Make Your Home a Hot Commodity This Winter

The great thing about our area is that we are a 12 month market, which means that homes will sell **all year long**. There are serious buyers that are looking (and NEED to buy) throughout every season in Charlotte. Although the holiday season can be a hectic time to show and sell your house, christmas-housethere are distinct advantages to staging and showing your home at this time of year – you have a chance to show your home at its very best, adorned with warmth and cheer that’s sure to charm. Nothing is more inviting than a home brimming with greenery, twinkling lights and holiday decorations.

Inviting and Warm

First impressions are important. If you live in a snowy area, make sure walkways are cleared. Do you have late fall leaves littering the ground? Rake them up. Also, make sure the walks and stairs are free of ice.

A few exterior holiday lights or decorations show pride in ownership and seasonal cheer, but they don’t add anything during the day when potential homebuyers will be looking at your home, so don’t overdo them. Another thing to consider: Would-be buyers may view it favorably if nearby homes are brimming with lights – it shows unity and neighborliness – so you’ll want to find a tasteful balance.

As you set out to win over holiday homebuyers, here are a few other tips to keep in mind:

  • Trim outdoor trees so unexpected winds don’t knock down branches that could damage your home or hurt someone.
  • Place a holiday welcome mat outside the front door.
  • Keep the door area clear of bicycles, toys or parcels left by the mail carrier.
  • Hang a festive wreath on your door.
  • Play holiday music in the background.
  • Keep the house cozy. Entering a cold house could chill potential buyers’ enthusiasm.
  • Light a fire in the fireplace just before the agent shows your house. (But never leave a fire unattended.)
  • Choose a tree and decorate it to complement the room where it’s displayed. You don’t want the tree to appear to take over the entire living or family room. Remove furniture, if necessary.
  • Keep decorations on the conservative side. You want your house to be noticed, not your decorations.
  • If your house is being viewed in the evening, tell your agent how to turn on the holiday lights. And be sure the agent turns the lights off, or you have a plan to be home immediately, following the showing.
  • Make sure your agent turns the home security system back on after showing your house, especially if you have gifts under the tree.
  • Be certain your windows are sparkling clean.
  • Let there be light. Open blinds and curtains and turn on interior lights to reduce the pervasive dreariness of winter months.
  • Bake holiday cookies and treats to fill the home with enticing aromas before the prospective buyers arrive.
  • Leave those holiday treats and hot chocolate for your guests.

Ultimately, you want to convey the love, comfort and joy your family has shared in the house so that buyers will be eager to move in and create their own holiday memories.



15 Fall Maintenance Tasks Every Homeowner Should Tackle

With fall in the air, your thoughts may turn to what needs to be done to your home before winter sets in. Many tasks are done much more easily when the weather is still nice. Plus, taking care of routine maintenance tasks now can save you aggravation and money down the road.

Rain gutter full of autumn leaves

“If you don’t do these things and you end up having to do repairs, it can cost so much more later,” says Leah Ingram, cost advisor for and a frugal living expert who publishes the site

She recalls that one year she didn’t have leaves removed from the roof of her New Jersey home, which would have cost about $300 for a professional crew to complete the job. The result was an ice dam that caused $3,000 in damage from water leaks inside the house.

Many fall maintenance routines are designed to prevent water damage and guard homeowners from safety hazards, especially from fires. “Water is a homeowner’s worst enemy,” Ingram says. “People don’t think about the kind of damage it can do.”

The use of fireplaces, candles and space heaters, all more common in winter, can be a fire hazard if you don’t keep up with routine safety measures. “Unfortunately, house fires are fairly common in the winter months,” says Anne Reagan, editor-in-chief of, which publishes advice for homeowners and matches them with professionals who do home repairs and maintenance tasks.

While homeowners can do some routine tasks themselves, others such as inspecting chimneys and repairing roofs, are best left to professionals. HomeAdvisor, which matches homeowners with contractors, publishes a True Cost Guide of how much homeowners pay for various jobs. As cold weather approaches, it may get harder to get appointments, and you may also be less inclined to go outside and work, making it crucial to plan ahead and knock out projects in fall.

“The fall is a really busy time usually for homeowners,” Reagan says. “It’s when we start preparing for winter. … When it’s really cold and wet outside, you don’t want to do those things you need to do.”

Even if you live in an area where snow and ice aren’t likely, fall is still a good time to catch up with routine maintenance. Water and falling branches can cause equally expensive damage in the tropics as it does in the snowbelt.

Here are 15 fall home maintenance tasks to tackle now:

Clean gutters and downspouts. Leaves and debris gather in gutters, which can cause ice dams and other water damage when snow falls and then melts, or during rainstorms. This is an easy task to do yourself if you can climb a ladder safely.

Remove leaves. Not only do you want the leaves out of your gutters, you want them off your roof and off your lawn. Despite what some may believe, letting leaves decay on your lawn does not provide fertilizer. “It’s actually helping fungus and mold build up, which can kill your lawn,” Ingram says.

Repair any damage to your roof. “Anywhere you had shingle damage, that needs to be fixed and replaced,” says J.B. Sassano, president of Mr. Handyman, which franchises handyman services nationwide. If water can get under your shingles, it can get into your home and cause damage.

Clean your chimney. Have a chimney sweep come in every year to check your fireplace for safety and clean out the remains of last year’s fires. “If you use your fireplace regularly with wood, you’ve got to get that soot out of there,” Ingram says. You also want to make sure that the cover to your chimney is intact and that birds or other critters haven’t chosen to move in, Sassano says.

Check smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors. It’s smart to test the devices and replace the batteries every six months, making this a chore for fall and spring. Also, make sure you have enough fire extinguishers and that they are in the right place.

Change filters in heating and air conditioning units. Most forced-air systems work better when the filters are clean. While some filters are advertised to last several months, people with pets or old houses with a lot of dust should change filters monthly.

Caulk around the windows. Cold air can easily enter your house around windows. Caulking wears out after a few years. This is a chore many homeowners can do themselves for less than $20.

Repair, add or replace weatherstripping. Good weatherstripping on exterior doors can save energy and help you feel more comfortable in winter. If you can see light from the outside coming in around your doors, it’s time for repairs.

Wrap exposed pipes. Pipes in exterior walls or outside can easily freeze during the winter, and wrapping them makes that less likely. “There’s nothing more costly than having a pipe burst in your house,” Sassano says.

Shut down and drain sprinkler systems. You also want to turn off and drain exterior spigots, plus drain and bring in hoses.

Aerate your lawn. By using a machine to poke holes in your lawn, you help air and water get to the roots. This is best done when the lawn is wet. The process helps it grow back next season. “When it snows and the snow start to melt, the aerated areas help the water get to the root system of your lawn,” Ingram says.

Trim trees. Proper trimming keeps trees healthy, and you should hire someone for the job who knows what he or she is doing. In cold climates, you want to keep weak branches that may become weighed down with snow from falling on your house or car. In warmer climates, you want to avoid wind damage.

Change the direction of ceiling fans. Fans are set to run counterclockwise in summer, which creates a cool breeze under the fan. But they should run clockwise in winter. “Heat tends to rise, and you don’t want to waste it up at the ceiling level,” Sassano says. “You want to bring it back down to where the people are.”

Inventory your snow equipment. Make sure your shovels are in good repair, your snow blower is tuned up and you have sand and salt on hand. “It’s really just easier to get them now before the stores sell out,” Reagan says.

Clean and put away your summer equipment. Now that the warm weather is gone, there’s no need for your lawn furniture, barbecue grill and water toys. “It just makes your springtime so much easier,” Reagan says.

From:  US News

Summer Home Maintenance Musts

With the change of each season comes a new set of maintenance tasks for your home. Now that summer’s here, you’ll want to prepare your home and yard for the onslaught of summer heat. From air-conditioner upkeep to hanging a clothesline, these simple chores will help keep your home happy and healthy.

Check detectors. Check your home’s smoke and carbon monoxide detectors to make sure they’re working properly.

Inspect air-conditioners. If you haven’t already, prep air conditioners and fans for their busiest season:

  • With the help of your spouse, install window air-conditioning units. Remove and clean the filters before firing up the AC. If you have central air-conditioning, consider a professional servicing.
  • Clean all ceiling fans and other fans with a damp rag. If you have high ceilings, a ceiling-fan duster can help you de-grime hard-to-reach blades.

Enjoy a dry spell. Install an outdoor clothesline to dry your laundry in the summer sun; you’ll save money and energy by skipping the dryer. Plus, who doesn’t love the smell of air-dried sheets?

Clean your outdoor cooker. Give your grill a deep cleaning with these simple steps:

  • For gas grills, turn the heat up to high and let the grill cook with the lid closed for about half an hour. Allow the grill to cool and then brush it off with a grill brush. Wipe down the exterior with a damp sponge and a gentle cleanser. Clean the grill’s drip pans.
  • For charcoal grills, completely empty the grill and wipe out any ashy residue. Then clean it inside and out with hot water, a scrubby sponge and some liquid dishwashing soap. Let the grill dry completely before using it again.

Polish your porch. Thoroughly sweep painted porch floors; then mop them with an all-purpose cleaner. If there’s a lot of built-up dirt on the floorboards, you may need to scrub them with a brush.

Analyze your deck. Look over your deck for signs of rotting and hammer in any nails that are poking up. Then, determine if your deck needs sealing. Sprinkle water on the deck’s boards. If the water beads up, you’re in good shape; but if it soaks right in, it’s time to reseal that sucker.

Wash your windows. If you didn’t tackle exterior window washing in the spring, now’s the time to get your glass clean.

Make much ado about mulch. Add a layer of mulch to keep weeds down and help the ground retain its moisture in the heat. It’ll give your plants a chance to grow.

Be a leak detective. Check your hoses and exterior faucets for leaks — even a tiny drip can add up to a big waste of water. Pinhole leaks in hoses can be covered up by winding regular electrical tape around the (dry) hose in overlapping layers.

Primp your plants. Deadhead both perennials and annuals to keep them productive. If you have visible dead foliage from spring bulbs, pull it out to maintain a tidy look, but if the daffodil or tulip leaves are still green, leave them alone; they’re busy nourishing the bulb to bloom again next year.

Plan your watering schedule. Train your garden to endure dry days by watering deeply a couple times a week, instead of watering lightly daily. This style of watering will promote the growth of deep, strong roots.

Stop dirt at the door. Keep summer’s mud and muck outside with not one, but two doormats at your main entry door. Place a coarse mat at the exterior and a softer, cloth one on the interior to catch the most dirt. Better still, instruct family members to remove their shoes upon entering. If you live near a beach, a tub of water for sandy feet placed by the door works wonders for keeping sand outside where it belongs.


Top 10 Common Repair Costs

Congratulations on buying your first house. Now, you have to learn how to keep it in good repair. To be safe, you should set aside money every year — 1% to 3% of your home’s purchase price — for repairs and maintenance.

The good news is that most repairs are simple, inexpensive, and DIY-friendly. If you can fix stuff yourself, you’ll only pay for the cost of materials and save a bundle on these common repairs and replacements.


1.  Replace Toilet Fill Valves

That annoying sound of water continually filling and draining from your toilet tank is often caused by leaky fill valve, which a plumber can replace, stopping water waste and restoring quiet. Plumber rates vary widely around the country, from $45 to $150 per hour, and the job will take about two hours — the minimum some plumbers require just to take the job.

Labor: $50 to $200

Materials: $11 to $23

Total: $61 to $223

2.  Repair a Leaky Faucet

The water torture drip-drip-drip from a leaky faucet won’t just drive you insane, it can drive up water bills, too. Depending on the type of faucet you have, fixes typically involve replacing damaged rubber washers (10 for $2), O-rings (10 for $2), or a faucet cartridge ($8 to $30).

Labor: $95 to $300

Materials: $2 to $30

Total: $97 to $330

3.  Replace Ceiling Fan

If you’ve got a ceiling fan, sooner or later the motor will burn out, the blades will warp, and fashions will change, so you’ll need to replace it. Replacing isn’t a big deal, because upgraded wiring, a reinforced ceiling box, and a light switch with ceiling fan controls are already in place. What you’re paying for is an electrician’s time — one or two hours — and a new fixture.

Labor: $50 to $200

Materials: $54 to $1,000 and up

Total: $104 to $1,200

4.  Repair Drywall

Nicks, gashes, and smashes inevitably mar your beautiful walls. You’ll have to patch and paint to make them look as good as new. A painter can do both jobs and will probably give you a flat rate that will include patching or filling blemishes, then sanding, priming, and painting.

Painters charge $25 to $62 per hour for labor or $2.68 to $4.60 per square foot including materials. Figure it will take about three hours to repair a wall, including drying time for the patching compound and paint. It’s a good idea to save up painting chores so you have enough to keep a painter busy while repairs cure.

Materials include paint at $12 to $50 or more a gallon, which should cover about 350 square feet; plus another $10 to $50 for brushes, rollers, drop clothes, and drywall patching compound.

Labor: $75 to $186

Materials: $22 to $100

Total: $97 to $286

5.  Repair Cracked Tile

Tile is hard and durable, but drop something heavy on it and it’s likely to crack — a reason to always order more tile than you need so you’ll always have spares. To replace cracked tiles, a handyman must pry out the damaged tiles, scrape away old fixative, re-glue new tiles, and spread new grout. Replacing a 2-foot-by-2-foot section of tile should take one to two hours, not including the drying time required for the adhesive to set.

Labor: $30 to $125 per hour; with possible $150 to $350 minimum charge for a handyman

Materials: $1 to $20 per square foot

Total: $34 to $430

6.  Replace Caulk Around Tubs, Sinks, and Showers

Caulk is the waterproof seal around sinks, tubs, and showers that prevents moisture from seeping through gaps and onto drywall and flooring. When caulk cracks or peels, it should be replaced immediately to prevent mold and rot.

A handyman can dig out old caulk around a tub and reseal with new in about an hour.

Labor: $30 to $125 per hour; with possible $150 to $350 minimum charge for a handyman

Materials:  $1 to $4 for a tube of bathroom caulk

Total: $31 to $354

7.  Fix Gutters

Gutters and downspouts carry water from rain and snow away from your house and onto the ground. Sometimes the weight of wet snow and soggy leaves puts too much pressure on gutters, causing them to pull away from the house or pitch at inefficient angles.

A gutter contractor will clean gutters, and replace or reinstall supportive hardware and hangers. To restore the correct pitch, the contractor must detach and reattach each gutter section.

Labor: $127 to $282 (depending on length of gutter)

Materials: $10 for five hangers; $6 to $9 for gutter sealant

Total: $143 to $301

8.  Fix Out-of-Alignment Doors

Over time, your house moves as its foundation settles and building materials expand and contract with changes in humidity. The movement often is noticed when doorframes shift slightly, causing hinges to creak and doors to not shut properly.

Adding wooden shims to frames and hinges can bring doors back into alignment and let them easily open and close once again. Replacing worn-out screws with longer screws helps secure hinges tightly.

A handyman can fix a door in about an hour. Materials will include shims and screws.

Labor: $30 to $125 per hour; with possible $150 to $350 minimum charge for a handyman

Materials: $5

Total: $35 to $355

9.  Repair Ice Damming

If your house isn’t insulated correctly or your roof isn’t designed correctly, melting roof snow can run off and freeze around roof edges. Eventually, this can form an ice dam that creeps up your roof, damaging shingles and forcing melting water into your home.

One popular solution to ice damming is to install a heating cable along the roof’s edge, which warms the area and prevents freezing. It’s not a DIY job. Roofing contractors will install the cable, and an electrician will install outlets that will juice up the cable. If you want a thermostat to turn the cable on and off automatically, that’ll be extra, too.

Labor and materials: $30 to $60 per linear foot

Total: $371 to $1,319 (average job cost)

10.  Fix a Faulty Light Switch

Sometimes you turn on the light but nothing happens; or sparks crackle, and the light turns on. It’s disconcerting, but most likely it’s an easy fix. An electrician will turn off the power, take off the faceplate, check and perhaps tighten wires; or replace the switch. All told, it will take less than an hour.

Labor: $50 to $100 per hour

Materials: $1 to $6 for a single pole light switch

Total: $41 to $106


What First-Time Buyers Should Look for in a Starter Home

You’ve dreamed for years of buying your first home, and now it’s time. You’ve created Pinterest boards dotted with photos of beautiful home decor, watched all the episodes of HGTV’s “House Hunters” and spent hours trolling listings online. You know exactly what you want.

But have you done the math?

home-buying-rehoboth-beach-real-estate1When it’s time to search for a starter home, many young — and not so young — people quickly discover that their budget won’t cover their dream home. That means making tough choices and doing some serious thinking about what matters: Will granite countertops make you happier than living 15 minutes closer to work? Is a third bedroom worth giving up a second car? Is living inyour dream neighborhood more important than having a yard?

“It’s not all about the house,” says Karen Carr, a certified financial planner at the Society of Grownups, a Boston group that holds seminars on homebuying in its effort to provide financial advice to young adults. “We talk a lot about buying for your life now and then the life you want in the next few years.”

Carr quizzes her clients about why they want what they want in a home, helping them drill down to what’s most important in their lives. The hope is they will realize some features, like commute time and having enough room to start a family, should be weighed more heavily than others, like the countertop material or the wall color, which might look nice but don’t really affect how they will live.

“We try to match their expectations with their budget,” Carr says. That’s a challenge in a city like Boston, where the median price of homes sold in December was $490,000, according to multiple listing service data analyzed by Signal Real Estate. Plus, Carr says, it’s such a strong seller’s market that many properties draw multiple offers.

One of the more important questions for first-time buyers is how much they are willing to compromise on location. In many large cities, for example, homes closer to town are more expensive than homes in the suburbs. That means buyers have to decide how far out they’re willing to move to get more space.

Most experts agree that if you buy a home, you need to make sure you can live in it for at least five years, and maybe longer. The needs and desires of young singles or couples without children are often different from the needs and desires of families, where schools and space matter more.

PulteGroup, which builds new single-family homes and townhomes throughout the U.S., sees two main types of first-time buyers. These newbie homebuyers want different things in starter homes, says James Zeumer, vice president of corporate communications.

Younger buyers, who may not have children, typically want to be closer to urban areas and are willing to live in attached homes, such as a townhouse community. Families, who are a little older, are more interested in a single-family home with a yard and are willing to move farther into the suburbs to get that, he says.

A National Association of Realtors survey of first-time buyers between July 2013 and June 2014 found that the median age of these buyers was 31 and that the median home size purchased was 1,570 square feet. Of those buyers, 75 percent chose a single-family home, 10 percent chose a townhouse and 10 percent chose a condo or co-op. More than half, 54 percent, were married, and 15 percent were unmarried couples. Unmarried women made up 18 percent of first-time buyers, and single men accounted for 11 percent.

More important, 75 percent of first-time buyers said they had compromised on their home purchase, most commonly on the size and price.

A Realtor in Mobile, Alabama, says many of her buyers want to keep costs low and are realistic about what they can afford. “After the economic crash, I think we’ve learned to be very frugal,” noting that many peers saw their parents struggle with mortgages during the real estate bust. “We watched how they suffered and how it declined so quickly.”

In Mobile, first-time homebuyers can get a three-bedroom, two-bath home — the size most are seeking — for $90,000 to $125,000, and the seller traditionally pays closing costs, which is practically unheard of in Boston.

She says her clients want modern appliances, fenced yards for pets and a home that requires little renovation. “They live such busy lives that the last thing they’re wanting to do is rip up carpet on the weekends,” she says.

First-time buyers also like open floor plans, flexible spaces and plenty of storage, with everything wired for technology, Zeumer says. Families like spaces off the kitchen where kids can do homework and still be seen by parents, as well as entryways with cubbyholes, hooks and cabinets. At Pulte, buyers choose their own options for the entry-level brand, and Zeumer says these buyers are very cost-conscious.

“They’re going to be very thoughtful with regard to the price point,” he says. Most buyers want three bedrooms and two baths and choose homes of 1,000 to 1,400 square feet, he says. Popular upgrades include wood or tile flooring and improvements in the master bath and kitchen.

Here are five things to consider as you prepare to buy a starter home:

Is buying now really a good idea? Take a look at your lifestyle, your job, your family situation and your budget to determine if this is the right time to lock yourself into a home for five to seven years.

Do you have enough money? Looking just at the mortgage payment gives you an incomplete picture, Carr says. “A lot of people just go straight to the mortgage payment,” she says, figuring that they can afford a payment equal to or slightly more than their rent. “That’s a gross oversimplification.” Be sure to add up the additional cost of property taxes, homeowners insurance, condo or homeowner association fees, utilities and maintenance. Every home, even a new home, will need repairs and preventive maintenance.

Drill down and separate what you need from what you want. Before you even look at homes, figure out what compromises you are willing to make. Location for space? A second bathroom for modern finishes? A great neighborhood for your own yard?

Get a good home inspection. If you’re buying an existing home, as 88 percent of the buyers in the Realtors’ survey did, accompany your home inspector and take notes. He or she will give you an excellent overview of how long the major components or your home will likely last, making it easier for you to plan for replacements during your ownership.

Know what’s easy to change and what isn’t. First-time homebuyers often have no experiencerenovating homes, so they don’t realize what features and finishes are easy and inexpensive to change and what is likely to become a major project. Real estate agents and home inspectors can provide insight on these topics, and you can also do your own research. Changing all the carpet before you move in, for example, is normally not difficult and is not nearly as expensive as adding wood floors. New kitchen counters are much less expensive than new cabinets. Rewiring a house is expensive, but changing a light fixture is not.


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: