Which of These Patio Umbrellas is Right For Your Home?

Spruce up your patio with one of these stylish umbrellas.

By Abbey DeHart

What if someone could drive by your house every day and have a look inside at how you decorated, what was hung on the walls, what colors you used inside your bedrooms, as well as how neat and tidy you kept things? It would certainly make you adjust the way you decorate and clean, right?

But one aspect of your home you may forget about is the patio. Your patio space is a direct reflection of your style, and neighbors and friends can see it without even entering your home—yet it’s all too often overlooked! It can be difficult to make choices regarding your patio style or simply to find the money or desire to spruce it up the way you’d hoped, but a few small updates can really make a difference.

A drab outdoor space can quickly be transformed with the right patio umbrella and accessories. Maybe you don’t love your patio furniture, but don’t have the budget to replace it? Fear not! An affordable umbrella in a bright color or bold pattern can easily update your space and make it more warm and inviting.

Let’s consider some unique opportunities for ways to update your outdoor spaces with patio umbrella styles that are outside the norm.

The Standard Umbrella

The standard patio umbrella comes as a solid color, usually a muted neutral or a bold bright color. These patio umbrellas are the what most people gravitate to because they are safe and add class and comfort to your space in a matter of minutes. If you like the look but want to mix things up, start by adding accessories.

For example, consider hanging decorative string lights inside of your umbrella for that “wow” factor during a warm summer evening when cooking out.

Another fun way to change up the traditional umbrella is to select one with a bold pattern and mix and match the umbrella patterns with coordinating patterns on the patio cushions or pillows. This is a fun way to embolden your space without spending too much money.

The Half Umbrella

Have a smaller space? Consider a half umbrella over a couple of lounge chairs. This small umbrella has a cool, casual vibe and is particularly unexpected in an urban setting. It’s a fun option that gives even the smallest patio the dose of personality it deserves and makes your small backyard or balcony feel more like a retreat.

The Cantilever Umbrella

The cantilever umbrella is a freestanding umbrella that looks great over a set of lounge chairs. This umbrella can shift directions to create more shade and gives an impressive spa-like look for people who want to make a true statement on their patio or deck. This umbrella is best for larger spaces and larger budgets, but it’s worth the money! Pair it with some umbrella lights and you have the perfect outdoor party space.

Patio Decorating Tips

Truth be told, a few quick fixes can turn even the most boring, outdated patio or deck into a fun, vibrant entertainment space. If you have basic patio furniture and a limited budget, focus on these key tips to bring your space to life:

  1. Choose accessories that speak to your taste. Whether they’re simple or bold, patterned or plain, bright or muted is up to you!
  2. Add lights. String lights, solar-powered lanterns, torches and even fire pits to add some fun and whimsy to your space at night. There are so many fun options for lighting that create a calming ambiance your guests won’t forget.
  3. Make it comfortable. Make sure that your patio cushions are soft and clean, and don’t be afraid to mix patterns and step outside your box.
  4. Incorporate greenery. If you have extra room in your budget, pick up some oversized pots and pretty plants and set them around the sides of your deck or on the stairs. Mix the plants with options from a greenhouse or nursery, and add some spiked plants or longer vines. Pretty plants always bring coziness to a space.

And most of all? Embrace your own unique style! This is the space that shows off your style to everyone who can see it, so make it the haven you want it to be.

Abbey DeHart is passionate about decor, crafts and DIYS and writes for several publications, including  Plaid Crafts, Angie’s List, HomeRight and The Home Depot. She provides tips on improving your patio area with different outdoor furniture and cool patio umbrella ideas and options.

8 Steps You Need to Know Before Redecorating Your Home

 

Here’s how to prioritize your game plan for your room makeover.

Here’s how to prioritize your game plan for your room makeover.

Houzz Contributor, Karen Egly-Thompson

If you have a DIY decorating project on your horizon but don’t know where to start, here’s a practical guide to help you navigate the process.

1. Commit to a Budget and Timeline

First, figure out your total project budget. If you skip this step, you’ll likely spend much more than you anticipated and make poor purchasing decisions you’ll later regret.

Also pick a date to complete your project by, even if you don’t have a looming reason to do so. Creating a complete-by date will fuel your project so it can take flight. Completing one stage of a project informs the next and the next. Otherwise, approaching your project piecemeal will delay completion, if you even complete it at all.

Set up a good system to keep track of your expenditures. I use an Excel spreadsheet, but even a spiral notebook can work for smaller projects. The key is to keep it updated.

Here’s an example of how I keep a running log of project expenses. While the main goal is tracking the total amount spent, I also indicate the store (which I left off here because stores will vary based on your location and preference), method of payment, general description and any notes, such as delivery fees — useful information that may come in handy later.

Keep all of your receipts together in one location. You can refer to them easily for warranty information and returns, if needed. I use a small zip pouch made for holding pens and pencils while I’m out shopping. After I return and enter them into the spreadsheet, I stapled each receipt to a piece of paper and store that neatly in a project folder.

See more tips on creating a decorating budget

2. Evaluate Your Needs and Lifestyle

Separating wants and needs is a hard one. Prioritize your needs by first creating a list of the furniture and accessories you envision going into your space. List any work you want to do, like painting or wallpapering, too. Then rate each item 1 through 5, with 1 indicating an absolute must and 5 reflecting a nonnecessity. Reorder the items on the list with the necessities at the top and the more wishful items at the bottom. Involve other family members in this process. They may identify overlooked items.

Also, be honest about your family’s lifestyle requirements today instead of at some far-off idyllic future date. For example, if the kiddos use your family room as a playspace, include toy storage on your list. You may have some child safety needs too. Also note any special concerns about pets, such as shed fur or the potential for furniture to get clawed.

3. Decide What Stays and What Goes

Based on your list, identify any pieces of furniture or accessories that you absolutely want to keep in the space. Remove the pieces you don’t plan to reuse; consider donating them if they’re in good shape or selling them online or through a local consignment store.

4. Draw a Preliminary Furniture Plan

If your project is small, this step may not be necessary. However, if you’re buying new furniture or just considering a new configuration, it’s extremely helpful to try out pieces in different locations to see what fits and what doesn’t. The last thing you want is to end up with a too-big piece of furniture. You’ll need a tape measure or laser measuring tool to measure your space and a scale ruler to draw it to scale. A simple sketch illustrating only the outside dimensions is all that’s necessary.

If you don’t have these items or don’t feel comfortable with drawing to scale, an alternative is to “draw” the outlines of furniture with masking tape on your floor or cut furniture-size shapes out of butcher paper to maneuver around on the floor.

Don’t forget about circulation space. Ideally, you’ll want to keep 18 inches between the edge of the sofa and the coffee table. Maintain 36 inches for comfortable general circulation. Since you may not have found specific furniture pieces yet and don’t have detailed furniture dimensions, you may need to revise the size of some furniture pieces as your project progresses. Nonetheless, this exercise is a good starting point.

Also measure your entrance door and the pathway to the room, including building elevators if you live in a high-rise. Bring these notes with you when shopping. If there are any delivery dimension concerns, you can address them then and there.

See more on how to get your furniture arrangement right

5. Concentrate on Big Items First

Focus first on the big-impact items, then concentrate on smaller accessories. Too often people get hung up on a small detail that can derail the flow of the bigger items. The idea is to work from large to small.

Find furniture. Unless you’re lucky to find the furniture you want in stock, most furniture takes eight to 12 weeks for fabrication. However, even in-stock furniture may not be delivered right away. If available, get a swatch of the upholstery or finish sample to help with other room selections.

Unless you’re comfortable working with a complex color palette, minimizing your scheme to two colors, as in the space here, will make shopping easier — and your space will look sharp and put-together.

Find furniture in the Shop section

Work the walls. Compared with any other design material, wall paint gives a room the most bang for your buck. I find it easiest to select a wall paint color or wallpaper after the furniture is selected. You have much more leeway with paint color choices than furniture upholstery. Plan to get your space prepped and painted prior to the furniture delivery.

Watch now: How to Paint a Wall Faster

Hit the ceiling. Color instead of conventional white on the ceiling is another cost-effective attention-grabber, especially if you have crown molding to separate it from the walls, like in this living room.

6. Move Toward the Mediums

After you’ve figured out your furniture layout and color scheme, focus on finding the midscale items that will pull your space together, such as an area rug. Your scaled drawing will also come in handy to see how prospective rugs will work with your furniture layout.

Window treatments like Roman shades and drapery can offer lots of style compared to run-of-the-mill Venetian blinds. They can minimize less-than-perfect windows and help save on energy bills, too. New window treatments don’t have to cost an arm and a leg, either. Ribbon-trimmed cordless shades like the ones shown here here can be ordered online for $100 to $125.

A feature light fixture, like the one in this dining room, can become a stunning design focus.

 

7. Save the Small Stuff for Last

Fill in your scheme with decorative accessories toward the end of your project. You’ll be able to see what areas need attention and have a better sense of scale, especially with artwork. With the furniture in place, you’ll also have easy access to key dimensions, like the clearance between shelves.

I also like to shop for table lamps, particularly lamps that will sit behind a sofa, after the furniture is delivered so I can see how all the heights work or don’t work together. Cord lengths and switch locations are also easier to evaluate when the furniture is in place.

8. Leave Room for the Unexpected

You may come across something surprising in your decorating journey that has special meaning or even adds a bit of humor, like these Hulk hand bedpost toppers. Don’t discount originality or quirkiness; it’s what makes your home truly yours.

Home Renovations & Features for the 2017 Smart Home

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Discover the hottest new trends in smart home technology, from voice control to security, to temperature control to lighting and even safety measures like door locks!

Is your home a smart home? If you’re like most U.S. homeowners, the answer is probably yes, or it will be soon. What were once seen only as gimmicks reserved for the tech-savvy homeowners have quickly become the norm. We conducted a survey and  found that almost half (45%) of Americans own some sort of smart home technology. More surprisingly, 36% of that group don’t consider themselves to be early adopters of technology.

Whether you’re shopping for a first home, looking to sell your home, or planning home renovations to add value to your house, smart home technology should be at the top of your must-haves list. 54% of homeowners said they would install smart home products if they were selling their home and knew that doing so would make it sell faster. In fact, about 33% of agents said homes with smart features sell faster.

What Makes a Smart Home Smart?

So, which smart features and home renovations should homeowners and home buyers be most interested in next year? Our survey found the top “smart” features were:

  • Voice Control
  • Security
  • Temperature
  • Lighting
  • Safety

Most Americans (60%) agree that a home needs to have at least three of these features to be considered “smart.”

Voice Control

One of the fastest-growing smart home features in the last year is voice control. The list of products that operate with voice control features is growing by the day, from music players to TVs to even security products, lighting, and shopping.

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Security

Most Americans think a home can be considered “smart” when it has smart security locks and alarm systems. Security features lead the way for smart features in terms of adoption and appeal. Even though 58% of home buyers say smart security is the most appealing type of pre-installed smart home technology, only 31% have smart security installed.

Temperature control

Smart temperature control is more widely adopted with homeowners over the age of 65 – about 40% have smart temperature products, while only 25% of 18-34 year olds have the technology installed. The favorite features of smart temperature controls are:

  • Improving the comfort of the household (71%)
  • Reducing energy consumption (68%)
  • Monitoring or controlling their device while away from home (41%)

Safety

The safety of the household should be a top priority for any homeowner. Smart technology offers new features for fire and carbon monoxide detectors, nightlights, and other renovations to make your house safer. Homeowners look for safety features that allow them to monitor and control the safety of their home either when they are away (52%), or from anywhere inside the home (30%).

The leader in smart thermostats, Nest, has also released a smart Smoke and CO Alarm, Nest Protect. One feature of this device that is quickly becoming the norm for smart technology is interconnectivity. If your Nest Protect detects smoke or carbon monoxide, it will tell your Nest Thermostat to turn off the furnace automatically.

Lighting

For homeowners looking to improve comfort with the ability to make easy changes in the mood of their home – while reducing energy consumption – smart lighting is just the thing. Many new smart technologies emerged this year for a smarter lighting experience:

  • C by GE uses Bluetooth connectivity so you can personalize your light temperature settings throughout the day. This allows your lighting to sync with your body’s circadian rhythm and improve your sleep cycle.
  • FlipFlic is a device installed on window blinds that automatically adjusts the blinds based on light, temperature and time of day. Natural lighting can play a major part in your home’s mood and vibe and this device gives you more control over it.

Our study also found that 70% of homeowners say they plan to invest more money in smart home renovations and features in the future. This new home trend is rapidly increasing and offering homeowners new ways to improve their own standard of living while raising the value of their homes.

Which smart renovations and features do you plan on adding to your home in 2017

Before You Fall Head Over Heels for a 100+ Year Old Home

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If you want to buy an older home, there are a few important issues you should be aware of before you close the deal. Here are some ways to help avoid future heartache.

There can be something quite romantic about buying an older home. Prospective homebuyers are often smitten when they first encounter the unique character and charm of a 100+ year-old home. Decades of history and stories are reflected in its small imperfections and quirks. The unexpected nooks and crannies, ornate woodwork and beautiful built-ins can be hard to resist. Or perhaps it’s simply the lure of an affordable fixer-upper situated in a desirable location.

Love at first sight is a good thing when you’re shopping for a new home. But when that home is 100+ years old, you need to make sure you’re not sweeping potentially costly issues under the rug as you get swept off your feet.

If you want to buy an older home, there are a few important issues you should be aware of before you close the deal. Here are some ways to help avoid future heartache (and pocketbook pain):

1. The Dreaded Lead. Approximately 87% of homes built before 1940 contain lead-based paint. The toxic substance, known to cause a variety of health problems, especially in young children, was frequently used in household paint prior to 1978, when its use was banned by the federal government. Even if the home you’re considering has newer paint, it’s highly possible lead could still be hidden beneath the fresh paint layers.

The good news is that if the paint is in good repair, the lead usually doesn’t pose a risk. The hazard comes when lead-based paint starts breaking down, peeling or chipping. If that’s the case, or you have particular concerns about lead exposure, the best course of action is to hire a certified inspector to test for lead. According to the EPA, the average lead removal project costs about $10,000, so if the home tests positive, you need to consider that in your overall budget.

2. Energy (In)efficiency. Charm may not be the only thing oozing from those lovely double-hung 19th century windows, old steam radiators or original faucets. While charming windows, mechanicals and fixtures might match the style of an older home, they also tend to be inefficient in their energy use. That means you could be facing some surprisingly steep energy bills after you move into the home.

If possible, ask about the previous owners’ average monthly gas or electricity costs to get a sense of what to expect. You’ll also likely want to plan and budget for energy-efficient replacements (or refinishing, in the case of windows). Consider smart home products like smart thermostats that can help save you time and money.

Find out the age of major mechanicals, price out the cost of new units, and make a schedule for replacing them based on when they’ll reach the end of their useful life. Also, make sure you leave some wiggle room for unexpected discoveries, like replacing a leaky toilet or faucet.

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3. Structural struggles. Even the most well-built homes fall prey to the ails of time, meaning foundations sink, structures shift and moisture can find its way into pilings and foundation supports. You should keep a close eye out for signs of trouble, in the form of wall cracks, sloping floors, stuck windows and doors that refuse to close. If you see any signs of trouble, have your inspector take a look to provide a second opinion (ask them to pay particular attention as well). If you identify issues, you’ll want to bring in an expert, such as a structural engineer, to better assess the problem and provide an estimate for fixing the damage. A few hundred dollars may remedy small exterior cracks, while extensive repairs to the foundation could run tens of thousands of dollars.

4. Careless renovations. Sometimes an older home has remained relatively untouched over years, or has been tastefully and professionally updated. In other instances, previous owners may have attempted renovations that didn’t go so well. If there are clearly apparent additions (like a basement bedroom) or major renovations, it’s a good idea to confirm the work was permitted by the city. If it wasn’t, you may want to dig a little deeper to ensure the work was completed with a high level of quality and meets legal requirements for the space, especially when it relates to electrical systems and structural changes or additions. Also beware of partially-completed renovations. It could mean the work was a DIY project and not performed by a professional, or that the person doing the work discovered a larger issue and abandoned the problem rather than fixing it.

 

Buying an older home can be a very rewarding experience, but it’s especially important to be aware of potential issues to avoid unexpected problems in the future. Talk to your agent about finding the right home for you.

Installing a Pool? The Ultimate Homeowner’s Checklist

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The decision to install an in-ground pool should never be taken lightly. Take the time to review this checklist before calling up the nearest pool installer.

The decision to install an in-ground pool should never be taken lightly. While this iconic amenity adds a level of beauty and recreation to the property, it also imparts significant real estate considerations. Without careful forethought and planning, unexpected roadblocks may put the pool to a grinding halt. Take the time to review this checklist before calling up the nearest pool installer.

 

Local Laws, Permits, and Municipal Codes

Check with the local jurisdiction to find out what is required. The pool contractor should be well-versed in the codes, permits, and fees necessary to begin. However, the responsibility lies with the homeowner. Some areas have restrictions on size and type of pool, setback, and safety features.

 

Strata/Homeowner’s Association Restrictions

Some homeowner’s associations may forbid the installation of pools altogether, while others have specific restrictions. They may prohibit excessively large pools or require additional safety measures not required by the city. Consult with them prior to investing in a pool or they may put a stop to it.

 

Utility Easements

Known easement issues should be dealt with prior to installing a pool. Utility service easements and other access issues can make the prime location of the pool far less inviting. Natural obstructions such as sinkholes, rocky terrain, and trees can increase the difficulty further.

 

Space Requirements

A pool will also take up more area than most people are expecting. Account for plenty of excess space for ease of movement, garden area, and play areas for children. Have a contractor assist in plotting out the available space, and making note of any questionable areas.

 

Property Taxes Versus Property Value

Typically, expect a new pool installation to qualify as new construction on the property. This will subject it to higher property taxes, which will vary based on locale. However, the amount of the investment is not often reflected by an equivalent increase in property values. Consider a new pool an indulgence rather than an investment.

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Climate and Neighborhood

Warmer climates are perfect locations for pools; so much so that they are essential property features, not luxuries. Even homes close to coastal regions still require pools, to maintain the health of the real estate market and to sell quickly. Homes in colder climates are more likely to add a pool as a novelty, only available for use in the warmer spring and summer months. Likewise, take a look at the other homes in the neighborhood, for indications on how desirable a pool is, and what styles are preferred in this market.

 

Patio, Landscaping, and Amenities

Consider how the in-ground pool fits in with current and future outdoor amenities. A patio is a natural pairing, but proper landscaping will prevent the pool from looking staggeringly out of place. Lighting, fire pits, and cooking areas can all be incorporated into a comprehensive outdoor entertainment area, increasing property values and market desirability.

 

Financing with Home Equity, Second Mortgage, or Unsecured Loan

Choosing the right financing should be done prior to putting a deposit down with a pool contractor. A qualified lender can explain the available options and assist in deciding what is best at the time. Many people turn to home equity loans immediately, but they are not always available on a newer home purchase or during a slow market. A second mortgage is another popular choice, but may not be a sound investment if a quick sale is expected. Unsecured loans are less popular, but are good when a large deposit is already available.

 

Resale Value and Attractiveness to the Market

A new pool is no guarantee of increased property values. In unfavorable markets, some buyers may not desire an in-ground pool at all, and it may end up buried in the future. Proper research will indicate what kind of market the property is located in. Often, a pool remains a luxury investment that is not easily recouped in the future.

 

The decision to install a pool is complex, but need not be overwhelming. By covering these areas prior to beginning, it will be easy to determine if a pool will be a reality or a pipe dream.

11 Smart Upgrades to Consider Before It’s Too Late

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Some upgrades are difficult or impossible to do later. Tackle these projects now to save yourself the headache.

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Houzz Contributor, Nicole Jacobs

Building a new home is a pleasure not everyone gets to experience. You get to construct your home exactly to your taste, with the components and finishes you want and can afford. Often you’ll be deciding what is worth the money to do now and what you’d prefer to save as a renovation project to do later. There are a number of factors to consider, including how long you plan to live in the home, whether you’ll be able to put upgrades directly onto your mortgage or pay out of pocket, and what upgrades are valuable for resale.

Upgrading later by doing it yourself can sometimes be a good plan allowing you to avoid paying the builder’s premium. But sometimes waiting will not only not save you money, it will cost you more in the end or create a headache when the upgrade is finally addressed.

So here is our now-or-never list: upgrades that will be difficult, costly or nearly impossible to do later. If you’re building a new home, you’d be wise to check these off the list now.

1. The Stairs

Before construction can begin, the builder has to finalize plans and submit them to your city, town or county for approval and permits. Depending on your builder and where you live, this may mean you’ll have an opportunity to make some changes to your plan prior to submission. One big element to address now is the staircase. If you’re building your home with a production builder — that is, a builder constructing a home development, usually in a suburban neighborhood — the typical builder’s-grade staircase is carpet over plywood. Unless you’re prepared to rip out the entire staircase later, which is no small feat, now is the time to request solid wood.

Wood staircases come in different varieties, so be sure to ask what your builder offers and at what additional charge. Wood upgrades are usually either oak or maple, which have very different looks. Oak has a heavier grain, while maple is smoother and more subtle in texture. These woods also differ on price, with maple being the more expensive.

Do you want a stair runner? If you’re on the fence, then wait. That way, you won’t have marks from installing the carpet left in your wood if you change your mind.

If you plan to upgrade to solid wood stairs, the other thing to consider is the flooring that abuts the staircase. The stairs are stained on site, and if you select a prefinished flooring, it’s important to ensure that the stain used on the staircase is the best possible match. Bear in mind that an exact match is unlikely, but you’ll usually be able to get pretty close. Ask questions and be involved in the stain selection process, or at least make sure the painter custom-mixes a stain to work with your flooring.

2. Recessed Lighting

While can lights themselves are generally inexpensive to buy at any big-box store, installing them is another matter. Avoid the hassle of an electrician cutting into your brand-new drywall to install the lights and switches. If your builder has an upgrade, just go for it now.

3. Tub and Shower

Two of the first elements to be installed in your home after framing are the bathtubs and showers. If you want an upgrade such as soaker tubs, jets or multiple shower heads, plan for it now. Once tubs and showers are installed and tiled, they require a sledgehammer to change out later.

4. Niches and Half Walls

Structural upgrades in the bathroom that would require a full remodel to do later are wise to tackle now. These include tiled niches — perfect for soap and shampoo bottles — as well as half walls for glass shower walls and doors.

You might also think about how you can incorporate niches and half walls in other areas of your home, perhaps for displaying art or partitioning rooms, respectively. Any remodel that requires framing and drywall is messy and disruptive, so unless you’re prepared to live with the dust, now is the time to discuss these ideas with your builder.

5. Radiant Floor Heating

Radiant floor heating is nice to have, especially in the bathroom to warm your tootsies on what would otherwise be cold tile. But this is one of those items that needs to be done before the tile is installed, so keep this in mind if it’s on your wish list. Installing it later is a big job that requires busting up the tile first and having a clean subfloor on which to install the product before tiling again.

6. Door From Garage to House

Some builders include this, while many offer it as an upgrade. Access from the garage to the house is a great feature, allowing you to avoid the elements. Because of grading, there are some circumstances where a door to the house from the garage is not possible. Be sure to ask so you aren’t surprised later.

7. Anything to Do With Windows

Have a close look at your plan and find out whether it’s possible to upgrade the windows or add more. Depending on your city’s bylaws regarding the percentage of glass you can have in correlation with the distance to the property line, your builder may be able to add a couple more windows to your plan or enlarge the ones that are already there. Also, if you like the look of windows with mullions, this may be an upgrade as well.

8. Gas Fireplace

To decide whether to tackle this project now or later, consider these facts about gas fireplace installation. For starters, you obviously need to run a gas line to the fireplace location. If you want your fireplace to be flush with the wall, you’ll usually need a foundational bump-out to support the weight of the unit, and that must be on the plans early. If you like the look of a flush fireplace wall, such as the one in this photo, building one later would become a pretty major structural renovation, so best to do it now.

If it’s too late to build the fireplace out the exterior wall, the unit must be installed into the room, usually framed into a drywall box-out. It’s possible that you’d be able to select the depth of the box-out — as in, how far into the room it will go — to accommodate flanking bookcases, for example. This is also a good opportunity to have an electrical outlet for your TV installed above the fireplace, if you desire. Also, if you require a gas line for your kitchen range, it’s best to do it now.

9. Insulation

An item that is really impossible to upgrade later is the type of insulation you have in your walls. Builders will usually use batt insulation at the minimum code requirement, but often you’re able to upgrade to a higher value batt, or a more expensive spray foam. Looking to have a future music or theater room? Ask about your soundproofing options now, as this affects both the type of insulation and drywall used.

10. A Future Basement Bathroom

One pretty valuable upgrade, in terms of function and resale value, is the basement bathroom. It’s inadvisable to finish a basement within the first year of its build. Among the reasons: The foundation needs time to settle, the concrete needs to dry and finishing it too early could void a new homeowner’s warranty. But preparing for finishing it is wise. Upgrading to add the basement bathroom rough-in, which means the ABS pipes and drains are in place and ready to go, is something that will be costly and disruptive to do later.

11. Tech Stuff

Anything that is wired in your walls is best done when the house is being built, along with your other electrical work. Think speakers, outlet placement, conduits for equipment wires, data ports, alarm systems or smart-home technologies. Again, punching holes in drywall all over your house to accommodate these items is more than an inconvenience, and it’s an expense you’ll want to dodge.

Does Samsung Have the Easiest Way to Make Any Home a Smart Home?

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SmartThings aims to be the smartest thing to make your home a bit smarter.

Everyone wants their home to be smarter. Even the biggest of Luddites can admit that the idea of your home adjusting temperatures to your personal preference upon arrival is pretty enticing. Oh and if it can fold your laundry for you? Sure, I’ll take that too.

But turning your plain, old home into a smart home can often feel like a costly and daunting task. Even if I own a few smart products that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s instantly smart. How do I get my devices to talk to each other and automate things so it’s the nirvana that everyone who talks about smart homes makes it out to be?

That’s where Samsung steps in. Samsung SmartThings seeks to be the simplest way to turn any home into a smart home. Take a look at the interview we did with Abbie Byrom of Samsung SmartThings to showcase just what can be done to make your home just a bit smarter.

The Hottest Bathroom Design Trends of The Year

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From towel warming drawers to curbless showers, here are the top bathroom trends for 2017.

Guest Post by Andrea Davis

The bathroom design trends of 2017 have arrived! While you shouldn’t redo your entire bathroom based on these trends, you can redo some smaller projects that will last. Here’s a look at the latest in bathroom amenities and décor for your consideration.

Heated flooring and built-in appliances

Heated bathroom flooring is a growing trend among many homeowners. It comes in concrete, vinyl and tile options, which makes it easy to match your existing decor. In addition to providing heat to the entire bathroom, heated flooring also helps to reduce noise and prevent the spread of dust and other allergens.

Built-in refrigeration units — used to store organic remedies and medicines — are also popular bathroom additions. Towel- and robe-warming drawers are also trending in 2017.

Small-scale luxury

Designer sink fixtures; free-standing, single-person bathtubs and walk-in showers are popular one-off bathroom additions. Space-saving shelving in place of traditional cabinetry is also a sought-after bathroom upgrade. While you might not go for platinum faucets, you can use beautiful silver, copper or nickel pieces to accent the bathroom & make it look top rated.

The bathroom design trends of 2017 have arrived! While you shouldn’t redo your entire bathroom based on these trends, you can redo some smaller projects that will last. Here’s a look at the latest in bathroom amenities and décor for your consideration.

Heated flooring and built-in appliances

Heated bathroom flooring is a growing trend among many homeowners. It comes in concrete, vinyl and tile options, which makes it easy to match your existing decor. In addition to providing heat to the entire bathroom, heated flooring also helps to reduce noise and prevent the spread of dust and other allergens.

Built-in refrigeration units — used to store organic remedies and medicines — are also popular bathroom additions. Towel- and robe-warming drawers are also trending in 2017.

Small-scale luxury

Designer sink fixtures; free-standing, single-person bathtubs and walk-in showers are popular one-off bathroom additions. Space-saving shelving in place of traditional cabinetry is also a sought-after bathroom upgrade. While you might not go for platinum faucets, you can use beautiful silver, copper or nickel pieces to accent the bathroom & make it look top rated.

Curbless showers

Curbless showers open space and create a sense of luxury. The curbless design also pairs well with decorative tile and cutting-edge shower fixtures. If you have a shower already, you can redesign it to be smaller and more open. If you have a bathtub, you might need to pull it out and start fresh.

Three-dimensional tiles

Three-dimensional tiles can serve as individual focal points or eye-catching alternatives to painted accent walls. 3-D tiles also range in price, making them affordable for most budgets. Make sure they don’t take away from the entire appearance of the bathroom, though. You might consider a backsplash for the counter area if you want the look as a smaller feature.

Mediterranean-inspired designs

Mediterranean-inspired design is a meeting of old-world style and modern glitz. This design style combines the elegant charm of terracotta with the glamor of modern metallic. Mosaic tiles can also add richness to the space and accent the tub or shower area.

Rustic and industrial

Bare copper pipes match exposed brick and concrete accents. Speak to a contractor to see if exposing your copper pipes is right for your bathroom. Additionally, warm wood cabinets and drawers add to a rustic feel by creating an inviting atmosphere.

Dark colors

Dramatic, somber colors are coming to the bathroom. The combination of white fixtures and dark colors prevents a gloomy feeling – especially when coupled with gold accents. If white seems like too much, consider neutral colors. Tans, creams and greys are a good compromise that still look nice.

Conclusion
If your bathroom no longer gives you joy, maybe it’s time to rediscover a look that will break your notions about the space. Whether your space is small or large, the trends of 2017 will help to turn it into a place of relaxation and luxury.

Andrea Davis is the editor at HomeAdvisor, which connects homeowners with home improvement professionals in their area for free. Connect with Andrea on Google+

Which Weekend Projects Have the Biggest Return on Investment?

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These DIY home improvements could help your home sell faster – and for more money!

The following is a guest post by Erin Vaughan from Modernize

Lace up your work boots, weekend warriors—it’s time to get busy! If you’re looking to improve your home’s value or make money back when you resell, you’ve come to the right place.

You’d be surprised at how much you can boost your ROI just by choosing the right kind of home improvement project. Unlike what you may have heard before, there’s no need to go for a full kitchen remodel or an addition when trying to boost your home’s value. There are plenty of improvements out there that could return nearly all of the money you put down when you resell—without having to pay a contractor first. So get out your drill, saw, and calculator and get started with one of these projects that you can have on the books in a mere 48 hours or less!

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Kick Tired Outdoor Decor to the Curb

As the first thing buyers see when you sell, exterior decor ranks high on any homeowner’s list of improvements. In fact, many landscaping projects will return you over 100% of your investment.

Adding a new stone or brick patio, lining a pathway with pavers, or even just buying some brightly-colored planters and trimming the hedges all add significantly to your home’s desirability quotient. Even your greenest home repair newbies are well-equipped to handle most landscaping jobs!

Clean work, checking the energy efficiency of their house by measuring the thickness of fiberglass insulation in the attic

Fluff Up Your Attic Insulation

It’s easy to get wrapped up in projects that deliver instant results—but buyers will be looking at more than your home’s aesthetics. Your property’s internal systems, like your plumbing and heating, will all be on the line, too.

Even if you plan to stay in your home for the long haul, there are a number of different updates you can DIY for long-term energy savings on your utility bills. Specifically, many older homes can benefit from attic insulation projects, which you can tackle yourself after learning the ropes.

Improving your attic insulation can net you an energy savings of anywhere from 10 to 50 percent. In older homes, builders often used insulation with an inadequate R-value, or they left attics unconditioned with no insulation at all. Considering that energy-efficient homes tend to have higher property values, particularly in locations where electricity costs are high, upgrading to an R-value of 30 to 60 is definitely a project that gives back—both in terms of finances and through a cozier home!

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Give Drafts the Cold Shoulder

A great project to pair with your insulation upgrade is an attic floor sealing update. In fact, many parts of your home can probably benefit from air sealing, which keeps conditioned air from slipping through cracks and gaps in the walls and floors. In the attic, pay particular attention to the gaps around holes for wires and pipes, recessed lights, and your furnace flue or duct chase way.

Make sure to head downstairs and check for cracks that may have formed in your window caulking. Some 40 percent of heating and air conditioning may be lost through a home’s windows, so even minor updates here can make a real difference. Be sure to use silicone caulking, which is water resistant and won’t shrink as much as acrylic will over time.

If your windows are badly warped, drafty, or show signs of condensation between the glass, it may be time for a full window replacement. You’ll probably need to engage a contractor for that—but there are many energy efficient windows available today that can keep your home snugly fit—especially since you won’t be worrying about your utility bills.

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Front-and-Center Upgrades

Front door replacements have some of the highest ROIs of any home improvement project out there—the overhead is low, since your average steel entry door costs between $200 and $500. But the returns are high. In fact, in some regions, a new front entry door can net over 100 percent of your initial investment!

The beauty of this project lies in how simple it is. No matter your skill level, you can probably wrestle a door off its hinges and install a new one—and it won’t take you a whole weekend. A door can easily be dressed up with an eye-catching coat of exterior paint or some flashy hardware. Plus, if you’re replacing a hollow-core door, you’ll see some energy savings as well, since solid models are much more energy-efficient.

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Lighten Up a Little

Anything you can do to brighten up darker rooms will add lots of appeal to your home. In particular, homebuyers have been drawn lately to bright, open interiors that offer plenty of options in the lighting department.

Painting is one of the cheapest ways to get there. At $40 per gallon, you’re definitely not going to break the bank with this project. If you think you might put your house on the market soon, go for a neutral tone that will appeal to a wider audience—but don’t think you have to stick to just plain old whites and beiges. Many designers now consider light blushes, pale blues, and silvers as part of the neutral palette, and these colors will open up darker interiors as well. That’s one way to let in the light—without weighing down your credit card bills!


About the Writer

ErinHS

Erin Vaughan is a blogger, gardener and aspiring homeowner.  She currently resides in Austin, TX where she writes full time for Modernize, with the goal of empowering homeowners with the expert guidance and educational tools they need to take on big home projects with confidence.

6 New Countertop Ideas That Aren’t Granite

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Not a fan of granite countertops? Here are 6 beautiful alternatives.

Guest Post By Andrea Davis

Granite’s durability and looks make it a popular investment for many homeowners. But there are other options aside from granite. Keep reading to learn more about six alternatives to granite countertops.

Butcher Block

Empty kitchen countertop

Butcher block countertops provide visual warmth to modern spaces, particularly those with white cabinetry. These countertops are also very cost-effective, especially compared to natural stone.

You’ll need to make oiling a regular part of your maintenance routine if you do install butcher block countertops. You’ll also need to use trivets or pot holders under hot pots and pans to avoid burning your counters.

Soapstone

Soapstone is a natural stone that’s easier to maintain than marble, but still requires more work than sealed granite. Soapstone is particularly vulnerable to liquids and acidic spills. Too much heat can also damage its appearance. Despite regular maintenance, soapstone is a beautiful alternative to granite.

Marble

Empty marble table with white brick wall background.

Marble is a natural stone that is considerably softer and more porous than most other stone options. If you don’t have a busy kitchen, marble can be a perfect material. For busy home chefs and homes with kids, marble may not be a good choice.

Ceramic Tile

Ceramic tile is a fun and incredibly durable countertop material. Unlike other countertops, ceramic tile isn’t prone to damage from liquids or heat. Ceramic tiles can stain and chip over time, but individual tiles are easy to replace. Tile is also extremely inexpensive, making it an ideal choice for budget-conscious homeowners.

Stainless Steel

Modern kitchen with stainless steel counters

Modern kitchen with stainless steel counters

Stainless steel’s sleek looks and durability make it the perfect material for modern or cooking-focused kitchens. You can wipe down stainless with a cloth, though special cleaner should be used from time to time as well. Stainless steel countertops can be expensive, but they’re perfect for design- or cooking-obsessed homeowners.

Quartz

Quartz, also called Caesarstone or Silestone, is a man-made stone that’s cost-effective and attractive in many spaces. Its uniform finish also appeals to many homeowners who feel that natural stone is too busy in terms of patterns. Quartz is easy to maintain and incredibly durable, making it the ideal choice for homeowners who use their kitchens regularly.

Andrea Davis is the editor at HomeAdvisor, which connects homeowners with home improvement professionals in their area for free. Connect with Andrea on Google+