Articles Tagged "Home Renovation"

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Buy a Home | 2 Posts
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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.


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.


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.


5 Can't Miss Tips When You're Buying A Fixer Upper

Buying a fixer-upper offers you an amazing investment opportunity and provides an endless assortment of projects for those who like to work with their hands.

No matter if you plan to flip the property quickly or live there for some time, you shouldn't cross a fixer-upper off your list when buying a house. Still, we all know that buying a house can be a complex challenge and fixer-uppers add a bit more for you to think about.

So... What do you really need to know when buying a fixer-upper?

Get off to a running start with these five tips:

  1. Start with Location
    Location is one of the most important things to think about in any home purchase. There are two strategies that may be effective here: One is the traditional "central location" that has the potential for a lot of curb appeal. The other is talked about less, but can still be a savvy choice: A more secluded and private property set back from the main road.

  2. Set Up a Sound Renovation Budget
    The perfect location can still be undercut if the needed repairs exceed your budget. The best way to get the real facts about what needs to be done is to get a complete house inspection. Then, get bids for the things you can't do yourself and figure out the cost in time and materials for those you can. When you have a figure that seems accurate, add 10% for the unexpected.

  3. Identify the Biggest Issues First
    Making repairs to the roof will not only add value but remove a major stumbling block that can easily scare potential buyers away. Working on the foundation isn't nearly as glamorous — it may add nothing at all to your future selling price — but you should double-check to see if it is necessary. What else can you look out for? Electrical, heating, and pest issues are important.

  4. Negotiate Hard
    So, you've done the calculations on what renovating your new find might cost you. Now, you can use that information as leverage in negotiating a better price. It's not unreasonable to ask for 20 percent or even 40 percent off the asking price. What other factors play in your favor? A property that's been on the market for a long time — or a good amount of cash to offer upfront.

  5. See if You Qualify for a Renovation Loan
    There are several different types of renovation loans, including the popular 203(k) loan backed by the federal government through the Federal Housing Administration. Many different banks can offer this loan as long as they follow federal rules. Homebuyers can get low-interest rates on a 203(k) and may be able to qualify even with less than perfect credit scores.

Buying a house can be the greatest step you ever take for your peace of mind, financial security, and yes — your enjoyment. The choice to make that house a fixer-upper can be considered a bold one. Still, for some people, there's simply nothing better.

Use our tips, and you'll find it's easier than you ever imagined to make the right decisions for buying a house. In just a matter of months, your very own fixer-upper could become the home of your dreams. If you go in with a clear view and realistic expectations, you can't lose!


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.


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.


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 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 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.


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


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.


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.


Sellers: Prioritize These Kitchen Improvements

A bigger and brighter kitchen is always on the list of top home features buyers are willing to move for. For those who love to cook and entertain guests, a nice kitchen is a must-have. As a seller, this means investing a little time and effort into sprucing up your kitchen can be well worth the time and energy.

Because the kitchen is such an important selling feature, we often recommend our clients invest in some upgrades and repairs before listing. While a full remodel may not make sense financially, here are some upgrades you might want to consider this year:

  • Enhance Your Lighting
    Everybody wants a bright kitchen, so if you're lighting fixtures aren't getting the job done, it might be time for an upgrade. Consider adding new fixtures over your kitchen table, island, or sink. We also love the look of dimmable under cabinet lighting. You can also line your backsplash with string lights to create a nice look.

  • Update Your Countertops
    If your countertops are in poor condition or have an unflattering color, upgrading them can be well worth the investment. While traditional granite countertops have been popular for decades, buyers prefer quartz these days. Not only are quartz countertops nice and sturdy, but they come in a wide range of colors and designs.

  • Upgrade Your Appliances
    New appliances can be a big investment, but you can see a nice ROI. Buyers are immediately drawn to brand new stainless steel appliances. If your refrigerator or dishwasher are dated or in bad shape, an upgrade can do you good and wow your buyers at the same time.

  • Add Or Replace Your Backsplash
    It doesn't take long for kitchen backsplashes to become dirty and dated, and don't underestimate the power of a makeover. The great thing about backsplashes is you can install a wide range of colors or patterns. Of course, classic white subway tile always works well too.

  • Refresh Your Cabinets
    Brand new cabinets can come with a hefty price tag, so if you're not feeling this upgrade, there are easier and less expensive ways to refresh your cabinets. Adding a new coat of paint is the easiest and fastest way to give them a fresh look. You can also replace any doorknobs or drawer pulls.

  • Stage The Room
    Once you've completed your kitchen upgrades, take some time to stage the room. You can really make your kitchen appear larger by putting away countertop appliances and getting rid of clutter. Open up your blinds or window treatments to maximize natural light and remove any personal items (including photos and magnets from the refrigerator). Sometimes keeping things simple is the best way to stage a room.

The kitchen is often considered one of the most important rooms of the house when it comes to selling a home. It serves as a gathering place where food is prepared and guests are entertained. Looking at your kitchen through the eyes of a potential buyer will definitely help your home sale.


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.


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.


      Why You Should Talk With Your Agent Before Renovating

      Putting work into a home you're about to sell may seem counterintuitive, but in some cases, it can land you a higher sale price. However, in other cases, major upgrades can be a sunk cost. So how do you know if a certain renovation is worth your time?

      The truth is it can be difficult to know whether renovations will lead to a higher sale price, but this is where your real estate agent's expertise can be a big help. If you're planning to sell soon, here are a few reasons why it's essential to consult with your agent before making any major upgrades or renovations:

      • Your Agent Can Help You Avoid Costly Pitfalls
        The truth is most renovations don't result in a return. However, there are definitely a few exceptions. For example, you stand a good chance to generate a profit or at least break even on new kitchen appliances or an additional bathroom. However, you might be rolling the dice with other upgrades, such as a new roof — especially if your home can get by without it.

        Before beginning any upgrades, speak with an experienced real estate agent. They will be able to tell you where to focus your time and energy and give insight into what types of upgrades will help you boost your listing price.

      • Your Home Might Not Need Any Upgrades
        After taking a look at the property, a real estate agent might think your home is ready to sell as-is. Your agent is a wealth of information when it comes to what buyers look for, and this can help you avoid investing in unnecessary upgrades that won't generate a higher return. If you're selling in a low-inventory market, you might not have to stress about the small stuff in order to attract buyers.

      • Your Agent Has Connections
        If you're planning to renovate, finding good contractors at a good price can be a challenge, but remember, your real estate agent is likely well connected in the community. Most agents have a wide network of connections to local service providers. If you're in need of a plumber, carpenter, roofer, or electrician, ask your real estate agent ahead of time.

      • Your Agent Can Show You Examples
        Nobody knows the market quite like your real estate agent, so they can easily show you other examples of renovations made by local sellers. You can also see how those renovations influenced the sale price. This not only gives you a blueprint to follow when making your own upgrades but makes it easier to estimate your potential return.

      While many sellers believe the right time to start working with an agent is when you're ready to list your home, the truth is you can start working with an agent any time. Consulting with one before beginning major upgrades can save you a lot in the long run.


      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.  


      Sellers: Prioritize These Living Room Upgrades

      Renovations, upgrades, and staging make a world of difference when it comes to listing your home on the market. While the kitchen and bathrooms are often top selling points for many buyers, you don't want to forget about the living room.

      The quality of the living room is an important selling point, and as a seller, you'll want to create an environment that enables buyers to envision themselves relaxing and spending time with family in the room.  To help you achieve this, below are some important living room upgrades that you may want to prioritize before listing your home:

      1. Add A Fresh Coat Of Neutral Paint
        A fresh coat of paint can make an outdated living room shine. It quite literally will help to reflect light, which in turn will make the room appear bigger, brighter, and more welcoming. A fresh coat of paint is a great way to impress buyers. When choosing a color, just be sure to stick to a neutral tone: off-white or light gray shades are probably your best bet.

      2. Create An Open Space
        A cramped living room can appear stuffy and uncomfortable, so you'll really want to open things up if you can. Make sure there are clear, accessible paths so it's easy to walk around the room. Also, avoid any overly large furniture, as this will also make the room appear small than it actually is. If you have the ability to remove walls, an open floor living room is an increasingly popular feature for many buyers.

      3. Update Your Floors
        If your living room has old carpet or dated wood or tile flooring, you'll want to address it before listing your home. Old carpet or tiles can give the room a "lived-in" look, which can be a major turn-off for buyers. After you remove your carpet, consider replacing it with some less-expensive wood-like vinyl flooring.

      4. Try A New Coffee Table
        Coffee tables receive a lot of wear and tear over the years, so if yours is dented, scuffed, fading, or covered in watermarks, an upgrade may be in order. When choosing a new coffee table, be sure it matches the rest of the decor and comfortably fits in the space. Try to avoid any wild or overly trendy or artistic designs — aim for nice and neutral.

      5. Add Some Extra Storage
        Storage is always a major selling point, so adding some additional shelving or drawers is almost always a good idea. Shelves and drawers in the living room make it easy to display family photos or pack away blankets and electronics. The best part is shelves and extra storage are fairly inexpensive.

      6. Let There Be Light
        Maximizing light is so important when staging a home. Buyers are attracted to big bright rooms, and natural light really helps living rooms appear larger. If your living room could use some extra light, consider adding some new decorative fixtures to keep things bright.

      The living room is often one of the first rooms buyers encounter, so it often sets the tone for the rest of the home. Making the proper upgrades are essential for creating an attractive listing and maximizing your sale price.


      Kitchen Upgrades To Make Before Selling

      Whether you realize it or not, the kitchen is often the centerpiece of a home. If you're entertaining family or guests, or you're simply closing the day with your evening dinner, odds are these events all begin by cooking in the kitchen. Considering how much time we spend in the kitchen, it makes sense that this space should be clean, organized, and stylish. After all, if you don't like how your kitchen looks or functions, you're less likely to use it and more likely to spend money on meals you could easily whip up at home. That's why it's critical to get the kitchen right when you're selling your home. Here are the upgrades you consider first for making your kitchen buyer ready.

      • Start with a deep clean
        This first one isn't really an upgrade, but it may be something you've been putting off. Sure, we all clean our stovetop every week out of necessity, but when was the last time you wiped off the top of your refrigerator or organized your spices? Keeping everything clean and organized will also help you gauge which upgrades are best worth your time and effort.
      • Give your cabinets a makeover
        In a perfect world, you may be able to replace your cabinets with brand new ones that will wow potential buyers. But it's more likely you'll have to work with the existing cabinets in your kitchen. The dominant cabinet color in homes is white, but you'll want to make the right decision for repainting based on the colors and decor in the rest of your kitchen. You could also consider buying new doors for your cabinets since these will be guaranteed to be brand new and are easily installed with a screwdriver.
      • Change out the counters
        This can be a pretty big job, depending on how much you want to change your existing countertops. If your counters show wear and scratches, this upgrade may be a must since it raises cleanliness issues, aside from the obvious eyesore of marred counters. If you understandably can't fit a stone countertop into your budget, tile counters are far cheaper and can be just as appealing.
      • Get matching fixtures
        If your kitchen's fixtures are worse for wear, or if they don't match, this is a great opportunity to give a coherent feeling to the space with new, matching fixtures. This is likely a job you can do yourself, and it promises a great return on your investment. Buyers will also appreciate that they don't need to do any extra work to make things match once they decide to buy.
      • Put in new flooring
        Again, this is one that may be cost-prohibitive depending on your budget, but it's hard to argue with the wow factor of a brand new, beautiful kitchen floor. The floor takes up so much surface area that it's something buyers will instantly notice (and something the buyer will notice every day they live in the house). Hardwood floors are extremely desirable in the kitchens of today, so if you're still rocking that linoleum, it may be time for the upgrade.
      • Upgrade your backsplash
        If your backsplash is outdated, or if you don't have one at all, a new backsplash can really bring a kitchen together. Not only does a nice backsplash add visual appeal to the kitchen, but it also helps with cleanup since tile is easier to clean than a bare wall.

      Your budget will undoubtedly affect what upgrades you can do to your kitchen before selling, but there are plenty of repairs and renovations that can be completed at little to no cost. Don't underestimate one of the most important rooms in the house, and use these tips to make your kitchen irresistible to buyers.


      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.


      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! 


      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? 


      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.  


      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!


      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.


      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.


      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. ​​​​​​​

      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!


      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.


      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 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 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 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 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.


      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.


      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!

      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.


      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.


      7 Tips to Budget for Renovations

      For many homeowners, buying a home is simply the start of a long, rewarding journey. Customizing and upgrading the home to better suit your needs is an important part of the home improvement process, and a priority for many homeowners. In order to keep renovations running smoothly, it's important to have a plan and stick to it the best you can. Budgeting effectively for home improvement can save both money and headaches, allowing you to get busy enjoying the new perks that renovations add to your home.

      1. Learn About the Average Cost of Renovation Projects
        The cost of renovations can vary widely depending on what room you're working on, how much you're changing, and how you shop for materials/appliances. The average cost of a renovation project is between $100 and $200 per square foot, with kitchens and bathrooms often requiring the biggest renovation budgets.
      2. Plan By Prioritizing Specific Renovation Projects
        While renovating an entire home in one shot is possible, it's not always practical. Planning projects for individual rooms makes the process easier to manage, requires less cash upfront, and keeps disruptions to your day-to-day life to a minimum while work is ongoing. So even if you aim to renovate the whole home over time, start by planning for and prioritizing renovation projects in individual rooms.
      3. Consider Renovation Costs Based on the Value of the Home
        If you want a renovation to add value to the home financially, then it's important to consider the overall value of the home compared to the cost of renovations. Typically, you don't want to spend more than 10 to 15 percent of the home's total value renovating a single room, if you want to the home's value to rise proportionally.
      4. Decide How You'll Pay for Renovations
        Will you be paying cash upfront, paying with credit, or taking out a loan for renovation projects? How you plan to pay for the project will have a big impact on your overall budget, so it's important to have a financial plan in place when you're ready to get serious about renovations.
      5. Create a Detailed Plan with Estimated Costs
        Once you have a general idea of your overall budget and which room you plan to prioritize, you can get busy drawing up a detailed budget for specific projects. Consider the cost of labor, materials, fixtures, finishes, appliances, flooring, and any added living expenses you'll incur during renovations. You can often save money by purchasing materials and finishes yourself, though you'll want to make sure that your contractor knows your plan ahead of time.
      6. Request Bids from Multiple Contractors
        Choosing the right contractor is a big deal because the best contractors keep costs down while providing peace of mind with quality work. Interview multiple contractors, request bids and don't settle until you find someone who you're confident can lead your renovation project.
      7. Set Aside Extra Cash for Unexpected Expenses
        No matter how well you plan, it's rare for renovations to be completed without a surprise or two. Set aside some extra cash, about 10 to 20 percent of the project's total cost, to ensure that you'll have funds to cover any unexpected expenses.

      Preparing for renovations is so much easier when you have a detailed plan in place, and research costs ahead of time. By planning renovations based on the value of the home, building a detailed budget, hiring the right contractor, and preparing for the unexpected, you can comfortably navigate the process of budgeting for your next big home improvement project.


      How to Install a Ceiling Fan

      Installing a ceiling fan is a relatively simple DIY home improvement project when you are installing the fan where a light fixture already exists, but may require an electrician if new wires need to be run. Either way, the payoff is worth it. A fan improves air circulation, keeps temperatures comfortable, helps lower cooling/heating costs, and can even add something new to the look of a room. When installing a ceiling fan, it's important to prioritize safety first, make sure you have the right tools, and follow the manufacturer's instructions. Start your next home improvement project with our guide to installing a ceiling fan in your home.

      1. Start with Safety
        Installing a ceiling fan requires you to make new electrical connections, so it's critical to prioritize safety at every step in the process. Make sure that power is turned off at the breaker for the area where you're installing the fan, choose an outlet box marked "acceptable for fan support," and read the manufacturer's instructions thoroughly for further advice.
      2. The Right Tools
        To install a fan, you'll need wire strippers/cutters, a screwdriver, adjustable wrench, keyhole saw, pliers, safety glasses, ladder, socket wrench, utility knife, and wire connectors if they're not included with the fan.
      3. Choose a Location
        Fans provide the best circulation when mounted at least 7 feet from the floor, with blades mounted at least 8 to 10 inches below the ceiling. For DIY projects, you'll need to install the fan where a light fixture previously existed, which helps narrow down possible locations.
      4. Turn Off Electricity and Remove Light Fixture
        Before you start removing the light fixture and preparing for installation, make certain that you have turned off the power to the area at the breaker box. Remove the light fixture, make sure that the opening is located between two joists, and cut a hole for the fan fixture using your keyhole saw.
      5. Install Brace Bar
        Follow the instructions on the brace bar for your fan, securing it between two joists located above the opening. The bar should be perpendicular to the ceiling and should lock in place to fit securely between the two joists as you twist it in place.
      6. Attach Mounting Bracket and Connect Wires
        Pull the wires through the opening in the ceiling, and follow the manufacturer's instructions to install the mounting bracket for the fan. Attach the fan's down-rod, make sure the ball end is pointed toward the ceiling, and secure it in place. Connect the wires for the fan to the wires you pulled through the ceiling: black to black, white to white, and with the grounding wire attached to the fan's green lead wire.
      7. Attach Fan to Mounting and Assemble
        Secure the rest of the fan assembly to the down-rod and bracket, following manufacturer's instructions. Install the blades and anything else that comes with the fan, and double-check that everything has been installed securely.
      8. Check That Everything Is Secure and Turn on Power
        ​​​​​​​​​​​​​​With everything in place, make one final check to ensure that you've followed instructions and that the fan is installed securely. When you're sure that everything is in place, turn on the power at the breaker box and test the fan to see that everything is working correctly.

      Congratulations, with installation complete all that's left, is to enjoy your new ceiling fan. Remember that with any home improvement project it's important to prioritize safety first and that an electrician or contractor can always help out if you run into trouble or need new wiring to install the fan.


      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.


      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.


      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.


      How to Choose the Right Front Door Color

      Whether you want an updated look to wow potential buyers or a more personalized look for your new home, painting the front door can make a big impact. But what color should you go with? Here are a few tips and some trendy color suggestions to get your home looking its best.

      Start with the color wheel

      If you aren't sure what colors go together, using a color wheel to pick the right door color can help. The color schemes below represent arrangements of color that are generally pleasing.

      • Monochromatic. Shades and tints of the same color. Example: maroon, red, and pink. 
      • Analogous. Two to four colors directly next to each other on the color wheel. Examples: orange, yellow-orange, and yellow or blue, green, and yellow.
      • Complimentary. Two colors that are exactly opposite each other on the color wheel. Example: blue and orange.
      • Triadic (sometimes called contrasting). Three colors evenly spaced on the color wheel to form a triangle. Example: Green, orange, and purple.

      If you're not painting the entire outside of your home, take a look at the colors that are already there. Find the predominant color on the color wheel, and use one of these color schemes to find your door color.

      Neutral colors

      Neutral colors include black, white, gray, brown, wood stain and variations of these colors. The good news is neutrals go with just about everything. They're a good choice if you'll be changing other outdoor features or if you're repainting for selling purposes.

      If your home is already a neutral color you can pair it with a bold door color, or a color with a similar or opposite undertone. For example, if your home is a shade of gray with a blue undertone, a navy blue door might look good. Or you may want a warm color such as yellow or orange to go with a cool gray. Your choice will depend more on the look and feel you're going for.

      If your door or the area around it has architectural details, a lighter neutral paint or stain ensures they'll still be visible.

      Other color inspiration

      Location can inspire color. Some areas of the country have persistent color trends like the bright exterior home colors of the Southwest. Or if your home is in a wooded area, natural colors such as greens and browns may look more appropriate. There may also be a color that's unique to the buildings in your neighborhood or the style of home you have. Also, consider what kind of feelings a color evokes. Are you looking for a modern feel, playful, or traditional? Something bold or more subdued?

      Remember you can get a different look by painting the area around the door, or the frames of screens and storm doors too.

      Trendy ideas for color

      Just want something fashionable? One of these trendy door colors may fit with the style and color of your home.

      • High gloss black
      • Lime green
      • Sunshine yellow
      • Coral
      • Pumpkin orange
      • Navy
      • Oak stain
      • Chocolate
      • Grape
      • Red

      More tips

      • Once you've got a few ideas, make your selection by looking at colors in the outdoor light. You can paint sample colors on the door if you want. See how they look at different times of the day.
      • Make sure to use exterior primer and paint. If you are painting a metal door make sure to use a product that inhibits rust.

      Picking the right color for your front door can create a unique look and make a big impression. These rules offer guidance, but ultimately you'll want something you like that works with the design of your house.


      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. 

      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. 


      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. 



      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.  

      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. 

      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 tips will help you get started with Feng Shui. 

      • Keep Your House Clutter-Free
        This is a problem we're all guilty of, collecting too much stuff that we have no real use for or letting stuff pile up. While going through the clutter piles of each room is often a time-consuming process, it is a therapeutic and necessary one. It allows you to get rid of things that are weighing you down, whether it's those clothes you've kept for three years, hoping to fit into or pictures from a former relationship. Next, implement an organizational system for everything from your incoming mail to your pantry.  You'll feel lighter, and your house will run better.

      • Concentrate on the Front Entry
        Pay attention to the energy surrounding your front door and entryway since it's the primary way people and energy enter your home.  On the outside, make sure your house numbers are well-marked and lit-up. Once inside, it's imperative that your entryway allows visitors to pause and that it doesn't go straight to backdoor or set of stairs. You can slow down your energy and improve your Feng Shui by adding a decorative mirror or a floor runner.

      • Know Your Energy Map
        Define of the feng shui energy map of your house, and then you'll know you to transform each area as it's connected to certain aspects of your life. For instance, the Southeast corner of your home is the money corner; whereas the southwest corner is devoted to relationships.  In the money area of your home, you may keep a safe or valuable collectibles, and the relationship area is an ideal spot to set up the living room and put a love set or a pair or comfortable pillows. Choose your favorite on this 8-point system to start your home improvement project.

      • Balance the Five Elements
        Use the five elements-earth, wood, fire, water, and metal throughout your home, paying attention to your personality. Try to strike a balance between the five, even if you're drawn to one. If you're prone to stress, consider making the bathroom more of a sanctuary with a Jacuzzi, scented candles, and metal finishes, combining three elements.   However, it's also important to not overdo it. If you're quick to anger, having red walls or lots of fire is probably a mistake.

      • Use the Command Position
        One of the important Feng Shui principles refers to the command position and how objects like your bed, stove or desk should be facing the entry door.  The door, or "mouth of chi," brings energy into that room, so it helps if certain objects or diagonal to the door for optimal energy flow.

      • Improve Natural Light
        Natural light makes the house look light and can make us feel happier. You can achieve this with lighter drapes that maximize the light or adding a mirror. Remember to place it so that it reflects more light and isn't adding more unnecessary clutter.

      Feng Shui isn't necessarily about having the best-decorated home or adding another home improvement but more about creating a happier and healthier environment for you.  Though it looks better, it's just an added bonus.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


      Tips for Picking an Interior Decorator

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


      Picking the Best Windows for Your Climate

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

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

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

      Glass Considerations 

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

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

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

      Material Choices

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

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

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

      Final Considerations

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



      How Much to Budget for Home Repairs

      Whether you're a first-time buyer or experienced homeowner at some point you'll need to make home repairs. And those repairs will cost money. It's something first-time buyers often don't think about ahead of time and experienced owners may have learned the hard way. So budgeting at least some money in advance for these expenses is a must. Here's how to figure it all out.

      Common Budgeting Approaches 

      The first step is deciding how much to save for home repairs. Here are a few different ways you can approach budgeting.

      • Save 1 to 3 percent of the price of your home per year. That means if your home was $200,000 you should devote $2,000 to $6,000 per year to your home repair budget. This rule is based on a per year average over a longer period of time. Some years you'll spend less and some years more. Depending on other factors, you may want to be on the lower or higher end of that range.
      • Save $1 per square foot per year. This makes sense because larger square footage means there is more house to keep repaired. For a 2500 square foot house that comes out to $2,500 per year.
      • A basic budget plus a project specific budget. If you know a major repair is a few years out, use the average costs in your area or actual estimates for those repairs and break it down into payments. You'll still need money to cover the little repairs too, but knowing you need to save at least $300 per month to make that new roof a reality in a few years can be a starting point. Your budget can change a little based on the projects.

      Adjusting the Basic Budget for Your Home

      Once you have a starting point you'll need to adjust your budget to account for the specifics of your home.

      • Age of your home. Older homes often (but not always!) require more upkeep costs.
      • Current condition of your home
      • Climate. Climate variances can make your home more likely to need certain repairs. Knowing what you're likely to see down the road can help you adjust your budget and take the necessary preventative measures.
      • Exposure to extreme weather and the possibility of storm damage.
      • Single-family vs. condo or townhouse. Condos and townhouses have a lower repair budget because some of the costs are covered by your homeowner's association fees or project specific fees.

      Add 10 percent of your basic budget per year for each factor that increases the likelihood of repairs. For example, a basic budget of $2,000 per year for an older home in an area where bad weather is common, would increase that budget to $2,400 per year.

      Money Saving Tips

      • Use a separate savings account and automatic deposits. Designating a separate account specifically for repairs and setting up automatic deposits or transfers makes saving easy. Don't tie up this money in long-term investments, you'll want to be able to access it immediately if you need it.
      • Use a budgeting app. It can help you cut costs on everyday expenses so you can divert that money to your home repair budget.
      • Consider DIY projects. Many smaller home repairs require only basic skills that are easy to learn. Just be realistic, and do your research ahead of time. Save calling the professionals for the big jobs.

      While no one can guess exactly what your home repair costs will be, being prepared and budgeting in advance will save you lots of headaches later and allow you to enjoy the benefits of homeownership for years to come.


      Help for Choosing the Right Siding

      When it comes to choosing your home's siding, the number of choices available can be overwhelming. It is the first part of your home that anyone will see which adds more pressure to the decision-making process. The good news is there is a simple approach to choosing your best option.

      While it's easy to get distracted by choices such as color, it comes down to the best combination of price, durability, and return on investment. With that in mind, here's our guide to choosing the best siding options for your home. 

      What You Need to Know About Siding

      To begin with, let's make take a quick look at each of these three factors.

      1. Price is the amount you pay for materials and the labor to install the siding. Before making any purchase, you should have an idea of your budget and what you can afford.
      2. The next factor is durability. Durability is the projected number of years that you should expect before having to replace the siding again. While your goal may be that you only do this once, you need to consider the fact that you could do it again if you plan to own your home for a while.
      3. The third factor is the return on investment. Return on investment comes into play when you sell your home. Your ROI is based on how much value is added to your home by replacing the siding. Some siding investments can recoup up to 83% of their value according to some studies.

      Let's take a look at siding options available today.

      Vinyl Siding

      Perhaps the most common type of siding these days is vinyl. Its combination of affordability and ease of installation make it an ideal choice for most homeowners. There is also a wide range of color and accessory options to choose from which further adds to its appeal.

      In addition to being lower priced, some homeowners even feel comfortable installing it themselves which can save on the labor costs. The tradeoff for the lower price will be durability. While you can expect to enjoy your vinyl for 15 years or more, it will typically not last as long as some of the other options.

      Fiber Cement

      One of the newer options available today is Fiber Cement Siding. Its popularity has continued to grow due to its combination of price and durability. Homeowners can expect to enjoy their fiber cement siding for 30 years and beyond.

      One potential drawback of this type of siding is the installation process. The fiber cement siding is much heavier and requires special tools and installation techniques. This could drive up your costs due to increased installation labor charges.


      Nothing turns heads like a beautiful wood sided home. Plus, you can customize the look of wood siding. Depending on the grain of the wood and stain that you intend to use, you can create a naturally beautiful look to your home.

      The challenges with wood are price and maintenance. Wood siding is going to be more expensive than other options. Plus, you will have to re-stain or re-paint it every 3 to 5 years. Since the wood exterior can last for 20 years, you could end up doing this several times while you own your home.

      The Bottom Line

      Stay focused on price, durability, and ROI, and you can't go wrong with any of these siding options.


      10 Tools for the New DIYer

      Whether you are in the middle of a home improvement project or just working in the garage, having access to the right tools for the job can make the entire process much easier. Of course, having access to the right tools is especially important for someone new in the DIY world, and here are the top ten tools that everyone needs for a wide range of projects.

      1. Tape Measure 
        A tape measure is a must-have for any homeowner. Whether you are measuring the length of a board or determining the amount of space between a wall and the couch, a tape measure is a handy tool that is excellent for nearly any DIY project.

      2. Circular Saw
        A circular saw is highly versatile for any woodworking project and is fantastic at making precision cuts. This mobile tool is excellent for building outdoor structures, such as a fence or a wooden deck.

      3. Hammer
        A hammer is an essential tool for the vast majority of projects. Whether you need to drive a nail into the wall or build a birdhouse, a hammer is a versatile tool that is great for a wide range of activities. A fiberglass claw hammer is especially useful, as it absorbs the shock much better than a wooden hammer.

      4. Cordless Drill
        A cordless drill is a popular choice for a wide range of projects, whether you are installing drywall or a doing a woodworking project. A cordless drill quickly adds or removes screws, which is much more efficient than a traditional screwdriver.

      5. Standard Level
        A standard level is a perfect tool for almost any DIY project. Instead of worrying about a crooked shelf or picture frame, a level will help you maintain the perfect balance by aligning the small bubble in a vertical or horizontal position.

      6. Putty Knife
        Do you have small nail holes or cracks in a wall that need filled? A putty knife is a fantastic tool for the job, as you can easily spread plaster to cover up any deficiencies in a wall or other material.

      7. Table Saw
        A table saw is the standard for making rip-cuts and is great for cutting large sheets of wood for furniture or cabinets. A table saw also excels at cutting off the rounded edges of boards and is an essential item for any woodworking projects.

      8. Adjustable Wrench
        An adjustable wrench is a handy tool for repairs, whether you need to tighten or loosen bolts. An adjustable wrench is also highly versatile, as you can alter the size for many different sizes of nuts and bolts.

      9. Utility Knife
        Trying to use scissors to open boxes or trim wallpaper is not always an easy task. However, a sharp utility knife will allow you to easily open boxes or shave wood without accidentally cutting yourself because the blade is stored inside the handle for maximum protection.

      10. Flashlight
        Working in a dimly lit area such as the attic or a basement compounds the difficulty of any DIY project, but a flashlight gives you the flexibility to work in areas with minimal lighting. A flashlight is also important to have if the power ever goes out for an extended period and can help you find your way around your house.

      Of course, there are plenty more tools available, but these tools are a great starting point for anyone beginning a new home improvement project. Whether you are a beginner or have many years of experience, you can save the added expenses of using a contractor and start your DIY project today!


      Pros and Cons of Metal Roofing

      Whether you're tired of paying for costly repairs on a traditional roof or want to try something more efficient and stylish, there are many good reasons to consider a metal roof for your home. Today's metal roofs can be manufactured to look like nearly any traditional roofing material, and offer significant advantages over traditional roofing. However, there are some potential drawbacks to metal roofing, and it's wise to consider both sides of the equation before embarking on a major home improvement project. So let's take a closer look at the pros and cons of installing metal roofing on your home.

      Make It Metal? Yes or No.

      Pro: Metal Roofs Are Built to Last
      One of the biggest advantages of metal roofs is that they're built to last, with durable materials and less potential for leaks than traditional roofs. While you may have to replace a traditional roof more than once over the lifespan of a home – and pay for repairs in between – the right metal roof can last for as long as you own your home. In addition to being sturdy, metal roofs are very efficient at whisking away the rain, ice, and snow that lead to leaks with traditional roofs.

      Pro: Metal Roofing Is Environmentally Friendly
      If you like your home improvement projects to have a limited impact on the environment, then metal roofing is more than worth a look. Asphalt shingles, the most common non-metal roofing material, are a petroleum product and need to be replaced relatively frequently compared to metal roofs. Your metal roof, on the other hand, won't be heading to the landfill any time soon.

      Con: Metal Roofs Are Costly to Install
      When it comes to durability, look, efficiency, and environmental impact, it's hard to argue with the advantages of metal roofing. However, those advantages come with a cost, and installing a metal roof can be considerably more expensive than a traditional roof, depending on the metal roofing that you choose.

      Pro: Metal Roofs Are Energy-Efficient
      Those increased costs will be evident up-front, but the efficiency and durability of metal roofing often make it more affordable in the long run. Metal roofing is very energy-efficient, minimizing heat gain and reflecting the sun rather than absorbing it, which can help lower cooling costs in your home.

      Con: Some Metal Roofing Materials Can Dent
      While metal roofing is much more durable than most traditional roofing materials overall, some types of metal roofs do have the potential to dent. Metal roofs made of softer materials, like copper or aluminum, are more likely to dent than steel roofs. If you want to avoid this drawback, choose a metal roofing material with a "no dent" guarantee.

      Pro: Choose Any Look for Your Metal Roof
      Today's metal roofs are more stylish than ever, and you can choose nearly any look for your home. If you want to replicate the look of just about any type of traditional roofing material, you can find a metal shingle that will do the job. Metal shingles come in a wide range of colors, styles, and materials, to achieve the look that you crave.

      While there are some potential drawbacks to installing a metal roof, the advantages are likely to outweigh those drawbacks for most homeowners. Metal roofs are durable, long-lasting, efficient, and attractive, so for many, the real question comes down to cost. A metal roof may be a more costly home improvement project more up front, but it can also save plenty of headaches (and repair bills!) in the long run.


      Swimming Pools: Fun vs. Extra Money

      Are Swimming Pools Worth it?

      Surely we don't have to tell you all the benefits of owning a swimming pool. From hosting great backyard get-togethers to the ability to take a dip anytime you want, the benefits of having an in-ground pool at your house are self-apparent. What some homeowners miss are the costs and potential drawbacks, of which there are many. 

      The purpose of this piece is not, of course, to scare anybody away from having a pool. We would never think of coming between our clients, and the joys of having your own swimming hole just footsteps from your back door. We want you to understand the pros as well as the cons so that you can make a well-informed decision. 

      Getting a Good Return on Your Investment

      Many homeowners have an in-ground pool installed with the idea that it will increase the value of their home. Sometimes this idea works out, and sometimes it does not. It all comes down to getting a higher return on your investment than you put into it. Having a pool put in makes good financial sense if: 

      • Your backyard is big enough to still offer plenty of open space after installing a pool.
      • You live in a high-end neighborhood in which most of the homes have pools (in which case not having a pool could make your home harder to sell). 
      • When you live in an area where the weather is warm most of the year, a pool offers more benefits throughout the year. 

      Whether or not a pool will boost your home's value also depends on the pool's style, condition, and age. Generally speaking, the more years go by after installation, the less likely a pool is to recoup its costs.

      Considering the Costs

      Surely, one wouldn't expect to install an in-ground pool to be cheap, but it's essential to examine the costs before you commit really. At present, the cost to install a 600 square foot concrete pool starts at around $30,000. That's before factoring in the lighting, landscaping, and fencing – a safety fence around the lake is a requirement in many states – which lead many homeowners to pay nearly $100,000 when all is said and done. 

      Costs depend on the type of pool you choose. Fiberglass shells and pools with vinyl liners are less expensive but often need more maintenance. Some need to be replaced as frequently as every ten years. And not to focus too much on the negative, but you'll also be responsible for the ongoing costs of heating, filtration, and maintenance over the lifetime of your pool. 

      An in-ground pool might be a worthwhile investment, or you might be better off buying an above-ground pool, which will cost a fraction of the price but won't do much in the way of boosting your home's value. If you're still on the fence, talk to your real estate agent to help weigh the pros and cons. 


      Home Renovation Projects Well Worth the Investment

      Five DIY Projects Worth the Time and Money

      Like most homeowners, you may be considering a number of summer upgrade projects to your home. After all, the weather is great and the days are longer which creates the perfect environment to make these changes happen.

      If your list of possible do-it-yourself projects is getting long, then you need a way to prioritize which ones to invest your time and, more importantly, your money in. To help you out, we've put together this list of five DIY projects that can help your home look fabulous and maximize your efforts. So grab your list and your budget and let's get started.

      1. Bathroom Remodel
        This room is always a great place to start because it is one of the most used rooms in your home. It is also one of the rooms that prospective homebuyers place the most value on. The other great part about bathrooms is that there are many different upgrade options to choose from. You can do everything from simply adding new plumbing fixtures to completely renovating the entire room.

        A typical bathroom remodel that includes new flooring, a new tub, upgraded fixtures, and a new vanity will typically cost around $10,000. While that might seem like a sizeable investment, statistics show that you will get back every dollar of that investment and more on the value of your home.
      2. Kitchen Remodel
        Perhaps the second most important room inside your home is the kitchen. It is a place where many families gather on a daily basis. It is also a room where many of the daily activities of a home occur such as meal preparation, eating, homework and simply talking about the events of the day.

        Typical kitchen remodels will include upgrades to countertops, appliances, and cabinetry. The average price tag for a minor kitchen remodel may set you back as much as $15,000. The good news is that this is another DIY investment that will return almost every dollar back to you in terms of ROI.
      3. New Deck
        If you have outdoor projects that you want to consider, then let's start with a new deck. These great outdoor gathering places hold many wonderful memories of picnics, barbecues and summer parties. They are also a great investment in the value of your home.  The typical project will cost around $10,600 but with that strong ROI, you will end up paying pennies per hour for great outdoor family fun.
      4. Upgrade Landscaping
        If you are trying to sell your home, nothing turns heads quicker than a nicely manicured yard. Whether you want to add new shrubs or redo the entire lawn, an investment in landscaping is going to have a quick impact on your home's value.

        Perhaps the best thing about landscaping upgrades is that they are typically inexpensive, averaging around $5,000.
      5. New Exterior
        Our final DIY project is an upgrade to your home's exterior. Whether you are replacing siding or changing the paint color, this improvement to the exterior of your home will help to drive potential homebuyers to your house. The typical investment is around $7,200. 

      6 DIY Projects for Newbies

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

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

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

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

      Let's look at some of them right now:

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

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

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


      Use Lighting to Transform Your Home

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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