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A kitchen with updated floor, countertop, and cabinets will greatly increase the resale value of the home. Buyers respond to kitchen remodeling. Smart homeowners recognize that a modern kitchen in an otherwise aging home can entice a solid buyer when it comes time to sell the home.

If your bathroom does not look nearly as good as you would like it to look, bathroom remodeling may be needed in the near future. Even if you start small with just a few changes, the bathroom may quickly start to look a lot better, especially if it currently has an outdated appearance that you find unattractive.

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If you are planning a kitchen remodel, these are some things you should keep in mind to prevent you from making a decision you might regret.

As a homeowner, you not only need to worry about what kind of shape your bathroom and kitchen are in, but also how your roof is doing. Your roof protects both your kitchen and bathroom, as well as every other room in your home, from the elements. It is for these reasons that you need to know what to look for to make sure that it is in good shape.

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Your kitchen and bathrooms take a beating. Water is flying everywhere in both rooms, all kinds of soaps and chemicals are spilling on the floor, and both get their share of various stains and scrapes on the flooring. So, when faced with having to put in a new kitchen or bathroom floor you might have narrowed your replacement materials down to either ceramic or vinyl tile. Here are some advantages and disadvantages to both materials that should give you some direction in your decision making.


Vinyl Tile

Ok, so first off let’s start with the advantages of vinyl tile. Given that vinyl tile is synthetic, it is much easier to nail a particular look or style that you may be looking for. Your options in color and design will be much greater, thus finding something that fits in with your vision will be easier. Given that it is flexible, and often comes in a peel-and-stick format, you can install it much easier than other types of tile without have to do as much tearing up or demolition before your begin your project. Also, if you live in a house that has a foundation that shifts frequently, you are much less likely to end up with cracks in your flooring with vinyl, whereas a hard material such as ceramic, stone, or porcelain would break. Lastly, the price of vinyl is going to be much less than the other available materials, both in materials and labor.

The disadvantages of vinyl tile are mostly in the durability and appearance categories. Vinyl tile will usually not look quite as good as its harder contemporaries. As far as durability goes, vinyl has a tendency to rip and tear more easily. Sometimes the color might fade over time, giving it a dull appearance. Also, vinyl tile will not increase the value of your property as much as putting in a harder alternative would. Some people argue that it is not as easy to clean and can harbor more germs than a hard tile alternative, such as ceramic.

Ceramic Tile

Ceramic tiling typically looks better than vinyl tiling, and brings with it more durability than vinyl. It is so durable, in fact, that there is still ceramic tile from ancient times in various Roman and Egyptian ruins. Given how easy it is to clean, it is an excellent flooring choice for bathroom and kitchens. Ceramic tile can also be used for your walls and backsplashes throughout your kitchen and bathroom. Whereas you generally don’t want vinyl tile to be exposed to a lot of water, ceramic tile can handle plenty of it without peeling or fading/wearing out. Generally, ceramic tile is a better investment, albeit more pricey for installation and materials than vinyl.

As stated in the last paragraph, ceramic will be a bit pricier than vinyl. You also need to pay attention that all of the tile you are getting is from the same lot, as sometimes the colors and sizes will vary from lot to lot, even if you are purchasing the same brand and style of tile. If you have a foundation that moves a lot, it can cause large cracks to appear in your tilling. Also, if a crack appears in your tiling, it is a much bigger ordeal to replace ceramic tile than vinyl.

The Verdict

While both types of tiling prove to be worthy investments of time and money, if you have a house that is on sturdy ground and the available cash, ceramic tiling would be the better investment of the two. Now, this is just my personal opinion and it is always wise to consult different contractors, real estate agents, and interior designers if you want a really well-informed opinion from someone that is more familiar with your area and type of house. There are probably plenty of situations where the vinyl might be a better choice. As with any type of renovation or repair in your house, you should do plenty of research before shelling out ANY cash. 

Your kitchen and bathrooms aren't the only thing about your house to think about in terms of value, so this week we'll digress and look at your home's curb appeal.


A kitchen remodel is something that you have been planning for months, and now it’s time to begin. But wait! There are still a few things to stop and think about including in your remodel that might add convenience to your day-to-day life. Let’s look at some things that make food preparation and cleanup faster, give your kitchen extra storage space, and make your kitchen a much more pleasant place to spend time, shall we?

Oatmeal, instant coffee, tea, thawing foods- the list goes on forever! “What list?” you may ask. Well, it’s the list of reasons why you should strongly consider incorporating an electric hot water dispenser into your new kitchen sink. Hot water dispensers usually float around the $200 range, but when you consider that time is more valuable than money, they pay for themselves. Just the amount of time you save boiling water for hot cocoa during one winter justifies the purchase. It can also make cleaning crusty tomatoes off of your pots and pans a much quicker experience. Usually you can find a dispenser with a faucet that fits in with your style of remodel.

Backsplash! No, it’s not a painful dive you do to impress your friends at the pool, it’s an effective way to improve the look, and value, of your kitchen without spending a whole lot of money. Usually made out of some sort of tile, backsplashes go on the wall of your kitchen behind the counter. Behind the stove is a good place to focus your backsplash. Some people will even shell out for more expensive tiling behind their stove, and use less expensive tiling elsewhere in their kitchen. A backsplash only needs to be big enough to cover your wall in areas that might get splattered with tomato sauce or the contents of a poorly-covered blender, but sometimes people run them throughout the entirety of their kitchen. It’s really up to you, but stick with what looks good, otherwise what’s the point?

Now, most kitchen remodels and upgrades include a replacement of cabinets, but don’t get so caught up in how they look that you forget what they’re there for: storage! One thing we all waste too much time and energy on is shuffling through our kitchen drawers and cabinets as we either search for what we’re looking for or try to make room for something that we’re unloading out of the dishwasher. By using drawers that extend out further and incorporating taller drawers, dealing with the organization of your pots, pans, Pyrex, and all the assorted lids that come with them can become a much easier and streamlined process. For years, I had to bend over and reach far underneath my stove and restack all of my pots, but in my current kitchen the entire bottom of the cabinet acts as a drawer that extends out for much easier access to my cooking wares. Not only does it save time, but it also saves my back.

Speaking of drawers and cabinets, did you know there might be some more places you can add storage in your kitchen that you may not have thought of before? Measure the space that will be above your fridge and see if it’s tall enough to place matching cabinets. Cabinets above your fridge are perfect for storing things that you will only use seasonally, or perhaps not at all (the recipe book your parents gave you). If your fridge is going to be near a corner of your kitchen and will have a wall near the left or right side of it, make sure you leave enough room to open its door without it banging into the wall. If you have to create a gap to keep the fridge away from a wall to its side, you can use that gap to install a tall cabinet with shelves on the inside of it (perfect for storing wine or spirits). The more storage your kitchen has, the less cluttered it will feel.

One thing that always makes my kitchen feel cluttered is the trash. That’s right, you have a giant receptacle in your kitchen meant for collecting trash. The best way to deal with it is to give yourself some space to store your trash underneath one of the counters or behind a corner in your kitchen. You can install a TrashRac to the inside of your kitchen cabinet door to keep the trash out of your sight and away from your naughty dog(s). The only problem with the TrashRac is that it’s only 3 gallons, so you have to empty it frequently.

One last thing to consider before you commence your kitchen remodel is how easy it will be to clean. The two pointers that I can give from experience are that tile is much more difficult to sweep than linoleum or hardwood flooring, as the grout between the tiles is recessed and will collect and hold dirt and that recessing your sink into your counter will make cleaning your countertops way quicker, as you can just brush all the crumbs and other junk into the sink and wash it down the drain (as opposed to having it stick to the sides of the sink that are coming up over the countertop). I’m sure there are plenty of other things you can add on to your remodel or consider to make your life much easier, but sometimes you don’t figure out what they are until it’s too late; so be sure to spend as much time researching and thinking about your remodel as you can. 

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If you're planning to remodel your kitchen, you've got to start somewhere: Here's how to find inspiration and start narrowing it down.


Your house’s condition can be in one of many states of disrepair. It might be dilapidated and falling apart, or it might be brand new and sparkling. Most people’s houses are somewhere in the middle, livable but with some needed love and attention. Often times a house’s problems are in the eyes of its inhabitants, such as an annoying bathroom layout or a kitchen counter with an unappealing color. Regardless of what needs to be fixed in or on your house, you can easily feel overwhelmed when trying to figure out how to prioritize repairs and renovations for it. Well, hopefully these pointers will help out.

Obviously, the safety of your family is going to take priority over everything else on your list of things to fix. If you have wires dangling out of your walls or a ceiling fan that is hanging by a thread, you would probably be wise to address these issues before you throw a new coat of paint onto your garage. When making a list of things to fix, you should always put a star next to the items that could harm your family, or damage yours or your neighbor’s property (such as a dangling tree limb). Leaky pipes are another problem that should take priority over more luxurious renovations, as they can lead to a slew of other problems, such as mold and water damage. If you have a broken window, you should probably put that near the top of your list as they leak energy and could compromise the security of your house.

Now that we have the more obvious urgent renovations out of the way, let’s look at some of the more difficult decisions that you need to make when figuring out what to work on first. Taking the next step in prioritizing your renovations requires you to know whether or not you plan on staying in your house for the long term, or if you’re going to sell it in the near future (five years, or less). If you are planning on selling your house in the near-future, you want to make renovations that will make it more appealing to the current housing market. I always recommend finding a realtor you trust (perhaps the one that sold you the house) to discuss what the current housing trends are. Perhaps everyone is looking for kitchens with a particular type of countertop or a certain color of exterior paint is more disirable than others; regardless of what the trends are, you need to know about them before you start making renovations. Another great way to figure out which renovations you should make when preparing to sell your house is looking up what the estimated return on investment is for each type of project. Also, remember that curb appeal has a great impact on your house’s market value, so plan on doing some painting and landscaping.

If you are planning on staying in your house for the long-haul, deciding which remodels to give priority to can be a little more difficult. Once you have the safety/practical renovations out of the way, really think about which aspects of your house you feel would have the greatest positive impact on your life by improving. Given that this is not always obvious, there are a number of things you can consider when deciding which renovations to take on first. Are there any rooms of your house that cause you discomfort? Do your closet doors drive you bonkers every time you are getting ready for work? Is the back burner on your stove broken, and does it throw you off every time you try to make dinner?  It is the daily annoyances like these that you should concentrate on fixing first, as your life will immediately start improving when they are fixed. Improving your life is the entire point of renovating a house you plan on inhabiting for the long term, so focus on what will actually improve your life!

Once you’ve taken care of the minor (or major) annoyances in your house, figure out the grand scheme of what you want your house to be like when all of your renovations are finished. Really sit down and think about it. Write down your ideas and go over them with your partner; renovation is expensive, especially if you don’t know what you want when you go into it. It’s also important to develop a phasing plan when prioritizing your renovations, as you don’t want every room of your house torn up at the same time. For example, if you tear up both of your bathrooms at the same time, you might have to resort to the use of a bucket or a neighbor’s bathroom, and that, my friend, is no way to live. Another way to prioritize your renovations is by looking at the budget for each project. Many people knock out all of their smaller renovation projects first, before deciding whether or not they can afford to take on a major one. For example, you probably want to fix up the existing rooms in your home before you start adding on an expensive expansion. Speaking of budget, I always recommend allocating an extra 15-20% above what you are quoted for your renovations to pay for any unforeseen surprises that might arise during the renovation, such as an unknown termite colony living inside the walls or bad wiring.

Once you have prioritized your renovations, prepare for life while they are happening. Go into the renovation process understanding that your life will feel messy or cluttered while the renovations are taking place, as parts of your house may be torn up and unusable. If you go into the process knowing that your life might be a little bit more uncomfortable than it usually is, you will be less stressed out while it is happening. Also, just keep in mind how much better your life will be once the renovations are completed!

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If you have been lying in bed and hearing thumps, bumps, and scratches above your head, there’s a good chance that you have a special guest living in your attic. Given that an attic is an enclosed, safe, and often warm area; our furry friends find them to be a very inviting place to spend some time. As much as some of us would like to accommodate these creatures with a comfortable living, the fact is that their presence is not good for your home or your family. They can leave droppings everywhere, particles of which you might end up breathing or eating, and chew through important wires causing expensive electrical damage and even creating a fire hazard.

The most common way people discover they have pests in their attic is by hearing them. Whether it is a squeaking noise made by smaller rodents, or loud thumps made by possums or raccoons, these noises are most commonly observed at night when pests are most active. If you have an alert dog, you will notice his behavior to be erratic or agitated when the pests are moving around. I actually learned this first hand, as one of my dogs would become very upset and pace around my bathroom barking at the ceiling in the middle of the night; when I got up to investigate, I observed faint scratching and thumping above my shower.

One method of discovering that you have unwanted houseguests is by finding their droppings. If you enter your attic and observe droppings, it is very important that you take care of your pest problem immediately, as these droppings can harbor dangerous diseases, many of which can be spread throughout your house’s ventilation system. One such disease is Hantavirus Pulmonary Syndrome (HPS), which can cause a lot of very nasty symptoms and is contracted just by inhaling particles from infected droppings. Health issues aside, having poop lying around any part of your house is just plain gross and unsanitary, so the problem should be addressed immediately. Also, be sure to clean up any sort of droppings in the proper manner to prevent the spread of germs.

Another way to determine if you have pests is by finding holes in any sort of screens that are between your exterior and attic. Raccoons and squirrels will jimmy their way into your screens by prying them open or gnawing at them to gain access into your attic. Here is an excellent video on how to repair damaged screens to prevent them from regaining entry to your attic. Thoroughly check all of your siding and where your exterior meets your ceiling for any holes and use caulk, steel, and wire mesh as demonstrated in this video to seal them. Some rodents can gain access to your house through holes that are as small as a quarter, so be sure to be thorough while checking your siding and roof. After you have sealed the holes in your exterior, you need to find a good means to remove the pests from your attic.

When it comes to removing the pests, there are many approaches. If you decide you want to be lethal, which I do not recommend for bigger rodents, you can use poisons and larger snap traps. The reasons I do not recommend these methods for bigger rodents is that if you cannot reach the corpse of the dead animal, it will start to stink. Also, poisons run the risk of hurting your pets and possibly your family if accidentally ingested. For nonlethal removal of pests, use small baited cages and check them on a daily basis. Some local municipal animal control centers will rent these out to you for free, and even come pick up the cages for you if you catch anything. Mothballs can be used to deter larger rodents from your attic, as can fox urine (gross!). The most important thing about using live-catch methods is that you check the traps daily, so you don’t end up torturing an animal by starving or dehydrating it. Once your pests have been removed, periodically check the areas that you have sealed off and look for droppings or other evidence that they have returned. If they have, double check for more holes, or to make sure the seals you have put in place are still intact.

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When remodeling a kitchen, one of the most important decisions to make is what type of material to use for the countertop. Different types of materials have their advantages, and some even have great disadvantages. Because countertops can be expensive and difficult to install, it is very important to understand which type would suit your kitchen or lifestyle the best.

Stainless Steel

Stainless steel countertops are a popular design that looks sleek and modern. Not only are they very durable, they are probably the easiest type of countertop to clean. Their reflective surface adds light to your kitchen and they go with about any color scheme you could possibly pick for your kitchen. The main drawback to stainless steel countertops are their price. Check out this price estimator for an idea of the cost. Some people also say they are noisy, but as long as you are using a cutting board while prepping food, that shouldn’t be too much of a problem.


Marble is a very fancy-looking material that will give your kitchen an elegant touch. It is very difficult (nearly impossible) to chip a marble countertop given its durability and ruggedness. Marble comes in many different color schemes, so you should be able to find it in a color that suits your tastes. Despite its resistance to chips and dents, it is possible to corrode with acidic substances such as coffee, citrus, and alcohol and needs to be treated with a finish to prevent damage. Another drawback to marble is its price- it is probably the most expensive option when choosing a new countertop.


Granite is similar to marble in that it is very rugged (actually it is even more durable) and comes in a wide variety of colors. It is known for having a great resale value, and is a huge plus if you are planning to sell your house. It is also similar to marble in that it needs to be sealed on a regular basis and can be very pricey.


Glass is an interesting choice for a countertop, although it is not one I would recommend. While it does come in a wide variety of colors and is somewhat inexpensive, it is easy to crack, chip, or even shatter if you’re not careful. It is also not a countertop that can be repaired, so be prepared to have to replace it if something bad happens.


Given their low price, laminates have become a popular option for countertops. You can find almost a limitless amount of color options for laminates, and they are somewhat durable. Over time, however, they might start to crack. They are also vulnerable to heat, so make sure you are very careful with your pots and pans while cooking up a huge meal.


Concrete is not a very popular type of countertop, but it does have its advantages. As you can imagine, it is a very strong material and can handle a lot of abuse. Given that it is concrete, you might have to pay a lot of money for the countertop to get cast, and of course it can chip as concrete can do as it gets older.

 This is just a sampling of the many types of countertops available. Typically most people go with a laminate, but if you have a higher budget, you might want to consider marble or granite given their higher durability. Given the abuse countertops endure during their lifetime, durability tends to be the most important feature of a material.

Sometimes it can be tough justifying the money you have to pay for a bathroom remodel. Here are some things to consider when pondering the idea.



Every year our houses degrade a little bit more. Rain, snow, hail, wind, and direct sunlight continually pummel our houses’ exteriors, while children, pets, and even the adults wear out their interiors. The only way to keep yourself from being overwhelmed by needed repairs is to stay on top of them throughout the year. By starting the New Year off by taking an inventory of what needs, or soon will need, some attention, you can make a list and check off the needed repairs as the year goes on. Taking inventory of your house’s condition can also prepare you for things that might pop up as the year goes on. If you find anything damaged, take note of it on a piece of paper or on your smartphone.

Begin with the interior of your house and go room-by-room checking for loose electrical outlets, damage to the walls, floor boards, and door jams. Make sure all of your windows can lock tightly and that you don’t feel a draft when they’re closed. If you have tile floor in your house, check for chips or holes in the grout. Make note of any damaged drawers or cabinets in your house that need new hinges or any other sort of repairs. Check to make sure that you can close all the doors in your house and have them latch properly. If you have a screen door, make sure that it closes properly and is in good working order.

Your bathrooms and kitchen should be given an extra attentive look when inspecting your house for needed repairs. First, you should check under the sinks for leaks and moisture. Bathroom and kitchen cabinets can be hotbeds for mold due to the added moisture in these environments. If you have leaky or faulty faucets, now is the time to take inventory of them so you can make repairs or replace them. Check for mold or grime on the caulk around the tiles in your shower or bath and rust around the drains. Run all of the faucets to make sure that your water pressure is good, and observe whether or not your drains are slow or stopped up.

Once you are finished with inspecting the rooms of your house, head outside to give the exterior a look. Check your siding for holes that could cause energy leaks or open your house up for pest infestation. There should not be any gaps along your upper exterior where your siding meets the roof of your house. Be sure to check around all of your windows for damages in the screens. Take a look at your A/C unit’s coils to see if they need to be cleaned. If you have a deck, determine whether or not it needs a treatment. Walk around the perimeter of your yard, looking for damaged panels of your fence and take note of how many there are. Any other sort of blemishes on your exterior should be accounted for, so you can come back to them later.

Obviously, this list is just a basic outline of what you should look out for, so don’t ONLY look for what is listed; by all means, you should take note of everything that needs attention. Don’t overwhelm yourself by tackling everything at once. The point of making this list in January is so you can fix things throughout the year and use the list as a guide in how you can spend your free time to improve your house. Also, remember any major repairs you come across should be left to a professional! 

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The holidays have come and gone, but the reminders they leave behind are all over your house… literally. Christmas lights are still clinging to your roof and tied around your hedges. The cardboard candy-cane still greets the mailman, weeks after Christmas morning, and Lucy wearing a Santa hat is still tricking Charlie Brown on your front lawn. It is time to pull the decorations down and store them until Black Friday rolls around later on in the year. Here are a few tips that can help you feel less stress with the pulling down and storage of your decorations.

Sometimes you can find yourself in a hurry while putting away your Christmas decorations, and damage them in the process. Whether you decide to just yank the lights down off of their staples or holders, or drag the big wooden cut outs up the driveway because you don’t want to wait for someone to help you bring them back into the garage, always take your time when pulling down your decorations to prevent them from being damaged. Having to buy new decorations during the holidays is the last thing you want to add to your budget when you are already worried about buying presents for everyone.

When taking down lights, do it in an organized fashion. Unhook each bulb from its plastic hook, if that’s what you used to hang the lights with. If you stapled the lights to your house (which I don’t recommend doing), be careful not to tear the wire when pulling it free of each staple. Go ahead and wrap the string of lights around your elbow and palm as you take it down to prevent it from knotting and to keep it organized. As far as storing lights goes, the boxes they come in are often times difficult to fit the strands back into, so I recommend using a Rubbermaid storage tub with a lid. Be sure to label your tubs before you stack them into your garage or attic. This will save you an abundance of time when looking for your lights next year. If any of your Christmas lights went out during the holiday season, don’t put them away broken. You will forget the strand needs to be replaced and waste a lot of time troubleshooting next year. Go ahead and fix your lights as they go out to save yourself a lot of time.

As far as the bigger decorations go, don’t toss them into your garage uncovered. I recommend using thick plastic covering to wrap them in before you store, as this will prevent the paint from being scratched out and help keep spiders and other nasties from making nests in them. Go ahead and place the bigger decorations out of the way in your garage or attic, otherwise you’ll be tripping on them all year. Don’t let your decorations eat up space that’s better suited for commonly used items, such as bicycle or tools. If you have kids, you’ll definitely want them put up out of the way, because let’s face it: kids break things.

Smaller, indoor decorations should be wrapped in an organized fashion that will prevent them from being broken. I always recommend keeping the boxes to Christmas ornaments, as they are well-suited for storing them during the off-seasons. Stackable Rubbermaid tubs come in handy here, as well. If you put away your Christmas decorations in an organized fashion, you should be able to fit everything into just a couple tubs. If you have an artificial tree, keep its box for storage. Typically, it’s not too difficult to fit a Christmas tree back into its box, but if you have trouble, use two thick trash bags to store it in. Be gentle when placing it into storage, especially if it’s a pre-lit tree.

The holidays can be a stressful time, so being organized with your decorations can alleviate some of the stress. Remember to take your time when storing your decorations so you will not feel overburdened during the next holiday season, nor will you have the added financial stress of replacing broken decorations that were stepped on or broken due to poor storage.

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You do your best to keep your house in good shape. It has been painted, you’ve updated your windows, and even the small holes in the exterior have been fixed. Yes, your house looks amazing and you are proud of it. How would you feel, then, if you found out that your house was rotting from the inside? What if there are thousands, possibly hundreds of thousands (maybe even millions!) of termites feeding off of your house and slowly decaying it while you have no idea whatsoever? Unless you live in Alaska, there’s a good chance that your home could get infested very easily by termites, which cause approximately $5 billion in damages annually. Not even the White House or the Statue of Liberty are safe from termites, as both have undergone treatment to rid themselves of these wood-chewing insects.

While you might have heard about termites your entire life, there’s a good chance that you may have ever actually seen one. Termites are small insects that measure anywhere between a few millimeters to a few centimeters in length. There are over 3,000 different species of termite worldwide. A termite colony can consist of a few hundred or up to millions of termites. A home that is within a half-acre of a termite colony can be at risk of infestation, so it is easy to have an infestation travel from one home to the next throughout a neighborhood. Subterranean termites often tunnel underground and produce swarms of winged reproducing termites that emerge once a colony has matured for a few years. Dampwood termites are attracted to, as their name indicates, wood that is damp. They are attracted to moisture and are typically found in more coastal areas. They, unlike the subterranean termites, never live in the soil, but stay in wood where they feed and lay their eggs. Drywood termites live along the southern border of the United States, as well as in the coastal areas of Florida and California. They, much like the dampwood termites, prefer living within a wooden structure and are not found in the ground.

Termites ruin your house by feeding off of its wood and some other building materials. They can be especially dangerous if you have a pier-and-beam foundation, as it is easily accessible via the soil and a good portion of it is hidden from your day-to-day view, often times leaving damage undetected. Interior walls can be infested for years before a homeowner finds out, causing extensive damage. Termites have even been known to ruin furniture, ranging from book cases to antique dressers. It is for these reasons, that you should do everything you can to ensure that your home is not infested and take immediate action if it is.

As the damage that termites can do to your property can be very serious and expensive to repair, you should periodically check around your house for signs of infestation. During the spring is when most termites swarm to look for new colonies. Swarming is when winged termites fly away from their colonies to establish new ones. You can often find discarded wings or dead insects near your house when swarming has occurred. Winged termites look a bit like winged ants, so they can sometimes be difficult to identify. Hallow or rotted wood is often a spot-on indicator that there is a termite infestation. Often times it will appear that only water damage has occurred near where termites have infested, but given that they are attracted to damp areas, be sure not to right off the possibility that termites are present, as well. Drywood termites often leave pellets that one might mistake for mouse droppings. Look for these pellets along window sills and other wooden areas in your home. If you find hallowed wood or wood that has specs of dirt in it, that is another sign of a termite infestation. Sometimes subterranean termites build tubes out of mud and dirt on exposed areas of your house to travel in. The tubes are about the size of a pencil and made out of mud. If you find any of these indicators, contact a termite specialist immediately, before any additional damage is done to your home.

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While it might be “The Most Wonderful Time of the Year” for your family, especially the children, the pipes in your house are singing a different tune: “Don’t Let Us Freeze!” Freezing pipes can be inconvenient, dangerous, and very expensive. You see, not only does water stop moving when it’s frozen, it can actually lead to the pipes in your house bursting. Burst pipes will not only take away your hot showers during the cold season, but they will also cripple your holiday shopping budget, as it can be very costly to have them fixed. Obviously, the best way to deal with pipes bursting is to prevent it from happening ahead of time.

Pipes typically burst when there are exposed or uninsulated lengths of pipe on the exterior of your house. While water does expand when frozen, causing bottles or cans of soda to burst in the freezer, this is not what typically causes pipes to burst. Pipes burst due to ice blocking water pressure between the ice and a faucet, typically bursting at a spot where there is little ice to be found! Opening your faucets slightly to allow movement can greatly decrease the chances of pipes freezing or bursting. The cost of increased water usage are dwarfed by the cost of having your pipes replaced. Placing insulation over all over your exposed pipes outdoors is a necessity during the winter, especially if you plan on leaving town.

If you plan on being away from your home for extended periods of time during the winter, there are other things you can do to prevent returning from a trip to a house full of burst pipes. Definitely have a friend or family member on alert to swing by your place and run some faucets during a winter storm. Perhaps the most effective thing you can do is to shut off your main water valve and then turn all your faucets on until no more water comes out. That will empty your pipes of any water that could potentially freeze and cause serious problems while you are out of town. Obviously, this might only be necessary if you live in a climate that freezes for extended periods of time.

Typically pipes freeze when temperatures reach 20°F or below, but it is still wise to have insulation on hand for any time you expect the temperature to fall below freezing. Insulation should be taped around any exposed pipes and you should use an insulated cover over any exposed faucets around your exterior. Unfortunately, some pipes in your outer walls may not be properly insulated, leaving them vulnerable to cold weather. In these cases your best defense is to run water through your faucets to keep it from freezing. You don’t need to open the faucets all the way to have water blast through them to keep them from freezing, just a small amount of flow should suffice.

If you suspect that one of your pipes has burst, contact a plumber immediately! Many more problems will crop up if you have a water leak on your hands, so go ahead and shut off your main water valve, as well. And once again, call a plumber right away.

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Can you believe that Thanksgiving is only a few days away? If you’re anything like my family, you haven’t even begun to start decorating the house for the guests that are coming over. Between managing work, coordinating multiple Thanksgiving dinners (thanks a lot, in-laws!), and keeping the kids out of trouble, it can seem like a gigantic burden to get the house looking festive. Well fear not, friends! I will provide you with a few easy and inexpensive ways to make your house looking Thanksgiving-y.

Considering that the place people will be spending the best part of their Thanksgiving dinner is the dining table, it seems like a good starting point for decorations. Perhaps the easiest decorations to place on your dining table are gourds. Pumpkins, gourds, and acorn squash are all very festive vegetables that are in abundance at any grocery store during the holidays. The pumpkin and acorn squash are both awesome for cooking during the holidays, as well. There is a plethora of recipes online for pies, soups, and other types of dishes prepared using these vegetables. Another fun idea with small pumpkins is to make a card for each one with a different guest’s name on it. Place each pumpkin at the table where you think the corresponding guest will sit. This is an activity you can involve the kids with that is both fun and festive. You can also use candleholders as an elegant way to elevate small pumpkins on the dining table.

                If you’re working on a budget like my family, there are many other ways to save money on decorating the table for Thanksgiving. Don’t be afraid to buy chipped or damaged decorations. When staged correctly, no one will notice a small chip. Thrift stores and estate or garage sales are typically the best dumping grounds for old decorations, but one would be surprised at how easy it is to get a discount on damaged merchandise at popular retailers. Most brick and mortar stores don’t really want damaged merchandise floating around their store and will eagerly discount things to get them out of the door. This doesn’t just apply to decorations, either. If you are short on plates or bowls, you can typically use cheaper or slightly chipped pieces and make them look fancy by placing a cloth napkin in the middle. Of course the napkins should match and be seasonably appropriate; also, they won’t look very nice unless you fold them in an appealing manner. Another alternative is to purchase cheap seasonal plating. You’d be surprised at how little you need to pay for plates with fall designs on them.

                Aside from the kitchen table, there are an abundance of areas in your house that or perfect for cheap decorations. Pumpkins, pumpkins, and more pumpkins is a good motto for decorating your living areas on Thanksgiving. You can put pumpkins on your bookshelf to use as book stops, on top of your entertainment center, your coffee and end tables, and next to any snack areas you have set up in your home. Acorns are also a very appropriate fall decoration that you can get for free just by going on a walk. If you have children, they will relish in the opportunity to collect as many acorns as they possibly can for your decorations. You can make festive candle holders by placing acorns in mason jars with a candle in the middle. Even just filling up a glass with acorns can look beautiful, just make sure you clean and dry your acorns ahead of time.

                The first thing people see when they arrive to your house for Thanksgiving dinner is your front yard. Once again, the pumpkin philosophy of fall decorating applies to your front porch. If you have a wheelbarrow that’s in decent shape, fill it with pumpkins and put it on your porch. You can make a wooden sign with a Thanksgiving greeting and rest it on the pumpkins. Broomstick scarecrows can be fun to make with the kids and hang from the front door. You can use a step ladder to make a multi-tiered decoration with pumpkins and other fall decor to place next to your front door. Fall-themed pillows on a chair can be effective, as can using a basket filled with gourds and pumpkins. As with any decorating project, use your judgment when designing and placing your decorations and never go overboard.

                Lastly, let’s not forget about the bathroom when it’s time to decorate. Pumpkins and fall scented candles can be placed on the sink and any open shelving in the bathroom. Even the back of the toilet can be used to place decorations or fall-themed air fresheners. Why not use some of those acorn candles we talked about earlier for added atmospheric lighting in the bathroom? Fall-themed Kleenex boxes and towels are always a bonus, although if you’re operating on a budget you might not want to shell out for a new set of towels.

                I hope some of these ideas can get you excited about decorating and feeling less overwhelmed with the holiday approaching. Remember, you don’t always have to go all-out with your decorations to make a positive impression on your Thanksgiving guests. Besides, the holiday is about being thankful and being around loved ones… and food!

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kitchen 06

A kitchen remodel can often time be a much more complicated ordeal than a bathroom remodel. Bathroom remodels mostly take into consideration the plumbing and dimensions of your bathroom, whereas a kitchen remodel also requires considerable more thought given the additional appliances and counter space you are working with. With a kitchen remodel, you are not just picking out a new type of sink, you are picking out a new fridge, dishwasher, cabinets, countertops, stove, and the list goes on and on.

Given that a kitchen remodel can take additional thought and planning, it is good to have a rough idea of what you want to do with your kitchen and what your kitchen setup currently is before you even approach vendors or professionals to seek out materials or labor. Driving to Home Depot could be a giant waste of time if you are ill prepared for the types of questions their employees are going to ask you, such as “What are the dimensions of your kitchen?” or “What style of kitchen are you going for?” You should know if the gas hookups in your kitchen work, or if you need to go with an electric stove. Measure every cupboard and countertop in your kitchen and bring these measurements with you any time you are going to go talk with a professional about your remodel. Personally, I like to enter them into my iPhone so I know I will have them with me at all times.

Before you go crazy deciding what kind of awesome new countertop you want, or which model refrigerator you’re going to purchase, you need to determine your budget. Without a budget, you might try to bite off more of a project than you can really afford and hinder the quality of your new kitchen by settling for cheap cabinets that will fall apart in no time. Also, be aware of any serious, non-cosmetic repairs you might need for your kitchen. These can range from fixing bad electrical wiring to having some of the plumbing reworked to accommodate a shift in layout or new appliances. Forgetting to budget for these types of things can result in a surprise increase in the price of your remodel.

As with any remodel, it is advisable to understand what types of styles are current when picking out materials or designs for your new kitchen. Go to a few open-houses if you have the time for some ideas or inspiration. There are plenty of interior design magazines and websites you can visit to see which styles suit your tastes and give you an idea of what styles are current. This is especially important if you are fixing up your house in order to sell it. Don’t remodel your outdated kitchen into a nicer outdated kitchen- that would be a huge waste of time and money that will leave your house up on the market for much longer than it needs to be. Don’t be embarrassed to ask others what they think of your ideas for coloring, countertop style, and flooring; and be sure that they’re honest with you in their opinions.

As a kitchen remodel can range from being as small as dropping in a new sink or as large as gutting the entire kitchen and starting from scratch, try to have an idea of where your remodel sits in its scale of complexity. If you believe that you can handle doing the remodel yourself, make sure you have the right tools ready before you begin, as it is a major annoyance to find yourself having to stop every 15 minutes to run to the hardware store for another type of drill bit. If you’re not sure that this is the type of job you can handle, then you should probably not even begin to attempt it. I cannot begin to tell you how many times I’ve convinced myself that I could handle a home project, only to end up with a disaster area in the middle of my house until I was able to swallow my pride and hire a professional. At the very least, talk the remodel over with crafty friends or family members to get an idea of what kind of work you’re looking at before you decide to endeavor on the project yourself.

Once you have an idea of your budget and the style of kitchen you’re going for, the next step is deciding on a new layout. In the weeks before your remodel, keep a journal of anything you notice about your kitchen that annoys you. A remodel is a big deal, so be sure you do it right and eliminate as many irritating things about your kitchen as possible- down to how the window glares off the faucet or the drawer that bumps into the trash can when you pull it all the way out. Take this list with you when consulting with a professional on the design of your new kitchen (if that’s the route you’re going). A professional understands how to lay out kitchens in the most effective way possible, so keep an open mind when they suggest ideas to you about possible layouts that you had not considered. That being said, this is YOUR remodel, so make sure whichever layout you decide on is the one you’ll be happy with forever.

There are other aspects of your remodel that you need to think closely about. The types of appliances, sinks, and flooring are a few to consider. All of these we will delve deeper into in future blog posts, but you should at least have a general idea of what to consider when beginning the planning for your remodel. 

The condition your bathrooms are in may play a bigger role in selling your house than you may have initially believed.

The bathroom is a place we go to for privacy and solitude. With a remodel, one can enhance their bathroom in a way that helps make it a more relaxing and stress-reducing environment.


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