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The Many Parts of a Roof

September 7, 2017

The roof on your house is one of the most important aspects of your home. Your roof has a very important job, perhaps one of the most important in your home: protect you from the elements.

If you have noticed your roof looks like it needs attention it is best to look into it further rather than leave it for later. While it may seem like a daunting task, leaving a problem roof can cost you big in the long run.

Roofs are expensive if they need to be redone as they require a lot of knowledge and skill to install and repair. For this reason, it is not something you can typically do yourself and instead you will need to hire the job out.

Before calling your contractor, it is important that you know the different parts of your roof so that you can get a more accurate quote. Having this knowledge will help you to understand the different parts of your roof and leave you with a better concept of what to do next.

Parts of the Roof

A sloped roof is the most widely used type. Simply put, it is a roof that sits on an angle rather than flat.

The Valley

The valley is where two parts of the roof meet. It creates an area that has a “v” shape. Ridges are the high points of the roof and form a point at the top.


Anything the protrudes out from the roof, like a chimney, is wrapped with flashing at the base. Flashing is an incredibly important part of your roof as it weatherproofs your house. This can be metal or shingle material that creates a watertight bond, allowing no water to get under the shingles. If you notice a problem here, you should contact your contractor immediately.


Shingles sit on top of paper which lays on plywood that creates the base of the roof. The paper acts as a barrier that better insulates your home. Under the plywood are rafters that make the frame in which the roof sits on top.


Nearly every single roof has vents. This ensures that no moisture or vapors build up in your attic causing mold or damage. These are also used for plumbing and works to ensuring that your home does not smell.


All roofs should have insulation. This can be sprayed from the inside, or be a batting material. If your roof is not insulated it can be letting heat out in the winter and cool air in the summer. This can cause your heater and air conditioning unit to work overtime costing you more money than it should.


Eaves catch the rain that runs off the roof. This way you can direct it into drains instead of around your foundation.

The Gable

A gable is the part of the roof that overhangs from the house. This creates a little area that can be used to cover a patio or front stop.

All of these aspects work together to create the roof. If there is a weak spot in any of these areas water can build up and create havoc with the roof system. Now that you know the various moving parts that make up your roof, you will be better suited to making an informed decision on what to do next.

DIY Painting: How to Cut In Like a Pro

July 17, 2017

By far the one aspect of painting a room that intimidates most people from attempting it themselves is the fear of cutting in. Cutting in is being able to paint neatly along the edge of your door jambs, baseboards, windows and antique hutches or kitchen cabinets without getting any paint on them.

Essentially, it’s framing an outline or border so you can paint the rest of the wall, often using a roller. It has been my experience that many people feel cutting in is beyond their skill set. The ability to cut-in separates the professional painter from the amateur and with a few tips and a little practice you too can learn to cut like a pro.

Before You Begin

The first item you will need is a good paintbrush. A cheapo brush is worth its weight in dirt. It doesn’t hold paint, it has bristles that will splay (stick out) while you’re painting, and those pesky little hairs will reach out and touch the very parts you are so carefully trying to avoid.

I use a Purdy two and a half-inch sash brush, but any high quality brush will do. The sash brush bristles are cut at an angle which enables you to have more control of the paint and get that tip into corners. I recall once, while working in Tennessee, I was in a paint store looking at brushes when a lady with a strong southern accent approached me and asked if I could recommend a good brush. “You probably want a Purdy brush,” I told her. “Oh, I don’t care what it looks like” she replied, as long as it’s a good one!” True story.

Okay then, you have a good brush, so now make sure you have a good paint. A good paint will cover in one coat. That’s what you want. You don’t want to do all that cautious cutting in only to discover that when it dries it needs another coat of paint and you have to do it all over. Been there.

Getting Started

As an example, let’s say you’re cutting around the right side of a doorjamb. From your paint can, slightly dip and then gently wiggle your brush back and forth only until about an inch or so of paint is on the bristles. Wipe each side of the brush once on the inside rim of the can with a light upstroke to remove excess paint. Don’t press too hard when wiping. It’s a balance. You want enough paint to remain in the bristles to cut in effectively, but you don’t want it dripping off the brush either.

How To

The mistake most people make is they start with their brush right up against the edge of the jamb. That’s the problem. Start too close and the paint gets pushed into the edge you wanted not to paint. Here’s how to avoid that.

Begin at the top, about two inches away from the edge of the jamb. Place your brush on the wall vertically (straight up & down) and with a little pressure, pull straight down for about a foot or so. You’ll see the ridge of paint created by your downward stroke on your left. Go back to the top now and start atop that ridge with your brush pulling straight down again. The ridge of paint is getting thinner and closer to the edge of the jamb.

Repeat this process until the last stroke puts your paint (and your bristles) right up against the jamb. Usually, by the 3rd or 4th pull down (or a few more until you get the hang of it). On the last stroke there should not be a ridge of paint. It should be smooth and easily seam right up against the jamb. Dip your brush and put a little more paint on the entire area (brushing up and down) to ensure it covers well. You don’t have to get too close to the jamb again.

Be sure to brush out or feather the outside edge of paint (away from the door) with your brush until it’s smooth and there is no ridge. You do this so that when you begin to roll your walls you won’t have a dried, dark edge that remains visible through the painted walls.

It’s All the Same

When cutting in around windows, baseboards or crown moldings, it’s the same process. Begin away from your edge and gradually work your way toward it with steady, straight strokes. Be sure to apply enough paint to cover well and then feather the edges out. Feathering is important. You don’t want a ridge.

Don’t Stop in the Middle

Don’t let your cut-in dry overnight before finishing. Paint can dry funny and there’s a chance it won’t exactly match the next day. Even paint from the same can, can change hues when dried on different days so be sure to finish painting any walls you already have cut in.

Don’t stop painting in the middle of the wall either or the same thing can occur; especially if you have to buy more paint to finish up.

One More Tip

Should you run out of paint before you’re finished, be sure to buy the new paint from the same store from which you purchased the original batch to assure a perfectly matching color.

The End

So there you have it. A little practice first will go a long way toward gaining you the skill and confidence you need to tackle the dreaded…cutting in.

Good luck and happy painting!

How to Cut PVC Like a Pro

July 10, 2017

It’s a plastic world and in this modern age, PVC has become about as commonplace as dirt. The Plumbing industry has been revolutionized with the advent of this miraculous plastic. With its lightweight construction, excellent tensile strength (how strong it is) and superior durability, PVC pipe has replaced 20th Century iron in a myriad of applications. Plumbing however, is merely one industry. In truth, the entire world has been transformed by plastic.

What is PVC?

PVC is the shortcut of Polyvinyl Chlorine. Another name for PVC is vinyl.

PVC is a thermoplastic comprised of 57% Chlorine, derived from industrial grade salt, and 43% Carbon which is derived mainly from gas and oil via ethylene.

PVC applications have evolved far beyond just a plumber’s dream; it is used in more products than we could list in a lifetime of typing. Suffice it to say, it is a plastic world.

Cutting PVC

Thanks for the History Lesson, now how do we cut it?

An excellent question and here’s the answer. If you have a project that requires you to cut PVC, this article intends to show you the best three (3) tools we’ve found that will make the job a little easier although cutting PVC is quite easy.

Essentially there are three ways most PVC is cut and they involve the use of the following three tools. You will ultimately determine which tool works best for you. Angles and lengths vary; this article is less a how-to and more a what-tool


THE PVC RACHET CUTTER is an excellent tool for cutting PVC pipe. Handheld like a pair of pliers, it is inexpensive (under $15), easy to use and cuts with no waste. Several brands are available and can be purchased at your local brick & mortar hardware store or ordered online.

The upside is the ease with which this tool cuts. Especially handy if you buy some long PVC pipe and don’t have a pick-up truck to put it in. With the Ratchet Cutter you can cut the pieces in-two and load them into the car. This tool is recommended for pipe up to 1 ½ inches in diameter.

The downside may be that it doesn’t cut at a 90-degree angle. That is to say, a straight up and down cut.

Next tool.

A HACKSAW OR BACKSAW WITH A MITER BOX is another way to effectively cut PVC and perhaps the most common. While both saws do the job, a little extra time may be required buffing out the rough or chipped edges left by the teeth of the respective saw blades. The miter box allows for straight cuts.

A POWER MITER SAW works best for quick, clean cuts and is a godsend if you have many pieces to cut. The downside of a miter saw is that unless you already own one, they can be expensive. They range in price from $100 to nearly $2000. If you’re going to be doing a lot of sawing a power miter saw may be worth the investment.


ALWAYS CLAMP DOWN YOUR PVC PIPE before you begin to cut. NEVER hold it in your hand to cut. An unsteady pipe is a dangerous pipe as blades can shift and jump in a nano second causing serious injury.

ALWAYS WEAR EYE PROTECTION as small fragments of PVC can be ejected during sawing. Especially true if you are using power tools.

ALWAYS WEAR A MASK OR RESPIRATOR when cutting PVC because plastic emits fine particles while being cut that if inhaled can irritate the throat and lungs much like asbestos.

How to Cut Plexiglass Like a Pro

July 3, 2017

Most of us in the modern world are familiar with Plexiglas because it is so prevalent in our everyday lives. Plexiglas is lightweight, durable, and safer than standard glass. It is used in a myriad of industrial and home applications.

Beyond being some type of plastic however, many people don’t really know much about it and its origin.

A Bit ‘o History

Plexiglas is the synthetic form of methyl methacrylate which had several chemists’ work involved in its creation in its early years of development. Discovered in 1865, methacrylic acid makes up a part of the basis for acrylic plastic. The process of polymerization (the bonding of 2 or more monomers to form a polymer) was discovered by two German chemists, Fittig and Paul, while researching its properties in 1877.

It wasn’t until 1933 however, that practical uses for methacrylic acid were discovered by German chemist Otto Rohm who created many acrylic and methacrylic compounds. He later trademarked his work under the name Plexiglas. The first industrial use of Plexiglas came during World War 2 when it was used as a lightweight substitute for glass in airplane windows and in the gun turrets of fighter planes.

Today, many companies have their own brand of acrylic plastic registered under various names such as Lucite, Acrylite, and Perspex and many others but people still use the word Plexiglas as a general term. It’s like calling any tissue a Kleenex.

With plastic so prevalent in the home today, many handymen and handywomen are taking on home projects using Plexiglas (or other acrylics) to make their own tables, outdoor furniture, aquariums and more. Unless you have the proper instruction, cutting Plexiglas can be problematic. Rough edges, chipped pieces and spider cracks around drilled holes are all common occurances when cutting or trimming plastic.

Cutting Plexiglas

Many do-it-yourselfers enjoy taking on a new project and learning the ins and outs as they go. Many others are not so happy when faced with a new project they are not sure how to do. Cutting acrylic yourself for home projects can be intimidating but honestly, is something that with a little know-how, practically anyone can do.

To cut a thin piece of acrylic (up to 3/16th of an inch) you’ll need a sharp blade like the type found in a utility knife but any sharp knife blade will do.

Using a yardstick or straight edge and a marker, first measure then draw the line down the sheet you’re going to cut. On a flat surface such as a worktable or bench, score (or trace) with the blade the line you have just drawn. Don’t press very hard as you score the line because you are going to score it many times before it is ready to be detached from the sheet. Be sure to secure or clamp your straight edge so it doesn’t float while scoring. You want every pass to follow your setline. Slow and steady. Repeat this perhaps 10 times or more.

Turn the sheet over and repeat the process. When deeply scored deeply enough, place the sheet on a flat surface (off the ground) with your scored line right at the outer edge of your work surface. Now clamp the sheet’s corners to the table. Some place a piece of wood over the sheet and clamp that down on top. With the part you are going to cut hanging over the edge, using both hands, grasp the plastic near the center and apply even pressure very quickly to the sheet. With the proper force and speed, it should snap off cleanly.

New edges usually require some sanding or buffing to smooth out; also, placing a piece of tape around where you’re going to drill a hole will help prevent cracking.

Power Tools

For thicker pieces, follow the same procedure but use a power saw for the cutting. They make saw blades expressly for cutting acrylic. If using a used blade, be sure the teeth are evenly spaced and of the same height.

Caution! The blade can get hot so water cool it while working or take a break after a short cut before resuming. If not, you can crack the glass.

DIY Guide to Removing Carpet

June 26, 2017

Nothing says “oh my aching back” like tearing out old carpeting. Taking up carpet from a floor is labor intensive and can prove to be a pain in more than just the back. Cutting, ripping, and pulling until muscles ache you didn’t know you had, comes with the territory.

Nevertheless, there are a few tricks of the trade one can incorporate to make the job a little less arduous.

Naturally you’re going to need a few tools:

Gloves are essential. The cheap working type glove with some manner of rubber on the palms and fingers is a plus as some carpet can feel slick. In addition, when you have a lot of carpet to pull up your fingers and hands get weaker the longer you work so a good-grip-glove really helps to compensate for that loss of squeezing power.

Pliers are an absolute must. It is much easier to grab a piece of carpet from the corner and pull it up with a pair of pliers (I use needle-nose pliers) than digging it out with your fingers. Remember too, there is tack stripping (skinny yardsticks with lots of tiny nails in them…point up!) lurking beneath the edge of the carpet just waiting to bite you. You’ll also need pliers (preferably needle-nose) to pull up the staples used to hold the carpet pad down.

2 Flathead Screwdrivers, a large and small. Or if you prefer, a small pry bar or chisel in lieu of the large screwdriver, to get under that tack stripping to pry it up. You will need a small flathead to pry the staples up enough to get a grip on them with the needle-nose. Pull straight up.

A Razor Knife or Sharp Blade will be necessary to cut the carpet into manageable-size pieces.

A Small Hammer to tap the screwdriver or chisel under the tack stripping in order to pry it up.

A Bit of Cloth to place under your prying tools.

A Friend to Help which is self-explanatory.

Get to Work!

Begin by choosing a corner from which to start. Pull up a corner of the carpet. Once you have enough to grip, start pulling upward. Sometimes, it comes up pretty easily and you can walk large sections backward. Don’t be alarmed when the main carpet comes up and the edges remain attached to the tack stripping.

After you have pulling up a decent sized section, many people like to cut across the carpet and remove that section. The reason is simple. You have to roll it up and carry it so if you can’t lift and carry a giant roll of heavy carpet, you may want to cut it into manageable-sized pieces as it comes up.

After you have all the carpet up and out of your way, it’s time to remove the tack stripping from around the border of the room.

Using a small flathead (or any thin, flat, blade) place the edge between the floor and strip (as level as possible). Now gently tap with a hammer until it gets deep enough under the strip to be pried up. Pry up a little, tap your preferred blade in a little deeper and pry some more and move further down. Repeat until you can pry it all the way up. Pieces will break.


If you have hardwood floors beneath that you don’t want scratched, pry gently.

The same is true for removing the staples. Gently pry them up with the edge of your little flathead (screwdriver). Sometimes the entire staple comes up. Most times, they break. That’s where the needle-nose pliers come in. When you have pried it up high enough, grasp it with the needle nose and pull straight up.

Note: Place a bit of cloth under the tip of the screwdriver as you ‘wiggle and pry loose’ those staples. You don’t want to gouge the floor.

Note: If you have glue-down carpet, the way to remove this is simply to pull up an edge or go to a corner in the room and pry a piece of carpet up until you get enough to grip with your hands then begin pulling up the edge. The more you pull the more carpet you will pull up. With glue-down there is no tack stripping to remove.

Once you have it pulled away from the edge of the wall walk backward while gripping it. Here’s a tip. If it’s glue-down carpet you can probably walk the whole thing backward and just roll it up.

3 Budget-Friendly Bathroom Makeovers

April 27, 2017

Before: Not-Bad Before

Sleek and stylish, this master bathroom looks like an “after” before the makeover even begins. The space includes all necessary amenities but in HGTV fan isabellaandmaxrooms’ own words, it “lacked personality.”

After: Even Better After

Just a few key but relatively inexpensive updates make a dramatic difference. By simply updating the room’s paint, lighting and accessories, the homeowners made a good thing even better. Design by HGTV fan isabellaandmaxrooms.

Before: Blast From the Past

Honey oak cabinetry and hunter-green tile were all the rage — 30 years ago. HGTV fan nesting has some work to do to bring this bathroom into the 21st century.

After: Charming Transformation

For less than $500, HGTV fan nesting completely changed the look of this bathroom. Beadboard wainscoting, a crisp, white tile countertop and several gallons of paint are to thank for the makeover. In her own words, when you’re on a budget, “paint is your friend.”

Before: Dark, Dated and Dingy

A jetted tub is a luxurious feature in any bath, but this tub with dated green ceramic tile and dingy peach surrounding walls doesn’t look like a tempting spot for a long soak. Photo by HGTV fan mamma4x.

After: Spa-tacular Transformation

HGTV fan mamma4x completely changed the look of the tub area with a charming cottage-style makeover. In her words, “This is the master bath in one of the houses that I flipped. Everything from the chandeliers to the marble floor was done for less than $1,000.”

Affordable Home Improvement Ideas

April 27, 2017

Improvement 1: Bathroom mini makeover—$430

If you’ve long wanted the elegance of natural stone in your home, consider a new granite bathroom vanity top, which is a great, affordable way to get it. You can now find granite tops at Lowe’s, Home Depot and other home centers. Prices range from $150 to $450 depending on the size. Complete this bath makeover with a new faucet and mirror, and you’ll still keep the price under $500.

Begin by ordering your new items and don’t start the project until you have them all on hand. Be sure to inspect them for flaws (a common problem). Then tear out the old fixtures and repair the walls as needed. Keep the old vanity if it’s in good shape. But paint it to freshen it. Use a few cans of spray paint to get a smooth finish and avoid brush marks. And replace the old pulls with new ones to dress it up.

Next, paint the walls and add the new mirror. If your old mirror included a recessed medicine cabinet, make sure the new one fits within the existing opening. Enlarging the opening often expands the job considerably!

Finally, mount the faucet, install your new granite top and connect the plumbing. Whew! If all goes well, you’ll finish in a long weekend.

Cost: Granite vanity top, 31 in. long, $200; faucet, $130; 24 x 36-in. mirror, $60; paint and cabinet pulls, $40. Total: $430.

Time: Two to three days.

Improvement 2: Wallpaper one wall—$280

If you haven’t visited a wall-covering retailer lately, you’re missing a treat. With the revived popularity of wallpaper, stores are offering an expanded range of choices. The prices of some of these may knock your socks off too.

But take heart. You don’t have to cover every wall to make a dramatic change. Papering only a single wall will do, and that’ll make some of those fine, expensive papers or fabrics affordable. It’ll also lessen the time, effort and mess of papering an entire room. This is an especially good solution for a room with plain walls, slim baseboards and window trim, and no built-ins. You create instant character.

Begin by taking a photo of your existing room and measuring its dimensions. Take these with you to the interior design or wall-covering store. Ask a specialist to help sort through options that’ll work well with your existing furnishings. The specialist will also help you pick the best wall for the new paper and estimate the amount to order.

Some papers can be hard to hang, especially fabrics, rolls with uncut edges and other designer papers. Always check the hanging instructions and ask the dealer about the difficulty level. If you’re a novice paperhanger or fall in love with a super-expensive paper, consider hiring a pro. The extra cost should be modest for a single wall, from $150 to $250.

Be sure to fill holes and smooth your wall before beginning. Rough spots might show through the paper. Then seal the wall surface with an acrylic primer. It dries hard and smooth. This allows you to slide the paper a bit more easily to tighten seams.

Cost: $122 for a double roll of the paper shown and $20 to $50 for supplies.

Time: Half to one full day, depending on the wall condition.

Improvement 3: Halogen track lighting—$180

Track lighting lets you put light exactly where you need it—on countertops, walls or objects—and brighten just about any area. The tiny halogen bulbs emit a dazzling white light that illuminates colors brilliantly.

The price of track lighting has dropped in recent years. And many systems now operate on standard household voltage. That means you don’t have to install a Transformer—just connect to any existing junction box in the ceiling.

The “rail” system that hangs below the ceiling like we show will hold both spotlights and pendants. Rails typically run either 4 or 8 ft. You can bend the rail for a more decorative appearance and position the lights anywhere on it.

Look for rail system kits (typically with three to five light fixtures) in home centers, lighting stores or online. Check manufacturers’ Web sites or check the catalogs at a lighting specialty store to see all the options. This is especially important if you want to assemble your own system or add extra lights to the rail. You want to be sure you get all the correct parts.

Cost: $150 and up for a basic kit.

Time: One to two hours if you have an existing electrical box in the ceiling.

Improvement 4: Kitchen rollouts—$40 to $80

Rollouts are one of the easiest and most satisfying upgrades you can make to your kitchen. They bring everything that’s tucked out of sight in the back of cabinets right to your fingertips—you actually gain usable storage space.

If you don’t want to make the rollouts yourself, you can shop for moderately priced yet sturdy rollouts online or at Lowe’s and Home Depot. You simply mount them to the existing shelves in your cabinets with four screws.

The biggest mistake is ordering the wrong size. When you measure the opening in the front of the cabinet, be sure to account for the door, hinges and other obstructions.

Cost: $40 to $80 per rollout.

Time: 15 minutes per rollout.

Improvement 5: Trim and paint—$380

By adding two simple lines of trim—a chair rail and a crown molding—you create the perfect framework for any handsome two-color wall combination. This is one of the secrets of fast, easy redecorating.

To have the biggest color impact, paint your trim. This also simplifies installation. You don’t have to cut perfect joints, because a little filler and paint will leave them looking sharp and crisp. You can also use less expensive materials.

The trim combination we show looks best in rooms with at least 4-1/2-in.-tall baseboards. If your baseboard is narrower, consider replacing it or choosing a different wall decorating technique. (See “Wallpaper one wall” above.)

Then make the new chair rail 60 to 70 percent of the width of your baseboard. Use a two-piece combination that mimics a windowsill (stool) and its apron (the trim underneath) if you have this type of trim. Otherwise, use trim similar to your window trim with a 5/8- to 3/4-in. strip on top. Center your chair rail at about one-third the wall height. Choose crown molding that’s 30 to 40 percent of the width of the baseboard.

Finding colors that work well together and go well with the existing room furnishings can be challenging. We suggest that you take full advantage of pictures in magazines and the combinations recommended by paint manufacturers that you find at every paint store. Take photos of rooms you like (or clothing combinations you like!) and work with a paint dealer to match colors. Most home centers and paint dealers now offer small paint samples. You can try them directly on the wall or paint a 2 x 2-ft. scrap of drywall or cardboard instead. That way you can view the samples in different parts of the room. Then look at the colors both in daylight and with your lights on at night. (Some colors change dramatically under different types of light.)

TIP: Prepaint the trim and paint the walls before you put the trim up. Touch up afterward.

Cost: 6 gallons of paint—$180; 80 ft. of chair rail and crown moldings—$200.

Time: Two to three days.

Improvement 5: Trim and paint—$380

By adding two simple lines of trim—a chair rail and a crown molding—you create the perfect framework for any handsome two-color wall combination. This is one of the secrets of fast, easy redecorating.

To have the biggest color impact, paint your trim. This also simplifies installation. You don’t have to cut perfect joints, because a little filler and paint will leave them looking sharp and crisp. You can also use less expensive materials.

The trim combination we show looks best in rooms with at least 4-1/2-in.-tall baseboards. If your baseboard is narrower, consider replacing it or choosing a different wall decorating technique. (See “Wallpaper one wall” above.)

Then make the new chair rail 60 to 70 percent of the width of your baseboard. Use a two-piece combination that mimics a windowsill (stool) and its apron (the trim underneath) if you have this type of trim. Otherwise, use trim similar to your window trim with a 5/8- to 3/4-in. strip on top. Center your chair rail at about one-third the wall height. Choose crown molding that’s 30 to 40 percent of the width of the baseboard.

Finding colors that work well together and go well with the existing room furnishings can be challenging. We suggest that you take full advantage of pictures in magazines and the combinations recommended by paint manufacturers that you find at every paint store. Take photos of rooms you like (or clothing combinations you like!) and work with a paint dealer to match colors. Most home centers and paint dealers now offer small paint samples. You can try them directly on the wall or paint a 2 x 2-ft. scrap of drywall or cardboard instead. That way you can view the samples in different parts of the room. Then look at the colors both in daylight and with your lights on at night. (Some colors change dramatically under different types of light.)

TIP: Prepaint the trim and paint the walls before you put the trim up. Touch up afterward.

Cost: 6 gallons of paint—$180; 80 ft. of chair rail and crown moldings—$200.

Time: Two to three days.

Improvement 6: Backyard oasis—$450

Two elements make for a great backyard retreat—shade from the sun and protection from irritating insects. The good news: You can now choose from a wide range of screened canopies (also called gazebos) that handle both sun and insects. They’re easy to put up and maintain, you can plant them in almost any flat spot, and they’re reasonably priced, typically $200 to $500, depending on the size. Typical sizes range from 10 x 10-ft. to 12 x 12 ft. You can create a comfortable sitting area in just a few hours. Look for screened canopies at home centers and outdoor furniture dealers.

A grass floor is inviting, but it’ll wear out fast. If you don’t have an existing deck or patio that’s suitable, we recommend building a paver patio for the floor. Brick and concrete pavers are durable, handsome, and available in many styles and colors. And you don’t need special skills or experience to lay them successfully. Even a novice can do a first-class job and complete a small project in a weekend. OK, it is hard work. You’ll have to dig a bit and rent and operate a heavy plate compactor. Look for pavers at home centers and patio and garden centers.

Begin by choosing a canopy style and size. Then make your patio slightly larger to accommodate it. Or consider an even larger patio, leaving part of it open.

Cost: $150 and up for a screened canopy; about $3.50 per sq. ft. for a paver patio.

Time: Two hours for a canopy; a weekend for a small patio.

Improvement 7: Closet organizer—$100

You don’t have to spend a fortune to have a neat closet. Wire shelving systems are inexpensive, practical and easy to install. They increase your storage space and simplify cleaning too. Almost everything hangs on the walls, keeping the floor clear for easy vacuuming. And the wire shelving won’t collect dust like solid shelving does.

A novice can install a system with only a drill, a level, a hacksaw and basic hand tools. Begin by measuring your closet dimensions. At home centers, you’ll find basic kits with a full complement of shelves and clothes rods priced from $50 to $75. If you want a more elaborate system, either begin with a kit and then add accessories, or build a custom system from readily available parts. Visit a home center to see a complete selection of parts and get arrangement ideas. Then plan your system by laying out all the shelves and other components using masking tape on the back of your closet wall. You can also draw up a plan on paper, but measure carefully if you use this method. Often manufacturer Web sites have planning guides.

Most brands have solid, drill-and-tap-in wall anchors that work well even in drywall. Use a hacksaw to cut the heavy wire shelving to fit your layout.

Finally, check for accessories like shoe racks, tie and belt racks, and baskets to expand storage options and make the best use of leftover space.

Cost: $200 for the closet system shown.

Time: Half day to remove old shelves and install the new system.

Improvement 8: Laundry center—$480

Stand back and look at your laundry room. Chances are it could use better organization, better lighting and more storage. These simple upgrades give you all that.

Everything you need is available at home centers. Start with a stock countertop (you can order colors that aren’t in stock, but you’ll pay two to three times as much). Don’t forget to buy end caps to cover the raw ends of the countertop.

To support the countertop, build super-simple shelf units from 8-ft. lengths of 23-1/4-in. wide shelving. We chose Melamine shelving, which has a tough plastic coating and doesn’t need painting. Size and space the shelves to suit your laundry baskets (we made ours 14-1/2 in. apart and 35 in. above the floor). Cut the parts and screw them together with 2-in. screws. Cover the screw heads with plastic caps (sold near the shelving).

Next, hang a pair of inexpensive 18-in. x 30-in. utility wall cabinets over the countertop to hold detergents and other cleaning supplies. Fasten an adjustable clothing rod between them for clothes hangers.

You’ll want especially bright lighting to help you sort clothing and spot stains and other problems. Fluorescent tubes work well because they cast light evenly with few shadows. We recommend a four-bulb fixture that’s 4 ft. long with a prismatic plastic cover for extra brightness. Make sure to buy fixtures with electronic ballasts to avoid the annoying hum that goes with magnetic ballasts.

TIP: Equip the fixture with 90-plus CRI (color rendering index) bulbs to better see the true colors of your clothing. These fluorescent bulbs are more expensive ($8 to $10 each) and may drive you over budget. Order them online.

Finally, soften and brighten your floor with rubbery plastic floor tile. Used mostly in garages and commercial buildings, this flooring is tough, but easy on your feet. And it may be the world’s easiest to install floor: You simply snap the tiles together; you don’t have to glue it down. The 12 x 12-in. tiles come in several colors and surface patterns. Look for them at home centers or online.

Cost: 6-ft. countertop, $70; 3/4-in. Melamine supports and shelving, $40; two 18-in. wall cabinets, $150; adjustable clothes rod, $10; light fixture, $54, plus $45 for four high-CRI bulbs; flooring, about $3.50 per tile.

Time: One or two days.

Cutting List for Shelving

Four 3/4″ x 23-1/4″ x 34-1/2″ Melamine supports
Four 3/4″ x 23″ x 22″ Melamine shelves

Two 1/4″ x 23-1/4″ x 34″ plywood backs

Improvement 9: New bath accessories—$470

Replacing accessories like towel bars, light fixtures and towels, plus applying a fresh coat of paint, is the absolutely easiest way to make your bathroom feel new and clean. You don’t need special skills for success; it’s a screwdriver- and-paintbrush project you can complete in a weekend. But keep in mind that this face-lift will only work if your basic fixtures—the sink and faucet, vanity, toilet, tub and tile—are all still in reasonably good shape.

Also keep in mind that the total cost of this makeover will vary widely depending on your choices. You could spend as little as $200 or much more than $500.

When you shop for accessories, stay with a consistent style and finish. Manufacturers help here by offering matching sets of towel bars, shelves, soap dishes and other accessories.

Simply painting the walls a new color makes a quick, dramatic change. But beware. If you choose the paint color first, you may spend days hunting for matching towels, a rug and shower curtains. To make color coordination easier, shop for accessories first, using paint samples as a guide. Then settle on a paint color.

TIP: Remove the old wall accessories, then repair, clean and repaint the walls before adding the new accessories.

Extra accessories we especially like (and that might blow the $500 budget!): a pullout mirror near the sink; multiple-level towel bars (shown below); a towel warmer ($40 to $200); and a self-closing toilet seat.

Cost: About $340 for the accessories shown above. Add $30 for paint and $100 for a rug, towels and shower curtain.

Time: One weekend.

Improvement 10: Add curb appeal—$200 and up

Tired of a shabby, uninspiring front entry? Take heart. You can totally transform it with a series of small accents and minor changes that will impress your guests, please the neighbors and, perhaps most important, make your house a more pleasant place to come home to. All are easy to do and cost little.

Begin with paint. Renew your trim and siding (if painted) and take a hard look at your front door. If it’s the primary feature, consider painting it a strong color. Color choice can be difficult, so look in magazines and at other doors in your neighborhood for ideas you like.

Then buy new accessories, like the house number, mailbox and light fixture. In most cases a screwdriver is the only tool you’ll need to install them. Also replace the door handles and latch if they’re worn.

Next, spruce up the approach to the front door. If you have a plain concrete walk or driveway, choose one of our favorite upgrades: Add a simple border of bricks, or other pavers, depending on the style of your home. Dry set them (no mortar) on a firmly tamped base. For lasting results, dig a trench about 5 in. deep. Add 2 in. of compacted gravel such as “class V.” Cover the gravel with an inch of sand and set the bricks.

Cost: Paint, numbers, mailbox, etc., less than $100 total; bricks or pavers $3 per sq. ft. and up.

Time: One or two weekends.

10 Investments to Boost Your Home’s Value

April 27, 2017

1. Kitchen Is King

Matt: And sometimes queen. Unless your home is falling down around you, the smartest place to put your hard-earned dough is in the kitchen. When I hold an open house, the first thing buyers do is make a beeline to the kitchen. That’s where all the “magic” happens, so to speak. Now, I can give you the whole speech about putting down tile, stone, nice under-mount sink and yada yada yada. We have all heard it a million times over to put stainless steel appliances in the kitchen. We get it! Instead think about your layout and workspace. They call it the triangle. Basically it is the space where your cook area, sink and dishwasher meet to create an effortless flow when working. How far is your cooktop from your sink? Is your dishwasher close to the sink? Are you tripping over stools and a butcher-block table to get from one corner of the triangle to the other? If you have the means to invest some money into your kitchen, make sure to place all your new toys into a nice flowing workspace.

Nicole: I totally agree. I have seen so many people put in expensive goodies and never fix the bad flow. Spend the money on the layout — it never goes out of style. If you have a great layout, plugging in new appliances, hardware and cabinets can be quick and easy.

2. Basement or Attic Renovation

Matt:  If you have a basement or a big attic, finish it out. Whether it’s making the man cave of your dreams or an extra bedroom for your ever-expanding family, finishing your basement or attic can inject instant equity and square footage into your home.  Just make sure a permit is pulled and all the codes are followed. If not, the square footage may not be added to the rest of the house and may not be considered a “livable” space. Different states have different codes, so make sure to hire a contractor that’s on the ball.

Nicole: This is one that I would disagree with having so high on the list. I think overall basements are a gamble. Attic space to master suite — yes. Basements are more likely to help you sell, but usually buyers will not pay more for them.  If a house is small and lacking space, sometimes.

3. Boost the Bathroom

Matt: You don’t have to go crazy: Install new fixtures, re-grout the shower, add crown molding and brighten up the room with some paint. I really like the new textures they have for wallpaper nowadays. Yes, you heard me: wallpaper. A little texture can make a bathroom go from a plain Jane to a beauty queen. Just a few little improvements in a bathroom can be a really smart way to spend your money.

Nicole: Having removed way too much wallpaper, I have to say nix it. A great paint job and nice architectural detail is easier and will be timeless. Something as simple as a new mirror and light fixtures can make the dingiest of bathrooms look fresh and fabulous. I consider wallpaper trendy and a pain-in-the-backside in bathrooms because of all the moisture. If you do go that route, have the Super Glue handy to reattach the seams.

4. Remove the Paneling and Popcorn

Matt: The two things that scream “I’m old and I need help in a bad way!” The first is wood paneling. Don’t fool yourself, that look is NEVER coming back. Especially if you have the old MDF wood panels with the high-gloss finish. Rip it out and put up some drywall. If you really like a “wood” look, use reclaimed wood installed horizontally. It looks amazing, it’s not a huge or expensive project and it will instantly throw some value into your home. The second must-go item is popcorn ceilings. I am not going to go into too much detail because it is obvious. A home that looks modern will fetch a more modern home value.
Nicole: I agree. The only time I keep wood paneling is if it is knotty pine and matches the era of the home. It is real wood and not the stuff you see sold in large panels at the local big box.  Houses built post-WWII usually came stocked with a knotty pine in the attics and basements. In the right element it looks fantastic. Always keep in mind the market value of your home; some projects will outprice your home for the neighborhood. Sometimes it makes more sense to give the paneling a nice paint job vs. the cost of drywall; either way, bright and fresh wins out. For popcorn ceilings — no doubt in my mind — just drywall right over them.  Usually there’s a reason they’re popcorned: cracks and bad seams.

5. Engineered or Real-Wood Floors

Matt:  Notice I wrote “engineered or real” and not laminate. People are getting very educated when it comes to wood floors. They can sniff out the cheap laminate stuff.

Nicole: I only half agree — I am still not totally sold on engineered flooring.  I deal with real products only. And honestly, shopping around at liquidation centers or salvage yards, my real hardwood floors always come out cheaper than new engineered products. Oak flooring can be picked up for cheap and you can dress it up with different stain.

6. Update Plumbing

Matt: If you have old, rusty iron pipes and fear that you have ingested enough metal in your drinking water to build a small ship, you might want to consider replacing the plumbing.  Believe it or not, an appraiser takes the plumbing into heavy consideration when assigning the value to a home. Back in the day, it used to be a huge undertaking with walls being torn up and drywall flying everywhere. Nowadays though, re-piping is usually done with PEX (basically plastic tubing) that is extremely reliable and can be run through your walls like an extension cord. This means less holes and a lot less mess. It also means less money spent on materials and labor. Heavy metal should be only used to describe music and not the water in your home.

Nicole: Yes, yes — it is all about the guts. No sense in putting good money into a home when the mechanics are bad. This is a win-win situation. The scariest thing for new owners is the thought that something huge like plumbing or electrical will need work. Plus, people always think these updates cost much more than they actually do.

7. Brighten Up Your Space

Matt: No one likes a dank, dark living space. Well, some people may like that sort of thing, but not anyone that likes keeping up their home’s value. Throw in some can/recessed lighting in the kitchen and bathrooms to brighten the place up.

Nicole: I have seen too many lights.  Simple touches like dimmer switches make a dramatic change to any room.

8. Adding Attic Insulation

Matt: If the insulation in your attic is not up to par, close to 30 percent of the nice, warm, comfortable air that your furnace is producing is going out the window. Laying insulation is an easy DIY project and the materials are pretty inexpensive.

Nicole: I love insulating. Not really, but what a relatively easy update. Also, just simple caulking around doors and windows can save you a bunch of money. You may have to sacrifice a weekend, but it will be worth it.

9. Furnace/HVAC Replacement

Matt: This is usually not on the top of anyone’s mind when it comes to home improvement, but between the rebates and the energy savings, replacing a forced-air unit can start to pump not only comfort, but money into your living space. When I show buyers a home, if they see a new furnace/HVAC unit, I usually hear a sigh of relief.

Nicole: I don’t totally agree. I only suggest this if you are going to be in the home a long time. Typically, you need at least five years to reap the benefits from the cost savings vs. the cost of the unit and installation. Of course, if yours is old and not working, go ahead and replace it. I just had a real estate client that was shocked that his new $15,000 furnace would not bring him a $15,000 increase in price.

10. Front Yard Makeover

Matt: Whether it’s a nice paver walkway or simply adding some color to your planters, keeping your front yard looking fresh is not only inexpensive, but also adds nice curb appeal. In the case of home improvement, a book is always judged by its cover.
Nicole: I agree. This is always the first thing I do for three main reasons:
1. It tells your neighbors that you take pride in your home and neighborhood.
2. It makes your home stand out.
3. It’s so easy! I always look online in spring when people are splitting their perennials: I have yet to have to purchase anything, since people actually give stuff away. Also, invest in an edger — clean lines are a favorite on my list — as they can dramatically transform a yard.


30 Tips for Increasing Your Home’s Value

Home Improvements: Under $100

Tip 1: Spend an hour with a pro.
Invite a realtor or interior designer over to check out your home. Many realtors will do this as a courtesy, but you will probably have to pay a consultation fee to a designer. Check with several designers in your area; a standard hourly fee is normally less than $100, and in an hour they can give you lots of ideas for needed improvements. Even small suggested improvements, such as paint colors or furniture placement, can go a long way toward improving the look and feel of your home.

Tip 2: Inspect it.
Not every home improvement is cosmetic. Deteriorating roofs, termite infestation or outdated electrical systems — you can’t fix it if you don’t know it’s broken. Hire an inspector to check out the areas of your home that you don’t normally see. They may discover hidden problems that could negatively impact your home’s value. Small problems (such as a hidden water leak) can become big, expensive problems quickly; the longer you put off repairs, the more expensive those repairs will be.
Tip 3: Paint, paint, paint.
One of the simplest, most cost-effective improvements of all is paint! Freshly painted rooms look clean and updated — and that spells value. When selecting paint colors, keep in mind that neutrals appeal to the greatest number of people, therefore making your home more desirable. On average, a gallon of paint costs around $25, leaving you plenty of money to buy rollers, painter’s tape, drop cloths and brushes. So buy a few gallons and get busy!
Tip 4: Find inspiration.
An alternative to hiring a designer is to search for remodeling and decorating inspiration in design-oriented magazines, books, TV shows and websites. Simply tear out or print off the ideas you want to try and start your to-do list. Keep it simple — when remodeling on a tight budget, do-it-yourself projects are best.
Tip 5: Cut energy costs.
The amount of money you spend each month on energy costs may seem like a fixed amount, but many local utility companies provide free energy audits of their customers’ homes. They can show you how to maximize the energy efficiency of your home. An energy-efficient home will save you money now, which can be applied to other updates, and is a more valuable and marketable asset in the long run.

Home Improvements: $100-$200

Tip 1: Plant a tree.
If you aren’t planning to sell your house today, plan for the future with a landscaping improvement that will mature over time. Plant shade trees — not only will mature trees make your home more desirable but a fully grown, properly placed tree can cut your cooling costs by as much as 40 percent. Mature landscaping is also good for the environment, providing a necessary habitat for wildlife while adding valuable curb appeal to your home.
Tip 2: Low-maintenance landscaping saves you money now, adds value when you sell.
No question that shrubs and colorful plants will add curb appeal to any home, but when shopping at your local garden center, make sure that you “think green.” Purchase plants that are native to your region or plants that are drought-tolerant; these require less water and maintenance, which means more savings to you and more green in your wallet.
Tip 3: Add a money-saving luxury.
Speaking of water, here’s another way to tap into extra savings; install a water filtration system in your kitchen. Not only do these systems purify your water, they will also lower your grocery bills — no more bottled water. A water filtration system is an inexpensive addition, but it’s the sort of small luxury that homebuyers love.
Tip 4: Improve the air quality inside your home.
Air quality isn’t just about the conditions outdoors. If you have older carpets in your home, they might be hiding contaminants and allergens. The first step to determine if these need replacing is to hire a professional company to test your indoor air quality. If the results prove that your carpets should be replaced, choose environmentally friendly natural products like tile or laminate floors. Hard-surface floors are much easier to keep clean, don’t hold odors, give your home an updated look and, in general, are more appealing to buyers.
Tip 5: Save the popcorn for the movies.
Finally, what’s on your ceiling? Few structural elements date a house more than popcorn ceilings. So dedicate a weekend to ditching the dated look and adding dollar signs to the value of your home. This is a project you can tackle yourself. First, visit your local hardware store for a solution to soften the texture, then simply scrape the popcorn away. Removing a popcorn ceiling may not seem like a big change but one of the keys for adding value to your home is to repair, replace or remove anything that could turn buyers away.

Home Improvements: $200-$400

Tip 1: A messy lawn creates a bad first impression.
Overgrown or patchy lawns and outsized bushes will cause your home to stand out — in a bad way. The good news is that taming your jungle is an easy fix. For a few hundred dollars, hire a lawn service company to trim your lawn and shape your hedges. Your curb appeal will go from messy to maintained without blowing your budget.
Tip 2: Cleanliness counts.
The old adage that you only get one shot at a first impression is true. So, make the interior of you home shine from the moment someone walks through the door. For less than $400, hire a cleaning service for a thorough top-to-bottom scrubbing. Even if you clean your home regularly, there are nooks and crannies that you may miss or overlook. Let a cleaning service do the dirty work to really make your home sparkle.
Tip 3: Visually increase your home’s square footage.
The size of your home dramatically affects the value, but square footage isn’t the only space that counts. Visual space or how large a home feels also counts. The key is to make each room in your house feel larger. Replace heavy closed draperies with vertical blinds or shutters to let light in — a sunny room feels larger and more open. Also, try adding a single large mirror to a room to visually double the space. Finally, clear the clutter. The more clutter, furniture and plain old stuff you have in a room, the more cramped it will feel. For less than $400, add an attractive shelving unit to an underused space and store your clutter out of sight.
Tip 4: Small bathroom updates equal a big return.
Bathroom updates are always a smart move. Even if you can’t afford a full remodel, small changes such as replacing dated wallpaper with a faux or textured finish and replacing old lighting will update the room without denting your wallet.
Tip 5: Add new energy-efficient fixtures.
A functional, decorative ceiling fan is a beautiful thing. It provides necessary light and, in warm months, creates a soft breeze reducing the need for expensive air conditioning. But, an outdated, wobbly, loud or broken ceiling fan is a useless eyesore. Replace old fixtures with new ones to make your home more enjoyable for you now and to increase the bottom line should you decide to sell.

Home Improvements: $400-$750

Tip 1: Even small changes in the bathroom equal a big return.
A great room to update for less than $750 is the bathroom. The two rooms that benefit most from even small renovations are the kitchen and bathroom. One cost-effective change — like replacing an outdated vanity, old plumbing and lighting fixtures or adding a new tile floor — will guarantee a lot of bang for your buck and give your bath an updated, modern look.
Tip 2: Any kitchen update equals added value.
The same rule applies in the kitchen. You don’t have to start from scratch to create a winning recipe. For maximizing your home’s value, kitchen updates are key. Start by swapping out just one item, such as a stained sink or ancient microwave for shiny new stainless models. Even small kitchen updates will add big value to your home.
Tip 3: Replace any worn carpets or area rugs.
Take a look at your home’s soft flooring. Are your carpets and area rugs stained or worn? Nothing turns buyers off more than the thought that they will immediately need to replace all of the flooring in a home. Ideally, you may want to replace them all, but if a limited budget puts a snag in that plan, start by replacing the carpet in the room that shows the most wear and tear and replace the others as your finances allow.
Tip 4: Keep up with regular maintenance and repairs.
Walk around your home and make a list of all the little things that are broken or in need of repair. Individually, small repairs might not seem important, but if every room has just one thing wrong, those small things will add up to create the impression that your home has been neglected. If you don’t feel comfortable tackling the repairs yourself, hire a handyman for a day and watch your “to do” list disappear. Staying on top of maintenance today eliminates problems down the road should you decide to sell.
Tip 5: Get help with getting organized.
Hire a professional organizer for a day. They will show you how to organize various rooms in your home and teach you tricks for keeping it organized. How does this increase your home’s value? Simple — a clutter-free home appears cleaner and larger, which is more attractive to homebuyers and therefore more valuable.

Home Improvements: $750-$1,000

Tip 1: Go tankless.
Upgrade your standard water heater for a tankless model. Most old-fashioned water heaters keep 50 or so gallons of water hot, seven days a week, 24 hours a day, whether you use the water or not. Tankless water heaters heat only the water you need as you need it. Not only will they save you money now, but they’re an eco-friendly and cost-effective update that today’s homebuyers are looking for.
Tip 2: Upgrade your appliances.
Eighty-six the old-school appliances for sleek new energy-efficient ones. An appliance with an Energy Star label has been certified by the government to use 10-50 percent less energy and water than conventional appliances. Matching stainless appliances will not only look great now, but will make your home shine brighter than the competition should you decide to sell.
Tip 3: Go for the green.
Everyone loves a yard with thick, green grass. For less than $1000, in a weekend’s time, you can replace your existing patchy mix of weeds and grass with fresh new sod. You’ll be amazed at the difference this one change will make in your home’s curb appeal and value.

Home Improvements: $1,000-$1,500

Tip 1: Spruce up your ceilings.
One of a room’s most neglected spaces, the ceiling, makes up one-sixth of a room’s total area. Updating your home’s ceilings will net a lot of bang for the buck while adding architectural interest. First, if you still have popcorn ceilings, hire a contractor to scrape them smooth. To add a sophisticated custom look to a smooth ceiling, install crown molding or box beams for a coffered look. Ceiling millwork, an attractive feature prevalent in older homes, is rarely found in newer construction. Adding small touches like these will help your home stand out from the pack.
Tip 2: Update your home’s entrance.
The look of your front door and entrance play heavily into the overall curb appeal of your home. As visitors enter, the front door serves as the transition into your home and is part of their first impression. Entry doors are architectural components that should complement your home’s overall design, not detract from it. If your existing front door isn’t up to par, head down to your local home improvement store for a more energy-efficient and attractive replacement. Whether you choose a solid wood door or one with decorative stained or cut glass panels, a welcoming entrance will definitely increase your home’s bottom line.
Tip 3: Consult a design pro.
If you’re unsure of which design style or paint color to use, hire a designer. They’ll use discriminating taste and a trained eye to help with making the big decisions. Also, remodeling your home with a cohesive plan in mind makes all of your choices easier and ensures a pulled-together finished look. So, when you get the right mix of time or money, you’ll know exactly which project to take on next.

Home Improvements: $2,000-$3,000

Tip 1: Kitchen or bath remodels are always a safe bet.
Improving your home is a solid investment at any level — but if you have up to three thousand dollars to spend, a great place to start is by upgrading either the kitchen or bath. Either room is a good choice and you don’t have to do a complete floor-to-ceiling remodel to reap financial benefits. In fact, modest kitchen or bath updates can be your best bet for a big return, netting, on average, an 80-85 percent return.
Tip 2: Protect your investment.
For most people, their home is their single largest investment, so treat it that way. Hire a financial planner to work out a strategy for protecting your investment by analyzing all of the financing options that are available. A financial whiz can tell you if you should refinance to lower your monthly payments or pull out some equity to pay for value-adding improvements.
Tip 3: Bring the outdoors in.
Consider turning two standard windows into an opening for beautiful French or sliding glass doors. Full-view glass doors really brighten up the space and a light and airy room is always more attractive. Also, with a view of the outdoors, the room will feel much larger. Another bonus is that modern doors are energy-efficient, cutting down on heating and cooling costs. That means more cash in your pocket now and a financial bonus should you decide to sell.