7 Tips for Home Improvement from Coldwell Banker

 

If you choose wisely, home improvements can raise the value of a property investment. See these 7 tips to do your home improvement right.

While improving one’s lifestyle is a fundamental reason for a home renovation, homeowners should also be aware that with proper research, planning and thoughtfulness, home improvements can ultimately raise the value of a property investment.

The professionals at Coldwell Banker have identified several things homeowners should consider before home renovations begin.

Think Long-Term Home Improvement: Remodeling Magazine reported that money spent on a kitchen remodel produces the highest return on investment. Bathroom renovations and adding additional rooms such as guest bedrooms or studies also traditionally score well. Homeowners should consult with a local real estate sales associate to determine if their plans will positively influence the resale value. A sales associate may be able to offer suggestions on renovations that will provide a significant return on investment.

Healthy Balance: While homeowners should consider a home’s future value when making renovations, changes that enhance their lifestyle should also come into play. More size, better layout and contemporary looks can help a family find more pride in their home and increase the home’s overall value. Life-altering milestones – like having children, having extended family move in and work-at-home-jobs – provide good cause to renovate.

Seek Out Referrals: Once committed to the process, hiring the right home improvement contractor is critical. A great way to choose a contractor is to contact salespeople at stores where contractors buy their supplies, such as lumberyards, window stores, cabinet shops and hardware stores. It is also a good idea to speak with friends, family and neighbors that have been through the process before, as well as check the Web sites of local community associations.

Obtain Multiple Bids: Always get at least three estimates on a project. Contractors can bid on the same project using different prices and timeframes. Check that all the bids are based on the same scope and quality of work, which is the only way to do a fair and effective comparison.

Interview Your Home Improvement Contractors: It is important for the homeowner to talk about a contractor’s style and process. A strong rapport and close communication with the contractor will increase the likelihood of the project going smoothly. If, for example, the homeowner will want to know every detail during the project, they probably will not be content with a contractor that provides little information during the interview. It is also important to verify that the contractor has a license and insurance certificate. Most states require a contractor to carry worker’s compensation, property damage and personal liability insurance.

Follow up on References and Verify the Contractor’s License: Be sure to check the contractor’s credentials. Ask how many similar jobs the contractor has completed, how much experience they have, whether they guarantee their work and who will be in charge of the project. Reputable contractors typically supply names and phone numbers of recent references. It is worth calling a minimum of three people to verify the contractor’s credentials. There are several good questions to ask: Did the reference pay a fair price, was the work done properly and would the reference hire the contractor again? Did the contractor show up every day and finish the project when expected?

Contact Local Consumer Protection Agencies: Call the local consumer protection agency and the Better Business Bureau to check if there have been any unresolved complaints registered against the contractor. Also contact the contractor licensing agency and local building inspectors to confirm that the contractor has a clean record.

Weighing the Pros and Cons of New Construction Homes and Older Homes

Trying to decide on purchasing a new construction or older home? Read about the Pros and Cons of both and decide which option is best for you.

Whether you are buying a new or old home, there are plenty of things to think about.

Pros and Cons of New Construction Homes and Older Homes

When searching for your home, keep in mind that you are in control of the transaction. You choose your real estate agent, home inspector, mortgage provider and of course, your home. All of these decisions can sometimes be overwhelming, and for some people, turn what should be an enjoyable experience into something they dread. However, with the guidance from a knowledgeable Coldwell Banker® Slegg Realty agent, the purchase of your next home will be something you celebrate and enjoy for many years. Your lifestyle and how much you enjoy the ongoing maintenance and upkeep associated with homeownership are key considerations to finding the best home for you. Most people prefer new construction over existing homes. But older homes have some advantages that should not be overlooked, and may make an existing home the right choice for you. Let’s compare the pros and cons of each:

Buying a New Construction Home – The Pros

The vast majority of new homes are built in subdivisions with a unified style and restrictions in place to maintain the property values. The developers chose the location of the subdivision for one very important reason: it is where home buyers want to live. Developers factor in what people in the area can afford, amenities that most people want, and home features that are desirable to their targeted market. Simply put, they make the process as easy and enticing as possible for you. There are other advantages to opting for a newly constructed house:

  • During construction you can add the extras you have always dreamed of having in your home. A garden tub is an expensive modification in existing homes; not possible in some older homes.
  • New homes feature the latest styles like an open floor plan and large family rooms for entertaining guest.
  • Most new homes have low-maintenance exteriors such as vinyl-wrapped windows, trim, and railings. That means less time spent on routine maintenance. You are free to spend your off hours golfing, traveling, or just enjoying your home with a backyard cookout.
  • Architects design new homes to maximize space. Engineers develop construction materials for optimal energy efficiency. Highly efficient HVAC systems, windows, and Energy Star appliances equate to lower utility bills.
  • New homes come with a one-year warranty; some builders include warranties for up to 10-years.

Buying a New Construction Home – The Cons

There are often incentives and free upgrades if you use the builder’s recommended lender. But that may not be the best deal for you. A builder can require that you get qualified by their preferred lender, but they cannot mandate that you to use that company for your mortgage. They also cannot charge buyers who choose their own lender a higher price. But they can reduce the listed price as incentive for using their lender. While allowing the developer/builder to streamline the process is convenient, new constructions come with some drawbacks:

  • There is very little room for negotiation. Builders may work with you on some upgrades, but most stay firm on price. Some home buyers in large multiphase developments, who have attempted to sell their home after a few years, sometimes find themselves competing against the builder for potential buyers. They also may end up selling for less than they originally paid for their home.
  • New constructions often lack mature landscaping and may have smaller lots than existing homes. The developer generally maximizes available land. The result is limited outdoor space and extremely close neighbors.
  • It could take many months or years for the development to build out and new construction to cease. That means heavy equipment stirring up dust, mounds of debris or large bins, and the noise of saws and nail guns year-round.
  • You will be limited on possible modifications to your home and what you can have in your yard by tight subdivision restrictions.

Buy an Older Home – The Pros

Large trees remind many potential buyers of their childhood home. The value of a spacious yard for pets and children to play in is difficult to quantify. There are no rigid homeowners associations or the costly dues that come along with them in most older neighborhoods. Typically, existing homes cost about 20 percent less per square foot than new construction in the same area. Some other advantages:

  • You have more styles to choose from. In your price range and selected area, you will find brick homes, single story homes, and many different floor plans.
  • Individual sellers are often more negotiable on price. They may be motivated by other life factors to sell fast.
  • Neighborhoods are more established. The final determining factor for many home buyers is which place feels most like home. There is a sense of community in older neighborhoods that is missing in some new developments.
  • They tend to have more character. Part of the joy of owning them is you can upgrade them and fix them up to your own preferences.

Buy an Older Home – The Cons

If you are handy and want a home you can make your own, make sure you the home is a fixer-upper home worth investing in. If you are not particularly handy at home improvement projects or knowledgeable about the cost of home repairs, older homes can become large money pits. The seller’s disclosure may offer some protection. Any known issues must be revealed, and if there were major problems like foundation issues or leaky basements, it should surface in this documentation. Additionally, a home warranty can protect buyers from expensive appliance repairs. There are still some other cons to owning an older home that you should keep in mind:

  • Typically much less energy-efficient than new homes. If they do have things like thermal windows, they are less efficient than modern windows. Retrofitting new windows to older homes is quite a challenge.
  • May have small rooms that you are stuck with. Load bearing walls will prevent you from making significant changes to the existing floor plan. Some mirrors and bright colors may make the rooms look bigger, but they will always be the same size.
  • Generally require ongoing maintenance that will quickly turn into costly repairs if not done. Additionally, older homes have less useful life remaining for things like the furnace, roof, and appliances.

With a knowledgeable real estate professional on your side, you can make an informed decision about your purchase of any new or existing home. You should have any house you plan to buy inspected by a certified home inspector. Make your decision based on a logical assessment of your needs. Ideally, you should have a second and third choice in case you need to walk away from negotiations on your ideal home. People who make objective decisions about their home purchase based on lifestyle preference and aptitude for home improvements are more likely to feel good about it in the years ahead.

How to Keep a Small Kitchen Organized

It can be tricky keeping a compact cooking space tidy, but these ideas can help keep a small kitchen organized.

Houzz Contributor, Cheryl Freedman

Contrary to what you might think, you don’t need acres of counter space or dozens of drawers and cupboards to have an organized kitchen that’s a joy to cook in. If anything, a smaller kitchen can encourage you to streamline your stuff and live more simply. Who wants cabinets chock-full of unloved pasta machines and dusty bread makers anyway? Check out these easy ways to restore order to your less-than-enormous kitchen.

1. Start with a utensil rack. Not only will it give you a place to hang slotted spoons and ladles for easy access while cooking, it will also free up precious drawer space.

Even in the tiniest kitchen, you can usually find somewhere to squeeze one in — under a cupboard or shelf or above the stove. Stainless steel models work in most styles of rooms and are easy to wipe down.

2. Get a knife holder. A knife block or magnetic rack is one of those simple items that really do make a difference in how functional your kitchen is. After all, rummaging around in a drawer for a piece of kitchen gear you use frequently is time-consuming and dispiriting.

A wall-mounted rack like this one keeps things orderly without swallowing too much space. Buy decent knives if you can afford it, as they should last a lifetime. One advantage of a magnetic rack is that you can slowly build up your collection of knives, buying one at a time, rather than having to invest in one large block complete with knives, which can be pricey. If you’re starting from scratch, a bread knife, paring knife and chef’s knife are essential.

3. Assign dedicated storage areas. Kitchen clutter can easily accrue, so it makes sense to assign different cupboards a specific purpose and stick to it. And dedicate a few minutes every couple of weeks to returning stray plastic lids or pot covers to their homes and sweeping out spilled spices and coffee grounds — it really will make a difference in how pleasurable (and easy) your kitchen is to use day to day.

4. Reduce your numbers. If your kitchen is really mini, or even if it isn’t, think about doing a good edit of your paraphernalia. Be honest: Do you really need more than a handful of plates, mugs or glasses if there are only one or two of you?

Having less stuff can be immensely freeing — and will significantly reduce the amount of time you spend washing up, which is a big bonus.

5. Gather and display. This cute kitchen demonstrates how you can be organized and chic at the same time. A charming crock to hold wooden spoons, a wall-mounted crate or two to provide a home for vintage-style scales and jugs, a small wall-mounted spice rack — they all add a pretty touch as well as having a practical function.

6. Be clever with your cabinets. Use every spare inch in a small kitchen by building recessed shelves where feasible. Here, they surround an integrated refrigerator. With this design solution, wall space that’s too skinny or awkwardly shaped for extra cabinets can still be used to hold frequently used items. In this kitchen, it also helps open up the room and leads the eye to an appealing feature.

The other clever feature in this kitchen is the cookbook niche above the door — another neat storage trick that doesn’t take up too much room. Ask a builder if one can be carved out from an existing wall.

7. Go minimal. Are you in the process of picking new cabinets for your compact kitchen? Consider this look. Ultra-plain, handleless cabinets in a nude hue are soothing to look at and give a sense of visual order. Pick a seamless backsplash such as this slab of marble, since tiles with grout can look busy.

8. Get in a tight corner. When space is tight, an ingenious trio of pullout corner drawers is a lifesaver, helping to solve the problem of lost space in those awkward-to-access base cabinets.

If you’re remodeling, think about how you’d use such drawers — for cutlery, towels, pans, dishes? Here, a slimmer top drawer is complemented by the two deeper ones, so all the bases are covered.

9. Put the pans away. Similarly a pullout pan rack can be a gift in a small kitchen, creating an organized home for frying pans and saucepans and keeping you from tearing your hair out as you hunt around in the backs of cupboards. Also try using racks for items such as steamers or large, unwieldy casserole dishes.

10. Organize inside. It may sound like a no-brainer, but often what makes a kitchen, big or small, organized is how we arrange the insides of our cupboards. Shelf and drawer dividers, hooks, racks and other storage devices are key to keeping order. Consider what works for you and go custom if you can. Are you a Mason jar and Tupperware kind of person? Do you prefer mugs on hooks, shelves or in drawers? Storage is often about personal preference. Here, the slim slots for chopping boards and placemats are a brilliant idea, as is the slim pullout spice rack.

Tell us: How have you organized your small kitchen? Share your ideas in the Comments.

3 Simple DIY Projects to Tackle this Summer

Summer is here and it’s the perfect time to enjoy the great outdoors, even if just in your own backyard. Spruce up your yard or patio with these three simple DIY projects to make your next outdoor summer party a huge success!

Summer is halfway over and it’s the perfect time to enjoy the great outdoors, even if just in your own backyard.

Does your yard or patio need a little sprucing up? Perhaps you’re dreaming of hosting a summer party but your outdoor space isn’t quite guest-ready.

Don’t worry, we’ve got some simple and affordable DIY projects that might help you inject a little curb appeal and make your home the place to be this summer.

Freshen Things Up with a Coat of Paint

One of our favorite DIY projects to freshen up patio furniture involves simple spray paint.

You will want to thoroughly clean your furniture first to remove any dust or debris. If older layers of paint are chipping off, a wire brush might come in handy to smooth the surfaces. Anytime you are removing old layers of paint, take precaution by wearing a dust mask (available at your local hardware store).

GettyImages - Subscription with CB

This is one of those DIY projects that allows you to get really creative and let your style shine through. There are so many shades and textures of spray paint to select from, with options for painting nearly every type of surface.

Bright cheerful colors are sure to pop on your summer patio while peaceful neutrals and trendy metallics can create a more lush, sophisticated result.

Create a Multi-Purpose Container Herb Garden

Another great way to add some life to your backyard or patio space is by planting a container herb garden. Not only are they fairly easy to create, but container herb gardens are also one of those DIY projects that serve many purposes.

First, fresh herbs add lots of flavor to your cooking, which will come in handy as you plan a menu for your next summer party.

Next, you can choose colorful containers or pots that complement your patio style for lots of visual impact.

Finally, certain herbs are known to repel insects, including those pesky mosquitoes that love to crash outdoor gatherings. Basil, lavender, and mint are three great multipurpose herbs to grow.

Assemble a Portable Summer Party Kit

One great way to make sure you are ready for every possible impromptu summer gathering is by assembling a summer party kit.

Your DIY party kit might include things like disposable plates, cups, and napkins as well as fun decorative items such as a piñata or strings of colorful lights. You could also include sunscreen or battery-powered, handheld misting fans for your guests. And don’t forget skewers for roasting hot dogs or marshmallows for s’mores.

An old wooden crate or a plastic bin makes a great container for your party kit. This is one of those DIY projects that requires a little work on the front end but makes things much easier later on. Having all your essential party supplies gathered together will make organizing your next outdoor summer party easier and less stressful.

Removing Carpet: Easy, Expensive, or Exasperating?

If you’re thinking of removing carpet from a room in your home, you’ll need to figure out if you’re going to do it yourself or if you’re going to hire a professional to do it for you. Removing it yourself can be done if you know what you’re doing.

You may think removing carpet is not a “thing”  because it seems like everyone you know has hardwood flooring. You’d be surprised to learn that many people, especially those buying older homes that have been untouched for years, have to figure out how to remove carpeting that’s been around for generations. People encounter old carpeting in old brownstones, limestones, estate apartments, and single family homes in the outer boroughs. They usually remove carpeting because they want to expose original hardwoods underneath, put new hardwoods or some other type of hard-surface flooring in, or even put in brand new carpeting. Whatever your motive for removing carpeting, you’ll want to be careful not to damage the surface underneath. Following are some options for safely removing old carpet.

Gather Your Tools

In order to make easy going of removing carpet in your space, you need to make sure that you have all the tools necessary for the job on hand. Luckily, you don’t need many: knee pads, utility knife, work gloves, goggles or safety glasses, pair of locking pliers, and something to wrap the pieces in are all you need to get the job done.

Clear the Room Before You Begin

Remove all obstacles (furniture, clutter, curtains, etc.) before you begin. There should be nothing in the room except you and the carpet. If there is a door to the room and it swings inward, see if you can remove it from its hinges. This will help prevent any obstructions getting in your way as you remove the carpet in places like doorways and corners.

Start In a Corner

Start in one of your room’s corners, and put on your gloves. Next, use pliers or even a crow bar to dig into the corner of the carpet and start pulling. If your carpet was installed using tacks, you’ll feel them start to pull loose as you edge along. The carpet should start to raise as you move along the wall. As you move, bend the carpet down a couple of feet. When you come to the end of one wall, take a knife and cut the carpet into strips. Doing so will make it a lot easier to gather the entire carpet and remove it all at once when you’re done with the task.

Or . . . Hire a Reputable Professional

Seriously, if you can spare the expense, the easiest way to remove carpeting is to get someone who knows what they’re doing to do it. There are carpet removal companies that can seamlessly remove carpeting in a matter of a few hours — give or take depending on the job. Getting a company with great recommendations is key; you don’t want to have to worry about a damaged floor after you have the carpet removed. Some companies that specialize in junk removal are also experts in carpet removal. You could also turn to carpet and floor restoration/installation company.

8 Summer Projects for Creating the Ultimate Backyard

Is your piece of the great outdoors feeling a little uninspiring? It’s time to add a little more fun to your backyard space. We’ve rounded up eight easy summer projects to help you design the ultimate backyard!

Is your piece of the great outdoors feeling a little blah? It’s time to add more fun to your backyard.

We’ve rounded up 10 summer projects to help you design the ultimate backyard for your DFW home!

1. Create Shade

It’s undeniable . . . DFW summers are hot! Don’t hide inside. Make your backyard more pleasant by creating shade. Install a patio awning, build a shaded pergola, or add umbrellas for instant shade.

Is it still too hot? Generate an instant breeze with outdoor cooling fans.

Summer Projects for Creating the Ultimate Backyard: Adding Shade

2. Add Fun with Lawn Games

Create friendly competition with lawn games. Set up an outdoor game station for endless summer fun. From cornhole to croquet, select a range of games for everyone.

Feeling crafty? Browse Pinterest for DIY inspiration. This giant Jenga looks so fun!

3. Set Up the Ultimate Al Fresco Dining Room

If you love entertaining, creating an outdoor dining room should be at the top of your summer projects list! Start by investing in a table or cleaning up the one your already have. Add color with outdoor cushions and pillows, and use a rug to anchor the space.

Set the table with fun and inexpensive plastic dishes and pretty linens that will last this summer and beyond. Don’t forget candles and flowers.

4. Arrange Ample Seating

Choosing the right seating is a high priority for any outdoor space. For large spaces, break your backyard into distinct areas. Set up separate spaces for eating, cooking, and relaxing.

Create an outdoor living room to relax at the day’s end, add a couple chairs in a quiet corner, hang a hammock, or place a bench in your garden. This DIY outdoor bench made from a salvaged door looks like a fun summer project.

For small backyards, a cafe table and chairs are charming and compact. Add comfort with chair cushions.

Summer Projects for Creating the Ultimate Backyard: Add Ample Seating

5. Brighten and Add Character with Lights

Make the most of breezy summer nights with a well lit backyard. Just like you would inside your home, layer lighting to create functionality and ambiance. Start by adding wall lights or lanterns to brighten the whole space. Next, add task lighting, such as mounted light by the grill or an outdoor lamp next to your favorite chair. Finally, accent your space with strings of globe lights, candles, or spotlights on landscaping.

6. Arrange an Outdoor Bar

Create the ultimate outdoor entertaining space by setting up a bar. A bar cart is the perfect place to store your favorite drinks during parties and lazy afternoons. Repurpose a vintage table or make your potting bench do double duty by clearing the top. Install hooks to hold towels and bar tools, add plenty of ice, and top the cart with a large tray to make transporting drinks and glassware easier.

7. Grow Something

No summer projects list would be complete without talking about plants!

Before you plant anything, consider how much time and patience you have for maintenance, then make a plan. Window boxes and container gardens are perfect for beginners, or if you’re more ambitious, create flower beds or a vegetable garden. For best results, choose plants that thrive in our DFW climate.

8. Create a Grilling Station

Love grilling? Then, creating your very own grilling station is a must!

Sure, you’ll need a grill, but add a cart for holding serving plates and tools, too. Use the cart to store your favorite spices, clean towels, and other grilling accessories.

When you’re finishing cooking, simply roll the cart to the table and dinner is served!

Summer Projects for Creating the Ultimate Backyard: Create a Grilling Station

Five Tips to Identify Fixer-Upper Homes Worth Investing In

 

When shopping for a fixer-upper home, some properties have potential beyond their appearance. Keep the following tips in mind as you look for that home.

When shopping for a new home, be aware of properties that have potential beyond their current appearance. Home buyers often overlook a great property because they are too focused on the cosmetic appeal, which can be easily altered. Keep the following tips in mind as you search for your perfect home:

  1. Finding the Best Neighborhood for You
    Location is one of the most crucial factors to consider as you look for possible homes. Unlike the style and even structure, no amount of time, effort, or money can change a home’s location. To find the best neighborhood for you, it can help to visit the area multiple times at various hours. This will help reveal the local culture and activity to be expected from neighbors.
  2. Identify a Cost-Efficient Fixer-Upper Home
    Look for a home with sound fundamentals and an appealing floor plan. Cosmetic improvements like new paint, lighting fixtures, and flooring are relatively cheap and easy to change, while work on plumbing, electrical systems, structural walls, or cabinets are more difficult and expensive. Typically, the most expensive change involves altering a home’s structure.
  3.  Hire a Contractor Before Buying a Home
    You may want to hire a contractor in your search if you know you want to make changes to a home you plan to purchase. A contractor can help you better understand what kind of commitment a given home will require. Many remodelers will visit a potential purchase at no charge to give an estimate of how much the work would cost. This is valuable information when comparing different homes with one another.
  4. Know What to Check Before Buying an Old Home
    Examining a home can be a complex process, and looking for one with unused potential can make it more difficult. Keep in mind that homes older than 50 years are likely to have similarly aged plumbing, electrical, heating, and other systems. The home may also be worn out or too outdated to remodel.
  5. Real Estate Agents Can Help
    Real estate agents are valuable resources. They can help you understand a home in the context of its neighborhood and area, and may be able to offer advice on how to increase the value of the property after purchase.

8 Tips and Tricks to Get More Storage From a Small Closet

Get ideas for arranging your clothes closet with 8 combinations of shelves, hooks, rods and drawers.

Houzz Contributor, Laura Gaskill

Large, luxurious walk-in closets may be the stuff dreams are made of, but they are not always the reality. If the closet space you have to work with is on the petite side, there’s still plenty you can do to make the most of it. From ultraslim shelving to wall-mounted storage, here are steal-worthy ideas from eight closets that put every inch to work.

1. Dresser + hanging rod + curtains. Replacing the closet doors with curtains has freed up some much-needed space in this small bedroom, allowing access to every inch of the reach-in closet. Inside the closet, a high shelf holds baskets (perfect for storing less-used items) over a hanging rod, with a dresser below. The dresser top is put to work too, with a wire storage basket and space for a few pairs of shoes.

Best for: Reach-in bedroom closet.

See more of this bedroom

2. Tall bookcase + hanging rods + wall hooks. A tall, shallow bookcase anchored to the wall provides ample storage space for folded clothes and accessories in this petite closet. Opposite the shelving, rods hold hanging clothes and a set of wall hooks provides a handy drop spot for scarves and jackets.

Best for: Narrow walk-in closet.

3. Shelves under eaves + short hanging rod. Shelves in graduated sizes make the most of this space beneath a sloped ceiling. Two wide drawers hold folded clothes below, and a short rod provides space for hanging items.

Best for: Bedroom with sloped ceiling.

4. Wall-mounted shoe rack + hanging rod + high shelf. A slim wire shoe rack mounted on the wall holds plenty of pairs without taking up precious floor space. At the back of the closet, two high wire shelves over the hanging rod hold luggage and other infrequently used items.

Best for: Deep, narrow closet.

5. Shelves + crates + lidded boxes. A simple setup with wall-mounted shelving is made more functional with the addition of crates to keep bulky items from toppling over. Wall hooks hung both low and high keep bags and belts neatly stowed, and lidded boxes provide a spot for stashing small accessories.

Best for: Small closet with more folded than hanging clothes.

6. Hanging rod + high shelf + floor basket. An easy setup for a petite closet, this allows room for hanging items on the single rod, with a storage shelf above and a basket on the floor to hold accessories (or clothes to be dry-cleaned). If your closet is a bit wider, add shelving to the wall opposite.

Best for: Small closet with more hanging than folded clothes.

7. Extra-high hanging rod + step stool. Take advantage of a space with a high ceiling by hanging a second rod extra high, and use it to store off-season or less-used clothes. This frees up the lower portion of the closet for shelves, with wire baskets to keep small items and accessories neat. Be sure to keep a step stool handy to reach the upper rod.

Best for: Petite closet with high ceiling.

8. Shelves + drawers + dressing table. With shelves on one side, a short hanging rod on the other and dresser drawers in the center, this petite closet fits in a little bit of everything. The mirror against the back wall turns the drawer unit into a dressing table with room for jewelry, perfume and other getting-ready essentials. Open bins on the highest shelves keeps less-used items out of the way but still easily accessible.

How to Make Your Move Less Stressful

Make your move less stressful by taking these steps to protect yourself and your belongings

Houzz Contributor, Laura Gaskill

From horror stories of lost, stolen and broken items to surprise charges tacked on to an already high bill, moving is not for the faint of heart. And after recently pitching in to help my mom through a downsizing and a big move, I’ve learned a few things about working with professional movers. If you have a move coming up, read on for eight tips to help your move go smoothly.

1. Take the time to research movers thoroughly. We’ve all heard horror stories about movers stealing, losing or recklessly damaging belongings, but with a bit of diligence on your part you can make sure you’re choosing a reputable, licensed company with ample experience. Check reviews, Better Business Bureau ratings and references before committing to hire. It’s also a good idea to purchase appropriate insurance for your belongings, just in case.

2. Don’t wait till the last minute to book your movers. Moving companies do book up, especially during the busy summer months, so don’t leave this decision until the last moment. Start looking for a company early and get on its schedule.

3. Honestly assess your belongings before getting a quote. If you end up bringing more items than discussed with your movers, the best-case scenario is that you get a higher bill — but the worst-case scenario is that there isn’t room on the truck for everything you plan to bring. The reverse can also be problematic: If you pare down your belongings a great deal between the time of your quote and moving day, you may find yourself paying more than you needed to.

If you do require flexibility in truck space for your move, be upfront about it. Some companies allow you to pay by the foot, which means you pay only for the space you end up using. Usually this involves sharing space with another customer, in which case your belongings will be divided with a locked partition inside the truck.

4. Don’t assume that professional packers are also pros at labeling. If you’re planning to hire professional packers, it’s smart to ask about their policy for labeling boxes. If they don’t label (surprisingly common), plan to be present while the packers work (a good idea anyway) and make it your job to label each box as it’s completed.

Packing tip: Label your boxes with your last name as well as the name of the room in your new home where you want the box to end up. When labeling rooms, use language that will make sense to the movers: Instead of “Katie’s room,” you could label a box “Upstairs small bedroom.”

5. Block out close parking in advance to avoid long-carry fees. If your movers can’t park the truck close to your home, you’ll probably get stuck with what’s known as a long-carry fee — and the farther the movers have to walk to bring each item, the longer it will take. To avoid this, do whatever you can to ensure there’s a close place to park the truck at both your old home and new. You may want to notify neighbors in advance, park your cars in the closest spaces to hold them, or put cones and signs in the space in front of your house on the day of the move.

6. Remember to measure openings at your new home. After one harrowing experience attempting to get a giant sofa through a narrow stairway (our movers eventually gave up), I now know the value of measuring doorways and stairwells in advance. If bulky furniture doesn’t fit, you may be forced to leave treasured pieces behind, or — if you simply can’t do without an item — you may need to ask for hoisting services, which aren’t cheap and may not be available right away.

7. Take the time to read the fine print. Before the movers leave at the end of the day, you’ll be asked to sign off on the inventory sheet and bill — and you’ll be exhausted when this happens. It’s easy to breeze through these last steps and just sign whatever papers they thrust in front of you, but it’s important that you take the time to actually read what you’re signing.

Double check that everything that went into the truck has actually arrived. Look over the bill carefully and be sure there are no extra charges. Especially if you were sharing space, belongings can get missed quite easily, so it’s a good idea to take a look inside the truck before it pulls away. And look close: Tiny (but necessary) items like drawer knobs and shelf brackets can easily get overlooked on the floor of a big truck.

8. Just get the big stuff into position; the rest can wait. Think rugs and major (read: heavy) furniture pieces — anything you can’t easily move on your own — are the things that should be put into position by the movers. Ideally, you’ll already be armed with a floor plan of the new space with furniture positions marked out. But if you didn’t get anything that elaborate organized, no worries. Just station yourself in the new place as early as possible before the movers arrive and make some decisions about where things will go.

Then locate the box with your bedding, because you’re going to be ready for a good night’s sleep!

Tell us: Have you moved recently? Share your tips in the Comments.

Painting & Staining: The Quick Guide to Renewing Your Wood Fence

Besides providing security, a good fence can also offer pleasant curbside appeal.

By Chelsea McGrath

There’s something about a fresh coat of paint or stain that really helps a fence pop! Keeping a fence painted or stained also helps maintain the condition of the fence so you can enjoy it for years to come. Besides providing security, a good fence can also offer pleasant curbside appeal.

On the other hand, a worn, damaged fence can be an eyesore. And then there’s the dread of having to replace a part or even the entire fence because of on-going wear and tear, which could be costly. Fortunately, a bit of easy maintenance can go a long way toward keeping your fence in good shape.

The simplest way to maintain a wood fence is with paint or stain.  Covering your fence with a protective coating helps in a number of ways including:

  • Preventing sun and other weather damage
  • Keeping the posts from excessive drying or cracking
  • Keeping the wood from being damaged by mold and mildew
  • Helping to lengthen the lifespan of the wood

Getting Ready for the Project:

As you prepare to embark on your fence restoration project, you might want to begin by taking a walk around your fence-line. Ask yourself the following questions as you inspect your fence. The answers to these questions will dictate your next steps, and help you to craft your shopping list.

  • What’s the square footage of the fence?
  • Are you are going to be painting/staining one or both sides?
  • Are there some severely damaged post slats that might need to be replaced before beginning the painting or staining?
  • What materials will you need to purchase prior to beginning?
    • brushes appropriate for the type of cover you are applying
    • paint trays and paint cups
    • gallons of exterior paint and primer – the amount needed dependent on size of fence
      • if using stain, consider purchasing enough gallons to apply at least two coats
    • scrapers
    • stir sticks
    • tarps
    • sandpaper to smooth out rough spots in the wood
    • screws and screwdriver to fasten loose or replace missing screws

The more prepared you are at the start of the project of painting a fence, the smoother the task should go!

Paint or Stain

Deciding on whether staining or painting a fence is better, the answer is basically up to you.  Both have advantages.

Paint

Paint offers you the flexibility to match colors for aesthetic appeal. For instance, if you want the fence to match exterior building colors or enhance the landscaping, using paint may be more effective for this purpose.

Paint covers the wood rather than being absorbed into it like stain.  There are two types of paints to use on a wood fence: semi-transparent and solid.  Semi-transparent offers a painted cover with the wood grain showing through.  With a solid paint, the wood grain is covered by the smooth color finish.

For previously painted fences, there is often a bit more work required to get a good finish on the wood.

The best way to maintain it is by the following steps:

  1. You should scrape the old, peeling paint first. This is the biggest difference in painting versus staining, but it’s an important step. Scraping helps to keep the new paint layer laying smooth and adhering better to the wood surface.
  2. Wash the fence off with water to clean out the dirt, remove loose old paint chips, and provide a clean work surface.
  3. Cover any proximate surfaces you don’t want to have accidentally painted!
  4. When painting a fence, be sure to prepare the surface with a paint primer. A few considerations to keep in mind with regard to primers are to:
  • Be sure the primer will work with the paint you are going to use on the top-coat for the fence. Not all primers work with all paint types. So once you choose the paint, check that the primer is compatible with it.
  • Check that the primer provides protection for what you may need, such as mold
  • Be sure to apply the primer as directed and allow it to dry completely before starting the top-coat layer. This will insure a more even finish, avoid moisture pockets, and help with the effectiveness of the primer coat.
  1. Apply the paint top-coat. Consider painting a fence with a brush rather than sprayer for a smoother, more complete application.

Stain

If you are considering staining the wood fence instead, the process is a little simpler. For instance, you won’t need to scrape off the old stain or apply a primer.  If you purchase a stain with primer and/or water-proofer in it, that step can be removed from the process completely.

Stain is nice for providing a natural look with the grains of the wood exposed. The most important point to keep in mind with stain is to apply it in the direction of the grain.

If you are using colored stain, be sure to have it mixed well before applying. Also, as stain absorbs into the wood rather than covers it, you might want to do more than one coat for stronger protection.

Don’t Want to Deal with Painting a Fence?

If staining or painting a fence isn’t a task you have time for, consider replacing your wood fence with a fence made of another type of material.  There are many maintenance-free alternatives that don’t require painting or staining including metal, vinyl, aluminum, and composite fencing.

These options may be more expensive than a traditional wood fence though might last longer and require less time to maintain over the years.  However, putting these types of fences up could require a bit more work up font. For instance, most metal and vinyl pieces come in panels which could be heavy or awkward to install alone.  If you have an uneven or hilly property, installation might require a professional for the best result.

Resources:

http://www.hgtv.com/design/outdoor-design/landscaping-and-hardscaping/fences-and-walls/fence-revival-a-guide-to-painting-and-staining

http://www.paintquality.com/en/advice-and-tips/faq/exterior/difference-between-paint-and-stain

https://www.familyhandyman.com/garden-structures/fences/maintenance-free-fencing/view-all