Home Improvement Info
Before I became a writer, I thought I might sell real estate. I learned just enough from being a homeowner to think I knew what’s what. While we’re good homeowners, the lessons we’ve learned over the years is that home ownership isn’t for everyone. I’d much rather write about homes, than help other get in over their heads. Here’s my top five tips:
5. Research, Research, Research
Not much of a stretch from a writer, huh? However, I’m constantly surprised at other homeowners’ excessive trust in their agents. If you don’t do any of your own work, you can find yourself in a home, or a neighborhood that’s a bad fit. Agents aren’t mind readers, either. They can’t answer questions you don’t ask.
4. Expect the Unexpected
We bought a home with a gorgeous, 60+ year old elm tree in the back yard. Three years later, it had split to the root. The tree removal service told us we were one thunderstorm away from having it crash into our bedroom. Every other homeowner we’ve talked to had similar stories. There are suprises no one expects. Don’t just budget financially; plan for the stress and the shock.
3. Know Thy Neighborhood
We’d lived in our neighborhood for years before purchasing. We knew the houses and the people. We’re in the minority though. If we’d bought when we first got married, we might have been surprised when the city rezoned the school around the corner to administrative offices. Because we were tuned in, we knew what was coming.
2. Live Below Your Means
Our agent was shocked to see how much we money we made at closing. We bought a house priced far under what might be expected for our income. However, we knew we wanted a life more than just financing home ownership. Not following the formula meant we survived financial challenges later. When others faced foreclosure in 2008, we weathered the storm.
1. Take the Plunge!
Our biggest lesson is from our mistake. We waited too long to buy a home. We kept believing that we needed more money or the best circumstances for buying a house. Like having kids, there’s just never a “right” time. Granted, it gave us more time to follow all the other tips on the list, but it also delayed meeting our goals. Don’t wait for “perfect”.
We love being homeowners, and have learned our lessons along the way. Following basic tips can make all the difference in having success owning a home.
Once I got the keys I couldn’t wait to get there. Sure I was young and I had signed a bunch of papers that I didn’t quite totally understand but who cares. I had closed on my first house and was driving over to enjoy it. As an Actuary I spend my time doing math for an insurance company, but I figured I was just as qualified to maintain a house as, say, a carpenter or electrician or plumber would be. However, once I pulled up I found out that the previous owners had left most of their junkiest earthly belongings still in the house. I wasn’t expecting that. I’m not qualified to be a mover, but that’s when the following lifetime of homeownership lessons began.
Boy did I have a great inspection done on my house. Everything from stem to stern was looked over and given a proper check mark in a box on the inspectors form. It’s great to kick the tires, but unlike a car, which has four tires, my house probably had a thousand and the inspector probably kicked a hundred. Within a year of buying my house everything, and I mean everything, broke down. Each time it was due to something nobody knew about. There was a loose fitting behind one of your walls, that’s why my one sink was spewing chocolate milk colored water. It’s an old house and was still settling, hence the crack the formed up one wall and broke the entire electrical system. The boiler was in great shape, but I couldn’t predict that a squirrel would somehow decide to crawl into the one inch diameter chimney pipe and burn itself alive in the boiler, and that squirrel ash would both smell like a rendering plant and break the boiler. You can’t kick all the tires and there are likely plenty of unknown problems that can’t be predicted until they happen.
You’ve Probably Been Fooled.
The grass was incredibly green when I was shopping my house out. In fact the yard was so beautifully done I had to buy the house on sight. Unfortunately I didn’t have a lawn, and neither did the previous owners. They simply put down some quick-grow grass seeds that will sprout in a month on anything from a slab of concrete to a pool of toxic waste. Oh and also the hedge wall in the back will need to be trimmed sometime and the power company periodically cuts a hole in it to get to the pole so watch out for that. No one in their right mind would show a completely honest house because they all have problems, another thing to beware of as a buyer.
Your House Knows When You Have Money
That’s great that I got that huge bonus that one year, it’s a good thing the furnace decided to blow and the kitchen lighting decided to fall out of the ceiling at the same time. I had just enough money to cover that! Now whenever I come into some money I go into the car and shut the door to talk about it because without fail every house I’ve had has somehow known when it was time to put me behind financially.
That Thing You Loved About Your House? You Will Hate It.
I used to love the tree in my back yard. It was a beautiful gum tree with red colored leaves in the fall, which I found out drop into the yard in the thousands in the winter and freeze into the ice and snow if they’re not raked. In the spring my tree sprouted beautiful pollen buds, which grew into large yellow pollen clusters and fell into the yard to explode into millions of pollen grains if not raked up. And in the fall my tree dropped gum balls, little golf ball sized spiky seeds, which drop into the yard and make it a death trap to walk on until you cut yourself up raking them. I loved that house and I loved that gum tree, and I loved my tree even more after I cut it down to the stump and then blew up the stump.
That Thing You Hated About Your House? You Will Hate It More.
I had a few reservations about the basement when I bought the house. You see the basement had a door leading out into the back yard up a few steps so I was concerned about flooding. Fortunately there was a French drain at the bottom of the basement steps to get rid of any large downpours that may collect outside the basement door. Unfortunately it was a seventy year old French drain that collapsed, I think, the day I moved in and could not be repaired. That’s ok because there was another French drain in the basement. The only problem was that it too collapsed after I moved in, so in the end you could film a scene from the movie “Jaws” in my basement after every big rainstorm. Though I disliked my basement before, I began to hate it with the fire of a thousand suns after a few months of bad rains. And so it was with everything I had an initial problem with.
If you want perfection it’s not a good idea to buy a house. If you are willing to accept that life is difficult and that you can still love something even though it’s hard than you will get a great deal of wonderful experience out of home ownership and improvement. Good luck.
I admit it: I hate ironing. I’m not that good at it, and it’s a time-consuming chore that I seem to keep procrastinating about. For this reason, I try to avoid buying clothing that requires ironing.
Since my husband wears dress shirts to work everyday, his attire could quickly add up to a lot of ironing if not carefully selected. Therefore, I try to make sure any new dress shirt he purchases or receives as a gift is a “no-iron” shirt. Many manufacturers label their shirts in this way, but “wrinkle-free” shirts are definitely not created equal. Based on my experience in the laundry room, here are the best wrinkle-free shirts, along with others that don’t live up to the “no-iron” promise.
Best wrinkle-free, non-iron dress shirts
- Croft and Barrow “non-iron” dress shirt: Look for the words “non-iron” in the shirt’s tag, along with 100 percent cotton construction. This shirt looks great out of the dryer. We currently own only one, but it has performed well. These typically retail for around $35.
- Stafford Performance Super Shirt: This has been the go-to dress shirt brand in our home for several years, and we own several. When they are on sale, you can get one for around $24. These are 55 percent cotton and 45 percent polyester. There are several varieties of Stafford dress shirts; look for “super shirt” on the label.
- Stafford Signature non-iron dress shirt: We recently took a chance on this product in the Stafford line, and it paid off. This shirt is 100 percent cotton, which some buyers may prefer over the construction of the super shirt. It feels a bit more substantial than the super shirt, but it doesn’t require ironing, either. You can get this one on sale for about $30.
- Van Heusen Lux Sateen shirt: There are a variety of Van Heusen shirts; this is the only one I can vouch for as living up to the “wrinkle-free” label. It is 55 percent cotton and 45 percent polyester. These range from $20 to $25 online.
- Arrow Premium Collection shirt: I had trouble finding a link to these online, but snatch one up if you find it in a store. This shirt has a nice weight to it and looks great coming out of the dryer. It is 100 percent cotton.
Shirts that don’t measure up
- Chaps classic fit shirt: We recently tried some Chaps dress shirts because they offered more patterns and colors than the brands listed above. While they say “wrinkle-free” in the label, these are not no iron-shirts. Technically, they can come out of the dryer with no wrinkles, but the fabric is not smooth and crisp enough to avoid ironing. These are 60 percent cotton and 40 percent polyester. On sale at Kohl’s, they cost about $27.
- Van Heusen poplin wrinkle-free shirt: It may have been better for the manufacturer to label this one “wrinkle-resistant. You will not want to wear it in public without ironing it first. I won’t buy this one again. These shirts are 65 percent polyester and 35 percent cotton. They retail for about $25.
- Arrow Classic Fit wrinkle-free shirt: With 65 percent polyester and 35 percent cotton, you would think this (like the Van Heusen shirt above) would come out of the dryer read to wear. Unfortunately, this one requires ironing, too. Also, it is a bit thinner than the Arrow premium shirt I recommended above. There are other Arrow shirts with “classic fit” in the name that have a different fabric blend; those I have not tried. This one was on clearance at Kohl’s for $18 in February 2014.
No dress shirt will ever look as good out of the dryer as one that you’ve had pressed professionally or that you’ve ironed yourself, but the options above are the best I’ve found to-date. I’ve also found that minimizing the amount of other laundry that is in the dryer with the dress shirts reduces wrinkles. For example, I no longer dryer heavier fabrics or a lot of other clothes with my dress shirts. Use caution, however, when using dryer sheets with small loads of dress shirts, as they can leave oily looking stains on the fabrics that are difficult to remove. I recently started using laundry balls as an alternative. You could also try using just 1/4 of a dryer sheet.
I’ve given you my opinions, but I would love to learn from you: what is your go-to make and model for wrinkle-free dress shirts, and which ones do you avoid? What laundry secrets have you discovered to minimize wrinkles in this type of clothing?
For more product reviews, visit my blog: Who Cares About Customers?
When you’re moving, everything you have to consider, from how to pack to whether you need storage, can make the task overwhelming. There were many lessons I learned when I moved from Arizona to Illinois. Here are the four that I consider the most important.
Create a detailed inventory list while you pack. Label and number all your boxes and other items so they correspond to the inventory list. Check them off as you unpack.
Things do disappear when moving. With a detailed inventory, you not only know where everything should be, but you know immediately if something’s missing. You don’t want to worry about replacing your interview clothes or your saucepans in a hurry if you don’t have to. That happened to me with my interview outfit. Looking for an open store the night before a job interview made everything much harder for me than it needed to be.
Make sure to use the right boxes.
If you have a ton of books, DVDs, or other small but heavy items, it’s easy to want to pack them all into a few big boxes. However, it’s best to pack these things into small boxes so they’re manageable. The first time I ever moved on my own, I packed all my books into one huge box. It took two of us to actually get it into and out of the truck, and we had to put it on the dolly to move it around.
There are also special boxes for kitchenware. These boxes are the best for protecting fragile glasses and dishes from jolts and impacts. The truck we took to Illinois had bad shocks, and several things got knocked around and broken. However, our dishes came through with flying colors.
Pack things inside other things where you can.
If you have a lot of little, miscellaneous fragile things from your kitchen that don’t fit in anywhere, wrap them in bubble wrap or paper, and pack them as tightly as possible inside your cookware. The heavy-duty metal of your cookware will help protect these things from almost all damage, even if the box is dropped.
Likewise, if you have other small, fragile things, but not enough of them to pack in their own box, wrap them in clothing or linens, and put them in the middle of those boxes or suitcases.
If you need a storage facility, make sure you get it reserved before you leave.
This is more important for long-haul moves where house- or apartment-hunting ahead of time isn’t feasible. Our first home in Illinois was a friend’s apartment, and having the storage room already reserved was a great help. With the Internet, finding a good storage facility to hold your stuff while you’re looking for your new home is easy, so take advantage of it. This way, you don’t have to pay for extra days on the moving truck or the moving company.
We were newlyweds still in college courses when my husband and I bought our first home. And believe me, we had to grow up fast. Thinking about jumping into domestic bliss straight out of school? From Mammalian Physiology to a mortgage? Linear Algebra to landscaping? Here are five things you may not have considered:
1) You have to get documents organized. When you apply for a home loan, they will ask for a copy of everything. You will find last year’s W2 where we did – to the left of the bookcase, under the binders, adhered to the floor. It is time to invest in a file cabinet. Or, better yet, why not put all your equipment to use? Scan important documents, save them, back them up into the cloud, and never again spend an evening sneezing over piles of petrified paper.
2) You don’t own anything useful. You don’t have a screw driver, a saw, nails, flashlight, light bulbs, level, wood filler… you don’t have a lawn mower! Before taking the plunge, take time away from Slydris to make a list of everything your dad has in coffee cans in his work room. Your graphing calculator can’t solve every problem.
3) Tape-mounted décor is bad. Yes, we too were very attached to our Cassini/Huygens mission poster, our periodic table, and the glossy Starship Enterprise. But for the walls of our own, real home… The rule that worked for us: Don’t put it up unless it’s been framed. If the poster’s important enough to you, “Make it so.”
4) You will have to play host. If you buy it, they will come, and they no longer expect dingy, tight quarters and dumpster sofas. Make guests comfortable. Evolve your style with a natural selection of analogous furniture pieces and homogeneous drapes. You don’t have as much studying to do now, so at least keep the living room tidy for drop-in guests.
5) Your family is growing. We had to move to a larger home much sooner than we’d expected when our second child came complete with an extra bed, her own clothes, and double the toys. If you can afford to, please consider extra cubic feet in the form of a basement, den or spare bedroom.
When you are ready to take the next step in establishing your family and your home, please keep in mind that you will need to get a bit more organized, should plan to invest in supplies, grown-up décor, and furniture, and remember to plan for the long haul. You made it through Organic Chemistry; you can do this, too.
A concrete countertop is easier to create than you think. If you can mix and pour concrete, then you can easily create your own pour in place or moving concrete countertops. All you need are a few basic tools, a bit of plywood and some concrete to get started. Use the following guide and tips to help you get going in the right direction for the perfect concrete countertop for your kitchen, bathroom or any room in the house.
The easiest way to create a perfectly sculpted concrete countertop is by creating a perfectly sculpted form. The form that holds the concrete in place not only keeps it where it’s supposed to be while it’s wet, but it also shapes the concrete as well, and any imperfections in the form will result in an imperfection in the concrete.
For pour in place slabs, a single piece of ½-inch Medium Density Fiber (MDF) Board will do the trick for the main section of the slab. Install the MDF board in your vanity base so that the form fits flush with the top of the vanity. For the bullnose or square edge (the part of the countertops that overhangs the vanity and will be an exposed edge) you’ll need to use a piece of laminated MDF board. It’s used to create as smooth as surface as possible and to keep the form from sticking to the concrete after it has dried. This form should be built separately and should be supported from underneath with temporary 2×4 supports until the concrete has cured completely.
For concrete countertops that you plan on lifting into place, be sure to use an all laminate MDF board to prevent the form from sticking to the concrete during the curing process.
Seal all form seams with latex caulk. This will prevent any water or wet concrete from seeping through the small gaps in the form and flowing into the cabinets underneath.
Mix the concrete heavy-to the consistency of dough so that it does not flow. The stiff mud is then pressed into the form, not poured. If the concrete is too wet, it will end up on the floor instead of in the form. Quickly place the concrete into the form as time is of the essence with stiff mud. You may need to use a curing retardant for larger concrete countertops that may take some time to fill. Don’t forget to add in a few pieces of steel rebar or mesh for support-especially around thin sections of the concrete countertop.
Use a simple concrete trowel to smooth out any inconsistencies into the surface. You may need to splash a little water onto the surface of the concrete to help raise the slurry and create a smoother finish. Once it’s as smooth as it’s going to get, let it dry overnight before seasoning the surface of the concrete countertop with a nontoxic finish such as linseed oil or mineral oil.
An old wooden living room divider might be too outdated to continue using as originally intended, but it can be removed, updated and repurposed in creative new ways. With paint, baskets and other simple additions, it will no longer look like an unappealing blast from the past. It can be brought up to date and used in other locations of the home. Consider these fresh, stylish and practical uses, and turn the outdated furnishing into something valuable and highly unique.
Create Stylish Storage and More
A living room divider with lots of open shelves can be used as a stylish storage unit in just about any room of the home. Lightly sand, prime and paint the furnishing, and fill the upper and lower shelves with an array of coordinating woven baskets. Display trinkets of your choice on the midrange shelves. The bulky furnishing that was once outdated will add stylish storage space, color and decorative appeal.
Cookbook Storage and Kitchen Decor
Cookbooks can take up a tremendous amount of cabinet space, but if you have an old wooden living room divider, the books do not have to be stored in a kitchen cabinet. All that you need is extra kitchen wall space. Place the furnishing against a bare wall, and fill the lower shelves with cookbooks. For safety and stability, heavier items of any type should always go on the bottom. Arrange woven baskets on the upper shelves, and use them to hold everything from packaged foods to baking tools.
Create a Craft Center with Storage
An old wooden living room divider makes a phenomenal craft supply center. Hang rods across some of the open shelves for storing spools of ribbon, lace, wire and/or string. Add clear containers for holding anything else that you use for crafting. They will be easy to identify without going through the boxes. The open shelves will be ideal for opening storing skeins of yarn and other bulky items.
Add Garage Storage
You can never have too much storage space in a garage, and an old wooden living room divider makes a great storage unit for housing small hand tools, plant food, vegetable seeds and more. A narrow shelving unit will not take up a lot of floor space. If the garage is narrow, place it at the end to avoid further limiting available space for a vehicle. If it is wide enough, place against a side wall. Bolt it in place if kids might be tempted to climb it. You will be amazed by how much you can store on a repurposed living room divider.
Source: Professional Home Decorating Experience
As an Army brat we moved a lot. Every two or three years we packed our belongings and headed to a new destination. There were times we lived in two completely different cities in the same country for short periods. For example; one being Sagamihara, Japan and the other Nigishi, Japan. Our three year tours were the lengthiest, and moving was a normal part of life. Over the years my family packed and unloaded thousands of pounds of furniture, clothing, books and other personal items. With each move I learned four major lessons. No matter where I go, I always keep them in mind when it’s time to ship up and ship out.
1. Never buy boxes
When dad was in the Army we never bought moving boxes because the Army moved us. I never understood what a luxury that was. When older I realized no one else would pay for my moves. From this point I learned that many stores give away, for free, their boxes. I have never bought a single box to move.
Many stores give away banana crates and paper product boxes. However, the best place for boxes are liquor stores. The boxes are smaller so they can’t be overfilled and much easier to carry. They are also very sturdy since they’re made to carry liquids and glass.
2. Things are not forever
Unlike the physical act of moving I learned at a very young age that things are not forever. Life is ever changing. Things are thrown away. Things are replaced. Friendships are divided by miles, and families are separated. No matter how much I loved that area, with those people, I knew in another year or two things would change.
3. Never wait until the last minute to take apart furniture
One of the most time consuming parts of moving is not necessarily packing, but taking apart furniture. Even with the most stealthy, smooth hands it can take hours to break down furniture. For example; my children’s bunk beds had screws, anchor screws, bolts and washers. Lots of them. It took a long time to do a single bed, and we had two.
Don’t wait until the last minute to break down furniture. You’ll slow your packing momentum otherwise so start with the least used furniture.
4. Always store the hardware safely
There is nothing worse than trying to rebuild a piece of furniture with missing hardware. However, it’s easy to lose nuts, screws and bolts since they are small. To keep your sanity never take apart furniture and set the hardware down. Keep it organized, and always store the hardware safely with the furniture.
Before dismantling furniture set aside plastic sandwich or freezer bags to store hardware. As you break down each piece of furniture place the hardware in the bag. Once all the hardware is in the bag, seal it, and tape the sealed part to the underside of the furniture. Then run one piece of tape across the body of the bag and the furniture, also. You won’t lose the hardware this way, and you’ll know exactly where to find it when it’s time to rebuild. Also, be sure to tape it to the underside so you don’t mess up the paint or fabric.
Have you ever gone into your attic during a hot summer day or a cold winter day? I recently went into my attic to store some boxes of things I won’t need any time soon. Once I got up there it was so cold, I needed to go back down and grab my jacket. I couldn’t believe how cold it was up there. I started looking around and realized there was no kind of insulation up there. This made a light bulb go off in my head and I decided to research adding insulation to my attic. One month later I added insulation and now I’m enjoying the added benefits from doing so.
Almost every home has an attic and most people never even think about adding insulation to it. You may be wondering why anyone would want to insulate their home’s attic. Well, there are many benefits to doing it and I will be telling you about them in this article.
Utility Bill Costs
Did you know that you can save money every month by insulating your attic? You heating and air conditioning systems will have to do less work to regulate the temperature in your home. The attic allows a lot of air from outside into your home because of the gaps and lack of insulation. By adding the insulation, the attic will not have as much air from outside getting in and your heater and air conditioner won’t have to compensate for the extra air anymore. Think of your attic like an open window on a 100 degree day. If that window is open your air conditioner will have to work extra hard to keep that room cool.
Value of Your Home
When you insulate your home’s attic you’re actually increasing the value of it. Many potential home buyers like to hear about ways they can save money when they are looking for their next home. Having the insulation is actually a great selling point to mention if you ever decide to sell your house.
When you add insulation to your attic you could be eligible to receive tax benefits. The US Department of Energy will give you a tax credit of up to 30% when you get your home insulated. You can read about the tax benefits here.
Once you have the insulation installed, you will soon find that your attic is no longer extremely cold or hot, in fact it can be quite comfortable. You can then utilize the attic space for things like an additional bedroom, office, or even a playroom for your children. A friend of mine uses his attic as a man cave and hosts many parties with his friends there.
As you can see, adding insulation to your attic is a great idea. You have the potential to save money each month, increase the value of your home, take advantage of tax benefits, and gain some extra space in your home. If you do decide to have your attic insulated, be sure to contact several different roofing companies to get the best cost estimate for the job. Also, make sure they’re fully licensed in the state they work in.
No one wants to see a yellowing house plant. It’s a sign of neglect, and a plant that is lacking the essential nutrients for its growth. A green plant is about striking the perfect balance for the plant to thrive in. There are a number of factors for you to consider.
There are four factors to consider:
- · Lighting
- · Fertilizer
- · Water
- · Plastic Versus Clay Containers
First, see if your plant is getting the right amount of light. Check the store tag on your species of plant; see how much light it requires and adjust the light accordingly. Move the plant closer to window if it requires more light; if it’s getting too much light than move it further away from the window.
Second, the tag in the plant will tell you to fertilize the plant every month or so; make sure you follow the instructions to the letter. Many times the plant yellows because of a deficiency in nitrogen; you may want to add bone meal or some other kind of organic fertilizer. An easy all purpose fertilizer to use is fish meal.
Third, never over water a houseplant. The best way to figure out if it needs to be watered is to buy a moisture meter. You only water it periodically once a week and only when the meter is red and says, ‘Dry’.
- 4. Plastic Versus Clay Containers
If you keep your plant in the store bought plastic container, you will not need to water it much. Plastic containers do not dry quickly, so abstain from overwatering and use a moisture meter to find out if it’s dry. A better pot is a clay container for your houseplant; they will dry much faster.
Since, there are so many plants to buy for beginners I would suggest the species Dracaena. Dracaenas make for beautiful house and office plants; and they require minimal care.
Remove Yellowing Leaves
If there are many leaves and some are yellow, I suggest you cut off the yellowing ones. You may cut off the yellowed leaf tips and shape the leaves with scissors to make them look more natural. Fortunately, there should be many green ones -so the plant won’t look too cut up. If they’re all yellow then don’t cut them all, and try to remedy the solution with what I suggested.
Walker, E. (1992). Happy Houseplants. Santa Monica: Santa Monica Press.