Monthly Archives: February 2015

23 Ways to Beautify Your Home for $50 or Less

Are you dreaming of improving your home, but you don’t have the budget to do big remodeling? If so, there’s still plenty you can do to scratch the home-improvement itch.

1. Declutter
Decluttering is deeply satisfying. It can make your home feel new and different — and roomier. But it requires so many tough decisions: What stays? What goes? And what about all the stuff you don’t use but can’t get rid of?

Maryalene LaPonsie of Money Talks News has seven ingenious ways to get going. Here’s one that helps you organize as you declutter: Every day find “12 items to donate, 12 items to throw away and 12 items that need to be returned to their proper location.”

2. Do a Cheap Facelift
There’s no quicker fix than a can of paint. Use it to give new life to dingy wood furniture. Try a new color in your bedroom or bathroom. HGTV has 50 ideas for DIY projects requiring just a single can of paint. Or just paint the ceiling a soft sky blue.

The DIY Network has more ideas plus tips for painting walls and ceilings, advice for painting like a pro, and 11 ideas for using chalkboard paint. If you can’t afford to splurge on a can of paint, try these cheap sources for paint:

  • Find a Habitat for Humanity ReStore near you.
  • On your local Craigslist, search at the top left of the home page for “paint.”
  • Join a local Freecycle group. The organization has more than 5,000 local groups and millions of members who connect online to recycle all kinds of items. Post your request in the “wanted” area.

3. Update a Bathroom Faucet
“This Old House” says replacing an old faucet with a shiny new one is an easy project that takes about two hours. The site has step-by-step instructions. To find a faucet within a $50 budget, do hunting and price comparisons online. Try searching by price at and Or shop at a ReStore or thrift store. Go for a new faucet in the same finish, i.e., oil-rubbed bronze, chrome, satin nickel, as your other bathroom fixtures.

4. Make a Mason Jar Lamp
Mason jar lamps are trendy. A YouTube video by TheSorryGirls takes you step by step through the process of making one. Krylon, the maker of aerosol spray paint, gives instructions for painting Mason Jars for lamps.

If a single-jar lamp isn’t enough challenge, and you have plenty of used Mason jars, look for instructions online for making a Mason jar chandelier. Stick to using found materials to keep your costs down.

5. Dress Up an Old Sofa
Give the couch new life by pulling a slipcover over its tired old self. Slouchy, sloppy slipcovers are out; the newest pieces tend toward trim and tight, but in comfy, soft fabrics.

Slipcovers run as low as $50 at Walmart. If you can’t find a fitted slipcover that works on your sofa, don’t worry. Done well, a loose fit is timeless. Check Overstock and elsewhere for machine-washable cotton duck covers in many colors for about $50.

With any remaining cash, jazz up your new couch by making or buying an accent pillow or two. “Pop culture from the ’70s and ’80s is showing up in vibrant retro-print pillows, furniture and accents,” says AP.

6. Tackle Carpet Stains
Take a Saturday morning and give your carpets some TLC. Martha Stewart tells how to do it at virtually no cost.

For carpets stained beyond your powers of restoration, consider using a professional carpet cleaning service. Have only the most heavily trafficked room done if you need to keep costs below $50. Did you know that “Some manufacturers will void the warranty if you can’t prove that you’ve had your carpets professionally cleaned every year?”

Angie’s List explains how professional carpet cleaning services price their work (some charge by square foot, others charge by the room). In 2013, Angie’s List members “reported paying an average of $45.68 per room with a general range of $43.18 to $48.18.”

7. Make a Faux Tile Kitchen Backsplash
This is more than a simple painting job. A painted kitchen backsplash mimics the contemporary look of narrow horizontal stone and glass tiles. The project requires a lot of preparatory taping. But, judging from instructions and photos at the Sawdust & Embryos blog, it is worth the effort.

8. Reupholster an Ottoman
Grab a staple gun and a simple piece of furniture, like an ottoman, and give it new life. Brooke Ulrich, DIY blogger at All Things Thrifty, shows how to tackle reupholsteryRemoving old fabric is one of the hardest parts of the job, and she offers plenty of additional tips and tricks.

Shop for fabric and a piece of furniture with simple lines at the ReStore, a thrift shop, Craigslist or Freecycle. Or search online for “fabric outlet” and “discount upholstery fabric.” Another source: Jo-ann Fabric’s frequent sales, discounts and coupons allow for big savings. Shoppers who sign up at the site get more discounts.

9. Rearrange Bookshelves
“Style” your bookshelves with artistic flair. Better Home & Gardens has inspiration. This is a fun, creative project, so spend some time and enjoy it. Among BHG’s tips:

  • Treat each shelf as a display, and then stand back and make sure all shelves work well together.
  • Position some items off-center on a shelf.
  • Place some books in horizontal stacks and use the stacks as bookends for books shelved vertically.
  • For a designer look, cover the inside of a bookcase with fabric or wallpaper.
  • Don’t pack treasures and collections on every shelf.
  • Pieces of pottery make nice, solid bookends.
  • Stack a pyramid of books and put one of your favorite objects atop the stack.
  • Use bookshelves as a gallery for framed photos or art.

10. Upgrade Cabinet Hardware 
If your kitchen and bathroom look dated, and you can’t replace the cabinets, replacing the cabinet hardware gives rooms a new look. Here are shopping tips:

  • Remove one handle or drawer pull to see how many screws it uses and how far apart they should be. Your new hardware will need to have this configuration.
  • Before shopping, take stock of your room’s style. To avoid being overwhelmed by all the options, first browse home decorating magazines to identify the look of the hardware you want, for example: pulls or handles? Sleek and modern? Old world? Recycled and eclectic?
  • When you have a rough idea what to look for, do some price shopping online. Try Ikea, Overstock and local and chain hardware stores. But also do an online search for “cabinet hardware” to see what’s available online.

11. Rearrange Furniture
Ask someone whose home styling skills you admire to help you see your home and possessions in a new light. Stay open to change and new ideas.

Last year I asked someone I know to spend an hour with me finding how to make better use of a difficult space in my home. She has a true genius for visualizing space. She spent two or three hours coming up with new configurations for my same old furnishings that somehow made the space roomier, more usable and much more attractive.

12. Brighten the Entry
Follow these three steps to revitalize the look of your home’s entry with a little elbow grease and a can of exterior paint:

  • Start by taking everything off the front porch or deck and scrubbing it from rafters to floorboards.
  • Clean the front door and give it a new paint job. Consider a stylish color that complements your home’s exterior, yet is a little brighter. Your local paint store will have paint chips and ideas. Browse Pinterest or Houzz for color schemes and inspiration.
  • Replace or repair damaged screens or storm doors. Polish metal doorknobs and fixtures.

13. Install a Front Door Kick Plate
A kick plate is a broad strip of polished metal used horizontally along the bottom edge of a front door to protect it from scratches, kicks and dog paws. Kick plates are decorative as well as functional. Brass is traditionally used, but popular finishes now include antique brass, pewter, antique bronze and black.

Change your old kick plate for a new one or install a kick plate if you haven’t used one before. After choosing a metal finish you like, use the same finish on all of your exterior hardware.Handles, door knockers, mail slots and outdoor lamps should match, the San Jose Mercury News says. Note, however, that, just to make life frustrating, one manufacturer’s interpretation of brushed nickel or antique bronze often differs from another’s.

14. Paint Exterior Shutters and Trim
A fresh coat of paint (or two) on shutters and trim provides a quick, easy shot in the arm for your home’s exterior. Paint all the trim or just the window trim. And if you are short on time or materials, repaint only the front-facing trim. It’s safest to use a color that’s already part of your home’s exterior color scheme.

15. Install New Doorknobs
Put attractive new knobs or handles on interior doors and closets. For family members who are aging, arthritic or disabled, make life easier by replacing knobs with easier-to-grasp door levers.

16. Make a Headboard
Craft a new headboard for your bed or refurbish your old one. If you scrounge for free and cheap materials, you can do it for less than $50. A few ideas:

17. Shine a New Light 
Lighting plays an important role in home decor. New lights, or even changing the wattage, can change the look and mood of a room.

“After years of work, LED lighting companies have finally achieved their goal of producing a good replacement for the common 60-watt incandescent bulb,” says MIT Technology Review’s article, “How to Choose an LED Light Bulb.” Some bulbs are rated to last 25,000 hours, or up to 25 years, depending on the use.

The article tells how to choose among the various brightness options and select bulbs for shape, function, color and light quality. For the consumer, the main benefits of LED fixtures are clear: They’re energy-efficient, can last for more than 20 years and, in many cases, give off good light. The prices have gone down steadily as well, as the LED components have dropped in price and lighting companies introduce better designs.

When investing in new LED bulbs, consider changing the fixture itself, too. Look for used fixtures online, at thrift shops and ReStores.

18. Add Drama with Light
For a fun project that delivers instant drama for less than $50, install flexible LED ribbon lighting atop or under cabinets. For less than $50, you can get, for example, an 8-foot length of Armacost RibbonFlex Pro RGB LED tape light. Armacost has installation instructions and project photos and ideas. Find how-to installation videos at YouTube.

19. Change Light Switch Covers
Here’s how to give grimy old light switch covers new life: Toss them out and treat yourself to new ones. For a fun project, cover some of them with decoupage.

20. Add Container Plants
New plants dress up your home’s porch and garden and give great curb appeal. You can start plants from seeds in spring or in a greenhouse. In autumn, dig a few of the more vigorous and prolific perennials from your garden or a friend’s and install them in pots. Ivy, a pest in gardens, looks terrific trailing down sides of planters, for example. Your local garden store or nursery may have a half-price area from which it sells castoffs. Often, watering and care is all they need.

The Micro Gardener has loads of ideas and photos for garden containers made from furniture, kitchen equipment, bathroom fixtures, toys, baskets, boxes and even clothes and shoes for use as outdoor planters.

21. Install Kitchen Utility Hooks
For a quick kitchen upgrade that you’ll enjoy daily, install a wall-mounted row of sturdy utility hooks. Use them for everything from dish towels and potholders to utensils and measuring cups. You might even slip a recipe you’re using into a plastic ring-binder sleeve, add a ring clip and hang it for ready access.

22. Install New House Numbers
Change your old house numbers. Find them with an online search, at hardware stores or shop for handmade numbers at Etsy.

23. Give Your Home (and You) a Deep Cleaning
If you’re considering spending money on a shrink, first try using’s checklist, timeline and instructions for deeply, thoroughly cleaning your home in eight hours. calls it “spring cleaning,” but don’t let that stop you from doing it now. The psychological benefits of a really clean home are immense, and you’ll feel wonderfully virtuous for doing it.




What Color Should I Paint My Room? 7 Tips to Figure it Out

“What color should I paint my room” is a question we’ve all asked ourselves, only to go to the paint store and get completely overwhelmed and confused (there are 96 different dark blues?!). It’s not an easy process, to be sure, as the colors picked from a swatch often don’t end up looking the same when they’re splashed across a wall. Everything from lighting to the color of your furniture can make a huge difference as to how a paint color ends up looking. Here, some top tips for picking a paint color that won’t make you want to cringe every time you walk into your room. Things to keep in mind: A little planning goes a long way when selecting a paint color, so don’t be afraid to test out colors on a large patch of wall before making your final choice.

168174612 What Color Should I Paint My Room? 7 Tips to Figure it Out

1. Decide on a paint color last. Wait until you have your room planned, including what furniture and fabrics you’re going to use, and how you plan to lay out furniture and art in the space before even thinking about what paint color you want. Plus, what accent colors, fabrics, and prints you choose for the room’s decor will be a great jumping off point to help you decide on a paint color. 2. Examine other parts of the room. When you’re ready to begin selecting a paint color, a good place to start is by choosing a shade you’re drawn to from something else in that room—a piece of art, a rug, a pillow, or an accent piece. 3. Test drive your selection. The color a room is painted is an important choice. Yes, it’s totally fixable, but it’s a pretty big undertaking, so getting it right the first time around is preferable. Test colors on a wall or on a poster board that you hang before making your final decision. If you still aren’t completely sure, begin experimenting with the color in a smaller space in your home, like a bathroom, or a hallway. 4. Consider the mood you want to create. Are you looking to create a space that’s restful and calm, high-impact, or dramatic? Soft, cool colors like light blue, mint green, and pale gray will create a more zen feeling, while stronger colors like hunter green, various shades of red, or navy will certainly up the drama. Warm and bright colors like rust or burnt orange create an ambience that’s great for socializing, while deep blue-greens and neutrals will give a space a more formal vibe. 5. The lighting in a room is a critical part of the decision. One of the most important parts of picking a paint color is to bring samples home—colors look dramatically different depending on the lighting in a room. Natural daylight shows the truest hue, incandescent lighting brings out warm tones and yellows, while fluorescent lighting will add a blue tone to colors. 6. Don’t examine paint samples against a white wall. Because a color will appear differently depending on what surrounds it, putting a paint swatch against a white wall will cause it to appear darker than it really is, which can result in picking a color that’s actually too light. Instead, put the sample against a sofa or the floor, to get a better idea of whether it will work in the room.

7. Consider the flow of your space. Think of your walls as planes of color, and consider how the walls in adjacent rooms interact. You don’t want to create a home that looks like a nursery school by painting each room clashing primary colors, nor do you want every wall to be dark and moody. If you live in a very small space, like a studio apartment, you might consider only painting one wall, like the one behind your bed.   From:

9 Truths Your Remodeling Contractor Won’t Tell You

From all the complaining about remodeling contractors on Yelp and Angie’s List, you’d think that all contractors sported devil’s horns and carried pitchforks.  Believe it or not, most contractors are honest, competent, and diplomatic.  And they have a few things to say about clients.  A number of contractors were surveyed to gather their thoughts about things they wish homeowners knew–before starting the remodel.

Interior domestic kitchen installation - malcolm park/Photolibrary/Getty Images

1.  They Don’t Want To Work With Your People

You’ve hired the contractor for a full-scale kitchen remodel.  The contractor is fully on-board.  Then you say, “Oh, by the way, my nephew Larry is a plumber.  I want you to use him.”

Truth:  As Leah Cole in Happy Renovating notes, “To me, a contractor’s most important asset is his network of tradesmen.”  The contractor is a facilitator at the center of a vast group of tradesmen or subcontractors (“subs”).  He has his go-to people, and he has others in mind as back-ups.  Almost as important, he has a blacklist of subs he won’t work with, this list forged from years of hard knocks.

By using your uncle to install HVAC, he would be working with someone with whom he has no established relationship.  Second, he is depriving work from a group of subs who may depend on him for steady work.  Third, you’re doing yourself a disservice by not taking advantage of a group of men that he knows can get the job done.

Before/After Kitchen Remodel - Remove Knotty Pine Cabinets - CC-Licensed; Flickr User: Sitka Projects

2.  They Don’t Like Reusing Your Old Stuff

You just love those knotty pine kitchen cabinets from 1952.  So vintage!  So romantic and evocative of a mountain cabin!  You ask your contractor to pull, refurbish, and reuse them with the remodel.

Truth:  One problem with old things–cabinets in particular–is that they may hold up while in place, but fall apart upon removal.  Old things have that tendency.  Wood flooringcannot be easily removed and reused.  Old leaded-glass windows look cool but are impractical.

If you do want to reuse an item, factor in the added time and cost (to you) that it will take to shop it out to a qualified professional.

Contractors aren’t meanies about this; they just know that homeowners often don’t understand the implications of reusing items.  Rather than being a money-saver, it can add more cost than the homeowner expected.

3.  They Have a Greater Allegiance To Their People Than You

As a client, you’re valuable to the contractor, not just as a source of immediate revenue but for that all-important thing called word-of-mouth.  No HomeAdvisor lead or Google Ad can remotely come close to the value of positive word-of-mouth.

Truth:  While that’s true, it’s also true that you’re only a ship in the night compared to their relationships with tradesmen.  Contractors might know you for two months, but often they know their people for years–decades even.

Should you have a problem with a certain tradesman, the contractor might go so far as to pull him from the project–only to placate you and keep the project running.  But that’s a rarity.  He’ll first try to smooth things over so that everyone, client included, works in harmony.

4.  They’re Not Trying To Make Extra Work

Suspicious homeowners are convinced that contractors underbid remodel projects, all the while planning to load up the projects with extra tasks after the contract is signed.

Truth:  While some unsavory contractors may do this, it does not represent the norm.  In Avoiding the Con in Construction, Kia Ricchi reminds us that “change orders can be costly and disruptive.”  Really, who wants another change order?

In a perfect world, contractors would love to have all intended work itemized on the contract.  Because this is not a perfect world–walls are found to be crumbly when thought to be solid, foundations worse than expected–change orders exist.

5.  They Can Work Permitting Magic, But Not the Kind You Think

Homeowner wants special provisions:  “I want to build my addition on a drainage easement, have no receptacles on the kitchen island, and put no windows in my residential basement.  Can you get the permit office to approve this?”

Truth:  Uh, no.  Contractors cannot make the permit office bend the rules.  Don’t even ask them to try.

Contractors may have good relationships with the permit office that have extended for years.  One reason for the good relationship is that the contractor doesn’t ask the office stupid questions like that.

However, we live in a social world.  Goodwill that the contractor has built up over years of working with permit officers and staff counts.

6.  They Want You To Shop For Contractors

Client’s words that are music to a contractor’s ears:  “I searched the world over–fifty contractors!–and thought you were best suited for my project.”

Truth:  No, it’s not a vanity issue for contractors.  He doesn’t chuckle with false modesty and buff his nails on his shirt when you say that you looked around but chose him.  Instead, he wants to know that you’re settled with him as the best fit for your project.  Second-guessing once the project has begun won’t help anyone.

7.  Their Fee Is Not Negotiable

“Ten percent?  Fifteen?  Twenty?  Contractors’ markup fees are outrageous!  I’ll try to bargain down his fees to save money.”

Truth:  Contractors can be your ally in saving money.  Contractors who operate professionally, which describes the majority of them, work in concert with the client, not against.  So, with his years of experience, he can help identify a myriad of places where you can pare down costs.

But his markup isn’t one of them.  If you envision his fee as pure cream enabling him to buy all those yachts and Bentleys, know that only part goes to him as personal income.  He also has a business to run, and that pays for the business.

8.  They Like Perfectionist Clients More Than Legal Opponents

Feel like you’re being a pain in the rear by delivering clear, exact information to the contractor?  Afraid to add to the “punch list” that comes at the end of the project, detailing remaining items to be done?

Truth:  Fear not.  While no contractor likes a client who is impolite or a pain in the rear, he wants to deal with requests now–before the project is finished.  Resentments that fester and turn into lawsuits help no one.  Just be civil and professional about it, and he will, too.

9.  They Want You Out of The House

The contractor is remodeling the entire first floor.  Surely you can live on the second floor.  Isn’t that why they invented hot plates?  Doesn’t that bathroom counter have room for a microwave?

Truth:  It’s your house and the contractor will not tell you to vacate your own house.  But for big projects, it’s best for everyone if you stay out of the way.  It’s a safety issue.  It’s a space issue.


Protecting Your Home From Break-Ins

Did you know that every 15 seconds a home in the United States is burglarized? That’s why it’s essential to secure your home and protect your family against break-ins. For a more secure home read these common myths about burglaries and get the facts to protect your home:

Myth: Burglars break in through discreet areas, like the back of the house.
Fact: Securing the back of your house is important, as first floor windows and the back door are among the top targets for burglars. But shockingly, the most common point of entry for home burglaries happens to be through the front door. Install deadbolts on the front door and any exterior doors, as they are harder to pick. Put strong locks on glass doors and lock-up whenever you leave the house. The garage is another common area for burglar access – don’t share your garage door code with others, and don’t leave the garage door opener in your car – it’s a quick way for thieves to gain access to your home.


Myth: Most burglaries happen at night.
Fact: Most burglaries actually occur during the day while homeowners are away from home and at work. Locking doors before you go to bed may be a common practice, but ensure your home is also secure during daylight hours too.


Myth: If you’re running out for a few minutes, it’s okay to leave your door unlocked — no burglar could get in and out that fast.
Fact: Burglars are faster than you think. The average burglar spends only a few minutes in your home. So, lock the door no matter how soon you’re planning to be back. Burglars can also make fast work because they know common hiding places – the key under the doormat, the jewelry in the master bedroom. Leave your spare key with a neighbor and consider putting valuables in a safe.


Myth: You don’t need a home alarm system if you live in a safe area with a low crime rate.
Fact: Even if you live in a relatively safe neighborhood, homes without security systems are 2 to 3 times more likely to be broken into, says the Better Business Bureau, yet few U.S. homes are armed with one. According to the Alarm Industry Research & Educational Foundation, 74% of burglaries are prevented by having an alarm in place, and can go a long way in protecting your home and giving you added peace of mind.



5 No-Cost Home Staging Tips

Staging a home for sale is simply preparing a house to be sold. There are many different aspects to staging, but there is a simple foundation to all of it.

Hiring a professional stager is worth the investment because they address all aspects of staging. But what if you have no staging budget?

There are several steps you can take to stage your home for sale — and many of them don’t cost a dime. Here are five free things you can do to prepare your home to sell.

Clean, clean, clean

5 No-Cost Home Staging Tips

Sparkling counters and appliances go a long way in a home for sale.

The number one thing people think about while in a home is whether or not they believe it is clean. A home that is absolutely pristine presents as well cared for.

Clean all windows inside and out. Dust all door frames, light fixtures, ceiling fans and blinds. Don’t leave a single spot in your home untouched. Potential buyers look everywhere, so make sure the entire home is clean.

Depersonalize the house


Just furnish the room with the absolute minimum items.

Pack up almost all personal photos and family keepsakes. If you have a great photo of your family enjoying a camping trip or other family activity, you can leave it out on display if your home is being marketed to families. This one family photo plants a seed of happiness in a buyer’s mind, making them think how happy their own family could be living in the home.

All other photos, portraits and keepsakes must be packed away out of view — and ideally, stored outside the home. In general, family photos and keepsakes draw a buyer’s attention to your family and keep them from seeing your home as their potential home.

You’re not selling the family, you’re selling the house — so always let that be the center of attention.

Pack — and pack some more

You could probably live comfortably for a short time with about half the things you own, especially if you have lived in your home for more than a few years. We all tend to collect things. Whether we use them or not doesn’t matter, but what does matter is showcasing the space your home has to offer potential buyers. You cannot showcase rooms that are full of stuff — especially too much furniture.

Pack up as much as you can live without, then store it offsite if possible. Store packed boxes and extra furniture neatly away from living spaces no matter what. If you have to store items in the garage, make certain you leave enough room for a car.

Manicure outdoor spaces


Even if the yard is simple, cut grass and clean pathways make an impact.

Outdoor living is now a part of everyday life for most of us. Potential buyers will absolutely consider the outdoor spaces as critically as they do indoor spaces. If you don’t have the budget to freshen the landscape with flowers and decorative items, you can still make sure the yard is perfectly manicured.

Keep your yard watered, and cut grass to approximately 3 inches high. Any shorter takes away from the fresh green look, and any longer starts to look unkempt.

Foliage should be very neat and properly shaped to match your neighborhood. Trim the trees so that a 6-foot-tall person can easily pass under them. This makes the trees appear taller, and gives the yard a clean, tidy look.

Power wash the sidewalk, patio, deck, driveway and fence. You will be amazed what a difference this will make in the look of your home.

Lighten up


Turn on the lights and open the shades.

When showing or photographing your home for potential buyers, open every blind and curtain in your home, and turn on every light. Even the lights over the stove and inside the oven should be on. (Remember, the appliances are pristine — they need to be shown off!)

Buyers are looking for “light and bright,” not “dark and dreary,” so give them light. Help them see how clean and well cared for your home is. Don’t be afraid to move a lamp to brighten up a space if you need to. Let there be light — and lots and lots of it.

It can be a lot of work getting your house ready to sell. Even with no staging budget, you can still take the time to make a few changes that will have a profound impact on your home sale.



Surprising Considerations for a Bathroom Remodel

Bathroom remodeling and design blend big dreams and practical realities. To make a bathroom work, it’s best to design from the fixtures and finishes backward to the walls and floor. The little things about an intimate room can make a huge difference in the day-to-day experience of it.

At the beginning of the process — the dream phase — the focus tends to be on color, layout, heated floors and moving things around. These are all important things, but if nobody is thinking about the stuff behind the walls and under the floors to make the overall design work well and affordably, the train will head off the tracks as soon as it leaves the station.

Here are nine things to think about at the outset of a bathroom project and at every step of construction.