5 Easy Ways to Update Your Deck while Watching Your Budget

little-deckWant to upgrade your deck but watching your budget? Here are 5 easy deck makeover ideas, many well under $300.

1. Add Solar Lighting

If you’d like your wood deck to come alive when the sun goes down, add solar lighting. Solar lights don’t need an on/off switch — they light up when it gets dark, then fade away 4-6 hours later. You won’t have to plug them in or wire anything, either. Their solar-charged batteries are renewed every day, and the lights are built to withstand all kinds of weather.

2. Install a Stone Landing at the Foot of Your Deck Stairs

Dress up the transition from your deck to your yard with a little hardscaping — a stone landing at the bottom of your deck stairs. Stones are a natural compliment to wood decks, and they’ll help prevent mud from forming where there’s heavy foot traffic.

3. Put Up a Privacy Screen

Whether you’re relaxing alone au naturel or entertaining friends, a little home privacy is always welcome. You can add some vertical supports and fill in a variety of cool screening materials that are as nice for your neighbors to look at as they are for you.

4. Paint a Faux Floor Rug on Your Decking

Punch up a boring old deck with a faux rug. This is a fairly low-cost project with a big wow factor, and one you can share making with your (well-behaved) kids. It works best on a newly cleaned deck.

5. Wash and Refinish Your Wood Decking

The ultimate deck makeover is none other than a good cleaning. Applying a coat of deck sealant afterwards ensures your wood decking looks great and will last for decades.

To read the article as published on houselogic.com, please click here.

Landscaping Projects that You Can do Yourself

DIY landscapingThere’s nothing like driving up to a friend or colleague’s house for the first time, only to notice that their shrubs are pruned perfectly, and that their walkway is lined with flowers. Proper landscaping is beautiful and eye-catching, and if done right, it can significantly add to a home’s perceived value because it is usually the first thing that people see when they walk by, drive by, or tour your home. Not only does attractive landscaping sometimes attract buyers, but many home owners find that having beautiful landscaping can turn their yard into a haven from their busy lives.

Although you can always hire a landscaper, many landscaping projects can easily be done yourself, and often it can be more affordable. Whether you are hoping to pull buyers in so that you can sell your house, or you just want a more beautiful yard, here are five landscaping projects that you can do yourself.

1. Fix the mess

Sometimes people want to jump into a big landscaping project that they think will make their yard more beautiful, but if your yard is straggly or full of weeds, you need to tackle that problem first. Most buyers or visitors to your home will be turned off by too many obvious weeds, so get rid of those first. Also make sure that your grass is healthy and dense, which can actually prevent weeds from growing because it will block the sunlight that the weeds need to grow. In addition to growing healthy grass and eliminating weeds, make sure that any landscaping that already existed, is clean and pleasant to look at. This means that if your stone walkway is being overrun by tree roots or glaring weeds, you need to fix that problem. Even the most beautiful landscaping won’t fully mask projects that need your attention.

2. Make a path

Speaking of stone walkways, designing a pretty and clean stone walkway through your hard (or a portion of it) is a fairly simply way to add design and beauty to your yard. According to the diy network, you first need to come up with a design, and make sure that the stone you choose will compliment your hard and home (based on the climate you live in, the function of the walkway, and the style of your home.) Then you will need to measure, and order the materials. It’s worth looking in your local newspaper too, as sometimes people redo or remove stones and give them away for free.

You will then need to make space and prep the ground for the stones, which will probably require a garden towel or spade. Then of course you will need to set the stones. Depending on the condition of your yard, and the stones you are able to find or purchase, this project could take a few hours, or possibly, a few days. This project can benefit the front as well as the back of your yard.

3. Set boundaries

Sometimes property boundaries are more loosely agreed upon than they are actually defined. If you would prefer to have a clear boundary between your house and your neighbors’, this can be a relatively easy project to undertake. Doing so can increase your privacy, which will be an added bonus for you, and potentially an incentive for buyers to take a second look at your yard when they come through, if you are trying to sell your house.

One option is to consider a privacy fence, but that can be very expensive. Shrubs are a cheaper and easier idea, and you can decide on the height. Small shrubs will make your property line more distinct, but provide less privacy. Hedges or tall grasses are another idea. Usually a project like this will be relatively small, and will mostly involve choosing, purchasing, and then planting the chosen border plant. Make sure you talk to your neighbor before you begin.

4. Add some charm with a patio or deck

Many people really enjoy having a patio or deck in their yard, and although this is a big project, it is one you can possibly do yourself. The cost of the deck will vary depending on the size and materials, from $500, up to $1,500 or more, but you will save money by avoiding contractor fees if you do it yourself. Building a deck isn’t easy, but it can be done, and many websites offer help and tutorials, like this one from This Old House. You also can consider a concrete patio.

If you already have a patio or deck, there are many ways you can beautify it. The most obvious way is a new paint job for your deck, or filling in any cracks on your patio. However, adding flower pots or privacy hedges, or even planting a flower boundary surrounding the patio, can add charm.

5. Remember the flowers

If you bought a house with a completely blank slate for a yard, or a home that includes very little flowers, you should consider adding some color. Flowers easily improve the look of the front or back yard if taken care of and maintained, and they can be especially powerful in the front yard. Consider framing the walkway or driveway to your house, planting around the mail box, or just adding handing flower pots or flower boxes under windows if you have limited time, budget, or you don’t have a lot of outdoor space. Some beautiful and low-maintenance flowers you can consider include annuals (including Petunias, Zinnias, and Marigolds.) There are many other flowers that you can consider, but be sure that you have enough sun (or shade) in your yard to grow each kind you pick.

There are many other landscaping projects you can take on yourself. Although a deck can get expensive and be a big project, defining your property line won’t be as big of a project. First, decide how much time and how much of a budget you have, then you can determine which project you want to tackle. Water fountains or water features are another popular choice, and raised flower beds are another idea.

To read the article as published on wallstcheatsheet.com, please click here.

Making Sure that Your Family is Hurricane Ready!

We are in the middle of Hurricane season right now (starts June 1 and lasts until November 30). Learn what steps to take now, before a storm hitsand after it passes.

What to Do Now

Tame Mother Nature. – Trim trees to reduce potential damage from falling limbs.

Clear Out Gutters. – Clean rain gutters and keep them free of debris. You could create your own flood with clogged drains and gutters.

Get Rid of Clutter. – Pick up things around your yard that you are no longer using, such as empty plant pots, etc.

Shield Glass. – Purchase storm shutters or 5/8-inch marine plywood and have it cut to fit and ready to install to protect windows, glass doors and skylights in the event of a storm.

What to Do Before the Storm Hits

Rearrange Belongings. – Keep valuable items away from windows.

Protect Important Items. – For those important or sentimental items that you want to protect, but may not be able to take with you in the event you have to evacuate, place them in a fire and water proof safe.

Save Items Electronically, and Back Them Up. – Scan important documents (licenses, certificates, etc), and sentimental items (photographs for example) onto your computer. Then backup your computer onto a portable external hard drive.

Bring the Outdoors Inside. – Bring lighter-weight outdoor items indoors, such as trash cans, patio furniture, plants and toys. Secure other objects that could be picked up by the wind.

Shelter Your Car. – If you have to evacuate and plan to leave a vehicle behind, put it in the garage or on higher ground. Avoid parking it under a tree or on a low-lying street where it could be damaged by water.

Create a Survival Kit. – Fill a backpack with necessary items such in case you lose power, or have to evacuate. Items should include: basic tools, flashlight, battery powered radio, extra batteries, first aid kit, personal hygiene items, bottled water, canned food, blankets, clothes, laptop, external hard drive, money, etc.

Secure Heavy-duty Items. – Make sure to properly store items such as boats or motorcycles, following the same general guidelines as with your car. If your boat will stay in the water, tie it down securely and remove the motor and any small objects.

Unplug Electronics. – To prevent damage from an electrical surge, unplug electronics and household appliances. Don’t rely on surge protectors to save them.

Evacuate. – Leave the area if necessary to protect yourself and your family. Always comply with mandatory evacuations by civil authority.

What to Do After the Storm

Wait Until the Coast is Clear. – If you evacuated, listen to the radio or TV news stations and wait until the area is declared safe before returning.

Don’t Flip the Switch. – Once you return home, don’t turn on the power right away if the area or your home is flooded. Have an electrician inspect your home first. You should also have your gas lines inspected — avoid open flames or candles until you do. Have your plumbing checked out as well.

Create a Documentary. – Record or photograph any damage to your home and belongings — before repairs are made or claims are filed with your insurance company. Protect your property from further damage and keep all receipts for these costs.

File a Claim with Your Insurance Provider – Contact your insurance provider to learn how to file a claim if needed.

Storm Planning and Survival

  • American Red Cross
  • Disaster Safety Organization
  • Federal Alliance for Safe Homes
  • FEMA
  • Insurance Information Institute
  • Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety
  • National Flood Insurance Program


How To Patch a Hole in Your Wall

Drywall HoleIf you ever find yourself staring at a hole marring an otherwise perfectly good wall, don’t worry. Patching drywall is easier than it looks: you just need the right tools and a few basic principles.

There are a lot of different products and “easy fixes” for patching drywall holes on the market, but I’ve found that sticking to the basics is always best for projects like this. For patching a hole up to 6-7″ in diameter, I would suggest these tools:

Drywall knives: 6″ and 10″ (I recommend having these two sizes of knives on hand for any drywall projects other than, say, filling nail holes.)

Wallboard: Big box stores sell small 2×4′ sheets that you can cut your own patches from. It’s important to match the thickness of your existing walls, ½” thick is common for most interior walls.

Paper drywall tape: Self-adhering mesh tape is also common, but I find it to be more difficult to work with in the long run.
Cordless drill and drywall screws: You’ll only need a handful of screws to secure the patch in place. You do need some kind of drill or driver to do this, a screwdriver won’t cut it.

Scrap wood: You’ll need a piece approximately ½ – 1″ thick, and a few inches longer than the hole you’re patching.

Joint Compound: It’s usually available in 1 and 5 gallon buckets. I recommend keeping a 1 gallon bucket on hand unless you’re planning to do a lot of patching.

Keyhole saw or spiral saw: I recommend using power tools whenever you can (it’s way more fun) but a keyhole saw works just as well.
There are two distinct steps involved in patching drywall: securing a new piece of wallboard in place, and taping and finishing the wall.

Step 1: Secure the Wallboard in Place

To secure a new piece of wallboard in place, you’re probably going to want to cut an even larger hole in the wall you’re patching. I know, it’s counter intuitive, but think of it this way: it’s easier to cut a square patch of drywall that is larger than your hole, then hold it to the wall and trace so that you can cut a close match out of the wall, instead of trying to cut an irregularly shaped patch to fit in the existing hole.

To cut a patch from a scrap piece of drywall you can usually use any kind of utility knife to cut through the top layer of paper, snap the wallboard back, then cut the back side of the board to release the piece.

To cut a matching hole in the wall you can use a keyhole saw like this, or—my favorite—a a spiral saw like the RotoZip. (I always jump at the chance to use a power tool.)

The patch itself needs to be attached to something before you can move on to taping and mudding the wall. In most cases, there isn’t a wall stud handy right where the hole is. For smaller holes, here’s the method I use:

1. Get a small piece of scrap wood that is narrower but longer than the hole you are patching, and a couple of drywall screws.

2. Place the scrap wood inside the hole, then hold it tight to the inside of the wall and screw through the drywall above and below the hole to secure the wood in place. (This is something you’ll need to use a drill/driver for, it can’t be done by hand with a screwdriver.)

3. Now you can screw your drywall patch onto the wood, and it should sit flush with the rest of the wall and a minimal gap.

Step 2: Tape and Finish with Joint Compound

Now that all of the “structural” work is complete, you’ll want finish the patch with tape and joint compound. There aren’t any power tools involved in this part of the work, just a couple of drywall knives, sandpaper, and some good ol’ fashioned elbow grease.

Note: this is not something you can complete in an hour, or even a day, because you’ll need to put multiple coats of joint compound on, and it’s imperative they fully dry between coats.

To start, put a decently thick layer of joint compound on the wall, then tear off a piece of drywall tape and push it into the mud.

Use a 6″ taping knife and working outward from the center, run the knife over the tape with even pressure to flatten it into the mud. You want all of the tape to be embedded in the mud without any wrinkles or bubbles.

Do this for all edges of the patch, then clean your tools and wait until the joint compound is completely dry. (I usually wait a full 24 hours.)

Next, start layering joint compound over the patched area. Many people put on as little compound as possible on the walls. I did this for years, and it was a big mistake. Instead, put a lot of compound on the wall first, then go back with your knife and scrape off the excess to leave a smooth-ish patch over the drywall.

This is an example from finishing a drywall seam, but the same concept applies.

In order to make the patched area blend in to the existing wall, you’ll want to put joint compound in a much larger area than the original patch.

This is just to illustrate that the final “patch” will be much larger than the original hole.

Once the first coat dries you’ll need to sand it down, and will likely need one final coat. I do not recommend using the little sanding sponges that seem so popular because they can apply uneven pressure when sanding. Instead, a sanding pad like this is a good option.

Each subsequent coat of mud should cover a larger area than the last to help everything blend in to the wall. Here’s an example where I moved a light fixture and receptacle in my bathroom. (Apologies for the horrible lighting but I often do these things late at night.)

After sanding the final coat, apply a primer before painting over that section of wall. Here’s that same wall of my bathroom after the patches were painted, and fixtures installed. Good as new!

To see photos and read the article as published on workshop.lifehacker.com, please click here.

Save your lawn…..get rid of moles & gophers

gopher moundsAlthough there are a number of ways to control dreaded subterranean dwellers — from trapping and flooding to poison — master gardener Paul James prefers to repel them by using a granular form of his favorite repellent: castor oil. This relatively new product does an excellent job of controlling moles and gophers as well as armadillos.

So just how do you know whether you have moles or gophers? For one thing, moles don’t eat plants. They primarily eat grubs and earthworms, and they leave telltale tunnels or shallow, surface ridges as well as circular mounds of dirt above ground with holes in the center. On the other hand, gophers eat plants, and their tunnels are rarely visible. Gopher mounds are fan-shaped with a hole off to one side.

“Frankly, I don’t mind moles that much,” Paul says. “The tunnels they create can be a nuisance, but in the process of tunneling, they help aerate the soil. Besides, I don’t have that many moles because I use a combination of milky spore bacteria and beneficial nematodes to destroy the grubs that moles feed on.” But gophers are another story, and at Paul’s place, they’ve been having a feeding frenzy. “While I was on vacation recently, they ate more than 150 of the hostas in a bed. And aside from the economic damage, which I conservatively estimate at between $2,000 and $3,000, the gophers destroyed what I considered a really beautiful garden bed.”

So, to get rid of the unwanted gophers, James uses the castor oil granules. Keep in mind that castor oil products don’t actually harm moles or gophers, they simply send them scurrying elsewhere. In fact, you can dictate the direction you want them to go. Using a spreader, Paul evenly spreads the granules over an area of his yard where the damage has been particularly bad. With this product, the coverage rate is a mere one pound per 1,000 square feet, which means a little bit goes a long way. But it’s difficult to judge how much, or in this case, how little you’ve put down.

You can water the granules in if you like, or you can just wait on the rain to do the job for you. Either way, the granules will slowly begin to dissolve and release the scent that repels both moles and gophers. “This is an all-natural product containing nothing more than castor oil, soap and corncob granules, which are actually good for the lawn,” Paul says.

If you’re treating a large area, simply broadcast the granules all over your property, including your lawn and garden beds, directing the moles and gophers to the nearest exit point of your property.” To force the pests in a specific direction, apply the granules to one-third the area to be treated, beginning with the area farthest from the ultimate exit point. And within hours, especially if you water the area well, the gophers will begin moving in that direction. A day or two later, apply more granules to the next section, and a day or two after that, apply additional granules to the final section. The trick to using any granular product is getting even coverage. Paul suggests trying one of three methods. One way is to simply broadcast the granules lightly but as evenly as possible by hand. The second is to use a hand-held spreader set to the lowest application rate. The third method is to use a conventional broadcast spreader set to the lowest application rate.

Some other commonly used techniques include setting traps; whether live or lethal, they work pretty well if you set them properly. Flooding the tunnels with water or fumigating them by attaching a hose to the exhaust of a lawn mower can also be effective. ”Poison peanuts and smoke bombs don’t work well,” Paul says, “and their use has been banned in several states.” But milky spore bacteria and beneficial nematodes are especially beneficial eliminating moles because both all-natural products destroy the grubs they feed on.

To read the article as published on shine.yahoo.com, please click here.

Easy kitchen remodel ideas to get you a new look

imagesCAPMU6EDAs summer wanes, thoughts turn to fall — and all those kitchen improvements you had intended to get to this season but never found the time or the money to do. Must you live with that old kitchen for another year? The good news is that a few simple upgrades can give you a kitchen that looks new at a fraction of the cost.

Here are a few cheap kitchen remodel ideas that are easy on your time and on your pocketbook. Please note that most price estimates are courtesy of CostHelper.com.

Rethink your countertop
Working on the same countertop every day can become annoying, especially if you really hate the look and feel of it. Simply replacing the countertop space can make your kitchen much more fun. Laminate is a good bet if you want something attractive, durable, and affordable: At between $210 and $900 for a typical kitchen, it’s an investment that won’t hurt too badly.

Reface kitchen cabinets
Are your kitchen cabinets looking rather ragged? Refacing them means that you get a new look at a fraction of the cost. A full cabinet refacing in a typical kitchen might cost between $1,000 and $3,000 for plastic laminate or rigid thermofoil, or between $2,500 and $6,000 for real wood veneer. Don’t have that kind of cash? You can spruce up your cabinets with paint for a tiny fraction of that.

Paint like mad
Speaking of paint, a new layer can make any room feel fresh and new. The ultimate do-it-yourself job, this is something that can be done in a weekend. The cost of supplies varies depending upon the quality of the paint you choose, but expect to pay between $12 and $50 per gallon, plus an additional cost for primer and supplies. Turning to a professional to paint a 15×20 foot room can run between $300 and $700.

Invest in new hardware
It really is the little things that count. Consider your kitchen hardware like jewelry that completes an outfit — the right stunning piece can make or break the entire ensemble. One of the least expensive options for your kitchen upgrade, attractive hardware begins at $2 to $4 at any home improvement or hardware store, though it can go up to $20 to $50. A frugal homeowner might be able to install new hardware on all cabinets in an afternoon for less than $100.

Light up the new space
When it comes to renovations and updates, lighting tends to be one of the last things homeowners think about — and as a result, lighting is often inadequate or awkward. Blaze a new trail by making light a priority. Simple under-cabinet lighting can run around $10 at home improvement stores, but consider other lights that might make a splash. For instance, typical recessed lighting costs about $20 to $60 for each light. With new lighting, your kitchen could have a whole new vibe.

Choose unique furniture
If you have an open space in your kitchen, lucky you! That means plenty of room for kitchen furniture that transforms your space from ho-hum to wonderful. Think along the lines of an antique hutch, dry sink, or old farmhouse table. If you are willing to spend some time searching for the right piece, flea markets and antique shops are great places to try. Expect prices to range widely, depending upon the condition of the piece — you might find a nice table for a few hundred dollars, but that prized hutch might run you $1,000 or more. You can cut costs by committing to buying cheaper pieces with good bones and putting in some DIY work on them.

Consider new appliances
An old, tired kitchen can get an instant update when a new appliance is nestled into place. Though appliances can be pricey, they are built to last for a very long time, so you get your money’s worth. A typical refrigerator can run anywhere from $900 to $3,500 and up, depending upon the bells and whistles. A basic range can run between $400 and $1,000, with much higher prices attached to deluxe models. For a cheaper alternative, inquire about purchasing floor models. If you don’t a couple small dings, you may be able to score a serious deal.

Which cheap kitchen remodel ideas will you use?
Just one of these upgrades can make a difference in the way your kitchen looks. Consider what is most important to you — are the cabinets truly annoying you? Is the countertop scarred and dented? Do you get frustrated with the lack of light where you need it? Focus on what you want to change the most, then look at your budget and figure out how to make it work. You spend a great deal of time in the kitchen, so it should be a place you truly enjoy.

To read the article as published on www.fool.com, please click here.

Make your bathroom more than just “functional”

Small BathroomMany people think of bathrooms as merely functional: it’s where you bathe, wash your hands, and relieve yourself. However, we all know that there’s more to the story. On the Interstate, when you decide to stop at a gas station, the first criteria to consider are the cleanliness of the restrooms. When you eat at a restaurant or have a drink at a bar, you inevitably inspect, scrutinize, and grade the state of their facilities, which tends to reflect the establishment’s overall quality. And the same rule applies to homeowners: guests and prospective homebuyers attach a lot of importance to bathrooms—so you should as well.

 Yes, Size Matters!

The biggest concern when it comes to bathroom remodeling is its size. When you renovate, creating more space should always be a priority. No matter how many fresh fixtures or state-of-the-art features you install, it’ll all be useless if the room feels cramped. This is especially important when it comes to small bathroom design. Lavatories, even if they’re only 1/2 baths, are meant to be luxurious and relaxing. And although it’s great to have a cozy, private retreat, you should also feel comfortable and at ease. So when it comes to undersized restrooms, you need to find ways to utilize the space you’ve been given in order make a tiny area feel like an airy sanctuary.

Let Space Speak for Itself

The simplest way to deal with small bathroom design is to highlight the pre-existing space. This means you have to trick people into seeing more than what is really there. Giving the illusion of space is a very effective way to enlarge a room:

De-clutter: One bathroom design idea is to remove the clutter. Get rid of the busy wallpaper. Take down the picture frames. Remove excess furnishings. Eliminate those ugly towel bars.

Storage: Now that you’ve gotten rid of the clutter, where are you going to put your stuff? To hang towels, install a hook on the back of the door or buy a shower rod with towel bars already attached. If you have to have furniture, make it double-duty. Get a decorative chest that can also act as an additional storage unit. Or, invest in a small magazine rack that can be placed out of the way. It’s best to get things off the floor by hanging tiny shelves or buying a mirrored medicine cabinet to conceal your toiletries.

Lighting: Now that your stuff is out of the way, you need to spotlight the space you’ve created. In small bathroom design, natural illumination is a great way to cast some light in dark corners. One solution is to install a skylight or add a window. If that’s impossible, make use of the light you have. Put in a glass-block window that lets light in from other rooms. Mount some wall sconces that take up little space, yet shed lots of ambient light. Another alternative is to fire up some candles to generate a romantic mood.

Walls: Along with lighting, another key bathroom design idea is color coordination. Letting your walls stay neutral—white or beige—generates an impression of more space. Plus, if you draw the eye upwards, the room will look taller; so add a border around the ceiling to create more vertical depth. Also, installing polished tiles and hanging mirrors lets the area reflect itself, thereby creating the feel of additional square footage.

More Out of Less

In any type of small bathroom design, it’s the plumbing fixtures that eat up the room. Fear not: there are ways to make these cumbersome necessities fade into the background.

Toilet: A hung toilet has no tank attached so it slides right up against the wall.

Sink: Most vanities come with small, useless counter spaces and cabinetry systems. Eliminate the waste by installing a wall-hung sink that frees up floor space. A pedestal sink installed in an out-of-the way corner can deliver the elegance you want with the openness you need.

Tub: Make this particular fixture do the work for two by installing a unit that works as both shower and tub. If you still want luxury, clawfoot tubs actually free up space around the walls and can be turned into a shower or Jacuzzi depending on the model.

Shower: If you have a half bath, a quick bathroom design idea is to simply install a single-stall shower in a corner. To make it invisible to the naked eye, invest in frameless doors or a clear shower curtain for a transparent appearance.

To read the article as published on wallstcheatsheet.com, please click here.

What we could learn, if that 1970s home could talk

The 1970s were a boom time for home construction. In fact, according to the Department of Housing and Urban Development, the median U.S. home was built in 1974.

Homes built in that decade have many qualities that fell out of fashion but are gaining ground today, especially as we become more environmentally conscious. Here’s a look at 10 things we can learn from ’70s homes.

Size matters

In 1973, the average size for a new single-family home in the United States was 1,660 square feet, the Census Bureau says. In 2011, it was 2,480 square feet. But that elbow room comes at a high price.

“Bigger homes are more expensive to heat and cool and to maintain,” says Pam Kueber, who runs a blog called “Retro Renovation.” “Pretty much every single cost related to owning a home is scalable based on how big it is.”

Environmental concerns may be making smaller homes fashionable again. A 2011 National Association of Home Builders survey found that 74% of builders, designers and architects think the average single-family house will be smaller in 2015.

Energy conservation

The 1973 energy crisis wasn’t just an issue for drivers. It got the attention of homeowners, too. Policymakers also took notice, and the Energy Tax Act of 1978 promised credits of up to $2,200 for homeowners who invested in solar- and wind-energy equipment.

In recent years, these “green” improvements have come back into vogue for numerous reasons, with governments again offering energy credits for homes. Experts say today’s residences use as much energy as those built in the 1970s, despite advances in insulation and the use of energy-efficient appliances. Possible reasons: Houses are bigger, and people have more electrical gadgets today than before.

Simple roofs

Ranch-style homes became dominant in America in the 1950s through the 1970s. They had roofs that were low and simple, often with wide eaves to help shade the windows. The Cape Cod-style houses that were popular on the East Coast after World War II also sported simple roofs .

The larger and more complex houses that became popular in the 1980s and 1990s often had more complicated roofs, with multiple gables and dormers. These roofs are arguably more visually interesting, but their complexity also means more potential for leaks or costly repairs.

Green walls

Homes with ivy-covered walls once were common, but vines fell out of favor, because people thought the creeping greenery was damaging their brickwork.

But scientists at Oxford University, itself home to numerous ivy-covered buildings, found in 2010 that the plants actually protect walls from extreme temperatures, moisture and pollution.

In 2011, the Montreal Urban Ecology Center issued a guide promoting the use of climbing plants on walls in that Canadian city. The nonprofit group says ivy-covered walls provide insulation and help keep homes cooler during summer, through evapotranspiration and shade. They are also good for the environment, the group says, because they capture carbon dioxide and provide a habitat for birds.


Central air conditioning was not ubiquitous in homes built in the 1970s and earlier, which meant that people needed other ways to keep their houses cool in summer. Awnings were a great option, shading windows during the summer, when the sun was higher in the sky, and letting in more light and heat during the winter, when the sun was lower.

“Awnings get very little respect today, but they are an old-school and extremely efficient way to keep your house 10 to 20 degrees cooler,” Kueber says. “It’s an environmentally sensitive way to cut your air-conditioning bills.”

The chance to cut energy costs and reduce homes’ carbon footprint is making awnings and other passive-energy design features cool again.

The case for no staircase

Single-story homes were popular well into the 1970s, before split-level residences gained favor with homebuyers. Since then, multistory houses have become the norm.

But not everyone likes climbing stairs, and older people, in particular, may appreciate homes that are all on one level. These residences may now appeal to aging baby boomers who are looking for places to live during retirement.

Cork floors

Shag carpeting is just one of the unfortunate flooring choices from the 1970s that can induce shudders in contemporary homebuyers. But at least one retro floor covering deserves a second look.

Cork was commonly used to cover bathroom floors in the ’60s and ’70s, and the material is enjoying a bit of a renaissance. Cork is naturally mold-resistant and sound dampening, and it is eco-friendly, as well. Unlike wood, which requires that forests be cut down and converted to lumber, cork can be harvested by trimming the bark from living trees. It is the rare building material that is both retro and sustainable.

Old-growth wood

Older homes were made from wood from older trees. The practice of using lumber from old-growth forests — those with trees that had been growing for 200 years or more — was arguably bad for the environment but good for builders and homeowners.

Lumber from ancient trees is less likely to shrink over time, which makes it more durable and dimensionally accurate than boards cut from the fast-growing, farmed trees .

The good news is that alternatives to old-growth timber now exist, and they are used for the same reasons older wood was used in the ’70s.

Engineered lumber uses lamination and other technologies to make the best of wood from younger trees. Also gaining popularity is reclaimed wood from remodeled or demolished buildings, abandoned barns, railroad trestles and even long-submerged logs recovered from lakes or rivers.

Paint awareness

Beauty can have a dark side. For homes, that became clear in 1978, when the federal government banned paint containing more than trace amounts of lead from residential use. Lead has been linked to health issues that include behavioral problems and learning disabilities in children. Paint chips and dust can contain dangerous levels of lead, the Environmental Protection Agency says.

This concern has picked up again in recent years with a focus on paints, varnishes and cleaning products that release volatile organic compounds that include benzene, formaldehyde and other potential toxins. Many paint companies have started offer low-VOC and no-VOC paints for use in today’s homes.

Outdoor focus

Many of today’s “outdoor living” features were born in 1970s “patio homes.” These abodes allowed residents to concentrate on living instead of maintenance.

The patio home was built as a marriage of an apartment and ranch house: The one-story home often featured a large patio to allow residents to enjoy the outdoors in a private setting, while a housing association often took care of the exterior and landscaping.

The trend for a prominent outdoor living space continues. The National Association of Home Builders cites outdoor-living spaces as one of the top five trends in new homes, with features such as fireplaces and outdoor kitchens.

To read the article as published on realestate.msn.com, please click here.

Flag Etiquette For Flying “Old Glory” at Your Home

According to federal code, here’s how to honor those broad stripes and bright stars as you fly them at home today and everyday!

The patriot’s guide to flying the U.S. flag at home

•Fly the flag outside only from sunrise to sunset, unless it is illuminated for night time display.

•Especially fly the flag on New Year’s Day, January 1; Inauguration Day, January 20; Lincoln’s Birthday, February 12; Washington’s Birthday, third Monday in February; Easter Sunday; Mother’s Day, second Sunday in May; Armed Forces Day, third Saturday in May; Memorial Day (half-staff until noon), the last Monday in May; Flag Day, June 14; Independence Day, July 4; Labor Day, first Monday in September; Constitution Day, September 17; Columbus Day, second Monday in October; Navy Day, October 27; Veterans Day, November 11; Thanksgiving Day, fourth Thursday in November; Christmas Day, December 25; state birthdays (dates of admission); state holidays; and other days as announced by the U.S. President.

•Do not fly the flag outside during inclement weather unless you use an all-weather flag.

•Do not fly another flag above the U.S. flag, or if the other flag is on the same level, do not fly another flag to the right of the U.S. flag.

•Fly the flag with the “union” (the blue field of white stars) at the peak of the staff (unless the flag is at half staff) when flying the flag from a staff projecting horizontally or at an angle from the window sill, balcony, or front of a building.

•When you suspend a flag over a sidewalk from a rope extending from a house to a pole at the edge of the sidewalk, hoist the flag, union first, from the building.

•When you display the flag over the middle of the street, suspend it vertically with the union to the north in an east and west street, to the east in a north and south street.

•When you display a flag horizontally or vertically against a wall or in a window, place the union uppermost and to the flag’s own right, or to the observer’s left.

•Display the flag with the union down only as a distress signal.

•Fly the flag at half-staff (positioning the flag one-half the distance between the top and bottom of the staff) at times specified, often according to presidential instructions.

•When flying the flag at half-staff, it should be first hoisted to the peak for an instant and then lowered to the half-staff position. The flag should be again raised to the peak before it is lowered for the day.

•Never allow the flag to touch anything beneath it, including the ground, the floor, water or other items.

•Never carry the flag flat or horizontally, but always aloft and free.

•Never use a flag as wearing apparel, bedding, drapery, ceiling covering or decorative element. It should never be festooned, drawn back, nor up, in folds, but always allowed to fall free.

•Never use the flag for advertising purposes. Don’t embroider it on articles, print or impress it on disposable items.

•Don’t use a part of the flag as a costume or athletic uniform. A flag patch may be affixed to the uniform of military personnel, firefighters, police, and members of patriotic organizations. A lapel flag pin should be worn on the left lapel near the heart.

•Protect the flag from display, use or storage that will cause it to be easily torn, soiled or damaged.

•Never place things on the flag or attach marks, insignias, letters, words, figures, designs, pictures, or drawings

•Don’t use the flag as a receptacle for receiving, holding, carrying, or delivering anything.

•Aged flags no longer fit for flying—like those wind whipped ones on personal vehicles—should be destroyed in a dignified way, preferable by safely burning it.

To read the original article, as published on realtor.com, please click here.

How to best showcase your home’s first impression.

Whether you’re prepping your home for sale, or just want it to look good, don’t forget about the exterior — especially the front yard and door!

Here are some great tips from home stagers and curb appeal experts on how to best showcase your home’s first impression.

Walk to the curb

The first order of business: Walk to the curb or street and look at your home from the road.

This will probably be the buyers’ or the buyer agent’s first, real-live impression of your house. Take the time to review the way your front yard looks. Does the front door look fresh and inviting? Is the landing or porch neat and tidy? These are the details that can make a huge difference for that ever-important first impression.

And if you sense something’s off, clip home improvement ideas from books, magazines or professionals who can really help you maximize the appeal of your home and get it ready for the market!

One professional, Michelle Molinari, has the perfect way to consistently spruce up exteriors of listings. She adds flowering white flowers to yards in Louisiana because they “always look great on photos,” she said.

Molinari also recommends a layer of mulch to finish out garden spaces and — a fun little tip — she suggests coordinating the mulch color with the roof color. The match will make the entire front appear more complimentary to the eye.

In lieu of green grass in the U.S. Southwest, xeriscaping is used because of the way this water-conserving method makes use of natural landscape items like rocks and desert-friendly plants.

The money shot: Your front door

One big item: Don’t forget the front door!

A brightly painted front door and decorative house numbers lend to this home’s curb appeal.

Some home stagers recommend using the same exterior color for the front door, but I prefer to a color to complement exterior house colors. For instance, a Tudor-style house with cream walls and grey trim would be great with a hydrangea blue on the door. A gray wall Colonial with white trim would look stunning with a black door. Most of the paint manufacturers have suggested exterior combinations (walls, trim and doors) to help sellers determine which color works well with the exterior paint colors and style of their house. (See: How to Choose Exterior Paint Colors).

In addition to the front door, potted plants and tables and chairs are great additions for a front porch. For the smaller landing, Karen Eubank of Eubank Staging in Dallas, Texas suggests a pot of rosemary by the front door. What a great way to have potential buyers enter your home after taking a nice whiff of rosemary at the door, signaling their welcome.

Numbers add a punch

Last, but not least, don’t neglect the house numbers or lighting. House numbers are best seen with dark numbers on a light background and are very important when selling! Ensure there is enough light to read them comfortably from the road. And if the front of the house is hard to see from the road, place another set of numbers closer to the road so buyers don’t miss the house!

Hopefully all of these tips will help your home make a great first impression!

To read the original article, please click here.

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