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hoeting, Author at Hoeting Realtors

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How Often Should You Replace Carpet?

 

While your carpets don’t have an expiration date, several signs indicate it may be time to replace that floor covering. Threadbare areas, warping or stretching, and odors or stains that do not go away no matter how often you clean the carpet are all clues that it may be time to replace that old carpet.

Worker's Hands Rolling Carpet
credit: AndreyPopov/iStock/GettyImages

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Age Matters

While a carpet may not need to be replaced just because it’s old, a typical lifespan for modern carpeting is five to 15 years, depending upon the quality of its construction and the amount of foot traffic it receives on a regular basis. A carpet in a spare, rarely used bedroom will last longer than the same carpeting in the main hallway in your home, simply because it is rarely tread upon. Even in a seldom-used room, the padding beneath the carpeting may deteriorate over time, especially if it’s not of high quality. Once the padding deteriorates, the carpeting may feel lumpy or not as comfortable underfoot, and it may wear out more quickly.

Flattened Fibers and Contorted Carpets

If your carpet’s pile once stood tall but now looks flat and matted in some areas no matter how hard you try to remedy the situation, the carpet may be past its prime. Polyester and olefin fibers are prone to matting, especially in the areas walked upon the most. Even Berber carpeting made from looped fibers may succumb to matting over time. If you’ve cleaned, combed and done all you could to fluff old carpeting back up, but nothing seems to help, it’s time to replace the carpet. A carpet that seems stretched beyond its original shape, creating ripples, warps and tripping points throughout the room, is also ready for replacement.

Threadbare Wear

Even a carpet with short fibers, designed to be durable and last for years, wears out eventually. If you can see horizontal threads of the backing material through the top of the carpeting in some areas, it’s time to replace that carpet. No amount of cleaning or fluffing will remedy the situation. Fraying along edges or in thinning areas of the carpet is another sign it’s time to take out the old and bring in the new. These types of wear are likely to occur in heavily used areas such as hallways, stairs and the footpath between frequently used rooms.

Shifting Shades

If the carpet’s shade is significantly lighter in one area than another, or if the entire carpet seems to be a different hue than when you purchased it, its fibers have faded. Age and exposure to sunlight, air and cleaning materials may change the color of dye on some carpet fibers. While fading alone may not be enough to warrant replacing the carpet if it still seems in fairly good shape, you may want to replace it if the color appears uneven or if it has other issues.

Scents and Stains

If you’ve just cleaned the carpet and it still smells like a wet dog — even if you don’t have a pet — it may be time to replace that funky floor covering. Carpet traps dirt, dust, debris and allergens, and over time, it becomes more difficult to remove all of the problematic materials even with a deep cleaning, which may also be an issue for those with asthma and allergies. As for stains, you may be able to hide a stain or two under furniture, but several stains that do not disappear even after professional cleaning may mean it’s time to consider a new carpet, especially if the stains are in a highly visible area and the carpet is past its prime.

6 Tasks Every Homeowner Should Do in November

Here’s how to make that happen (along with a few other timely tips):

#1 Wash Bed Pillows

A bed with white lines and fluffy blue-green pillows Image: Laura W.

You love your trusty, old, perfectly-snugged-to-your-head pillow. But guess what’s also snug against your head? Fungus — 4 to 16 species to be precise. Gross!

With fall being the height of guest season, you’ll want your guest pillows fresh, too. Pop them in the washing machine and dryer for an all-over clean feeling. (But check manufacturer advice, too. Some pillows shouldn’t be washed, but replaced instead.)

#2 Clean the Mattress, Too

A pink note attached to a mattress Image: Anne Arntson for HouseLogic

Sleeping soundly gets even better when you know you’re lying on a clean and fresh mattress. The yuck factor: Skin cells and sweat get into the mattress, then dust mites show up for a dinner party featuring those tasty skin cell morsels.

You’ll want your guest mattress to be at it’s freshest. It’s easy to do: Vacuum it and then wipe it down with a cloth dampened with an upholstery shampoo. But be sure to let it dry; otherwise, you’re inviting mold. Also, be sure to rotate it 180 degrees to help keep it lump-free.

(Another option: if you’ve got a flippable mattress, go ahead and flip it. That, too, can help kill the yucky mites.)

#3 Insulate Windows

A living room with couch and blue roman shades on window Image: Nick Smith, photographer | Clare Gaskin Interiors, designer

Bone-chilling drafts seriously detract from the cozy vibe you want. Keep it cozy by hanging drapes as close to your windows as possible to help you keep the heat inside.

You can even add clear Velcro strips or dots to the back of the drape and attach to fasteners on the wall to help insulate. Be sure to cross one drape over the other when you close up for the night. Insulating shades can do the trick, too.

#4 Stock Up on Snow Supplies

A man in a blue coat using a snow blower in a neighborhood Image: Chiyacat/Getty

If snow is a given where you live and you’re lacking supplies, take advantage of seasonal sales now to make sure you’re not the one rushing to the hardware store at the last minute — only to find out they just sold out of ice melt.

If you have a snow blower, be sure to have it serviced and fueled up before the first winter storm arrives — and with it, price hikes on all the snow stuff.

Related: 3 Brilliant Hacks to Make Snow Shoveling a Snap

#5 Trim Tree Branches

A woman with a green short-sleeved T-shirt trimming branches Image: Michele Constantini/PhotoAlto/Getty

The last thing you need is a winter storm loosing the wrath of that mighty tree whose branches are angling over your roof. Long limbs invite pests to explore your roof for excess water to seep into cracks in the roof or siding.

Keep limbs and branches at least 3 feet from the house. Plus it’s easier to trim branches after leaves have fallen. (If it’s an evergreen, well, sorry about that. It’ll be a prickly job, but the bonus is you’ll have greenery for the holidays!)

Related7 Dirty Places Your Guests See, But (Shock!) You Don’t!

#6 Get a Chimney Sweep to Inspect the Fireplace

It’s time to dust off and sweep the chimney! Best to hire someone who knows wood-burning fireplaces. A professional chimney sweep will ensure your wood-burning fireplace burns more efficiently and will help prevent chimney fires and carbon monoxide poisoning during the winter. So yeah, it’s pretty important.

Tip: If you don’t already have a chimney cap, this is also the time to add one to stop wild outdoor critters from crawling down it — and (yikes!) into your house.

Why November is the Best Month to Sell Your Home

Some owners hesitate to market their homes between Halloween and New Year’s Day, believing the holiday season to be an off-peak time to sell. But the idea that houses don’t sell in November and December comes from outdated historical trends.

In fact, several studies show that, on average, homes listed during this time are more likely to sell, sell more quickly, and sell closer to the asking price. November, in particular, has some unique advantages that make it an ideal time to sell. Here are three reasons why Thanksgiving month might be the best time to sell your home.

More motivation

The idea that homes sell best in spring and summer stems from the fact that parents want to wait until summer to move school-aged children. But today, more than half of buyers aren’t married, so their decisions aren’t necessarily based on kids’ schedules.

If buyers are looking for a home in November, they’ve either waited through the busy season in hopes of a better deal, or they’re facing their own time constraints due to work changes or other reasons. For these highly motivated buyers, the traditional barriers to winter house-hunting — bad weather, short days, holiday preparations — don’t apply. If your house is available for them to view in November, these buyers are more likely to make an offer close to listing price.

Less competition

Because of the misconceptions about selling during winter, it’s true that many sellers don’t think it’s worth their time to try and sell their homes toward the end of the year, so they take their homes off the market. Their loss of a potential buyer is your gain!

Serious buyers have fewer homes to choose from over the holidays. That means less competition for you — and more buyers checking out your even more desirable home, either online or in person.

Tax benefits

A house marketed in November may lure buyers looking for year-end tax breaks. Buyers looking to lower their taxes may snatch up a home late in the year so they can deduct home purchase costs. That includes points, interest and property taxes.

And if someone sold a house during the traditional summer selling season and faces capital gains tax on the deal (because he’s an investor or lived in the house for fewer than two years), he may be highly motivated to buy in November since closing on the purchase of another house within 180 days lets him avoid paying capital gains tax.

  • ©2018 Forbes Media LLC. All Rights Reserved.
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Check Yourself: Home Maintenance Tasks You Need to Tackle in November

We’ll be honest: We hate the phrase “transitional month.” Instead we like to think of November as a large-scale dress rehearsal for winter—the month that’s cold but not yet bone-chilling, frosty but not yet snowy. Before it gets too nasty to work outdoors, take the month to button up your home for the rough weather to come.

We know you’re busy. So your pals at realtor.com® have created a handy checklist of home maintenance tasks that need to be completed this month, plus tips for how to do them faster and easier, or with the help of a pro.

Pace yourself!

1. Weatherproof the house

Task: Locate and seal cracks and spaces that let heat out and cold air in—along baseboards, wall/ceiling junctures, windows and doors, lighting fixtures, switches, and electrical outlets. Your wallet will thank you, because energy savings from reducing drafts range from 5% to 30% per year, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.

Shortcut: Try these tricks to spot energy leaks. At night, ask a partner to walk outside while you turn off all lights and shine a flashlight along doors and windows (tell the neighbors not to call the police). The light will illuminate large cracks. Small ones won’t likely show up, however. For those, light a candle or incense stick and pass it along potential leak areas. If the flame or smoke wavers, you’ve got a leak.

Call in the pros: A home audit that finds all the nooks and crannies where energy escapes costs $375 on average. Painters ($25 to $100 an hour) will seal gaps with caulk. Handymen ($30 to $50 an hour) can install weatherstripping.

2. Check fire alarms

Task: Dead batteries cause 24% of smoke alarm failures, putting your family at greater risk of a fire. You should replace batteries or test hard-wired fire alarms twice a year. You knew this, right? Fine, we don’t mind reminding you.

Check those batteries for safety, and to stop the beeping.
Check those batteries for safety, and to stop the beeping.mphillips007/iStock

Shortcut: Don’t remember when you tested your detector last? Get into the habit of testing the alarm and changing batteries when you change the clocks for daylight saving and standard times. (Reminder: The latter is right around the corner, on Nov. 6!) If you live in parts of Arizona and Indiana, where they don’t spring forward or fall back an hour, put reminders to change the batteries on your calendar.

Call in the pros: If you’re not 7 feet tall or you have a ladder phobia, you can call an electrician ($50 to $100 an hour) or handyman to check your detector. Or, ask the high school basketball player down the street to push the test button for you.

3. Service the HVAC system

Task: Make sure your heating system is running safely and efficiently so you’ll stay toasty during cold weather and save money on energy bills.

Shortcut:  You can unclog and clean HVAC grilles by popping them in the dishwasher. (Leave out the dishes, preferably.) Also make sure you dust heating returns and change filters every one to three months.

Call in the pros: An HVAC expert ($60 to $85 an hour) is the best person to inspect and tune up your system, which will include checking controls, lubricating moving parts, and making sure no carbon monoxide is leaking.

4. Clear dead leaves

Task: Dead leaves aren’t just unsightly—they’ll also kill your lawn. Rake and bag ’em for removal.

Shortcut: Mulch leaves in place by running your mower over them and letting the pieces decompose and nourish your lawn all winter.

Call in the pros: Lawn maintenance services charge on average $50 to rake leaves. While they’re raking, have them aerate and reseed your lawn so it will green up faster in spring.

5. Clean patio furniture

Task: Before storing your outdoor furniture for the winter, take this opportunity to give them a good cleaning so you don’t have to do it in the spring, at which point the dirt and grime will be way harder to remove.

Shortcut: Brillo is a great scrubber to remove crud from plastic patio furniture. Just scrub and rinse. Or, train a power washer onto the furniture for a quick clean.

Call in the pros: A professional pressure washing costs about 8 cents to 35 cents per square foot. You probably won’t persuade one to clean only your patio furniture, but you can always add this task to a bigger job—such as pressure washing a fence or driveway—for extra productivity points.

6. Secure the home from pests

Task: Critters are just like you: When it’s cold outside, they want to go where it’s warm. “An attic offers a fantastic retreat for rodents like rats and mice to spend the winter,” says Nancy Troyano, director of technical education and training for Rentokil Steritech, a pest control company.  But unlike you, mice and snakes can get through a hole the size of a quarter. Don’t let them! Replace all damaged roof tiles and attic vents before it snows, and seal up holes around plumbing pipes and cables that enter your house.

Shortcuts: OK, there really aren’t any shortcuts to patching holes, which you’ll have to cover or fill with something such as wood putty, flexible brick, or concrete caulking. Just make sure you don’t wait too long to make the repairs, because the colder the temperature, the longer the filler will take to cure.

Call in the pros: Painters ($25 to $100 an hour) and handymen ($30 to $50 an hour) will patch holes in your home’s exterior.

——

So, are you prepared for winter after checking off this list? Did we miss something? Chime in on the discussion on House Talk.

Lisa Kaplan Gordon is an award-winning writer who’s covered real estate and home improvement for realtor.com, Yahoo, AOL, and many others.

Buyers Aren’t Spooked by Haunted Houses

With inventories so tight, many consumers say they’re even willing to live in a haunted house.

Thirty-three percent of more than 1,000 consumers recently surveyed say they’re willing to live in a haunted house, and another 25 percent said they’d consider it, according to a newly released survey by realtor.com®.

“Haunted houses are a popular attraction this time of year, but we wanted to see how many people would actually live in one,” says Sarah Staley, a housing expert who commented on the study’s findings. “What we found may be a sign of today’s tight housing market, or for many living in a haunted house doesn’t have to be a deal breaker.”

Further, 47 percent of respondents said they’d live in a home where someone has died, and 27 percent additional respondents said they’d at least consider it, according to the survey.

Still, 40 percent of consumers said they’d need a price reduction in order to choose a haunted home over a non-haunted home. Also, a good neighborhood, extra square footage, and more bedrooms would convince them too, according to the survey. On the other hand, 42 percent of respondents insist they aren’t open to the idea of buying a haunted home, even for those extra perks.

For some consumers, living in a haunted house may not be considered a stretch because they claim they’ve already lived in one. For example, 28 percent of respondents said they have lived in a haunted house, and another 14 percent think they may have. They say their house was haunted because of strange noises, odd feelings in certain rooms, and even some reports of objects moving or disappearing.

Source: realtor.com®

 

One Day Backyard Ideas and DIY Projects

Creative gardening tips, ideas, & DIY projects

Most of us are really busy, and if we end up spending several weekends in a row having to work on backyard ideas & projects, they tend to not get finished. I like simple, and fast for most of the DIY projects I do…probably because, if you ask Steve, I have an issue with patience. And procrastination. But that’s another post. 🙂 In any case, the first thing I want to do in the garden each year is all those projects that sounded so perfect at the end of last season! So let’s jump right in and find some great DIY one day backyard ideas that are perfect for beginner DIY’ers, and give us all quick gratification. And who doesn’t love that in the garden?

 

 

One Day Backyard Ideas & DIY Projects

 

I Spy DIY‘ must know how much we love a vertical garden! This is an amazing DIY project for a small backyard or a patio space. You can use it to grow edibles that are easy to access from the kitchen, or just to bring your love of plants into your outdoor living area. Jenni also shows you how to make these simple paint markers as well. Tons of other backyard ideas at their site, so spend some time looking around there!

 

We have the perfect backyard idea for you! From ‘A Beautiful Mess‘,  build a fire pit in an afternoon! Here is another fire pit tutorial. Or, make a DIY tabletop fire bowl for a small garden space. These are the kind of outdoor projects that make your family time more memorable. Totally worth a little elbow grease!

 

From ‘Sarah Hearts‘, you have to check out this DIY patio idea. This is simple, eye-catching, fast, and budget friendly. (And, it looks fun!) Go check out her how-to’s for this backyard project. So much better than chalk drawings in the street. 🙂

 

Use this DIY backyard idea from ‘Love Grows Wild‘ to create privacy, or just add some beauty to your outdoor space. This DIY trellis planter has a complete tutorial, is a simple one day project, and requires just a few tools and supplies.

 

Need some outdoor furniture? This DIY project has complete plans and instructions. Build this stone top table from ‘Family Handyman‘ and make your backyard a little more special than it was before!

 

Now if you are looking for a backyard idea or DIY project to fit a larger group, try this DIY picnic table from ‘Dunn Lumber‘. See this petite woman building this outdoor table? You don’t have to be big to hold a saw and a drill.

 

 

Make this DIY AC unit cover with this tutorial from ‘Taryn Whiteaker‘. This is a simple backyard idea that can take a yard that was unfriendly and turn it into an area you can use as a mini patio or play space. No more embarrassing ugliness showing!

 

Love this backyard idea from ‘Shelstring Blog‘. This DIY project is a wooden bench made from logs, lumber… and a few well learned lessons! Read their tutorial, this would be amazing in a shade garden for quiet summer afternoons. Or fall afternoons. Winter mornings. Or…

DSCN2594

This easy outdoor project can change the whole look of a yard. Add a garden walkway in one afternoon! Want ideas? See our post on DIY Walkways & Paths! This tutorial is from ‘ZenSchmen‘.

One Day Backyard Ideas & DIY Projects

 

This is one of our original projects, and still one of my fav DIY garden projects we’ve done so far… It’s come along way since this photo was taken, so Ill try to update this season with all the plants filled in. But if you are looking for something simple and more contemporary, try our DIY Project: Contemporary Garden Water Feature – Less than $30.

water-feature-3

 

Also from here at ‘TGG’, try this outdoor project! DIY concrete garden globes are easy, fun to make and look great anywhere in your yard. We give you a concrete recipe (four, actually!) to make different textured globes as well.

 

Finally, we love this cobblestone path from Home is Where They Love You. Made with a form and pre mixed concrete, this is a budget DIY project as well!

yard 2011 020

Thank you for reading our post on One Day Backyard Ideas & DIY Projects! We know you will also enjoy our posts on 12 Inspiring Backyard Lighting Ideas and How to Build a Backyard Playhouse!

Note: This post has been refreshed with updated projects.

Image Credits: ZenShmen, I Spy DIY, A Beautiful Mess, Sarah Hearts, Love Grows Wild, Family Handyman, Dunn Lumber, Taryn Whiteaker, Shelstring Blog, Home is Where They Love You

Your Home’s Fall Checklist

from Better Homes and Garden Oct 2018

Your Home’s Fall Checklist

It’s time to prepare your home to withstand winter’s frosty bite.

Fall is the perfect time to take care of the little things that can make a big difference for you and your home. Most of the tasks listed below are well with-in the average person’s ability. But even if you choose to have a professional handle them, it’s worth the expense. You’ll save money—and maybe even your life. We’ll walk you through cleanup for gutters, roofs, fireplaces, and more.

More Fall Fix-Ups for Your Home

Get Your Mind in the Gutters

Your roof’s drainage system annually diverts thousands of gallons of water from your house’s exterior and foundation walls. That’s why it is so important to keep this system flowing smoothly. Clogged gutters can lead to damaged exterior surfaces and to water in your basement. They are also more prone to rust and corrosion. Before the leaves fly this fall, have your gutters cleaned, then covered with mesh guards to keep debris from returning.

How to Care for Gutters

Button Up Your Overcoat

A home with air leaks around windows and doors is like a coat left unbuttoned. Gaps in caulk and weather-stripping can account for a 10% of your heating bills, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.

Weather-stripping is easily the most cost-effective way to rein in heating and cooling costs. This humble material also reduces drafts and keeps your home more comfortable year-round. Because weather stripping can deteriorate over time, it is important to inspect it periodically.

If you suspect a problem with weather stripping, you have several options for checking. Close a door or window on a strip of paper; if the paper slides easily, your weatherstripping isn’t doing its job. Or, close the door or window and hold a lighted candle near the frame. (Don’t let the flame get near anything flammable!) If the flame flickers at any spot along the frame, you have an air leak.

While you’re at it, also check for missing or damaged caulk around windows, doors, and entry points for electrical, cable, phone, gas, and so. Seal any gaps with a suitable caulk.

Get on Top of Roof Problems

Few homeowner problems are more vexing than a leaky roof. Once the dripping starts, finding the source of the problem can be time-consuming. Stop problems this fall before ice and winter winds turn them from annoyances into disasters.

Start by inspecting your roof from top to bottom, using binoculars if necessary. Check ridge shingles for cracks and wind damage. Look for damage to metal flashing in valleys and around vents and chimneys. Scan the entire roof for missing, curled, or damaged shingles. Look in your gutters for large accumulations of granules, a sign that your roof is losing its coating; expect problems soon. Finally, make sure your gutters are flowing freely.

Editor’s Tip: Roof-mounted television antennas, even if they aren’t in use, may have guy wires holding them in place. Look for loose or missing guy wires. If you see some, and your antenna is no longer being used, consider having it removed altogether.

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Roof Repair Tips Every Homeowner Should Know

Chill Out

If you live in an area with freezing weather, take steps to ensure that outside faucets (also called sill cocks) and inground irrigation systems don’t freeze and burst.

Close any shut-off valves serving outside faucets, then open the outside faucet to drain the line. (There may be a small cap on the faucet you can loosen to facilitate this draining.) If you don’t have shut-off valves, and your faucets are not “freezeproof ” types, you may benefit from styrofoam faucet covers sold at home centers.

To freezeproof an inground irrigation system, follow the manufacturer’s procedure for draining it and protecting it from winter damage.

Freshen Your Filter

Furnace filters trap dust that would otherwise be deposited on your furniture, woodwork, and so on. Clogged filters make it harded to keep your home at a comfortable temperature, and can serious increase your utility bills. A simple monthly cleaning is all it takes to keep these filters breathing free and clear.

Disposable filters can be vaccumed once before replacement. Foam filters can also be vaccumed, but they don’t need to be replaced unless they are damaged. Use a soft brush on a vacuum cleaner. If the filter is metal or electrostatic, remove and wash it with a firm water spray.

Give Your Furnace a Physical

Once a year, it’s a good idea to have your heating system inspected by a professional. To avoid the last-minute rush, consider scheduling this task in early fall, before the heating season begins.

Here are signs that you should have an inspection performed sooner:

Noisy Belts: Unusual screeches or whines may be a signal that belts connected to the blower motor are worn or damaged.

Poor Performance: A heating system that doesn’t seem to work as well as it once did could be a sign of various problems. Your heating ducts might be blocked, the burners might be misadjusted, or the blower motor could be on its last legs. One check you should be sure to conduct: Make sure your furnace filter is clean.

Erratic Behavior: This could be caused by a faulty thermostat or a misadjusted furnace.

Gather ‘Round the Hearth

Even if you use your fireplace only occasionally, you should check it annually for damage and hazards.

Inspect Your Flue for Creosote: Creosote is a flammable by-product of burning wood. If it accumulates in a flue or chimney, the result can be a devastating fire. Have your chimney inspected annually for creosote buildup. If you use a fireplace or wood stove frequently, have the flue inspected after each cord of wood burned.

For most people, the best option is to have your entire chimney system inspected by a chimney sweep. Once you know what to look for, you can perform the inspection by shining a bright flashlight up the flue, looking for any deposits approaching 1/8 inch thick. These deposits should be cleaned by an experienced chimney sweep.

Look for Flue Blockages: Birds love to nest at the top of an unprotected flue. A chimney cap can prevent this from happening. If you don’t have a cap, look up the flu to ensure that there are no obstructions.

Exercise the Damper: The damper is the metal plate that opens and closes the flu just above the firebox. Move it to the open and closed positions to ensure that it is working properly.

Check Your Chimney for Damage: Make certain that the flue cap (the screen or baffle covering the top of the chimney) is in place. Inspect brick chimneys for loose or broken joints. If access is a problem, use binoculars.

Festive Fall Mantel Ideas

Keep the Humidifier Humming

You may know that bone dry winter air is bad for your health, but did you also know it can make fine wood more prone to cracking? You and your home will feel more comfortable if you keep your central humidifier in tip-top shape during the months it is running.

First, inspect the plates or pads, and if necessary, clean them in a strong laundry detergent solution. Rinse and scrape off mineral deposits with a wire brush or steel wool.

Head-off Gas Problems

Keeping a gas heater in good shape is both a safety and a cost issue. An improperly maintained heater can spew poisons into the air of your home, or it may simply be costing you more to operate. Have a professional check these devices annually. There are also some maintenance items you should address.

First, shut off the heater. Then check the air-shutter openings and exhaust vents for dirt and dust. If they are dirty, vacuum the air passages to the burner and clean the burner of lint and dirt. Follow the manufacturer’s advice for any other needed maintenance.

Keep Wood Fires Burning Brightly

Woodburning stoves are a great way to add atmosphere and warmth to your home. But regular inspections are needed to ensure that these devices don’t become a safety hazard. Here’s how to check them.

Inspect Stovepipes: Cracks in stovepipes attached to wood stoves can release toxic fumes into your home. Throughout the heating season, you should check for corrosion, holes, or loose joints. Clean the stovepipe, and then look for signs of deterioration or looseness. Replace stovepipe if necessary.

Look for Corrosion and Cracks: Check for signs of rust or cracking in the stove’s body or legs.

Check Safety Features: Make sure that any required wall protection is installed according to the manufacturer’s specifications and that the unit sits on an approved floor material. If you have young children, be sure to fence off the stove when it is in operation.

Walk the Walks

Damaged walkways, drives, and steps are a hazard year round, but their dangers are compounded when the weather turns icy. Fixing problems in the fall is also critical to preventing little problems from becoming expensive headaches.

Look for cracks more than 1/8-inch wide, uneven sections, and loose railings on steps. Check for disintegration of asphalt, or washed-out materials on loose-fill paths. Most small jobs are well within the ability of a do-it-yourselver, but save major repairs for experienced hands.

Review Safety Features

At least once a year, do a top-to-bottom review of your home’s safety features. This is also a good time to get the family together for a review of your fire evacuation plan. Here’s how to do this:

Smoke and CO Detectors: Replace the batteries in each smoke and carbon monoxide (CO) detector, then vacuum them with a soft brush attachment. Test the detectors by pressing the test button or holding a smoke source (like a blown-out candle) near the unit. If you haven’t already, install a smoke detector on every floor of your home, including the basement.

Fire Extinguishers: Every home should have at least one fire extinguisher rated for all fire types (look for an A-B-C rating on the label). At a minimum, keep one near the kitchen; having one per floor isn’t a bad idea. Annually, check the indicator on the pressure gauge to make sure the extinguisher is charged. Make certain that the lock pin is intact and firmly in place, and check that the discharge nozzle is not clogged. Clean the extinguisher and check it for dents, scratches, and corrosion. Replace if the damage seems severe. Note: Fire extinguishers that are more than six years old should be replaced. Mark the date of purchase on the new unit with a permanent marker.

Fire Escape Plans: Every bedroom, including basement bedrooms, should have two exit paths. Make sure windows aren’t blocked by furniture or other items. Ideally, each upper-floor bedroom should have a rope ladder near the window for emergency exits. Review what to do in case of fire, and arrange a safe meeting place for everyone away from the house.

General Cleanup: Rid your home of accumulations of old newspapers and leftover hazardous household chemicals. (Check with your state or local Environmental Protection Agency about the proper way to discard dangerous chemicals.) Store flammable materials and poisons in approved, clearly labeled containers. Keep a clear space around heaters, furnaces, and other heat-producing appliances.

Stunning Ceilings: The Latest Eye Candy for the 5th Wall

Ceilings are too often the plain Jane element of a listing, but this element your listing’s structure can assume a starring role and transform a space with minimal effort and expense. Learn about your clients’ options, from millwork to lighting, different shapes, paint, and even wallpaper.

September 5, 2018

Ceilings have long reflected architectural, economic, and other influences of the day. In early American homes, low ceilings were favored to keep spaces warm, even if they made them feel a bit claustrophobic. During the Victorian era, high ceilings—at least nine feet high and often higher—were embellished, integrating handcrafted cast-plaster ornaments, stencilling, and other decorative treatments.

When factory buildings and warehouses in New York’s downtown manufacturing district were converted to loft-style apartments starting in the 1950s, a grittier industrial chic took hold, leaving ceiling ductwork and beams exposed. Lofty heights remained in vogue throughout the 1980s and ’90s, but fancier vaults, peaks, and arches emerged as McMansions became the rage. However, as concern about the high cost of energy consumption gained traction, the idea of heating and cooling all that extra space turned some off high ceilings. They were lowered, though rarely to less than 8 feet, and left unadorned, a nod toward a modern aesthetic that often shunned crown molding and other details.

These days interest in personalizing space has meant ceilings have begun to play a role in helping rooms take on different personas, create memorable impressions on buyers, and solve problems such as adding visual depth to a low room.

Lisa Pickell, president of Orren Pickell Building Group, custom home builders in Chicago, is a fan of maximizing ceilings. “They offer a great opportunity to extend and enhance an aesthetic,” she says. But she also recommends doing so when planning a room’s décor rather than as an afterthought, which can make the project more expensive.

Erin Powell, design director and principal at RoOomy, an online staging firm out of San Jose, Calif., concurs that a well-planned ceiling treatment can help a listing stand out. “It usually won’t make or break a purchase, but it opens up the chance to make a buyer more interested,” she says.

Here are five ways to showcase a ceiling. Use them sparingly—certainly not in every room—to avoid visual confusion. “Otherwise, the concept may lose its specialness,” Pickell says.

dark blue ceiling

© Sherwin-Williams

Paint

This is the least expensive way to make a ceiling stand out and alter its look without major architectural change. New homes often feature the same white color on walls and ceilings, but broker Matt van Winkle with RE/MAX Northwest in Seattle recommends painting the ceiling slightly lighter than what’s used on the walls to add depth. Generally, he advises steering clear of bold colors, except in children’s rooms.

Others, however, like adding more color for different visual effects. Designer Rebecca Pogonitz of Go Go Design in Chicago likes to use darker colors to create a cozy, almost a cocoonish, feeling, which she sometimes pairs with white trim to keep the overall feeling from seeming too heavy. Kristie Barnett, founder of The Decorologist in Nashville, also likes dark choices when staging a home for a memorable impression.

Sometimes, a wildly unexpected hue can be the easiest way to update a room, which was the approach architect Anik Pearson took with a vintage New York apartment that had its footprint and bones intact. “We restored it to its glory but with a modern twist by painting the dining room’s walls and beams a bold teal, filling in the space between beams in white, and running some chinoiserie-inspired wallpaper all around,” she says. Bob Zuber, partner, principal, and head of architectural design at Morgante Wilson Architects in Chicago, finds that tinted Venetian plaster warms up ceilings.

For the best coverage and less splatter, Rick Wilson, director of product information at Sherwin-Williams, stresses the importance of using quality ceiling paint. His colleague Sue Wadden, director of color marketing, suggests going with flat or matte finishes to hide imperfections and produce a polished, clean look for any color choice. Otherwise, painting the ceiling is no different from painting walls.

Wallpapered ceiling

© Emily Gilbert

Wallpaper

While many see this option as something of a throwback, wallpaper has found favor among more design professionals of late and for multiple reasons. “A graphic paper can define an activity area in an open-plan space; colorfully patterned papers can pull together a palette in a room, and gold, silver, or pewter leaf paper, which we use often, add stature, drama, and radiance when coupled with the right kind of lighting,” says Chicago-based designer Jessica LaGrange. “Wallpaper can hide cosmetic blemishes or introduce pattern in rooms where all the walls are taken such as a kitchen or family area with copious cabinetry.”

Pogonitz, who likes using bold and detailed patterns on ceilings, says it’s important to do the same prep work as you would for any wall surface—”patch and smooth out the ceiling as needed.”

But many design pros offer caveats with this approach. Powell cautions that wallpapering both a ceiling and walls can look excessive, so she recommends covering one or the other. LaGrange warns against using paper with a definite directional cue, such as those with a clear top and bottom, since it won’t be read “correctly” from a visual standpoint.

Barnett, who trains stagers, suggests avoiding wallpaper on the ceiling when selling. “It’s so taste-specific and many are still scared of paper,” she says. One way to hedge bets is to suggest one of the newer easy-to-remove papers from sources like Chasing Paper.

vaulted ceiling

© Lexington Homes

Shape

Ceilings don’t have to be a flat plane, though it’s certainly easier and less costly to make this decision before construction or during a major remodeling and in a one-story space. Van Winkle has found coffered ceiling treatments are attracting a lot of attention these days among consumers. That could mean a pitched, vaulted, or arched shape that rises upward and provides a greater sense of airiness, drama, and light.

Homebuyers who purchase townhomes in communities developed by Chicago-based Lexington Homes are increasingly requesting to upgrade to ceilings with volume, particularly tray designs in master and secondary bedrooms, says sales director Todd Lesher. “Ceiling upgrades are one of the most common selections we encourage buyers to make, as they do not add a lot of cost, but make a big impact,” he says. “Buyers like that the volume helps open up the space and make the rooms seem larger and more expansive.”

Key to adding any volume to a ceiling is carefully considering the relationship of the elements to the size of the room to maintain proper visual scale, says Zuber. “You never put a tall ceiling in a small space or a short ceiling in a large room,” he says.

ceiling with millwork

© Emily Gilbert

Millwork

Woodwork is used for all sorts of interior spaces—doors, floors, walls, and the trim detailing that’s used in crown molding at the top by the ceiling. Such architectural trim, especially when wider and thicker, makes a house look more luxurious, says Barnett. It can also be used in more elaborate ways, atop a ceiling in recessed grids for a coffered effect or in one large central portion that’s recessed and higher, in what’s called a tray design. Merritt Woodwork, in Mentor, Ohio, often designs these complex arrangements of wood in clients’ homes. The company recently fashioned an elaborate grid pattern from American white oak for a large Hamptons, N.Y., home. Haver and Skolnik Architects, in Roxbury, Conn., known for building and renovating traditional homes, frequently uses beams and other millwork to add coziness and an aged character. And Pearson recently used millwork to define an area in an open-plan New York apartment and baffle sound. In an adjacent kitchen, she added trim to bring extra drama to a skylight.

But simpler uses of crown molding or ceiling trim can achieve effects such as unifying adjoining rooms for less than $1,000, says Julie Whitley, director of architecture design at homebuilder Red Seal Development Corp. in Northbrook, Ill. One DIY technique that’s attracted wide attention and adds an updated farmhouse feel is to use shiplap, basically manufactured boards with grooves that fit together snugly. The look picked up steam after celebrity TV couple Chip and Joanna Gaines of HGTV’s “Fixer Upper” show began using them in countless projects, including on ceilings. For a more modern vibe, Zuber of Morgante Wilson Architects recommends trim with an angled or slanted profile rather than straight rectangular boards. He advises keeping millwork in the right proportion to the ceiling’s height. “Four-inch crown is good for an 8- or 9-foot ceiling,” he says.

Whether the millwork is left natural or painted should depend on how much homeowners want it to stand out or complement a certain period or style. Winkle recommends keeping millwork white, which makes it easy to live with over time and appeal more universally, especially to buyers. For traditional homes, however, Powell​​​​​​​ favors dark hues that more readily reveal texture. But she cautions that going dark can visually bring a ceiling down.

ceiling lights

© RoOomy Virtual Staging

Lighting

Ceiling lights have changed a great deal in recent years; even housings for recessed cans reflect trends with different trim colors, materials, and diameters. Zuber likes placing them strategically around a ceiling rather than peppering a line of cans in the more common shotgun approach. Some also suggest eschewing the expected fixture at the center of a room, particularly in dining and master bedrooms, which gives greater flexibility when arranging furniture, says Amber Shay, national director of design studios for Meritage Homes, a Scottsdale, Ariz., builder of single-family homes.

In general, oversized fixtures are more on trend, along with ceiling fans with lights built in, and almost all bulbs are LEDs for better performance, greater efficiency, and new smart-home applications, says Joe Rey-Barreau, an architect, lighting designer, and education consultant for the American Lighting Association. Among some of the new LED uses are in linear strips that can be installed easily inside or on top of cabinets, in bookshelves, along toe kicks in kitchens and baths, and in ceiling coves and cornices. For sellers who want to update fixtures before listing to improve how rooms show, Rey-Barreau says the number of attractive, affordable options has increased. That’s especially helpful if they must leave such upgrades behind, which of course depends on the sales contract.

11 Ways to Create a Welcoming Front Entrance For Under $100

By: Cara Greenberg

Wouldn’t it be nice to approach your home’s entrance with a grin instead of a grimace? Take our tips for beating a clear, safe, and stylish path to your front door.

First impressions count — not just for your friends, relatives, and the UPS guy, but for yourself. Whether it’s on an urban stoop or a Victorian front porch, your front door and the area leading up to it should extend a warm welcome to all comers — and needn’t cost a bundle.

Here’s what you can do to make welcoming happen on the cheap.

1. Clear the Way for Curb Appeal.

The path to your front door should be at least 3 feet wide so people can walk shoulder-to-shoulder, with an unobstructed view and no stumbling hazards. So get out those loppers and cut back any overhanging branches or encroaching shrubs.

2. Light the Route.

Landscape lighting makes it easy to get around at night. Solar-powered LED lights you can just stick in the ground, requiring no wiring, are surprisingly inexpensive. We found 8 packs for under $60 online. 

3. Go Glossy.

Borrow inspiration from London’s lovely row houses, whose owners assert their individuality by painting their doors in high-gloss colors. The reflective sheen of a royal blue, deep green, crimson, or whatever color you like will ensure your house stands out from the pack.

Related: Pictures of 10 Great Value-Add Exterior Paint Jobs

4. Pretty Up the View.

A door with lots of glass is a plus for letting light into the front hall — but if you also want privacy and a bit of decor, check out decorative window film. It’s removable and re-positionable, and comes in innumerable styles and motifs. Pricing depends on size and design; many available for under $30.

A way to get the look of stained glass without doing custom work or buying a whole new door: Mount a decorative panel on the inside of the door behind an existing glass insert, $92 for an Arts and Crafts-style panel 20-inches-high by 11-inches-wide.

5. Replace Door Hardware.

While you’re at it, polish up the handle on the big front door. Or better yet, replace it with a shiny new brass lockset with a secure deadbolt. Available for about $60.

6. Please Knock.

Doorbells may be the norm, but a hefty knocker is a classic that will never run out of battery life, and another opportunity to express yourself (whatever your favorite animal or insect is, there’s a door-knocker in its image).

7. Ever-Greenery.

Boxwoods are always tidy-looking, the definition of easy upkeep. A pair on either side of the door is traditional, but a singleton is good, too. About $25 at garden centers. In cold climates, make sure pots are frost-proof (polyethylene urns and boxes mimic terracotta and wood to perfection).

8. Numbers Game.

Is your house number clearly visible? That’s of prime importance if you want your guests to arrive and your pizza to be hot. Stick-on vinyl numbers in a variety of fonts make it easy, starting at about $4 per digit.

9. Foot Traffic.

A hardworking mat for wiping muddy feet is a must. A thick coir mat can be had at the hardware store for less than $20. Even fancier varieties can be found well under $50.

10. Go for the glow.

Fumbling for keys in the dark isn’t fun. Consider doubling up on porch lights with a pair of lanterns, one on each side of the door, for symmetry and twice the illumination. Many mounted lights are available well under $100.

11. Snail Mail.

Mailboxes run the gamut from kitschy roadside novelties masquerading as dogs, fish, or what-have-you to sober black lockboxes mounted alongside the front door. Whichever way you go, make sure yours is standing or hanging straight, with a secure closure, and no dings or dents. The mail carrier will thank you.

7 Pro Tips To Help Your Home Sell Faster, For More Money

7 Pro Tips To Help Your Home Sell Faster, For More Money

It’s overwhelming to clear and sell a home that’s been occupied for many years—the piles of papers, trunks full of tchotchkes, mountains of miscellany. Nobody knows this more than Glendale, Calif.-based Betsy Wilbur, who professionally “stages” homes for sale. But with a small investment of time and/or money, homes that are set up to sell can reap more rewards than ones that haven’t been staged —and even vacant houses.

Wilbur recalls a recent client, the daughter of the owner who’d lived in a house for 50 years. The home had fallen to “fixer” status. “She was a bit overwhelmed by the prospect of selling the home and didn’t know if she wanted to prepare and stage the home or just sell it as is,” Wilbur said, adding that if there were no changes, the home would have gotten lowball offers from contractors ready to flip it after making cosmetic fixes. “But by doing some simple upgrades and staging the home we could reach another buyer pool—first-time home buyers who could see the potential.”

Betsy Wilbur photo

Betsy Wilbur photo

Wilbur outlined the client’s options, which ranged from $3,500 to $10,000. The clients wanted the works, so Wilbur:

  • Removed tile covering the original hardwood floors
  • Painted interior walls, front door and trellis, bathroom cabinets and shower tile
  • Updated the kitchen floor and light fixtures
  • Provided landscaping for added curb appeal with landscaping
  • Brought in temporary furniture, art, plants and accessories

In the end, the home had 16 offers, and sold in 14 days for $62,500 over asking price–not a shabby return on investment.

Betsy Wilbur

Betsy Wilbur

Which is not unusual for a seller who stages her home. Wilbur says her clients’ properties sell for an average 6.3% over asking price in 12 days. The area average is 97% of asking price and 56 days on the market.

According to the National Association of Realtors, for every $100 invested in staging, the potential return is $400 . Compare that to the average sale price, which is a reduction of 10-20% from asking. So an average home with a $400,000 asking price will be reduced by $40,000 to $80,000.

“Staging can save you from a costly price reduction,” Wilbur says. “A staged home will sell for 17% more on average than a non-staged home, and 95% of staged homes sell in 11 days or less. That is statistically 87% faster than non-staged homes.” 

How Home Staging Works

Home staging is considered a marketing technique that turns the home into something that will appeal to the greatest common denominator or buyers so it will sell quickly. “This involves ‘neutralizing’ the home and portraying a lifestyle that buyers want to have.” Wilbur says. So even though you may love your beautiful and expensive taxidermy collection, not everyone else will, and it can have a negative psychological effect on a potential buyer.

Betsy Wilbur photo

Betsy Wilbur photo

Stagers will use specific techniques to highlight the home’s architectural features , and make rooms feel large and inviting, Wilbur says. The stager will also take into account the target market for the home: Spaces designed for young singles, empty-nesters and families will all look different.

A stager will do a walk-through and make recommendations on which existing pieces in the home will be assets and which should be removed, and come up with a list of high, medium and low budget options for re-design. Stagers will bring in some of their own pieces, or rent them.

7 Simple Rules for Staging a Home

One of the hardest things to do is to get out of your own habits and preferences and into the mindset of a buyer seeing the home in person or on the Internet for the first time. Maybe the TV has always been the focal point for the living room, for example, but for a buyer, the fireplace would need to be highlighted. “When we are getting ready to sell, we want to rearrange that so the room is balanced and furniture is not blocking pathways, windows or great features of the home,” Wilbur says.

She offers these tips for staging:

  • Keep décor neutral: Neutral does not mean boring, but it does mean staying away from shocking colors, and even avoiding all-white and all-beige walls. “I’ve staged some fantastic rooms with deep purple or black walls – it’s all about knowing how to make it work.”
  • Remove personal items: All personal pictures, family plaques, framed certificates, etc., should be packed. “I also suggest packing up anything smaller than a cantaloupe. We want the buyer to envision themselves living there right away, and a house full of someone else’s pictures doesn’t do that.”
  • Never put an empty home on the market: “One of the challenges of trying to sell a vacant home is that buyers can often have a hard time visualizing themselves living there.” When rooms are unfurnished they actually feel smaller than they are; so a buyer might be unsure how to position furniture or if their current furniture will fit.  Buyers also notice more flaws when a home is vacant and might incorrectly assume a home needs a lot of work when it really needs minimal cosmetic updating. Finally, a vacant property can give buyers the impression a seller is desperate, which could result in lower offers.
  • Don’t remodel before you sell: You may think you have great taste in kitchens, but the new owner may not agree. It’s better to spend the money doing cosmetic fixes than worrying about getting the full return on the investment of an extensive remodel.
  • Avoid divisive décor: When staging an occupied home we are always careful to remove religious and political items, as well as any other items that might be offensive.
  • Stay timeless: It’s good to be “on trend” with pops of color in, say, pillows and curtains, but avoid anything that’s too trendy. A stager can help draw the line.

The most important thing to keep in mind is that staging isn’t creating illusions—it’s about revealing truths . “We are simply showing the buyer the potential of the home through simple and inexpensive upgrades,” Wilbur says. “A buyer reaching to the top of their price range might not have additional money for remodeling, so if the home looks ‘good enough for now’ and doesn’t seem like an overwhelming project, then they will throw their hat into the bidding ring, resulting in higher offers for the seller. I had one home where the agent told me going into the project that it was probably going to be considered a tear-down property, but when we were finished it ended up selling for $110,000 over asking price.”

 

 

Vanessa McGrady would be thrilled if you’d visit her new blog, www.greenmeansgotravel.com. You can find her on Twitter (@VanessaMcGrady) and learn more about her work at www.vanessamcgrady.com.