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5 Tips on Raising The Value of Your Home

Having a home is a huge investment. You constantly have to pay for bills, the mortgage, renovations, and improvements. In fact, more often than not having a house is a total nightmare, especially during the selling process. However, if you know what to do you can get a great deal for your home. To sell a house the buyers have to be comfortable enough to see if they can live there, so having a presentable house is a must.

  1. The kitchen is one of the most important areas of the house. It is the first place they will see when they get up in the morning to eat breakfast, and most likely the last thing they see before they go to bed. The kitchen is where people get together for meetings, parties, and other household events. Upping the value of your kitchen can be pricey but in the end it is worth the cost. You can try upgrading the countertop, replacing cabinets, and even altering the tiles.

  1. Bathrooms are definitely one of the all-time bonuses. Having a sparkling clean sink, and a great scent in the air won’t do the trick when attracting buyers. Remodels that include a new toilet, sink, and bathtub will. You might also want to pick new tiles for the bathroom as well. Adding a small bathroom would also benefit you and the buyers likewise.

  1. Repair what is broken. There are always areas around the house that can use repairs, whether it be the backyard fences, the porch lights, or even sliding doors. Make the necessary repairs at the right time. Making repairs to random things around the house does significantly alter the value of the home itself by quite a bit. Even repairing the electrical wiring, or the roof, will raise the value of your house by a great amount.

  1. Make space. One of the most important things to do when selling a house is to make extra space. If you have a garage or attic try moving things around, or converting the attic or basement into a room. Having more space would definitely be a great attribute to both you and the buyer. A house always seems more appealing when there is more space that can be used for a bedroom or entertainment room.

  1. Install a deck. Making a deck in front or behind your home can be the difference between a win or a bust. Decks are useful and look very attractive to buyers. Decks provide a play area for kids, and a get together area for adults.

Making other small tweaks such as improving the landscape, adding new paint, and getting attractive appliances also boost your house’s value by a great amount. When it comes to your home every detail counts. As long as you make the right improvements and renovations you’ll make a good amount of profits and see a shortened selling period. Regardless, you have hundreds of options to add value to your house, so the opportunities are endless.

Monthly Household Jobs Checklist: Once-a-Month Chores to Maintain a Clean Home

Many household chores can be left for months at a time without any significant attention. Taking care of them monthly prevents build-up of dust and grime and makes the jobs quicker and easier to complete.

Kitchen

  1. Cleaning the oven is a job no one enjoys. It is a much less arduous task if the oven is wiped out regularly rather than leaving it for an annual attack with harsh and toxic chemical oven cleaners. To loosen any grease or spills, place a tray of water in the oven and heat until the water is steaming. Turn oven off and allow to cool until it is only warm. Remove oven shelves and other attachments if possible. Remove the tray of water. Wipe over the surface of the oven with a hot soapy cloth, rinsing regularly, until the oven is as clean as possible.
  2. Alternatively, the oven can be sprinkled with bicarb soda. Put white vinegar into a spray bottle and spray over the soda then wipe out with a wet cloth. Always make sure that gloves are used when cleaning the oven and be careful with hot water or surfaces.
  3. Clean out the dishwasher by using a commercial dishwasher cleaner designed for this purpose (not regular dishwasher detergent). There are homemade alternatives as well.
  4. Clean out the refrigerator. Turn the fridge off and remove all items. Have a large esky or cooler handy to keep milk, cold meat and similar items cold. Wipe out all shelves and surfaces with a wet cloth. If a detergent is needed, there are commercial vanilla fridge sprays available, or use hot soapy water (dishwashing detergent in water). To finish, wipe out with a cloth soaked in water with a few drops of vanilla essence. Repack all items into the fridge, making sure that all use-by dates are checked. Remember to turn the fridge back on again.

General

  1. Check smoke detectors monthly by pressing the test switch. Replace batteries or check the unit if the test does not work.
  2. Air doonas, quilts, pillows and blankets by hanging them outside in the fresh air if possible.
  3. Dust skirting boards with damp cloth or brush attachment on vacuum cleaner. Use the brush attachment on the vacuum cleaner to dust cornices and around the tops of doorframes.
  4. Clean bathroom exhaust fans and ceiling fans. Always take care when climbing to reach fans. It is safest to do this with someone else present to ensure that stepladders remain stable.
  5. Clear leaves from gutters. This may not need to be done as frequently where there are few trees close to the house. In autumn, some householders will need to tackle this task more frequently. If leaves and other debris do cause a problem, consider installing some form of gutter guard to prevent leaves and twigs from causing blockages.
  6. To ensure that no jobs are forgotten, prepare a household chores checklist. Each month regular weekly/fortnightly tasks will have to be performed several times, monthly chores once and less regular seasonal, bi-annual or annual chores can be distributed through the year to evenly distribute the workload.

Maintaining A Water Garden Pond

Caring for Garden Water Features to Keep Them Healthy

Although the ins and outs of water garden pond planning including layout and finding the proper balance between fish, plants, rocks and chemicals can be complicated and involve years of study, some basic knowledge of these areas will bring great satisfaction to the neophyte backyard pond owner. The result will be a beautiful, restful refuge for humans and wildlife and an increase in property value.

Create a Balanced System in a Water Garden Pond

The healthiest water garden ponds have a good balance between the numbers of fish and plants in relation to the size, shape, depth, amount of rock and whether there is a waterfall. Finding the correct pond volume, appropriate pond linersand the right pond pumpis critical to maintaining the health of a backyard garden pond or a pondless water feature. Keeping the pond clean also contributes to overall water garden pond health.

keeping the pond clean

Adding Plants to a Pond Water Feature

Plant life in garden water features is very important, not only for looks, but to help provide shade for fish and decrease the amount of available oxygen to keep algae growth to a minimum. Many kinds of beautiful plants are available and two of the least expensive are sea lettuce and water hyacinths, which bloom with lovely tiny flowers. These plants are called floaters and multiply quickly. Place one or two in your fish pond, depending on its size, and watch them carefully to keep them from taking over. Water lilies, lotuses and other ornamental water plants are also appropriate to add for highlights.

Fish Contribute to a Balanced Water Garden Pond

Depending on the size of a water garden pond, fish may be added to enhance the healthy pond system and for viewing pleasure. Add declorinator to the water the day before adding fish to remove chlorine. A waterfall or aerator is necessary for adding air to the water for fish health. To maintain fish pond algae control, allow the fish to eat the algae which they do on their own, and refrain from feeding fish food once they have become established in the garden pond.

Using Environmentally Friendly Chemicals in a Garden Pond

Keeping a healthy eco system and clear water in your water garden pond often requires the addition of a variety of products which support your pond’s overall health. There are environmentally friendly enzymes designed for different seasons of the year which help to maintain pond pH. for a wide array of water garden pond needs.

Fish Pond Algae Control and Sludge Removal

For fish pond algae control, add barley straw, which comes in a liquid or solid form. The liquid is the best and fastest working in reducing and maintaining pond algae. If string algae becomes a problem, try using one of the animal friendly algaecides. For removing decay that forms at the bottom of your pond from fish waste and other organic breakdown, there are products available for sludge removal. If pond products are not doing the job, inexpensive pond vacuums are available to remove excess gunk.

Managing Mosquitoes in a Water Garden Pond

Moving water helps prevent against mosquito infestations in backyard ponds and pondless water features. In addition to keeping the garden pond water in motion, add BT, known by its full Latin name, bacillus thurengensis. BT is an organic substance that can be added to the water to kill and prevent mosquito growth. It’s completely harmless to fish and plant life. The liquid form of BT works within hours to kill an infestation and lasts for months.

It’s time to get going for the season if you haven’t already started and prepare your backyard water garden pond for a long and healthy summer filled with flowering plants, happy fish and clean, clear water. Good luck and remember to refer to the website in the reference section for a great place to find reasonably priced products.

Tiling Tips for Homeowners

tiling tips

How to Lay Tile for a Long Lasting Installation

While there are many times when a tiling job should be completed by a professional, there are many more times when a homeowner can tackle the job himself. Those wondering how to install tile in many applications, may find that the same rules will apply for many tiling jobs and applications.

How to Measure for Tile

The most important thing for homeowners pondering a tile job is determining how much tile to purchase to complete the job. This is done through proper measuring of the space. Begin by breaking the area to be tiled into smaller pieces. For example, if a shower is being tiled, each wall will be measured separately from the next and the three areas added together. A room with bump-outs and angles in the floor will be broken into sections so that an accurate measure can be obtained. Measure each bump-out separately from the rest of the floor, so that each area measured can form as close to a rectangle as possible.

Measure each section in inches, for example a measurement of 6 feet, 4 inches should read 76 inches. When the length and width of the area have been measured multiple the numbers together and then divide by 144 to obtain the amount of square footage needed. For example, a foyer measuring 76 inches by 146 inches will come in at 77.06 square feet. Additional tile will be required for waste, cuts or breakage. If the tile pattern being considered is just straight laid squares, add 5% more tile for waste. If the pattern is on the diagonal, add 20% more for waste, due to the additional cuts. Slate tile and most other patterns will require approximately 15% more tile for waste.

How to Lay Tile

Once the tile is on site and the surface prepped for installation, the next step to take is a dry-layout or dry-fit of the tile. This is done to determine how many cuts need to be made, and where these cuts should be placed.

Always begin in the center of an installation with a full tile. This means for a floor, a full tile should be laid in the exact center of the furthest wall from the door. For a wall tile application, a full tile should be laid in the exact center of bottom of the wall. A fireplace hearth should have a full tile laid in the front center of the hearth.

install tile

Lay the adjacent tiles equally out to each side so that the tiles will be balanced when they get to the edges of a tile run. Cut any tiles to fit that require cutting, and return them to the dry-layout before continuing to ensure that the fit is correct.

If installing natural stone or a tile with a lot of variation in color from piece to piece, lay the tiles from several boxes at once, and blend the colors as they are laid. This will keep colors and patterns from bunching up in places, and will ensure an even layout.

If laying borders, decorative tiles or cut-in tiles, make all the necessary cuts and double check the dry-fit to be sure they fit together correctly. Then install the field tiles first, let them set up and then go back and install the decorative tiles into the place left. This is done so that if the decorative tiles are thinner than the field tile, they can be built up properly to ensure an even layout.

Installing Tile Patterns

multi-piece tile pattern

If installing a multi-piece tile pattern, a dry-layout is essential. Start with a full tile in one corner of the room, and work outward from there. The entire layout may need to be moved from one place to another to ensure a pleasing layout. Some patterns draw the eye in the direction the tiles move, so lay out the entire pattern, and step back to be sure that this is the desired direction. If not, re-lay the tiles before making any cuts.

Once cuts have been made, leave the tiles where they are in the pattern, taking up only a few at a time to install. This will ensure that the pattern gets installed in the same direction that it was originally laid, and that no mistakes are made.

The most important thing to do is double check each step as it is done. The old saying, “measure twice, cut once” applies to nearly every stage of a tiling job. Be absolutely certain with a dry-fit before laying a single tile, and the job should go over without a hitch.

Designing A Log Home

log home

A Guide To Designing And Creating A Custom Log Home

Home buyers interested in building a custom log home seek to mend the rustic charm and sturdy construction with the modern styles and amenities of contemporary log homes. In the first part of this series, home buyers were encouraged to research log homes for information on construction costs, log home styles and options, as well as to get financing and work with a realtor to find a vacant lot to build on. This series continues with the focus on the design aspect of building a custom log home to suit the needs of the home buyer.

Design Options For A Log Home

Once the decision has been made to move forward and build a custom log home, the next step is to visit a log home dealership. Log home dealerships supply the needs of log home owners and buyers. They offer log cabin building kits, construction plans and supplies to either build or expand an existing log home. These log cabin kits can be built alone or with hired professional. Further, log cabin kits can be customized to the buyer’s specifications. Many log home dealerships have their own building teams or can provide references of local contractors.

log cabin building

The design options for log homes are truly endless. The exterior of the home has a myriad of looks and designs that are affected by the style of log chosen as well as the tongue and groove technique used to stack the logs. Options like the pitch of the roof, size and shape of the home, use of porches, decks and verandas also contribute to the unique look of every log home. The style options for the interior of log homes are as countless as any other home. Home buyers will have an array of choices to make based on model construction plans and home styles that can be customized to fit their tastes and needs and the sales specialist will help to make the process easier.

Shop Around For The Best Deal

Still, a home buyer should not rush to make a deposit on any construction plans until they have shopped around. It is best to visit at least two log home dealerships to compare prices, construction plans and services. It is also a good idea to visit the homes of actual customers to see the quality of the home before making a final decision. If possible, take a contractor or someone familiar with log homes on these visits. Based on these visits and a comparison of the prices and options, decide to work with one of the log home dealerships.

Decide On A Construction Plan And Vacant Lot

Decide on a construction plan or cabin kit that fulfills all the needs and falls within the budget. Look at all of the options and styles offered by the log home dealership. Consider the wish list that has already been made and discuss with the sales specialist the costs and options of construction plans. Home buyers will want to know the final costs of a turn key home which includes hardwood floors, a basement, exposed beams, rafters and installation of kitchens and bathrooms.

At the same time a vacant lot should be found that best suits the needs of the log home to be built. The lot should be appropriate to fit the size and style of the home. For example, if the log home will have a walk out basement, the lot should slope away from the house as opposed to a flat lot. If possible, choose a vacant lot that is based on the construction plan to avoid altering the construction plans.

Finally, a deposit may be required on the construction plan or log cabin kit. However, the full purchase price should not be paid until after the vacant lot has been purchased. The reason for this is, the construction plan or log cabin kit chosen may not fit the lot purchased. If it does not, the construction plan or cabin kit will have to be adjusted to fit the lot. If the cabin kit or construction plan cannot be adjusted, it may be best to choose another kit or construction plan.

The process of planning to build a log home is a long and tedious one. Conducting thorough research,working with a realtor to find a vacant lot and designing a log home are all part of this process. The final step in the process is building the log home, which can be found in the third article of this three-part series.

How to Improve Downspout Drainage

Downspout is an important part of your gutter system. If poorly maintained, they can get clogged and result in some serious gutter problems. This article will focus on simple solutions for poor downspout drainage.

Add downspout extender

If your home have well-drained soil that slopes away from the foundation, then, downspout extender could be a perfect option to enhance the downspout drainage. It is advisable to use a straight, folding vinyl as an extension. Besides, accordion-style flexible extender is a great option.

Note that you can easily twist these extenders into various angles to effectively divert the water flow away from the foundation.  

Consider piping the water away from your house

If you want to divert the water far from your house, you can use French drains or other trench drainage systems. Note that French drain slopes away from the house and empties the water to an open ground away from the house.

This method of diverting water away from your house has limitations too. Since water is flowing naturally, it can erode the drain easily and make it deeper. Besides, it can interfere with your landscape and make it look ugly! To avoid such problems, you may need to fill the bottom of the French drain with gravel, lay in a flexible pipe and cover it with more gravel, then add soil. This will keep off all the problems associated with open drains.

 

Bury drainage pipes

Not all houses are built on sloppy areas. If your yard doesn’t slope away from the foundation, you may need to construct more complex trenches. Note that most municipal administrations don’t allow homeowners to directly attach their drainage to the storm sewer system. But you can construct an underground drainage system. Keep in mind that this will require you to dig and install pipes on the gently sloping trench.

Install diverters

You can use diverters together with the other methods. This is because diverters might not be a completed solution especially during heavy rainstorms. Note that diverters draw water from rooftops into barrels through the downspouts. Depending on the size of the barrel, diverters can be a perfect solution especially if you have a huge water tank.

Conclusion

Enhancing downspout drainage is simple. However, if neglected, poor downspout drainage can damage your foundation by weakening it and causing cracks. Besides, leaking basements and mold can be as a result of poor downspout drainage.

Home Remodeling: Investment Cost vs Return Value

cost vs value home remodel

A Soft Real Estate Market and Tight Credit Affect Home Improvement

When allocating the home improvement money as tax refund season looms and another economic stimulus package is discussed, it’s important to stay current.

Factors Affecting Home Equity on Remodels

• Emerging energy-efficient technology

• Sustainable, green building products

• Economic environment

• Seasonal/availability prices of construction materials (for example, a few years ago the price of concrete spiked while China was experiencing a construction surge.)

• Time of the year (remodeling contractor fees can vary; outdoor projects in the winter vs indoor projects during the summer, etc.)

• The cost of electricity, natural gas, and heating oil

The Current Remodeling Cost vs Recoup Value Statistics

Remodeling magazine keeps up with home improvement cost/return statistics. The national average presented is generated from US regional data. What does this mean if the home is outside the US? It means nothing is nailed down, but due to today’s global economy, general economic trends may be able to be extrapolated.

Their 2014-2015 national averages report reveals that the ROI on almost all projects is down from 2013. It may be speculated that this may be due to the slumping and uncertain real estate market, leading to uncertainty. Only three remodeling projects are trending up:

Bathroom remodel. The old stand-by maintains its importance. Why? Perhaps because it remains the most personal room in the home and the fixtures can be very cost-intensive per square foot. The average cost of the bath remodel is $51,455; the resale value is $36,400; and the recoup value is 70.7%. Yes, resale is lower than investment, but recall that this is today’s cost recoup data relative to 2013.

Deck addition using Trex or other composite deck materials. This may reflect the tendency to spend more family leisure and entertaining time at home (the hip, new term for this is “staycations”) rather than taking vacations and traveling during tough economic times with uncertain fuel costs. The average cost comes in at $37,498; the resale value is $23,706; and the recoup is a healthy 63.2%. Once again, this percentage is up from the percentage in 2013.

Siding replacement using foam backed vinyl. The fact that foam backed vinyl siding (which means added insulation) went up while cement fiber siding (such as Hardi products) went down may indicate that the trend is that energy savings are trumping durability. The vinyl statistics are: average cost is $12,528; resale is $10,074; and recoup is 80.4%.

What’s in the Future for Remodeling Trends?

home improvement

Currently, more focus is on exterior rather than interior projects. With more homeowners electing to sit tight, this may be a hedge against both high and uncertain energy costs.

With the home resale market in a slump, homeowners may be more focused on lowering utility bills and not moving rather than banking on ROI.

Design Your Own Home

DIY Home Architectural Design Course

This approach to home design is meant to assist the faint-of-heart amateur in overcoming the challenge of creative design.

E is for Educate

1. Would you bake a cake without a list of ingredients? Mostly this step is about creating a scrapbook, describing the lifestyle to be lived in the home. I recommend a few Sunday drives around historic neighborhoods.

2. Would you assemble a bicycle without instructions? If your house is to have “good bones,” you’ll need to make at least one construction site visit.

3. Set a realistic construction budget (no need to do a line item take-off), take take a trip to the lumber yard.

4. Learn to “translate” the language of realtors, contractors and mother-in-laws (the advice you will surely receive from all the sidewalk superintendents in your life.)

C is for Conversation

Conversation is about speaking and rehearsing and then writing down the thousand words that is the picture of your dream home. If we don’t yet have the picture we must write the description.

We have all walked through houses that only exist in author’s imaginations, sea captain’s homes, medieval castles, antebellum plantation homes. It is because they have been described to us in vivid and exacting detail.

A.R.T.

The work of design is A.R.T. (approximate and adjust-revise and recognize-transcribe and trace). These tasks start where your elementary school art teacher left off.

home architectural design

A is for Approximate

When you start drawing, it should in a sense be from memory, not trying to recreate exactly something you have seen you like, but recreate the feeling and emotion of your “scrapbook” collection. Try to push yourself to get as many ideas on paper as you can. Don’t try and solve the whole problem at once, just play with it for now.

Get ready to access your inner child, get ready to scribble outside the lines. Put your wastebasket at three point distance, wad up your first dozen attempts (at least), launch them (remember your follow through). Your tools will be fat magic markers and stubby crayons, “bum wad” (rolls of thin trace paper available at most art stores).

Trial and error is our method of choice. Sure it would be safer to build what everyone else is building, (while you’re at it, draw in the Green Mini-Van in front). Listen, why is it after looking at twenty thousand pre-drawn house plans on the internet you haven’t found one you like? It’s because they lack one essential element in the design process; the Client. Most architects would agree that their designs only improve after meetings with a client. Clients push designers to put more of their character, personality and lifestyle into the final design.

R is for Recognize

It has been said architectural design is only about recognizing the solution, another talent every reader has in his or her possession. Maybe you want a house that reminds you of the feeling of the house you vacationed in at the “Cape” when you were a child or the “painted lady” on Main Street. The cliché, “I’ll know it when I see it” is an appropriate sentiment.

R is for Revise (Sidewalk Superintendents, Mother-In-Laws and Me)

We’ve all encountered the friendly retiree watching diligently over a construction project’s progress, we’ve all been on the receiving end of one or another relative’s opinion on how they would improve our home. And alas, even strangers may only be too happy to offer their two cents worth of advice for your building project. It comes with the territory. Criticism is an absolute necessity to improving your design, you must learn to filter these well-intentioned comments, consider them and test them, and be confident enough to revise your design (or not).

T is for Transcribe

Architectural design shouldn’t be thought of as a foreign language in need of interpretation, but rather an unspoken language you already are fluent. Like many second generation immigrants, we can hear and understand the language, but haven’t yet learned how to put it to paper. And yes, all this can be accomplished with a fourth grader’s skill set; after all this method is called “tracing.”

Using a Wood Stove as a Primary Heat Source

Heating Your Home With Firewood is a Viable Option

Warmth

The cost savings related to home-heating double as a personal benefit of using wood heat as well. Because wood heat is less expensive, budget-conscious home-owners feel better about keeping their homes at warmer temperatures.

Darren Gordon’s story illustrates this point. “[Before installing a wood stove,] I turned down the thermostat in the winter and turned it up in the summer. We kept the house pretty cold all winter. But now we keep the house toasty warm twenty four hours a day.”

Jim Ballenthin’s story is similar. When the Ballenthins were considering moving from a warmer area to a colder area of Minnesota, Jim Ballenthin’s wife, Jean, wanted to make sure that their home would be comfortable in the cold winters.

“Wood heat was the perfect way for Jean to be as warm as she wanted without me complaining about the cost of heating fuel,” says Jim Ballenthin.

And it does get cold in Minnesota! The Ballenthins have kept their house warm using wood in temperatures as low as -50F!

“Nothing beats a wood stove for the warming effect of radiant heat,” adds Jim Ballenthin. “It’s very cozy, comfortable, and frequently romantic.”

installing a wood stove

Exercise

Before burning wood, Darren Gordon used to exercise at the gym. Now he uses wood splitting as a primary way to stay in shape. “If you are going to work out,” Gordon says, “you might as well do something that puts money in your pocket at the same time. Splitting wood really is an enjoyable activity. It has actually become one of the major reasons that I want to keep heating with wood.”

Similarly, the Ballenthins see the physical benefits, as well. Jim and Jean Ballenthin enjoy splitting wood together. “The exercise of cutting firewood is better than that obtained at any health club,” says Jim Ballenthin. “It connects us to—and makes us more aware of—our need to live in a sustainable relationship with our environment.”

Personal Satisfaction

“It’s a lifestyle choice,” says Darren Gordon. “Either you love [heating with wood] or you don’t.” It’s safe to say that Darren Gordon loves heating with wood. In fact, he has even written a detailed account of his family’s experience with wood heat.

Jim Ballenthin agrees. “Burning wood may be a hassle for those for whom money is of no concern or for those who are not connected with the woods, forests, and outdoors. But it is second nature to us,” he says. “It’s a matter of choices, priorities, economics, and exercise of personal values. At this time, it’s hard to imagine us heating any other way.”

Ballenthin continues, “Friends and guests crowd around the stove after being outside on a cold winter day cross-country skiing, snow shoeing, ice skating on the lake, or just walking. A hot toddy, cup of hot cocoa, or coffee with Kahlua and a warm stove just can’t be beat for social conviviality.”