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Buy a Home | 2 Posts
Sell a Home | 1 Posts
September
29

6 DIY Projects Better Left To The Pros

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

September
8

3 Decor Finds That Are Always Better At Estate Sales

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

September
1

6 Home Remodeling Projects That Pay Off

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Put in new flooring — linoleum or tile.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

August
18

9 Ways To Fall In Love With Your Bathroom

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

August
18

What Is An HOA?

Buying a house exposes you to a large number of variables, including industry-specific jargon and abbreviations. HOA is one of these terms. It refers to a Homeowners Association.

What is a Homeowners Association?

An HOA is a regulatory group set up to manage shared property. This group collects regular dues and is then responsible for the upkeep and maintenance of community property. Common examples of this property may be a shared rooftop garden at a condo or a playground and picnic area at a townhome complex.

The more amenities an area offers, the more things there are that will need to be managed, and subsequently, the higher the HOA dues might be. HOAs are also responsible for establishing the covenants, conditions, and restrictions (CC&Rs) of an area. Essentially, HOAs make the rules for the homeowners living in this group. These rules can reach beyond city laws and establish guidelines for pet ownership, property appearance, and even noise disturbance. Copies of these rules should be available to anyone buying a house in the HOA area.

  • How are HOA fees determined?
    HOA costs are based on a variety of factors. Most HOA fees begin at $200 per month, and prices increase from there. The average HOA will consider the size of your household (a 3-bedroom will be charged more than a studio apartment) and the facilities offered in your housing area.

    Facilities go beyond recreation areas like the pool, and will also include maintenance for parking lots, hallways lights, smoke detectors, and elevators. HOA pricing begins with a basic allowance for daily maintenance and then charges a little extra each month for seasonal and emergency expenses.

  • Who is part of an HOA?
    HOA rules govern all housing units in a given area. While each property is individually owned, the community itself is communal property and subject to HOA rules. Examples of HOA areas can include a townhome community, apartment-style high-rise, or a suburban cul de sac.

    HOA basics are managed by a board of elected homeowners. These board members are required to hold regular meetings and provide copies of all CC&Rs to residents. Major decisions will usually be brought to a vote, allowing all registered members of the HOA to have a say in the decision.

  • How do HOA rules work?
    Property upkeep seems fine, but additional rules can be confusing. How does rule enforcement work, and what happens when you break an HOA rule?

    First of all, not all HOA's enact rules equally. Some HOA's save rules for only what they consider the most vital concerns like resident safety and accessibility. Other HOA's are concerned with property appearance and value, as well as impressions when buying a house in the area. An area with multiple sets of rules may have a tiered level of consequences, while an area with minimum rules likely has an established set of guidelines with more equal enforcement. But what's the bottom line?

    HOA rules can trump individual homeowner choices. You must follow the rules as stated in your area or face fines. Non-payment of fines or dues can have serious consequences, including a worst-case foreclosure of your property. It's important when buying a home to review any HOA restrictions before purchase to make sure that all items are standards you can comfortably live with.

So should you shop for HOA-qualified homes? It's a balance of choices between amenities and individual choices. For some this is an excellent answer.

August
11

7 Easy Ways To Save Water & Money In Your Home

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

August
4

How To Eliminate Clutter And Make Money With A Garage Sale

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

July
28

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

July
21

How To Oust Odors From Your Home

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

July
7

Taking A Vacation? Here's How To Keep Your Home Safe

Your vacation is just around the corner. One thing you might not have planned is double-checking your home security.

The security of your home is just as important as your hotel reservations and flight schedule. These simple steps will help you avoid coming home to find your valuables were stolen or your house damaged.

  1. Newspaper and Mail
    Either ask a neighbor to bring in your newspapers and mail or stop deliveries until after vacation. You can also stop any scheduled UPS package deliveries. UPS will hold them for up to 30 days. Mail and newspapers piling up in your mailbox are sure signs that you're away.

  2. Light Timer
    Plug several lights throughout your home into a timer. It's also a good idea to have your television or speakers on the timer to create noise. Stagger the settings so your lights don't always come on simultaneously every day. You can pair many timers with an app on your smartphone so that you can control it from anywhere.

  3. Home Improvement
    Before leaving for vacation, mow the lawn, trim your shrubs, wash the windows and clean up the yard. An overgrown lawn is a sure giveaway that no one is home. Burglars are less likely to target a well-maintained home, thinking someone is there. If you're planning an extended trip, hire someone to mow and water the lawn and make other small home improvements while you're away. For example, if a storm blows through, have someone pick up fallen branches and knocked over lawn furniture.

  4. Check the Locks
    If you don't have durable deadbolts, consider replacing them before you leave. Lock all your windows, the garage door, the basement door, and any deck entryways. Secure every entry into your home. If you have a house key hidden outside, remove it because an experienced burglar will find it. Give your house key directly to any person you have coming to your house to water your plants or feed your fish while you're away.

  5. Let The Authorities Know
    Before heading out the door, call the local police and let them know the dates you'll be out of town. Most local PDs send a police car by your home a few times, making sure nothing looks amiss.

  6. Leave The Blinds Open
    Many people think it's better to close the window blinds, so no one can peek into the house while on vacation. This is actually not a good idea. If everyone in the neighborhood has window shades pulled up and your house has the shades down, it's a red flag.

With these tips, you can relax on your vacation without worrying about what's going on back home.

June
30

Adding Closets Can Give Your Home Value A Boost

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

Closets Make a Home Move-In Ready

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

Custom Closets Have a High Return on Investment

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

Adding Closets Improve the Home's Function and Value

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

Following Current Trends Improves the Home's Appeal

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

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

Use Custom Closet Space in Small Closets

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

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

June
9

Giving Your Home A Custom Look On A Budget

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

May
26

Make Your Own Green Cleaning Products At Home

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

Baking Soda

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

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

White Vinegar

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

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

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

Lemon Juice

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

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

Coconut Oil

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

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

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

May
19

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

May
11

No-Sweat Lawn Care Tips For A Thriving Yard

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

May
5

Maintenance Skills Every Homeowner Should Have

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

April
28

How To Choose A Contractor For Your Remodel Projects

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

April
21

The Most Cost-Effective Home Improvement Projects

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

April
14

Green Living Solutions You Can Achieve Now

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

April
7

How To Find The Best Lighting For Your Home

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

March
31

Fixing a Fixer-Upper: Where You Should Start

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

March
31

Essential Fixes To Make After An Inspection

If you accepted an offer with a home inspection contingency, be aware that your buyer is entitled to renegotiate or walk away based on the results of the home inspection. Therefore, many consider the home inspection one of the final hurdles to clear before closing.

Home inspections can uncover all sorts of concerns ranging from minor to significant. While you aren't legally obligated to pay for any repairs prior to closing, failing to fix some essential items can ultimately cause the deal to fall through. Below, we'll focus on what sellers should fix and what concerns you can most likely let slide:

Essential Seller Repairs

If an issue uncovered in the home inspection leads to health or safety concerns or raises questions regarding whether the home is inhabitable, it's reasonable for buyers to ask sellers to address it prior to closing. Some of these more serious concerns include:

  • Significant Structural Concerns - Visible cracks, structural framing defects, sagging roofs, or foundation problems
  • Fire or Electrical Hazards - Old electrical systems,  double-tapping of circuit breakers, a lack of GFCI protection, etc.
  • Pest Infestation - Ants, termites, rodents
  • Water Damage - Major leaks, plumbing issues, mold damage.

Again, while the seller doesn't have to make these repairs, the buyer is within their right to walk away if these aren't addressed. Also, in some cases, the buyer's lender may require that some of these issues are taken care of before the buyer can secure financing, especially if the problems are serious.

At the end of the day, everything is negotiable. If you're in a hurry to sell, you can also offer to lower your sale price as opposed to fixing the issues.

Non-Essential Repairs

While it's usually good to fix doorknobs, loose boards, light switches, and even paint prior to listing your property, sellers generally aren't on the hook for cosmetic repairs or problems caused by general "wear and tear." As a rule of thumb, you shouldn't worry about any minor repairs that cost less than $100. Buyers will most often prioritize the largest, most serious concerns.

Selling Your Home As-Is

Sellers always have the option to sell a home "as is," which signals to buyers there is no room for negotiation on repairs. This might be the best option if you need to sell quickly regardless of what issues turn up.

Keep in mind, buyers will still conduct a home inspection and can still ask to negotiate the sale price based on the results of the inspection. However, in this instance, you wouldn't be on the hook to finance and manage the repairs yourself.

The home inspection is often one of the most stressful parts of a real estate transaction, and it can be somewhat unpredictable. As a seller, it's not your responsibility to fix every item, but you take care of the major issues. During the process, rely on your real estate agent to help you negotiate the terms and details.

March
24

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

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

Avoiding Shower Curtain Issues

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

March
17

Upgrade A Concrete Slab Patio With Simple Fixes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

March
10

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

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

Choosing the Look 

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

Two Kinds of Paint for Fireplaces 

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

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

Assemble Your Supplies

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

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

Painting

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

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

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

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

Random Notes

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

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

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

March
3

How To Make Your Rooms Feel Bigger

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

February
24

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

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

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

Painting Over Dark Walls

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

February
10

High Tech Security: Getting Started With Smart Homes

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

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

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

Why A Smart Security System?

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

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

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

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

Building a Smart Home Security System

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

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

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

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

February
3

Home Improvement Regrets: How You Can Bounce Back

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

January
27

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    January
    20

    How To Protect Your Resale Value When You Have Pets

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

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

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

    Get Rid of Odors and Stains

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

    Repair Indoor Damages

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

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

    Repair Landscape Damages

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

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

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

    Remove Your Pets During Open House

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

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

          January
          6

          The Biggest Design Trends Of 2022

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

          Show-Stopping Kitchens

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

          Dedicated Spaces

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

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

          Bold Colors and Patterns

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

          Curves and Soft Edges

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

          Vintage and Antique Furnishings

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

          Relaxing Atmosphere

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

          December
          23

          Find The Right Faucet For Any Part Of Your Home

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

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

          Style and Design

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

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

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

          Functional Features

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

          Single vs Dual Handles

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

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

          Handleless Faucets 

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

          Spout Height and Reach

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

          Pot Fillers

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

          Budget

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

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

            December
            9

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

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

            Choosing Your Christmas Tree

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

            Pre-Cut Trees

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

            Choose-and-Cut Trees

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

            Placing the Tree in Your Home

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

            Purchasing a Sturdy Tree Stand

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

            Taking Down the Tree

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

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

            December
            2

            Donate Or Toss? Use This Guide To Find Out

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

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

            What Items Should You Consider Keeping?

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

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

            What Items are Best for Donations?

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

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

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

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

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

            What Items Should You Toss Out?

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

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

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

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

              November
              25

              Prep Your Home For Guests With These Tips

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

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

              Create a Warm Welcome

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

              Stock the Kitchen

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

              Prepare the Guest Bedroom

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

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

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

              Prepare the Guest Bathroom

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

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

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

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

              November
              11

              How To Maintain Every Type Of Countertop

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

              November
              4

              Wish You Could Craft More? Make A Crafting Space

              Last year, more people than ever embraced the joy of crafting. This fun and productive hobby is a great way to keep yourself occupied and can also help relieve stress. Whether you enjoy knitting, painting, woodworking, or some other hobby, having a designated space to practice your craft can make all the difference.

              Not sure how to create the perfect crafting space? No worries! Just follow these simple steps.

              1. Look for Inspiration
                If you don't already have a vision in mind, take some time to look for some inspiration. Browse Pinterest, Instagram, and other sites to find craft room layouts that appeal to you.

                While you may not be able to replicate them exactly, this will help give you some direction. Whether you print them out or create a digital file, be sure to save all of the ideas you like. Then, see if you can figure out ways to mix and match them to create a space that is truly yours.
              1. Carve Out Your Crafting Space
                Once you have an idea of what you want to do, you'll want to find an area in your home that you can call your own. Ideally, you'll have a separate room that you can use as a crafting space. However, if you don't have an extra room, you can still make it work — you'll just have to use some creativity.

                Consider whether a home office can double as a craft room after business hours or whether you can organize and store your craft items in the laundry room and do your crafting at the kitchen table. Do you have an extra walk-in closet that you can convert? When looking for ideas, it's a great idea to explore every possible option — you might be surprised by what you'll come up with.
              1. Explore Creative Storage Options
                Great storage is one of the most important features of a craft room. However, you don't want to stress too much about finding the perfect cabinet, work table, or cubby holes. There's also no need to spend a ton of money. Instead, spend some time looking at secondhand furniture stores, yard sales, or sites like Facebook Marketplace. Remember, the less money you spend on furniture, the more you'll have to buy crafting supplies!

                After you've purchased the furniture you need, it's time to start shopping for a variety of containers. The right ones for you will depend on the type of crafting you do and the supplies you need to store. Some items you'll want to consider include pegboards, baskets, boxes, drawers, bins, and other types of containers. Sometimes this requires a bit of trial and error, so don't get frustrated if you don't get it completely right on the first try.
              1. Invest in Excellent Lighting
                Proper lighting is another critical element of a great craft room. After all, you won't be able to create masterpieces if you can't see what you're doing. Make sure you have task lighting that will brightly illuminate your workspace.

                If you're going to be doing a lot of crafting after the sun goes down, you'll also want some ambient lighting. Try to avoid fluorescent overhead lights, as this can create harsh shadows and may stress your eyes.
              1. Organize and Beautify Your Space
                Once you've got all the basics covered, it's time to start organizing and decorating your craft area. Whether you have a separate craft room or you've taken over a corner of the kitchen, you want to make sure the space isn't an eyesore.

                Adding a decorative touch will make the space feel more comfortable. Plus, when you're surrounded by beautiful things you love, you'll feel more creative and inspired.

              Now that you see how easy it is to create your own craft room, you can enjoy your hobby even more. Happy crafting!

              October
              14

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

              October
              7

              These Kitchen Essentials May Need Replacing

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

              September
              30

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

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

              Kitchen appliances that you can pass up

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

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

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

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

              Kitchen appliances you do need

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

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

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

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

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

              September
              23

              Stop Wasting Money! Skills Every Homeowner Should Have

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

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

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

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

              September
              16

              Worried About Home Damage? Here Are The Most Common Causes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

              September
              9

              Make Sure You Have These Tools In Your Home

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

              September
              2

              How To Work With Your Interior Designer

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

              Interior Designers Aren't Decorators

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

              They Know How To Listen

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

              Design Consultation Is An Investment

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

              You Should Trust Your Interior Designer

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

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

              August
              19

              The Best Ways To Organize Your Gardening Equipment

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

              August
              12

              Ponds: Beautiful Feature Or A Waste Of Money?

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

              Visual Appeal

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

              Relaxation & Interaction

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

              Environmental Benefits

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

              Initial & Ongoing Costs

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

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

              Maintenance

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

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

              Knowledge Requirements

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

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

              The Bottom Line

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

              July
              22

              Soundproofing And Other Window Upgrades

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

              July
              15

              Plumbing Basics: What You Need To Know

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

              July
              1

              Is It Time To Refinance?

              As mortgage rates remain low, it's not surprising to see a record number of consumers refinance over the past year. Rates won't stay low forever, so many consumers are afraid of missing out. Despite a favorable rate environment, there are many factors you should consider when deciding whether or not to refinance your mortgage. Below, we'll review some of the other factors you should consider when deciding if it's time to refinance:

              Consider How Long Will You Be In Your Home?
              If you're planning to move in the next one to three years, refinancing your mortgage might not be worth it. While many people think about saving money through refinancing, the process requires some investment up front. If you're planning to move in the next few years, the savings you'll realize through refinancing may be minimal, or you might ultimately lose money. Refinancing makes the most sense if you're planning to stay in your home long-term.

              Do You Extra Cash For Closing Costs?
              Closing costs don't just apply to the home purchase process. Closing costs for mortgage refinancing can cost an average of $5,000. The actual costs will be higher or lower depending on your loan type, loan amount, lender, and location however, you'll need to have some cash on hand to see the process through. It's important to weigh closing costs when deciding whether to refinance, as they will ultimately eat into your cost savings.

              How Is Your Credit?
              Refinancing at a lower interest rate will require a decent credit profile. To review your credit, request your free credit report from any of the three major credit bureaus (Experian, TransUnion, Equifax) or use a credit score checking application. If you have a significant amount of debt or a poor credit score, you may not qualify for a low interest rate. If this is the case, you might need to work on improving your credit before it's worth refinancing.

              What's Your Current Mortgage Balance?
              The current state of your mortgage balance should also be a determining factor when deciding whether to refinance. If your principal mortgage balance is already low or there's not much time left on your loan, you may not qualify for a lower rate. Check out your mortgage statement to see where your current loan stands.

              Shop For Rates
              Many people refinance their mortgage through their current lender, as it may seem like the easiest path forward. However, your current lender may not be offering the best rate. Check multiple rates from multiple lenders, but remember rates can fluctuate daily. Do all of your research on the same day for a true apples-to-apples comparison on who is offering the best rates.

              While it might seem like time is running out to take advantage of low interest rates, there are many other factors to consider when deciding to refinance. Be sure to do your research and evaluate your specific situation before making the decision.

              May
              27

              Does Your Dog Need An Invisible Fence?

              If your dog is the adventurous type, you've probably considered a fence for your yard for their safety. An invisible fence has helped many pet owners keep their adventurous dogs safe while still allowing them the freedom to run around and have fun. Here's what you need to know about invisible fences to decide if it's the right choice for your pet and home.

              Advantages and disadvantages of an invisible fence

              One of the biggest advantages of the invisible fence is that it keeps your landscaping intact. You may have to bury some wires depending on the system you select, but it's much less of an impact on your yard than a traditional fence. If you have any HOA rules or local ordinances regarding the style of acceptable fences, you won't have to worry about those. But you'll still have peace of mind knowing your dog is safe at home. Invisible fences also take less time to install than a traditional fence. In some cases, if your dog likes to go under, over, or through a fence, they can be more effective at keeping your dog in your yard than a traditional fence.

              One of the disadvantages to an invisible fence is that you have to take the time to train your dog properly. Not everyone has the time, ability, or desire to do that, so sometimes dogs can develop behavior problems. Some dogs also have a problem with seeing other people and dogs walking by just beyond their reach, and it changes how they interact with them.

              How invisible fences work

              There are two kinds of invisible fences, wireless and wired. Both use a transmitter to send a radio frequency signal to a receiver on the dog's collar. For the wireless kind, you simply plug in the transmitter, set the perimeter, put the receiver on the dog and start training them. Once they learn how it works, this system can be portable.

              For wired systems, you'll install the underground wire and transmitter, then put the collar on the dog and start training. Underground systems can be used to define the area the dog is allowed to be in, or it can be used to keep the dog out of a certain area of the yard, such as a garden. Both types of systems require training your dog. Most kits include flags to visually mark the perimeter to help with training, and you can remove them later.

              Important considerations for an invisible fence system

              • Coverage area. Wired systems are generally more powerful than wireless ones. Large yards may require a more powerful system.
              • Shape of your yard. Wired systems can more easily accommodate irregularly shaped areas, slopes, and obstacles. Wireless systems simply provide a large circular coverage area.
              • Multiple dogs. If you have more than one dog or will in the future, you'll want to make sure you can add additional receivers.
              • Changeable contacts for the collars. Short hair dogs need shorter contacts on the collars, and long hair dogs need longer ones. You may need to switch contacts to customize for your dog.
              • Remote control. Some people like this accessory to make training easier.
              • Adjustable correction strength. All dogs are different, so you'll want to be able to adjust the correction signal strength if needed. Larger dogs may need a slightly stronger signal to get their attention.

              Invisible fences have been helpful for many homeowners, and they can be a good compromise between keeping your pet safe and your yard looking the way you like.

              May
              20

              When To Say Goodbye To A Tree

              Saying goodbye to a tree can be like saying farewell to an old friend, especially if it's a large, long-lived species that's been around for many decades. But sometimes it's not necessarily clear whether a tree is dying and needs to be cut down or if it's been damaged and still has some life in it.

              You might ask what's the harm in just letting an old tree alone, leaving it to die a natural death on its own? Unfortunately, when a large tree dies, it can start breaking away in pieces — making it dangerous for people and structures. It could be time to call an arborist, or at least a certified tree specialist, who can advise you on the health of the tree, and who should know how to cut it down safely.

              So how do you decide when a tree should be cut down? Here's some advice that can help you make a decision.

              1. Is the tree a fast-growing or invasive species?
                Some trees grow really fast but are not particularly stable and are prone to disease or breaking. A more desirable tree is one that grows slowly and is recommended for your area as non-invasive. It's also a good idea to go for a drought-tolerant species. Each region of the country will have certain species that, though fast growers and shade providers, are not considered desirable. If you've had to cut down an invasive or otherwise undesirable tree and you want to replace it, consult a tree specialist for recommendations for your region.

              2. Is there trunk damage?
                Damage to the trunk can be a sign of sickness or decay. A general rule of thumb is to leave the tree standing if the trunk damage is 25 percent or less, as the wound is likely to heal on its own. Cracks, splits, dead branch stubs, and large wounds are all indications of internal decay. While trees can live for years with internal decay, eventually they fall. A tree with multiple trunks may be susceptible to structural issues.

              3. Are there large, dead limbs in the crown of the tree?
                These limbs or branches may fall and injure people or damage property. If it appears that 50 percent of the tree is dead, it should be removed.

              4. Is the tree growing well?
                Compare the tree to those growing around it. If the leaf cover is thin, the foliage discolored, or the growth stunted, your tree is likely in trouble. Have a tree specialist look at your tree and see if it can be treated.

              5. Are there root problems?
                This can be hard to detect, but tree fungus growing near the base and heaving soil are two signs of root disease.

              6. Is the tree hollow?
                A hollow tree can live for many years, but it is structurally unsound and can fall, which may hurt people and damage property.

              7. Has the tree suddenly started to lean?
                Not all leaning trees are in danger of falling, but if a tree starts to lean suddenly, it should be looked at by a specialist.

              8. Is the tree too close to the house?
                Sometimes people plant trees close to a house without thinking of how big they will grow. Eventually, they may be big enough for limbs to fall on the house or damage the roof. While limbs that are too close to the roof should be cut back, consider removing the entire tree if it's too close to the house.

              It's a good idea to call in an arborist or other tree specialist to assess your tree's health before you hire someone to start cutting.

              May
              13

              Is It Time To Change Up Your End Tables?

              End tables add both style and function to your home. The right end tables can pull together a room, giving it the perfect finishing touch. Yet, many homeowners either don't think much about them or aren't sure how to incorporate them into their current decor. If you're thinking about changing up your end tables, following a few simple guidelines will help you make the perfect choice! Here are some things you'll want to consider. 

              Don't Worry About Matching

              One of the most common questions people ask when decorating is whether your end tables need to match your coffee table. The answer is no! While it's certainly fine if they do, the current trend leans more towards a curated look.

              By choosing different end tables, you can add both visual interest and much-needed contrast to a room. This means you're free to have fun searching for unique end tables that are truly a reflection of your personal sense of style. 

              Choose the Right Height

              Selecting end tables that are the right height will go a long way towards making sure they look great and are as functional as possible. The general rule of thumb is to choose a table that sits about one to three inches below the arm of the chair or sofa you're putting it next to. While this isn't completely necessary, it will make using the table a bit more comfortable. 

              Consider Form and Function

              It's also important to consider what you'll be using your table for. For example, if the table will hold a lamp, you'll generally want it to be at least 22-inches wide. If you plan to store things, you might want a table with a drawer or a shelf. If it will hold food or drinks, you may consider a table that's topped with a more durable material like marble, glass, or another type of stone. 

              It's also smart to consider the space where the table will go. If you're placing the table in a tight space, measure it carefully and make sure you have a couple of inches of breathing room on each side. Otherwise, it will feel cramped and probably won't look great.

              Stacking tables also work well in a small area. They won't take up too much room but will provide flexibility when you need additional table space.

              Accentuate Your Space

              When choosing the style and material for your new end tables, think about the overall ambiance of the room and how your tables can accentuate it. For example, if most of your furniture and decor is square or rectangular, adding round tables can soften the look of the room.

              If you want to add some metal accents to your room, end tables are a great way to do it. In this case, it's a good idea to make sure both side tables are made of the same type of metal. However, it's perfectly fine to mix them with other types of metal in the room. For example, you may have silver accents throughout the room and choose end tables with bronze or copper accents. 

              Follow Your Heart 

              While the tips above are helpful, when it comes to choosing any furniture, the most important piece of advice is this: Choose what you love and what looks good in your home.

              If you come across something that doesn't quite fit the "rules," but you love it — go ahead and buy it! After all, your home is a reflection of you and should be full of items that make you happy. Even if an item isn't technically the "best," if it's the "best for you," that's all that matters! 

              May
              6

              Tips For Overseeding Your Lawn

              When the weather starts getting warmer, your yard gets more and more use. There's playing kids and pets, family barbecues, or even just quiet nights staring at the stars. You'll enjoy your outdoor spaces more when your lawn is healthy and looking its best. Overseeding can keep your lawn thick and green, and we have a few tips to help you get the job done right.

              When to overseed your lawn

              Overseeding means you're spreading grass seed over your existing lawn. If you have areas that are thin or worn away from pets or foot traffic, overseeding can fix them. You can also use overseeding for lawn maintenance. Grass gets thinner as it ages, and bare or thinning areas encourage weed growth. Overseeding before that happens keeps your lawn healthy and looking great. It's also cheaper and easier than having to reseed or resod the entire lawn.

              Selecting grass seed

              Because of climate, lawns in the northern part of the country generally have different grass varieties than those in the south. Identify what type of grass you have and get the same type or mix of grass seed so it blends in with the rest of your yard. You can view common lawn grass varieties on the internet or talk to someone at your home improvement center for help identifying what grass you have.

              Many people in northern climates overseed in the spring, and that's fine, but fall is ideal. It's a little cooler, so your grass seed has less competition from weeds and is less likely to be affected by excessive rain. In the south, the best time to overseed is late spring to early summer. The grass varieties in southern lawns need warmer temperatures to germinate, but it is less likely extreme heat or drought will be a problem.

              Start by mowing 

              Mow your lawn but cut the grass shorter than you usually do. Bag the clippings. These two things will help expose the area that needs seeding and allow new seed better access to the soil.

              Prepare the soil

              If you have other problems with your lawn, you may want to test the soil and correct those problems, or aerate compacted soil before overseeding. Otherwise, go ahead and rake the area to get rid of any grass clippings, debris, or dead vegetation, and loosen the top layer of soil. If you are overseeding to thicken the entire lawn, you may want to rake in a thin layer (less than ¼ inch) of soil to help the seed take root.

              Applying the seed

              You can use grass seed only or a product that combines seed, fertilizer, and soil enhancer. Apply either product to the lawn with a spreader, following the manufacturer's instructions. If the product you used doesn't contain fertilizer, apply some after spreading the seed. Avoid any products that contain herbicides for weed control since those can prevent the new grass seed from germinating.

              Watering

              Keep the soil consistently moist, but not soaked. You'll want to water lightly a couple of times a day until your seeds germinate. Then increase the amount of water (but don't overwater) and water daily or every other day, whatever is needed to keep the new grass from wilting and drying out.

              Overseeding your lawn is a fairly simple process and can do a lot to keep your lawn healthy and looking its best. Once the new grass is the same height as the rest of your lawn, you can return to your regular maintenance schedule and get back to enjoying your outdoor space.

              April
              29

              Do You Need a Mudroom?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

              April
              15

              How To Swap Out Old 2 Prong Outlet

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

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

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

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

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

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

              April
              8

              Are Tankless Water Heaters Worth It?

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

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

              Tankless Water Heaters

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

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

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

              Storage Tank Water Heaters

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

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

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

              Solar-Powered Water Heaters

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

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

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

              April
              1

              How To Pull Off a Dark Interior Room

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

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

              Choose Where to Apply Your Paint  

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

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

              Keep the Space Open

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

              Play with Textures 

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

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

              Choose Light Furniture

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

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

              Have Fun with Accents

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

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

              Pay Attention to Lighting

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

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

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

              March
              25

              Organize Your Garage With These Tips

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

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

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

              March
              18

              Fill That Empty Space Above Your Cabinets

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

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

              Stylish Storage

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

              Decorate with Plants

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

              Display Your Favorite Cookbooks

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

              Vintage Decor

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

              Stash Your Bottles

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

              It's Time to Get Creative!

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

              March
              11

              How to Remove and Prevent Mold

              Mold growing in your home can have a variety of health effects on you and your family. You may suffer from a lingering stuffy nose or sore throat, persistent coughing, and skin and eye irritation. Anyone in your home with asthma or immune-compromised conditions can experience more severe effects.

              Mold grows anywhere there is moisture. It often enters a home through leaky roofs and windows, heating and air conditioning systems, air vents, and plumbing pipes. It grows on many interior surfaces including wood, tile, drywall, ceiling tile, wallpaper, paint, carpets, and fabrics. In fact, it's estimated 70% of homes have mold, so there's a chance it may be in yours.

              While mold is visible in some areas, it often goes undetected in hidden, inaccessible areas. If you notice mold in your home, it's important to remove it quickly and prevent further growth to protect your family's health and your home.

              Mold Removal

              There are 3 types of mold commonly found in homes — green mold, white mold, and black mold. Green mold is moist and slimy, white mold resembles paint, and black mold looks like charcoal. All three molds grow easily on wood, so they can infiltrate floors, walls, attics, basements, and structural supports in your home. While green and white molds can cause respiratory illnesses and allergies, black mold can be toxic causing long-term or life-threatening health problems.

              Green and white molds can be removed with certain over-the-counter products, but you should wear a mask and gloves if you're removing them yourself.

              • Soap and Water — Dishwashing soap and water will safely remove mold from wood surfaces. Spray the wood with a soap and water mixture and let it sit for 3-5 minutes. Once dry, wipe the wood down with water and let it dry.
              • Vinegar — Spray full-strength vinegar directly onto the mold and let it sit for about 1 hour. Clean the area with soap and water, then let it dry completely.
              • Baking Soda or Borax — Mix 1 cup of baking soda or borax with 1 gallon of water. Spray the mixture directly on the mold, then scrub gently with a scrub brush to remove the mold.
              • Mold Cleaner — You can find chemical mold removers at most home improvement stores, but there are fewer organic options. It's best to avoid mold cleaners with ammonia or bleach, because they may cause breathing problems or allergic reactions.

                  If you think you may have mold growing in hidden areas that you can't access, you can call a mold remediation company to schedule an inspection. These companies have special equipment and cameras to look behind walls, under floors, in attics and crawl spaces, and roof rafters.

                  Mold Prevention

                  You can prevent mold growth in your home by taking certain precautions. Moisture is the main cause of mold, so you should waterproof your home by eliminating leaks and condensation buildup. Check your ceilings and walls for water stains, your kitchen and bathrooms for leaky pipes, and your doors and windows for signs of excess moisture, especially after heavy rains. Follow these helpful tips:

                  • Dry wet areas right away and get rid of standing water.
                  • Make sure you have adequate ventilation.
                  • Measure indoor humidity with a moisture reader.
                  • Clean and repair roof gutters.
                  • Improve your home's interior airflow.
                  • Keep water away from basements and crawl spaces.
                  • Don't overwater your indoor plants.

                  Mold is not uncommon in homes, even homes that get daily cleaning and regular repairs. The best way to prevent mold growth in your home is by keeping areas warm and dry because mold thrives in moist, damp areas that don't get light or sunshine. If you're not sure if you can handle a mold issue yourself, leave it to the professionals to give you peace of mind.

                  March
                  4

                  5 Tips For Improving Your Home Security

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

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

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

                  February
                  18

                  Choosing the Right Water Softener

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

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

                  Determining Water Hardness Level

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

                  Calculating Household Water Use

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

                  Water Softener Technical Features

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

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

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

                  Determining Costs

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

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

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

                    February
                    11

                    Growing Herbs in Your Kitchen

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

                    Natural Light

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

                    Grow Lights

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

                    Choosing Herbs

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

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

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

                            February
                            4

                            Keeping a Fire Extinguisher in Your Home

                            It's the device every home should have but hopefully should never have to use: a fire extinguisher is an important home safety device, and no fire safety plan is complete without one. When you go to the hardware store to purchase your fire extinguisher, you'll find a variety of extinguishers designed to deal with different situations. Knowing what you'll encounter will help you determine what types are best for your home. 

                            Top of the Class

                            Fire extinguishers are sorted into classes based on the type of fire they're designed to extinguish, and each class uses a different type of agent to extinguish the fire. Here are the classes you can expect to see:

                            • Class A is designed for fires involving wood, paper, or plastics. If your favorite scented candle fell onto the book you'd just put down, you'll need Class A.
                            • Class B is for oils, gasoline, or propane. You'll want this type of extinguisher for grease fires in the kitchen or for most fires around the garage.
                            • Class C is for electrical fires. If your home has older wiring or if you're having electrical work done on your home, get a Class C fire extinguisher.

                            You may also see Class K fire extinguishers, which are designed especially for professional kitchens and can cope with big grease fires.

                            Several manufacturers make fire extinguishers for multiple types of fires and may have A-B-C on their labels to indicate this. If you see a number before the A or B, this shows how effective the extinguisher is against each type of fire. Higher numbers mean greater effectiveness against that type of fire. 

                            Weight Matters

                            Size matters when it comes to fire extinguishers. Fire extinguishers range from 2 to 10 pounds, and more isn't always better. You want a device large enough to be effective but small enough to store conveniently nearby. You may want a few extinguishers in different sizes depending on how much time you spend in an area and the number of combustible items in that area. You may need a bigger device in the garage, whereas a mid-sized one would be better in the kitchen to deal with sudden grease fires. 

                            This Is A Drill

                            Familiarize yourself with how your fire extinguishers work before you use them. Most will use the P.A.S.S. method: Pull the pin, Aim the nozzle at the base of the fire, Squeeze the handle at the top of the extinguisher, and Sweep the device side to side. Keep your fire extinguishers in a place where you can access them easily, and remind yourself of their location several times a year. A good time to remind yourself is when you check your smoke alarm batteries or test a hard-wired smoke alarm system for a more complete fire safety check. 

                            Charging Ahead

                            A fire extinguisher is a pressurized device, and nothing can maintain pressure forever. If your extinguisher has been used or is more than a few years old, your local fire department can direct you where you can have it recharged. Fire extinguishers can also corrode or be damaged otherwise. If this happens, replace the device quickly.

                            While improvised remedies can extinguish some house fires, without a tested and certified way to get fires under control, you could inadvertently turn a small home accident into a serious emergency. Of course, fire extinguishers are not meant to suppress large fires, and if you're unsure, the safest thing to do is exit your house. But obtaining and maintaining the right fire extinguishers will still help keep your home and your family safe.

                            January
                            28

                            Displaying Art in Your Home

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

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

                            The Kitchen

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

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

                            The Bedroom

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

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

                            The Office

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

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

                            The Bathroom

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

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

                            The Living Room

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

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

                            Embrace Your Creativity!

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

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

                            January
                            7

                            Show Off Your Interests Through Home Decor

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

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

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

                            December
                            24

                            Purge Your Closet of These 9 Things

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

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

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

                            December
                            17

                            How to Remove Dog Odors From Your Home

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

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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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

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

                            December
                            10

                            What To Do When Your Basement Floods

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

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

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

                            December
                            3

                            6 Eco-friendly Updates for Your Home

                            Wouldn't it be nice to boost the energy efficiency of your home, improve your comfort, and benefit the environment in the process? Eco-friendly home improvement projects offer all of those benefits and more. Whether you're aiming to add value and increase buyer interest for an eventual sale or you're looking for home improvement projects to improve your own enjoyment of the home, eco-friendly upgrades are a great place to focus. Get started with our guide to 6 eco-friendly updates for your home that can help you save money and make your home more energy-efficient.

                            • Replace Regular Light Bulbs with Energy Efficient LED Bulbs
                              Replacing them with efficient LED bulbs is such a simple home improvement project and one that can save you real money in the long run. LED bulbs provide excellent lighting for a much lower energy cost, and can usually be purchased wherever you get your regular bulbs.
                            • Opt for Energy Star Approved Appliances
                              Planning a big home improvement project for your kitchen or laundry room? Consider upgrading to efficient, Energy Star approved appliances for those rooms. With an Energy Star approved appliance, you can be confident that your purchase will be eco-friendly and save money on energy costs. Just look for the Energy Star logo, which is displayed prominently on approved appliances, whenever you shop.
                            • Make Sure Your Attic and Home Are Properly Insulated
                              If you want to make the biggest eco-friendly impact with your next home improvement project and only choose one item from our list, make it proper insulation. This is especially true if your attic is lacking in insulation, or has old, lower quality insulation. An energy audit can help you determine your insulation needs, and the cost of having new insulation installed is made up quickly with the money saved by improved energy efficiency.
                            • Use a Programmable Thermostat to Keep Your Home Comfortable and Efficient
                              With your home properly insulated, adding a programmable thermostat is an affordable home improvement project that can help you save even more on heating and cooling costs while ensuring that your home is always just the right temperature. Keep your home comfortable while you're there, and avoid wasting money on unnecessary heating/cooling while you're out of the house.
                            • Install Faucet Aerators and Low-Flow Showerheads
                              Even if you're careful about water use, regular shower heads and faucets often waste significant amounts of water. So why not opt for something a little greener? Faucet aerators cost only a few dollars, can be installed DIY, and significantly reduce water use without sacrificing water pressure. Low-flow showerheads are also a great option to help minimize water waste and make your shower more comfortable.
                            • Update Your Garage Door with an Energy-Efficient Model
                              While it may not be the first thing you think of when it comes to saving money on energy, an old, poorly insulated garage door can lead to significant energy waste, increased heating/cooling costs, and higher energy bills. The up-front cost of updating your garage door with a newer model can largely be recouped simply by the money that you'll save on energy bills. For the ultimate eco-friendly garage door home improvement solution, opt for a model that has been built with recycled materials.

                            Whether you're thinking big or planning to start small, every eco-friendly home improvement update helps to improve the energy efficiency of your home while saving on energy costs. Eco-friendly updates offer some of the best ROI of any home improvement project and can add significant value to your home.

                            November
                            25

                            6 Types of Fresh Christmas Trees Best For Your Home

                            Love the scent of a real Christmas tree in your home during the holidays? You're not alone! There's simply something special about having a real tree for Christmas, but that doesn't mean you should just pick any old tree and call it a day. Think of it as a holiday home improvement project. Pick the perfect tree for your home this year with our guide.

                              1. Douglas fir

                                The Douglas fir is a Christmas tree favorite and a variety that you'll find on nearly every tree lot. The aroma is light but pleasant, while the thick, full tree shape makes it an ideal choice for many families. There are more needles surrounding the branches on this variety, and strong, robust branches make the Douglas fir an optimal choice if you plan on hanging a lot of decorations on your tree this year.

                              2. Fraser fir

                                Ever have a holiday candle that seems to smell exactly like a certain type of Christmas tree? That's no accident! The Fraser fir is one of the most fragrant varieties of Christmas tree, and its scent is often used to create holiday candles. This pyramid-shaped variety of tree is a little less full than the Douglas fir, which leaves plenty of room to show off your favorite ornaments.

                              3. Scotch pine

                                If you love to shop for a tree early in the season and want your tree to last for as long as possible, the Scotch pine is certainly worth your attention. This Christmas tree variety is very long-lasting and is unlikely to dry out even if you plan on traveling for a few days during the holidays. It also holds its needles very well, meaning that you'll have less cleanup to worry about.

                              4. Balsam fir

                                Looking for a lightweight tree that's easy to move and looks great in any home? The balsam fir is just the thing and features unique, two-toned needles that offer a slightly different look from other common Christmas tree varieties. Like the Fraser fir, the balsam fir also has a strong, pleasant scent that is often found in candles. Just beware that the branches aren't quite as strong as other types, so you'll want to stick to lighter decorations.

                              5. Colorado blue spruce

                                When you're in the mood for something other than the traditional green Christmas tree, the Colorado blue spruce can be an ideal choice. This variety of tree has needles that range from blue to silver-blue, with a narrow, conical shape that helps the tree fit in smaller rooms. The needles can be a little sharp, so it may not be the choice for homes with young children, but the look is lovely if you don't have little ones.

                              6. Eastern white pine

                                The state tree of both Maine and Michigan, the Eastern white pine, is a majestic tree that grows taller than any other common Christmas tree type. Even the needles are larger than on other trees, checking in at up to five inches long. This variety also has a very minimal scent, so it's a popular choice for people with certain allergies.

                            Remember that no matter which type of tree that you choose, proper care is one home improvement task that will go a long way toward keeping your tree looking great for the whole holiday season. Make sure that you water your tree frequently, keep it away from heat sources, and check the water level regularly.

                            November
                            12

                            6 Boredom-Busting Ideas for Home DIY Projects

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

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

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

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

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

                            September
                            24

                            A Good Night's Sleep Starts with the Right Mattress

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

                            September
                            3

                            Goof-Proof Plants for Your Landscaping

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

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

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

                            August
                            13

                            Ten Must-Haves for Your Home First Aid Kit

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

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

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

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

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

                            July
                            30

                            Outdoor Projects Almost Every Homeowner Can Do

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

                            July
                            23

                            Baking Soda and Vinegar Aren't Your Only Pantry Cleaners

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

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

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

                            May
                            21

                            Family-Friendly Activities for Stay at Home Fun

                            You'll be glad to know that there are a ton of ways to have fun for you and your children to have at home without breaking the bank. All you need is a little bit of imagination. 

                            Put down the electronics, gather your family, and entertain yourselves with some of these great ideas. 

                            Have Fun With Boxes
                            If you have old boxes around the house, you can use them to do all kinds of things! Smaller boxes can be turned into dollhouses, cars for stuffed animals, or mini-cities. If you can get your hands on a large furniture or appliance box, you can even make a cool fort! Help the kids with any cutting and assembly that needs to be done, then let them go wild decorating their masterpiece. 

                            Make Homemade Slime
                            One thing is for sure, no matter how old a kid might be, they still love slime. It's easy to make and is a fun project that will keep them busy for hours. You can make slime by mixing 1/4 cup of water, a box of cornstarch, and a bit of food coloring.

                            Want to make it more realistic? Mix a 4-ounce bottle of white glue, a cup and a half of water, a teaspoon of Borax, and eight drops of food coloring. Then, let the kids squish away! 

                            Download Activity Sheets
                            If you have some crayons, markers, or colored pencils handy, you have almost unlimited activity options. Do a quick search online for printable activity pages. Stick to coloring and object searches for younger children, and look for crosswords, word searches, or even Mad Libs to keep the older kids entertained. 

                            Plan a Family Game Night
                            A great way to encourage bonding is to plan a weekly family game night. Make sure to choose age-appropriate games that everyone can enjoy. Pull out the classic board games, dust off that deck of cards, or get creative with games like hangman, Pictionary, or charades. 

                            Cook Together 
                            Take the time to teach your children to cook, and they'll have a skill that will stick with them for their whole lives. Make sure to keep it fun and lighthearted, so it doesn't feel like a chore. You might even want to ask your kids what dishes they want to learn how to cook. This will help ensure that they get excited about it. 

                            Create a Vision Board
                            If you have old magazines or catalogs around the house, use them to create a collage or vision board. Ask the kids to think about what they want their lives to look like when they grow up and have them find pictures that represent their vision. Not only will this inspire them, but you might learn something new about them as well. 

                            Have a Scavenger Hunt
                            A scavenger hunt is also a fun way to keep everyone busy for an hour or two. If it's a beautiful day out, try a nature-themed hunt, sending them out to look for things like a v-shaped stick, a round pebble, and a flower.

                            Indoors you can have kids search for things by color, or add any number of household items to the list. You might send them off to find a granola bar, a clothespin, a piece of gum, and a hair tie.  For older children, you could also add some riddles they have to solve before they can figure out what they need to find. If you're not feeling very creative, do a quick online search, and you'll find many different printable scavenger hunt worksheets. 

                            Use Your Imagination for Even More Family Fun at Home! 
                            Now that you've got a few ideas, you'll never have to worry when you hear the words "I'm bored!" Use these projects as a starting point, then use your imagination. You're sure to come up with even more fun, family-friendly activities that will keep everyone entertained. 

                            May
                            14

                            Simple Cleaning Tips to Turn Your House into a Home

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

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

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

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

                            May
                            7

                            6 Ideas for Your Summer Staycation

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

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

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

                            February
                            6

                            5 Roofing Choices for Your Home

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

                            Some Final Tips

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

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

                            January
                            30

                            How to Build a Home Entertainment Theater

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

                            October
                            24

                            6 Bedroom Hacks to Get a Good Night's Sleep

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

                            September
                            5

                            Houseplants That Reduce Anxiety and Stress

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

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

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

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

                            June
                            13

                            5 Ways to Welcome a New Neighbor

                            When you notice the home on your street with the "For Sale" sign now says "Sold," it's time to start thinking about how you're going to welcome your new neighbors. Starting off with a friendly gesture isn't just the right thing to do, it will also help you build a great relationship that you'll be able to enjoy for years to come.  It's clear that introducing yourself to your neighbors is a good idea, but how do you do it without feeling awkward? Don't worry, we've got you covered with these five tips. 

                            1. Stop By on Moving Day
                              Stopping by for a brief introduction on the day you see the moving truck pull in is a great way to break the ice without feeling like you need to stay too long. Obviously, they'll be busy, so you can simply say hello and let them know you look forward to getting to know them better later.

                              If you have the time, offer to stick around and help them unload. There's a good chance they won't be ready to accept just yet, but the gesture is one they'll remember forever. 
                            1. Leave a Card
                              Don't want to deal with the awkwardness of ringing a stranger's doorbell? Write a nice card and leave it in their mailbox. You don't have to go into a ton of detail, simply introduce your family and welcome them to the neighborhood.

                              This is also a great idea if you notice that a lot of other neighbors are going over to visit. Although a warm welcome is nice, new neighbors often don't want to be bombarded with visitors right away. 
                            1. Visit as a Group
                              If you're uncomfortable meeting new people by yourself, gather up a few of the neighbors and stop by together. Not only is this likely to make everybody more comfortable, but it will also cut down on the number of times the new neighbors have to stop what they're doing and answer the doorbell. During the first few busy weeks after a move, they'll likely appreciate this thoughtfulness. 

                            2. Make a Creative Gift Basket
                              Gather up some of your favorite items from local vendors and use them to make a creative gift basket. Think about including things like pastries from the neighborhood bakery, a bottle of wine, or something from the local gift shop.

                              Make the basket truly valuable by adding in menus from your favorite local takeout places, business cards for reputable companies you recommend, and a list of "insider" information like the best babysitters and handymen in the area. 
                            1. Host a Welcome Party
                              What better way to really get to know your new neighbors than inviting them to spend an evening in your home. Give them at least a month to settle in, then offer to gather up a group of your neighbors and friends for a casual dinner or outdoor barbecue meet and greet. 

                            When you're new to a neighborhood, everything can feel a little bit intimidating and scary. A warm smile and a hello can go a long way. It only takes a moment to make new neighbors feel welcome and might be exactly what they need to start feeling right at home! 

                            April
                            4

                            7 Tips for Using Rainwater Around Your Home

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

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

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

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

                            March
                            28

                            Make Your Home Smell Better Without Chemicals

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

                            March
                            7

                            What are the Benefits of Using a Weighted Blanket?

                            Have you heard about the way thousands of people are using weighted blankets to improve their sleep? Over the last few years, weighted blankets have increased in popularity due to their ability to benefit the body and mind. If you've heard of this product but still aren't sure what exactly a weighted blanket is and how it can improve your health, read on to discover why these resources are changing lives around the country.

                            What is a Weighted Blanket?

                            Unsurprisingly, a weighted blanket is exactly what it sounds like — a blanket that is significantly heavier than even the "heavy" cozy blankets you may cuddle up with. You may have also heard them referred to as gravity blankets. These blankets get their additional weight from a variety of materials including glass beads, rice, millet, and plastic pellets. The outer material can be light like linen or heavier like Minky fabric.


                            Weighted blankets have been used for decades in the special needs community as a therapeutic resource. When used, they apply Deep Pressure Therapy to the individual's body which provides plenty of health benefits. Today, they're being sold commercially as a tool that has the ability to help many individuals improve their quality of life. They can be used overnight to help create a more restful sleep or during the day to calm anxiety.
                             

                            What are the Benefits of Weighted Blankets?

                            Numerous studies have shown positive results from the use of weighted blankets in a variety of contexts. Many psychiatrists use them on patients who have experienced traumatic events or are in times of crisis. Those with disabilities like autism use them to help them focus their behavior and emotions. Aside from clinical use, researchers have found that these tools can also help people at home who are struggling for a number of chronic issues.

                            Here are a few ways weighted blankets may benefit you or your loved ones:

                            • Lower anxiety levels.
                            • Manage on-going stress.
                            • Regulate your sleep cycle and limit insomnia.
                            • Calm you when you experience sensory processing disorders.
                            • Address ADHD symptoms and enhance focus.
                            • Reduce restless leg syndrome symptoms.
                            • Improve your quality of sleep.
                            • Elevate your mood.
                            • Calm your body and mind after a long day.
                            December
                            27

                            Working It Out: 5 Tips for Creating a Killer Home Gym

                            Let's face it, after a long day of working or taking care of your kids, dragging yourself to the gym isn't easy. If you want to improve your health and wellness, consider adding a home gym to your list of home improvement projects.


                            Before you start this project, you might wonder whether you have enough space in your house and your bank account. Luckily, with a bit of creativity, you can create a home gym that will fit almost any space and budget. These five simple tips will help you get started.

                            1. Find the Perfect Space
                              Where you'll put your home gym depends a lot on the size and layout of your house. Some of the most popular locations include a spare bedroom, garage, basement, office, porch, or patio. Don't be afraid to get creative. If you don't have an entire extra space to dedicate, try portioning off a small area of your living room or bedroom.
                            2. Set Your Budget
                              Before starting any home improvement project, it's critical to set a realistic budget. You can save a ton of money by purchasing equipment and machines second-hand. Always check out Craig's list, local swap pages, and area yard sales before you pay full price from a retailer. You can often find like-new fitness items for a fraction of the cost.
                            3. Stick with the Basics
                              It's easy to get excited and start looking for all of the latest fitness equipment, but it's a lot smarter to just stick with the basics. Especially in the beginning, you'll want to only purchase items you're sure you will use. This typically includes a good set of dumbbells and items like a yoga mat, resistance bands, and a stability ball.
                            4. Focus on You
                              Don't get too caught up in what you think your home gym "should" have. Instead, focus on creating a space that meets your needs.  If you hate running or don't want to lift weights, then skip the treadmill or the dumbbells. The most important thing is that your gym is a space where you'll want to spend your time. As your fitness levels change, your preferences might change as well. Stay flexible and willing to update your space as you evolve.
                            5. Design Your Digs
                              If you've designated a separate room for working out, consider adding some personal touches. A light and airy paint color, good lighting, and inspirational wall décor will help make your gym a pleasant place to be.

                              When incorporating your home gym into another living space, you'll want to keep it from getting too cluttered. Consider purchasing furniture that doubles as storage space and adding shelving to hold items like dumbbells and yoga mats. If you're going to purchase larger equipment like a treadmill or workout bench, look for pieces that fold for easy storage so you can get them out of the way when not in use. 
                            November
                            29

                            7 Ways to Use Essential Oils In Your Home

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

                            September
                            13

                            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!

                            August
                            9

                            10 Things to Have Ready In Case of an Emergency

                            Disasters Happen. Use This List To Be Prepared.


                            Storms, fires, earthquakes, and power outages all have the power to disrupt your life. You can't stop emergencies from happening, but you can gather all the things you'll need to be prepared should a crisis arise.

                            If you have a messy closet or basement storage area in need of attention, your home improvement project can serve a dual purpose. Remove the junk, add inexpensive shelving, and stock them with emergency provisions. Add a tight-sealing storage container to protect your food from water and contaminants. In no time you'll have a home emergency resource center that would make any survivalist proud.

                            Here are ten things to include: 

                            1. Water
                              The CDC credits water with body temperature regulation, waste elimination, and more. Even if you have a reliable water system, storms, animals, and bacteria can contaminate your supply. Water in bottles or pouches is an easy fix for water potability issues. You should also keep water purification tablets to treat water from questionable sources.
                            2. Food
                              Even if a fire or storm doesn't destroy your home, it might still contaminate your food. So you don't go hungry, stock up on cans or pouches of fruits, veggies, tuna, chicken, and other items. (SPAM could be a lifesaver) For variety, add granola and protein bars, peanut butter, dried beans, rice, and beef jerky. Prepackaged survivalists meals are another option. And don't forget the coffee and the can opener.
                            3. Paper Goods
                              So don't forget to add toilet paper and also paper towels to your list. Store them in a waterproof container.
                            4. Light Source
                              Fortunately, there are several alternatives to battery-operated flashlights. One cool flashlight has water-powered cells. Another option available let you hand-crank the flashlight. If you prefer the old-fashioned kind, don't forget the batteries.
                            5. Waterproof Matches
                              If the power is out, you'll still need to cook. That might mean firing up your grill or making a campfire. Either way, you'll need a waterproof lighter or waterproof matches. Both will light up even if they get wet.
                            6. First-aid Kit
                              Minor cuts and abrasions can be a real pain. Be sure to store an emergency kit to care for minor dings.
                            7. Fire Extinguisher
                              A fire extinguisher can keep a minor emergency from becoming a major catastrophe. Keep one upstairs and downstairs to manage not-so-friendly flames before they burn out of control.
                            8. Extra Clothes
                              You never know how long an emergency will last. Store extra clothes in a waterproof container just in case.
                            9. Basic Tools
                              In disaster movies, they never have the tools they need to do things like cut wood or bust open a locked door. Add a few tools to your emergency stash: a hammer, pliers, screwdrivers, and a small hatchet so you can cut wood for a campfire. You might also want to add an extra set of house and car keys.
                            10. Personal Documents
                              The thing about emergencies is that you never know what might happen. Make copies of documents (drivers license, birth certificates, marriage license, passports) and store them in a waterproof container. You'll have backup copies if you lose the originals.

                            August
                            9

                            Sell Your Home as Pet-Friendly. Here's Why...

                            Tips to Sell Your Home to Today's Pet Owners


                            Your home undoubtedly has a lot of beautiful things about it. And you'll want to highlight all of them to make it more appealing to buyers. One positive you probably didn't think about promoting when selling your home is its pet friendliness. Finding a pet-friendly home is a pretty big deal to buyers so here's how to let them know your home is the perfect place for them and their furry friends.

                            Why Pet-friendly?
                            Selling your home quickly and at the right price means you need to appeal to as many buyers as possible. The National Association of REALTORS® reports the Millennial generation is the largest group of home buyers today. And pet-friendly homes are significant to them. According to the American Pet Products Association, over 60% of Americans have a pet and Millennials comprise the most significant percentage of pet owners with 34% owning pets. Additionally, a survey by Sun Trust Mortgage indicates one-third of the Millennials that bought homes did so because they wanted to have more space for a pet. So when you look at all those statistics, it's easy to see that you're very likely to be selling your home to a pet-loving millennial and making them aware of how your home can serve their needs makes sense.

                            What Do Pet Owners Want?
                            It's primarily dog owners who are opting for homeownership for the sake of their pets. Due to the size, demeanor, and activity level of some breeds, they have a harder time finding an appropriate pet-friendly rental than cat owners do. Physical space can be an issue, and if they're in an area where rent is already high, the hefty deposits and cleaning fees make renting even less appealing. So they're buying homes instead. Make sure to highlight these features when selling your home.

                            • Fenced in yard
                            • Pet care station
                            • Custom dog house
                            • Retractable pet gates

                            In addition to your home being pet-friendly, you'll want to emphasize the pet friendliness of your neighborhood too. These things often make a community more attractive to pet owners:

                            • Dog parks
                            • Fitness trails for walking
                            • Other parks or beaches that allow pets
                            • Proximity to vets
                            • Proximity to pet supply stores
                            • Community groups for pet owners
                            • Pet-friendly community facilities or events
                            • Doggie daycare
                            • Pet spas

                            These pet-friendly features are not just for single family homes either. Many condo communities have made efforts to appeal to pet owners and if yours includes any of these amenities on premises, make sure you tell your real estate agent.


                            Make it Visible Your Home is Pet-friendly

                            Pet owners naturally connect with one another so don't be afraid to provide some visual evidence of your love for your pet. It will help give a buyer an emotional connection to your home that could help close the deal. A picture of you with your pet, a flashy new water bowl, and a container of dog treats on the shelf are an excellent way to make an impression with a pet owner.


                            Selling your home as pet-friendly is the right thing to do for today's buyers, and it helps with finding the perfect buyer for your home.

                            August
                            2

                            5 Simple Ways to Allergy-Proof Your Home

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

                              Making a small investment in a hygrometer can help you get a better understanding of your home's moisture levels. This device enables you to take a measurement of the humidity levels in each room—allowing you to pinpoint areas of concern. Adding dehumidifiers can also help to reduce excess humidity and relieve allergy symptoms. 
                            July
                            19

                            She Sheds vs. Man Caves

                            Man Caves and She Sheds ... Home Improvement Treasures


                            Deciding on how to best utilize a home improvement budget is never an easy job, and even less so when one is determined to have a man cave and the other has her heart set on building a she shed. Both projects have the potential to add character and comfort to your home, but don't underestimate the importance of understanding how each could affect your home's value and appeal in the future. No matter which project you ultimately decide on, be certain to make it a fun and creative endeavor.

                            Man Cave Madness

                            Man caves have been very popular over the past several years. It has been fairly common for men to have their own space to use as a personal retreat.  Sometimes the space comes in the form of a study or library and sometimes as a well-appointed shed in the backyard. Many modern-day man caves incorporate sports themes and hobbies and tend to be much more casual in their styling. You may be considering the basement, attic or even the garage for a man cave renovation, to provide a little distance from what's going on in the rest of your home. In many cases, a man cave may not add to the value of your home, as you may be simply redecorating the room and adding electronics. However, if you are altering the structure to accommodate the remodel, it's wise to assess whether any changes will negatively impact the home's future value and attractiveness to potential buyers should you decide to sell. 

                            She Shed Fever

                            Most women rarely have a space of their own to use as a private getaway, especially if they have children at home. It's hard to put a true value on a content wife, although it's been said that a happy wife equals a happy life. She sheds are rapidly gaining popularity among homeowners, and the idea gives birth to an entire range of creativity in building and decorating a special place just for her.


                            A she shed can actually add value to your home in that it's a separate structure, and if crafted and decorated in a way that complements your property, can become quite the attractive feature to visitors, prospective future buyers, and of course to you! Decide how you want your she shed to look and feel, and begin by deciding on its architectural design. Depending on your home and landscaping, you might choose to build a mini cottage or cabin or opt for something more modern and open. You'll want the space to reflect your tastes and personality, so put some thought into how you will furnish and decorate your personal retreat.


                            If you plan on using your she shed for a hobby in addition to relaxing, be sure to consider how much space you will need and how best to store any necessary tools and supplies. Consult with a builder or designer to get your project going, and be sure to clearly explain your vision for the space. The most important factor in creating your she shed is to make it a place that you will enjoy using and that it is comforting and inviting to you.

                            Whether you decide on a man cave or a she shed, make it a part of your home that will be not only utilized but treasured!

                            July
                            5

                            Is Your Garage a Disaster?

                            6 Easy Ways to Organize Your Garage


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

                            The Bottom Line

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

                             

                            June
                            28

                            Downsizing Mistakes Not to Make

                            Whether the kids have gone and you no longer need such a big house, or you're just trying to live a little on the lighter side, downsizing can be a very liberating experience. Nothing quite beats returning to a more simple existence, or so the conventional wisdom goes. This can be true, of course, but there are several common mistakes that people make. Here are a few missteps to avoid on your journey.
                             

                            Five Mistakes NOT to Make When You're Downsizing

                            1. Overestimating the Financial Benefits
                              It costs more to run a bigger household, but don't overestimate the financial advantages. Over time, you will likely see the benefits in transitioning to a smaller place and a simpler lifestyle, but don't start counting your chickens just yet. Initially, you may not see much in the way of savings at all, due to the expenses associated with selling a property. Additionally, you often pay a premium to live someplace with a smaller footprint or less maintenance, such as a condo. 

                            2. Forgetting to Consider Lifestyle Needs
                              Don't be so eager to downsize that you forget to take into account your lifestyle and your needs. For example, it might seem like a good idea to have a smaller house to maintain, but if you enjoy cooking and entertaining, would you really be happy downsizing your kitchen space or foregoing a separate dining room? And even if that extra bedroom seems unnecessary, would it be a good place for housing your hobbies? 

                            3. Letting Emotions Cloud Your Judgment
                              One of the hardest things about downsizing is the emotional attachment you have to your possessions. Start with the easy stuff, purging items that hold fewer associations. As you encounter items with an emotional connection, ask yourself if that's the only reason why you're considering keeping the item. If so, would a picture suffice? Or could you pass the item on to your kids, family, or friends, to let someone else form new memories and connections?

                            4. Trying to Do Too Much at Once
                              It might not seem like it, but downsizing is hard work. Even if you're excited about the idea, even if you're jazzed up when you first start, there's only so long you can keep purging before you start feeling overwhelmed. Divide your household up into many smaller sections and focus on just one at a time. If you find yourself wanting to keep more and more, it's time for a break. Kitchen appliances, outdoor tools, clothes, and books are good places to start since those are the areas most people want to downsize first.

                            5. Downsizing Too Much
                              While downsizing truly can be the liberating experience you're expecting, there is such a thing as downsizing too much. Forcing yourself to get rid of too much too fast may only lead to regret, so let yourself keep anything you're unsure of, especially as it's easier to get rid of more than it is to get stuff back. Likewise, moving into a place that is too small may only make you feel cramped and unhappy, so look for something that's a little bigger than what you think you want. It's easier to deal with too much space than too little. The truth is, most of us keep more than we ought to, and over time that builds up.

                            Whether this move is a large milestone for you or more of a periodic reset, downsizing is a healthy exercise that not only simplifies your life and increases satisfaction, but also makes this and future moves much easier. If this sounds appealing to you, contact your real estate agent today to review your options for downsizing to a smaller home.

                            May
                            3

                            5 Things to Consider Before You Start Flipping Houses

                            House flipping is all the rage these days, and it's easy to see why.


                            With low-interest rates, high demand for homes and tight inventory, there's great potential to buy a home and quickly resell it for a profit. Even so, buying a house isn't the kind of investment that should be taken lightly. 

                            A quick glance at all the house flipping shows on TV proves just how popular the idea of flipping a house for profit has become. But a 30-minute TV segment misses a lot of important details, so if you're planning to make a killing in the flipping game, be sure to consider a few things first.  

                            1. Money is Made on the Buy, Not the Sell
                              It might sound counter-intuitive, but the price at which you purchase a house—not the price you sell it for—determines how much money you make on it. At least, that's a helpful way to look at it. Far too many inexperienced flippers buy homes for too much and are shocked to find that, after all the renovations have been made, it's impossible to resell at a profit.

                            2. Know What You Can't Afford to Fix
                              The key to flipping is buying a house that needs only cosmetic repairs. The home could need new carpets, new cabinetry, a fresh paint job, better fixtures and so on, but it has to be structurally sound. Homes that need a new roof, have a crack in the foundation or need a new plumbing or electrical system can be far too costly to renovate. And always have a full inspection done before you buy a house.

                            3. Don't Do Everything Yourself
                              Flipping a house is a team effort, so it's helpful to know a home inspector, accountant, lawyer, and especially a contractor. Hiring a contractor (or a team of subcontractors) to make the necessary repairs and renovations is essential not only for the expertise they provide but the speed at which they can work. Even if you have the construction know-how to do this work yourself, hiring a professional gets the job done quickly, and frees you up to focus on reselling this house and finding the next one. 

                            4. Location Is Everything
                              Buying a house to flip can be a futile endeavor if the location or market isn't a good one. You need to locate areas where you can resell houses at a profit margin of at least 10% to 20% (although more than that is ideal). A real estate agent can help you identify good cities to flip houses in and find the best neighborhoods within each city.

                            5. Use a Real Estate Agent
                              A real estate agent is a great resource if you're just getting into flipping houses. But even if you've been at it for a while, a skilled agent can also help take your flipping business to the next level, giving you access to more homes on which you may be able to turn a profit.
                            April
                            26

                            Picking the Right Fence for Your Home

                            When visualizing life in your dream home having the beauty and security of a fence is often part of the picture.


                            Adding a fence on your property is a big home improvement, so understanding your choices and making the right one for your family is important. 


                            What to Know Before You Shop

                            There are several reasons you might want to install a fence.

                            • To designate the boundary of your yard
                            • Privacy
                            • Safety
                            • To keep kids or pets contained
                            • Decorative
                            • To keep critters out of your garden or yard

                            You'll also want to consider any homeowner's association rules or local ordinances regarding fencing that apply to your situation. This may include specifications and materials.

                            Once you consider these factors you'll have a better idea what kind of fence you'll need for your home improvement project. 


                            Materials and Uses

                            • Wood
                              Wood is a popular choice because it comes in lots of styles and sizes and can be painted or stained any color. Cost varies depending on the type of wood and style. Some have separate parts that need to be assembled. Others come in panels for easier installation. It's a great choice for privacy and containing kids and pets.

                              Wood fences require maintenance. They have to be painted and resealed and fasteners may have to be replaced. Weather can cause wood fencing to rot or warp, and insects can damage it. Repairs are usually easy and you can paint or stain replacement parts to match what's already there.

                            • Vinyl
                              This is also popular and styles are similar to wood fences. White is the most common color but a few other colors are available. It requires almost no maintenance. Vinyl won't rot or warp but does get brittle eventually, making it more prone to damage. Repairs are more expensive because the entire panel has to be replaced. It's good for decorative, border, and privacy fences.

                            • Chain Link
                              This fencing is made of steel and is budget friendly. It's a good choice for providing a border for your yard or keeping animals out. Although it's sturdy, it can be climbed easier and some pets may be able to jump over it or dig under it. It doesn't require much maintenance and is made to last a long time. It's not a good choice for privacy. Although inserts and covers are available, they aren't as aesthetically pleasing as other fencing options.  

                            • Aluminum, Steel or Iron
                              These are primarily decorative and safety fences. They come in sections for easy installation. Their sturdiness depends on how thick the metal is. They don't offer much in the way of privacy.

                            • Composite
                              Composite fencing is made from recycled wood and plastic, so it's an eco-friendly choice. It comes in a few basic colors and styles. It's made to look like wood or stone. There's practically no maintenance. Taller heights provide privacy and help keep pets and kids in the yard. Some come in panels and others have various types of snap together planks. Color will fade some over time and will be more pronounced in areas with high UV exposure. Because they are made from various recycled materials, some variation in color between planks may be noticeable. They can be very expensive, but you won't be spending money on paint or repairs later.


                            The right fence is an important home improvement project that can add value and beauty to your property. It can also provide peace of mind for parents and pet owners and make your property a little safer.

                            March
                            15

                            Six Simple Tips to Save on Electricity Bills

                            No matter the location or time of year, saving money on your electricity bill never goes out of style.


                            But with costs rising every year, what's the best way to save on energy bills? The good news is that you don't necessarily need to make major changes to save. In fact, there are plenty of simple changes that you can make to save on electricity, and every bit of savings adds up in the long run. Let's take a closer look at six home improvement tips for lowering your electricity bill.

                            Whether you're looking at big upgrades like purchasing new appliances or simple home improvement changes like using energy-efficient light bulbs, there's plenty that you can start doing to lower your home's energy costs:

                            1. Turn Electronics All the Way Off
                              Many popular home electronics like TVs, Blu-Ray players, computers, gaming systems, and even appliances continue to consume electricity even when they're not in use. On a monthly basis, electronics often use more energy when turned off than when turned on. So rather than simply pressing the "power" switch on each device, plug key electronics into a power strip and turn it off when they're not in use.

                            2. Switch to LED Lights
                              If you haven't yet made the switch to LED lights around the house, now is a great time to make it happen. LED light bulbs are available at any home improvement store and cost less than ever. In addition to using less energy, they're also brighter than traditional bulbs.

                            3. Efficient Insulation
                              While it's not as simple as flipping a switch or replacing light bulbs, making sure your home is properly insulated will go a long way toward lowering your electricity bill. Choose the right type of insulation for your home, while also making sure all windows, doors, vents, and light fixtures are properly sealed. If you're feeling a draft, it's always best to find the source and seal it.

                            4. A Smart Thermostat and HVAC Maintenance
                              Most homeowners spend significant time away from home each day, and it's very easy to forget to set your thermostat to the right temperature before you leave. Purchasing a smart, programmable thermostat will allow you to waste less energy on heating and cooling when you're out, and still have your home feeling cozy by the time you get back.

                            5. Lower Your Water Heater Temperature
                              The water heater is often one of the biggest energy drains in any home, so lowering the temperature on your heater can be a great way to save. By lowering the temperature to around 120 degrees, your water heater will use less energy, while still providing warm, comfortable water.

                            6. Blinds and Curtains
                              There are times throughout the year when it's great to open the curtains and let the sunlight in, but it's also important to be able to block out the sunlight when it's causing high electricity bills. Purchasing blinds and curtains for windows will help you keep the heat out in the summer, while still allowing you to enjoy the sunlight during cooler seasons.


                            The best way to start saving on your electricity bills is to be conscious of your energy use. Start small with simple changes to your daily routine to see your savings add up. A more significant home improvement investment like a new HVAC system or appliances may also pay off in the long run with lower electricity bills.

                            February
                            22

                            10 Secrets of People with Low Energy Bills

                            Heating costs drive utility bills through the roof in wintertime, but there are a few ways you can take control of your home's energy consumption this season. Lots of people keep their energy bills low in winter – here's how they do it.

                            1. Seal the gaps. Cracks and gaps around windows and doors are like robbers that steal your warm air. Eliminate drafts by sealing these gaps with caulk, weather stripping or spray foam.

                            2. Program your thermostat. Setting your thermostat 7 to 10 degrees lower can save you up to 10 percent on heating costs over the course of a year. You can also use your programmable thermostat to set a heating schedule that heats your home more when you're home, and less while you're away (or asleep) to avoid precious heating dollars going to waste.

                            3. Turn down your water heater. Many households keep their water heater set way higher than they need to be. Anything higher than 120 degrees Fahrenheit is unnecessary, and every 10-degree reduction can trim your bill by up to 5 percent.

                            4. Reverse your fan. Ceiling fans rotate clockwise in summer, which creates a cooling breeze. But in winter, you should set your ceiling fans to spin counter-clockwise (most models have a switch that reverses the rotation) to push heated air from up near the ceiling down into your living space.

                            5. Change furnace filters. The filters in your furnace should be changed every one to three months, or whenever they get dirty. Clogged filters reduce the efficiency of your heating system by forcing your furnace to work extra-hard to push air through.

                            6. Insulate your water heater. Use an insulating jacket to keep heat from escaping your water heater. You can also use insulated pipe sleeves to prevent heat loss as hot water travels through your plumbing system.

                            7. Use the sun. On sunny days, opening up all the curtains and blinds in your house will create a "greenhouse" effect that warms your house no matter how cold it is outside. At night, do the opposite – close up all the blinds to help keep the heat sealed inside.

                            8. Insulate attics and basements. These rooms are often the most poorly-insulated areas in the home and are responsible for a lot of heat loss. Improve efficiency by adding insulation to your basement and attic.

                            9. Close up the fireplace. There's nothing more comforting in winter than a warm, crackling fire, but fireplaces are actually very inefficient, sucking heated air up through the chimney and allowing cold air to enter in the opposite direction. Always keep the damper closed when the fireplace is not in use, and turn down the thermostat by a few degrees when you do have a fire.

                            10. Bundle up. It might seem obvious, but humans have been bundling up to keep warm for thousands of years because it works. Throw on a sweater and a pair of slippers, and you might be able to set your thermostat 5 degrees cooler and not even notice.

                            Just because it's cold outside doesn't mean you have to spend a fortune to keep your house warm. Use these energy-saving secrets to keep your energy costs under control this year.

                            March
                            1

                            10 Perfect Housewarming Gifts

                            It's always special when you visit someone's new home for the first time.  


                            Help make your friend or family member feel comfortable in their new place with one of these gifts.  They'll appreciate your thoughtfulness and they'll think of you each time they use it.

                            1. Tools in a tote - Your new homeowner friend will eventually have to perform DIY tasks like replacing washers, tightening loose screws, and completing basic home improvement projects. Come to the rescue with an all-inclusive set of tools. Sears, Lowe's, Home Depot, and other home improvement stores sell sets that include hammers, pliers, and wrenches in a handy tool tote.

                            2. Diehard plants - If your friends had plants in their previous home, there's a good chance they didn't survive the move. If they didn't have plants, you can help them start a new tradition. Look for thriving, easy-to-care-for greenery like ivy, pothos, or airplane plants. 

                            3. Decorative coffee table accent - If your friend's stylish coffee table cries out for a bold trendy accent piece, select a dish or bowl in a neutral shade or a color that works with their decor. 

                            4. Dinner in a box - Save your friends a trip to the grocery store with a gift card from and online website like HelloFresh or Blue Apron. They can order a dinner-in-a-box, with all the ingredients for a complete meal. P.S. Volunteer to do the cooking when the box arrives.

                            5. Bubbly celebration - Your friend's new house is worth celebrating. Say cheers with a quality bottle of champagne or wine. 

                            6. Local gift basket - If your friends moved away to a new city, send them a gift that makes them feel welcome. Buy a stylish basket they will likely reuse. Stuff it with food, sample goods, and gift certificates from local shops and home improvement stores. They'll appreciate the head start on getting to know their new community.

                            7. Personalized stationery - Encourage your friends to keep in touch after they move away with personalized stationery. Choose classic paper or elegant note cards from an online print company. Have their gift embossed with their initials or imprinted with their new address. If you include address labels and stamps, they won't be able to resist the snail mail temptation.

                            8. DIY security system - Give the gift of peace-of-mind with a boxed security system by Simplisafe, iSmart, or another internet-based security company. Sets include cameras, cellular connections, sensors and more. The homeowner does the installation and pays a monthly monitoring fee.

                            9. Home assistant - The new generation of Siri, Alexa, and other digital companions do more than play your favorite tunes. With optional apps and connections, they can adjust the thermostat, turn off the lights, and perform other smart-home tricks.

                            10. Give eco-friendly light Hand deliver a case of LED, CFL or incandescent bulbs. They're eco-friendly. They save on energy, but they're costly when a new homeowner must buy them for every socket in their home.

                            Whatever you buy, remember the keys to perfect housewarming gifts: usefulness and thoughtfulness. If you keep these two ideas in mind, your friends will appreciate and use whatever gift you choose.

                             

                            January
                            18

                            6 Easy DIY Home Fixes Just About Anyone Can Handle

                            Doesn't it seem like something always needs to be fixed around the house?  The cost of labor for even minor repairs can be expensive.


                            Before you "call a guy," consider making some of these repairs yourself. Here are six DIY fixes to save you some cash and keep your home in tip-top shape.

                            1. Leaky Faucet
                              A dripping faucet can waste more than eight gallons of water per day. If your faucet is leaking, it most likely means that you're dealing with a worn washer or O-ring.  If there are two handles for hot and cold water, shut off the water to them one at a time to determine which one is causing the drip. Once you figure it out, shut off the water underneath the sink and disassemble the faulty handle and replace the washer and O-ring. If the faucet is really old, consider replacing it with a new model.

                            2. Running Toilet
                              The rubber flapper in your toilet tank allows water to flow from the tank to the bowl when you flush. If your toilet won't stop running, it may be time for a new flapper. The way to test it is this: drop some food coloring into the tank and wait a few minutes. If food coloring is bleeding into the bowl, head to the hardware store to buy a new flapper. Make sure it's the right size and type for your toilet before buying.

                            3. Filling Picture Holes in Walls
                              Hide holes left in the wall from hanging pictures by filling them premixed spackling compound applied with a putty knife. Don't overfill the hole, just use enough to fill it and wipe away the excess with your finger or a paper towel.

                              After the spackling dries, smooth the spot with sandpaper and paint. 
                              Use a small paint brush and dab it over the area. You can also put some paint on a paper towel and "feather" the paint out around the hole. That way it will blend into the wall a bit better. If you no longer have the original paint used, a hardware or paint store can match the color if you bring in a sample.

                            4. Squeaky Doors
                              The grating sound of a squeaky door can be a major annoyance. While you may think grabbing the WD-40 to squelch this bothersome problem is the best way to go, think again. While WD-40 works well for cleaning metal parts and protecting against rust, silicone spray is the best solution for a squeaky door. It's just as easy to use and the odor isn't quite as strong. Another plus: the squeak won't return as quickly as it might with other lubricating products.

                            5. Sticky Locks
                              Again, ditch the WD-40 and opt for powdered graphite to fix a sticky lock. It comes in a little tube with a small nozzle so you can squeeze it into tight spaces like keyholes. Put a little on the latch to keep it working smoothly.

                            6. Torn Window Screens
                              Does your kitty like scratching on the screens? Not to worry—repairing window screens is easy. For a tiny tear, apply clear nail polish to the spot to fill and connect pieces of the screen together. For larger holes and tears, you can purchase window screen repair tape or a repair patch. If the mesh is beyond repair, you can still fix it yourself. Grab a screen repair kit from the hardware store and replace the screen in the existing frame by following package instructions.
                            August
                            31

                            How to Test Smoke Detectors in Your Home

                            Fire and smoke inhalation cause thousands of injuries every day, and your smoke detector offers a crucial early warning that will keep your family safe—possibly even save your lives—so it makes sense to make sure it's in good working order.

                            Why Testing Your Smoke Detectors Matters

                            Smoke detectors are fairly reliable, but like any piece of mechanical equipment, they're not infallible. Parts wear out and batteries die over time, so it's important to routinely test your smoke detector and replace its batteries. The recommended frequency for testing your smoke detector is:

                            • Test every month
                            • Change the batteries every 6 months
                            • Replace the alarm system every 10 years

                            Types of Smoke Detectors

                            There are two main types of smoke detectors, both of which require routine testing.

                            • Battery-powered smoke detectors are the type most likely to suffer from worn-out batteries. Testing is essential, and remember to never put old or used batteries in your smoke detector.
                            • Hardwired smoke detectors are powered directly by your home's electrical system, but still need regular monthly testing because parts may malfunction, and the backup batteries that keep the smoke detector working during a power outage may wear out.

                            How To Test

                            Here's how to make sure your smoke detector is working properly. The steps are slightly different depending on which type of smoke detector you have in your home.

                            • Battery-powered: Press the test button on your smoke detector and hold it down until the alarm sounds. The alarm indicates that the batteries are working. The sound should be loud and piercing. If it is weak or intermittent, the batteries should be replaced. Every six months, replace the batteries in your smoke detector even if the alarm indicates that they are still working.
                            • Hard-wired: If your smoke detector only uses a battery only as a backup, remove the battery, and then turn off the circuit breaker that supplies power to the smoke detector. Press the test button while the power is off—the alarm should not sound—and then reinstall the battery and press the test button again. The alarm will sound if the battery is still good.

                            Knowing there's a smoke detector in your home may offer peace of mind, but just having a smoke detector isn't enough. It is essential that you continually make sure that it's working properly. You may never need it, but if you do you'll be glad you did.

                            September
                            7

                            What Is A Luxury Home?

                            Defining what a luxury home is when you are selling or buying a house isn't always easy. Here's what you need to know about the luxury home market. 

                            • It's Not Just About Price
                              When you're buying a house and see "luxury home" on the listing, your first thought is likely to be that the home is expensive. While luxury homes do tend to have a higher price tag than traditional homes, there's no specific price point that determines whether a home is considered a luxury home. Typically, luxury homes are priced high for their particular market, but with the variety of markets out there, this can mean something with a $500,000 price tag is a luxury home in one market, while in another the price point is $5 million or more.
                            • Luxury Homes Embrace a Luxury Lifestyle
                              One of the factors that makes a home a luxury home is the amenities it contains that contribute to a luxury lifestyle. An opulent master bathroom suite with a huge walk-in closet is one of these types of amenities. A swimming pool, a large home theater room, and many custom finishes throughout the home will make it feel more luxurious.
                            • Luxury Homes Feature Premier Materials
                              In a luxury home, you won't find run-of-the-mill building materials. You'll find the best possible materials. From rich and exotic hardwoods to state-of-the-art appliances, and extra appliances that aren't found in most homes, these homes have the best of the best. The small details made from superior quality are what make luxury homes stand apart.
                            • Luxury Homes Have a Desirable Location
                              Finally, luxury homes are known for having a desirable location. For some markets, this may be a home in the midst of a bustling city. For other markets, this could be a home in a secluded location at the top of a mountain or sitting alongside a body of water. Again, this is a factor that is clearly affected by the market, but there's almost lawyers something uniquely appealing about the location for a luxury home.

                            As you can see, when buying a house, what defines "luxury" market is going to be different for every buyer. Determining what your goals are, and then shopping for homes that meet those goals, will ensure that you find a home that fits your needs, whether or not it fits the "luxury" category.

                            December
                            7

                            Protect Your Home from Winter Weather

                            Old Man Winter is just getting started.

                             

                            Winter weather can be hard on your whole house.  Stay warm, save money and protect your home from winter's worst using these simple steps. 

                            • Roof and Attic 
                              It may seem counterintuitive, but making sure your attic is well-ventilated is important to fighting the cold weather winter brings. Keeping vents clear and adding them where necessary, keeps the temperature in your attic close to the temperature outside. Cold air below the roof keeps ice dams from forming on the roof. Ice dams are dangerous because they force draining water under the roof. From there, water can enter your attic or even your home's walls.

                              One sure sign of ice dams forming are icicles dangling from your roof edge. Skip taking pictures, however, and get them taken care of immediately. In addition to blocking proper water drainage, they can also lead to snow build-up and a lot of extra weight that your roof isn't designed to hold.

                            • Water Pipes
                              Taking care of your home's pipes is another important part of homeownership. Once the cold weather begins to set in, make sure all hoses are disconnected from outside faucets. You should also cover all outside faucets with insulated covers. You can find them at any hardware store, and they are worth their weight in gold. They can be the difference between keeping all that frozen water outside in the form of ice and snow and having it inside where it can burst your pipes.

                            • Keep Winter Outside
                              On the coldest day of the year, imagine leaving a window open to let all the cold air in. That may not sound like a very good way to keep your home comfortable, or even keep your energy bills down. Add up all those cracks and crannies that are letting cold air in, and you may just find that's equivalent to what you are doing. Take the time before the cold weather sets in to check out window frames, fireplaces, dryer vents or anywhere else in your home where something inside your home passes outside. Caulk those little cracks up, and realize energy savings and a home that's a bit easier to wake up to.

                            Cold-weather preparation and maintenance aren't one of the most fun aspects of homeownership, but it's definitely one of the most important. Taking a little time before the snow starts falling could make the difference between huge repair bills and bottom-line energy savings.

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