing the window provides the most value in the long run. This is especially true for warped or broken windows that will contribute to higher energy bills and a greater likelihood of accidents.

  2. Your Energy Bills Are Creeping Up
    No matter what kind of climate you live in, most homes have a steady rhythm in terms of their energy needs. You might find yourself cranking the air conditioning to cool down or warm up during peak seasons, but changes in your bills should be predictable. Energy bills that gradually increase are a sign that your heater or AC must work harder to maintain temperatures. Time for home improvement.

  3. You Want to Increase Your Home's Value
    Relatively minor repairs and replacements, like windows, can become a sticking point for buyers. When they think "move-in ready," they want to imagine that everything will be perfect. Even if the home is in good condition, it's a great idea to take care of superficial issues like this: If you don't, potential buyers might wonder what else might have gone wrong around the home.

  4. You've Been Through a Major Weather Event
    No matter whether it's a winter blizzard, a tornado, or a hurricane, it's usually best to replace the windows afterward. Even windows that appear unscathed after a storm might develop mold, water damage, or other issues that can go unnoticed at first. At the very least, replacing the windows will help ensure the home is structurally sound when the next storm rolls in.

  5. You Want to Restore Your Home's Historic Charm
    It's not unusual for the owners of historic homes to replace old-fashioned windows for various reasons: For example, concerns about the use of lead paint. However, it's important to make sure the replacement windows fit in with the architecture and aesthetic charm of the house. Budget replacement windows should be upgraded – modern technology can still be stylish.

It's easy to overlook the importance of your home's windows, but be sure to "check in" with them every few months. Make sure they offer a tight seal when closed and are free from minor defects that can develop into more serious problems with time and use.

If you are happy with how your windows perform but still want to curb energy loss in your home, consider installing energy-efficient windows. These windows typically consist of multiple panes of glass with the space between filled with air or gas.

This can be the perfect way to appeal to buyers: You get to be friendly to the environment and budget-conscious at the same time. That's a great selling point for an upgrade that may cost as little as a hundred dollars, depending on your local market.

Next time you think "home improvement," think windows first!

May
11

No-Sweat Lawn Care Tips For A Thriving Yard

Homeowners often scratch their heads, wondering when is the best time to start caring for their yards. In many parts of the country, landscaping and lawn care experts recommend starting lawn and other outdoor projects once the frost has left the ground and the soil is dry enough for you to walk on yet still moist enough to be malleable. Use these steps for no-sweat lawn care maintenance.

  1. Giving Your Yard the Once Over
    As soon as the weather allows, head outside and examine your yard. Don't be surprised if it no longer resembles the tidy patch of earth you remember from last season. It's not uncommon to find an assortment of dead leaves, thrown branches, and other debris.

    Pick up the debris and inspect your lawn, trees, and shrubs to see what may be coming back and what needs replacing.

  2. Wake Up Your Lawn with a Good Raking
    Give your grass a good raking to start its growing processing. If you do not remove the dried, dead grass, the new spring grass won't get the oxygen and sunshine it needs to grow. Gently rake it out and allow it to dry.  You'll then be better able to assess what your next steps may be regarding reseeding and fertilizing. 

  3. Weed and Feed
    If your yard attracts crabgrass, tackle it early. The best way to prevent it from becoming a problem is by covering your yard with pre-emergent crabgrass control. The best time to fertilize your yard is also when the soil is between 55 and 60 degrees. This gives your grass plenty of nutrition so it grows thick and lush all year long. Having a soil test done is the best way to determine what type and how much fertilizer is needed. Aerate your yard at the same time. The aeration allows fertilizer and water to quickly reach the root bed.

    Even though it might seem like a lot of work, if you plan ahead, make sure you have all the tools and supplies you need and really dedicate yourself to the project, you'll likely find that you can complete your spring lawn preparation during a single weekend.

  4. Trimming Trees and Shrubs
    When you remove dead branches from your trees and shrubs, it gives them a great start for the growing season ahead. Be careful not to cut away growth. You want your trees and shrubs to have a healthy start in case a second round of cold weather hits.

  5. Equipment Maintenance
    A big part of proper lawn maintenance is having the right tools in proper working order to get the job done. Before spring gets into full swing, check all your tools and equipment — and don't forget about your lawnmower. Either give it a tune-up at home or make a service appointment.

Keep these tips in mind when you venture outside for some yard work, and you'll be happy with how well your lawn looks all spring and summer long.

May
5

Maintenance Skills Every Homeowner Should Have

Home maintenance is easier than you think when you master a few simple skills. Owning a home is like having a piece of the American dream. However, when you buy a house over leasing one, don't forget — you also have the added responsibility of repairing maintenance issues when they arrive. Learning basic home repair skills can save you substantial money in the long run.

While it's unlikely that you'll be able to correct every problem that crops up, there are some basic home maintenance skills you should learn. You'll be glad you did!

  1. The Location of Water Valves
    You can prevent a great deal of damage simply by learning where the water valves are located and how to turn them off. This simple skill has the potential to save you thousands of dollars in water damage. As soon as you find a leak, you should shut the water off and decide if the plumbing problem is something you can manage on your own or if you should contact a plumber.

    Once you've settled into your home, it's not a bad idea to go to each of the water shut-off valves and turn it off and then back on every month or so. This prevents the handle from getting stuck. Each time you turn the valve, check all exposed pipes and make sure there aren't any signs of leaks.

  2. Patching Leaking Pipes
    Not only will learning how to patch pipes save you the money you would have given a professional plumber, but it also spares you the headache of having to go without indoor plumbing while you wait for the plumber to work you into their schedule.

    Patching pipes is easier than you think. The simplest method requires that you scour any rust from the leaking area with steel wool before using a file to roughen the pipe. Apply some pipe bonding putty to the hole or crack. Follow the directions for preparing pipe repair tape and then wrap the tape around the leak.

  3. Regulating the Water Heater Temperature
    While you're in the house, you might not have any reason to think about the temp of the water stored inside the water heater, but when you go away for a few days, turning it down can save you a considerable amount of money. This is why you should learn how to control temperature settings. You should also learn how to turn the heater off in the event it starts leaking.

  4. Touching Up Interior Paint
    Touching up interior paint is a regular task when you own a home. It's something you can easily do yourself. Simply clean the spot that needs to be touched up. If the reason you need to touch up the paint is that the wall has gotten a minor dent, ding, or scratch, fill the damaged area with a small amount of spackling compound. Let the spackling dry for a few days before applying a layer of primer to the spackling. Once the primer has dried, you simply paint over it with the same color interior paint as the rest of the room.

  5. Basic Appliance Repair
    Simply having an appliance repair expert come to your home to tell you what's wrong with your appliances can cost you over $100. Instead of relying on a professional, take some classes at your community center (or watch YouTube tutorials) and learn how to maintain, troubleshoot, and repair your household appliances.

With these skills mastered, you'll be able to quickly address issues around your home in a cost-effective way.

April
28

How To Choose A Contractor For Your Remodel Projects

Homeownership is an exciting time — one filled with many new possibilities and experiences. One possibility that has the potential to elevate your home to the next level is a remodel. Remodeling can transform your space into something more functional by better reflecting your lifestyle and adding value to your home. However, your dreams of the perfect renovation project can turn into a nightmare if you don't do your homework. To have a successful remodel, you need the right contractor.

It's understandable to want the best person for the job, but finding that person often involves a number of factors like availability, cost, and areas of expertise. The best way to choose a remodeling contractor is to do your homework and take steps to ensure that you find an ideal match for your project.

  1. Ask around or research
    If you have a friend or neighbor who has a remodel you like in a room/area you're looking to work on, too, it can be helpful to ask them who they used. You can also ask around your network of people — i.e., friends, family, business partners, or your real estate agent—to get recommendations for remodeling contractors. Once you have a list created, make your own as well by researching resources like Google, Angie's List, Better Business Bureau, and other online places that give you the names of local companies. Weed out any contractors with consistently poor reviews or contractors that don't specialize or have experience in the space you want to remodel.

  2. Look deeper into credentials and projects
    The majority of contractors have a website. Take the time to look at what credentials they may have and if they are current. See if they have pictures of their work as well. You can begin to get a feel for which contractors are more your taste or that have the knowledge necessary for your remodeling project.

  3. Interview possible contractors
    The next step once you have fine-tuned your list down to a few favorites is to call and schedule a time to meet and talk about the project. Consider both the phone and in-person meetings an interview. It's your chance to ask about experience, find out about their knowledge and skills, and see if you mesh. Like any job interview, you'll be able to get an overall sense of who you're getting. There are also some things you'll want to ask them or have them do, including: Itemize your bid, ask how long they have been in business, determine who their main suppliers are and who will be in charge of the site/project, and find out if the pricing is an estimate or fixed price.

  4. Check references
    Even if you've done all your online research and read all the reviews, nothing is as effective as talking with someone who has worked with your prospective contractor. You may find out things you didn't think to ask, and it can give extra assurance that you're making the right choice.

  5. Put it in writing
    The last thing you'll want to do when you've made your choice is to put it in writing. This is a great way to keep all parties on the same page and safeguarded.

Homeownership means making the decisions; it's your house, and you get to choose who remodels it. For the best remodeling experience, by taking your time and the correct steps, you're more likely to find the right person for your project. Not only will it save you time and money, but it will also get you the home of your dreams.

April
21

The Most Cost-Effective Home Improvement Projects

Whether you want to increase the value of your home or simply enjoy it more, there are low-cost improvements you can do that will really make a big difference. Best of all, some of these projects can be completed in a single weekend. To get you started, we've compiled five easy, effective DIY home improvement projects that should fit comfortably into any budget. 

  1. Fresh Coat, Fresh Look
    Painting a room has long been a go-to DIY home improvement project. The supplies are affordable, the difference is big, and it's something that anyone can learn to do with a little practice. A few drop cloths and rolls of painter's tape will help you keep things clean, and the paint itself should cost around $100, depending on how many rooms you plan to paint. For an added boost, check your favorite home improvement sites for creative color schemes.

  2. Updated Switch Plates
    Does every light switch in your home really need to be the same color of off-white? Homeownership has its perks, including the opportunity to choose switch plates of your very own. Those old, plastic switch plates are so common that most of us don't even notice them anymore.  You're sure to notice the difference when you choose plates that accent the color tones of your home. And this job likely won't require you to purchase any new tools since a simple screwdriver will work beautifully.

  3. Freshen Your Flooring
    Replacing your floors completely is an expensive, time-consuming project, but you don't need a brand new floor to get a brand new look. Adding some throw rugs is a great way to brighten up a room, and you can find nice rugs for affordable prices if you're willing to do a little bargain hunting. For wood floors, it's amazing how much difference cleaning and polishing with the right products can make. Carpeted floors can be steam-cleaned to remove old stains and renew colors.

  4. Cleaner Closets
    Even for the tidiest homeowners, it's very easy for closets to get overcrowded. A bit of cleaning work will make things much easier next time you need to search for something that's been stored away. Buy affordable closet organizers to make cleaning easier, and take the opportunity to toss or donate items that have only been collecting dust.

  5. Smart Shelving
    We started with a classic, and we'll end with one, too. Adding new shelving allows you to mix up your decorating in new ways, thin out clutter and display your favorite collectibles. You can find affordable shelving kits at your favorite home improvement store, and you won't need many tools to get the job done. Just be sure to have a level, measuring tape, and pencil on hand in order to get the cleanest look.

Our list is just the tip of the iceberg.  If you carve out a little time each weekend for home improvement projects, it won't be long before your home has a fresh, updated look, and you're even likely to pick up a few useful new DIY skills along the way.

April
14

Green Living Solutions You Can Achieve Now

The real estate market has recently seen an uptick in demand for green homes. Green home improvements can lead to a larger return on investment if you sell your home, and not all green home improvements are costly and time-consuming, and ones that offer tax credits can make taking the leap more affordable.

Whether you're looking to start small or do a complete overhaul, eco-friendly home improvement can help you obtain green building certifications and raise the value of your home. Implement some of these improvements in your home.

  1. Solar Energy Panels
    Solar PV systems produce power when exposed to sunlight, and require additional components to properly store, conduct, convert, control, and distribute the energy produced by the solar panel.

    This entire system is what drives up the cost of solar, especially equipment like batteries that must be replaced over time. However, costs for solar panels are expected to continue to drop as more thin-film panels become available to the residential market. As electric and other fuel costs rise, you can expect more PV solar panel installation on roofs, especially in areas with good solar conditions or higher electricity rates.

  2. Energy-Efficient Appliances
    High-efficiency appliances not only allow you to save on energy costs, but they are also an added selling point for home buyers. For example, a new, energy-efficient water heater won't run as often and can help you save on gas, electric, and water bills. High-efficiency washers, dryers, and other appliances can help with this as well.

  3. Proper Insulation
    Consider improving the insulation in your home. Keep in mind that traditional types of insulation, such as fiberglass, are not sustainably made. Choosing recycled materials, cotton, or wool insulation can help you remain more environmentally conscious and reap the benefits of tax credits. Depending on the size of your home, adding insulation and sealing cracks and crevices may help you save 10 to 30 percent on energy bills. Increased insulation can also help to prevent costly disasters like frozen pipes.

  4. Replacement Doors and Windows
    Gaps and cracks in old windows and doors are often to blame when it comes to chilly homes and high utility bills. While new windows may seem costly, you can often recoup up to 60-70% of the cost when selling your home. Do your homework before buying, and if new windows aren't within your budget, caulking, installing storm windows, and weather stripping can help to make your home more energy-efficient.

  5. Rainwater Collection Systems
    An affordable way to make your home more green, rainwater collection systems store water that runs through your gutters in a barrel for later use. For as little as $100 for the barrel and downspout fittings, a rainwater collection system can pay for itself in just a couple of seasons.

  6. Smart Thermostats
    Another affordable eco-friendly home improvement, programmable thermostats allow you to program temperatures and track your habits to see where savings can be made.

  7. Green Home Certification
    Once you've completed your eco-friendly home improvement projects, find a reputable company that does green home certification, such as LEED, EnergyStar, or NGBS. A green home certification will reinforce the benefits of purchasing an eco-friendly home and can lead to big returns on your investment.

If you are considering putting your home on the market, eco-friendly home improvements can make your quality of life better and help you maximize the value of your home.

April
7

How To Find The Best Lighting For Your Home

Choosing the right lighting for your home adds ambiance to your surroundings plus provides enough lighting to perform a task and to see better. Look around your home; if you are not satisfied with your lighting, use this list of insider tips on how to choose the perfect lighting for your home.

  1. Start with General Lighting
    General lighting is what you use to make your home functional. Without well-balanced general lighting, you won't be able to chop an onion in the kitchen, read in the den or find stains on your white shirts in the laundry room.

    Good general lighting is achieved with overhead lights on tracts, with recessed fixtures, or with larger visible fixtures like chandeliers. Natural light can also be considered general lighting, but you can't rely on it all the time, so you need to make sure your home has enough lighting for the evening and those dark, dreary days.

    The most important thing when it comes to general lighting is to make sure your whole space has the same level of illumination. Cut out dark spots, and your whole room will look more vibrant.

  2. Don't Forget About Task Lighting
    When people look to improve the lighting in their home, they typically look to general lighting solutions like adding more recessed fixtures. This is essential for a lot of people, but that doesn't mean task lighting is not needed as well.

    Task lighting is what you use to do a task – like a lamp for reading. Most of the time you won't have your task lighting on, but on particularly dark days or nights, or when you do not want to illuminate your whole room, it is essential. It also allows you to tailor the mood of your room to your desires.

    Most rooms require two to three task lights like table and floor lamps to improve the look of your home decor.

  3. Highlight Your Favorite Features
    Almost everybody has something in their home that they want to highlight, whether that's a wonderful piece of contemporary art or an antique Chippendale sofa. To do that, you will want to add spotlights to your home one way or another.

    For art and pieces of furniture, you will need overhead spots, ideally installed as recessed lights. Items that rest on the floor can use spotlights, but they can also benefit from canister lights that provide backlighting.

  4. Use Dimmer Switches
    Many homeowners simply install lighting and turn it on and off as needed. There is nothing wrong with this in theory, but the on-off version of lighting is not always the best for showcasing your home decor or setting the right mood in your home.

    That is where dimmer switches can come in handy. Dimmer switches are not too hard to install, and you can probably do it yourself as long as you turn off the electricity first.

Choosing the right lighting for your home will improve the atmosphere of your room. For help picking the right lights, visit local lighting stores, browse catalogs and search online home decorating websites. The right lighting will make your space feel warm and inviting.

March
31

Fixing a Fixer-Upper: Where You Should Start

Got a fixer-upper in your sights? Good for you. Whether this old house is going to be your dream home or you're angling for a rental income, it's best to know what you're getting into before you lay your money down. Don't be beguiled by the dream: make a cool-headed assessment from the top of the roof to the foundation and, if it's got one, the basement. 

Finding a Fixer-Upper
The local clerk of court's website is a good place to find deals, including foreclosures and short sales. Also, find foreclosure listings on Homes.com. Shop through auctions and estate sales. (Caution: Do your due diligence and research thoroughly; avoid careless bids.) Your real estate professional may also be able to help you with finding the right fixer-upper.

Home Inspection
Once you find a home you want to acquire, hire a home inspector. You might even enlist a couple of home inspectors. Or, ir you're competent to judge how well a house is holding up, you'll need to look at the following:

  • Structure
  • Roof
  • Foundation
  • Electrical
  • Plumbing
  • Heating
  • Doors and Windows

Pay particular attention to foundation and wall cracks, as well as water damage.

Flooring
Flooring is likely one of the major renovations you will make. If you have hardwood, it may be worth refinishing. If it needs to be replaced, you might consider laminate, which looks good, is easily maintained, costs less than hardwood, and is very durable. You might go for carpet, especially if you're in a colder climate, while tile might be the best choice for the kitchen and bathroom.

Hiring a Contractor
Once you've got an idea of the scope of your renovation, interview some contractors — at least three. You'll want to hire someone who has the ability to create a prospectus for the work so that you can refer to it and be assured the contractor is on track with the timeline and knows what you want. By interviewing more than one contractor, you could have a backup if one starts giving you the run-around.

Planning Your Project
The kind of fix-up you will do should depend on whether you intend to stay in this home for the rest of your life, or if you want to fix it up for a shorter-term goal: to sell it or to use it as a rental property. For instance, if you intend to stay in the home you may want to spend more for better, long-lasting materials, personalized colors, and in general, unique touches that will appeal more to you and your family rather than to a potential buyer. If the home is to be a rental property, you will want to use durable materials. 

Fees and Permits
Chances are you'll need to pay fees and purchase permits to do some of the work on your fixer-upper. A reputable contractor may do this for you, but do follow up and ask questions about what kind of permits have been obtained. Check with your local authorities so you will know what is required.

Will You Stay or Go?
Staying in your home during renovations may work out if you're doing the work yourself — or not. It could be easier to remove yourself and the family to a motel until the work is done.

Fixing a fixer-upper can be an exciting and rewarding adventure. Above all, remember that good planning and organization can get you through the rough spots and will see you to the satisfactory completion of your project.

March
24

The Most Common Shower Curtain Mistakes (And How To Fix Them)

For most of us, the shower curtain doesn't rate that high in our bathroom decorating schemes. After all, it's mainly functional, keeping the water from splashing outside the stall or bathtub. However, some homeowners do look to add a little pizzazz to the bathroom by choosing a distinctive shower curtain. If that's you, and you're on the verge of shower curtain shopping, take a break and read these tips; believe it or not, you can make some mistakes. Here's how to avoid them.

Avoiding Shower Curtain Issues

  1. Settling for plastic.
    Certainly, plastic shower curtains are abundant and can be cheap, but there are a few reasons why plastic isn't the best material for the shower. First, it degrades easily, so you may have to replace it rather more often than you would a better quality shower curtain. What's more, plastic tends to promote mold and mildew, so if you don't want to be cleaning it every month, avoid plastic.

  2. Finding the right material.
    If not plastic, what's the best shower curtain material? Cotton gets high marks and washes well but needs frequent laundering. Linen is also highly regarded. Polyester looks heavier and is easy to wash. Plastic shower liners may work alright, but do check often for mold, mildew, or soap scum. Most liners are vinyl (a type of plastic). Look for products that have an anti-mildew and anti-bacterial coating.

  3. Choosing a color or design that doesn't wear well.
    Some homeowners may pick up the first shower curtain they come across at the discount store, but they probably won't be happy with it. Maybe it's a loud, garish color or design. It might be worthwhile to hold out for a better-looking shower curtain that complements the colors and design in your bathroom. Shopping online will provide a lot more choices than looking in stores. Sometimes shower curtains come with an interesting textural feature or embroidered element that really adds some oomph to the design. So be on the lookout for the unusual and compelling.

  4. Buying the wrong size.
    You might think one size fits all when it comes to shower curtains, but that's not true. For width, measure from wall to wall, then add a few inches so your shower curtain will drape gracefully rather than being stretched taut. Obviously, depth measurements will be from curtain rod high to wherever you want the curtain to reach — and obviously long enough to do the job. A shower curtain that fits a tub may not work as well for a shower stall if you want the design to display nicely, so work this out with your imagination before you place your online order.

  5. Avoiding white?
    Some regard white shower curtains as just too boring. Sure, they can be, but they might also be quite nice if made of quality material or with nice texture or a white-on-white design. Also, if they're kept very clean, they can exude an air of cleanliness that will make your bathroom sparkle.

  6. Saying no to plastic hooks.
    Plastic hooks have been a real no-no since the '80s. So if you're still rocking vintage plastic, time to say bye. Metal rings with double hooks work best, as you can hang the liner inside the bathtub or shower stall with the shower curtain outside. Don't forget the rod. Aim to match the metal of the hooks and rod with the faucets.

Finding the right shower curtain, and displaying it prettily with the right rod and hooks, isn't the biggest upgrade you'll do, but it can be satisfying and fun if you get it right.

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.

March
10

Can You Paint A Fireplace? Here's What You Can Do

Painting a fireplace can transform a room from ordinary and dated to fresh, modern, and, dare we say? Gorgeous. For a homeowner with fair DIY skills, it's a fairly straightforward, achievable project, but it does require some care and diligence with details. So here they are.

Choosing the Look 

Before you go out and buy paint for your fireplace redo, think about the look you want to achieve. Are you intrigued by that whitewashed look you've seen on fireplace redo websites? Or are you thinking about going darker to cover up soot and cracks? Or should you just paint over that old red brick or the passé tile, or just let it go and wait for the painted fireplace trend to pass? (Hint: It's probably not going to pass anytime soon.) What kind of surface are you covering up? Brick, tile, marble, metal, or granite?

Two Kinds of Paint for Fireplaces 

Fireplace paint is different from the paint you put on walls, and there are two types. The interior of the fireplace, called a firebox, must be painted with a high temperature-tolerant paint formulated for metal surfaces that may reach 500 degrees or more. Any paint not formulated for this use will chip and peel.

Use heat-resistant (up to 200 degrees F) latex for the outer part of the fireplace.

Assemble Your Supplies

Choose your paint according to the look and style you want. Then assemble these materials:

  • Wire scrub brush
  • Rubber gloves
  • Safety goggles
  • Drop cloths
  • Paint roller for textured surfaces
  • Small paintbrush
  • Non-sudsy trisodium phosphate, also known as TSP
  • Fireplace cleaner
  • Painters' tape
  • Oil-based primer
  • Indoor latex paint

Painting

After you have your supplies, cover the floor with a drop cloth. Tape off areas you want to protect. Use a wire scrub brush to clean up the brick, then vacuum the debris. Then, wearing gloves and safety goggles, clean the fireplace with trisodium phosphate. You can also try soapy water. Rinse thoroughly and dry surfaces.

If you're cleaning a metal fireplace, scrub it with a coarse brush and degreaser, then rinse the fireplace with wet rags. For granite, clean it with soapy water.

After cleaning, you're ready for primer. Oil-based primer will block stains and protect the paint. Work the primer inside crevices with a stiff brush. Apply the primer evenly with a roller. You may need two coats. Let it dry overnight.

Use a roller to apply the paint evenly. Then take a small paintbrush to any missed spots.

Random Notes

You can paint brick or stain it in flat, semi-gloss, or gloss, and it can go over textured surfaces such as stone, brick, and wood quite successfully. Limestone, sandstone, and river rock are harder to paint over. Use interior latex masonry paint for bricks and stone. Masonry paint works well on porous and textured surfaces. Cover granite with adhesion primer, allowing it to dry overnight. You could then paint it with textured paint (acrylic paint with sand in it) for a different look. For metal, apply a light coat of galvanized metal-etching primer before painting.

As mentioned, the key to successfully painting your fireplace is extremely heat-resistant paint. Also, apply as many as three layers if needed, allowing the layers to dry before you apply the next one. After the last coat of paint has dried, touch up any missed areas or flaws.

A painted fireplace is a relatively inexpensive and not-too-difficult way to rejuvenate a room. So get going, and see how you can put your skills to use, transforming your fireplace.

March
3

How To Make Your Rooms Feel Bigger

Downsizing? Homeowners who move from a big house to a smaller dwelling often confront the problem of rooms that seem too small. Maybe the rooms are small, or maybe the homeowner miscalculated how much stuff could be moved into the new house and crowded conditions are making the rooms seem small. 

Whatever the reason, decorators have a number of cool tricks they share with homeowners to make a home's rooms seem bigger. 

  1. Get rid of some stuff.
    It may be hard, especially when you're a new downsizer who's moved from a large, spacious home where all your stuff had plenty of room to breathe, and now you've had to let so many of your prized possessions go just to fit in your smaller home. However, you are committed to making this smaller space work, so you may have to go through all your furniture and furnishings and do a ruthless assessment: What should you keep, and what should you let go of? Once you've weeded out what's disposable, if you're still feeling cramped, it might be wise to invest in a few pieces that can do double duty, such as a storage-type ottoman that might be extra seating or a coffee table.

  2. Move big items to the back.
    Move large furniture to the furthest point away from the room's entrance. For instance, move the bed against a wall opposite the bedroom entrance. Big, bulky items crowded near the front of the room make it seem smaller.

  3. Declutter walls.
    Trying to crowd all your framed photographs and your carefully curated artwork onto the walls is a big no. The gallery look will not work in a smaller room. Choose what you love most, allowing for that mysterious factor, negative space, to rule your arrangement of art and photos, and store the rest. You can rotate these items, retiring the ones you've had up for a while and putting out ones that have been stored.

  4. Camouflage furnishings with paint.
    Paint a table or other furnishings the same color as the wall, and you can make them "disappear." Well, not really, but they sort of melt into the background and are less obvious in the room. You can apply this trick to radiators, fans, and everything else that adds clutter to the room. 

  5. Avoid dark-colored walls.
    Leave dark colors for big houses. Go light in your smaller rooms to make the space seem bigger. Also, loud colors and patterns can make a space seem smaller, whereas soothing neutral colors will make the house seem larger. We're not suggesting you go totally beige, but do find some pleasing colors on the lighter side. And remember, contrasting colors break up a space, while complimentary lighter colors blend and make the space seem larger. 

  6. Keep it simple with rugs and window coverings.
    Too many rugs can add to clutter, so go minimal when it comes to items on the floor. 

  7. Do that trick with mirrors.
    Designers know all about it — how a mirror not only adds depth to a room by reflecting an image but also adds light — which, again, helps make the space seem bigger.

  8. Don't go crazy with tile patterns.
    Tile is fun to play with when decorating, but don't go crazy with too many patterns and general busyness. Keep it simple, and your space will look larger.

Making your rooms look larger than they are is one project that doesn't require a big outlay of cash. Yet another reason to celebrate small spaces: They are easier to organize and decorate, but also easier to keep clean.

February
24

Need To Paint Over Dark Walls? Here's How To Do It

Remember when, a few years ago, you fell in love with those trendy dark interior walls? You know — navy blue, ruby red, deep forest green, and even chic basic black? Those were the days, and though your dark walls made a statement, it could be time to put your home up for sale, or maybe you're just ready for something lighter and brighter this spring.

So what's it going to take to lighten things up?

Painting Over Dark Walls

But hang on; it's not a matter of just painting over the original dark color with the lighter color you desire. That could be a recipe for needing to apply more layers than should be necessary to cover up the dark color.

Let's break down the steps required to repaint dark walls successfully.

  1. Assemble the right equipment.
    Good quality equipment will make a difference. Well-made rollers will hold more paint and deliver a smoother, more polished coat. Are your walls rough? If so, you'll need a roller with a thicker nap to hold more paint so you can fill in crevices. Dark, smooth walls call for using either a foam roller or a roller with a thinner nap, which will provide smooth coverage for indoor walls.

  2. Prep the surface.
    First, clean the walls so that the paint goes on smoother. Then, plug holes with filler. Sand the filler.

    A coat of primer is essential. Lighter colors will be muted if you fail to coat the walls properly. In fact, at least two coats of primer will be even better so that the darker colors don't bleed through. And, if your darker color is red, be sure to go for two coats of primer, as red has a way of really bleeding through primer or a lighter shade of paint. Let it dry before you start painting.

    The primer must completely cover the dark paint. Don't stint on quality: Choose a reputable primer and paint. The better quality of primer has binders and pigments that will better cover the paint underneath. Go for white rather than gray.

  3.  Get your painting area ready. 
    Apply painter's tape to places you don't want to be painted. (Check out this video for tips.) Lay drop cloths around to protect the floor.

  4. Paint it on thick.
    Create thick "W" or "M" shapes with the primer. Dip the roller in the slanted section of the paint tray so you remove some of the paint and avoid lines in the finish. The key here is heavy coverage. Don't be shy: Thick is good. Let the primer dry.

  5. Look for un-primed areas.
    Once the primer is dry, check for areas where the old color shows through and cover them up. When this touch-up work has dried, you're ready to paint.

  6. Paint your walls.
    Choose a good quality paint. Acrylic is highly recommended, as it's better for the environment and works as well as oil-based.

    Apply paint with the same technique as you applied the primer. Let the first coat dry to see if you're satisfied with the results. You may need to apply a second coat or more. Keep going until you get the color you want.

Does all this seem like too much work? There are other options, such as repainting with a dark color you really like or applying wallpaper. However, if you're listing the home, you may really need to lighten up your walls. You can't go wrong with that proverbial blank slate that white or at least lighter walls offer a potential buyer. Plus, it will make your home look neat and well ordered.

February
17

How To Fix Nail Holes In Your Walls

When you think about how much trouble it is to fix those holes in the wall from nails or picture hangers, it's enough to make you forgo the pleasure of decorating the walls of your home in the first place. Well, not really -- but almost. Yes, patching holes can be a chore, but sometimes knowing the right way to do it can eliminate concerns for hammering holes in newly painted, pristine walls. 

Generally, fixing holes in the wall is a task that happens for a special occasion, such as when moving and you want your rent deposit back. Or, you're trying to sell your home, and you need to diminish the number of wall decorations and patch up the holes where they were hung before potential home buyers appear. You might even get fed up with the look of your wall decorations and want to rearrange them, but you will have to patch up the nail holes when that happens.

Repairing Nail Holes

You'll need something to fill the holes. Generally, that will be spackle, but if you don't have any, you can use a few things you may have on hand, such as toothpaste. White toothpaste works fine, although it will be painted over. (Hint: You can also rub-a-dub-dub your youngster's crayon off the walls with toothpaste). Other quick solutions for nail holes are baking soda and white glue, or rubbing a bar of soap over the hole,

But let's say you've got spackling or some drywall joint compound such as 3M High Strength Small Hole Repair. This stuff actually works in holes as large as 3 inches in diameter and doesn't shrink or crack. (Whereas we can't guarantee how toothpaste will behave over time.) Use a small putty knife with a smooth edge and a good grip to apply the spackling evenly.

Put a small amount of spackling on the corner of the knife and press in the hole. Scrape the knife against the repair to make the spackling flush with the wall. Wipe off excess spackling. Let it dry for about 30 minutes. 

After the compound dries, you'll need some fine-grit sandpaper (grit size between 180 to 320 is recommended) to smooth out the spackling. A sanding sponge (also made by 3M) is another way to go and will give a smooth finish. Sand with a light touch, keeping consistent pressure on the spackling. In case of an indentation, repeat the process, filling up the indentation with spackling. 

Your repair probably will need to be touched up with paint to make it the same color as the wall. Before painting, wipe the repair area with a dry rag or paper towel. Using a small paintbrush, go over the repair area. Let it dry to see if you need to go over it a second time. 

Got a larger hole to repair? Self-Adhesive Fiberglass Drywall Joint Tape (made by Duck Brand) is mesh fiberglass that comes in a roll and can join the two sides of the hole. Joint tape turns what can seem a daunting repair into a quick fix: cover the hole with the tape and proceed with spackling, as above. 

All the above instructions are of course for holes in drywall. If you have holes in wood paneling, use wood filler in the holes.

Repairing holes from nails or picture hangers may not be the most inspiring chore on your list, but once you master these easy techniques, the job will go quickly and smoothly, and you'll be delighted with the results. 

February
10

High Tech Security: Getting Started With Smart Homes

Not too many years ago, the concept of the smart home existed mainly in the realm of science fiction. Computerization was initially too big and bulky for a home setting, but also too expensive for the average homeowner to afford. Of course, that's all changed. Technological innovations in Artificial Intelligence, or AI, where devices can learn, and the so-called Internet of Things (IoT, which refers to products interconnected through digital networks) have paved the way for adapting smart technology for the home.

Plus, smart home technology is now affordable. Not surprisingly, more and more homeowners are taking the plunge. 

The benefits are many. You can control the temperature of your home from near or far, maximizing energy efficiency with your HVAC system, or turn lights and the coffee pot on with the flick of a switch from your bedroom without getting up. But even more significant to most homeowners, beyond comfort and ease, is the benefit of a smart home security system.

Why A Smart Security System?

Homeowners have varying degrees of concern with home security, depending on their neighborhood and perceptions about how "safe" they are. Some may view an alarm, monitors, and lighting as a hassle, while others will see this technology as essential for the family's well-being. Indeed, many homeowners realize a smart security system can be an important weapon in preventing home invasion, burglary, vandalism, and package theft. 

Smart home systems ramp up security a notch by reporting real-time issues, rather than alerting the homeowner after a situation occurs — such as a break-in at the front door. Leave a door open? A smart home system can apprise you of such and can even lock the door for you.

The cameras installed with smart systems help you monitor your doors and windows, as well as inside your home, and all around your property. Cameras help you check on pets and domestic help while you're away.

What's more, a security system boosts the value of your home. Real estate firms nationwide are noting that homebuyers are willing to pay more for a home with a smart security system. Plus, many new home buyers have grown up with computer technology and are quite comfortable with smart home security.

Building a Smart Home Security System

For homeowners considering smart security systems, there are several ways to go. The easiest — and most expensive option — is to hire a company, such as top-rated but expensive Vivint, ADT (highly recommended for their quality monitoring), or Ring, that will make recommendations for your home, and build the system, including sensors, lights, monitors, and alarms, based on your preferences. Or, you can build the system yourself, acquiring the various components and putting them in place, linking them to a hub so they can communicate with each other, while you control them from your smartphone. Frontpoint is one company that works well for DIY installers.

Maybe you want something simpler and less expensive. Fortunately, many smart home products don't need a hub to operate; you can build a satisfactory system with a wireless router at the center — a much more affordable solution.

It's relatively easy to find the right components to add to your DIY smart home security system. Just be sure the components you install interact properly with each other. That includes smart bulbs, smart plugs, light switches, dimmers, sensors, door locks, glass break detectors, indoor and outdoor cameras, motion and water detectors, smoke/CO alarms, thermostats, and video doorbells.

A smart security system allows you to work, travel, or sleep soundly with fewer concerns about defending your home.

February
3

Home Improvement Regrets: How You Can Bounce Back

No doubt you've dreamed of your home renovation for a long time, making sketches and jotting down notes, studying websites and home improvement publications, and just generally imagining how your changes will look. A renovation sure can be exciting, but it's also fraught with pitfalls that can bring on regrets. How do you ensure that, by and large, when the grand project is concluded, you're content with the results?

Fortunately, a little organization and good planning can keep renovation regrets to a minimum. Here are some tips to help you avoid remorse so you can enjoy results to the max.

  1. Make a budget, and stick with it.
    Some folks get fuzzy with their renovation budget and aren't really sure how they're going to finance the work. Whether you get a loan, use savings, or put the project on credit cards, be sure you have a ballpark figure of how much you can spend. Collect estimates from your consultants, and assess which ones will fit your budget.

  2. Don't try to do everything under the sun.
    If you're rich and the sky's the limit on your budget, we're thrilled for you. Otherwise, it's probably unwise to attempt a total overhaul of the home. Experts recommend choosing three major project areas and focusing on them. For instance, you might want to do the following: paint walls, replace kitchen countertops, and renovate the bathroom. To be sure, these projects are not small. Nevertheless, the results are bound to be more pleasing when you don't scatter your attention and resources all over the home.

  3. Paint choices are never foolproof, but you can get close to what you want.
    Choosing paint can be scary. Who isn't worried that a color you love won't look the way you thought it would? After all, natural lighting in your home can make the color look different. Do a swatch test on a poster board. Put it on your wall. Check it at different times of the day. This should help you decide if it's the color of your dreams. Also, consider the furniture in the room; will this color of paint go with it?

  4.  Block out where furniture will go before you buy it.
    It's not enough to just imagine where a new piece of furniture will go. You need to take measurements, then block out the space on the floor, marking it with painter's tape. This will give you a better idea of how well the new furniture will fit. If you have some big boxes, stack them as a substitute for the bigger furniture so you'll get a feel for how much space the real deal will take. A space planning app like Plan Your Room can also be a big help.

  5. Too many choices can be confusing. 
    Once you've decided on which projects to focus on, you'll need to narrow your choices a bit more. For instance, allow yourself three paint choices—ditto with flooring or countertops. Too many choices will only confuse you. 

After your renovation is finished, you may be tempted to focus on imperfections and what you don't like. Try to avoid this by focusing instead on what you love about the renovation. If the results are still too dissatisfactory, then you may need to redo — that is, paint a wall a different color or send a piece of furniture back and get another. It's not a failure, after all. A renovation is an exploration into unknown territory, and you can't always know what you'll love before you find it.

January
27

Clean These Parts Of Your Home (Because You Probably Forgot Them)

If you're like most people, cleaning your home is likely not your favorite activity, but the alternative can present a variety of health problems. Hidden dirt, grime, and mold that builds up in unexpected places create germs that can make you and your family sick. Take a look at eight places in your home that should not be overlooked.

  1. Ceiling Fans
    Ceiling fans collect a thick buildup of dirt and dust, especially if you don't run them for a while. If you have a ceiling fan in your kitchen, you may find a layer of oily grime that builds up from gas appliances. If you can't remove the blades, cover items below the fan, then use a duster and a damp soapy rag to remove buildup.

  2. Doors and Door Handles
    When it's time to clean, doors and door handles are often overlooked. Whether your doors have a wooden or painted finish, you should dust them regularly, especially the top of the doors where dust collects. Door handles are germ magnets, so they should be cleaned with mild soapy water or a special cleaner that protects the finish.

  3. Carpets and Rugs
    What's lurking in your carpets and rugs is a variety of nasty things that can make you sick. In addition to dirt and dust, you may find mold if you live in a humid climate, pollen from outdoor air, and pet dander that causes allergic reactions. Even more disgusting, you may find microscopic insects like dust mites that shed skin and fecal matter.

  4. Kitchen Appliances
    Due to daily meal prepping and cooking, your kitchen is a room that's full of germs. Your stove and oven contain spilled food and grease, your refrigerator contains old food, and your dishwasher is full of food debris. Kitchen appliances, including small appliances like microwave ovens, toasters, and coffee pots should be cleaned frequently to prevent a buildup of unhealthy bacteria, mold, and mildew.

  5. Bathroom Fixtures
    Bathroom toilets, bathtubs, showers, sinks, and fixtures should be thoroughly cleaned with bleach or special bathroom cleaners at least once a week. Remove soap scum from shower doors with a glass cleaner, throw your shower curtain in the washer with detergent and a cup of baking soda, and don't forget to clean your toothbrush holders, a perfect place for bacteria to hide.

  6. Washers and Dryers
    Washers and dryers are breeding grounds for mold and mildew due to dampness and poor ventilation. For your safety, fill the bleach dispenser in the washer with bleach and run a cycle with hot water every two months. Check your dryer and make sure the exhaust duct is properly vented and cleaned at least once a year by a professional.

  7. Computer Keyboards
    According to health experts, 44% of people don't clean their computer mouse and keyboard. Studies show that 42% of computer keyboards are crawling with a type of bacteria known as "gram-positive cocci," known to cause illness. Cleaning your mouse and keyboard regularly with a disinfectant will kill germs and keep you healthy.

  8. Trash Cans
    Although your indoor trash cans hold daily trash, they can get a buildup of food particles, grease, and stinky odors if you don't clean them. Once every week or two, take your trash cans outside, rinse them out with a hose, and clean them with a long-handled brush and a mixture of warm water and white vinegar to eliminate bacteria, mildew, and foul odors.

When cleaning your home, don't overlook places where bacteria and germs easily hide. Protect your family's health by paying attention to heavily used items and surfaces often forgotten.

    January
    20

    How To Protect Your Resale Value When You Have Pets

    If you're like most pet owners, you cherish your pets and treat them as part of your family. Whether you have a fluffy canine, a cuddly feline, or another 4-legged variety, it's important for you to provide a loving, comfortable, pet-friendly home for your special fur babies.

    Unconditional love for a family pet makes it easy to overlook damages that pets can do to your home. Even the best-behaved pets can cause significant damages by scratching up walls, windows, and woodwork, chewing on cabinet doors, and digging holes in the yard.

    Pets can present a variety of challenges when it's time to sell your home, but there are ways to protect your home and your home's resale value when you have a pet.

    Get Rid of Odors and Stains

    Lingering pet odors are a big turnoff for potential homebuyers. As a pet owner, you may be used to the musty smells left on carpets and furniture, but homebuyers will notice them the minute they step through your front door. Although many products and air purification devices say they remove pet odors, they simply mask the problem with temporary scents. For the foul odors and stubborn stains caused by pet hair, litter boxes, and pet mishaps, it's best to have your home professionally cleaned before you show it to potential buyers.

    Repair Indoor Damages

    Prior to listing your home, take a good look around the house to assess interior home damages caused by your pets. You may walk by a chewed door frame or a scratched-up window screen every day, but homebuyers are sure to notice even minimal damages that will need repairs. Before you show your home:

    • Give doors, walls, moldings, and trim a fresh coat of paint
    • Replace broken or scratched window glass
    • Replace damaged window screens
    • Repair chewed doors, cabinets, and rugs
    • Repair or replace torn window shades and draperies
    • Replace stained flooring, carpets, upholstery, and bedding

    Repair Landscape Damages

    If your pets spend a lot of time outdoors, it's important to check your landscaping and outdoor features for pet damages. While cats can wreak havoc on your floors and furnishings, dogs can quickly destroy your grass, plants, flowers, and outdoor features like decks, planters, and chair cushions. Take a walk around the house to look for damages that may signal costly repairs to potential buyers, then fix them:

    • Sod or plant grass to cover bald spots in the yard caused by digging
    • Fill in patchy flower beds with new plants
    • Replace cracked or broken flower pots
    • Replace chewed or stained chair cushions
    • Repaint and repair damages to the deck, patio, fence, and gate

    If your budget allows, consider hiring a professional landscaping service to refresh your lawn and spruce up your curb appeal before you show your home.

    Remove Your Pets During Open House

    Having your pets at home during a showing or an open house is not a good idea. Even if potential buyers are pet owners, your pets will be a distraction during an open house, especially to people who are not as fond of animals or have allergies to pet dander. To avoid distractions and possible mishaps with pets, consider boarding your pets at a kennel or leaving your pets with friends or relatives on days when a showing or open house is scheduled.

    Prior to a showing, it's best to remove all pet food dishes, animal crates, animal bedding and blankets, and cat litter boxes from the house to prevent unpleasant, lingering pet odors. You can store them outside or in the garage until the open house is over.

          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.

          January
          6

          The Biggest Design Trends Of 2022

          Due to the COVID pandemic, everyone has spent more time indoors over the last two years. Whether working from home, home-schooling the kids, or simply isolating for safety, the home has taken on a whole new meaning. With a new appreciation for the comforts of home, design trends are changing our living spaces for 2022.

          Show-Stopping Kitchens

          While the kitchen has always served as the hub of the home, that concept will be exemplified in 2022. Kitchens that focus on cooking, family gatherings, spacious layouts, and luxurious finishes will be in the spotlight. Expect to see a variety of quality kitchen appliances that simplify cooking, food storage, and cleaning chores. Open kitchen layouts that emphasize family gatherings and provide plenty of elbow room for guests will replace kitchens with small, closed-in spaces.

          Dedicated Spaces

          Multi-functional spaces that serve many purposes will take a back seat to dedicated spaces that address specific needs. In 2022, there will be a surge in spaces dedicated to work and relaxation.

          • Home Offices – With so many changes in the workplace, home offices are making a big comeback. Forget working on the kitchen table or the living room desk; homeowners want dedicated rooms with all the functional features of a home office.
          • Home Gyms – Rooms dedicated to physical fitness are trending. Whether it's an extra bedroom, a space in the garage, or an outdoor shed, homeowners are setting up home gyms with serious fitness equipment to stay in shape.
          • Wine Rooms – Interior design trends show a big demand for dedicated wine tasting and storage spaces. With more homeowners socializing at home, designers are designing elaborate wine rooms with cold storage and comfortable seating for tasting parties.

          Bold Colors and Patterns

          Homeowners are stepping out of their comfort zones and taking risks with bold colors and patterns that boost their mood. Bold colors and patterns with intense hues and rich textures are topping the list. Bold paint colors in shades of teal blue, hunter green, and ochre, umber, and mustard are top sellers. Rich textures found in suede, velvet, mohair, and natural fibers are trending. Bold colors and patterns are showing up in rugs, upholstery, draperies, wallpapers, and accessories for the home.

          Curves and Soft Edges

          Curves and soft edges are replacing hard, straight lines in home furnishings and accessories. Architectural details like rounded ceiling soffits and walls, curved edges on kitchen cabinetry, and arched windows and doorways are trending in new home construction across the country. In existing homes, homeowners are incorporating this trend by buying sofas and chairs with softer, rounded corners, drum tables, round chandeliers, and oval or round area rugs.

          Vintage and Antique Furnishings

          Designers are noticing a renewed interest in vintage, antique, and handcrafted furnishings that lend the unique charm and character of the past. Homeowners are turning to old antique rugs, velvet draperies, vintage wallpapers, pleated and ruffled upholstery, and tasseled and fringed throw pillows to create a warm, inviting home. To prevent a stuffy atmosphere of days past, vintage and antique furnishings are being combined with decorative elements in bolder colors that feel more playful and less traditional.

          Relaxing Atmosphere

          In 2022, emotional wellness continues to be a major factor in home design trends. Homeowners are focused on ways to bring more natural light, ventilation, and healthy elements into their spaces. Design trends emphasize organic materials like wood, stone, and ceramic, relaxing features like fireplaces and waterfalls, and healthy air quality with more indoor plants. Homeowners want interior elements that promote a relaxing home atmosphere and a balanced mindset in uncertain times.

          December
          30

          Renovations That Can Decrease Your Home's Value

          Your home is a special place where you can relax after a long day. While wanting to make home improvements that increase comfort and value is normal, some renovations can end up costing you money in the long run by decreasing your home's resale value. Take a look at some of the riskiest home investments that may not return your money.

          1. Wall-to-Wall Carpeting
            While wall-to-wall carpeting provides a cushion under your feet, it shows wear-and-tear and stains much faster than hardwood floors. Today's home buyers want hardwood floors that reflect warm tones and updated design style. Both real hardwood and laminate floors can increase your home's resale price by 5%.

          2. Too Much Wallpaper
            With busy textures and patterns, wallpaper can leave a bad impression on potential homebuyers. While you may love it in your home, homebuyers may view it as a potential nightmare that will cost time and money to remove. Too much wallpaper may cost you a sale when a homeowner wants a move-in-ready home.

          3. Bright, Bold Paint Colors
            While some people are inspired by bright, bold paint colors, others are over-stimulated and intimidated, especially if they lack design experience or vision. To boost your home's resale value and to speed up your sale, it's best to keep a neutral palette so homebuyers can envision themselves living in your home.

          4. Lavish Lighting Fixtures
            With such a variety of beautiful light fixtures, homeowners often choose lavish ceiling-mounted fixtures, chandeliers, and pendants. While they may love the look, potential homebuyers may be turned off by fancy features and glitzy finishes. It's best to choose lighting fixtures that appeal to a variety of buyers when you're ready to sell.

          5. High-End Kitchens
            Many homeowners invest big bucks in a kitchen remodel, but this is a costly investment that doesn't always pay off. In 2020, the national average for a major kitchen remodel was $68,490, but the resale value was only $40,127. If you're planning to sell your home, make sure a costly kitchen remodel gives you a good return.

          6. Luxurious Bathrooms
            An upgraded bathroom can certainly add value to your home, but don't get carried away with the idea of luxury. Potential buyers may be scared off by over-the-top, luxurious features and finishes that are hard to clean and maintain. Before installing a whirlpool tub, rain shower, and crystal chandeliers make sure your investment will pay off.

          7. Home Office Conversions
            While a home office may be beneficial during the COVID-19 pandemic, it may not be in demand when everyone returns to the office. If you have an extra room that's rarely used, a home office may be a good idea, but converting a bedroom to a home office will likely be a costly mistake when you decide to sell your home.

          8. Sunroom Additions
            Adding a sunroom to your home may be a great way to enjoy outdoor views and warm weather. However, remodeling experts list it as one of the worst home renovations when it comes to a return on your investment. A $75,000 investment in a sunroom may only recoup $35,000 when you sell your home.

          9. Swimming Pools and Hot Tubs
            Contrary to popular belief, adding swimming pools and hot tubs are not the best way to add value to your home. According to HouseLogic, swimming pools and hot tubs only increase home value by 7%, while raising maintenance, utility, and repair costs by as much as 30%.

          Before you invest in expensive home renovations, make sure you can recoup your investment costs when you decide to sell your home. Think twice about costly renovations that may cost you profits.

              December
              23

              Find The Right Faucet For Any Part Of Your Home

              When it's time to buy a new faucet, finding the right one can be a confusing decision. With so many faucets to choose from, it's important to narrow your options by focusing on three important factors — style, function, and cost.

              Whether you're replacing an old faucet in your bathroom, laundry room, or kitchen sink or just upgrading design style, consider the faucet's design appeal, functional features, and cost before you make a purchase.

              Style and Design

              When choosing a faucet, consider your room's style and design. Whether it's contemporary, modern, transitional, or period, your faucet needs to complement the colors and finishes in your room. While many people choose chrome, there's a variety of choices that may be a better fit for your room:

              • Nickel – Similar to chrome, nickel has less shine with a brushed finish
              • Pewter – With chrome undertones, pewter has a dark, gray muted cast
              • Copper – Red undertones in copper complement industrial and  farmhouse designs
              • Bronze – A mixture of copper and tin, bronze adds warm brown undertones
              • Brass – Shiny and brushed brass add rich yellow undertones
              • Gold – With sophisticated style, gold is perfect for traditional rooms

              When choosing a faucet finish, pay attention to other metal finishes on appliances and cabinet pulls or knobs so everything coordinates.

              Functional Features

              While functional faucet features are important in every room, they are especially important in the kitchen where chopping, cooking, and cleanup are daily rituals. Take a look at some of the most popular options:

              Single vs Dual Handles

              Two-handle faucets have a stylish symmetry that works well in bathrooms, but single-handle faucets offer advantages in the kitchen. When cooking and cleaning, single-handle faucets provide convenience, faster temperature adjustment, and easier cleaning.

              When switching from dual handles to a single handle, you likely have three holes in the sink. To cover the dual-handle holes, you can use cover plates or add a soap dispenser and a pull-down sprayer. If you have two separate sinks in the kitchen and bathroom, single handles work best in the kitchen, but dual handles are best in the bathroom.

              Handleless Faucets 

              Faucets without handles are popular options because they're more sanitary and easy to use. They operate by either touching the faucet or sliding an object under the faucet. Handleless faucets turn off when no motion is detected near the faucet.

              Spout Height and Reach

              Faucet spouts vary significantly in height and reach, so consider things around the sink that limit your choices. If you have a cabinet or shelf above the sink, a tall spout may not fit. If you have a two-bowl or three-bowl kitchen or laundry room sink, a spout with a short reach may not extend to all the bowls. In a bathroom sink, a faucet with a short reach may cause water to build up behind the spout when you wash your hands.

              Pot Fillers

              Pot fillers are great features for kitchen sinks with daily cooking and cleaning chores. They can be installed with swivel spouts for dual sinks and pull-down hoses that create water streams or sprays.

              Budget

              You should expect to spend a minimum of $65 for a bathroom faucet and $100 for a kitchen faucet, depending on finishes and features. Don't buy a cheap faucet to save money. A low-quality faucet will likely cost you more in repairs for leaks and unreliable parts.

              Installing new faucets in your home is a great way to boost design appeal and add convenient features that simplify daily life. With so many available options, it's easy to find the perfect faucet for your home.

                December
                16

                DIY Kitchen Upgrades If You're Short On Time

                The kitchen may be the hardest-working room in the house. Days begin and end around the activity of preparing meals. A functional kitchen design can make a huge difference in the quality of your day-to-day life and your home's value — especially if you plan on selling it someday.

                If you want to upgrade your kitchen but are short on time, you can skip an extensive remodel and go with easy weekend projects that are sure to improve the functionality and appearance of your kitchen. Here are quick and sustainable kitchen upgrades to get you started.

                • Swap Out the Hardware
                  Replacing builder-grade drawer pulls and knobs with new hardware adds character and visual interest to your kitchen. In just a few minutes, you can instantly make your kitchen look on-trend. Choose an option in a sleek, modern shape. You could opt for sleek polished chrome, brass, or black – even if you have stainless steel appliances. The design should be easy to clean and as functional as it is beautiful. Count the number of handles, drawer pulls, or knobs before heading out to the store.


                • Brighten with Lighting
                  Give your kitchen some drama and show off pretty display pieces with various lighting options. Place a pendant over the island or peninsula to take your space from okay to OMG. Look for styles with geometric patterns and shapes for the most contemporary look. Don't forget under-cabinet lighting to add practical task lighting and create a warm ambiance in a dark and dingy space.


                • Replace Window Coverings
                  Window treatments are the unsung heroes of design, enhancing privacy, controlling light infiltration, and framing the entire space. The correct window treatment can create a visual impact, elevate your kitchen's design, and reflect your sense of style and beauty. There are many different options that can involve custom ideas, a fusion of existing treatments, or DIY creations. The shape and style of your window will determine the scope of the project. So put the spotlight on this oft-overlooked area using curtains, shutters, shades, or blinds that are easy to remove.


                • Install a Backsplash
                  When the countertop and cabinets are in great shape, installing a new backsplash can instantly boost the "wow" factor in any kitchen. When you're short on time, a new backsplash can be as easy as peel-and-stick. With these, you just mark out where you want to install the tile, clean the surface, and then apply the tile to the wall, giving your kitchen a facelift in a few hours. You can choose virtually any shape, size, and color. This DIY kitchen upgrade is fairly simple if you're patient and careful.


                • Paint the Kitchen Cabinets
                  If replacing cabinetry is too costly and too time-consuming, a fresh coat of paint could be a better option. A fresh coat of paint is a relatively easy way to give your kitchen a facelift if your cabinets are sound and functional but a little dated. You'll have to remove hardware, clean and sand the surfaces, and then apply two to three coats of quality paint. This could take about three days. Find a color that looks great in natural and artificial light and enhances your theme.


                • Introduce Open Shelving
                  If your kitchen looks overworked or you have a massive blank wall to fill, consider introducing open shelves. Or you can remove upper cabinet doors to give your kitchen a sense of openness and a modern look. After removing the doors, use wood filler to fill in the holes, sand until smooth, and paint as desired. Open shelving is a great way to display everyday dishes, serving platters, cookbooks, fresh herbs, and other decorative kitchen items.


                • Get New Stools
                  For a quick kitchen makeover, one of the easiest things to do is to replace your bar stools if you have a kitchen island. The stools tend to show wear and tear faster than other items due to high traffic. Buy the best quality you can afford and choose a set that will make a strong style statement. If you have a banquette in your kitchen, you can quickly update it with a swatch of fresh fabric.

                You just need to be creative and strategic to create a stylish and functional space in a short time and for a lot less.

                December
                9

                Thinking About A Live Tree This Year? Here's Your Guide

                With Christmas just around the corner, it's time to put up your tree, decorate your home, and get in the holiday spirit. To celebrate this year, you may want to forget about that artificial tree in the garage and purchase a live Christmas tree that fills your home with fresh holiday scents of a winter wonderland.

                Choosing Your Christmas Tree

                When buying a live Christmas tree, you can choose a pre-cut tree from a local merchant or cut down your own tree at a choose-and-cut farm. Each option has pros and cons depending on your holiday time restrictions, holiday budget, and preferred holiday experience.

                Pre-Cut Trees

                Pre-cut Christmas trees are grown on large farms that harvest trees, cut them down, and ship them to various retailers, garden centers, and freestanding tree lots. When buying a pre-cut tree, always check for freshness because trees are harvested and cut at different times during the holiday season. To check freshness, pull on the end of a branch gently with your hand. If the tree drops needles, it's best to keep looking. Fresh Christmas trees hold onto their needles.

                Choose-and-Cut Trees

                Choose-and-cut trees are usually grown on smaller tree farms where you can wander through fields of trees, choose a tree, then cut it down yourself with saws provided by the farm. It requires more physical labor, but it's a unique holiday experience for the family. Choose-and-cut farms often provide family-themed holiday entertainment like bonfires, petting zoos, hay wagon rides, hot chocolate or hot cider stands, and gift shops with tree ornaments, garland, tree toppers, tree skirts, and tree stands.

                Placing the Tree in Your Home

                If this is your first live Christmas tree, it's important to follow some safety guidelines to avoid a fire. Unlike artificial trees which are often fire-resistant, live trees can quickly catch on fire if placed near direct heat sources like fireplaces, furnace vents, and electrical cords and outlets. Placing your tree near a fireplace or furnace vent will cause the tree to dry out a lot faster. Look for a spot in an open area or near a window and measure the circumference and height of the tree to make sure it fits before you set it up.

                Purchasing a Sturdy Tree Stand

                One of the most stressful tasks of putting up a live Christmas tree is securing the tree in the tree stand. If you use a traditional tree stand with screws, you need two people to hold the tree's weight and get it safely into the stand. One person should position the tree while the other person tightens the screws. If you purchase a tree from a tree farm, tree lot, or retailer, many have specially-designed drills that match the pin in the stand, so trees will stand upright and straight.

                Taking Down the Tree

                Taking down a live Christmas tree can get a little messy, especially if the tree is dried out. To prevent needles in the house, lay a bed sheet on the floor, lay the tree down on the sheet, wrap the sheet around the tree, and take it outside through the closest exit. One big perk, live Christmas trees are recyclable. Check community resources for curbside pickup options or central drop-off points in your area.

                For many people, the smell of fresh pine needles and juniper berries is a family tradition that's a big part of Christmas. Perhaps it's time to start a new tradition in your home with a live Christmas tree that creates warm, nostalgic family memories of the Christmas season.

                December
                2

                Donate Or Toss? Use This Guide To Find Out

                When you live in one place for a while, you often accumulate a variety of items that clutter your living space. If this sounds a little too familiar, perhaps it's time to get rid of unwanted and unneeded items that are cluttering up your home.

                Once you're ready to tackle a big "spring cleaning," be prepared to answer three important questions that can speed up your cleaning process or bring it to a sudden halt: Should I keep it? Should I donate it? Should I toss it? Here are some helpful tips that will keep your cleaning efforts moving.

                What Items Should You Consider Keeping?

                When you start cleaning, remember that you can't keep everything if you really want to declutter your living space. Keep an open mind, but stay focused on the end results. While sorting through items, ask yourself four questions: Is this in good condition? Is this useful? Does this have monetary value? Does this have sentimental value? If you answered yes, consider keeping it. Good items to keep include:

                • New clothes that are stylish and fit well
                • Winter coats, jackets, and clothing for next year
                • Winter bedding like comforters, blankets, and quilts
                • Sports and camera equipment
                • Expensive electronic equipment
                • Family heirlooms and photographs
                • Holiday decorations

                What Items are Best for Donations?

                Items that are no longer useful or valuable to you may be useful to someone else. That slightly worn sweater or extra blanket may come in handy for someone in cold winter weather. You can easily donate your unwanted and unneeded items to local charities, thrift shops, Goodwill, and the Salvation Army. Charitable organizations are always in need of certain items such as:

                • Clothing and shoes in good condition
                • Bedding, linens, towels, and pillows
                • Small electrical appliances that work
                • Tools and yard equipment that work
                • Furniture items
                • Books and toys in good condition

                There are certain items that most charities and thrift shops do not want and will not take because of potential health hazards to consumers. These items should not be considered for donations:

                • Used mattresses and box springs
                • Large bulky appliances
                • Child car seats, strollers, high chairs, and cribs
                • Children's toys with small or missing parts
                • Outdated electronics
                • Humidifiers and dehumidifiers
                • Outdated textbooks, encyclopedias, and magazines
                • Items that are offensive or vulgar

                If you have any of these items on your list, don't try to donate them. Instead, check with local companies that recycle metals and plastics or rebuild outdated electronics. If you're purchasing new appliances, many retailers will haul away your old appliances for free.

                What Items Should You Toss Out?

                When considering which items to throw away, remember that if it has no value to you or anyone else or isn't working properly, then tossing it in the trash is your best bet. Don't hesitate to get rid of items that are just cluttering up your home. Good items to toss include:

                • Old, worn clothing, shoes, socks, hats, and gloves
                • Furniture that's damaged or broken
                • Faded or damaged rugs, curtains, and linens
                • Broken small appliances and electronics
                • Old worn pots and pans
                • Old cosmetics, hair products, and toiletries
                • Expired medications and pantry items

                In general, anything that's broken, damaged, or no longer being used should be tossed out. Unless it has value or special meaning, it's just taking up space.

                Although spring cleaning may feel like a tedious chore, it doesn't have to. By sorting items into three separate areas — keep, donate, and toss — you can quickly clean and declutter your home so you can move on to indoor activities you enjoy with family and friends.

                  November
                  25

                  Prep Your Home For Guests With These Tips

                  The holidays are a special time of year when joy and laughter fill the air. We decorate the house with festive ornaments, string lights along the rooftop, shop for holiday gifts, and celebrate the season with family and friends who come to visit.

                  Whether your holiday guests are visiting overnight or staying for a few days, they need a cozy place to relax and sleep. Hosting guests requires some preparation, but you don't need to stress. With a little effort, you can make your guests feel comfortable and welcome for the holidays.

                  Create a Warm Welcome

                  Welcome your guests to your home with a festive entry that showcases the holiday season. Starting outdoors, adorn the trees and shrubs with holiday twinkle lights, line the front walkway with poinsettias, hang a seasonal wreath on the front door, and greet your guests with a cup of hot chocolate. As guests step into your home, welcome them with scented holiday candles, a roaring fire in the fireplace, freshly-baked muffins, and a beautiful holiday tree filled with ornaments, tinsel, and wrapped gifts.

                  Stock the Kitchen

                  When you're hosting overnight guests, make sure you stock the kitchen with extra food and beverages. A self-service style layout will keep you from playing short-order cook, especially when guests are staying for several days. Set up an area in the kitchen for a coffee bar with mugs, spoons, and sweeteners. Provide a convenient countertop area for making toast, sandwiches, salads, and plate lunches. For late-night snacks, fill a big basket with fresh fruits, snacks, and sweets so guests can munch at their leisure.

                  Prepare the Guest Bedroom

                  A beautiful, inviting guest room is a sure way to make your holiday guests feel welcome. First, create a comfortable, cozy bed with fresh linens, puffy pillows, and warm blankets or quilts. As a welcoming gesture, leave some mints or chocolates on the pillows and a good book on the nightstand. Next, make room for your guests' personal belongings:

                  • Find space for suitcases
                  • Clear a shelf or drawer
                  • Clear out space in the closet
                  • Make room for a laptop
                  • Buy an extra shoe rack

                  If your guests are staying for a while, make sure they have easy access to wall plugs and consider sharing your wi-fi password. To create more restful sleep, put a sound machine, a small fan, or a humidifier in the room. If there's no TV in the guest room, leave some magazines, a pack of playing cards, or a puzzle on the dresser. In case of an emergency, make sure there's a flashlight near the bed.

                  Prepare the Guest Bathroom

                  Whether your guest bathroom is directly off the bedroom or down the hall, make sure your guests have everything they need. Before you start gathering essentials, clean the bathroom spic and span, clear out non-essentials, fill the room with fresh scents, and put down non-slip rugs. Once the bathroom is sparkling, you can put out guest essentials:

                  • Fresh towels and washcloths
                  • Rolls of extra toilet paper
                  • Toiletries (toothbrushes and toothpaste)
                  • Liquid or bar soap
                  • Shampoo and conditioner
                  • Air freshener
                  • A first-aid kit

                  Some people travel with their own beauty essentials, so put a decorative basket on the sink or vanity where they can conveniently store them during their visit. For fresh scents and a relaxing atmosphere, place a few holiday candles on the tub or the vanity.

                  Above all, remember it's the personal attention you show to your guests that really matters, so welcome them to a comfortable holiday home filled with warmth, laughter, and lasting memories.

                  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.

                  November
                  11

                  How To Maintain Every Type Of Countertop

                  Whether you have quartz, marble, granite, or another type of kitchen countertop, you'll want to learn the ins and outs of how to take care of it. When it comes to countertop maintenance, one size definitely does not fit all!

                  The good news is, once you learn what type of care your countertop needs, you'll be able to keep it looking like new. Start by taking a look at these tips for maintaining some of the most common countertop materials.

                  • Quartz
                    Quartz is one of the most durable countertop options, and it's made to last. Since it's nonporous, it doesn't need to be sealed and requires very little maintenance other than keeping it clean. You'll want to wipe your quartz countertop down with dish soap and water or a non-abrasive glass or surface cleaner. Also, be sure to use a non-abrasive sponge or microfiber cloths.

                    Quartz is stain-, heat-, and scratch-resistant. However, if you do come across a stubborn stain, apply a paste made from flour and hydrogen peroxide to it for 24 hours and it should come right out.
                  • Marble
                    Marble is higher maintenance than many other types of countertop materials. Since it's naturally porous, it's susceptible to etching, oil stains, and food stains. If you notice chemical corrosion, you can usually buff this out with a marble polish.

                    You can lift most food stains with a paste made of baking soda, dish soap, and a bit of water. For oil stains, use mineral spirits, hydrogen peroxide, or ammonia. You'll also need to seal your marble countertops once every few months to protect them from stains.
                  • Granite
                    You can care for Granite countertops in much the same way as marble. This material typically needs to be sealed once a year. You can check to see if your countertops are properly sealed by splashing some water on them. Wait 10 minutes to see if it's still pooled up. If the countertop has absorbed the water, it's time to reseal it.

                    To clean both marble and granite countertops, wipe them down with mild dish soap and a non-abrasive sponge. Then use a microfiber cloth to shine up the stone.

                  • Laminate
                    Laminate countertops are super durable and don't require any sealing. To clean it, just use water and a non-chemical liquid detergent. Avoid any harsh products that contain alkali or acid, and don't use any abrasives like scouring pads or steel wool.

                    You can remove stubborn stains with a paste made of baking soda and water. Let it sit for five minutes, then gently wipe it off with a soft microfiber cloth. Since baking soda is a mild abrasive, be careful not to scrub it. You'll also want to protect your laminate countertops from scratches and burns by using cutting boards and trivets.
                  • Ceramic Tile
                    When maintaining countertops made with ceramic tile, you'll want to regularly clean the grout. Use a solution of 1/4 cup bleach and 2 cups of water and a soft toothbrush. Rinse the bleach solution away using a moist sponge, then scrub the countertops down with soap and water and rinse them thoroughly.

                    You'll also want to reseal the grout every few years. This will help keep bacteria and mildew from growing on it.
                  • Wood
                    If you have a wooden butcher block built into your countertop, you'll need to maintain it by applying mineral oil once a month. If you find that it has marks or burns on it, you can typically sand these out. In addition, most stains will easily come out with a bit of hydrogen peroxide or lemon juice.

                  Follow these simple instructions, and you'll be able to enjoy your beautiful countertops for many years to come!

                  October
                  28

                  Planning Some Renovations? You Can Leave These Areas Alone

                  Are you dreaming of making some major changes to your home? While renovating is a great way to make a space truly "yours," there are some things you simply shouldn't touch. Many updates will add value to your home, but if you make one of the following mistakes, you could end up doing just the opposite.

                  Here are six things you should consider leaving alone when planning your home renovation.

                  1. Original Hardwood Flooring
                    Before you do any flooring upgrades, be sure to check and see what's underneath. You would be surprised how many homeowners find gorgeous hardwood flooring buried under layers of tile, vinyl, and linoleum.

                    Original hardwood floors are beautiful, and it's easy to refinish them and stain them any way you like. Not only will this add class to your home, but it's also a sought-after feature that will add value.
                  1. Exposed Beams or Mantels
                    You might think your exposed beams or mantel are an eyesore right now, but homeowners often find stunning hewn wood under layers of the previous homeowner's paint. This is another highly desirable home feature.

                    If you do discover natural wood, it's fairly simple to sand and stain it, or you could leave it as it is to create a rustic or modern farmhouse look.
                  1. Millwork
                    Does your home have ceiling medallions, crown molding, or rosettes? If so, you may want to preserve it. This period craftsmanship is hard to come by today, and it can add a ton of character to your home.

                    If these accents are simply not the style you're aiming for, consider finding ways to move or repurpose them. For example, you may want to move a ceiling medallion into your dining room or save rosettes for when you set up your nursery. These pieces truly are artisan treasures and should be preserved if possible.
                  1. Stained or Crowned Glass
                    If you're lucky enough to have stained glass or crown glass (which was hand-blown in the 19th century) in your home, you'll want to make every effort to preserve it. Colored glass is particularly desirable since it diffuses light and adds extra privacy to the space.

                    You'll need a professional's help to properly preserve old glass, but the cost is well worth it. You might be able to relocate the glass to a bathroom, entryway, or even indoors — so if it doesn't work where it is, talk to an expert about your options.
                  1. Extra Rooms
                    Are you considering getting rid of that extra guest room to create a large master suite or a larger entertainment space? You'll want to think twice before you do. Changing the layout of a home can seem like a great idea in the short term, but it can be a long-term gamble.

                    Trends like this tend to come and go. When it's time to sell your home, many buyers will want a certain number of designated bedrooms and may not be as excited as you are about that extra-sized room.
                  1. Bathtubs
                    While large luxury showers are all the rage right now, make sure to keep at least one bathtub in your home. Otherwise, this could be a major turnoff to the next buyer. This is particularly true if the demographics in your neighborhood tend to skew towards younger families with small children.

                  When renovating your home, it's important to create the features you really want. However, before making any of the changes above, consider whether the potential impact on your home's value is truly worth it. In the end, you may decide it is, but at least you'll have made an educated decision.  

                  October
                  21

                  Fall Decorating Can Be Easy

                  The leaves are changing, and there's a chill in the air. Fall is here, and it's a wonderful time to celebrate. Decorating your home is one of the best ways to enjoy the change of season and get yourself in a festive mood for the upcoming holidays.

                  You don't have to own a ton of seasonal decor or be a decorating diva to give your home a warm and cozy autumn makeover. Start with these six simple tips, then see where your imagination takes you.

                  1. Create a Welcoming Entrance
                    Your front porch and entryway create the first impression when guests arrive at your home. This is why it's such a great idea to begin by decorating this space. Purchase or make a fall-themed wreath and get some pumpkins from your local pumpkin patch. If you have a decorative porch leaner, this can also add some extra character to the space.

                    Other items, like a wheelbarrow filled with pumpkins and gourds, corn stalks, bales of hay, or potted mums, can give your outdoor space a beautiful fall flair.
                  1. Decorate with Baskets and Bowls
                    Baskets and bowls are great for decorating your kitchen, living area, and even your bathrooms. In the kitchen, fill a basket or bowl with fresh apples or gourds from the grocery store.

                    You can also fill a basket with silk fall flowers and small electric lights and place it on the counter in your guest bathroom. Put a cinnamon candle and some pine cones in a shallow basket and place it on your living room end table.
                  1. Repurpose Items Already in Your Home
                    If you don't want to spend a fortune on your fall decor, try looking around to see what items you can use that you already own. It's easy to turn vases, jars, lanterns, candlesticks, and chalkboards into fall-themed decorations. Even if you need to buy some items to finish the project, it will be less expensive than starting from scratch.
                  1. Bring the Outdoors In
                    Decorating for fall is all about embracing nature. This gives you the option to use things you find outside for free! Try collecting some branches with colorful leaves and placing them in vases around your home.

                    Have the kids go out and collect pine cones, acorns, and pretty leaves - then look for creative ways to incorporate them into your decor. Not only will tons of fun options, but it's also a great way to plan an activity everyone can do together.
                  1. Focus on the Details
                    If you want to give your home a festive touch without spending too much, look for small items that can add character. In the kitchen, some pumpkin-shaped bowls, candy dishes with fall candy (like candy corn or Halloween M&Ms), and fall-themed linen towels can make a big difference.

                    In the dining room, add a fall-colored tablecloth and a DIY centerpiece. Make the rest of your home look cozy by bringing out several display blankets and laying them over chairbacks or the back of your couch.

                  2. Don't Forget the Power of Scent
                    One of the best ways to get your home ready for fall is to bring in autumn scents. Hang a cinnamon broom in your kitchen, put some pumpkin spice candles in your living room, and some fall-scented hand soaps in the bathroom. Sometimes these small touches can make the biggest difference.

                  Don't be afraid to get creative! These simple and easy tips will make your fall decorating a piece of cake. Even better, they'll leave you with plenty of time and money to head out and get yourself a pumpkin latte and a warm, cozy sweater.

                  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.

                  October
                  7

                  These Kitchen Essentials May Need Replacing

                  If you're like most people, you buy kitchen supplies when you need them and don't give much thought to replacing them until they actually break. But, you may not realize that the food in your fridge isn't the only thing with an expiration date.

                  That's right, many kitchen tools have a limited lifespan. Understanding which essentials may be nearing the end of their useful life could help prevent you from ending up with an unexpected crisis in the kitchen. Here's a look at some everyday items you may need to replace soon.

                  • Pots and Pans
                    If you re-season them regularly, your cast-iron pans will last for generations. However, you'll need to replace your nonstick pans about once every five years. If the surface has pits or starts to peel, it's definitely time to replace them. When this happens, the nonstick coating could work its way into your food, which isn't safe.

                    To help your nonstick pans last as long as possible, avoid using metal utensils on them since this can cause scratches. You'll also want to skip the cooking sprays as they can build up on the pan's surface.
                  • Knives
                    Sharpening your knives can help keep them useful for longer, but the knives you use daily should be replaced every couple of years. Once the surface wears down, your knife will no longer be effective and will become dangerous.

                    You can extend the lifespan of your knives by storing them on a magnetic wall strip or in a knife block. If you use a knife block, try storing them upside down, so the constant pressure doesn't dull the blades. Also, avoid putting knives in the dishwasher as this will help preserve their sharp edges.
                  • Cutting Boards
                    A high-quality cutting board can last for four to five years. But, if the surface is nicked or gouged, it's more difficult to clean and can become a breeding ground for bacteria. In this case, you'll want to replace them right away.

                    You can keep wooden cutting boards in the best possible shape by rubbing them down with a food-safe oil once a month. This will help prevent cracking and warping. Also, keep them out of the dishwasher, as this will cause them to warp and can make small cracks much bigger.
                  • Sponges and Dish Towels
                    Dish sponges often hold a ton of bacteria. While replacing them every day may be ideal, for most people, this isn't really practical. However, you should plan to replace them once or twice a week at a minimum.

                    You'll also want to use a clean dish towel each day. When they start to look worn out, it's time to replace them. Consider buying 10 to 15 new towels next time they're on sale so you always have plenty on hand.
                  • Plastic Storage Containers
                    If you can manage to keep the container and lid together for that long, most plastic sturdy plastic containers will last a year or two. While stains won't affect them, if your containers get cloudy, bent out of shape, or pitted, it's definitely time to replace them. These grooves can hold bacteria, which could contaminate your food.

                    To extend the lifespan of your plastic containers, avoid putting them in the microwave or the dishwasher, as high heat can cause damage.

                  Now is a great time to take a look through your kitchen and see which of your essentials have seen better days. As holiday sales come around, consider replacing any that are getting close to the end of their lifespan.

                  September
                  30

                  Must Have Kitchen Appliances (And Some You Don't Need)

                  So many of us love to spend time in our kitchens. Whether you're making all the family favorites handed down from generation to generation or trying out the next hot food trend straight from the internet, cooking for yourself and the ones you love can be a rewarding experience. And there are almost endless kitchen appliances you could use for all those favorite recipes. So how do you know what you really need? This list can help you decide.

                  Kitchen appliances that you can pass up

                  Let's start with appliances you probably don't need. For the most part, these appliances are just too specific to really make them worth it in the long term. They are most likely just going to end up taking up space in your cabinet.

                  Juicer. While the results are tasty, a dedicated juicer isn't necessary. Most high-end blenders can accomplish the same thing. And that blender is far more versatile. Your juicer only makes juice. When you add in all the effort to prep the produce, all that wasted pulp, and the fact that most juicers are a pain to clean, why bother?

                  An electric kettle. Do you have a working stove? Then you don't need this. It boils water and keeps it warm. That's it. Saucepans and coffee makers can also provide hot water just as well. Unless you often find yourself needing hot water when your burners are occupied, or you have an elderly or disabled family member and you worry about them safely using the stove, go ahead and skip it.

                  Slow cooker. Yes, this old standby has its fervent fans. However, with the invention of the multi-cooker, a separate slow cooker isn't a necessity. Although multi-cookers work differently, you will actually have more control over the temperature and cook time. If you don't use your slow cooker often, combining that with other functions is a better option, especially if you're looking to save space in your cabinets.

                  Kitchen appliances you do need

                  Now for the ones that are going to make your kitchen a better place. These are all versatile, which means less cabinet and counter space taken up with items you just don't use.

                  Multicooker (Instant Pot, Ninja Foodi, and others). They pressure cook, slow cook, steam, sauté, and some can even sous vide, air fry, and function as canners too. Many have specific buttons for foods like eggs, rice, jam, or yogurt to remove the guesswork. That kind of versatility pays for itself.

                  Immersion blender. They're so much more convenient than lugging your blender out of the cabinet every time you use it. They can't make huge pitchers of frozen beverages for parties, but if you only use a blender for pureeing, blending soups and sauces, and single servings of beverages, you can save yourself the inconvenience of a larger, bulkier appliance.

                  Toaster oven air fryer. Many newer toaster ovens air fry as well. And they do a darn good job. Of course, they still toast, so you won't need a toaster either. They have larger capacities than either standard toaster ovens or stand-alone air fryers, which is a plus for families. These same models can also function as countertop convection ovens, which can be handy for big holiday meals.

                  Whether you want to equip the kitchen of your new home or just get rid of some of the things you don't really need, these appliances will help you enjoy working in your kitchen by saving you time and effort. And that is something every cook can really appreciate.

                  September
                  23

                  Stop Wasting Money! Skills Every Homeowner Should Have

                  Owning a home can be expensive. From lawn maintenance to simple repairs, it seems like there's always something that needs to be done. However, if you take the time to learn some basic skills, you can save yourself a ton of money. Even better, when you're able to handle issues on your own, you can take care of them on your time. This means no more waiting around for someone else to come fix small problems around your home.

                  The longer you're in your home, the more things you'll learn to do on your own. To help you get started, take a look at these simple repairs and maintenance issues you can easily handle without the help of a pro.

                  1. Cleaning Out Your Gutters
                    It's important to clean out your gutters at least twice a year, as this will prevent issues with your roof, such as the forming of ice dams. While many homeowners simply get up on a ladder and clean them out by hand, you can also do it from the ground by using a special attachment for your wet-dry vac or leaf blower.
                  1. Fixing Leaking Faucets
                    It's easier than you might think to fix a leaky faucet. If you have a compression faucet, it likely needs a new rubber washer, which will create a tight seal on the valve. A dripping washerless faucet can be fixed with a new O-ring. Before you get started, make sure you turn off the water to the sink and place a rag in the drain so you don't lose any small parts you may drop while taking the faucet apart.
                  1. Hanging Shelves
                    When hanging shelves, you'll want to make sure you start by using a stud finder to locate wall studs. This will provide a strong and supportive base. If you can't find studs in the right location, make sure you use wall anchors. It's also important to use a level before anchoring your shelves to the wall.
                  1. Replacing a Shower Head
                    Want to upgrade your shower experience? It's easy to replace your shower head. Just remove the old one, then place thread seal tape at the base of your shower arm before you screw the new piece on. Be careful not to fasten it too tightly.
                  1. Unclogging Your Sink
                    When your sink is clogged, it's best to skip the chemical drain cleaners. They can be dangerous to use, often don't work, and can sometimes cause more damage. Instead, place a bucket under the U-shaped pipe under your sink (called a P-trap), then unscrew it. In most cases, something stuck in this pipe is the culprit. Simply clean it out and reattach it.
                  1. Fixing a Patchy Lawn
                    There's no reason to shell out a bunch of cash to a lawn service. You can get a lush, green lawn by learning a bit about lawn care, then applying your new skills. This may include putting down grass seed, fertilizing, applying a soil activator, and learning the right way to water and mow. Once you learn the basics, you'll be surprised by how easy it is.
                  1. Dealing with a Smelly Dishwasher
                    Your dishwasher is supposed to get your dishes clean, so when the machine itself stinks, this is a real problem. Luckily, it's easy to fix. Just clean out the inside thoroughly, making sure to get any old food out of the filter. Then add a dishwasher cleaning solution and run your empty dishwasher through a cycle.

                  Once you take on one or two of these projects, you'll start to feel even more confident in your skills. Best of all, you're going to love saving so much money!

                  September
                  16

                  Worried About Home Damage? Here Are The Most Common Causes

                  The most frequent causes of home damage tend to remain consistent year after year, with some variance depending on weather events and where the home is located. Thanks to data tracked by the Insurance Information Institute, we can learn all about the most common causes of home damage and insurance claims. While the weather is a key factor, some of the other entries on the list might surprise you. Understanding the risks can help you plan ahead, and take the right steps to keep your home safe.

                  • Wind, Hail, and Lightning
                    Severe thunderstorms, winter storms, and hurricanes can all cause significant property damage in different ways. Wind and hail rank at the top of the list for the most common causes of home damage and homeowner's insurance claims. Wind is especially dangerous for flashing, siding, and shingles, so it's important to make sure that the exterior of your home is well-maintained.

                    Keep an eye out for the health of the trees around your property as well, since falling trees and branches are both significant contributors to wind-related damage. If you live in an area where hurricanes are common, make sure that you have a plan in place for boarding up windows and protecting your home before a storm arrives.

                  • Non-Weather Water Damage
                    The most common water damage to homes doesn't actually come from the weather. Instead, it comes from plumbing issues like leaks, or frozen pipes that burst in the cold weather causing flooding. In addition to the other types of damage it can cause, water can lead to severe mold problems which aren't always covered by homeowner's insurance. To minimize the risk, keep up with plumbing maintenance, make sure that pipes are properly insulated, and have vacation homes winterized if you won't be there during the cold-weather months.

                  • Water Damage from Weather
                    Water damage caused by weather is also a common risk for property damage, especially if the home is located in a flood-prone area. There's no way to eliminate the risk of flood damage, but you can make sure that your home is as protected as possible from the weather and that all entry points are properly sealed. Some homeowners in highly flood-prone areas also choose to install pumps in basements or crawlspaces to make sure that floodwater can be quickly removed.

                  • Fire Damage
                    Fire damage makes up a lower number of insurance claims than other items on the list, but the financial impact of a fire is often significantly higher than other types of home damage. Make sure that fire extinguishers are up to date and stored in the right locations, test your smoke detectors regularly, and practice safe habits with all electronic devices. Protect the people in your home by making sure that you have a plan in place in the event of a fire, and that everyone knows exactly what to do.

                  • Damage Related to Theft
                    Though it makes up a significantly lower percentage than any other type of damage on our list, damage related to theft is still a risk for all homeowners. Fortunately, there are many widely available, affordable security systems that can enhance the safety of your home and reduce the risk of a break-in.

                  While the most common causes of home damage vary, keeping up with overall home maintenance is the best way to minimize the risks to your home. Since some risks are unavoidable, it's also important to make sure that your home insurance policy provides all of the coverage that you need.

                  September
                  9

                  Make Sure You Have These Tools In Your Home

                  When you own a home, it seems like there's always something that needs to be fixed or a project that needs to be done. Having the right tools on hand will make every job easier and save you a lot of frustration. If you don't already have a well-stocked toolbox, now is the time to start building up your collection.

                  Tools can be expensive, so it's important to know which ones you definitely need and which ones you can probably wait to buy. Start your collection with these "must-have" tools.

                  1. A Selection of Hand Tools
                    Chances are, you'll use your hand tools more than any other tools. Since they're relatively inexpensive, you'll want to start collecting them right away. Before you buy anything else, make sure you have a set of screwdrivers, a set of pliers, at least one hammer, a utility knife, and a tape measure.

                    You'll use these items for everything from hanging art to assembling furniture or even opening Amazon boxes.
                  1. Ladder
                    There will be plenty of times when you need to reach something up high, making a ladder another one of the most important items for a homeowner to have. Whether you need to replace your smoke detector's battery or change a lightbulb, when the time comes, you'll be glad you have a sturdy ladder on hand.

                    If you're on a budget, choose a basic 6-foot ladder. Or, if you can spend a bit more, splurge on an adjustable multi-position ladder. This will give you additional versatility.
                  1. Cordless Drill
                    A drill will come in handy for all kinds of home projects. You can use it for making holes, driving nails, and more. Opting for a cordless model will make all of your projects much easier.

                    Remember that you'll need a good set of drill bits to go with your new drill. Choose an assortment and you'll be ready to take on a range of both indoor and outdoor projects.
                  1. Level
                    Whether you're hanging a framed picture or a towel bar, you'll want to make sure it's not crooked. A level is a super-simple tool that can be a life-saver. If you have the money, pick up both a 6-inch and a 12-inch option, as this will give you additional flexibility.
                  1. Stud Finder
                    When you're hanging mirrors or heavy wall decor, you want to make sure they're secure. A stud finder will help you find sturdy beams inside your walls. You can get one for about $10, and you'll find that it's well worth the money.

                    You may also want to pick up a few drywall anchors. These will help if you can't find a stud and need to secure a heavy item into the drywall.
                  1. Adjustable Wrench
                    From fixing the toilet to putting together a swing set, there are many times when you'll need an adjustable wrench. It's a good idea to get one with a 6-inch handle and one with a 10-inch handle. The longer handle will give you more leverage when you need to deal with a nut that's stuck, while the smaller one is perfect for when you're working in a tight space.
                  1. Miscellaneous Items
                    While not necessarily "tools," there are some other important items you'll want to keep in your toolbox. This includes a sturdy flashlight, duct tape, and basic safety equipment like work gloves, safety glasses, and some dust masks. You never know when you'll need these items, so it's always good to have them on hand.

                    Don't let this list overwhelm you! Simply start buying a few items at a time when you can. There's no reason to stress, but you also don't want to wait until you need a tool to head out to the store looking for it.

                  When the skink is dripping or the smoke detector won't stop chirping in the middle of the night, you'll be glad you have what you need to quickly and easily solve the problem.

                  September
                  2

                  How To Work With Your Interior Designer

                  If you're planning on taking your interior to the next level, you may have enlisted the help of a professional interior designer. They're experts who have helped countless homeowners maximize the potential of their home's design based on architecture, existing design, and budget. So there's no shame in asking for a little help! After all, interior design can be one of the toughest aspects to pull off in your home, especially by yourself. If you're new to working with an interior designer, or you're planning to work with one in the future, here are some things you should know in preparation for your meeting.

                  Interior Designers Aren't Decorators

                  This may be strange to hear at first, but an interior designer's job is not to decide what paintings to put where (even though they may have some advice on this). Interior designers actually have very involved, big-picture jobs. They want to take the vision that's in your head, as well as your personal style, and realize that inside your home through design. This includes making construction plans, lighting designs, and more, such as determining a design that will work well with your family's lifestyle.

                  They Know How To Listen

                  Not only do interior designers know how to listen, but they're trained to do it! This means you have to be an active participant in the design conversation. You can't simply show them some photos and expect them to know what will be best for you. A designer may be able to do that for their own home, but not for yours. Interior designers are great problem solvers, so don't hold back when you tell them what you want. The more info you give them, the more detail your designer will have for presenting concrete options to you.

                  Design Consultation Is An Investment

                  One of the biggest fears a homeowner will have when working with an interior designer is that it will cost too much and it won't be worth that cost. If you've never worked with a designer, you might scoff at the idea of paying someone to simply tell you how to arrange your home. But an interior designer offers so much more. Have you ever considered that your designer will have connections to better contractors who know how to get the job done right? Interior designers are also extremely cautious of time. They'll put your makeover on a strict schedule and make sure your life isn't upended because of a renovation project. In the end, you'll have a stunning home expertly matched to your style.

                  You Should Trust Your Interior Designer

                  It may hurt your feelings a little if your designer says a cherished piece of your home needs to go. But you should understand that your designer is always thinking with your best interests in mind. Their goal is to make a home that looks good and is also one you'll like. That means you might have to make some small sacrifices along the way in order to achieve the best result. This is all depending on your budget and goals, and keep in mind you have the final say. But give your interior designer a chance to make your home shine (they've helped so many other homeowners in the past!).

                  Interior design is an art form itself, so it makes sense to ask for help from the experts. If you're not sure which designers to work with, your local real estate agent might have some ideas.

                  August
                  19

                  The Best Ways To Organize Your Gardening Equipment

                  Maintaining a beautiful garden requires a lot of tools and materials, which can undoubtedly become disorganized from time to time. Putting equipment away can certainly be tiresome, especially after a long day of gardening. If you find yourself propping up tools against the wall or leaving soil and watering cans on the floor of your shed, it might be a good idea to re-imagine the way you organize your equipment.

                  The good news is there are several easy and expensive ways to store your gardening equipment so you can stay as organized as possible. Here are some tips:

                  • Hang Your Long Handles On The Wall
                    Don't prop your long-handled tools against the wall — hang them up instead. Find some hooks or nails that can effectively fit underneath the base or between the prongs of each long-handled tool. Then create a dedicated space for each shovel, rake, and hoe on the wall. With a dedicated space and an easy way to hang them, it'll be easier to put your tools away when you're done.

                  • Install A Peg Board For Your Handheld Tools
                    If you have an abundance of handheld tools, a pegboard is widely considered to be handy and good-looking way to organize them. Hang the board on your garage wall or on the door of your tool shed. Then, simply add some hooks so you can hang your tools by the handle.

                  • Place Open Soil Bags In Buckets
                    It doesn't take long for open bags of soil or fertilizer to become messy and stinky. Instead of stacking the bags, place them into their own dedicated buckets with lids. This will not only prevent any spills but also makes it easy to store them and prevents any foul odors from infiltrating your shed.

                  • Buy A Small Shed
                    Maximize storage space in your garage or greenhouse by adding a small portable plastic shed. Small sheds can be found at most major hardware stores. They're small enough to fit inside a larger storage space but usually big enough to store a number of materials, including long-handled shovels and small power equipment.

                  • Make Use Of Plastic Bins
                    Plastic bins are not only great at storing small tools, gloves, watering cans, and other items, but they're also incredibly easy to store. If you have a habit of leaving tools over the floor, plastic bins will make it easy to store your items on shelves in your garage or shed and keep them out of the way.

                  • Create A Tool Tote
                    A tool tote is an easy and effective way for transporting your tools between your shed to your garden. You can make a tool tote out of anything — use an old basket or bucket, or you can even create your own with some wood. Then you'll have an easy to way to transport handheld tools, gloves, seeds, and sprays.

                  Not only is gardening a great hobby, but it's also a fantastic way to increase your curb appeal. Coming up with unique storage solutions for your garden equipment can be fun and can also keep your home looking good.

                  August
                  12

                  Ponds: Beautiful Feature Or A Waste Of Money?

                  Are you dreaming of spending your days unwinding next to your own backyard pond? These relaxing natural landscapes are certainly beautiful — but is having one on your property really a good idea? Here's a closer look at some of the pros and cons to consider before making your decision.

                  Visual Appeal

                  If you're looking for a way to add beauty to your backyard, a pond will certainly do it. Not only does a pond instantly make your landscape more interesting, but it also gives you the opportunity to add unique plants and colorful fish. You can also add things like rock borders, statutes, and underwater lighting to elevate the experience even more.

                  Relaxation & Interaction

                  There's nothing quite like the soft glow and soothing sounds that come from a backyard pond. Whether you want to sit quietly and reflect or host a gathering nearby, your pond will create the perfect atmosphere. Since ponds provide the perfect habitat for a variety of wildlife, you and your children will also have the chance to interact with various creatures. You never quite know what you might find!

                  Environmental Benefits

                  A backyard pond can also contribute to conservation efforts. If you're dealing with rain runoff or soggy areas in your yard, you may be able to fix it by turning the area into a pond. A pond can also provide much-needed water for birds and other animals during the hottest summer days.

                  Initial & Ongoing Costs

                  One potential drawback of adding a pond to your yard is that it's generally not cheap. Depending on the size and features, you could spend anywhere from $1,500 to $10,000 on the initial installation. Some local building codes may also require permits and inspections, which will add to the cost.

                  In addition, you'll need to pay for water to fill your pond and to top it off when it evaporates. You'll also need to maintain your pump and filtration system. If you have fish, this will add extra expenses as well.

                  Maintenance

                  Ponds require consistent maintenance. You'll need to clean up plant debris to ensure it doesn't contaminate the pond. It's also important to occasionally clean the filtration and aeration systems. To ensure you don't attract pests or kill your fish, you'll also need to regularly inspect and clean your pond equipment and take care of any necessary repairs right away.

                  You may also need to adjust your lawn maintenance routine. You'll want to use natural pesticides and fertilizers so dangerous chemicals don't run off into your pond and upset the ecosystem.

                  Knowledge Requirements

                  While it's not hard to maintain a pond, it does require a bit of knowledge. You'll need to understand how all the equipment works and either know how to repair it or be prepared to call in a professional if something goes wrong.

                  If you're keeping fish in your pond, you'll also want to learn the basics of fishkeeping so they can live long, healthy lives.

                  The Bottom Line

                  So, is a backyard pond a great feature or a waste of money? The answer to this question really depends on you. If you can afford the initial and ongoing costs and don't mind putting some time and effort into maintaining it, then you may have just discovered an exciting and relaxing hobby. Just remember, it's a long-term commitment, so make sure it's something you really want to do before you dive in.

                  August
                  5

                  The Best Way To Add Statues To Your Yard

                  Placing a beautiful statue in your yard can enhance your home's curb appeal and give it a truly unique sense of style. However, you can't just plop a statue down in any old place and expect it to look great. A statue is a piece of art that can create a focal point in your yard or garden — as long as you do it right. Follow these tips, and you're sure to love the results.

                  1. Find the Right Location
                    When choosing a location for your statue, make sure the spot you're thinking about looks good from all sides. Corner spaces are often perfect for outdoor statues because the human eye is naturally drawn to corners. You may also consider placing your statue prominently in the center of your garden, making it the focal point for the entire space.
                  1. Choose Your Statue Carefully
                    While the right statue for you will depend on your personal preferences, unless it's hidden in your backyard, it's also important to make sure it's in good taste. To avoid trouble, stay away from anything too large or brightly colored. Also, it goes without saying that you'll want to avoid anything offensive.

                    Also, make sure that the statue you choose is the right size for the location. If it's too large, it will overwhelm the space. If it's too small, it won't create an impact. Finally, ensure your statue is made for the outdoors. Otherwise, it won't hold up to the elements and will quickly become an eyesore.
                  1. Don't Forget About Safety
                    When installing a statue in your backyard, safety is always concern, especially if it's large and heavy. It's important to place your statue on level ground and follow any mounting instructions that come with it. The ultimate goal here is to make sure the sculpture is secure and won't lean to one side or topple over. Not only will this likely ruin your statue, but it could also hurt someone.
                  1. Keep Up With Maintenance
                    Your statue shouldn't require much maintenance. However, if you want to clean it, make sure you use a gentle cleaner that won't scratch or damage it. To keep your statue looking great, you'll also want to regularly prune back any nearby plants so they don't create a distraction.
                  1. Add Some Lighting
                    Strategically placed landscape lighting can go a long way towards completing the look of your backyard statue. Not only will this help draw attention to it, but it will also add dimension and create some cool shadow effects.

                    Adding string lighting above your statue will give it a nice glow and create a peaceful, romantic feel. For a more dramatic effect, illuminate your outdoor statue from the ground. It's also a good idea to make sure any lighting you choose is LED, as this will greatly improve your energy efficiency.
                  1. Enhance it With Landscaping
                    While you don't want to add anything that will take attention away from your statue, you can definitely use landscaping to enhance the area. For example, planting the right types of flowers in the ground below your statue can create a beautiful accent that will actually draw attention to the area.

                    Be sure to think about the colors you use and whether they add to or detract from the overall look and feel of your statue. And, don't be afraid to experiment. If you don't like the way it looks, you can always plant something different next season.

                  If the thought of adding a statue to your yard feels intimidating, don't worry! As long as you follow these tips, you'll love the way it looks and will enjoy it for years. Adding art to your yard is fun and exciting, so embrace the experience. Don't be afraid to experiment and have some fun with it.

                  July
                  29

                  Tips For Getting Rid Of Flies In Your Home

                  Summer brings warmer weather which is great for people, but unfortunately it's great for insects too. There's a lot of going in and out to enjoy your outdoor spaces, let the dog out, or send the kids outside to play. And those open doors and windows can let in the most annoying of insects — flies. Use these tips to get rid of flies in your home and help keep them out.

                  Common types of flies

                  Knowing what kind of flies you have makes it a little easier to get rid of them and keep them away.

                  • Fruit flies – They're about 1/8 of an inch and usually have red eyes. You're likely to find them around fruit or other food and drains.
                  • Drain flies – Usually slightly larger than fruit flies, they're dark grey and flat with a fuzzy appearance. You'll find them in or around drains.
                  • House flies – Large flies that come in through open doors and windows and are especially fond of trash bins and animal droppings.
                  • Blow flies – They have a metallic green appearance and are specifically attracted to decaying animals. If you spot an infestation of these flies in your house, you've likely had some wildlife get in, so you'll want to address that problem in addition to getting rid of the flies.

                  Getting rid of flies

                  There are several methods you can use to get rid of the flies and keep them from coming back. If you only have an occasional fly coming in from outside, a fly swatter or a flypaper strip above the trash can may work just fine. Insecticide sprays often aren't very effective because flies reproduce so quickly, they're tough to control without finding where they're breeding. Eliminating their breeding spots will solve the problem much quicker.

                  • Fruit flies. You can catch them where they're swarming with either a purchased or DIY fruit fly trap. Use a bottle or jar with apple cider vinegar and a couple drops of dish soap. Put a paper funnel on the top so the flies can get in. You can also use the same solution with a bowl and plastic wrap stretched over the top with small holes poked in it. The flies can get in but not out. Keep them controlled by storing produce in the refrigerator, cleaning out trash cans and anywhere else there might be rotting food, and eliminating damp breeding places like dirty mops and sponges or indoor plants with overly moist soil. If the flies are coming from the drain, clean inside it with bleach or another household cleaner and a brush and flush with hot water.
                  • Drain flies. Clean inside the drain with a brush and bleach or another household cleaner. Use an enzyme treatment as maintenance to keep the film where they live from building up in the first place.
                  • House flies. Make sure your trash cans are cleaned out on a regular basis with household cleaner. Also keep the litter box clean and attend to pet accidents right away. Compost bins should be properly closed and maintained.
                  • Blow flies. These flies are attracted specifically to dead animals. It's not always possible but try to find the offending animal, get rid of it, and clean the area. Seal up any places where wildlife is gaining access to your home to prevent future problems.

                  Flies can be a real pain, and most homeowners will have to deal with them eventually. The good news is once you identify them, they are easier to get rid of and you can go back to enjoying your home.

                  July
                  22

                  Soundproofing And Other Window Upgrades

                  Windows play such an important role in the overall comfort and beauty of your home. Their main benefits are fairly obvious — they make spaces feel larger and less confined. They allow natural light to enter the home, and they add an aesthetically pleasing element to any room. However, the importance of windows, and their quality, goes far beyond their decorative benefits. While we don't think about it every day, windows are also important for regulating temperature, airflow, and noise pollution.

                  If your energy bills are on the rise or outdoor noise is keeping you up at night, you might want to consider making some upgrades to your windows. Below are some steps you can take to increase your energy efficiency and soundproof your home.

                  Choose The Right Windows
                  Single pane windows aren't always the most energy-efficient option. When the outside of the windowpane is exposed to heat or sunlight, that heat is easily transferred inside the home. On the other hand, double pane windows create a gap or a pocket that traps heat before it can enter your home. Sound is also able to penetrate glass fairly easily. If noise is a problem, you may want to consider double pane windows that contain a plastic barrier, which is more capable of blocking sound.

                  You can also consider Low-E storm windows, which essentially work to reflect heat inside during the winter and reflect it outwards during the summer.

                  When shopping for windows, make sure to look for an Energy Star label and the National Fenestration Rating Council label. Both can provide an indication of the window's performance and level of energy efficiency.

                  Reapply Caulking
                  Caulking and sealant deteriorate over time, which can create gaps between your window and the wall. These gaps not only allow cool air to escape the home, but they also serve as an entryway for bugs and pests. Reapplying caulking, sealant, and weatherstripping can help to dramatically increase your home's energy efficiency.

                  Update Your Window Treatments
                  Blinds and curtains also play an important role in energy efficiency. While windows themselves will prevent heat transfer, window treatments will block direct sun exposure, which in turn helps to regulate internal temperatures. Having an additional layer of material can also help to muffle any sounds coming from outdoors.

                  Add Exterior Elements
                  Awnings, blinds, overhangs, and shutters can also help reduce heat exposure by providing shade and minimizing your window's exposure to direct sunlight. You'll want to choose light colors that can reflect sunlight instead of absorbing it to maximize the effect.

                  Window upgrades are a great way to increase your home's energy efficiency and soundproof your home. Well-insulated windows can reduce the amount of heat that enters your home, which can ultimately decrease your energy bills.

                  July
                  15

                  Plumbing Basics: What You Need To Know

                  Dealing with plumbing issues isn't always the most glamorous part of homeownership, but it's something you'll undoubtedly face at one point or another.

                  As a result, learning the basics of your home's plumbing system will likely come in handy when an incident arises. Plumbing systems seem a lot more complicated than they actually are in reality. Learning the basics, such as how to care for your system or resolve minor problems will help you avoid major costly plumbing issues from popping up in the first place. Below, we'll review some basic plumbing tips all homeowners should know:

                  Plumbing 101: The Basics
                  There are two main components that make up your home's plumbing system:

                  • The Water Supply System - This is a series of pipes responsible for bringing fresh water into your home from a city water supply or a well. In order for the water supply system to function, it needs a high amount of pressure to keep water flowing into the home. Most plumbing problems related to the water supply system are related to pressure and leaks.
                  • The Drain Water Vent (DMV) System - The DMV is responsible for moving wastewater away from your home. For the most part, it relies on gravity to accomplish this. A DMV is comprised of drain pipes, drain taps, and drain vents. Clogging is the most common plumbing problem associated with the DMV.

                  Plumbing Tips for Homeowners
                  Major leaks, pressure issues, and significant clogs are issues best left to professional plumbers. For most homeowners, knowing how to fix minor issues and maintain your system is usually enough.

                  • Note the Location of Your Shut-Off Valves
                    In the event of a major plumbing issue, it's always a good idea to know where to find your main water valve. You can use this valve to turn off the water supply that runs into your home, and turning it off is often critical in the event of an emergency or major plumbing incident. In some cases, your shut-off valve may be located outside of your home. Keep in mind, if you live in a condo, your home may share a water line with other units.
                  • Watch What You Flush (or Put Down the Drain)
                    Most toilet paper is made to dissolve in your DMV, which is why it doesn't cause clogging when used in limited quantities. However, flushing other things down the toilet, including paper towels or wipes, will quickly result in clogging issues. It's also important to be careful about what goes down your sink drain. When it comes to sink clogging, coffee grounds, bacon grease, and vegetable peels are often common culprits.
                  • Promptly Take Care of Leaks
                    Leaky faucets lead to an incredible amount of wasted water, especially when ignored over time. Not only does this lead to higher utility bills, but it also has a negative environmental impact. Fixing a leaky sink may be as simple as replacing the o-ring and washer within the sink stem.
                  • Invest in Strainers
                    Adding strainers to your sink or tub is a great way to prevent unwanted food, hair, or debris from making its way into your drainage pipes and causing major clogging issues. Strainers are cheap and can save you from major plumbing bills down the road.
                  • Avoid Enzyme-Based Pipe Cleaners
                    Pipe cleaners or de-clogging solutions can be effective, but be careful not to use any enzyme-based or corrosive products. These can have a detrimental effect on your pipe's lifespan. Instead, opt for some all-natural pipe cleaners, which will not only remove the clog but also keep your pipes in good shape.

                  You always have the option to call a plumber if a situation arises, but knowing how to fix minor issues and take care of your plumbing system can save you big in the long run.

                  July
                  8

                  How To Scrape Paint And Get The Best Results

                  Removing paint is certainly one of the less exciting home renovation projects. Not only is it time-consuming, but it can also be really difficult when it's not done correctly. Using the right set of tools and techniques is the key to achieving the best results. Below we'll discuss what you need to do to make your project a success.

                  Invest In The Right Paint Scrapers
                  A paint scraper is a blade attached to a handle that allows you to scrape or peel paint effectively. There are several different types of paint scrapers, each with its own unique benefits. Below are some of the most common options:

                  • Single Edge Scraper - At a minimum, you'll always want to have a standard flat blade scraper on hand. A single edge scraper consists of one blade and will allow you to reach most areas of the wall.
                  • Double Edge Scraper - With two blades, a double edge scraper will allow you to cover a larger surface area but may have limitations and not be as effective with certain types of texture.
                  • Flooring Scrapers - These scrapers come with extra long handles which makes it easier to get to hard-to-reach areas of the wall.
                  • Multi-Tool Scrapers - These will make your life much easier. Not only do they contain scraping blades, but they also have tools that allow you to easily open paint and remove nails that you find while scraping paint. Multi-tool scrapers are highly recommended.
                  • Sharp Pull Scraper - These scrapers are incredibly effective. Gently push the blade directly into the wood and slowly drag it along the surface of the wall. You'll likely be able to remove all old paint in a single motion.

                  Try A Wire Brush
                  A wire brush is also a useful tool when it comes to paint scraping small areas of paint. Start by rubbing the wired brush over areas of chipped or deteriorating paint. Be sure to brush in the same direction that the paint is peeling for the best results.

                  Soften The Paint With A Heat Gun
                  Heat guns increase the effectiveness of paint scrapers by allowing you to soften the paint before you begin scraping. Use the heat gun to warm a desired section of the wall for about 20 seconds before you begin scraping. It'll be much easier to remove the paint once it has softened.

                  Don't Forget To Cover The Ground
                  Scraping paint is a messy process, and you're going to end up with paint chips all over the place. Be sure to cover the ground with a strong sheet or tarp before beginning the work. It will make the cleanup process much easier. After you're finished, you're still likely to need a broom and dustpan to clean up any remaining debris.

                  How Do You Know When You're Done?
                  It's important to scrape off as much paint as possible, as applying new paint over old loose paint is likely to cause peeling. This is because the new paint won't have anything strong to attach itself. Make sure your wall or surface is completely clear of loose chips or debris, and you'll end up with the best results.

                  Removing paint might not be exciting, but it doesn't have to be difficult too. Investing in the right tools can make your life a lot easier. By doing a thorough job of removing your existing paint, you'll also help ensure your new coat of paint lasts a lot longer.

                  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
                  10

                  Check Your AC Unit Before Summer

                  The summer heat is on the way, and you'll want to make sure your air conditioner is functioning properly before it gets here. A little maintenance ahead of time can ensure you're comfortable in the summer heat. Use these tips to check your air conditioner unit.

                  Before you begin

                  The first step of any maintenance job is: do it safely. Before checking and cleaning your AC unit, you'll need to make sure the power is off. Set the thermostat high at about 80, and turn the system off at the thermostat. Turn off the power to the AC unit at the breaker box in your house, and also at the disconnect box outside next to the unit.

                  Once you've done that, the next steps will be replacing the filters, cleaning the unit, and visually inspecting and checking that the unit is operational.

                  Replace the filters

                  Your air conditioner uses either your furnace or an air handler to distribute the cooled air through the ductwork of your house. Dirty, dusty, clogged filters block airflow and keep your unit from operating efficiently. Depending on the type of filter, you will either need to clean it or replace it.

                  Cleaning

                  The outside part of the AC unit is the compressor and contains the condenser. This is the part you're going to clean. Double check that that power is off. Then leaves and other debris from around and on the unit.

                  1. Remove the top grill. The fan is attached to it. Do not try to remove any of the attached wiring. Use a cloth and clean off the dirt on the grill and fan blades by hand or use a wet/dry vacuum to clean it.
                  2. Clean the condenser fins. Looking down inside the unit, you'll see lots of fins. If there is a cover, remove it to access the fins. Being careful not to damage the fins, vacuum with the brush attachment to remove dirt from between them. Vacuum from the inside and outside of the unit. Then clean the coils from the inside with a gentle flow of water from the hose. Don't use a pressure washer, it will damage your unit. There are also commercially available cleaners for this purpose if needed.
                  3. Clean up excess water inside and let the unit dry thoroughly. Reassemble the unit after it's dry.
                  4. Locate the drain. It's usually on the outside part of your air conditioner or near it. Make sure the drain line is intact and clear. Clear if it's clogged.

                  Visual inspection

                  The refrigerant in your AC unit runs through pipes or tubes. Check all visible pipes and tubing to make sure they are intact and that nothing is leaking. There is also insulation around these pipes, so make sure that is not worn or missing, and replace if necessary. Lastly, take a look at any visible electrical connections and wiring to check for wear or damage.

                  Restart the unit

                  Turn the power back on at the AC unit and at the breaker box. Then turn on the system at the thermostat and set the thermostat to a temperature that is a few degrees lower than the current temperature in the house. The AC should start up and blow cold air.

                  Be sure to contact a professional if your AC unit requires something more than basic cleaning. Problems like a refrigerant leak, electrical problems, or duct cleaning or repairs are a few examples.

                  Getting your AC unit in shape before warmer weather gets here is a good idea, and once that warm weather is here, you'll be relaxing comfortably in your home.

                  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.

                  April
                  29

                  Do You Need a Mudroom?

                  Mudrooms are a great way to keep your home clean and your shoes and outerwear organized, but is it worth adding one to your home? If you're planning a remodel, a mudroom is definitely worth considering. While mudrooms have been found in homes located in snowy regions and rural areas for decades, they've become an increasingly popular residential feature all around the country in recent years. Below is a quick overview of why you should consider a mudroom in your home remodel plans.

                  What Is A Mudroom?
                  A mudroom is essentially a transitional space located directly inside a home's primary entrance, which may be the front door or an attached garage. A mudroom serves as an area where individuals can prepare to enter or exit the home. It essentially provides those entering the home with the opportunity to remove their shoes, coats, pet leashes, and sports equipment before tracking in mud, dirt, or debris from the outdoors.

                  Do I Need A Mudroom?
                  There are several reasons why you might want to consider adding a mudroom to your home. They offer several benefits, including:

                  • They Keep Your Home Clean
                    If you have kids, pets, or spend a lot of time outdoors, a mudroom can go a long way towards helping you to keep your home clean. The main benefit of a mudroom is that it prevents dirt and mud from being tracked into your home. 
                  • They Help You Stay Organized
                    Shelving, hangers, and storage space are all essential parts of a mudroom. With a good storage system, you can easily keep track of all your shoes, coats, gloves, scarves, and other outerwear. It's also a great idea to add a shelf or small bowl for incidentals like car keys or outgoing mail.
                  • They Help Kids Form Good Habits 
                    Because a mudroom is often the first thing you see when entering a home, it can serve as a good reminder to remove and properly store your shoes and outerwear before entering the home. Over time, these actions become a habit.
                  • They Increase Your Home Value
                    Mudrooms are a popular and highly valued feature in homes today. If you're planning to sell your home after renovating, you can easily earn a high ROI during resale on a mudroom. Consider adding built-in storage, adequate seating, and good lighting to really make your mudroom stand out. 

                  What Should My Mudroom Include?
                  Mudrooms come in all shapes and sizes. While some are simply uncarpeted entryways, others can be quite elaborate. While the layout of your mudroom might depend on your family's own personal needs, below are some common mudroom components:

                  • Seating
                    As you get older, balancing on one foot when removing shoes or boots becomes increasingly difficult. Adding bench-seating or a comfortable chair in your mudroom creates a comfortable way to put your shoes on or take them off.
                  • Storage
                    Wall hangers, coat racks, and storage bins all play an essential role in keeping a mudroom organized. Storage is especially important for cold-weather gear and sportswear.
                  • Sink or Laundry Tub
                    It's not uncommon for people to use their laundry room as a mudroom. The benefit is having a nearby sink or laundry tub, making it convenient to clean muddy boots or put dirty clothes directly in the laundry.

                  Adding a mudroom to your home offers many benefits with little downside. Not only are they convenient, but they also serve as a valuable addition to any home. If you have the space, they are definitely worth the investment. 

                  April
                  22

                  How To Choose Your Garage Door Color

                  Whether it's time to list your home or you just want to brighten up the exterior, your garage door could probably use a new coat of paint. Sure, you can go to everyone's default favorite, white, and you'd probably be safe to do so, but maybe you'd like to jazz things up. But before you run out and buy Raving Red or Habanera Orange, it's probably best to give your color scheme some serious thought.

                  These pointers will help steer you in the right direction with your color scheme.

                  Complementary Coloring

                  The principal tenet to remember about your garage door is that the color should complement your home's appearance but shouldn't dominate. That means, as much as you love Habanera Orange, it just really won't do for the garage door of your sedate Craftsman-style home.

                  To be sure, there aren't necessarily hard and fast rules about exterior color schemes, but there are general rules, and the one that predominates is the three-color rule: a primary or field color; a trim color for awnings, door and window frames; and an accent color for shutters and door. You'll have to decide if the garage should match the field or primary color or the trim color. Sometimes the placement of the garage door can determine which color requires balance. For instance, pairing a light field color with a darker trim color or vice versa is often a pleasing combination. In general, an accent color on the garage door might tend to overwhelm.

                  Color Scheming

                  Another helpful rule is that the garage door should be white or the dominant color. It's usually recommended that the white be off-white or ivory. Painting the garage door a variant of white or the dominant color will help make your home look bigger, and it will help draw eyes to other aspects of the house.

                  Other garage door colors to consider:

                  • black - elegant and mysterious
                  • gray - calming and soothing, and easy to pair with other colors
                  • chocolate brown - less severe than black

                  Blue and green are soothing colors but might not be the right choice unless the house is already one of these colors.

                  Studying the color wheel and the basic color schemes — monochromatic, analogous, and complementary — can help you understand better how colors go together. For instance, monochromatic, as the name implies, uses different shadings of the same color. For instance, the front door and trim might be a medium gray, while the door color is darker and the accents lighter. This type of cohesive color scheme is visually pleasing but lacks contrast, and sacrifices vibrancy. 

                  You may have noticed a trend to paint houses in various shades of gray, but to spark things up by going boldly red on the front door. It can be an arresting and attractive scheme, but you probably wouldn't want to paint your garage door red. If you want to make a bold statement with the garage door, you may be more likely to choose some shade of purple to pair with the gray. Purple matches gray, but it also can be a standout.

                  Have a brick or stone home? Avoid contrast with brick or stone, choosing cream instead of stark white, and use neutral colors on the garage door. Allow accent colors to magnify the natural beauty of the brick or stone. Some pleasing accent color combos include: yellow/cream; charcoal/light gray; or cool green/cool gray.

                  For best results, drive around and study color combinations on other homes that might work for your own exterior. Above all, have fun with it.

                  April
                  15

                  How To Swap Out Old 2 Prong Outlet

                  If you're living in an older house with two-prong outlets, it's probably time for an upgrade. Because two-prong outlets usually aren't grounded, they can present significant safety risks such as electrocution and power surges. Switching to safer, three-prong outlets is a good way to protect yourself and your home.

                  In order to swap out two-prong outlets for modern three-prong ones, you'll either need to install ground wiring or a ground-fault circuit interrupter (GFCI). Rewiring your home is always the best option, but in some cases, it may not be feasible. Below, we'll review both options for replacing your two-prong outlets:

                  Grounding Your Outlets
                  The safest and best way to replace a two-prong outlet is by adding ground wire. Not only will ground wire protect you from electrocution risk, but it will also protect your electronics in the event of a power surge.  However, it's important not to attempt to do this work yourself. You should always seek the help of a licensed electrician who can attach the ground wire to your electrical panel and run it to each outlet. Once your outlets are grounded, you can easily swap out your two-prong outlets with three-prong ones.

                  Replacing A Two-Pronged Outlet Without Ground Wiring
                  Rewiring your home can be expensive and time-consuming, and for some homeowners, it isn't always feasible. You can still switch a two-prong outlet to a three-prong outlet by installing a ground-fault circuit interrupter (GFCI). Keep in mind, a GFCI will provide protection from electrocution, but it won't protect your electronics from power surges. To swap out your two-pronged outlet with a GFCI, follow these steps:

                  1. Ensure electricity to the two-prong outlet you want to replace is turned off from the breaker panel.
                  2. Remove the cover and the two screws that attach the receptacle to the box and detach the wiring.
                  3. Attach the new GFCI receptacle by connecting the black (hot) wire to the brass terminal and the white wire to the silver terminal. Simply use the line labels on the back of the receptacle. If your wires aren't long enough, you might need a 4" to 6" wire extension. Note: some old boxes are tight, so make sure your GFCI fits. If not, you may need a larger box.
                  4. Place the green screw through the hole in the rear of the box, and then connect one end of the 8-inch grounding wire to the screw. After it's connected, make sure to tighten the screw.
                  5. Secure the other end of the 8-inch grounding pigtail to the green grounding terminal on the three-prong or GFCI receptacle. Place your wires into the box and press in the new three-prong outlet, and fasten the screws into the box. The outlet can now be tested by pressing the RESET button. You can use a circuit tester to make sure the circuit is functioning properly.

                  At the end of the day, grounding your outlets is the safest and most effective way to upgrade your two-prong outlets. However, using a three-pronged GFCI is also an option if you don't wish to rewire your home. In both cases, it's usually a good idea to consult with a licensed electrician who can help you determine the best path forward.

                  April
                  8

                  Are Tankless Water Heaters Worth It?

                  A water heater is an essential part of a home. However, the type of water heater that works best for your needs depends on various factors, including your climate, access to gas and electricity, local utility rates, and the cost of the water heater.

                  Here are the most common water heaters you'll encounter if you're looking for a new one.

                  Tankless Water Heaters

                  Many homeowners replace their storage tank water heaters with tankless heaters because they provide on-demand hot water without high energy bills. Unlike large, bulky storage tanks that take up space in the garage or basement, tankless units are small boxes mounted on the wall and connected to plumbing pipes. When you turn on your hot water, the tank heats the water, sending it to the desired location. Because water is only heated on-demand, tankless heaters provide significant yearly energy savings, as well as an eco-friendly home environment.

                  The main downside of tankless water heaters is the upfront costs. On average, a tankless heater costs from $450 - $2,500 to purchase, then another $800 to $1,500 to install. Units come in electric and gas models, so you must consider local utility rates. Electric heaters are a little less expensive to buy and install since every home has electricity. Gas heaters cost about twice as much as electric heaters up front, and you must have a gas line running to your home. However, gas heaters save money in the long run because the cost of gas is cheaper than electricity in most areas.

                  Although upfront costs are higher, tankless heaters have a long lifespan. Gas models last for about 20 years, while electric models last about 10 years. Regular maintenance is required to clean or change air and water filters and check the burners.

                  Storage Tank Water Heaters

                  The most common and least expensive type of water heater is the storage tank. On average, storage tank heaters costs from $400 - $1,600 to purchase, then another $150 - $600 to install. Insulated tanks can heat and store up to 50 gallons of water until you need it. Storage tank heaters come with different size tanks available in electric, gas, and propane models.

                  The tank size impacts daily hot water usage, so it's important to consider your family's size, daily household tasks, and hygiene routines. If your tank is too small, you're likely to run out of hot water. If your tank is too large, you're paying higher energy costs for water you don't use.

                  While upfront costs are relatively low, storage tank heaters only last for 8-12 years. Regular maintenance is required because sediment often accumulates in the tank and prevents water flow.

                  Solar-Powered Water Heaters

                  Solar-powered water heaters are powered by the sun. On average, solar-powered heaters costs from $1,000 - $6,000 to purchase, then another $2,000 - $4,000 to install. Units can be completely powered by solar panels or combined with a solar thermal hot water system or a tankless system. Typically, small households require 1 panel when using flat solar panels, and large households require 2 panels.

                  When considering a solar-powered water heater, your climate is important. If you live in a sunny location with minimal rain and snow, a solar-powered heater may be a good option. However, it does require a backup unit to compensate for cool, cloudy days, rain and snow, and power outages. As the most energy-efficient water heating system, solar-powered water heaters last about 20 years.

                  Before purchasing a hot water heater for your home, think about your water needs and compare the pros and cons of systems before making a final choice. While some heaters offer cheaper upfront costs, others offer greater energy efficiency and lower bills.

                  April
                  1

                  How To Pull Off a Dark Interior Room

                  Dark walls are one of the hottest new interior design trends! However, before you leap over to the dark side, there are some tricks you need to know. While adding dark paint to your rooms is a fun way to give your home a personal touch, choosing the best colors and locations can be challenging.

                  Don't worry, though. We're here to help! The following tips will have you painting and decorating like a pro.

                  Choose Where to Apply Your Paint  

                  While lighter paint colors look great just about everywhere, too much dark paint can make a room look smaller. To pull off this trend, choose one wall and use dark paint as an accent. Not only will this create visual interest, but it will also make the room feel longer.

                  While a dark accent wall can work in just about any room, some of the most popular places to use this technique are the master bedroom, living room, and bathrooms.

                  Keep the Space Open

                  This trend often works best in larger rooms and those with an open floor plan. Be careful adding dark accent walls in rooms that are already small, cramped, or cluttered. Otherwise, the room can start to feel suffocating.

                  Play with Textures 

                  Flat black can get boring fast, so don't be afraid to play with textures. Consider decorating your walls with clean lines or curves. Add a shaggy or fur throw rug and some luxurious throws to soften the look.

                  Use your imagination, and don't be afraid to add in some different materials, like glass, silk, wood, or matte tiles. The objective here should be to add movement and life to the room. As long as you choose pieces you love, you really can't go wrong.

                  Choose Light Furniture

                  When choosing dark paint, look for lighter-colored furniture. This will brighten up the space and give it the contrast it needs. Shades like beige, coral, white, and pearl tend to work well in darker rooms.

                  If you're wondering what pieces to lighten up, consider bringing more light into the room by choosing a lighter-colored bathroom vanity, couch, dining table, or kitchen cabinets.

                  Have Fun with Accents

                  If you choose black or navy walls, consider adding some pastel accents, neutral colors, or even bright or golden decor. It's fine to get creative here — you can have fun choosing area rugs, throw blankets, vases, picture frames, and more.

                  Also consider adding a large mirror on the wall opposite your windows. This will reflect light into the room, making it look both larger and brighter.

                  Pay Attention to Lighting

                  Dark walls work best in rooms that have plenty of lighting. Large windows that let in a lot of natural light are the best. If you're lucky enough to have this, make sure you choose sheer curtains instead of heavy, dark ones. This will ensure they don't block out the light.

                  It's also a great idea to have some fun with light fixtures. Trendy lamps or a signature chandelier can bring in the light you need while also adding even more style and personality to the room.

                  Follow these guidelines, and you'll be able to pull off the dark paint trend with ease! Before you know it, you'll be enjoying a luxurious, sophisticated look that's totally on-trend and a reflection of your unique style.  

                  March
                  25

                  Organize Your Garage With These Tips

                  Having enough storage in your home is a huge plus, but it doesn't do much good if the area is cluttered and unorganized. The garage can be a real challenge to organize. Not only do you need to leave room to park one and sometimes two cars safely, but garages tend to collect a staggering variety of items. Often the things that end up in the garage are big, irregularly shaped, or they're things we just don't know what to do with. But even though it's a big job, there's no reason to put it off. These tips for organizing your garage will help you get the job done in no time.

                  • Pick a time. This is a big job you'll probably need an entire day to complete. If you prefer, you could also work on it through a weekend. Dry weather is a must because you'll need to move items into the driveway.
                  • Get some help if you need it. Big jobs go faster when you have help. It's also useful if you get overwhelmed easily or if you have trouble throwing things out. Make sure you have a plan to keep everyone working together.
                  • Use the right supplies. You'll need garbage bags or cans, cleaning supplies like a broom or shop vac and gloves, and some empty boxes or containers for sorting everything out.
                  • Throw it away. Any garage that needs organizing undoubtedly has some things that are broken, unable to be repaired, unusable, or even downright gross. And those things all need to go. Make sure you know your city's bulk pick-up and disposal rules ahead of time.
                  • Categorize your belongings. Declutter what's left by making a donate or sell pile and a keep pile. Move some of the stuff out to give yourself some room to work. Here are some examples of what you might have: camping equipment, sports equipment, outdoor toys, tools, lawn care, automotive tools, or seasonal decor. Use empty boxes or containers you already have for temporary storage while you're sorting things out.
                  • Plan and organize your garage in a way that makes sense to you. You'll want to put like items together, but beyond that, do what makes sense for your space and lifestyle. You'll be more likely to keep things organized if it's practical for you and your family.
                  • Organize vertically. Garages need to store a lot of stuff, so you'll want to make sure you optimize the space. Use wall-mounted shelves or freestanding metal shelving units with bins to free up floor space. You can also utilize rack storage systems, pegboards, cabinets, and hooks to get things on the walls instead of the floor. You may even be able to stash items overhead too.
                  • Make sure frequently used items are easy to reach. Put lesser-used items either up higher or down lower since you won't need to get to them as often.
                  • Think ahead. Try to anticipate future needs and work in space for them. For example, you may need to store patio furniture or seasonal decor a few months down the road. And children often need bigger bikes every couple of years. If you can keep some additional free space, you won't have to completely reorganize everything again too soon.
                  • Make and stick to an organizing schedule. Whether it's seasonal, monthly, or even weekly, periodically do a run-through to make sure things stay clean and organized.

                  Organizing the garage can be a big job. But having a plan and using these tips to help will make it much more manageable.

                  March
                  18

                  Fill That Empty Space Above Your Cabinets

                  While some of the more modern kitchens feature open shelving or cabinets that stretch all the way to the ceiling, the majority of homes in the U.S. have an awkward space between the top of the kitchen cabinets and the ceiling. If you're like many homeowners, you might be wondering what to do with it. Do you just ignore it? Do you use it as a storage area for large and awkwardly shaped kitchen items? Or is there some kind of decorating magic that can make this space look great?

                  You'll be glad to know there are some simple things you can do to make the area above your cabinets both functional and attractive. Here are a few suggestions to help spark your creativity.

                  Stylish Storage

                  The most functional option is to use this space for storage. However, you'll need to take the time to do it right. Don't just toss everything that doesn't fit in your cabinets up there, or it will look like a cluttered mess. Instead, style this area as if it were a retail space. This means adding decorative baskets, jars, vases, or stacking bins. Doing so will allow you to create a useful storage area while still making the space look great.

                  Decorate with Plants

                  It's always nice to have some greenery in your kitchen, so adding a few plants to this space is a great idea. You'll just need to be intentional about the plants you choose. Since this area probably doesn't get a lot of direct light, look for shade-loving plants. Consider something like Pathos or Devil's Ivy. Both tolerate low light, trail downwards, and are very tolerant of neglect. If you don't have a green thumb, artificial plants can also work. However, it's important to choose the most natural-looking ones you can find. Opting for faux plants that are cheap or obviously fake will detract from your decor instead of improving it.

                  Display Your Favorite Cookbooks

                  A kitchen "library" is another great option for this space. Try displaying your most colorful cookbooks and coffee table books. Add some decorative pieces alongside them to finish off the look. If you choose this option, remember that getting them down will likely be a challenge — so only choose books that you don't use very often. Also, beware of putting them too close to the stove.

                  Vintage Decor

                  Sure, you could use the space above your cabinets to hold your Kitchen-Aid and your waffle maker. However, it would look much nicer if you used it to display quirky vintage items. You can create a unique look by using the space to show off items you've collected during travels, interesting items you've received from family or friends, or fun thrift-store finds.

                  Stash Your Bottles

                  Don't have space in your home for a stand-alone bar? Use the area above your cabinets to stash liquor bottles, wine, mixers, and bar tools. If you arrange them neatly, they can look just as good as purchased decor. If you decide to take this route, make sure you have a step ladder handy. The last thing you want is to have to climb up on your counters next time you want to make a cocktail.

                  It's Time to Get Creative!

                  When decorating the space above the cabinets, the most important thing is to embrace your own unique style. Now that you have some fabulous and functional ideas, use them as a springboard to create your own unique display.

                  March
                  4

                  5 Tips For Improving Your Home Security

                  Whether you're new to homeowning or have been a homeowner for a while, improving the security of your home is a good idea. It can provide peace of mind and help you keep your property secure while you're away. These 5 tips will help you know where to start.

                  1. Upgrade your locks. The first thing you can do to improve security as a new homeowner is to change the locks. You can take this opportunity to install smart locks which allow for changing entrance codes and locking or unlocking remotely. Many even integrate with security systems to provide video. If you don't want to go with a smart lock, you can probably upgrade the standard lock on your door. Most residential locks have an ANSI rating of 3, which means you have room to upgrade to something more secure.
                  2. Invest in a home security system or upgrade your current one. They can vary in price and go from basic to complex, but a security system still makes a big difference. Today's systems protect against break-ins and have plenty of other advantages that will help you improve security and provide you with peace of mind when you're away. Integration with smoke alarms, carbon monoxide detectors, and leak sensors can help avoid dangerous situations as well. You can also add cameras and home automation features to many systems, and a system may even save you money on your homeowner's insurance too.
                  3. Eliminate outdoor hiding places. It's obvious you want to keep sheds, garages and other ­buildings on your property locked, but you should also have these areas decluttered and well-lit to deter anyone from snooping around your property. It's also a good idea to eliminate or prune any extra-large landscape bushes.
                  4. Add or improve outdoor lighting. If you don't have outdoor lighting, adding some is a good idea. It not only deters intruders but improves outdoor safety as well. There are lots of energy-efficient options available, and you can use motion sensors or solar lighting to decrease energy costs. One of the best places to put motion-sensing lights is above your garage door, especially if you have additional cars that sit outside.
                  5. Don't make your home vulnerable during home improvement projects. These projects often involve things like ladders and tools that can provide an easy route to theft. You may also be leaving areas of your home such as windows, doors, or sheds unsecured. Put away tools and ladders when not in use, and lock everything back up when you're done.

                  Improving your home's security isn't difficult. With these tips, a little work can go a long way to giving you the peace of mind that your home is safe.

                  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
                  18

                  Choosing the Right Water Softener

                  As a homeowner, it's important to know your plumbing and pipes can have a big impact on your water quality. "Hard water" can damage plumbing pipes and leave chlorine, iron, and mineral deposits in your household water supply. It can cause various problems, including a strange taste and smell in the water and rust and chalky-white residue on fixtures, sinks, bathtubs, toilet bowls, and appliances.

                  If you're noticing a strange taste or foul odor in your water, rust stains on faucets and fixtures, spots on glassware, or a white film on your shower door, you likely have hard water in your home. Perhaps it's time to install a water softener that will make your water taste better and protect your plumbing and household appliances. When choosing a water softener system, it's important to consider the hardness level of your home's water, your household water use, technical features of the system, and your budget.

                  Determining Water Hardness Level

                  Water hardness levels are measured in grains per gallon (gpg), with one grain equal to 1/7,000 pound of rock. Some municipal water suppliers may also measure water hardness levels in liters (L), milligrams (mg), or parts per million (ppm). This technical process is complex, so it's best to buy a water test kit from a local hardware store or contact your city's water municipality.

                  Calculating Household Water Use

                  You can calculate your household water use by multiplying the number of people in your home by the gallons of water they use each day (the average use is 80 gallons per person). This will determine the best water softener size for your home. Multiply daily household use by the grains of hardness in your water to determine how many grains must be removed each day. Finally, you can shop for a water softener equipped to handle these requirements. The average four-person household typically uses a 33,000-grain softener unit.

                  Water Softener Technical Features

                  Water softeners are available in a range of sizes, colors, and capacities that show the flow rate (gallons of water per minute) and the maximum number of hardness grains the system will remove per day. Generally, the higher the gallon-per-minute capacity, the bigger the tank for the water softener system.

                  The most popular type of system for homes is a whole-house, salt-based water softener. You will need to add salt based on the model of the water softener you buy and the amount of water your household uses. Typically, the average household needs to add salt from once a week to every few months.

                  There are salt-free water softener systems, but most professionals agree that salt-using models soften water more effectively. If you are concerned about health issues and salt intake, you can add a reverse-osmosis filter to your system to remove salt from drinking water.

                  Determining Costs

                  Generally, a water softener system will cost between $400 and $2,500 or more, depending on features and special functions. Systems with smart filtration systems installed in large homes may cost up to $6,000 or more.

                  If you're handy around the house, you can install your own system for less money and purchase your own supplies. Most homeowners rely on professionals for water softener installation, service, maintenance, and repairs. Major suppliers like Culligan, Genesis, and Pelican offer low monthly rates that make owning a water softener system easier and more affordable.

                  If you're living with hard water in your home, consider a water softener system that will make daily tasks like showers, cooking, and laundry much easier and more enjoyable.

                    January
                    28

                    Displaying Art in Your Home

                    Displaying artwork in your home is the perfect way to add some personality and give visitors a glimpse into what you value in life. From family portraits and vacation photographs to prints and paintings that evoke powerful emotions, your options are limited only by your imagination.

                    While most homeowners love the concept of displaying art in their homes, many struggle with figuring out the details. From where to place artwork to how to choose the best pieces, decorating with art can feel like an insurmountable task. Luckily, it's not as difficult as you might think. Take a look at this room-by-room for some inspiration.

                    The Kitchen

                    While the kitchen is often called "the heart of the home," many people don't give it a second thought when they're looking for places to add artwork. As one of the most-used rooms in your home, it's actually the perfect place to get creative and add a personal touch.

                    When choosing art for your kitchen, look for smaller pieces. This will help ensure it complements the space instead of overwhelming it. Place art on your countertop with a stand or hang pieces above your cabinets or on an open wall.  

                    The Bedroom

                    For your bedroom, look for art that invokes feelings of peace and relaxation. Abstract art with soothing tones and landscape photography are both excellent options. 

                    Large-scale pieces work well here. They're often best displayed at eye level either over the bed or on the wall directly across from the bed. Minimal frames are also popular for bedrooms, so consider canvas pieces or images placed in gallery frames. 

                    The Office

                    If you have an office space, you'll want to decorate it with images that inspire and energize you. One great idea is to install a floating shelf and decorate it with framed images that you rotate when the mood strikes.

                    This allows you to keep things fresh and exciting without too much effort. When choosing your images, look for pieces of different sizes, as this will add visual interest. If you prefer a minimalist look, choose frames that are all similar. Otherwise, choose a selection of different-looking frames to give your space more of a unique sense of style. 

                    The Bathroom

                    The bathroom is another commonly overlooked room when it comes to art. When choosing pieces for this space, make sure they fit in with the room's overall vibe. The master bath often does well with calm, serene pieces, while fun, bright pieces might work well in a main-level powder room.

                    Consider choosing art in pairs that follow the same theme. For placement, you typically can't go wrong hanging pieces over the toilet, above a freestanding bathtub, or over your towel hooks. 

                    The Living Room

                    While the living room can be the most fun room in the house to decorate, for many, it's also the most intimidating. The good news is, you have a lot of options.

                    Try choosing one large-scale piece of artwork that speaks to you or setting up a large gallery wall. If you feel creative, consider adding some 3-dimensional pieces to your wall decor. This unique touch will add some extra character and really make your space pop.

                    Embrace Your Creativity!

                    While the tips above are an excellent guide, it's important to remember that the art you choose is a reflection of your personality. If you come across a piece of art you really love, find a creative way to make it work. 

                    Ultimately, your home — and the artwork in it — should make you feel happy. If it does, then you're doing it right! 

                    January
                    21

                    5 Tips for Building a Home Library

                    Building the perfect home library is a dream for book lovers everywhere, and the last year has given us all a new appreciation for having our favorite things available at home. So why wait? Now is the time to begin building the home library of your dreams, and you may be surprised by how easy it is to get started. While your home library's decor depends on taste, there are plenty of little things that anyone can do to make their home library more enjoyable. We'll help you get started with 5 tips for building a fabulous, functional library at home.

                    1. Choose the Right Room for Your Library
                      One of the first big challenges with creating a home library is picking the right room. Devoting a full room to your library is ideal, but it's not always a realistic option in homes where every room is already in use. But there's no need to worry! Living rooms, dens, and home offices can all be great locations for a home library while still serving their primary purpose. If you're combining your library with another space, the key is to pick a room with ample wall space and enough room to add some new furnishings.
                    2. Create a Space to Display Your Books in Style
                      Naturally, the spaces where you display your books will be the focal point of your home library, both in terms of style and function. Most home libraries include floor to ceiling shelving on at least one wall to provide plenty of space to display your favorite books. Having ample shelving makes it easier to keep your books organized, display everything in your collection, and leave plenty of room for new additions. If you'd like a different look, either antique or new bookshelves will offer a unique appearance but may sacrifice storage space.
                    3. Seating Is Crucial to Keeping Your Library Comfortable
                      Do you dream of curling up on a cozy couch by a scenic window with your favorite book, or would you prefer modern, minimalist seating that accents the room? Choosing the right seating will have a big impact on the look of your library and will help you enjoy the space to the fullest. There's no "right" answer for the seating in a home library because it really comes down to personal preference. Just be sure to pick something that inspires you to visit your library often and enjoy your favorite books.
                    4. Pick the Right Lighting for Reading and Relaxing
                      Ideally, you'll want a couple different types of lighting for your home library. First, pick some ambient lighting that accents the room and brings out its best features when you aren't reading. Then, pick some brighter lighting that you can turn on whenever you want to spend time reading.
                    5. How to Decorate Your Dream Library
                      How you decorate your library comes entirely down to personal choice, and there are a ton of different ways to go. Home libraries often feature interesting artwork that provokes thought, as well as indoor plants to promote a quiet, peaceful atmosphere. Don't be afraid to get creative and customize your library to your unique tastes.

                    Whether you go for a massive, majestic home library like you see in the movies or a cozy, comfortable library tucked away in a quiet corner of your home, there's nothing like having your own private space for reading. Keep our tips in mind, get creative with your decorating strategy, and create something that your family can enjoy for years to come.

                    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.

                    January
                    7

                    Show Off Your Interests Through Home Decor

                    When it comes to decorating the home, there are many schools of thought. Some insist that you choose a distinctive yet subtle theme; others suggest creating a space using a minimalist approach that's easy on the eyes. The problem is that homeowners are not concepts; they're people. Each of us has unique interests that should be included in our home's aesthetic. If you'd like to express your hobbies or interests through home decor — without going overboard — here are a few options to consider.

                    • Design a Statement Piece
                      Even homeowners who prefer a clean room design can agree that a single statement piece is unlikely to disrupt the room's aesthetic completely. Do you have a seasonal hobby, such as skiing or surfing? When these tools aren't in use, you could display them like a statement piece above your television or fireplace. They can be easily removed when needed and act as an easy conversation starter when you welcome guests to your home. However, a frequently used item like a guitar isn't ideal as a statement piece if you'll have trouble constantly removing and replacing it throughout the week.
                    • Display Passion Through Artwork
                      Another small yet substantial way to integrate your passions into your home's decor is to showcase them through artwork. One of the most casual ways to accomplish this is with a photo wall. Gather a few frames and use a series of photographs relating to your hobby to create a wall of memories. Frame styles and colors will easily match any decor. Perhaps you prefer another art medium? There are hundreds of talented artists who use art to depict various hobbies in everything from oil paintings and mixed-media to statues and ceramics.
                    • Create a Dedicated Showcase for All to See
                      Are you a diehard fan? Whether you love a certain sport, can't get enough of your favorite author, or are a history buff, you could create a dedicated space to store and showcase what you love. A curio or mantle full of autographed baseballs or first edition novels can blend nicely into a room. Even your collection of movie memorabilia can be placed around your living space in a way that adds a cool yet uncluttered personal touch.
                    • Curate a Personal Collection that Fills You with Pride
                      Though you may be excited to show off your interests to your many guests, keep in mind that this decor choice is ultimately for you. You can opt to keep your passion contained in a more private room, such as a loft, office, or bedroom. This is an ideal option if you have larger collections to display, such as trophies, movie posters, and figurines. By dedicating a space behind closed doors for your hobby or interest, you can go a little more all-out without disrupting the flow of the main living spaces.

                    You don't need to hide away your passion when guests visit. Integrating your hobbies and interests into your home's decor is a great way to personalize a space.

                    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. 

                    December
                    17

                    How to Remove Dog Odors From Your Home

                    There are plenty of home improvement projects that will add value to your home if you're selling and add comfort to your home if you're staying put. One of these home improvement projects is clearing out pet odors from your house. Lingering smells from dogs are particularly unpleasant — and worst of all, you may have become so desensitized to them that you can't sense them at all! Regardless if you're planning to sell or planning to entertain guests, here are a few easy home improvement tips for removing dog odors from your home.

                    • Regularly Steam Clean Carpets
                      Carpet fibers will trap pet odors and require much more than a simple vacuum treatment to remove them. Steam clean your carpets regularly, ensuring they are completely dry before your dog gets back on them.


                    • Wash Hard Flooring Weekly
                      Although solid flooring won't trap odors as strongly as carpets do, they can still hold onto these smells. Along with vacuuming your floors for pet hair, wash them every week or two with soap and water.


                    • Use Furniture Covers
                      Even if your dog is not allowed to sit on your bed or couch, your furniture can still hold onto pet odors. One home improvement hack is to purchase washable furniture covers that you can clean periodically to remove the smells and prevent them from getting on your clothing.  


                    • Clean Dog Beds Regularly
                      No matter how often your dog uses their bed, it only takes one long nap to make it smell. Another home improvement hack is to purchase a dog bed that either has a washable cover or that can be cleaned easily to remove smells and stains.


                    • Throw Away Stinky Items
                      Unfortunately, some of your items may be too stinky to save even with the most thorough of home improvement cleaning projects. Don't be afraid to throw items like dog beds or blankets away and replace them with fresh items.


                    • Purchase Specialty Cleaners
                      Not all cleaning products are strong enough to remove pet odors. However, pet-specific cleaners are. Purchase specialty cleaners designed to remove dog odors for maximum effectiveness.


                    • Create Natural Cleaners
                      Many pet owners don't want to use artificial chemicals in their home, especially on surfaces where their pets lay. Thankfully, you can create safe, homemade cleaners to remove pet odors. For instance, let baking soda sit overnight on the carpet, then vacuum it up or spritz surfaces with a little vodka, which will remove odors as the alcohol evaporates.


                    • Locate Problem Areas
                      Since pet odors can linger, dogs may gravitate to those spaces and make them smell worse. Locate and treat these problem areas to eliminate the smell.  


                    • Purify the Air
                      One way to eliminate odors without completing a home improvement project is to purify your home's air. Open windows to air out your home and change your ventilation filters regularly to cut down on unpleasant smells. You should also consider purchasing an air purifier if the smell becomes too much.


                    • Keep Your Pup Clean
                      Keeping unpleasant odors away involves more than home improvement cleaning projects. You should also make sure your pet is regularly groomed and bathed so that they smell fresh and stay healthy.

                    Your home doesn't have to smell like you own a dog! Clean your home and four-legged friend consistently to eliminate strong odors from your house.

                    December
                    10

                    What To Do When Your Basement Floods

                    There are many household problems that can be prevented with home improvement projects. Unfortunately, some homeowners may experience a household emergency that can rarely be prevented with even the best home improvement maintenance. A flooded basement is one of the most frustrating types of home damage to deal with. Not only does it damage your belongings, but the presence of water can create other long-term damages due to mold or rot. If you wake up to a flooded basement, take these home improvement steps to fix it.

                    • Don't Panic
                      If your basement floods, it's important that you stay calm. A flooded basement can be a dangerous scenario. You'll need to assess many elements of your home, safely prepare to resolve the problem, and know when you need professional help.
                    • Call a Professional
                      Because a flooded basement may be a scenario you rarely encounter, it's wise to know your limits and call a professional. A professional can safely assess your issue, resolve it, and help you determine which home improvement projects will restore your basement to its former glory.
                    • Check Your Exterior for Flooding
                      Whether or not you call in a professional, you'll need to figure out where the water is coming from. Immediately go outside to see if rain or snow is causing the flooding. If so, you should not try to fix the problem until the storm stops.
                    • Shut Off Electricity, Gas, & Water to the Area
                      Obviously, shutting off your water is important if a pipe has burst. You also should shut off your gas and electricity to the basement, as these elements can make the area more dangerous.
                    • Put On Protective Gear
                      We don't recommend that you get into the waterlogged area yourself, but some homeowners try to solve this problem without a professional. Before you wade into the basement, you need to make sure you're protected. You should wear waterproof boots, gloves, waders, and a mask.
                    • Remove Items if Possible
                      If there are easily movable items like boxes or small pieces of furniture that you can remove from the area, do so first. Place these items in an area where they can air out and dry completely. Be cautious when removing any electrical items.
                    • Remove Water if Possible
                      If you can remove the standing water, you should try to as safely as possible. Use buckets, a shop vacuum, or even a sump pump to pump the water outside to a space that will not allow it to make its way back inside. If you see points of entry, you may want to plan home improvement projects to block it.
                    • Throw Away Damaged Items
                      Some items may sustain too much water damage to salvage. Throw these items away immediately to prevent mold growth. 
                    • Dry the Area Thoroughly
                      One home improvement mistake many homeowners make is not drying out their basement completely. You'll need to wash the area to remove all dirt and debris, then replace drywall or insulation that got wet. Air the space out and let it fully dry before applying an anti-mildew spray to prevent mold growth. 
                    • Prepare for Future Flooding
                      Unfortunately, basement flooding can happen at any time despite your best home improvement practices. Consider purchasing flood insurance to safeguard your home. You can also proactively protect your basement with home improvement projects such as maintaining your gutters and checking for water points of entry.

                    No homeowner wants their basement to flood, but this unfortunate occurrence happens to plenty of homeowners. Stay safe, stay smart, and call a professional for help with home improvement projects when your basement floods.

                    November
                    19

                    5 Hacks to Remove a Stripped Screw

                    Nothing can throw a wrench in your home improvement projects quite like a stripped screw! We're talking about those stubborn screws that have been over-tightened so much they won't turn properly or simply refuse to budge. If you're a home improvement enthusiast, these can quickly become the bane of your existence! 

                    Next time this happens to you, take a deep breath. All is not lost. There are actually several simple ways to remove a stripped screw. Once you learn these techniques, you'll be able to fix the problem in a matter of seconds and get your home improvement project back on track.  

                    1. Try a Different Screwdriver
                      This is a very simple solution, but it often works. If you're dealing with a Phillips screw, try switching to a flat-head screwdriver. You might need to dig through your home improvement tool kit to get one that's the appropriate size. A properly-sized flat-head should have the perfect amount of space to get a good grip. Press it as hard as you can into the screw and attempt to turn it.
                    1. The Rubber Band Trick
                      You might be surprised to learn that the simplest solution to your problem is likely floating around in your junk drawer. Grab a wide rubber band and place it on top of your screw head. Then, press the screwdriver down really hard while slowly unscrewing. The rubber should give you the extra grip you need to get the stripped screw out. 
                    1. Use a Dremel
                      Depending on the type of home improvement projects you've been doing, you might have a Dremel or similar tool available. If so, you're in luck. You can use it to make a notch in the head of the screw. Then, grab your flat-head screwdriver, push it into the notch, and put some muscle into unscrewing the stripped screw. 
                    1. Get Out the Drill
                      The king of home improvement projects to the rescue! You likely use your drill a lot -- but did you know you can use it to remove a stripped screw? Simply use your drill to create a small hole in the middle of the screw head. Just be careful not to go too deep. All you're trying to do here is allow your Phillips screwdriver to get a better grip when you start to turn it. 
                    1. Try Needle-Nose Pliers
                      If some of the methods above have worked at least slightly, there's a good chance that part of the screw is now exposed above the surface. In this case, head back to your home improvement tool kit and get a pair of needle-nose pliers. Clapping ones will work best, but regular ones might also work. Just grab the screw with the pliers and use them to finish unscrewing it. 
                    1. Take a Hammer to It
                      It's so frustrating to have a home improvement project stalled by a stripped screw, you might think about grabbing an oversized hammer using it to smash the screw. Don't do that... (yet). Instead, try using the hammer to gently tap the screwdriver into the screw head. Since the metal was soft enough to strip in the first place, there's a good chance that this will push the screwdriver in deep enough to get a firm grip. Then, you can proceed with unscrewing it. 

                    Next time a stripped screw threatens your home improvement project, stay calm, and refer back to this list. One of these tricks might help salvage your project and save your sanity! 

                    November
                    12

                    6 Boredom-Busting Ideas for Home DIY Projects

                    If you're like most homeowners, you used your time during the early months of the quarantine to take care of all the home improvement projects on your list. Now, you might be getting bored and wondering what to do next. 

                    Don't worry, we've got six ideas for fun home improvement DIYs that you're sure to love. They're easy to complete in a single weekend and will totally transform your space. 

                    1. Hang Some Rope Shelves
                      From small plants and decor to picture frames and candles, there are many ways to decorate a beautiful set of hanging rope shelves. This project creates a beautiful aesthetic display without taking up too much wall space. You'll want to use strong rope and lightweight or hollow shelves. Make sure that everything is anchored properly for the amount of weight it will hold. If you're going to add some heavier items, don't forget to reinforce the ceiling for extra strength.

                    2. Build an Entryway Bench
                      Sure, you could buy a bench for a few hundred dollars, but why do that when you can easily build one on your own? Like any home improvement project, you'll want to spend some time thinking about the design. Once you know what you want it to look like, head to the lumberyard and pick up some inexpensive wood. When you've finished building your bench, don't forget to cover it with comfortable cushions and pillows. You can buy some at the store or create a new project by making you own with repurposed blankets or sheets.
                       
                    3. Update Your Interior Doors
                      One of the easiest and most impactful home improvement projects is simply refreshing your interior doors. You can keep this as simple as adding a fresh coat of paint or some trim. If you're willing to take on something more dramatic, redo them in a completely new color and style. You'll be amazed by how much this changes the look of your interior space.
                       
                    4. Install New Kitchen Hardware
                      Want to modernize your kitchen without taking on a major remodeling project? Update the hardware! This simple home improvement can make your kitchen feel brand-new. There's a reason why hardware is sometimes referred to as the "jewelry" of the kitchen. It can go a long way towards pulling your kitchen design together while also giving it an upscale look. Some of the things you might want to change out include the cabinet hardware, lighting fixtures, and faucets.
                       
                    5. Add a New Bathroom Backsplash
                      Updating your bathroom backsplash is another easy home improvement that can have a major impact. This will allow you to bring a new style and some extra texture to the space. If you're worried this might be too big of a home improvement project, consider skipping the traditional tile and using stick-on tile instead. This will give you a gorgeous effect without the hassle.
                       
                    6. Build a New Headboard
                      Does your spare bedroom need a bit of a refresh? You don't have to spend a fortune on a new platform bed. Instead, create a rustic-chic look by picking up some wooden boards and building your own headboard. Not only will you save a ton of money, but every time you look at your new home improvement, you'll feel a sense of pride. 

                    We think the best home improvement projects are ones that help you to add a personal touch to your home. Each of these suggestions will do just that! Which one will you start first? 

                    October
                    29

                    10 Things to Know Before Building a Fence for Your Home

                    With so much time spent indoors lately, homeowners across the nation are realizing the value of investing in exterior home improvement projects. A fence is often one of the most important features of an accommodating outdoor area, as it provides privacy for homeowners and neighbors alike. If you're interested in installing or replacing a fence around your property, we encourage you to do a little research before tacking this home improvement project. Here are ten things you should know before building a fence for your home.

                    1. Know Your Official Property Lines
                      All homeowners should know the exact limits of their property before completing any type of exterior home improvement project that may infringe on a neighbor's or government's property. Research your property lines and consider painting these limits to ensure you're staying within your property.
                    2. Learn Local Zoning Codes & Regulations
                      You must also determine if you're legally allowed to install or replace a fence. Local codes or HOA regulations often have requirements that must be met for certain home improvement projects. This may include everything from fence appearance and color to height and length.
                    3. Talk to Your Neighbors
                      Fences may make good neighbors in theory, but you should still be considerate and discuss your home improvement plans with your neighbor. The last thing you want to do is offend them by placing an eyesore directly in their view or obstruct another aspect of their property.
                    4. Compare Costs of Self Versus Professional Installation
                      Many homeowners believe that they can complete a home improvement project like fence installation themselves. While it is possible, it may be more cost-effective to have a professional complete the project. Research costs for installation, materials, and long-term maintenance plans to determine which best suits your financial needs.
                    5. Don't Dig Without Calling 811 First
                      By calling 811, a representative of your town will come to your property and mark areas where utility lines are buried. This quick assessment can prevent you from hitting a gas, cable, or electrical line buried on your property.
                    6. Design Before You Begin
                      You should always plan out your design prior to beginning so you can identify what you want the finished product to look like. Consider color, height, door location, and other elements of the fence to ensure that your goal can be practically achieved.
                    7. Research Material & Maintenance Needs
                      If you decided to complete this home improvement project without the help of a professional, you'll need to first create a budget. Once you have your home improvement budget, research the materials you'll need to create a strong, sturdy fence that can withstand your climate. You should choose materials that can retain their appearance and effectiveness with limited maintenance.
                    8. Consider Potential Alternatives
                      Remember, a fence doesn't need to be a traditional wooden structure. You can create fencing with landscaping such as tall shrubs or bushes which will keep your space private and add more of a natural aesthetic to your property.
                    9. Space Posts Correctly
                      Fence posts should be spaced exactly eight-feet apart to ensure that it maintains maximum strength. Any shorter or longer and the fence may sag or weaken from strong winds.
                    10. Face It in the Right Direction
                      Believe it or not, many homeowners accidentally face their fences inward instead of outward. Leave the posts facing into your yard to ensure that your outward-facing sections enhance your curb appeal. If necessary, consider investing in double-sided fencing if you want the posts obscured on both sides.

                    A fence is a wonderful home improvement project to invest in and it may be in your best interest to enlist the help of a professional contractor. Consider these ten suggestions to determine the best way to complete your home improvement project on budget safely and provide your family with the outdoor privacy that they desire.

                    October
                    8

                    Do-It-Yourself Pest Control Tips

                    If you're plagued by ants, flies, roaches, or other nasty bugs, you'll want to get the situation under control right away! Luckily, there's a good chance you can save some money by taking care of the problem yourself. Start with these simple DIY pest control tips.

                    1. Seal Up Your Home
                      One of the most important things you can do to keep pests out of your home is to figure out how they're getting in and block their entry. Check around your foundation for cracks or areas where materials have started to separate. Also, take a look at your roof. If your facia or soffits are damaged, this can create an easy entryway for pests. Next, check to make sure your windows are sealed properly and check the doors. Some issues you may find include shrunken caulk, worn-out weather stripping, or doors that don't close properly. Fix any problems you find right away. 
                    2. Store Pet Food Properly
                      Dog and cat food will attract all kinds of pests. Make sure you store it in a sealed container. A clean metal trash can with a lid is a good option, as mice can't climb up the can's slippery surface. It's also a good idea to feed your pets on a regular schedule, then empty and wash the food bowls when they're done. 
                    3. Get Rid of Standing Water 
                      Bugs love standing water! Keep a sharp eye out for any water sources you can get rid of. Inside, check under your sinks and in your basement to make sure there's no leaks or drips. Outdoors, watch for things like children's toys or lawn furniture that are collecting rainwater. This can be a breeding ground for mosquitoes! Termites, carpenter ants, and rodents can all tunnel their way through moist wood. Clean your gutters regularly so rain is directed away from your home. This will help keep your home's exterior and foundation dry.
                    4. Stave Off Spiders
                      Spiders are some of the creepiest pests, but they're easy to get rid of. Start by placing a dehumidifier in the area where they're congregating and keep it set to 40% humidity. Next, use a broom or vacuum to knock down any spider webs you see. Keep up with this cleaning routine, and, in a few weeks, your eight-legged "friends" will have packed their bags and moved on. 
                    5. Drive Out Ants
                      Ants are a big nuisance, and they're often attracted to food. A great way to deter them is to clean your kitchen countertops, walls, floors, and other surfaces with a mixture of equal parts water and apple cider vinegar. You can also keep ants away by soaking cotton balls in a mixture of Borax, sugar, and water and placing them around the house. Borax can be toxic if it's ingested, so don't use this solution if there are small children or pets in the home. 
                    6. Use Essential Oils 
                      Essential oils are one of the best non-toxic pest control options. Peppermint oil is very effective and versatile. You can use it to deter ants, beetles, fleas, flies, moths, roaches, and spiders. Thyme will keep away beetles, chiggers, and ticks. Dealing with gnats? Use patchouli or spearmint. Citronella is well known for being excellent for keeping mosquitos at bay.  

                    If you know what to do, DIY pest control will often completely eliminate your problem. However, if the infestation is severe or you've been trying to handle things yourself for more than a few weeks and still don't have it under control, it's time to wave the white flag and call in the pros. 

                    September
                    24

                    A Good Night's Sleep Starts with the Right Mattress

                    Many home improvement projects make your house look beautiful, but making changes to improve your sleep will change your life. If you're considering a home improvement that involves your bedroom, you'll want to choose soothing colors, perfect your lighting, and add some comforting decor. 

                    However, one critical element that people often miss is their mattress. The most luxurious bedroom home improvement in the world won't help you sleep if you're uncomfortable the moment you lie down. Knowing what to look for can help you find the ideal mattress for your needs. Here are a few things you'll want to consider.

                    Choose the Right Type of Mattress
                    It's often easiest to buy a mattress if you start out narrowing down your options by the overall type. The four primary choices are spring, memory foam, latex, and hybrid.

                    • Spring mattresses are the most common. They're typically very durable and affordable.
                    • Memory foam has grown in popularity in recent years. They provide even support and conform to the shape of your body.
                    • Latex mattresses are similar to memory foam, but even more cushiony.
                    • A hybrid mattress typically combines a spring mattress core with a latex layer, memory foam, or a pillow top. Other hybrid mattresses combine layers of memory foam and latex.

                    There are pros and cons to each type of mattress, so it makes sense to do your research and try each kind out in person before making your decision.

                    Find the Best Support
                    No matter which type of mattress you choose, it's important that it provides enough support. Otherwise, you could end up with back, neck, joint, or spine problems. Make sure you lay on a mattress before you buy it. This is the only way to truly confirm whether it's firm enough for your body. 

                    Temperature is Important
                    If you're constantly waking up covered in sweat, you'll never get a good night's sleep. Some mattresses are specially designed to create a cooler sleeping environment. If you're a hot sleeper, you'll want to make sure you choose one with this feature. 

                    Consider Motion Isolation
                    Do you sleep with a partner or your dog? If so, then motion isolation may be important to you. In this case, consider a latex or memory foam mattress. These absorb impact and pressure, which can help you both get a better night's sleep. 

                    Avoid Allergies
                    If you or your partner has allergies, then you'll want a mattress made of allergen-resistant fabrics and materials. Memory foam is resistant to mold growth and dust mites. Natural latex is also known for its antimicrobial qualities. 

                    Consider Durability
                    It's important to note that some mattresses are more durable than others. For example, plush pillow-top mattresses are super comfortable early on, but they can get compressed over the years. This can make the mattress feel sunken or lumpy. It also becomes far less supportive. If you want a soft, comfy mattress, make sure you're prepared to replace it more often.

                    Want to make an investment that will last much longer? Consider a hybrid mattress. These are often the most durable. 

                    Catch Those ZZZs 
                    Don't let your bedroom home improvement project go to waste! Make sure you finish it off by choosing the perfect mattress. 

                    Take the time to shop around and test out many different options before you make your decision. Many companies offer a guarantee, so if you get it home and decide it's not right for you, don't settle! Keep trying until you find the perfect mattress for your needs, and you'll be catching those ZZZs in no time! 

                    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.

                    September
                    3

                    Goof-Proof Plants for Your Landscaping

                    Not all of us are fortunate enough to be born with a green thumb, live in a climate that's conducive to exotic plants, or have a yard with perfect growing conditions... and that's okay! There are tons of plants out there that are easy to care for, look great in your yard, and fit perfectly as part of your next landscaping home improvement project. Whether you're looking to spice up your landscaping for your own outdoor enjoyment or boost curb appeal when selling your home, these goof-proof plants are ideal for tackling home improvement projects outdoors with minimal maintenance.

                    • Knock Out Roses
                      All the beauty of a blooming rose bush, without the extensive maintenance required for many rose varieties? Sign us up! Knock Out Roses are very easy to maintain and will look fantastic as part of your next outdoor home improvement project. Just make sure they're planted where they'll get plenty of sun, and you're good to go.
                    • Marigolds
                      Adding a touch of gold to your garden is easy if you plant some marigolds, which bloom from spring through fall and require very little care after you plant them. They can hold up to the heat in more extreme climates and should thrive as long as they're planted where they can receive lots of sunlight.
                    • American Beautyberry
                      Looking for a low-maintenance shrub to accent the rest of your landscaping? These beauties will do the trick. American beautyberry shrubs feature green foliage year-round, blooming purple flowers in the spring/summer, and beautiful purple berries during fall/winter. They thrive in most climates, are resistant to drought, and require very little maintenance after planting.
                    • Spotted Laurel
                      With large, green, glossy leaves and a hardy disposition, spotted laurel is a great option when adding some green to your garden is at the top of your home improvement to-do list. It's a great complement to the more bright, flowery plants in your garden and grows slowly so it requires minimal trimming.
                    • Geranium Brookside
                      Looking to attract some butterflies to your garden, without also attracting deer, rabbits, and other critters? The geranium brookside plant thrives in a wide variety of challenging conditions, has blooms that last from spring through summer, and is great for attracting butterflies.
                    • Ice Plant
                      Whoever named the ice plant had a sense of humor, because this colorful, flowering succulent definitely doesn't thrive in icy conditions. However, if you live in a dry, arid area where watering plants can be a challenge and winters are warm, then ice plant is a fantastic choice. It requires very little water, making it a favorite for desert home improvement outdoors.
                    • Coral Honeysuckle
                      With vivid, red, trumpet-shaped blooms, coral honeysuckle can be a colorful addition to any outdoor home improvement project. It's not a very picky plant when it comes to sunlight, and doesn't require much watering. It may even attract hummingbirds to your yard!
                    • Clematis
                      Searching for some (almost) instant gratification from your next home improvement project? Try planting some clematis, which grows quickly and can produce flowers of many different colors depending on which variety you purchase. Clematis also climbs well as it grows, so it's a great choice if you want a plant that will grow to cover outdoor structures as part of your landscaping.

                    Home improvement projects come in many forms, and gardening is certainly one area that you won't want to overlook. Whether you're trying to build a garden in a tough climate or new to landscaping, picking the right plants is key to achieving your home improvement goals outdoors.

                    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.

                    August
                    20

                    Turn an Unfinished Basement into a Family Retreat

                    Once upon a time, an unfinished basement was a common sight that hardly deserved a second glance, let alone a full-scale home improvement project. It was a space for storage and sometimes included a small area where adults or kids could carve out a little time for themselves. Today, the unfinished basement is a hidden gem just waiting to be transformed into the house's best room. There are so many practical ways to renovate this functional space that most homeowners can complete this home improvement project over the course of a few weekends. If you're ready to turn your unfinished basement into a family retreat, consider taking on one of these home improvement projects.

                    • The Multipurpose Space
                      One of the best home improvement projects for an unfinished basement is turning it into a multipurpose space. Instead of dedicating the area to one sole purpose, make the most of the space by creating a laundry center, a small workshop for household repairs, a storage corner, and a small sitting space for guests or kids to enjoy. An unfinished basement is a perfect space to include whatever necessary functional space the rest of the house doesn't contain.
                    • The Activity Space
                      This home improvement project aims to make the space accessible for everyone in your family who may have different hobbies or passions. From arts and crafts to music, completing puzzles, reading, and more, the activity space should be a transitional area that accommodates your family's evolving interests. For adults, be sure to make some room to the side for your exercise equipment as well.
                    • The Playground
                      If you have a wild group of little ones who love to get crazy with their play, you'll be thankful that your unfinished basement can turn into a playground. This home improvement project is relatively simple. First, make the flooring soft using thick carpet or foam/rubber play pads. You will also want to paint the wall with durable paints that can endure wear and tear. Relocate most of the toys into this space, and you'll have a safe area where kids can excitedly make a mess without damaging or cluttering up other areas of the home.
                    • The Hangout
                      As your children get older, they'll need a place of their own. An unfinished basement that was a playground can easily transition into a hangout area for big kids without investing in an expensive home improvement project. Swap the toys for a few beanbag chairs, a futon, and add a television set complete with surround sound and gaming systems to create an awesome area. Let your teens design the room too, by hanging posters or picking the décor theme.
                    • The Lounge
                      Of course, adults deserve their own area, too, and this is one home improvement project you'll love. Take that unfinished basement and turn it into an adults-only lounge where you can enjoy a drink in peace. A small bar or bar cart, comfortable sofas, pool table, dartboard, and even a small wet bar with a kitchenette will make this space ideal for entertaining adults.
                    • The Secluded Hideaway
                      Here's a little home improvement project for guests and moms and dads. By converting your unfinished basement into a guest bedroom, you are actually creating a little hideaway that you can use whenever you'd like. Outfit the space with plush carpet, warm colors, comfortable pillows, and a plush bed. If you can, renovate the bathroom to include a tub for soaking. Tell the kids that this room is for guests only and sneak away to spoil yourself with a little solitude whenever you can.

                    Your unfinished basement has the potential to become the coolest room in your home. With a little creativity and supplies, this home improvement project can completely revolutionize the room into the perfect family retreat.  

                    August
                    13

                    Ten Must-Haves for Your Home First Aid Kit

                    Summer is here, and that means lots of outdoor adventures! Along with this comes increased chances for bumps, bruises, sprains, insect bites, and more.

                    Whether you smash your finger while working on a home improvement project or your child takes a fall while playing outside, a well-stocked first aid kit can help you avoid unnecessary trips to the doctor or hospital. Luckily, it's easy to create an at-home first aid kit. Here are some of the most important things you'll want to include. 

                    1. Bandages and Wound Care
                      Cuts are one of the most common injuries you'll have to deal with. If a tool slips while you're doing a home improvement or you slip with a knife when you're cooking, it's important to stop the bleeding fast. For this reason, you'll want to keep your first aid kit stocked with a variety of different sized bandages, gauze pads, and adhesive tape. 
                    2. Help for Sprains and Strains
                      From twisting your ankle to spraining your wrist, there are many ways you can hurt your joints. Make sure you have elastic bandages (like an ACE bandage) that you can use to wrap and stabilize them. A finger splint will come in handy as well. If you want to make sure you're really prepared, consider purchasing a wrist splint, elbow brace, and knee brace so they're handy if the need arises. 
                    3. Lotions and Ointments
                      Antibiotic ointment and antiseptic solutions or wipes can help prevent infection. Hydrocortisone cream and calamine lotion will bring itch relief caused by bug bites, poison ivy, and more. It's also a good idea to have aloe lotion on hand to help with sunburn pain. 
                    4. Basic Tools
                      Just like when you're working on a home improvement project, having the right tools can make all the difference. Stock your first aid kit with tweezers, cotton balls, Q-tip swabs, scissors, latex gloves, plastic bags, and a thermometer. 
                    5. Prescriptions
                      If anyone in the household uses prescription medication regularly, try to keep backups of them in your first aid kit. You may consider keeping extras of your pet's medications as well. 
                    6. OTC Medications
                      Over the counter medications can also bring serious relief! Make sure you have your preferred pain reliever, some aspirin, cough and cold medicine, antacids, laxatives, and anti-diarrheal medications. 
                    7. Eye Care
                      Getting debris in your eye is another hazard that comes with certain home improvement projects. Make sure you're prepared by stocking your kit with saline solution, an eyewash cup, and eye bandages. 
                    8. Emergency Items
                      You never know when an emergency can strike, so make sure you're prepared! A well-stocked first-aid kit will have items like a flashlight or headlamp, extra batteries, cell phone and solar charger, sunscreen, insect repellant, a space blanket, and waterproof matches. 
                    9. Important Forms
                      Keep a copy of each family member's medical records in your first aid kit. Also, make sure you have completed medical consent forms for each family member. 
                    10. Important Phone Numbers
                      Keep a written list of phone numbers for each family member and a few emergency contacts outside of your immediate family. Also write down numbers for your family doctor, pediatrician, and dentist as well as the poison control hotline, local emergency services, and emergency road service providers. 

                    It may seem simple, but creating a well-stocked first aid kit is one of the most important home improvement projects you'll ever do. Remember, also, that this isn't a "set-it-and-forget-it" type of project. At least once a year, check through your first aid kit. This will help ensure that you have everything you need on hand. As items get low or near their expiration date, make sure you remember to replace them.

                    Expecting the unexpected is critical for keeping your family safe! Make sure you're prepared by starting to create your emergency first aid kit today. 

                    July
                    30

                    Outdoor Projects Almost Every Homeowner Can Do

                    Are you thinking about taking on some home improvement projects? Are you feeling nervous about getting in too deep? Even if you're no Bob Villa, there are some simple things you can do to make your home much more enjoyable.

                    Take a look at these easy home improvement projects almost anyone can do in just a few days! 

                    Create Some Curb Appeal
                    Your curb appeal is what gives people the first impression of your home. Whether you're thinking about selling or you just want to impress your guests and passers-by, updating the front of your house is a home improvement project that's well worth the time and effort.

                    You don't need much experience to take care of simple things like pressure washing your driveway and walkways, trimming your shrubs, and edging your grass. Once that's done, beautify the front of your home with some flowers. 

                    Start by installing some raised flower beds in your front yard. Then, finish up your project by adding some shutters to your front windows and installing flower boxes under them. 

                    Spruce Up Your Front Porch
                    Your front porch and entryway also contribute to your curb appeal. Consider painting your front door a bold color, like red or a shade of blue. Once it dries, compliment your new look by adding a fun welcome mat and some large flower pots.

                    If you can't remember the last time you replaced the numbers on the front of your house, chances are they're outdated. This only costs a few dollars and can make a big difference in giving your home a more modern look. 

                    You may also consider installing lights along the pathway to your front door. This is a small home improvement that will make a big impression while also improving your home's safety. 

                    Create a Backyard Paradise
                    If you're looking for a fun home improvement project that you'll be able to truly enjoy when you're done, spend the weekend turning your backyard into a relaxing paradise. It's easier to do than you might think! You don't have to hire a contractor or spend thousands of dollars to create a space you'll love! 

                    If you're on a budget, make simple upgrades like hanging a hammock or tree swing, adding a fire pit, and stringing up some cafe lights. If you have a covered area, consider adding an outdoor area rug and upcycling some old furniture to make it appropriate for the outdoors. You can make the space cozy by adding some colored cushions, pillows, and throw blankets. Finish it off with some citronella candles. This will create an ambiance while also keeping the bugs away. 

                    Show Off Your Green Thumb
                    Gardening is another hobby that has become enormously popular in recent years. If you want to start small, begin with a potted herb garden, or find a spot in your yard that gets plenty of sun and plant a fruit tree.

                    When you're ready to take on a larger home improvement project, spend the weekend building yourself a raised bed to plant a vegetable garden. All you'll need is some lumber and exterior screws. Then, you'll want to add soil, fertilizer, and plants.

                    If you're feeling really motivated, add a sprinkler system. Once you realize how much more convenient automatically watering your garden is, you'll be glad you spent the time and money on this home improvement. 

                    Start Your Next Home Improvement Project Soon!
                    Now that you have some inspiration, there's no reason to wait any longer. Start working on these home improvement projects next weekend, and you'll be able to enjoy the fruits of your labor right away! 

                    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
                    16

                    Home Lighting Tips from the Pros

                    When TV and movie directors want to highlight a character or set a mood, they turn to the lighting director. Creative lighting methods are some of the more subtle and effective ways to establish a specific ambiance.

                    As the star of your own home movie, you can use the same principles to shape the story. Looking for a quick and easy home improvement project? Use these expert tips to let your light shine.

                    1. Draw Up a Plan
                      Do you think of lights as strictly functional pieces added to a room, almost as an afterthought, rather than a vital element in your home improvement strategy? Pros understand that lighting should be organically integrated into a room's decor to make a statement. Start by creating a plan that considers all aspects of a room, including its style, furnishings, and main purpose.
                    2. Go for a Layered Effect
                      The "layered look" is more than just a fashion trend. Just as 3D adds dimension and perspective to an image, three layers of light provide richness and balance to a room's atmosphere. Start with basic illumination of ambient lighting, then move to specialized task lighting and finish with decorative accent lighting.
                    3. Pay Attention to Scale and Proportion
                      Yes, all rooms benefit from layered lighting, but it's not a one-size-fits-all concept. Don't allow lighting to overpower a small room or get lost in a large room. Take features such as light size and wattage into account.
                    4. Dimmers Are Your Friend
                      Dimmers offer an additional measure of control over the intensity of lighting in a room. Many of today's dimmers include high-tech conveniences such as remote or voice control. Be sure to install dimmers for all overhead lights, whether you go DIY or hire a professional electrician. If you want to include tabletop lamps, most home improvement stores carry inexpensive plug-in dimmers.
                    5. Light Up the Corners
                      Most homes have at least a couple of those awkward corners that end up getting ignored because no one knows what to do with them. Simply placing an attractive floor lamp in the corner adds polish and ties the space into the rest of the room.
                    6. Shine a Spotlight 
                      Taking another cue from the entertainment world, use spotlights to draw the eye toward plants, pieces of art, or other visual focal points in your home. In addition to the traditional ceiling-mounted version, spotlights come in versatile forms such as track-style and recessed.
                    7. Get Help from Mother Nature
                      Don't confine your lighting plan to artificial sources. Daylight is fresh and warm, providing a natural boost to any lighting scheme. Combine two home improvement projects in one by installing or remodeling windows to optimize the advantages of sunlight. Don't forget to plan for blinds or other treatments as needed to manage heat, particularly with west-facing windows.
                    8. Go Green
                      Sunlight also plays a valuable role in an eco-friendly lighting system. Whenever possible, keep sustainability in mind by choosing energy-efficient light bulbs and lamps made from recycled or reclaimed materials. Hardware such as dimmers, timers, and photocells help conserve energy and reduce electric bills.
                    9. Lamps as Art
                      Lampshades are frequently overlooked as a valuable decorative element. They come in an endless variety of colors and styles, and you can change them in minutes to fit a season or mood. As a bonus, lampshades can create unique effects when light passes through them.

                    Who knew home improvement had something in common with filmmaking? Thoughtful and strategic use of lighting creates a flattering scene from all angles.

                    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
                    25

                    Decorate Your Space With Finds From These Online Stores

                    Remember the days of trudging through one store after another, sitting on couches, flipping through fabric swatches and measuring coffee tables? Home improvement projects meant seemingly endless investments of time searching for just the right items.

                    Fast-forward to the 21st century, where the e-commerce revolution makes it possible to browse products ranging from appliances and furniture to candles and vases from the comfort of your family room. Here are online home improvement stores to accommodate the full spectrum of decorating needs.

                    • Wayfair
                      In 2002, a pair of entrepreneurs looking for "the next big thing" stumbled onto a website that sold birdhouses. They applied the effective marketing principles of that modest but successful business to found Wayfair, a global home improvement e-commerce store. Wayfair's mission is simple: they believe everyone should live in a home they love. The site features 14 million items from more than 11,000 suppliers, including their own family of brands. Orders over $35 ship for free and two-day shipping is available on many items. 

                    • West Elm
                      As a subsidiary of Williams-Sonoma, one of the most recognized and trusted names in home improvement retail, West Elm has an impressive pedigree. The store is known primarily for its selection of products with a clean, modern style that maintains a timeless appeal. This summer, West Elm is making a big splash debuting their collaboration with REI Co-op, the iconic outdoor products company. The 35-item collection of lifestyle items marks the first time in REI Co-op's 82-year history that their goods have been sold through another retailer.

                    • ABC Carpet & Home
                      For decades, the delights of ABC Carpet & Home and their six-floor Manhattan store were exclusive to locals and tourists. Today, thanks to the wonders of e-commerce, people from coast to coast can shop ABC and make their home improvement dreams come true. In keeping with its mission to "minimize our collective environmental footprint and maximize social justice," ABC focuses on selling ethically-sourced furniture and home decor accessories that promote sustainability and worthwhile causes.

                    • Cost Plus World Market
                      On the lookout for some exotic home improvement finds? Shop at Cost Plus World Market and you'll have the appearance of a global traveler without leaving the country. The store's name comes from the original policy of pricing items at cost plus 10 percent, and World Market continues its goal of providing unique products from international cultures at affordable prices. Join World Market Rewards and receive generous perks, such as an instant 15 percent-off coupon.

                    • The Container Store
                      "We have enough storage space," said no one, ever. "Add storage" is a permanent entry on lists of home improvement projects, and The Container Store has the answer to the most perplexing problems. In addition to storage solutions for every room and household item, The Container Store carries home office furniture, luggage, portable chargers, and other accessories that make life a little easier. The online Design Center offers interactive tools and virtual consultations with creative experts.

                    • Minted
                      Art is the quickest and most satisfying way to put your individual stamp on home improvement. Minted puts the work of independent artists from all 50 states and more than 100 countries at your fingertips. All designs are crowdsourced through monthly competitions in which customers vote for their favorite submissions. Commission an original piece, silhouette, or house portrait as a personalized gift for yourself, family member, or friend.

                    Coordinate home improvement projects with lifestyle changes, seasons, or simply your mood. Your exciting new home decor is waiting for you in the wonderful world of online shopping.

                    June
                    18

                    Get an Edge with These Landscaping Tips

                    Summer is here, and now is the perfect time to get started on some outdoor home improvement projects. Getting your landscaping in order is one of the simplest things you can do, and it can make a major difference in your curb appeal.

                    Whether you decide to take on a major landscaping update or you just want to clean up what you already have, learning how to properly edge your borders and flower beds will go a long way towards giving your outdoor space an upscale look.

                    Luckily, once you know how to do it right, edging is a simple home improvement project that's easy to DIY. Here's how to create a beautiful edge in four simple steps. 

                    1. Define Your Edge
                      The first step in the process is to outline the edge of your bed. If you're creating a new bed, use string and stakes or a garden hose to outline the shape.

                      You can create your edge manually using a half-moon edger or a spade, but this has some drawbacks. For example, cutting curves will be a challenge. You may have better luck heading to the home improvement store and buying an edging tool, like and "Edge Hog." You can typically find one for about $100 or less and many homeowners find that it's well worth the investment. Whenever you take on a home improvement project, having the right tools will make a major difference.
                    2. Remove the Turf 
                      Next, use a spade to create a deeper cut that goes about four to six inches into the ground on either side. Ideally, you'll want to cut it at a 90-degree angle. If you do it right, you should be able to pull up the turf by hand.
                    3. Add Mulch to Your Bed
                      Next, you'll want to add approximately two to three inches of mulch to your freshly-edged bed. There are plenty of different options at the home improvement store so you can choose the color and texture that appeals to you.

                      Most beds look best with a dark mulch as it will make your edging stand out. Adding mulch will also help keep weeds from growing up. You'll want to place your mulch so that it slopes gently down and goes right to the edge of the turf. 
                    4. Maintain Your Edge 
                      As with many home improvement projects, this isn't a set-it-and-forget-it task. To keep your edges looking great, it's a good idea to work on maintaining it a little bit at a time about once a week. Using a shovel or a weed walker can cause your beds to slowly expand, so you may want to just maintain them with a pair of edging shears.

                    Keeping up with your edges can be a bit tedious, but it's well worth it. When your flower beds are impeccably manicured, all of your other outdoor home improvement projects will look much better. 

                    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
                    28

                    Hard Facts About Concrete Driveways

                    With so much focus placed on the garage, our driveways are often overlooked. This stretch of our property is front-and-center, enhancing or damaging our curb appeal. A dysfunctional driveway could also cause harm to vehicles or people using the space. There are many options for replacement driveway materials, and one of the most popular is concrete. Let's look at the pros and cons of installing a concrete driveway to determine if it's the right material for your home.

                    Concrete driveways are relatively simple in construction: a gravel base is covered over with a concrete mix. It is then smoothed, edged, and dried. You may see concrete driveways in many residential homes, then again, you may also notice that older concrete driveways are often damaged. With examples that show how presentable and not-so-stunning some concrete driveways can be, it's important to weigh the advantages and drawbacks of this material.

                    Cost

                    • Pro: Concrete is an affordable driveway material for many homeowners, making it a desirable option for those who want to maximize their budgets.
                    • Con: Gravel driveways are slightly cheaper than concrete per square foot. This may be a more attractive option for those seeking the lowest-cost option.

                    Lifespan

                    • Pro: The average concrete driveway can last from 25 to even 50 years, unlike asphalt, seashell, or brick materials. This provides families with a reliable driveway surface that may last them throughout their entire homeownership.
                    • Con: Other materials, such as paving stones, can last up to a century. Although they are costlier, their extended lifespan may be worth the investment.

                    Installation

                    • Pro: A professional team can install a concrete driveway in a matter of days.
                    • Con: While a homeowner can install a concrete driveway themselves, this DIY option is quite an undertaking. If mistakes are made, they may be impractical to fix after it's dried.

                    Wear & Tear

                    • Pro: Concrete is a durable material and cracking usually won't occur for many years.
                    • Con: Stains from oil or other substances will show on the surface. Extreme cold temperatures can crack the concrete, while salt and de-icers can also damage it.

                    Maintenance

                    • Pro: Concrete requires limited maintenance, as weather like sun and rain rarely damages it. It can also be repainted or pressure washed to retain its attractiveness. Sealing the concrete, though not required, can extend its lifespan.
                    • Con: Repairs on concrete driveways are quite difficult. Extreme surface pressure or movement could cause cracking which could lead to a full driveway replacement.

                    Eco-Friendly

                    • Pro: As companies attempt to become more environmentally conscious in the design of their products, new concrete mixes have been developed that are "low-carbon". These options recycle ground-up concrete for the mix instead of using raw gravel.
                    • Con: Unfortunately, concrete is considered one of the least eco-friendly driveway materials available.

                    Concrete is a versatile and durable driveway material, available in a number of colors and often caters to a homeowner's budget. However, homeowners who desire a driveway that is more attractive or lasts longer may want to consider other material options.

                    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.

                    April
                    16

                    How to Water Your Yard the Right Way

                    Do you know the proper way to water your lawn and garden?

                    It may sound like a silly question, but some homeowners aren't aware that there is a right way and a wrong way to water your lawn. This is especially important for homeowners who undertake a lot of landscaping home improvement projects. Let's discover how improper watering habits could harm your lawn and identify how to water it the correct way.

                    Improper Watering: A Common Lawncare Mistake

                    Do you water your lawn every day or only water it once a month? With so many home improvement projects on your to-do list, do you opt to let mother nature take care of the watering while you focus on another important task? All lawns are unique, sometimes even from house to house based on the type of grass growing, presence of flower beds, or simply the positioning of the home in relation to direct sunlight. To tend to your lawn properly, you must water it with these factors in mind.

                    How could improper watering damage your lawn? Too much, too little, or too infrequent watering is not good for your grass or plants. Five common mistakes homeowners make when watering their grass include:

                    • Assuming that high heat levels require more frequent watering. Extreme heat will damage your lawn regardless of how well you water it. It's best to continue proper watering habits until the temperature cools down then you can tend to the severely damaged areas.
                    • Following advice from the neighbors. Unless they are lawn care professionals who understand the level of care your specific lawn needs, their advice might not be the best practice. It's also wise to not follow the herd's watering habits — watering in the evening, for instance, is an instant way to get fungus to grow.
                    • Not adjusting your sprinkler timer according to seasonal changes. Drought or heavy rains will impact your lawn, which means you need to adjust your timer to control the watering time.
                    • Spending too long or too little time watering the lawn. Some homeowners believe they need to water once a day while others think once a week will suffice. By not giving the grass the amount of water it needs, it can get stressed and suffer.

                    How to Water Your Lawn the Right Way

                    Make lawn care easy so you can focus on other home improvement projects with these tips for watering your lawn the correct way.

                    • Most lawn care professionals recommend watering your lawn in the morning before 10 AM because the temperature and wind levels are lower.
                    • Give the lawn one to one-and-a-half inches of water every week at the very least.  
                    • Don't cut the lawn too short. This will stress the grass and stunt its growth, which may encourage you to overwater and cause further harm to the grass.
                    • Soak the water six inches into the soil. You can test this by sticking a screwdriver into the soil after your watering cycle. If the blade easily penetrates the soil, it's properly saturated.
                    • Choose to water the lawn two or three times each week instead of once a day.
                    • If you're watering so long that water begins to run down the street, you're oversaturating the lawn.
                    • Weed your lawn so that these intrusive species aren't stealing water from the grass.

                    Maintaining a presentable lawn is one home improvement project that enhances your curb appeal and creates an enjoyable space for your family. Use these watering tips to keep your grass looking green all year long.

                    April
                    9

                    To Paint Brick or Not to Paint Brick?

                    Some home improvement projects are a no brainer--renovating the master bathroom, creating storage space in the garage, upgrading landscaping in the front yard. Even if you're not preparing to sell your home, enhancing your interior and exterior spaces with a home improvement project is a great way to refresh your surroundings. However, some home improvement projects give homeowners pause--such as deciding whether or not to paint brick walls.

                    Should you paint a brick house and reinvigorate its beauty, or should you leave it as is and showcase its natural charm? Let's weigh the pros and cons of painting the brick within and around your home.

                    Can you paint over the brick exterior of your home? Technically, yes. Should you paint over it? Many real estate and construction professionals suggest not to. Although it seems like an easy home improvement project to tackle, painting exterior bricks can present some problems. Some cons of painting your exterior include:

                    • Destroying the brick. Because the brick is subject to the elements, moisture will be trapped inside the pores when you paint it. This prevents the brick from breathing and could lead to structural damage as the brick or mortar begin to erode.
                    • It's essentially permanent. Removing paint from an exterior brick wall is quite difficult and costly. While it can be removed with effort and enough investment, many homeowners would rather invest in an element of the home that they can change again if desired.
                    • Maintenance is required. While removing all of the paint is difficult, you'll notice that paint is easily chipped off of the brick or covered by mildew, debris, and dirt. Homeowners will need to pressure wash the brick and repaint it every few months to keep it looking good.

                    If you do decide to paint the exterior of your brick home, there are a few instances in which this is acceptable, including:

                    • The brick is already painted. If your exterior walls are already painted, you can easily paint over them with the color of your desire. This could boost your curb appeal and provide some protection from the elements. Keep in mind that a special exterior brick paint must be used.
                    • The brick was designed to be painted. Some older, handmade bricks need to be painted for protection, try using all-natural paints.
                    • The brick is already damaged. Repointing a brick home can be very expensive. It's also an expensive DIY project. Painting over these unattractive spots can help restore the aesthetic of the home.  

                    Should I Paint an Interior Brick Wall?
                    You can paint the brick walls inside your home. It's safer and easier to complete this home improvement project indoors because the bricks aren't subject to the elements. With a lack of exposure to moisture and humidity, the brick has less of an opportunity to incur damage. It's also quite easier to keep interior brick clean than exterior brick.  

                    What About a Brick Fireplace?
                    Yes! Brick walls surrounding a fireplace are often painted by homeowners hoping to refresh the space!  

                    A professional painter is often required to paint a brick exterior correctly. If you plan on painting it yourself, you'll need to clean, prep, prime, caulk, and seal the entire brick area before you can begin the painting process.

                    Brick has a natural beauty that many homeowners love. However, painted brick can transform an interior and exterior so dramatically that some homeowners believe it's worth the investment. If you're interested in painting your brick exterior, be sure to consult a professional before attempting this significant home improvement project.

                    April
                    2

                    Lawn Mower Maintenance Tips

                    Raise your hand if this has happened to you. You're ready to begin your spring to-do list by sprucing up your yard only to discover that your lawn mower has kicked the bucket.

                    When it comes to home appliances, most homeowners overlook this pricey piece of equipment even though it's one of the most vital resources for the exterior. Whether you're dedicated to crafting the best lawn on the block or simply want to provide a tidy space for your children and pets to play, lawn mower maintenance is a necessity. Here are a few helpful tips to keep your lawn mower running for as long as possible.

                    • Add it to Your Home Improvement Checklist
                      Do you have a monthly or seasonal checklist? Add lawn mower maintenance to the list! You'd be surprised how many years can pass before you remember to tend to important maintenance tasks. We suggest always adding it to your home improvement list so that you can rely on the mower from spring to fall without worry.
                    • Read the Owner's Manual
                      Though you may know how to operate a lawn mower, each machine is unique in a number of ways. By reading the owner's manual and consulting its operating instructions once a year, you can ensure that you're following the best practices intended to keep the machine running correctly throughout its lifespan.
                    • Manage the Fluids
                      In many ways, your lawn mower engine is similar to your car's engine. It will likely require oil and gasoline, two fluids that you must consistently monitor. Old gasoline should be removed from the gas tank before starting up the mower, especially after it's left sitting unoperated during the winter. You should also drain and replace your oil regularly, just as you would on your vehicle.
                    • Check Other Vital Components
                      The oil and fuel aren't the only similarities between lawn mowers and vehicles. You should swap out your spark plugs annually and inspect your air filter. This can be easily completed each year when you replace your oil.
                    • Sharpen the Blades
                      Over time, the blades of your lawn mower will wear down and become dull. Thankfully, they can be sharpened and rebalanced to provide an even cut on your lawn. If you don't feel comfortable sharpening them on your own, call a professional for help.
                    • Keep the Underside Clean
                      Every time your mow, grass clippings, and other debris will accumulate on the underside of the mower above the blades. These clumps can prevent the blades from moving correctly and they must be removed before they build up too much. When the mower is out of gas, or when you remove the battery, turn the mower on its side and safely clean the undercarriage.
                    • Winterize the Mower
                      Here's a home improvement tip that many homeowners neglect — winterizing their lawn mowers. After your final mow of the fall, remove all gas from the gas tank. You can also replace the oil at this time so that it's ready to run during the spring.
                    • Consider an Annual Tune-Up
                      Is your home improvement list a lot to tackle? Let a professional handle your lawn mower maintenance. Lawn mower repair services, which you can often find in hardware stores and some mechanic shops, will typically change your oil, remove the old gasoline, change the spark plugs and air filter, sharpen the blades, and make sure the machine will operate without fail throughout your next mowing season.

                    Don't neglect lawn mower maintenance! Keep this expensive tool running smoothly throughout the year by adding lawnmower maintenance to your annual or seasonal home improvement checklist!

                    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.

                    February
                    13

                    New Projects for Your Inner DIYer

                    When you're a homeowner, there is always "just one more project" sure to make your home more comfortable and up to date.  Which projects from the list below have you already check off your list?

                    1. Knock Down Walls
                      Older homes often have separate kitchens and dining rooms, but many home buyers desire more open spaces throughout the living areas. Demolish any walls that are not load-bearing so that rooms flow together to create the illusion of more space.
                    2. Integrate Smart Technology
                      Younger homeowners desire the latest technology in nearly every aspect of their lives — including their homes. From smart speakers and lighting to smart security and thermostats, any smart tech that you can integrate into your home will be appealing to buyers.
                    3. Create Organized Storage Options
                      There's no such thing as too much storage space. Increase organization in your home with built-in closet cabinetry and heavy-duty shelving in the garage or attic.
                    4. Refresh Spaces with Paint
                      A can of paint can work wonders on a space. Consider either a fresh coat of neutral colors or using the Pantone Color of the Year to make any room feel renewed.
                    5. Swap Out Old Appliances
                      Even if you're not remodeling the kitchen, you should swap old appliances for newer, energy-efficient models.
                    6. Upgrade Old Windows
                      Heat transfer increases energy costs, which is why we recommend replacing any original or dated windows with those featuring the latest energy-efficient technology.
                    7. Replace Hardware
                      A small, low-cost home improvement project that makes a substantial impact in your kitchens and bathrooms is to replace all cabinetry hardware and fixtures like faucets.
                    8. Purchase a New Garage Door
                      A worn or malfunctioning garage door can detract buyers; however, a new replacement can immediately increase your home's value.
                    9. Air Seal Your Home
                      Just as old windows should be replaced, you should prevent heat transfer by recaulking any windows or doors where air can enter or escape.
                    10. Have Your Home Inspected Inside & Out
                      Let professionals help you identify where you need to invest your home improvement budget by scheduling inspections on your roof, HVAC unit, ventilation system, septic tank, and other major elements of your property.
                    11. Upgrade Kitchen Cabinets & Surfaces
                      Nothing brings a buyer more joy than walking into a remodeled kitchen with new cabinetry and countertops.  
                    12. Install USB Ports
                      We live in an age of smart technology — upgrade your electrical outlets to include USB ports for supreme convenience throughout the home.
                    13. Redo Flooring
                      Don't let dirty, worn, or torn floors distract buyers. Instead, pull up old carpet or vinyl and replace them with new floorings like hardwood or tile.
                    14. Don't Forget About the Ceiling
                      Leave popcorn ceilings in the past and have your ceiling refinished.
                    15. Invest in Energy Efficient Lighting
                      Use new LED bulbs in all rooms to curb utility bills and provide comfortable visibility.
                    16. Replace Your Fence
                      A broken or dilapidated fence can suggest that the home is neglected; prevent this problem with a new, secure fence installation.
                    17. Consider Your Curb Appeal
                      Curb appeal can make or break your home — install a new front door, replace your driveway with pavers, purchase a new mailbox, and consider adding window shutters to make your exterior feel inviting.
                    18. Make the Most of Outdoor Spaces
                      You may not be able to increase your indoor square-footage, but investing in outdoor entertaining spaces provides buyers with more square feet of living space to enjoy season after season.
                    19. Install Solar Panels
                      Help your buyers save money on their utility bills for years to come by installing solar panels to power water heaters, garage doors, and even home security systems.
                    20. Don't Forget About Décor
                      Still searching for ways to improve even the most basic of spaces? Use décor like indoor plants to breathe new life into the room. ​​​​​​​
                    February
                    6

                    5 Roofing Choices for Your Home

                    A new roof is one of the most expensive home improvement projects owners may have to tackle. If you've been thinking about replacing your roof, you may be surprised by the number of important decisions you'll have to make. This includes figuring out your financing, choosing a great roofer, and deciding on the best roofing materials for your home. 

                    When it comes time to choose your roofing materials, you may be surprised by the number of options available. Each option brings varying costs, quality, and aesthetics. Not sure which to choose? Start by reviewing the pros and cons of the following five popular roofing options. 

                    1. Asphalt 
                      Asphalt shingles are the most common choice for homes in the United States. The popularity comes from the fact that it's fairly inexpensive, comes in a variety of colors, and is easy to install.

                      When choosing the material, however, you'll need to be careful as the quality can vary. Asphalt also doesn't offer much insulation and has a shorter lifespan than some other types of roofing materials

                      The cost of asphalt roofing typically runs between $70 and $120 per square foot and the average lifespan is about 20 to 25 years. 
                    2. Wood
                      Wood shingles have been a staple among homeowners for hundreds of years. They offer a rustic look that adds a ton of personality to the home and they age beautifully. Some popular options include cedar, southern pine, and redwood.

                      Although this is an attractive option, wood roofing can split, rot, or mold in wet climates. Homeowners in fire-prone areas may also decide that wood roofing isn't the best choice for them.

                      The average cost of wood roofing is $100 to $150 per square foot and the lifespan tends to range between 25 and 30 years. 
                    1. Metal 
                      If you're looking for a durable and environmentally-friendly roofing material, then metal roofing might be a great choice for you. It looks great on contemporary homes, bungalows, and cottage-style homes.

                      One drawback is that metal roofing tends to be more expensive than some of the other options. Depending on the style you choose, you can pay anywhere from $100 to $800 per square foot. However, it's a great investment. Metal roofs have an average lifespan of 40 to 75 years.
                    2. Clay
                      Clay roofing is both beautiful and durable. It's popular among owners of Mediterranian, Spanish-style, and Southwestern-style homes. It's also non-combustible, energy-efficient, and has an expected lifespan of 40 to 50 years.  Clay tiles are very heavy and will usually require extra framing and professional installation. The cost ranges between $300 and $500 a square foot. 
                    1. Slate
                      Want to invest in a home improvement that will really add value? Consider a slate roof. It's one of the most beautiful types of roofing you can choose, and it's also durable, fire-resistant, eco-friendly, and long-lasting. The average lifespan is 50 to 100 years or more! 

                      Many homeowners find that a slate roof is out of their price range as the starting cost is about $600 per square foot. It's also quite heavy, requires extra framing, and must be professionally installed.  

                    Some Final Tips

                    Before making your final decision, you'll need to consider a wide variety of factors including your budget, the environmental conditions where you live, and the overall look you want to achieve. 

                    Since replacing your roof is definitely your run-of-the-mill DIY home improvement project, you might also consider asking your roofing company to help you determine which material is the most appropriate for your home and the goals you're trying to achieve. 

                    January
                    30

                    How to Build a Home Entertainment Theater

                    Are you considering a new home improvement project that will transform your room into something spectacular? Build your very own home entertainment theater! Imagine the fun you could have with your family and friends as you watch your favorite flicks without leaving the house. Popcorn, privacy, and the perfect company — movie nights will never be the same after you've hosted your own screening from the comfort of your personal theater. Believe it or not, building your own home entertainment theater is possible for homeowners of all budgets.

                    With a little planning, budgeting, and hard work, you can have the home theater of your dreams within a few days. Follow these steps and forever change the way you watch movies at home.

                    • Step 1: Plan Your Theater
                      Planning is the most important part of every home improvement project, especially ones that include multiple elements. Depending on the room you choose, you'll need to complete renovations to the windows, acoustics, and flooring. You'll also need to consider what technology you want to incorporate and how it will need to be installed.

                    • Step 2: Prepare Your Room for Remodeling
                      The depth of the remodeling is up to you, but understand that the audio, video, and lighting equipment that you choose may require extensive renovations. For instance, you may choose to hide the wires of your home theater which will involve removing and replacing drywall. If you don't want to use sound barriers, you may also need to insulate the walls, floor, and ceiling. Be sure to enlist the help of a professional if you're doing extensive remodeling, especially when electrical work is necessary.

                    • Step 3: Gather Your Gear
                      The gear you choose will be based on your budget and the intensity of the experience you desire. For some homeowners, a large flat-screen TV and small speaker system is adequate while others will prefer a professional projection screen and surround sound throughout the room. Here are a few pieces of equipment you will need: a video source, HDMI cables, LED TV, HD projector, sound system, speakers, speaker wires, and receivers.

                    • Step 4: Complete the Renovations
                      Once the structural renovations are finished and wiring is complete, you can then begin to install the AVL equipment. If you're purchasing new equipment, a professional should be available to help you install it and teach you how to operate it properly.

                    • Step 5: Make the Room Comfy
                      With the tech in place, it's time to furnish the room. Before you purchase new furniture, consider the different variations of seating you could create. A large sectional could accommodate many people along the same sightline or you could create two-to-three rows of small sofas or chairs on risers so that everyone has a clear field of vision.  

                    • Step 6: Test the Theater's Quality
                      Before you start assigning seats, you'll need to go through a dress rehearsal to ensure that everything works perfectly. Choose a movie that has a range of sounds — dialog, music, action, suspense — to make sure the audio levels don't spike or bottom out. Watch the film and make sure that the clarity of the picture is clear and not disturbed by any lighting in the room. Finally, sit in all of the seats to make sure no one's vision will be obscured.

                    • Step 7: Schedule Your First Showing
                      It's showtime! Pop the popcorn, pour a few drinks, and settle in with your audience for your own private showing. Now that your home theater is fully operational, you can host movie night any night of the week!

                    Building a home theater is a surprisingly practical and affordable home improvement project. With a little creativity, planning, and elbow grease, you can create an amazing home entertainment theater for your family to enjoy every day of the year!

                    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!

                    January
                    9

                    Play It Safe with Space Heaters

                    Winter is a wonderful time of the year, especially when you have the opportunity to cuddle up with a warm blanket on a comfy couch.  Space heaters are perfect resources for creating a cozy atmosphere in your home as the temperatures outside drop. When used and maintained properly, these sources of warmth are ideal alternatives to using a fireplace or furnace. However, they can easily endanger your home and family when left neglected.

                    How dangerous are space heaters? According to the National Fire Protection Agency, nearly half of all fires related to home-heating sources are caused by space heaters. Many of these unfortunate incidents can be prevented with responsible practices. All homeowners should be aware of the dangers that space heaters may pose in your home. Consider these tips any time you use your space heater this season.

                    • Invest in a Reliable Space Heater
                      If you've had your space heater for many years, now is a good time to replace it. Newer models have safety features including automatic shut-off technology that cuts the power to the machine when it fails or when it overheats.
                    • Maintain Your Space Heater Annually
                      Even if your space heater is brand new, you should get into the habit of inspecting it before and after the cold season. Exposed wiring, damaged components, or signs of overheating should always be repaired professionally before using the machine.
                    • Keep a Safe Distance
                      Even on the most frigid of nights, you need to ensure that your space heater is kept at a safe distance away from any object that can burn or catch fire. Put at least three feet between the space heater and your furniture, family, and pets.
                    • Operate it Correctly
                      Using a space heater responsibly involves knowing how to operate it. The device should always be placed on a solid, flat surface like a tile or hardwood floor. Never run the cord beneath rugs or carpets and don't block walkways or doorways with the heating unit.
                    • Remember to Turn it Off
                      Though most homeowners know that the space heater should be turned off before going to sleep or leaving the house, all it takes is one lapse in memory to endanger your home. Get into a habit of turning it off 30 minutes before you leave the house or go to sleep.
                    • Only Use Wall Outlets
                      The space heater should only be plugged into a wall, not an extension cord or another power source. These machines draw a lot of power and can pose electrical hazards if it's not plugged into an appropriate outlet.
                    • Be Especially Careful in Unfinished Areas
                      The cold weather encourages many homeowners to tackle indoor home improvement projects. We recommend not using a space heater in these areas, as there are often many flammable materials that could quickly catch fire despite using the space heater as responsibly as possible. If you need to use it while you complete your home improvement project, be careful.
                    • Use Combustible Space Heaters Responsibly
                      Gas-operated space heaters pose additional dangers, such as carbon monoxide poisoning and risks of explosion. Only use these space heaters in well-ventilated areas, only use the correct fuel source, and never leave them running while away from home.

                    If you want to stay warm this winter, it's important that you always play it safe with space heaters. By operating and maintaining it responsibly throughout the season, you decrease the chances of creating a fire or electrical hazard in your home.    

                    January
                    2

                    Give Your Fireplace a Facelift on a Budget

                    A comfortable room with a crackling fireplace can be the coziest space in a house. Even for southern homes, a fireplace can enhance the aesthetic of a room, captivating your attention as the focal point of a room. A neglected fireplace, however, can be an eyesore. Fireplaces are a desirable feature for many buyers; showcasing one in a presentable way can also increase the value of your home depending on your location.

                    Does your fireplace need a facelift? Don't put this home improvement project off any longer. Whether you're getting ready to list your home or plan on staying put for a few more years, give your family the coziness that comes with a renovated fireplace. Here are a couple of ideas to fan the flames of your creativity.

                    • Make its Presence Powerful
                      A fireplace is not meant to smolder — let it shine brightly as the centerpiece of your room. Rearrange furniture so that it naturally surrounds the fireplace. To make it stand out as a focal point, you have a few options, including simple adjustments like changes to décor or full home improvement projects like putting up molding or tile. Draw the eyes with a large painting or centerpiece hung above the fireplace. Décor needn't be extravagant or expensive to create a powerful presentation.
                    • Blend it into the Wall
                      Looking for a minimalist design? Instead of making the fireplace a dominant focus, make it appear strong yet subtle by blending it into the wall. Use tile, paint, or porcelain to unite the wall and fireplace. A little white paint and a few hours of work can create a calm, cohesive space.
                    • Incorporate a New Texture
                      Although brick is a desirable material, there are plenty of other ways you can use texture to make your fireplace come alive. Other stonework, even faux stone, can transform your fireplace without breaking the bank.
                    • Paint Over Problems
                      If you'd rather not integrate tile, porcelain, or stone into the space, you could paint over the exposed bricks. A fresh coat of white paint will brighten the area while still keeping it neutral. However, we suggest using one bold color and one subtle complementary color on the fireplace and adjoining wall to create depth.  
                    • Enhance it with a Stunning Mantle & Hearth
                      Think beyond the fireplace by enhancing the hearth and mantle. A mantle not only introduces a new element but also gives you a space to display photographs or décor. The hearth, or area directly in front of the fireplace, is another space you can update affordably with a few attractive tiles.
                    • Accessorize with Décor
                      Keep in mind that your fireplace is only one element of the room's décor. If you're going to integrate any other furnishings into the space, you'll need to accessorize it with the fireplace. Use similar color schemes, don't mix diverse materials, and create symmetry on either side of the fireplace to keep it as the focal point.

                    Not all home improvement projects need to cost an arm and a leg, especially a fireplace facelift. With a little creativity, patience, and effort, you can use a spark of design to reignite your fireplace's aesthetic and watch it rise like a phoenix from the ashes.

                    December
                    26

                    6 Cold-Loving Plants for the Toughest Winters

                    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. 

                    December
                    12

                    10 Expensive Mistakes to Avoid in Your Home

                    For most of us, our homes are our biggest investments. While we do our best to keep it in top shape, it's easy to make small mistakes that can end up costing us big time. Whether it's investing in an impractical home improvement or neglecting important maintenance, there are a lot of expensive mistakes homeowners can make. 

                    Are you guilty of any of these common errors?

                    1. Forgetting to Clean Out Your Air Ducts
                      Cleaning out your air ducts is a task that's easy to forget about, but dirt and debris build-up can cause real problems. Eventually, dirty ducts will start to restrict airflow and make your HAVC system work less efficiently. After a while, this can shorten the life expectancy of your system. 
                    2. Ignoring that Leaking Faucet
                      That dripping faucet is more than just annoying. Did you know that even one drip a minute can waste up to 34 gallons a year? Not only is this terrible for the environment, but it will raise your water bill too! 
                    3. Failing to Hone Your DIY Skills
                      Sure, there are some things that you should leave to the pros, but learning some basic DIY skills will help you save a ton of money when it comes to home repairs and upgrades. 
                    4. Choosing an Impractical Home Improvement
                      Sure, it might seem like a great idea to add a cheetah-print carpet in your closet or build a cat-patio in your back yard, but an impractical home improvement could end up hurting your resale value.  If there's something you really want and you plan to stay in your home for a long time, this might not matter to you. However, it's always smart to stop and think these things through before you make a commitment. 
                    5. Over-Watering Your Lawn
                      A lush, green lawn is every homeowner's dream, but when it comes to watering, more isn't always better. Instead of relying on your automatic sprinkler, make sure you check once in a while to ensure you aren't wasting water on already-saturated grass. 
                    6. Forgetting to Check Your Roof
                      Your roof is something that's "out of sight, out of mind," but it's important to check it at least once a year. This will help you can catch small problems before they get big. 
                    7. Not Controlling the Temperature
                      If you haven't already, definitely consider investing in a programmable thermostat. Heating or cooling an empty house is just a waste, and you'll quickly make your money back in the form of savings on your energy bill. 
                    8. Using Traditional Light Bulbs
                      Traditional light bulbs are another thing in your home that sucks up energy and cost you money. Change these out for LED bulbs, and you'll notice a change almost immediately. 
                    9. Ignoring Your Home's Foundation
                      Your home's foundation is another thing that you don't think much about. However, it's important to watch for signs of damage, like mold on the outside of the house, insects inside, strange smells, or noticeable cracks. If any of these red flags arise, have it looked at right away. 
                    10. Dragging Out Your Mortgage Repayment
                      The longer it takes you to pay off your mortgage, the more you'll pay in interest fees. Make some extra payments whenever you can, and you could end up shaving thousands of dollars and several years off your repayment plan! 

                    If any of the items on this list hit a nerve with you, take a deep breath. There are a ton of things to remember when you're a homeowner! You can protect your home (and your wallet!) by creating a home maintenance checklist, thinking through that home improvement before you start, and figuring out how to knock down your mortgage faster! 

                    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
                    21

                    Nail Down New Flooring

                    When it comes to renovating a home for sale, many people look up – at a new roof. However, it's a good idea not to overlook what's beneath your feet: Flooring and carpet. New flooring can make your home much more attractive to prospective buyers.

                    Choosing the right new flooring can be tougher than it seems. In addition to getting the perfect look and feel, you also have to consider factors like moisture, durability, and cost.

                    Although there are many kinds of flooring out there, most homes will sport one out of just five options. Understanding the benefits and drawbacks of each type will help you make the right selection to add value to your property.

                    Let's take a closer look:

                    Vinyl
                    Vinyl is made from synthetic polymers with added color and is the most budget-conscious choice. It's easy to clean, and it resists water damage, so it tends to be the best selection for areas like kitchens and laundry rooms where other floors show age fast.

                    Things to Remember

                    • A broom, mop and soapy water will usually clean stains from vinyl very easily.
                    • Vinyl can be tough to repair when damaged, so avoid cracks and harsh chemicals.
                    • Vinyl usually costs $2-$4 per square foot and comes in large, cost-effective sheets.

                    Tile
                    Tile is made from ceramic or porcelain. It combines the strong water resistance of vinyl with a premium appearance most associated with bathrooms. It can also be an excellent choice for kitchens since it won't fade with repeated cleaning. Faux finishes can enhance its appearance.

                    Things to Remember

                    • Tile is easy to clean, but grout is a notorious dirt magnet; replace it every 5-10 years.
                    • Tile ranges from $12 to $19 for each square foot and usually requires pro installation.

                    Composite or Engineered Wood
                    Processed wood flooring can look similar to hardwood but is made by compressing multiple layers of plywood with a single hardwood layer on top. It is very versatile, with easy installation over any subfloor, and is good in any moisture-free environment.

                    Things to Remember

                    • Sweeping and mopping will keep processed wood looking like new for many years.
                    • Beware of footwear! Heels, cleats and any heavy, dragging object can harm the wood.
                    • Square foot costs run between $7-$11; handy homeowners can handle the installation.

                    Hardwood
                    Hardwood is considered the "gold standard" and adds value to almost any home. It tends to last for about a century but will require more maintenance than other floors. It can be sanded and re-finished to extend its lifespan and will work in any moisture-free area.

                    Things to Remember

                    • Weekly broom cleaning and a monthly mopping will meet most of this floor's needs.
                    • As scratches and dullness set in after a while, the floor can be restored by buffing it.
                    • Hardwood can vary in price but tends to be among the most expensive options.

                    Carpet
                    Carpet is the go-to flooring in bedrooms, living areas, and many playrooms because of its comfort. It can be made from polyester, nylon, or polypropylene, with plenty of colors and styles to choose from. For the most part, it will last throughout the life of the home, but it can show wear in high-traffic areas.

                    Things to Remember

                    • Spills must be cleaned immediately to prevent staining.
                    • Vacuuming a few times a week will keep the carpet clean.
                    • A carpet usually needs professional installation, but costs as little as $4 per square foot.

                    Just like a fresh coat of paint, new flooring can refresh a home's look before going to market. Your real estate agent can advise you about flooring trends that match buyers' tastes.

                    November
                    14

                    5 Fire Safety Hazards in Your Home

                    By now, most people know that it's important to burn candles safely, fully extinguish cigarettes, and clean out their dryer vents. Even if you take all of these precautions, there are still many fire hazards in your home that you haven't considered.

                    The following are five hidden fire dangers that most homeowners miss. 

                    1. Kitchen Clutter
                      The kitchen is another common place where home fires start. Ensure that clutter--like kitchen towels, cookbooks, and other flammable materials--are as far away from the stove as possible. Also, keep your oven and stovetop clean to help avoid the possibility of a grease fire. Stay in the kitchen when things are in the oven or on the stovetop so you can take action if there's a problem. 
                    2. Electrical Wiring
                      Electrical fires are all too common. However, our home's wiring is something we don't think about unless we're undergoing a home improvement project or we have a problem. You can proactively take care of this by having a licensed electrician take a look at your home's wiring to assess its safety. He or she may recommend updating old wiring or replacing an old circuit breaker with an arc-fault circuit interrupter.

                      Other electrical hazards include loose outlets, frayed wires, and overloaded circuits. Fix loose outlets and replace frayed wires right away. Avoid using extension cords whenever possible, and try to make sure each item has its own outlet. If this is a problem, have your electrician put some additional outlets in your home. Not only will this make things more convenient, but it will also increase safety. 
                    3. Heating Hazards
                      Winter is coming, and for many, that means evenings snuggled up by the fireplace. While this certainly is romantic, it's also a fire hazard. Make sure to have your chimney cleaned and inspected before the winter comes and never go to bed until the fire is extinguished.

                      Space heaters are another common wintertime danger. It's best to avoid using them if possible, but if you must, make sure they're at least three feet away from anything flammable. This includes curtains, bedding, carpets, and furniture. Always supervise children and pets around space heaters to make sure they aren't injured and that they don't accidentally knock them over. 
                    4. Remodeling Residue
                      If you're working on a home improvement project, make sure to clean up regularly. Sawdust floating in the air or accumulating on the floor can create a serious fire hazard. It's extremely flammable and can cause a house fire to ignite and spread quickly.

                      Keep your home improvement site clean and fireproof by vacuuming the area after the work is done each day. For large projects, consider investing in a special vacuum designed to remove these particles from the air. This will help ensure that your home remains as safe as possible. 
                    5. Outdated Smoke Alarms
                      It's always a good idea to check the batteries in your smoke alarms at least twice a year, but that might not be enough. If your smoke alarms are ten or more years old, consider replacing them. Also, check all alarms once a month to make sure they're working correctly. This simple maintenance task could one day mean the difference between life and death. 

                    If any items on this list set off alarm bells, now is the time to take care of them. When it comes to fire prevention, it's always better to be safe than sorry! 

                    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
                    26

                    6 Dos and Don'ts of Choosing Exterior House Colors

                    Choosing exterior house colors sounds easy until you realize just how many colors you have to choose from. With such a dizzying array of color combinations at your fingertips, many homeowners find themselves paralyzed with indecision. 

                    Still, it's important to choose wisely, especially if you're thinking about selling your home in the not-too-distant future. Of course, even if you have no intention of selling, these tips should help you make a great color choice that you'll be happy with for years to come. 

                    1. Look at the Whole Block
                      When choosing paint colors, it's important to think of your house not just as an individual structure, but a part of a larger environment. Look at your entire street and consider all the color schemes you see. You don't want to paint your house in a way that will stand out like a sore thumb, but you don't necessarily want to blend in completely either. Find a set of colors that will compliment other homes on your block, while still maintaining some individuality.
                    2. Consider Era and Architectural Style
                      It's important to carefully weigh the architectural style and the time when your home was built, and select colors that feel appropriate. For example, a house built in the Queen Ann Victorian style can lend itself to high contrast and bold color choices, while a house with classic Federal-style architecture typically works best with a more conservative palette. Some paint companies offer collections of historically accurate colors, which is a great place to start if you're looking for inspiration.
                    3. Plan Around Fixed Elements
                      Unless you're planning major renovations, certain colors on your house aren't likely to change. Look at the colors you see on surfaces like roof shingles or tiles, stonework, brick walls, pathways, and driveways. These elements are hard to change, so work on creating a color palette that will tie these fixtures together, or blend in harmoniously with them.
                    4. Borrow from Nature
                      If your house has some natural scenery around it – and almost every house does, to some degree – use it as a source of inspiration. A house surrounded by lots of trees may inspire you to use earthy tones and shades of green. Beachfront homes often look great when the paint job incorporates tones inspired by the sand and sea. You can even borrow color combinations from your garden beds and blooming shrubs.
                    5. Understand the Effects of Light and Dark
                      Light and dark colors have very different effects. Light shades have a way of making a house appear larger. That's why white is such a favored color for grand estates and traditional classical architecture. Dark colors can make your house appear smaller if you use them in large areas, but dark tones also add drama, which is why they're great for trim and accents.
                    6. Choose a Color Family
                      While it is not strictly required, painting with several related shades often creates a harmonious look. Using contrasting colors, on the other hand, can leave you with a clashing, disorganized appearance. Start with a basic color you like, and pick three related shades for different parts of your house: one for large, dominant areas; one for doors, shutters and other smaller areas; and one for trim like window and door casings, roof edging and railings.

                      Choosing the right color combination can make your house the envy of the whole block, and may even help your home sell more quickly if you ever decide to put it on the market. One thing is for sure – the right colors will make your house a better place to call 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
                    22

                    Types of Driveways for Your Home

                    Whether you're considering selling your home or investing in home improvements, you're likely among the many homeowners that understand the importance of curb appeal. Although plenty of focus is placed on features like landscaping, windows, and garage doors, there's another vital element of the exterior that sometimes falls by the wayside.


                    The driveway is one of the most used portions of your entire home--interior and exterior alike. It's the path that leads you to your home, where your guests can park and the wide-area that provides your family with additional room to work and play. Let's take a look at the different types of driveways that can meet your needs and those of potential homebuyers.


                    The driveway welcomes you and your guests to your home — make sure it looks exactly the way you've always dreamed. There are many options available when choosing a material for your driveway; some of which are affordable and easy DIY home improvement projects. Consider the following ten driveway materials:

                    1. Concrete
                      One of the most popular driveway materials is also one of the most affordable and durable.
                    2. Asphalt
                      Asphalt is another favorite choice for homeowners because it is pliable and functions better in colder climates than some other materials.
                    3. Gravel
                      This low-cost material is ideal for driveways of large or uneven dimensions, especially those in rural areas.
                    4. Pavers
                      A great way to improve the appearance of your home is to install a paver driveway that can enhance your curb appeal.
                    5. Brick
                      For years, brick has been a classy choice for homeowners that desire a respectable looking driveway that can be customized.
                    6. Crushed Stone
                      Crushed stone functions similar to gravel but has a slight increase in style perfect for a homeowner with a mid-range budget who wants a little more "wow" for a lot less money.
                    7. Crushed Shell
                      Alternatively, the crushed shell is another beautiful yet cost-effective material.
                    8. Tar & Chip
                      Traction is the key benefit for tar and chip driveways, excellent for inclined paths.
                    9. Glass
                      Made from tumbled glass that's sealed with a resin, a glass driveway is a unique choice.
                    10. Eco-Friendly
                      Another environmentally conscious driveway choice is to allow grass to grow through specific sections of the driveway. Geo-grid material allows grass to grow above the driveway's solid surface.

                    What to Consider When Choosing a Material

                    Like many home improvement projects, there are a few additional factors to consider when choosing your driveway material:

                    • Appearance
                      Ultimately, you want your driveway to look good. Make sure you select a material and design that complements your home's aesthetic.
                    • Functionality
                      However, a great-looking driveway is useless if it's not functional. Make sure the material you choose is ideal for your climate.
                    • Budget
                      Aside from initial costs, some materials will require additional expenses to keep them looking good. For example, gravel may need to be replaced and asphalt resealed.
                    • Maintenance
                      How much work do you want to put into maintaining your driveway? Some materials are more maintenance-free than others; make sure you understand the long-term commitment before choosing a material.
                    • Regulations
                      Homeowners must be aware of the potential rules or regulations that prohibit the use of some driveway materials. Your county, town or HOA may have certain codes that prevent you from using certain types of driveway materials.

                    Upgrading your driveway can be fun and financially smart when you choose the right materials.

                    August
                    15

                    How to Choose a Garage Door

                    As a homeowner, there is no shortage of home improvement projects on your to-do list. The best ones to tackle first are typically those which can provide a great return on investment and can potentially increase the resale value of your home. It comes as no surprise that replacing the garage door is one of the quickest and easiest ways to transform your curb appeal.


                    Like all other aspects of your exterior, you need to choose a garage door that complements the aesthetic of your home and provides you with the versatile functionality you need. We've gathered the following tips that will help you choose the right garage door for you home.


                    As you get ready to shop for a new garage door, keep these helpful tips in mind to ensure your project is completed the way you envision it:

                    1. Consider All Door Styles
                      Drive up and down the streets of your neighborhood, and you'll notice that there are many different garage door styles available. Gone are the days of traditional raised panels. Today, you can choose from a distinctive carriage house door to a contemporary style that appeals to a modern aesthetic. You don't need to mimic your current garage door's style if you're not fond of its appearance. Take this opportunity to find the style that fits your home and desires perfectly.
                    2. Factor in Pros/Cons of Materials
                      After you've narrowed down a few styles, you'll now need to think about materials. Steel is often used in garage door composition, however, there are also wood, composite, and aluminum options that provide a range of benefits. Research the benefits and drawbacks of these materials, including how much maintenance they require, how durable they are, and how well they'll perform in your unique climate.
                    3. Look for Doors with Additional Advantages 
                      Technology has come a long way in enhancing garage door design. For example, insulation and nylon rollers can dampen sound to create a quieter door. Insulated garage doors can also protect the vehicles and possessions within your garage by helping regulate internal temperature. Why settle for a loud garage door or cramped garage space when there are affordable alternatives readily available?
                    4. See the Finished Product Before Installation
                      With advances in technology also come convenient resources that take the guesswork out of choosing the right garage door for your home. Many garage door manufacturer websites now offer exceptional tools that enable you to visualize what each specific garage door will look like on your home. Upload a photograph of your house and use their design tools to see what each style, color, hardware, and windows would look best on your exterior. Within a few minutes, you can confidently find the garage door replacement that is perfect for your home.
                    5. Never Install a Garage Door Yourself
                      We never recommend that a homeowner try to install, replace, or repair a garage door. Although we understand that you want to stick to a budget, there are many inherent dangers in garage door operation that include the potential for severe or fatal injury. A garage door is supposed to help keep your family safe — let a professional garage door installation company make sure the job is done correctly.

                    Home improvement projects are exciting, and we encourage all homeowners to spruce up their exteriors to create exceptional curb appeal. Replacing your garage door is one of the best ways to transform your home and bring style, convenience, and safety to your life.

                    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.

                    July
                    11

                    Becoming a Home Maintenance Pro: Tips for New Homeowners

                    Buying a house is a big achievement, and also the start of a long, rewarding journey. As a new homeowner, you have a lot on your plate getting familiar with your new dwelling, moving all of your possessions, and getting used to making mortgage payments. Home improvement will also become an important part of life moving forward, and it's wise to start on home maintenance tasks as soon as possible once you move in. Start your life as a new homeowner on the right foot, with our guide to becoming a home maintenance pro. 

                    • Start with a Deep Cleaning
                      Ideally, the home should be spotless when you move in, but it doesn't hurt to make sure every corner has been scrubbed. In addition to all the usual home improvement benefits of cleaning, scouring every corner of the house will help you spot any maintenance issues. Be sure to clean the areas around appliances, check the coils on your fridge, and check basements/crawlspaces. Stay on top of cleaning year-round, and always keep an eye out for maintenance problems while you work.
                    • Caulk Around Doors and Windows
                      A poorly sealed home can lead to a significant increase in energy costs, and make it harder to keep the temperature in your home comfortable. Check around doors, windows, vents, and other openings, to make sure they're sealed. You can pick up silicone caulk at your local hardware store to take care of any trouble spots.
                    • Find Your Circuit Breaker and Water Shut-off Valve
                      As a new homeowner, it's essential to prepare for emergencies, so that you can respond quickly. Learn where your water shut-off valve is so that you can cut water quickly if a pipe bursts, and find your circuit breaker so that you can control the electricity in your home. That way, if there's an emergency or you need to work on one of those systems, you'll always know where to go.
                    • Check Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Detectors
                      Your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors are lifelines in the event of an emergency and can tip you off to trouble before things get out of control. Make sure to check regularly that both types of detectors are working, and replace batteries as needed.
                    • Maintain Your HVAC System
                      Does your new home have central heating and air conditioning? Then you'll want to stay on top of HVAC maintenance. Change the filters regularly based on manufacturer's instructions, and have an HVAC pro visit twice per year to check that your system is in good working order.
                    • Take Care of Your Outdoor Deck
                      An outdoor deck is a perfect place for a party, but it will need a bit of annual work to stay in great shape. Late summer or early fall are great times to stain and reseal your deck so that it will be ready for outdoor fun when the warm weather returns.
                    • Know When to Call a Contractor
                      While there is a ton you can handle DIY around the house, some jobs require specialized tools and expertise. Find a contractor you trust or ask for referrals from trusted sources, and rely on the pros whenever you need an experienced hand.

                    Home improvement is a constant, ongoing project for most homeowners, so it's a good idea to get used to the process when you move into your first home. By staying on top of maintenance and keeping an eye out for signs of trouble, you can tackle small maintenance issues before they become big ones.

                    July
                    4

                    Make Your Kitchen Top-Chef Worthy on a Budget

                    Do you dream of a kitchen worthy of a Top Chef contestant? You're not alone! The kitchen is one of the most popular rooms for home improvement projects, but it can also be one of the trickiest if you're working with a tight budget. Fortunately, it's absolutely possible to update your kitchen on a budget, and still create a space where you look forward to cooking every meal. It's important to start with a plan, set goals, and be willing to invest some elbow grease into the process. Get started with our home improvement guide to making your kitchen Top-Chef worthy on a budget.

                    • Take Stock of Your Space Before You Begin
                      Before you get started making changes, it's important to take stock of your current kitchen. Think about what works, what you'd most like to change, and which kitchen home improvement projects rank at the top of your priority list. By making the most of existing features, you can keep costs down on a remodel.
                    • Consider Speaking with a Pro for Assistance
                      Hiring a designer to help you plan your project comes with an up-front cost, but can ultimately save you big bucks on your remodel. A pro can help you make the most of your home improvement budget, and plan your project in a way that takes advantage of your existing space. The right pro will take your feedback, and use it to create a vision for a budget-friendly dream kitchen.
                    • Refresh Cabinets Instead of Replacing
                      Replacing cabinets can be very expensive, but you don't have to tear out your old cabinets to get a new look. Instead, consider a fresh coat of paint to reinvigorate old cabinets, and remove cabinet doors to create a more open storage space with a roomy look. White looks great on re-painted cabinets, but you can go with any color that fits your room.
                    • Update Lighting for a Fresh Look
                      Lighting can make a huge difference in the look of your kitchen, especially if it was a little dark in there prior to your remodel. The right lighting can make a room feel larger, highlight the best features of your kitchen, and create a warm, inviting space for cooking.
                    • Renovate with Existing Plumbing
                      Major changes to the plumbing can be one of the most expensive elements of a kitchen renovation, so consider updating your space in a way that doesn't change your existing plumbing. This is one area where the expertise of a design pro can really help, and save you money in the long run.
                    • Shop for Updated Appliances on a Budget
                      Shopping for new appliances can quickly get expensive, so it's a good idea to look for deals on any appliances you will need. Shopping at second-hand stores or buying a scratch-and-dent appliance with minimal damage can save you a ton on high-quality appliances for your culinary creations.
                    • Remnants for Cheap Countertops
                      Most granite countertop retailers have set aside remnants, which are pieces of granite that didn't make the cut for larger counters. Shopping for remnants can help you get a beautiful countertop on a budget, especially if the counter isn't very large, and the right remnant will have high enough quality that you'll never know the difference.

                    Creating your dream kitchen on a budget starts with knowing what you want, and developing a plan for how to get there. While a tight home improvement budget may eliminate some possibilities for kitchen updates, with a little ingenuity you can transform your kitchen without breaking the bank.

                    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
                    13

                    5 Ways to Welcome a New Neighbor

                    When you notice the home on your street with the "For Sale" sign now says "Sold," it's time to start thinking about how you're going to welcome your new neighbors. Starting off with a friendly gesture isn't just the right thing to do, it will also help you build a great relationship that you'll be able to enjoy for years to come.  It's clear that introducing yourself to your neighbors is a good idea, but how do you do it without feeling awkward? Don't worry, we've got you covered with these five tips. 

                    1. Stop By on Moving Day
                      Stopping by for a brief introduction on the day you see the moving truck pull in is a great way to break the ice without feeling like you need to stay too long. Obviously, they'll be busy, so you can simply say hello and let them know you look forward to getting to know them better later.

                      If you have the time, offer to stick around and help them unload. There's a good chance they won't be ready to accept just yet, but the gesture is one they'll remember forever. 
                    1. Leave a Card
                      Don't want to deal with the awkwardness of ringing a stranger's doorbell? Write a nice card and leave it in their mailbox. You don't have to go into a ton of detail, simply introduce your family and welcome them to the neighborhood.

                      This is also a great idea if you notice that a lot of other neighbors are going over to visit. Although a warm welcome is nice, new neighbors often don't want to be bombarded with visitors right away. 
                    1. Visit as a Group
                      If you're uncomfortable meeting new people by yourself, gather up a few of the neighbors and stop by together. Not only is this likely to make everybody more comfortable, but it will also cut down on the number of times the new neighbors have to stop what they're doing and answer the doorbell. During the first few busy weeks after a move, they'll likely appreciate this thoughtfulness. 

                    2. Make a Creative Gift Basket
                      Gather up some of your favorite items from local vendors and use them to make a creative gift basket. Think about including things like pastries from the neighborhood bakery, a bottle of wine, or something from the local gift shop.

                      Make the basket truly valuable by adding in menus from your favorite local takeout places, business cards for reputable companies you recommend, and a list of "insider" information like the best babysitters and handymen in the area. 
                    1. Host a Welcome Party
                      What better way to really get to know your new neighbors than inviting them to spend an evening in your home. Give them at least a month to settle in, then offer to gather up a group of your neighbors and friends for a casual dinner or outdoor barbecue meet and greet. 

                    When you're new to a neighborhood, everything can feel a little bit intimidating and scary. A warm smile and a hello can go a long way. It only takes a moment to make new neighbors feel welcome and might be exactly what they need to start feeling right at home! 

                    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.

                    April
                    11

                    10 Perennials to Plant for Almost Any Yard

                    If you want to enjoy a beautiful yard, now is the perfect time to get started.  Don't have a natural green thumb? No worries! Creating beautiful flowerbeds is easier than you think when you plant these easy-to-care-for perennials. 

                    1. Peony
                      With large, gorgeous, blooms that are both colorful and strongly-scented, the Peony is one of the most popular perennial flowers. They're also extremely dependable. They often bloom for three or more years, and some continue to come back and bloom for many decades! 
                    2. Black-Eyed Susan
                      The Black-Eyed Susan (Rudbeckia) creates cheery-looking blooms that resemble daisies. The petals come in shades of yellow or orange and have dark centers. They're naturally resistant to insects and drought and most varieties will continue to bloom year after year. 
                    3. Bearded Iris
                      With eye-popping flowers that resemble a crown, the Bearded Iris is one of the most stunning perennial flowers you can add to your garden. They come in a wide variety of colors and often boom both in the spring and in the fall. Even when they're not blooming, the foliage creates a beautiful backdrop for your yard. 
                    4. Oriental Lily
                      The Oriental Lily can grow up to seven feet tall and creates a large, pendulous flower with an unmistakably pleasant scent. This species of flower is easy to care for, and since they spread, you'll enjoy more flowers year after year. 
                    5. Salvia
                      Salvia, also known as Perennial Sage, is coveted for its deep blue blooms. There are many varieties of Salvia, some of which do well in cold climates, and others that are great for hot and humid states like Florida. If you trim them back after they're done blooming, you're also likely to enjoy a second late-summer bloom. 
                    6. Purple Coneflowers
                      The Purple Coneflower (Echinacea) used to come in only one variety but is now available in many colors. These flowers grow up to three feet tall and will bloom in your garden from early summer until the fall. They also attract butterflies and are excellent for making indoor bouquets.  
                    7. Penstemon 
                      A tubular flower that comes in white and shades of pink, purple, blue, and red, the Penstemon thrives in sunny areas. Some have blue/green leaves, which can create a beautiful contrast within your flowerbed.  
                    8. Coral Bells
                      Often planted at the front of flowerbeds, Coral Bells (Heuchera) are popular for their colorful, crinkly-looking leaves. They also grow tiny perennial flowers on stalks that stick out above the leaves. These plants prefer sun or partial shade and bloom in late spring. 
                    9. Moss Phlox
                      A very versatile plant, Moss Phlox creates a dense mat of foliage that has a tendency to creep. It grows to a height of six inches to two feet and gives off highly-fragrant blooms in the springtime. It's great for planting in rock gardens, in the front of your perennial flowerbeds, or alongside sidewalks and other paved areas. 
                    10. Whirling Butterflies
                      How can you not love a plant with a name like Whirling Butterflies? This North American Wildflower blooms for several weeks at a time throughout the summer and fall. Its name comes from the small, delicate flowers that look like butterflies when the wind blows. They tolerate drought well once they're established and do best when planted in areas with full sun or partial shade. 

                    If you're thinking about selling your home this spring or summer, adding some flowerbeds for curb appeal is a great way to get started. 

                    April
                    11

                    Home Sellers: 5 Exterior Features Buyers Want

                    If you're thinking about selling your home, now is the time to start making any necessary renovations and updates. While you might think you know exactly what needs to be done, it's smart to talk to a real estate agent before you get started. He or she will be able to tell you exactly which features are most popular with homebuyers so you can focus your time and money on the projects most likely to improve your bottom line. 

                    While buyers often have varying priorities when it comes to a home's interior, most may want the same features on the outside. Investing in the following five projects will help increase the chances of selling your home for top dollar. 

                    1. Exterior Lighting
                      Illuminating the outside of your house with landscape lighting and spotlights can transform it from a beautiful home to one that's absolutely breathtaking. Not only will it bring attention to the home's architectural features and perfectly manicured lawn, but it also adds an element of safety that's highly desirable. Add solar-powered lights, motion-sensors, and smart lights to make an even greater impact. 
                    2. Outdoor Patio
                      If you have a large backyard, potential buyers will love imagining themselves relaxing outdoors with a cool drink in their hand. An outdoor patio and seating area expand your home's livable space, making it more attractive to potential buyers.

                      Adding a well-designed concrete patio is one of the best ways to make your home appear larger without undertaking a major renovation. If you already have a patio, put the effort into repairing it and making it look as new as possible. This small project can bring a huge return on investment. 
                    3. Firepit
                      Homes with outdoor fire pits allow owners to enjoy spending time in the backyard almost all year long. A nice-looking firepit will entice homebuyers, especially if it runs on natural gas. Build a beautiful structure, and you're likely to recoup almost all of your investment in the form of a higher sale price.

                      Before jumping into this project, make sure you're following all of the local ordinances and necessary safety precautions. The last thing you want to do is add something to your home that will cause you problems down the line. 
                    4. Landscaping/Garden
                      Even if you don't make any major changes to the outside of your home, paying attention to your landscaping and garden will have a major impact on its curb appeal. Fertilize your lawn, touch up the mulch, and trim your bushes and overgrown trees.

                      Maintain your perennial flower beds and add some annuals for instant color. If you have unique plants around your home, consider labeling them as they might help attract the right kind of buyer. Finish your project off by adding a water feature to make your yard feel like a relaxing oasis. 
                    5. Outdoor Kitchen
                      Outdoor living is hugely popular right now, making a great outdoor kitchen one of the most coveted features for home buyers. Depending on the scope of the project and the size and location of the home, sellers adding an outdoor kitchen can typically expect to break even or make as much as 20 percent back on their investment.

                      When building an outdoor kitchen, you'll want to focus it around the grill and make sure you have plenty of counter space. Keep it simple and avoid adding extras like a pizza oven, as the new homebuyer might not want these features, causing them to be undervalued. 
                    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
                    28

                    Dirty Deeds: Landscaping Tips to Sell Your Home

                    The landscaping around your home is the first things prospective homebuyers see when they pull up in the driveway. That first impression creates a lasting impression, and it is worth investing the time and effort to ensure your grass, trees, flowers, and shrubbery look their very best. As you prepare your home for its place in the real estate market, the following landscaping tips will help you set the stage for a successful sale. 

                    • Clear Away Clutter
                      Get rid of garden gnomes, pink flamingos, rusty children's toys, and anything extraneous that detracts from the landscape. Simplifying the landscape creates a comfortable, calming ambiance. This helps home buyers envision their own lawn decorations in their new yard.

                    • Trim, Trim, and Trim Some More
                      Trimming trees and pruning shrubbery helps them stay healthy. Removing dead branches also protects gutters, the roof, and fencing from damage. It's worth hiring a professional tree trimming service to do this as they will perform the work and remove the debris from your property. Whenever possible, it is best to do this in the fall or spring as this gives them a chance to grow and thrive. 

                    • Repair the Sprinklers
                      Broken sprinkler heads and leaky sprinkler systems are significant concerns for potential buyers. A sprinkler system that works correctly is a selling point your real estate agent can use to put their fears to rest. A properly functioning system will also make it easier for you to keep the landscape watered until your home sells. 

                    • Green Up the Grass
                      Grass is the foundation for most landscapes. Brown spots, bare patches, and dandelions stick out like sore thumbs. You should apply weed killers, turf builders, and fertilizers one to two months before you plan to put your home on the market. This gives your grass a chance to recover and grow before the first buyer ever sets foot on the lawn.

                    • Add a Splash of Color
                      Planting bright, visually appealing landscapes creates a happy, festive atmosphere. The presence of colorful flowers in standing pots or permanent flower beds invites prospective buyers to rest and relax as they ponder purchasing your home. Red, blue, pink, yellow, and green flowers are guaranteed to put potential buyers in the mood to sign a sales contract.

                    • Paint and Repair the Exterior
                      Pull out the brushes and paint any areas that are starting to show their age. Repair damaged light fixtures, siding, gutters, shutters, or railings. If you have a wooden deck that is looking worse for wear, you should sand and restain the wood. If you have a concrete patio or sidewalks, use a power washer with detergent to brighten these up. Once the concrete is clean, fill and repair any cracks you discover.

                    • Mend Your Fences
                      Take care of any broken slats, leaning posts, or slacking links. The fence frames the landscape, and you want it to appear strong and stable. If the fence is past its prime and requires replacing, consider offering a new fence to buyers as a concession within the sales contract.     

                    Finally, don't attempt to do it all yourself. Invest in the services of professionals to ensure that the job is done right. This is especially important when it comes to tree trimming, sprinkler repairs, electrical work, and exterior repairs that require specialized tools and experience. This means that the finished appearance your investment buys will be worth its weight in gold when the ink on the contract dries. 

                    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
                    14

                    Coming Around to Color in Your Home

                    How Color Impacts Mood

                    The color of a room can drastically impact our mood and productivity. Although each person perceives color differently, most people respond to colors similarly. Warm colors like yellow, orange and red can stimulate the mind while cool colors like green and blue can have a calming effect.


                    You can change the color of each room to influence your desired mood. For instance, using green in your home office can spark creativity while a subtle gray or a pale shade of blue in the bathroom can create a soothing and calming ambiance.


                    The choice of room color is vitally important when you choose to list your home. When buyers tour your house for the first time, their immediate reaction will be influenced by the hues and shades that impact their emotions both positively and negatively.

                    To Paint or Not To Paint?

                    Take a look at your current wall colors and reference the list below to discover how each room may psychologically impact those within it:

                    • Yellow: Happy, inspired.
                    • Blue: Cool, calm.
                    • Purple: Wise, creative, stimulated.
                    • Green: Harmonious with nature, stable, energized.
                    • Red: Confident, passionate, courageous.
                    • Brown: Content, secure.
                    • Pink: Innocent, tranquil.
                    • Orange: Wholesome, vibrant, enthusiastic.
                    • White: Clean, contemporary.
                    • Gray: Classy, elegant, disciplined.
                    • Black: Powerful, sophisticated.
                    • Silver: Stylish, motivated.

                    What Colors to Use When Selling Your Home

                    As you prepare your home for sale, you may want to consider repainting certain rooms to appeal to potential buyers. Here are five of the top twenty color trends for 2019 that we believe you should incorporate before you list your home.

                    1. Woodland Shades
                      If you watch any home improvement show on television, you'll instantly notice that a rustic-vibe is making its way into the décor of thousands of homes. Although colors found in nature have been a common inspiration for home design, the desire for a natural look is shifting from botanical colors to subdued earthy hues of gray and brown.
                    2. Mindful Gray Undertones
                      Colors known as "introspective shades" are also making their way into the home setting. Gray undertones complement colors like purple, brown and navy to create a mindful living space that is associated with self-reflection and wise choices.  
                    3. Almost White
                      White walls will always be a great blank slate that buyers can either keep or paint over. However, you may want to consider enhancing your white walls with an almost white color. Subtle but effective, these nuanced shades present a minimalist look that can adapt to nearly any color or lighting around the room.
                    4. Digitally Inspired
                      We live in an age where technology surrounds us even in our choice of paint color. As more homeowners incorporate smart technology into their homes, they're continuing to view the world around them through a digital lens. Consider using shades in your home that mimic the intensity of artificial light.
                    5. Energizing Coral
                      Although the subtle and subdued colors above will be popular choices in home design, invigorating coral tones will also make a big splash on the real estate market. These pinks and orange hues surround homeowners with optimism and hope, uplifting their mood in the living room, office or bedroom.

                    Living Coral: The Pantone Color of the Year

                    For over 20 years, the Pantone Color of the Year has been a driving design influence in everything from home furnishings and fashion to industrial and graphic design. This year's color, Living Coral, symbolizes optimism, comfort and the lighthearted playfulness in everyone. Living Coral is a fantastic choice to incorporate into rooms of high activity such as entranceways, kitchens or children's playrooms. 

                     

                    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
                    17

                    Does Your Home Have Mold?

                    It is easy for mold to make itself at home in the deep, dark corners of your home. A little bit of humidity and a warm room is all mold needs to thrive. It is easy to spot in kitchens and bathrooms where it is easily detected. However, mold often lurks within darkened basements, hides deep within the ductwork, and finds sanctuary behind furnaces and water heaters where it is difficult to detect. Mold exists in almost every home, and it is not always visible. Knowing how to discover it and remove it correctly is crucial for protecting your family's health and the physical structure of your home.


                    Start your inspection by looking for black or green specks on the walls, floors, and ceilings. You should also look for bubbling paint. This is a common indication that moisture has penetrated the surface and is collecting in the wood or drywall underneath. You will want to do this within every area in the home. Pay particular attention to these signs within bathrooms, crawlspaces, furnace/water heater rooms, storage rooms, and the attic.


                    During your inspection, you will want to move boxes and furniture, open cabinets, and peek within every nook and cranny you come across. This helps ensure that you don't miss hidden pockets of mold in areas that you normally don't pay much attention. For example, the back of bathroom cabinets, lower/upper shelves within closets, etc.  


                    Within your attic, look for lumpy insulation and signs of roof leaks on the plywood and beams overhead. These signs often go hand in hand. If you do spot lumpy insulation, conduct a closer inspection to see if black/green spots are lurking on bats or within blown insulation. 


                    Be alert for odors that you come across. "Musty" smells are often a strong indicator that mold is present. If you walk into a room, move an object, and catch a whiff that is musty, there is a better than even chance that mold is the cause. Similarly, pay attention to the health of family members and pets within the home. Mold spores circulating through the home can trigger allergic reactions in humans and pets. These can include watery eyes, sneezing, runny noses, headaches, wheezing, irritated skin, and coughing.


                    Chimneys are another common hideout for hidden mold. Snow, rain, and ice can seep through a damaged chimney cap and provide the fuel it needs to thrive. When mold is present within the chimney, it can deliver a musty smell into the home. It can also leave visible discoloration on bricks and mortar which is often the first sign people notice.


                    As you walk around, make a note of any soft spots in the flooring. Soft spots on hardwood floors or in carpeted areas are common indicators of wood rot. Rot spreads slowly and surely which is why it should be addressed without delay. Where carpet or wood is present, you will notice discoloration. However, mold cannot penetrate through tile or stone so your only sign may be that it feels soft and squishy when walked upon.


                    Mold can be present in every home and homeowners need to remain vigilant against the damage and health issues it can trigger. Homeowners should conduct frequent inspections to remove mold and remediate rooms as soon as mold is discovered. Homeowners who have recently dealt with water leaks, flooding, or heavy rains should increase their inspection frequency in the weeks and months following any event where excess moisture was present within the home.


                    Most importantly, it is critical to hire a professional remediation company to remove the mold otherwise the mold can thrive and come back.

                    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
                    27

                    Working It Out: 5 Tips for Creating a Killer Home Gym

                    Let's face it, after a long day of working or taking care of your kids, dragging yourself to the gym isn't easy. If you want to improve your health and wellness, consider adding a home gym to your list of home improvement projects.


                    Before you start this project, you might wonder whether you have enough space in your house and your bank account. Luckily, with a bit of creativity, you can create a home gym that will fit almost any space and budget. These five simple tips will help you get started.

                    1. Find the Perfect Space
                      Where you'll put your home gym depends a lot on the size and layout of your house. Some of the most popular locations include a spare bedroom, garage, basement, office, porch, or patio. Don't be afraid to get creative. If you don't have an entire extra space to dedicate, try portioning off a small area of your living room or bedroom.
                    2. Set Your Budget
                      Before starting any home improvement project, it's critical to set a realistic budget. You can save a ton of money by purchasing equipment and machines second-hand. Always check out Craig's list, local swap pages, and area yard sales before you pay full price from a retailer. You can often find like-new fitness items for a fraction of the cost.
                    3. Stick with the Basics
                      It's easy to get excited and start looking for all of the latest fitness equipment, but it's a lot smarter to just stick with the basics. Especially in the beginning, you'll want to only purchase items you're sure you will use. This typically includes a good set of dumbbells and items like a yoga mat, resistance bands, and a stability ball.
                    4. Focus on You
                      Don't get too caught up in what you think your home gym "should" have. Instead, focus on creating a space that meets your needs.  If you hate running or don't want to lift weights, then skip the treadmill or the dumbbells. The most important thing is that your gym is a space where you'll want to spend your time. As your fitness levels change, your preferences might change as well. Stay flexible and willing to update your space as you evolve.
                    5. Design Your Digs
                      If you've designated a separate room for working out, consider adding some personal touches. A light and airy paint color, good lighting, and inspirational wall décor will help make your gym a pleasant place to be.

                      When incorporating your home gym into another living space, you'll want to keep it from getting too cluttered. Consider purchasing furniture that doubles as storage space and adding shelving to hold items like dumbbells and yoga mats. If you're going to purchase larger equipment like a treadmill or workout bench, look for pieces that fold for easy storage so you can get them out of the way when not in use. 
                    December
                    20

                    7 Home Improvements Sellers Wish They Never Made

                    When selling your home, it's wise to do some small, targeted home improvement projects.  A touch of something new here and there can do a lot for the way potential buyers see a home, so minor investments of a few hundred dollars each may add thousands to your asking price. Many of the best projects don't even take long to complete.


                    And then there are the ... "other" projects.


                    Selling your home can be a hectic time. If you let the stress get out of control – say, by not having a trusted real estate agent on your side – it can really influence your decision-making.  That might explain why so many sellers are attracted to costly and unsuccessful renovation projects. The idea that "bigger is better" can seem much more attractive when you're on a tight deadline and handling everything on your own. Most of the time, however, it's just not true.

                    Let's look at seven home improvements projects you might skip when selling your home:

                    1. Ultra-Trendy Fixtures and Other Decor
                      While it's a good idea to replace old light fixtures with shiny new ones, there's never any call to go bold when it comes to style. "New and neutral" should be your watchword when replacing things like doorknobs, faucets, light fixtures, and panels. A trendy new style won't necessarily appeal to the average buyer and could go out of date before your house even gets off the market.
                    2. High-Tech Home of Tomorrow
                      While smart home technology can be fun, the people using it today are still very much "early adopters." Updating your lighting, air conditioning, and other systems to respond to your phone may be fascinating, but it won't appeal to most buyers – especially older ones.
                    3. A Guesthouse Worthy of Royalty
                      A guesthouse is great ... if you have guests. Many people will find that they never use it. The plan to rent it out on Airbnb never materializes, either. That means buyers face the prospect of paying to cool, heat, light and maintain a space that they don't enjoy.
                    4. An Olympic-Sized Swimming Pool
                      While some people do consider a swimming pool to be the ultimate luxury, it won't charm every buyer. In particular, families with small children are often wary of pools. If you don't have a pool yet, don't add one! If you do, put up a fence to enhance safety.
                    5. A Spa-Quality Bathroom
                      A new bathroom can certainly make a strong impression. The problem comes in when you think about the huge costs associated with a new tub, a sink, a toilet, or even a quality tile floor. If you're going to make a larger investment, the kitchen is more likely to pay off.
                    6. Wall-to-Wall Carpeting
                      Updating your existing carpeting if it looks old may be a fine idea. Adding new carpet, however, can be a dead end. Hardwood and tile are attractive for their own reasons, and a home that's nothing but carpet can seem like a chore to clean. People with allergies may be turned off, too.
                    7. High-Maintenance Landscaping and Water Features
                      While a nice garden can be enticing, complex topiary or any other labor-intensive approach to the lawn is a definite "no." A healthy, well-maintained lawn will boost curb appeal, but keep it simple and straightforward. Otherwise, only green-thumbed gardeners will take an interest.

                    As you're selling your home, less is more. A real estate agent can advise you on the best ways to improve the market value of your property. That way, you make more on your sale and get to closing faster.

                    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
                    13

                    Get Your Feng Shui Going

                    Incorporating Feng Shui into your home isn't only about home improvement, but making your home more balanced and healthy overall.  Feng Shui is more than just improving the look of your home. It teaches us tools, such as mindfulness and joyfulness so we can connect with the spaces in our home and learn how to remove negativity and highlight different aspects of positive energy. These