A few home upgrades you can do without leaving

With the uncertainty in the world at the moment, you’re likely spending a lot more time than usual in your home. Sharing smaller spaces with family 24 hours per day might be emphasizing areas of mess or chaos around the house. Use this time to do some much needed, always dreaded home maintenance. But no need to change out of your house slippers – all of these upgrades can be done using what you already own.

  1. Spring cleaning

While staying safe indoors, there’s really no way to avoid spring cleaning this year. And spending more time at home may reveal how much unnecessary clutter is taking up space. It’s the perfect time to purge clothes, knick-knacks, papers, books, etc. Give your closets and drawers a proper cleanse and prepare boxes or bags of clothes to donate in a few weeks.

On top of typical surface sanitation, deep clean areas in your home that need some extra TLC. Scrub the shower grout, make the windows shine, and wipe down the inside of cupboards that haven’t seen daylight in years – just to name a few.

  1. Paint touch-ups

Did you hold onto the can of paint you used on your home’s interior? If so, unearth it from the depths of the garage and touch up spots like baseboards, wall corners, nail holes, or anywhere else that has been subject to wear and tear.

  1. Rearrange furniture and decor

Experiment with the layout of your furniture and décor. Chances are, your living room is positioned the same way it was when you first moved in. Give your space a fresh new look by moving around wall hangings and art, and even rearranging staple furniture pieces.

Deconstruct – then reconstruct – your bookshelf. Remove every book, then rearrange them in an updated, creative way. Try stacking some shelves with books vertically and some horizontally. Bookshelves also function as a display case for treasured keepsakes, lamps, photo frames and decorative candles.

  1. Change smoke detector batteries

This is a tedious task – but it’s better than being awakened at dawn to the screech of the smoke alarm on low-battery. Use this time to complete less-fun chores like swapping out smoke alarm batteries. If you also have spare bulbs on hand, replace light bulbs that have been dimming, flickering or even burnt out.

  1. Keep track of any items you’ll want to fix later

Walk around the house and inspect each room for future fixes to complete at a later date when it’s easier to get to your local hardware store. Create a checklist, including tasks like: steam clean the carpet, repaint the front door and swap out cabinet hardware.

Home Maintenance Resolutions for 2020

Homes need continuous maintenance to keep them in good condition. Plan to invest one to four percent of your home’s value in maintenance costs each year to avoid losing home value!

1. Interior
If you invest time in some simple maintenance, you can keep the inside of your home looking like new. Some tasks your home may need include repainting the walls, restripping and resealing wood, or restaining trim and built-ins. Some more complicated repairs may involve replacing worn or outdated floors or rebuilding fixtures.

2. Exterior
Taking time each year to maintain the exterior of your home will help ensure your home doesn’t take in excessive damage-causing moisture. Some tasks you should complete each year include cleaning and repairing your gutters/downspouts, inspecting and repairing your roof, and repainting, cleaning, and repairing your home’s siding.

3. Systems
Part of keeping your home in good condition is ensuring your systems are running safely. Cleaning your chimney flue, replacing air filters, and other inspection and cleaning projects can keep your home and family safe by helping to prevent floods and fires caused by poorly maintained systems.

4. Landscaping
Keeping your outdoor structures and landscaping in good condition is also important. Keep an eye out for erosion issues, rodent infestations, and dangerous trees. You should also refinish your deck, fence, and other wood structures semi-annually.

5 De-cluttering Tips for Your Kitchen

Is the chaos on your countertop out of control? Here are a few tips to conquer the clutter.

  1. Use it or move it
    If you don’t use a mixer, food processor, or other tool more than once a week, stash it in a cupboard. Counter space is precious real estate.
  2. Wall-to-wall organization
    Mount a rack on your wall for storing all those things that tend to pile up on your kitchen table and counters – like mail, to-do lists and receipts.
  3. Look up
    The space on top of your wall cabinets and fridge are great places for wire baskets that let you see the contents, or fabric bins that hide things from view.
  4. What’s behind Door #1?
    Place over-the-door storage racks inside pantry doors to free up counter space.
  5. Hang ten
    Or even a dozen. Keep lightweight items such as aprons, oven mitts, large utensils and towels off counters by mounting wall hooks.

8 Tips for Quick Cleaning Before Guests Arrive

No doubt you’ll want your home to look its best for visiting family and friends during the holidays. Here are a few cleaning tips to minimize the time you have to spend making things sparkle.

  1. Grout and tight corners
    Cleaning nooks and crannies doesn’t require elbow grease. A toothbrush is much more effective.
  2. Showerhead residue
    Fill a plastic bag with vinegar, tie it around the head and leave it overnight to dissolve mineral deposits. A vinegar-soaked rag held in place by a rubber band works, too.
  3. Microwave build-up
    Squeeze the juice of half a lemon into a small bowl of water and microwave for about five minutes. The lemon scent eliminates old food smells and condensation from the lemon water loosens caked-on grime, making it much easier to clean.
  4. Garage floor
    Don’t bother sweeping – a leaf blower is much quicker.
  5. Pet hair on furniture
    Wet rubber dishwashing gloves are magnets for pet hair. Put on a pair, rub your furniture, and leave the vacuum extension tool in the closet.
  6. Ceiling fan
    To avoid a shower of dust and dead bugs, use an old pillowcase to clean the fan one blade at a time. Slide the case over the blade and pull it back slowly and the case will capture the dirt.
  7. Toilets
    Dump a spoonful of Tang into the bowl and let it sit for a few minutes. The citric acid scrubs so you don’t have to.
  8. Garbage disposal
    Run baking soda and lemon juice, or ice cubes and lemon peels, through your garbage disposal to eliminate odors. White vinegar will do the same for your dishwasher.

10 Tips for Maintaining a Wood-Burning Fireplace

The fireplace is the focal point of many homes. There’s just something homey about the crackling sound of wood and the glow of fire filling the room with warmth. To help ensure that your fireplace continues to provide comfort in style for years to come, consider these best practices for fireplace maintenance.

6 Tips to Prep Your Home for the Best Summer Ever

You’ve been waiting for summer all year, but just how prepared is your home? You’re probably planning for a beach trip or some time to unplug, not a bug invasion or a sprinkler leak… All it takes is a little elbow grease in the meantime to ensure this summer goes off without a hitch!

1) Service the A/C

Your air conditioner requires regular maintenance but was likely pushed to the wayside at the first sign of cooler weather. To give it a refresh, clean or replace dirty, clogged filters that may be blocking airflow. While you’re at it, check your evaporator coil. Dirt accumulates on the coil, also reducing airflow and ability to absorb heat. Purchase a “fin comb” and comb any bent aluminum fins on the evaporator and condenser coils back into place. Finally, thread a stiff wire through the A/C drain channels. Any blockage in these channels will limit humidity reducing abilities, and risk discoloring walls or carpet.

2) Clean windows

You can’t enjoy the warm summer sun without sparkling, clean windows! Remove dust and lint from the area and mix a solution of white vinegar and hot water. Dip a sponge in the solution and wet the windows, following with vertical squeegee strokes. Finish by wiping sills with all-purpose cleaner and water.

3) Rotate ceiling fan blades

If you’re hoping to keep cool this summer, while also saving some cold hard cash, you’ll want to make sure your ceiling fan is in tip top shape. As the weather warms, reverse the motor and operate the ceiling fan counterclockwise. Stand directly under the fan and feel for a slight cool breeze. When fan blades rotate in this direction a wind-chill effect is produced, subtly making you feel cooler.

4) Pest-proof your home

Nothing ruins summer fun like unwelcome house guests, and when it comes to pest prevention the best offense is a good defense. Store all accessible food in sealed containers and tightly cover trash cans. Don’t let water accumulate anywhere in the home, including sinks and tubs. Seal off places where pests could get in with caulk or steel wool. If you do end up using a pesticide, do your research and spray safely and correctly.

5) Prepare the backyard

If you didn’t get around to spring cleaning the exterior, there’s no time like the present. Whether power washing the deck or installing some tiki torches, your backyard should be the life of the party this summer. You can also check furniture stores for deals on patio decor, or maybe even bust out the grill!

6) Test your sprinklers

Speaking of the yard… If you haven’t done so already, check up on your sprinkler system. Inspect sprinkler heads and replace any that are clogged, broken or missing. Then, check for leaks where they connect to pipes or hoses. Aim each sprinkler toward the lawn, and away from the driveway, house, and sidewalk, and update your system’s watering schedule for the coming months. After all, no summer is complete without lush, green grass!

4 Landscaping Ideas for Your Front Yard

Even if you can’t tell a tulip from a turnip at the garden center, you can still create eye-catching curb appeal by paying attention to the basics of good landscaping, especially in the front yard.

Ignoring your front yard — or doing something that’s out of character with the neighborhood — can jeopardize the assessed value of your home.

Landscape economist John Harris says good landscaping can add up to 28% to the overall value of a house and cut its time on the market 10%-15%.

Here are the top suggestions from real estate agents, appraisers, and landscape designers for boosting the curb appeal of your yard:

#1 Plant a Tree

The value of mature trees is particularly difficult to determine. Lucco says that in his market, mature trees contribute as much as 10% of a $100,000 property’s overall value. In addition, a properly placed shade tree can shave as much as $32 a year on your energy bills. Expect to pay $50-$100 for a young, 6- to 7-foot deciduous tree.

You can make your own initial assessment of the value of your property’s trees by visiting the National Tree Benefit Calculator. For example, a mature Southern red oak tree with a diameter of 36 inches in the front yard of a house in Augusta, Ga., might add $70 to the property value.

#2 Green Up the Grass

If your house has a front yard, make sure it‘s neat and green by following a lawn maintenance calendar. You don’t want bare spots, sprawling weeds, or an untrimmed appearance.

“It’s so simple to go to Home Depot, buy fertilizer, apply it every six weeks, and water it,” says Mitch Kalamian, a landscape designer in Huntington Beach, Calif. “It will green up.”

If the yard looks really scruffy, you may decide to invest in some sod. Sod will average about 15-35 cents/sq. ft., according to the National Gardening Association. If you hire a landscaper to sod your yard for you, labor will add 30% to 50% to the total cost of the project.

Another alternative is to plant low-maintenance turf grasses. Turf grasses are durable and drought-resistant. Expect to pay $18-$30 for enough turf grass seed to plant 1,000 sq. ft. of lawn area.

#3 Landscape Lighting

For homeowners who have made a sizeable investment in landscaping, it makes sense to think about adding another 10%-15% to the bill for professional outdoor lighting. After all, buyers aren’t always looking at houses on a Saturday afternoon.”

The cost of a system runs from $200 for a DIY installation to more than $4,000 for a professional job. If you‘re doing it on your own, the key is to light what you want people to see, such as mature trees and flowering shrubs.

#4 Colorful Planting Beds

Flower beds add color and help enliven otherwise plain areas, such as along driveways and the edges of walkways. In general, annual flowers are a bit cheaper but must be replaced every year. Perennials cost a bit more but come back annually and usually get larger or spread with each growing season.

If you’re not sure what to plant, inquire at your local garden center. Often, they’ll have a display of bedding plants chosen for their adaptability to your area. Also, they‘ll be inexpensive because they’re in season, says Peter Mezitt, president of Weston Nurseries in Hopkinton, Mass. Try pansies in the summer, and asters and mums in the fall to add vibrant color. “That’s what we do around the entrance to our garden center,” Mezitt says.