The Three Money-Saving Home Improvements You Should Tackle Right Now

May cost a lot but it will cost you more if you take this Home improvements. Better make these your priority.. Thank you for this article.

If you own a home, chances are you’ve got a long list of renovations and upgrades you’d like to do on it. (From painting to refinishing floors, it never ends!) When it comes to saving money and preserving the value of your home, however, some home improvements are more urgent than others. Here are three high-priority improvements you should consider doing as soon as possible.

First, let’s get this out of the way: these projects aren’t sexy or even fun. After you do them, you probably won’t be inviting friends over to marvel at the upgrades. They are, however, improvements that will save you the most money in the long run, just in terms of resale value and keeping your home from falling apart. (Because what’s the point of new granite countertops if your roof is leaking over them?) Once you’ve tackled these basic improvements, you can focus on the more fun kinds of upgrades like redoing the kitchen or adding on a bathroom.

Project 1: Get Rid of Drafts

Usually experts recommend insulating your home and sealing windows and doors as preparation for winter, but no matter when you take on these tasks, they’ll always pay off. By getting a good seal on your windows and doors (or replacing them with more insulated ones) and adding insulation in key areas like your attic, you’ll not only keep heat in when it’s cold out, but also keep your house cool during the other seasons. You’ll want to seal all the air leaks, both obvious and less obvious (like outlets and switches) for both a money-saving and a comfort upgrade.

Cost: Caulking and weatherstripping are two of the easiest projects, taking just 1-2 hours of your time and costing between $3 and $30 per window or door, according to Energy.gov. Plus, they also say that these improvements could save you 30% on your energy bill. (Americans, on average, spend about $2,000 a year on home energy costs.) Adding insulation is a project you can either do yourself or hire someone else to do (the average cost for insulation projects is $1,571, according to Home Advisor), but either way, the upgrade will pay for itself in just a few years.

If you change the entry door and replace windows, you’ll not only likely see energy improvements, you’ll also improve the look of your home and recoup much of the cost when it comes time to sell the house. Remodeling Magazine’s 2013 report says that changing the entry door has an 86% return on investment and replacing vinyl windows has a 71% return on investment. Not bad for both a cosmetic and energy-efficiency upgrade.

Keep in mind also many utilities will offer a free energy audit to help you identify where you can save money, and Energy Star also offers personalized energy-saving recommendations. You can even get tax credits for upgrading your insulation, windows and doors, air conditioning, and more.

Project 2: Update Your High-Energy Appliances

In a similar vein, you’ll get the most bang for your home improvement buck if you upgrade inefficient appliances in your home. The top energy suckers in the home are: heating systems, air conditioning, hot water heaters, dehumidifiers, and refrigerators, according to Energy.gov.

There are easy ways to adjust the energy usage of these appliances, such as installing a programmable thermostat and running appliances at night. At some point, though, you’ll have to decide between repairing (or hacking) your home appliance or replacing it. Here’s our guide on which appliances are worth upgrading and when.

Cost: Varies, depending on which appliances you need to replace.

Project 3: Clean Your Gutters and Look for Structural Problems

Water is often the cause of the most expensive home repairs, so while the snow is melting and the rainy season is approaching, it’s time to stop the leaks and control the water around our homes.

A few leaves and twigs in your gutter don’t sound that dangerous, but gutters are the first line of defense against: water problems in your basement, cracked foundations, rotten wood fascia, leaking roofs, wood-destroying insects, and other serious problems. So, first, clear the gutters or have a handyperson do it for you, and install gutter guards to prevent future water damage.

Now’s the time to also take a walk around your home and look for any foundation cracks, mold or mildew in the basement or other areas, loose shingles or other roof issues (a binocular helps), any other signs of water damage, and pest issues (like termites).

Cost: Professional gutter cleaning costs $182, on average, while repairing gutters and downspouts is $396. If you need your foundation repaired, the average national cost is $4,337. Repairing a roof costs $828 on average, but installing a roof is $6,774. (All figures from Home Advisor.)

Water-based problems are often costly to repair, but maintenance/prevention can be do-it-yourself cheap. DIY gutter cleaning, for example, costs only your time and comfort getting on a ladder.

These projects are mostly about regular inspections and upkeep—the stuff of homeownership. If your home doesn’t have drafts, your appliances are in tip-top shape, and you don’t have to worry about water issues or pests, you can next focus on other home improvement projects that will make your home more enjoyable to live in and/or sell. Going by Remodeling’s 2013 report, that includes a wood deck addition, minor kitchen remodel, attic bedroom addition, and basement remodel…but that’s up to you.

Ways to Remove Hard Water Stains

Great article to help remove those stains…Tough work made easy!

Some 85 percent of homes in the United States have hard water, which means that tubs, faucets, dishwashers, and other appliances are often plagued by gritty mineral deposits. Hard water contains lime and other minerals that stain surfaces and can clog showerheads. While many powerful limescale removers are available, they contain chemicals toxic to the lungs and other body parts. To keep your home safe (especially if you have children), try these nontoxic ways to rid yourself of pesky mineral deposits.

Faucets
Rub a lemon rind over chrome faucets. Then soak several paper towels in vinegar and drape them over the faucets. After an hour, remove the towels and rinse your now-sparkling faucets.

 

Showerhead
Remove your showerhead and soak it in plain white vinegar for several hours. Then give it a good scrub, rinse it in plain water, and replace.

 

Shower doors
To eliminate streaky mineral deposits on your shower doors, spray them with white vinegar before wiping down. Another effective shower door cleaner is white wine. One glass of wine should be enough to clear away the grit, and leave you enough left over to have with dinner.

 

Dishwasher
Pour a cup of white vinegar into your empty dishwasher, and run it through a full cycle empty. Do this monthly to keep your dishwasher working optimally.

 

Bath mat
White vinegar will both clean and disinfect your bath mat. Pour enough vinegar over your mat to coat it, and let it soak for an hour. Then scrub the mat thoroughly with a scrub brush before rinsing with warm water.

Toilet
A can of cola can work wonders on hard water marks in your toilet bowl. Pour one can into the toilet, leave for an hour, then flush. Or, use three cups of white vinegar.

 

Coffee maker
Fill the water reservoir with vinegar and run your coffee maker through a brewing cycle. Then repeat the brewing cycle twice more, using just plain water.

 

Glassware
To keep your glasses streak-free, soak them in vinegar for 15 minutes before rinsing.

 

Guest Room in a Snap: Turn a Home Office into a Spare Bedroom

 

Not every home has enough space to feature a dedicated guest room. And, let’s face it, not many people have house guests often enough to justify this luxury. So many people are turning their extra rooms into something they use frequently, like a home office, a crafting room, or a kid’s playroom and then performing a bit of magic before their guests arrive and…Voila! A Guest Room!

If you’re interested in reclaiming your guest room and performing a little transformation magic then the following tips can help you increase the function of your home while still making guests feel welcome.

Get That Convertible. Not the car, obviously, but a convertible sofa, armchair or even footstool. Believe it or not these items all come with a little bed hidden inside and they range in price from easily affordable to very expensive.

Extra Sleeping. If you’d rather not add the furniture or you have more than one guest at a time, purchase a good memory foam mattress topper which can be rolled up and stored when not in use.

Bedding Nearby. Purchase a storage chest or dresser or some other large storage that can double as a table, or seating, or even a room divider. Then not only do you have a piece of furniture that serves double duty but you also have bedding and other guest supplies at hand.

Windows for All. Window treatments in a home office don’t need to block a lot of prying eyes, in fact you may want to enjoy the view as much as possible, but your overnight guests will probably not feel the same. To accommodate both you should think about adding light limiting blinds that can be opened to take advantage of the view.

That Extra Touch. You’re not going to fool anyone, they know they’re staying in a spare room, but you can make them feel more at home and more welcome by adding that little extra something. Keep a basket of guest toiletries close at hand so guests don’t have to scrounge or use your private stash. Keep a couple magazines handy to give them something to read before bed. Remember they are your guests.

With these tips, you can transform your home office into a guest room at a moments notice. And remember, well rested guest is a good guest, so try to give them all the comfort you can while still keeping every room in your home as functional as possible.

 

old house restoration

Dynamic Restoration Techniques for Old Buildings

Restoring an Old House to Its Original Form, Function and Design

There are three broad categories of historic building sites that are restored to its original form, function and design: documentary, representative or aesthetic.

  • The purpose of the documentary site is to document an important event of the life or lives of a person or family. The structure does not necessarily need to be restored to its exact conditions at a specific point in time nor is it important that every facet of the restoration is justifiable.
  • The purpose of the representative site is to help the visitor understand a period in history or a way of life. A representative site does not have to be associated with a historic event or person(s) but rather, is symbolic of many other structures of its period.
  • The purpose of the aesthetic site is to achieve something pleasing to the eye. An adaptive re-use building e.g museum displaying period room settings or furnishings is an example of an aesthetic site. It is not recreating a setting that actually existed or even one that would be typical of what once existed.

When most of the original elements of an old building are still intact or parts of it are salvageable, a dynamic restoration technique is ideal.

restoring old house

Dynamic Restoration Technique

Dynamic restoration is one of three restoration techniques. Dynamic restoration utilises the techniques of reconstruction by re-assembling or refurbishment.

While a static restoration focuses on repair and protection of the materials and structural components, a dynamic restoration focuses on restoring the building to its original form, function and design.

Some examples of dynamic restoration techniques are anastylosis, reprogrammed building and land uses, substitution, relocation and enclosing the structure.

Anastylosis

Anastylosis utilises the techniques of reconstruction, re-assembling and refurbishing. Reconstruction is done by re-uniting some of the fallen fragments with the remaining portions still in their original places while other scattered fragments are left as is but already with preservative treatment.

Reprogrammed Building and Land Uses

Reprogramming buildings and land uses involve restoring the structure to its original form with its character remaining as is. The technique aims to recapture the ambiance and character of the past that the building and land uses are reprogrammed to fit these sites to modern times.

The designs and forms of the building are guided and controlled; some non-existing structures and features are reconstructed either partially or wholly to more clearly project the original characteristics of the structure.

Substitution

Substitution is often necessary when the structural components are beyond repair. Although duplication is against the principles of restoration, it can be an exception in cases where an element of the original structure needs to be replaced to protect the structure from further deterioration.

The preservation action i.e replacement, is intended to halt deterioration and maintain the original structure’s existence, a compromise which is valid and justifiable. When replacement of some elements for the structure is unavoidable, the replacement should closely resemble the material being replaced.

Relocation

In certain situations and as long as the structure is movable, relocation can be an alternative. Relocation is recommended when the structure is threatened with the danger of damage e.g. construction activity, vehicular traffic, floods or atmospheric pollution and there is no other way to protect it.

Enclosing the Structure

Enclosing the structure e.g. glass container, shade structure, fencing, to protect the structure from damage e.g weather conditions, is another dynamic restoration example.

Remove Mold From a Leaking Roof

Rid Your Home of Mold Caused by a Leaky Roof

A roof that is damaged can cause problems both inside and outside of your home. Leaks are a common symptom of a damaged roof. A leaking roof will provide the perfect breeding ground for mold. Mold is a potential dangerous problem that can cause serious health risks to all who are exposed to it and its spores. When mold is found, it should be dealt with as soon as possible to prevent further damage to your home and your health.

roof leak mold

Stop the Leak

Before the mold process can begin, you must correct the leaky roof. If the leak is not fixed, the mold will continue to grow even after clean-up. Fixing the problem may be as simple as replacing the damaged shingles.

When working on a roof take all the necessary precautions to protect yourself. Make sure the ladder is secure and you are wearing shoes with good traction on the bottom to prevent slipping. Once you have gotten onto the roof, remove the damaged shingles by lifting the edges of the shingles and removing the nails. Before laying down the new shingles, prepare them by rounding their corners with a utility knife. This will make sliding the shingles back into place. Slide the shingle into place and secure with a 6D galvanized roofing nail at each corner. Use a putty knife to smear a dab of roof cement on each nail head.

Before the Mold Removal Process Begins

mold removal process

Equip yourself with the proper safety items during the mold removal process. Anyone involved in the mold removal process needs to wear an N-95 respirator, rubber gloves, safety goggles without vent holes, a long-sleeve shirt and pants.

Discard any porous items that have been ruined by mold. Porous items, such as paper and drywall, cannot be cleaned and disinfected. These items will need to be discarded and replaced. Place the items in a garbage bag and secure closed. Place the bag outside.

Removing the Mold

Use a wet vacuum to remove any standing water that is present. Mix 1/4 cup of a mild dishwashing liquid and 1 gallon of warm water in a 5-gallon bucket. Remove as much mold as possible with a sponge saturated in the dishwashing liquid-water mixture. Apply an approved fungicide to the area. Follow all directions and warnings printed on the fungicide. Allow the area to dry completely. Point fans towards the area to aid in the drying process.

wood deck

Thinking About Building an Outdoor Deck?

Don’t Start Decking Without Reading This Decking Materials Guide

Building a deck is more complex than simply pouring a bit of concrete and nailing a few boards together. The options available for deck construction are constantly on the rise. Wood or plastic? If wood, what kind? What shape will the deck be? Should pressure treated wood be used? This article will help answer those questions and more.

deck construction

Build a Wood Deck or Plastic Deck?

The resistance to decay exhibited by plastic and metal decks has always been weighed against the aesthetic superiority of wood. This balance has traditionally tipped in wood’s favor, but new advancements in polymer design are quickly leveling the scale. Wood-plastic composites combine the best of both worlds and are constructed of recycled plastics and wood waste products (sawdust, bamboo, etc.). Common trade names for these composites are:

  • TimberTech®
  • Trex®
  • Ultradeck®
  • Weatherbest®
  • Practiwood®

These plastic polymers have several advantages over wood. They include:

  • Ability to be shaped using conventional woodworking tools
  • Resistance to rot and decay
  • Ease of molding to any desired spatial conditions
  • Ease of bending to form strong curves
  • No need for painting, they’re manufacture in a variety of colors

The disadvantages of wood metal composites include the tendency to deform in hot weather and, due to the porosity of the material, their susceptibility to staining by environmental elements.

Types of Wood Commonly Used in Decking

The most commonly used decking woods are pressure treated pines. However, even after chemical treatment, pine is not as durable as other hardwoods. If the deck being built is of any considerable size, it is recommended that pine be used since some hardwoods can cost more than $50 per square foot. These more expensive woods include:

  • Oak
  • Ash
  • Beech
  • Maple
  • Cherry
  • Teak

These woods are harder to shape than softwoods because of their density. Teak is incredibly expensive because it only grows in tropical climates and must be imported. That extra cost, though, comes with an increased durability and beauty rarely found in pressure treated pines. A summary of the costs of several dozen hardwoods can be found at Segmented Turning.

Is a Metal Deck an Option?

A metal deck constructed of aluminum will last far longer than either a plastic or wooden deck, but that durability comes at a steep price. When compared to wood, metal is cold and uninviting and can dampen the mood of any social or business gathering.

It is also incredibly reflective of sunlight and should be avoided if the deck is being built in a congested neighborhood, lest the neighbors be temporarily blinded after catching a glimpse of the afternoon sunlight glaring off the deck and crash through their garage door. However, if the deck is being built for purely utilitarian purposes (and none of those come to mind) metal may be the best choice.

Do not choose a decking material without considering the fact that it will form a large and conspicuous part of a property for a decade or more. It is a large investment that deserves dutiful research into the available materials and options.

How to Build a Fireproof Home for Wildfire Areas

Protection With ICFs, Flame-Resistant Roofs, and Cement Fiber Siding

While it’s true that no home can be truly fireproof, measures can be taken that will come close to reaching that ideal. Even structural steel beams will turn to spaghetti when exposed to sufficient heat. As an analogy, a water-resistant diver’s watch can’t survive the Mariana Trench but no damage is sustained during a normal dive.

Building a Fireproof Exterior

Fireproof Exterior

Put simply, a fireproof exterior is simply one that isn’t combustible. Typical residential wood framing (“stick framing” in the industry) won’t stand up to a blaze. Even what’s referred to as a brick home is almost always a brick veneer home with wood studs behind the masonry.

Concrete is the most logical and inexpensive construction material to go with. There are two popular ways to go about this. The first is insulated concrete forms (ICFs). This is also a green, sustainable building practice that contributes to a LEED certification.

ICFs will withstand fires for up to 4 hours

The second exterior building material is the cinder block. These blocks are simply built up from the ground up by masons, in a manner similar to laying brick.

Both of these building practices also lend themselves to areas that are susceptible to hurricanes and tornadoes.

Flame-Resistant Roofing Materials

flame-resistant roof

Roofing material is classified with fire ratings of Class A, Class B, and Class C, with A being the best. So what materials are good candidates in a fire? It depends. Some composition 3-tab shingles get a Class A rating with an estimated 30-year lifespan.

Clay and concrete barrel shingles (think Mediterranean-style) also have a Class A rating and are great for curb appeal and home resale value, but are more expensive. But, their lifespan far exceeds composition shingles.

Metal roofs also do well in fires, and like clay shingles, have a long lifespan. They can also reap a savings on homeowners insurance for protection both from fires and hail damage.

Flame-Resistant Siding

flame-resistant siding

Although cinder block homes are sometimes simply primes and painted, ICF homes need siding. A good bet is a cement fiber product like those produced by Certain Teed and JamesHardie. Cement fiber products are also termite proof and rot proof.

This siding is also considered by the industry to be a green and sustainable building material and counts towards LEED certification. A major benefit is that it comes pre-primed, which eliminates the overhead and time taken to prepare for painting.

Building a fire and wind resistant home just makes good sense. Nobody wants to re-build from the ground up after a natural disaster.

Starting Your Home Renovation

Learn How to Develop Ideas, Work with Contractors and Save Money.

New homeowners may want to paint the walls, upgrade the floors, or add more rooms to match their style. But they may not know how to get started. As a new homeowner, 25-year-old Anthony Ward explained during an in-person interview how he developed ideas, worked with contractors and saved money to create a home that fits his needs.

Developing Ideas

After purchasing his California home, Ward realized he needed to make several changes:

  • Put up a wall in a bedroom to create two smaller rooms
  • Gut and expand the kitchen
  • Replace the flooring with tile, carpet, and hardwood floors
  • Add new dry wall and insulation
  • Upgrade plumbing to copper
  • Upgrade electric

Additionally, he said he found some decorating ideas from various sources.

“I got ideas from looking at model homes, watching “House Hunters” on HGTV, and reading magazines such as Better Homes and Gardens,” Ward said.

home renovation contractor

Searching for a Contractor

He said he hired three contractors to complete the job¬–a general contractor who renovated the interiors such as the kitchen, dry wall, and electric; a plumber; and a separate contractor who laid the flooring.

Finding a contractor was not a difficult task. “I looked through the PennySaver and received references from family members,” Ward said. He chose contractors based on the following criteria:

  • Experience
  • License
  • Reasonable time work can be completed
  • Clean up and haul-away option
  • Price

Once the contractors were chosen, he said he sat down with them and drafted a written contract which contained the following information:

  • Price
  • Time frame work should be completed
  • Description of the work
  • Deposit information
  • Payment information and dates

Paying Contractors

Ward noted that some homeowners may pay contractors half of the payment at the start and pay the other half when the work is completed, but he warned if contractors leave suddenly without finishing the work, they would have half of the homeowner’s money.

“I pay everybody in three payments–a starting payment, a middle payment, and then a completion payment,” Ward said.

To Buy or Not to Buy Materials

home renovation materials

He said the contracts state whether the materials are included. In his case, the general contractor, plumber, and electrician included the materials in their prices, whereas the contractor laying the tile did not.

For Ward, buying the materials saved him money.

“It was cheaper to buy the materials myself and to pay for the labor,” he said. That way, he said he could keep any unused materials.

However, when contractors include materials in the contract, the homeowner may lose money. Ward explained that if $300, for instance, is budgeted to complete the work and the contractor only spends $260, the homeowner is out $40. But he added that many contractors go over the spending limit, which would be the contractor’s responsibility.

Last-Minute Tips

  • “Don’t hire family members”: He said it would be hard to fire family members if the work is not done properly. He advised to hire someone you do not know.
  • “See the contractor’s work beforehand”: Ward suggested checking out his or her projects and asking for references to see if previous customers were satisfied with his or her work.
  • “Get a written contract”: Even if the contractor does not have a license, he strongly advised to get it in writing to avoid any legal issues.

Every homeowner’s renovating experience will be different. However, if they determine the necessary fixes, find the right contractor, and fully understand the terms of the renovation, homeowners will feel more confident and be a step closer to living in their dream home.

Building a Green Home with Sustainable Materials

Indoor Air Quality and Energy Efficiency is Environment-Friendly

There are three situations where a homeowner can move in the lower carbon footprint direction. The first is when a new home is in the design phase and the second is when a remodeling project is in the works.

The third situation is when a more economical “eco-creep” strategy is being implemented. Eco-creep is when the homeowner makes smaller incremental changes, such as changing incandescent bulbs out to CFLs (Compact Fluorescent Light Bulbs).

The Benefits of Sustainable Building

It’s all good when environment-friendly construction policy is followed. Here are a few key benefits:

  • Costs are lowered when space configurations are changed during the life of the building.
  • Energy conservation from day one. Less energy consumed is not only earth-friendly, it’s kinder to the the pocketbook by lowering electricity and natural gas bills.
  • The health of the home’s occupants is improved. The use of low or no VOC (Volatile Organic Compound) paint and green flooring makes a big impact. The average carpeting will trap things that trigger allergies.
  • Flexibility in design is enhanced.
  • Home maintenance costs may be lowered in the long run. For example, installing reclaimed hardwood floors rather than installing carpet eliminates frequent floor covering shampooing.

Green Building Products

Criteria for Residential Green Building Products

There are four basic categories of consideration when choosing sustainable construction materials. These are indoor air quality, energy efficiency, resource efficiency, and water conservation. Is it possible to satisfy every point 100%? Probably not. The important thing is to make the best compromise possible when the need arises.

Indoor Air Quality

  • Air handling equipment should be efficient at filtering indoor air pollutants in an energy-efficient manner.
  • Material should be moisture resistant. Moisture is mold and mildew’s best friend.
  • Non-toxic components are a big issue. There is a reason for government regulation. And why provide work for future litigators?
  • Choose low or no-VOC paint, flooring, and other applicable materials.

Energy Efficiency

  • Appliances and building practices that are energy efficient is a core concept.
  • Energy Star refrigerators, central air conditioners, and other appliances will minimize the home’s carbon footprint right from the start.
  • The proper type and recommended amount of insulation should be installed for the home’s geographical location. Give soy spray foam insulation a try. It’s a bit more expensive than conventional, but it makes an incredibly tight envelope, and is as sustainable as it gets.

Resource Efficiency

  • Use salvaged and re-purposed building material when possible. Previously used hardwood flooring, doors, and staircase material have style. It may save money because the price of newly-harvested hardwood is so high, and re-purposing will keep the landfill a bit less crowded.
  • Use locally available material. Transportation is expensive, wastes fuel, and creates greenhouse gases.
  • Use durable goods. The longer-lasting it is, the longer the time period before replacement.
  • Use renewable and plentiful material. Soy spray foam insulation is a good example. It’s easy and inexpensive to farm.

Water Conservation

There are two key points to consider here. The first is implementing systems that conserve water to begin with. Low-flow shower heads are a good example. Low-flow toilets are a good idea and mandated in the USA. The current standard in the USA is 1.6 gallons per flush (GPF).

The second point is to conserve water by using existing water wisely. Reclaim rain water by routing the flow from the rain gutter downspout to the landscaping.