Kitchen appliances are the backbone of most kitchens, and, when one of them goes astray, it hurts! Earlier this year, our dishwasher bit the dust. Ouch! Now, we’re on freezer meltdown and trying to decide whether to replace it.
Our refrigerator/freezer is about 12 years old and gets freezer burn like crazy. The model we have is pretty narrow, and we’ll eventually do a kitchen remodeling and buy a larger model. Seems like a waste of money to buy a new, smaller refrigerator now. According to Moneywatch.com, you have to weigh the purchase against the values in your neighborhood. Will you get most of it back if you sell?
Kitchen appliances: wait or replace?
One way to decide is to compare the cost versus expense. While it might not be worth buying an $800 refrigerator ahead of a kitchen remodeling, we could buy a $300 stand alone freezer for the basement. This will solve our freezer burn problem, but it requires us to make a few trips to the basement to store or pull out items.
Likewise, if your dishwasher goes out a few years ahead of your kitchen remodeling, ask yourself:
- Can you live without a dishwasher for two to three years?
- Can you pick a dishwasher style and color that will blend with your future remodeling plans?
Kitchen appliance features
When buying new kitchen appliances, think carefully about what features you want. Most newer appliances are better at storing fresh food and cooling meats and vegetables with precise temperature regulators. Here are some features to consider from GE Appliances.
Also, think about energy usage. A dishwasher with a “no heat” drying option can save big. And, you can reduce your energy usage by 80 percent by using a microwave instead of an oven for small portions. Here’s more from Energy Star.
Weigh all of your options. Then, take the plunge–one way or another.
If you’re wondering what the neighbors think about your house, take a stroll and look at it from their perspective. Chances are, you will notice those home improvement fixes you’ve been putting off could make a difference.
Here’s how to spruce up your curb appeal:
- Make a home improvement plan: According to Kiplinger.com, that is an important step because it keeps you focused. Make a list of the top five projects to tackle and, then, work away at them before taking on more. Sometimes, it helps to break the list into “quick fix” and “long term” projects, so you can plan accordingly.
- Focus on landscaping projects: This is the “house wrap” that can distinguish your house from the rest. Basic landscaping projects, such as trimming bushes, sweeping sidewalks and removing old plant containers can make a difference. Then, take it a step further by adding a nice perennial bed near the curb, fragrant roses near your front door, or some privacy bushes to block your garbage cans or other unsightly areas.
- Fix anything that is broken, chipped or cracked: This means a staircase railing, your exterior painting and any cracked window panes.
- Change “bad builder” construction: This included such things as cheap garage doors or a boring facade, says Cnn.com. If you have a boring façade (and $2,500 to $6,000 to spend),add a few structural changes to your roofline. A dormer with a window will add some interest (and help bring in more light to that room). Or, extend the roof overhang above the front door, and add decorative molding underneath. Also, consider replacing the front door, shutters or railings if they are not up to par.
- Paint the house, shutters, trim or anything that needs it: This type of home improvement provides a great return on investment and can dramatically boost your curb appeal.
Then, take that stroll again, and see the transformation!
If your yard is anything like mine, you must be chomping at the bit for spring to burst onto the scene and take away your drab lawn. Uneven turf, bald spots and the perennial weeds can take a toll on one’s patience! Is it time to fertilize your lawn or repair uneven surfaces? As we head into spring (finally!), here are some landscaping maintenance steps:
- Assess the situation: Do you have damage from animals digging or uneven soil to fix? Make a list, and call a few landscaping contractors to get estimates. Start early, and you’ll catch them with good pricing and availability.
- Fertilize your lawn, but sparingly: You’ll be surprised how little you need. The University of Illinois Extension recommends fertilizing in mid-May at one-fourth the rate suggested by the manufacturer. You don’t want to sacrifice root growth.
- Dethatch your lawn as needed to promote strong growth: This type of landscaping project can do wonders for your curb appeal. Also, remember to water regularly during the growing season–one-inch a week if you have no rain.
- Reseed the grass as needed: Since it’s a pain to block off use of the yard, start this landscaping project early and do it in sections. You’ll then have the summer to enjoy the yard.
- Consider hiring a landscaping contractor or lawn service: If you really don’t have time for lawn repair and maintenance, get a few estimates from the pros. Often, they can care for your lawn quickly and keep it healthy. The key is regular maintenance. Just know what to ask a landscaping company.
Spring is almost here. Take this time to get ready, so that, when the warm weather hits, your maintenance will be done. Then, enjoy the summer with a crisp, green lawn minus the weeds and bald spots!
Tired of feeling cramped for space? One solution for a crowded floor plan is a set of French doors. These door systems–with panels that are mostly glass–create a dramatic entrance and bring in lots of light between two rooms or along the side of a house.
Home improvement projects for traffic flow
This type of home improvement project works great in any space where part of an interior wall can be removed safely to open up space. You’ll help connect the rooms and create a large, mostly open area with doors that can be left open at times.
French doors also provide the perfect segue into the yard. Let’s say you have a family room with a single, 36-inch wide door leading to your backyard. Add another 5-feet to the opening, install two French doors and, all of a sudden, you have a large expanse of glass providing a great connection with the back yard.
Your options include the following:
- Traditional two-door systems that swing in or out
- Patio doors that slide sideways, which are great when you have limited space for the door swing
- Grills and divided light patterns that add a traditional style
- Window blinds built in between the glass, a great convenience for those who want extra privacy without the hassle of trying to add floor length drapes around a large door system. Here’s more from Pella Windows.
Here are a few other things to consider when tackling this home improvement project:
- Consider the size of the door–an 8-foot door adds plenty of light, but can be heavy to operate, particularly for small children.
- Which door should open and which will be stationery, especially, regarding furniture placement and traffic flow. You’ll need to decide before the contractor places the order.
- Think about odd size openings. Avoid a custom order by asking the contractor to reframe the opening to bring it to a standard door size, says Southernliving.com.
French doors can solve many of your crowded-floor-plan problems. So, consider adding them to your home, and enjoy!
We are in a dilemma about our master bedroom wood floor. After taking up carpeting, we realize that we like the wood. Is refinishing the wood floor a DIY project? We could save $1,000 or so, judging by the estimates I have received so far from contractors. (It is a big space…used to be a kitchen and breakfast room when the house was a 2-flat).
Most of what I am reading suggests that I run in the other direction…and hire a wood floor contractor. On the other hand, we could carve out a weekend with two of us hitting the floors and save big money. Here’s an overview of what’s involved:
- Rent a sander for the wood floor: Most home improvement stores rent them, but, then, you have to carry it home in a van or truck, lift it out, take it into the house (it’s heavy!), and haul it upstairs. (Sounds like I don’t want to do this project, right?) According to woodfloordoctor.com, the rental equipment just can’t match the sanders the pros use, which means we might tear apart the floor if we’re not careful!
- Clear out the room: Well, we’d have to do that no matter who does the work, but just so we all know.
- Wear masks and old clothes
- Open windows for ventilation
- Sand away
- Vacuum with an industrial vacuum: That is another rental item
- Screen the floor in between sanding and staining
- Then stain away
The big question is: how long will this take, and is it worth our efforts versus hiring someone who does this for a living? This is a common dilemma with many home improvement projects. I did find one good “how to” on the whole process from Essex Silver Line, which sells floor sanding equipment.
To DIY or not? That is the big question for this week. Then again, how about painting the floor? It is a totally different look, but it is a skill I already possess. Hmmm.
If you have a little bit of cash sitting around, why not invest it in your home? Even $1,000 can go a long way on the home improvement front. Try the following projects on for size:
- Paintingis always a great budget remodeling project, and its one that you can do yourself. Just remember that a good paint job will pay for itself, so don’t skimp on the paint quality or the prep work. The cost? A hundred dollars or less for materials if you DIY; $300 to $500 per room if you hire a painter.
- Plumbing fixtures are inexpensive and relatively easy to install. In the kitchen, spend a little more to make sure the faucet can withstand all the wear and tear. The cost? $75 to $150 per bathroom faucet and $150 to $300 per kitchen faucet. Add $100 to $300 for installation.
- Ask a friend to help, says HGTV. This can save hundreds on labor costs and build camaraderie… or at least add to your list of war stories. Just make sure your friend has some skills! The last thing you want is a messy painter or a sloppy tile installer.
- Buy second hand from resale shops, thrift stores or websites, such as Ebay or Craigslist. Just make sure to measure carefully and inspect the product for defects.
- Make window treatments yourself. You have lots of “no sew” options for making window treatments. Look for remnants, and save on the materials. Or, try this idea from Bargainhoot.com, and put your old table cloth to use.
- Change your color scheme with a few well placed new accessories. Here are some ideas from thenester.com.
When doing several small projects, look for places where you will see the impact. A new faucet in the kitchen will make cleanup much more enjoyable. Floor tile in the powder room will help with entertaining. Spread the money around, and it will go much further!
Bathrooms are not known for their expansive space or over-sized closets. This is particularly true in older homes where a 5-foot by 7-foot bathroom is a luxury. If you’re struggling with how to organize your bathroom, try these five home improvement tricks:
- Use the medicine cabinet: That’s right. A radical idea. Clean out what you don’t need, and use the cabinet to store all the aftershave, toothpaste and deodorant you need. This removes clutter from your countertop. When planning a home improvement project, try a recessed medicine cabinet to make the most use of your space. Here’s more from HGTV.
- Add recessed shelving: When installing a shower or bathtub or doing general bathroom remodeling, make use of those wall cavities before the drywall goes on. The vertical space between the framing lumber is ideal for creating niches that can hold soap, shampoo, razors and other bathroom necessities.
- Think vertical with home improvement:In a small space, you have to use vertical space to maximize storage. Try shelving on the walls, a tall linen closet or a row of shelves near the ceiling for storing knick knacks.
- Add a vanity instead of a pedestal sink: While pedestal sinks look great, they add no storage to the equation. A vanity with two drawers and a larger opening under the sink is the answer to your bathroom organization issues. Kohler Co. has some good ideas on this topic.
- Steal space where you can: Sometimes, we have to face the cold, hard reality of our space limitations. If you can “steal” three to four feet of space from an adjacent bedroom or a hallway linen closet, why not? The result will be a larger bathroom with some closet space and room to do more bathroom organization. Try this bathroom remodeling checklist for more.
Now that’s a home improvement plan to live by!
As spring tries to peek through in many parts of the country, now is a good time to think about your landscaping. Even if you have snow on the ground, you can make an assessment and start the planning process. Many spring landscaping projects, such as patios, decks and yard remodeling projects take at least two weeks to plan–and sometimes longer.
Here are a few popular spring landscaping projects to consider:
Spring lawn care
If your lawn was filled with weeds, bare spots and uneven sections last year, spring is the perfect time to start fresh. Consider tackling the following tasks:
- Regrade to get the right slope
- Aerate the lawn
- Reseed or put down sod
Also, talk with a landscaping contractor about a regular weed control plan. Here’s more on lawn care.
Installing a patio or deck
Patios and decks are a great ways to embrace the outdoors while still feeling connected to your home. Look for a spot that close to your kitchen or family room with enough sun for growing plants, but enough shade to make for a comfortable resting spot.
While some people install their own decks, check out these step by step instructions from Hometime.com before attempting it. As you’ll see, much experience, measuring and cutting are involved. Just make sure the contractor does these things:
- Takes out a permit
- Submits a detailed contract that includes the type of lumber and the size and shape of the deck
- Prepares the footings to account for frost heaving (in colder climates)
If you already have a deck, it probably needs a good washing. Here’s a look at this important remodeling project.
Make your list today and narrow down your priorities. With any luck, you’ll be on your way to planning some dramatic changes in the next two to four weeks.
Wondering whether to keep your windows or invest in replacement windows? Here’s how to decide. Think about the following:
- The condition of the window frames, sashes and interiors: Is there warping, missing parts or sections where your window is chipping?
- The look: Do your windows have the style you want? Can you get that style by adding new wood trim? Or, are replacement windows a better option?
- The energy efficiency level: Often, it’s the rush of air coming through the windows (and around the sides) that prompts people to buy replacement windows. If you have single pane windows, chances are, you’re dealing with heating/cooling loss. Here’s a good overview from Energystar.gov
Whether you’re buying new or just trying to keep your existing windows working properly, consider how to make replacement windows last. Contractors know that maintenance is the key, particularly if you have wood windows. Always keep the following in mind:
- Keep water away from the window. Add an overhang on the outside, and ensure you have adequate roof drainage that funnels water away from the windows. Here’s more from weather.com on protecting your home from water damage.
- Paint windows every four to five years to keep the surface protected.
- Clean windows regularly – clean the glass and exterior at least twice a year.
- Fill caulk holes quickly before water can infiltrate.
Check sun patterns for replacement windows
And, don’t forget about the sun. Those warm rays can damage the insides of windows, fading stain and causing inconsistent coloration. Spend a little on good window treatments to help resolve this problem.
Your kitchen layout can be the source of much frustration, particularly if it’s long and narrow with little room for maneuvering. This type of kitchen has cabinets on each side and is often called a galley kitchen.
Unless you have the space and the budget for a redesign, you’ll have to learn some coping skills. Here’s how to make the most out of your galley kitchen:
- Get efficient with your kitchen cabinets. This is key, as you can’t afford to waste an inch. If your ceiling allows, go with 42-inch high wall cabinets. Also try deeper base cabinets for storing pots, pans and dishes. Add in vertical organizer racks to maximize the interior space for storing cups, plates etc.
- If space allows, add a pantry in an adjacent breakfast room or hallway. Move canned and boxed goods there to free space in the main kitchen cabinets.
- Use kitchen design tricks to create the illusion of space. Try:
- An “clipped” or angled countertop corner near a doorway
- A few glass kitchen cabinet doors for light reflection and depth
- Light colored cabinets, paint, wall tile and flooring
- Be creative with appliances. Dishwashers come in narrow sizes or in drawer designs that take-up less space. Ranges and refrigerators vary in width and depth, making it easier to mix a smaller refrigerator with a refrigerated drawer nearby. Here are some good tips from KMIR TV in Palm Springs on finding the right refrigerator for your needs.
- Add a wall cutout to open the space to an adjacent room, leaving the base cabinets for storage, says KraftMaid Cabinetry.
A galley kitchen can be a challenge for any cook. The trick is to maximize the kitchen design as much as possible, but realize you’ll probably be cooking alone. You just don’t have a lot of room to maneuver in a galley kitchen.