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March 2018

Simple Room Makeovers in No Time

The biggest problem with any home improvement project is the clock. You want to spruce up the bedroom, renovate your bathroom or transform your kitchen, but where are you going to find the time? Oddly enough, a main anxiety among homeowners isn’t how much the job costs or how much work is involved. Instead, the chief concern is how long it’s going to take. That’s a valid question: the longer the job, the more money and labor it’s going to require. Plus, it’s the weekend and who wants to be stuck inside doing even more work. Initially, it’s hard to guess how long a chore will take, so here is a timeline guide to help you organize any home remodel around your schedule.

One-Day Bedroom Makeovers
Bedroom makeovers don’t have to be a chore since several small touches can be accomplished in a single day. The point of any remodel is to keep it simple and not get overwhelmed. So take one Saturday at a time and schedule a small renovation each week.
Painting: A fresh coat is a quick and comparatively inexpensive way to rejuvenate any room. For bedroom makeovers, it’s best to stick to warm, rich colors such as tans, maroons or blues. Plus, to save even more time, just paint a single accent wall to create some spice.
Redecorate: Spend a day at the store. Buying a few knick-knacks, pillows and sheets is a fast way to reinstate a new sense of style. The hard part about this bedroom makeover is finding the perfect item, so take your time during the selection process.
Reupholster: In one morning, you could buy new fabrics for your chairs, loveseats, and drapes. Then in the afternoon, replace the window treatments and reupholster your furniture to create a seamless pattern throughout the room. By taking one step at a time, a bedroom makeover may take an entire month, but in reality it only takes a few hours.

Bathroom Makeovers in Single Weekend
Bathroom makeovers are little trickier since more is involved beyond the decor. Though decoration is important, there is also flooring, plumbing, cabinetry and countertops. Plus, you want it to remain functional as well as beautiful, so most projects take a couple of days. Here are a few things that can be accomplished in a single weekend.
Fixtures: Replacing your plumbing fixtures can quickly transform a lavatory. And though you could replace the bigger items, simply swapping out the faucets, showerheads and handles can give a restroom new life and a fresh focal point.
Lighting: Do you have old-fashioned brass fixtures, rounded bulbs or glaring fluorescents? If so, you may need to switch out your lights. Go for track lighting, smaller fixtures and always focus on natural lighting (skylights, windows, etc.) if you’re able to.
Sinks: Toilets never change. Showers create more renovations. But a sink is a perfect two-day bathroom makeover. To make more room, tear out the vanity and counters and install a pedestal sink. But if square footage isn’t a problem, a larger his-and-her sink system may be the solution since it’ll always adds value to the home.

A Month of Kitchen Makeovers
There’s a reason they’re the social hub of any household: they have it all. Plumbing, appliances, lots of square footage and it should be the focal point of the home. It takes time to accomplish a kitchen makeover, but it’s always worth the hassle in the long run. And if you hire remodeling professionals, the job may not take as long as you think.
Cabinetry: The first thing to become outdated is usually the cabinets. Old-fashioned wood, dark-stained grains or tacky brass hardware can quickly devalue the space. So replacement is always a great option, although if you want to save time and money, re-staining or painting is an efficient alternative.
Flooring: Nothing modifies a room more drastically than new floors. Of course hardwood is all the rage. It certainly adds value and never goes out of fashion, but it’s also pricey and takes skill to install. Tile is also a great substitute with its clean lines and polished look. But even fresh linoleum is a great way to restore a faded, curling floor.
Appliances: Not only can new appliances make the space more effective and easy-to-use, they also add to its appearance. It takes time to slowly replace each electrical item, so don’t rush. You can never go wrong with stainless steel (it’s sleek, modern, and fashionable), yet no matter the veneer make sure it all matches. But beyond beauty, you also want to think efficiency, so EnergyStar products are always a good investment.

Easy Kid Loft Bed Ideas

For an adult, a loft bed is a practical way to save floor space. A kid loft bed is, on the other hand, often put up for fun as well as function. Kids just seem to like the idea of having a bed up high and having a ladder that leads them there. A child loft bed is generally easy to install and relatively inexpensive to purchase, and it’s sure to please both parents and kids, alike.

Kid Loft Bed Kits
Other than having a professional come in and build a custom model, buying a kit is the easiest way to erect a kid loft bed. The kit will most likely include everything you need to put the loft and ladder together, though you will probably need to supply a few common tools (and in some cases, the mattress).

Safety is a big issue when kids are involved. Make sure that the child loft bed kit you purchase comes with a railing. Sleeping children are notorious wigglers. The railing will protect them from wiggling their way off the side of the bed.

Child Loft Bed Plans
Moms and Dads, who are capable carpenters, might enjoy taking a more active role in the bed building process. Those with a will to work wood should check out some kid loft bed plans. The plans can be found online for a few bucks or even for free.

Using plans to build your loft bed will require a fair amount of cutting, hammering, and the like. Most designs are fairly simple, and the project might be a good one to share with the kids (who are often thrilled to play a role in building something they will use). For parents who don’t have access to various saws, lots of places that sell lumber will cut the wood to your measurements at a small additional charge.

The price of the whole operation, even if you don’t cut the lumber yourself, will be less than buying a kit. The finished product will be something you and your kid can be proud of putting together, and the quality will often be better than purchasing an inexpensive kit bed.

Custom Kid Loft Beds
The custom built route, for a loft bed and just about anything else, will produce the finest product, but will also be significantly more expensive than other options. The difference is that the parents’ only work will be telling the builder what they want. Since it will be a bed for a child, however, he or she would certainly get a kick out of having some input in the design, too.

A custom built loft can have any option you can imagine, and the builder will most likely have some suggestions you might not have thought of otherwise. Additionally, you will be getting a bed the quality of a fine piece of furniture. Though it will cost more, it will be worth it. A custom builder will also be able to create a bed that is anchored to a wall or ceiling, which will create even more floor space.

One thing to consider before spending the money for a custom job is how fast kids grow. While a smaller bed will be cute and just his or her size, a bed large enough for them to grow into probably won’t be significantly more expensive. Building a new one once they grow a few feet, on the other hand, will be.

To Remodel or Not: 5 Deciding Factors

For most of us, homes are not only where we live but also our single biggest investment. As a living space, a home’s design and condition impact our lives day in and day out. As an investment, we seek to preserve and enhance value in the marketplace.

When considering remodeling and improvement projects, we must consider both roles. In general, a well-maintained home yields better day-to-day service and long-term financial returns. Taking care of repairs as they arise makes sense, so problems are solved while still small, and the home remains a safe and comfortable place in which to live. Renovations, remodeling and other major home improvements are more complex.

The best starting point is your own home improvement needs. How much more do you think you will enjoy your home if you remodel or put in an addition? How long do you think you’ll stay in the house?

If you are planning to stay in the house ten years or more, most of your decision should be made based on how much the enhancements will improve your lifestyle.

If your length of stay is shorter, uncertain, or a contemplated project is quite large, you have to pay more attention to the improvement’s impact on probable resale value.

While every real estate market is different, you probably already know quite a bit about your area’s real estate market simply because you live there. With that knowledge and an understanding of the 5 D’s of remodeling, you should be in a position to sort out all the advice you’ll get from general contractors, neighbors, home magazines and family members. The five D’s are:

  • Distance
  • Deficiency
  • Distinctiveness
  • Demand
  • Degree

Remodeling Factor #1: Distance

Distance, or curb appeal, has to do with how well the property looks from the street before a person gets out of a car and takes a closer look. If someone doesn’t have any interest at first glance, you’ll never get them inside.

Things that give your home better curb appeal generally have a high rate of return. Landscaping, the front entrance, and the condition of the paint or siding are the biggest factors in curb appeal.

When it comes to landscaping, nothing elaborate is necessary. Well-trimmed foundation plantings, potted plants at the corners of the front porch, a groomed lawn and mulched flower beds all contribute to the house’s appeal. Flowers certainly add to curb appeal, but it may be better to add them at the last minute depending on seasonal considerations.

The front entrance can be a big draw and seems to play a large role in curb appeal. The door should be in good shape with a fresh coat of paint. New hardware can also upgrade its appearance. If the houses on your street look alike, it might be worth adding more elaborate door trim, flanking windows and/or a sharp looking stoop or porch.

The paint should be in good shape. Sometimes a thorough washing can freshen the look of paint or siding. Also, make sure the shutters are in good shape and hung straight.

Remodeling Factor #2: Deficiency

Deficiency has to do with whether or not your house is flawed compared to nearby homes.

If you have one bath, for example, and everyone else in the neighborhood has three, adding a bath is likely to have a relatively high return.

Obvious deficiencies substantially reduce the value of the home. People tend to lower the offering price by an amount greater than the actual cost of the remodel or addition. Taking care of such problems not only makes sense in terms of resale value but also will make your stay in the home more pleasant.

Remodeling Factor #3: Distinctiveness

Distinctiveness is the one thing most people talk about. In fact, it’s what your realtor and you talk about when you describe the house to others.

When people buy a house, they tend to buy on emotion and then back up the decision with rational considerations. A key to selling a house at a good price is to get the buyer emotionally interested in the home.

Homes generally sell better if they have two or three special or distinctive features. A walk-in closet, a whirlpool bath, a fireplace, attractive landscaping or a grand foyer can separate your home from the crowd and stir interest for buyers. These special features become very important in a competitive real estate market where a lot of similar homes are on the market.

Remodeling Factor #4: Demand

While the special features that make up distinctiveness are important, they are of no help and can even lower the value if these features are not widely in demand.

You may think a whirlpool in the living room will give your home a terrifically distinctive character, but if those looking to buy your house don’t see that as valuable, you may actually reduce the value of your home by adding the feature.

Anything zany or out of character with the neighborhood should be avoided. For example, an ornate fireplace with a sculpted marble mantel may add plenty of value in an upscale neighborhood of $500,000 homes. But the same fireplace may be seen as difficult to clean and not energy efficient in a working class neighborhood.

Limit improvements to those for which there is documented demand.

Look at new model homes to verify that features you’re considering adding are present in those homes. If the builders, with all their market research and surveys, aren’t including the feature, you can bet that the market for it is limited.

Remodeling Factor #5: Degree

Remember things need to be done by degrees. No matter what you do, don’t overdo it. If the front entrance is attractive already, renovating it in a new color will rarely be worth the cost.

Whether enhancing how your home looks from a distance, adding distinctiveness, or addressing deficiencies, one can usually get a fairly high rate of return up to some point. After that the rate of return drops off markedly.

If your house is the only one on the street with only one bath, spending $35,000 on a bathroom addition might yield a return of $6,000 to $8,000 in terms of resale value. However, adding a bath that costs $50,000 or more may also yield an increased value of only $6,000 to $8,000.

If the house already has a number of special features, each added one would have a relatively smaller impact on resale value.

The best resource for getting more information on how various improvements might affect resale value is a real estate professional who knows the market in your neighborhood. Discuss the five D’s with them, and you should come away with a pretty good idea of where you stand.

Just keep in mind that only you can determine what the improvement means in terms of your enjoyment of the house while you continue to live there.

Cleaning Out Your Drains

Most homeowners know how to work a plunger and pour chemical drain cleaners down a clogged drain. Yet, sometimes these measures are insufficient for drain cleaning. Either the drain remains clogged or the drain perpetually re-clogs. When this happens, often because something unusual was pushed or flushed down a drain (think children), more dramatic measures are needed.

Drain Cleaning
If a liquid drain cleaner doesn’t take care of the clog, physical drain cleaning is usually the only way to get rid of the clog. A plumbing snake should be fed down the pipe to see if the clog can be reached. For clogged sinks, you should also try cleaning the trap and feeding the snake down the pipe that way. Covering the overflow valve for sink drains can help build pressure and may help bust through the clog.

If this doesn’t work, a power auger that can more effectively cut through the clog will be needed. This machine should only be used by people who have some basic plumbing knowledge to avoid further harm to your draining system. Pipes aren’t indestructible. Nobody particularly revels in calling a plumber, but sometimes it’s the wisest and even the most frugal course of action. Be as specific as you can with the plumber on the phone and you may want to take the time to have him or her inspect all your house drains to reduce the risk of a return visit.

Drain Cleaners and Maintenance
Many companies don’t want you to hear this, but for many homes drain cleaning chemicals are unnecessary. Baking soda and boiling water or baking soda and vinegar will often do the trick. Some drains may become clogged with hair, and even if baking soda doesn’t work, hair removal product will and is far less toxic than drain cleaner. For drain maintenance, using an enzyme culture once a month can help ensure your drain stays cleared. They will also help reduce any odor in your garbage disposal. One thing you should never do is mix different drain cleaners. These chemicals can often react violently with other compounds and do serious damage to your pipes and/or your septic system.

The Cost of Professional Drain Cleaning
Have you tried and tried to get that drain cleared, only to find it’s of no use? Well, it may be time to call in the pros. The average cost to hire a professional plumber to clear your drain is $251, according to data collected from homeowners across the country. This may sound like a lot to the average homeowner, but if it’s time to call a plumber, there is a good chance it’s not an ordinary clog. This cost average includes a handful of projects that were less than $100 and a handful that were more than $1,000. Typically if the problem extends down to the sewer line, this can cost anywhere from $300 and up to clean. The average also fluctuates considerably depending on where you live. Expect to pay a bit more if you live in Chicago or a bit less if you live in Houston, but the condition of your drain will still create a large X factor for cost.

Spring Cleaning Myths and Mistakes

Many of us learned our spring cleaning habits growing up. Like other home remedies, for every spring cleaning tip that has served us well over the years is another one that is all smoke-and-mirrors. Here are some common spring cleaning myths and mistakes that either don’t get things cleaned as they should or waste valuable time that could be spent on other areas of your home:

The Surface Cleaning Myths
A big chunk of spring cleaning is putting your weekly or monthly cleaning schedule on steroids: After vacuuming, you also steam clean. After sweeping, you also mop the floors. You move furniture and refrigerators. You dust edges and corners. You really do a number. So, here are some common myths and mistakes associated with this super-cleaning.

  • Flooring, Countertops, and Fixtures: The notion that bleach effectively cleans these surfaces is myth. You must first clean, then disinfect with bleach or a similar product. Without first removing the dirt and food particles, germs can linger even with a bleach application. Likewise, without using a disinfectant, germs can linger.
  • Carpets: Carpet cleaning does more harm than good. Some homeowners have become so petrified of these dangers that they neglect any form of carpet cleaning. Most of these dangers—mold, odors, shrinkage—arise from carpet that is left too wet for too long. If you hire a reputable cleaning company or invest in solid carpet cleaning equipment, your carpet will be fine and have better durability.
  • Wood Cabinets and Furniture: The biggest myth about maintaining wood is that consistently applying wood polish is not necessarily the best thing for wood. The interaction between the polish’s chemical composition and the wood can attract excess dust or even dull the finish. Consistent dusting may be enough to keep your wood looking good. Otherwise, stick to the manufacturer’s recommendations.
  • Tile Grout: The myth here is the degree of difficulty in cleaning tile grout. After removing as much dirt as you can with water, you can use baking soda with a little bit of vinegar to clean your grout or a pH-balanced cleaning solution. Still, many homeowners choose to hire a pro, since the process is tedious, time-consuming, and homemade solutions won’t come close to the clean provided by professional, high-powered water vapor systems.

The Home Maintenance Myths
After cleaning each nook and cranny, home maintenance is the other side of spring cleaning. Unfortunately, it’s too often the neglected side. From changing the air filters on your A/C to pressure washing your siding, this is far from a complete list. Still, be sure to watch out for these common spring cleaning myths and mistakes.

  • Gutter Cleaning: You can’t just throw the leaves out of your gutter and call it a day. Good gutter cleaning involves identifying leaks, seams, flushing downspouts to prevent clogging and ensuring they’re properly draining, along with comprehensive gutter channel cleaning.
  • Window Washing: Ever wash your windows and find them dirty by the time summer rolls around? Many homeowners use paper towels, squeegees, or rags that cause static to build up on window glass and attract new dust. Professional window washing services uses a specific methodology that most homeowners are either unable or unwilling to duplicate.
  • Painting, Staining, and Sealing: Rather than myths, mistakes with these projects generally involve bad habits or practices. The work may not be the most technically demanding, but knowing which type of paint works best for your climate can save you dozens of labor hours and extend the lifetime of the paint job. A poor paint job can last as little 3 years before it needs attention. A good one can last for upwards of 20.
  • Professional vs. DIY Maintenance: Perhaps the most pervasive myth is that you’re a wimp unless you do your own spring cleaning. People with hectic schedules can easily justify the costs of hiring a handyman, especially if you can bundle your spring cleaning list into one full day’s work. Professional maintenance also includes professional experience and expertise. A home inspection can create a comprehensive spring cleaning and maintenance list.

The Biggest Mistake of All
Not keeping your priorities straight is the overarching mistake homeowners make. Specifically, caring more about things appearing clean than actually being clean is at the heart of many spring cleaning myths. From reducing the risk of infection and other health hazards to increasing the life expectancy of your home furnishings, having a clear understanding and methodology for your spring cleaning is critical to maintaining a healthy home. And this is spring cleaning we’re talking about, so do it right.

Big and Small Home Renovation Ideas

Big and Small Home Renovation IdeasHome renovation is a large, lumbering term that can encompass many different kinds of home improvement projects. While home renovation and home remodeling are similar terms and overlap in any number of different areas, there also conceptual differences. Home renovation involves repairing and/or upgrading your home to increase its amenities, functionality and energy-efficiency. Home remodeling is often more about upgrading décor, style, space and fixtures.

In the bathroom, for example, replacing your old laminate countertop with a new granite counter is home remodeling. Installing a bathroom ventilation fan is a home renovation. Major home remodeling projects often involve elements of home renovation, but neither kind of project necessarily means you have to spend a fortune. Both projects will add value to your home.

Home renovations come in many different shapes and sizes. Here’s a brief list of home renovation ideas for small and major investments in your home.

Doors and Windows
One of the most popular home renovation ideas is replacement doors and windows. Relatively cheap — replacing a door can cost around $800 — upgrading these small areas of your home can increase your home’s efficiency and décor. These projects almost always pay for themselves in a short amount of time and help the environment and your home. An incredible high percentage of heat loss occurs through window openings. Installing double- or triple-paned windows will increase your windows U-Factor several times over. Heat gain, air leakage and condensation resistance can also be improved.

Over time, wood doors can shrink, swell or bow. This can cause your entry door to stick, make it difficult to open and close or create an uncomfortable draft coming from under the door. Doors can be sanded down or extended to fix these problems, but it may simply be time for a new door. Wood is the traditional, timeless option, but fiberglass or steel may offer better performance and durability.

Insulate and Ventilate
Roof insulation is one of the most overlooked and vital parts of insulating your home. Heat rises and much of it works its way up and out through the roof. Roof insulation will help keep this heat inside your home, directly affecting the overall insulation performance of most homes more than any other insulation project. The key is to make sure you install proper ventilation with your roof insulation to prevent wood rot and ice dams.

Basement insulation is another great home renovation idea. The best plan is usually to install basement insulation along your basement walls. Many homeowners install basement insulation in their basement ceiling to prevent cold floors upstairs. This type of insulation can work, but it also means cutting the basement off from the rest of the home, resulting in an ultra cold, damp basement. Basement wall insulation can help keep your upstairs floors warm and may reclaim your basement as a livable space at the same time.

Add Storage Cabinets and Reorganize
Few people like the idea of spring cleaning, regardless of the season or the need. If your home is being overrun by simple clutter, the sheer psychological weight of trying to clean the house can be overwhelming. Worse, you may not know where exactly your clutter can be stowed, forcing you to spend countless hours, trying to reorganize everything, knowing that in just a few weeks everything is going to have once again run amok. Installing extra storage cabinets and hiring an interior designer to come in and reorganize your home will give you a plan to stow your common household items in a way that will allow you to maintain a clean house. Custom-built storage cabinets will help motivate you to clean house and cut down and the time-consuming and psychological baggage of clutter removal.

Home Office Organization: Work from Big to Small

You know what good home office organization looks like. It doesn’t include piles of books and file folders on the floor, papers strewn about the desk, half a dozen pens hiding underneath those papers. You look at your office, see the state it’s in and decide to do something about it. You probably hear the clichés: start small, one step at a time, create a new habit, stuff like that. You try it and maybe see it work for two or three days. Once you see improvement you lose the motivation to keep at it. The truth is all the good habits in the world aren’t going to help you if your office isn’t set up to facilitate good home office organization. You can spend countless hours working on habits that might transform themselves naturally if you dedicate one weekend to remodeling your home office with an eye looking specifically at organization.

Your Office Desk
Take a look at your desk. Is there enough shelving for everything? Do you have an open space for paper trays? If you have papers lying around everywhere, you’re probably a person predisposed to having things lying around at your desk. This isn’t a bad thing. You want as many items as possible within an arm’s length, you just don’t want it buried. Sit down at the desk you have now and look at it. Is there a better design that will allow your clutter to have its own place? On the other hand, if you want to remove the clutter from your desk area but simply have trouble finding the motivation in the moment, maybe you should consider a smaller desk to limit the clutter space available. You know yourself and how you work. Before you try to will yourself into better home office organization, ask if you have the right desk.

Home Office Cabinets
Maybe the desk isn’t the problem, though. Maybe everything’s gravitating toward your desk because it doesn’t have any place else to go. Do you have sufficient storage throughout your home office? The answer is probably no. It’s time to put in some new home office cabinets. Chances are if your work area is overrun with clutter, it doesn’t need to be on-hand. It’s nearly impossible to have too many home office cabinets. Install smaller cabinets on the wall to preserve a feeling of space in the room. Wider, floor cabinetry will get those bulky items off the floor and away from the work area. Modular cabinets will allow you to create custom spacing for awkward items for an affordable installation price. You can also use the closet in the office and invest in organizers there for extra items.

Creative Differences: Love Chaos and Stay Organized
Everybody works differently. Maybe the resistance you’ve been feeling toward home office organization is nothing more than a psychological personality trait. Some people find it difficult to concentrate when their environment is too neat. Still, you need to be able to find things in your work area in a reasonable amount of time to avoid losing valuable time. If you need help organizing your home office, you can hire a professional organizer to get it in shape for you.

Try to find another way to express your need for creative chaos. Organizing your home office should free up space in the room. Make half of the room a mess of artistic endeavor. If you like to paint—if you’d like to learn to paint—get some paint, some canvasses and go at it. The importance of home office organization is to keep your work area organized and your mind focused on the task at hand, but don’t feel like you have to spend five minutes looking for buried items just because you like to be messy.