Ask Before Buying a Smart Home

When you find the perfect smart home for you, consider these important questions.

Guest post by Jon Snyder

Smart homes are all the rage these days and are quickly becoming a hot commodity. A recent survey found that 65 percent of buyers would pay extra for houses with smart features – that is, anything in the home that connects to the internet. Smart features include connected security systems, HVAC systems, lighting, thermostats, door locks and eco-friendly appliances—all of which can be controlled remotely from your smartphone or tablet.

While smart homes offer convenience and energy savings, they do come with unique challenges—especially when transferring the home from one family to the next. If you think you’ve found the perfect smart home for you, consider these important questions.

1. What Devices are Actually in the Home?

Talk with the realtor or current homeowners to get a list of devices installed in the home. Don’t rely on a quick walkthrough tour alone, as some IoT-enabled devices are more obvious than others. For example, you’ll be able to spot a smart refrigerator’s touchscreen, but you may not notice the smart lighting solutions. These could encompass not only light bulbs but also adjustable window shades and natural-light detection that dims bulbs as natural light floods the room.

It’s also a good idea to pinpoint what you want out of a smart home, so you can find the one that meets all (or at least most) of your criteria. Additionally, check with the sellers to make sure the manuals for each device are available. They’ll highlight the various features and can quickly clue you in on where each device is and what it has to offer.

2. Are There Warranties for the Connected Devices?

Review the warranties and policies of the home’s IoT gadgets just like you would for any other appliance in the home. You can do this online if you have the serial numbers. (Ask the seller for a list of serial numbers for each device.) That way, you can make sure the devices are actually transferable to new owners so you don’t miss out on important features or security updates.

If everything checks out, remember to update the manufacturer’s pre-set passwords and see if there are any new versions of the device software once you’re all moved in. You can do this on the manufacturer’s website or by accessing the settings menu in the gadget itself.

3. Have the Devices Been Reset to Factory Settings?

Ask if the owner will (or already has) reset the devices back to their default factory settings. Doing so will make it easier for you to create your own account, set up new access protocols and adjust the settings to your liking.

It’s also wise to review the privacy settings for each device, as well as the settings for your own smartphone or tablet, which is what you’ll use to “talk” to your smart home. Keep in mind that all connected devices store and communicate data, so educate yourself as much as possible on how your smart hub works.

It’s up to you to beef up security and limit personal information stored in IoT devices as much as possible. By knowing what you want and asking questions (as many questions as you need to!), you’ll be able to smoothly transition into your new smart home.

 

Jon Snyder is a Product Manager at Esurance, overseeing countrywide design of property insurance products. Jon uses his 25 years of industry experience to write about smart technology and how it will impact homeowners insurance. You can view Esurance’s homeowners policy options on their website.

Selling? Low-Cost Home Improvement Fixes that Make Your Home Shine

When selling a home, even tiny fixes can have a big impact. Fortunately many fixes can be done quickly and with a small budget. Here are 10 of the best low- (or no-) cost home improvement fixes to make your house stand above the competition.

When selling a home, even tiny fixes can have a big impact. Here are 10 of the best low- (or no-) cost home improvement fixes to make your house stand above the competition:

1. Address the Heart of the Home

In real estate, the kitchen is a main selling feature and can be a make or break deal for potential home buyers. If a new kitchen just isn’t in the cards, consider replacing smaller ticket items and de-cluttering. Low- and no-cost fixes for the kitchen include:

  • New cabinet hardware
  • New faucets
  • Installing a new backsplash
  • Storing countertop appliances to create more work space
  • Replacing dark valances with lighter fabric or removing them altogether

2. Update Switch Plate Covers

Switch plate and outlet covers are brittle, and can crack and yellow over time, resulting in a home that, no matter how well updated, still looks dated. New outlets and covers can be replaced in a snap for generally under five dollars, making it one of the lowest cost updates available. Consider flat switches that create a modern, streamlined silhouette and stick to white for a timeless look.

3. Beautify the Bathroom

An updated bathroom comes only second to kitchens in a buyer’s list of must-haves, so showing them a clean and uncluttered bathroom will score points with any potential buyer.

New flooring can give an otherwise tired bathroom a much needed facelift and create a newer looking bathroom overall. Coordinating linens, a new shower curtain, and thoroughly cleaned grout can top off this easy home improvement investment.

4. Address Storage

Storage is always a concern for buyers. Installing low-cost closet organizers to your existing space will increase storage and organization in your home. Add storage baskets to hide clutter and you will have beautiful storage spaces that will make any buyer envious.

5. Deep Clean for a Good Return

If your home contains wall to wall carpeting, clean carpets can make a world of difference to a buyer. Cleaning carpets can easily be completed in a weekend with a rental cleaning machine, and it creates a noticeably clean, odor free environment for buyers to tour.

6. Boost Curb Appeal

Nothing boosts curb appeal like a tidy yard. Trim and edge walkways, weed gardens, and trim shrubs for maximum impact. If you have a porch, consider potted, seasonal plants to bring the look together.

7. Improve the First Impression

As buyers approach your home, first impressions matter. Ensuring your entryway is clean and inviting with something as simple as a new mailbox or updated house numbers will make buyers feel welcome. Clean windows and doors for extra impact.

8. Add a Coat of Paint

Freshening up your living space with neutral colors will invite buyers to imagine their belongings in your home and will cover up any nicks, scratches, or dents your wall incurred over years of daily living.

9. Update Lighting

While not the lowest cost solution on our list, you will find that a new light fixture or two really breathes new life into key living spaces. If your budget is tight, look to kitchen, dining, and living rooms for the most bang for your buck.

10. Add Some Decor Pizzazz

Finally, a fresh look can be completed with nothing more than some colorful fabric. Inexpensive pillows and throws in a coordinating palette through your home will create a unified look that will have buyers hooked.

How to Get Wood Flooring on Any Budget

Hardwood flooring is often considered a must-have feature by new homeowners or those undertaking a remodeling project. Here are some of the best budget-friendly hardwood floor choices.

Guest post by Fran Donegan

Hardwood flooring is often considered a must-have feature by new homeowners or those undertaking a remodeling project. Wood is a natural, renewable resource, plus wood flooring complements all types of home decor, from traditional to contemporary. Hardwood flooring is often considered a must-have feature by new homeowners or those undertaking a remodeling project. Wood is a natural, renewable resource, plus wood flooring complements all types of home decor, from traditional to contemporary. The downside is that wood floors, especially solid wood floors, can be expensive. Some exotic wood species, such as Brazilian walnut, can cost more than $15 per square foot — and that doesn’t include installation labor. However, you can find alternatives that give you the look of real wood at a reduced price — some as low as $2 or $3 per square foot. Here are some of the best budget-friendly hardwood floor choices.

Calculating the Overall Price

The products listed below go from most expensive to least expensive, but there’s a lot of overlap among the categories. For example, some solid wood products are less expensive than some luxury vinyl tiles. Before you make your final decision, factor in the cost of professional installation, which can add as much as $3 to $10 per square foot to the total cost of a flooring project. Some of the items that can drive up installation costs include:

• Removing and disposing of the old flooring
• Repairing the subfloor when necessary
• The size and shape of the room(s)
• Stair installation

If you’re an experienced DIYer, you can save money by installing the floors yourself. Beginners should leave the job to the professionals, though — you may end up making mistakes that are even more expensive to fix.

Solid Wood

This is usually the most expensive option, but there are ways to reduce the cost, especially in the long run. When properly maintained, solid wood flooring will last as long as the house stands. You can freshen up the look at any time by sanding away the old finish and restaining and sealing the floor.

Some wood species are more expensive than others. Fortunately, many of the most common types, such as oak or maple, fall into the low- to mid-range of costs. Solid wood products can come finished or unfinished. If the floor is unfinished, the installer will stain and seal the floor once it is in place, which adds to the installation costs. On the flip side, the prefinished product may cost more up front.

Engineered Wood 

These products are constructed of multiple thin layers of material that are bonded together under pressure. The top layer is made from a familiar wood species — such as oak or maple — and is usually treated with a factory-applied finish that resists dirt and scuff marks. Engineered wood floors are less likely than solid wood to wrap and twist because of moisture and humidity, so they can be installed in basements and bathrooms. Some products feature click-in-place installation — no need for adhesives or fasteners — which is an easier, faster installation method perfect for DIYers. However, a vapor barrier needs to be installed or attached to the flooring.

Bamboo 

Bamboo floors are manufactured to either look like traditional wood flooring or showcase their distinctive grass-like look. Some bamboo products are harder than solid wood flooring. They are strong and long-lasting, but are easy to scratch and are not recommended for areas prone to moisture. Bamboo is a type of grass and grows to maturity much more quickly than trees do, which makes it a sustainable, eco-friendly option. Click-in-place installation is available for some products.

Porcelain Tile 


New porcelain tiles can be made to look like anything, including real wood. Some products are available in planks that have a wood-like texture. Porcelain tiles are an inexpensive, easy way to achieve a “reclaimed” wood look — many tiles mimic the texture and color variation of aged planks. As with regular tiles, they are durable and can be used in wet areas, including bathrooms. They are also stain-resistant and much easier to clean than real wood — spills wipe up quickly, and using just water and a mild soap makes them shine. Porcelain tiles must be installed using mortar and grout.

Luxury Vinyl Tile 


As with porcelain tiles, luxury vinyl tile (LVT) can look like wood and come in traditional-style planks. LVTs are thicker and more durable than standard vinyl. They are usually waterproof, are easier to clean than true hardwoods, and can be installed in any room in the house. To prolong their durability, many LVTs are treated to resist color fading and scratches.

Laminate 

Laminate floors are composed of a high-density hardboard core protected by a melamine layer that can be made to look like anything — including real wood. The top layer protects against dirt and scuff marks, but the material should not be installed in rooms that are exposed to moisture. Click-in-place installation is available.

Hardwood flooring is a classic, timeless look that fits a wide range of design options. Thanks to today’s selection of flooring products, it’s easy to get a wood look at a lower cost. When making your final decision, be sure to include both the material costs and the installation costs. That way, you’ll get the look you want at a budget-friendly price.

 

DIY author Fran Donegan has written several books, including Paint Your Home. He also writes for The Home Depot about homeownership and projects that add value to your house. To see a selection of hardwood flooring options like those described by Fran in this article, please click here.

This article is editorial content that has been contributed to our site at our request and is published for the benefit of our readers. We have not been compensated for its placement.

Container Gardening Upgrades for a Fresh Spring

While prepping for gardening this spring, go through some of your old pots and containers.

Guest post by Linda Lee Ruzicka

If you’re a gardener, you most likely have some old pots and containers in your garden shed or even your garage. And you probably didn’t get rid of them because you figured you might have a use for them eventually. While prepping for this spring, instead of buying replacements pots and containers, go through the ones you already have stored. With a little imagination and some supplies, your pots will look better than new in no time!

Clay Pots

A good clay pot can be expensive and if dropped, the fall can put a decent size crack in it. If it’s chipped or broken but is still durable, here’s what you can do to fix it:

  • You’ll need all-purpose joint compound, spray paint or textured spray paint in a desired color, and fine-grained sandpaper. Clean off the damaged area with the sandpaper. Remove any loose clay as you’re sanding and carefully blow on it to remove the dust. This will let you get a good bond when filling it in.
  • Next, using the joint compound, fill in the cracks using a popsicle stick, spreading both inside and outside the pot. Make sure the cracks are well-covered. It dries relatively fast, so spread and smooth it out as you go. It can also be sanded down later if it’s not super smooth. If needed, add more layers until it’s filled. Let it dry for 24 hours and run the sandpaper over it to smooth it out one last time.
  • Seal the pot with the spray paint or textured spray paint, let dry, and it’s good to go.

Plastic Pots

Plastic pots are another type of container commonly used for gardening. The problem with these containers is that the weather can cause them to weaken, discolor, and sometimes crack. Have no fear, these containers can easily be fixed and your favorite plastic container can be used time and time again.

  • For this you’ll need clear gorilla tape, spray paint, textured stone paint, and fine-grain sandpaper. First, lightly sand all the areas which you’re planning to tape, so the tape has a good grip when applied. Be sure to remove all the dust from the surface of the pot. If you don’t, when you use the gorilla tape, it will form bubbles because it won’t seal. If you apply some rubbing alcohol before applying the tape, the surface will be clean.
  • Next, tape both sides of the crack with strips of gorilla tape. Rub it firmly to get a good seal but don’t use more tape than you need. For edges or curves, use small pieces, that can overlap about a ¼ inch. Try to avoid forming air bubbles.
  • Finally, spray the pot with the base paint and then spray it in thin layers with stone texture paint. Allow each coat to dry thoroughly. If the paint bubbles, let the paint cure for 24 hours. Spray it with the textured paint if desired for a different look.

Repurpose With a New Design

You can also repurpose an old pot with designs, like adding a mosaic design. You’ll need a terracotta pot, some broken tile pieces, pot shards or vase filler chips, spray paint and glue. Paint the pot with the spray paint and let dry, then gently glue the tile, shards or chips on one by one in the design of your choice.

You can also add a new design by using lace on a pot or container. All you’ll need is lace of the color of your choice and transparent adhesive. Varnish the pot with the adhesive and paste the lace over it. Let dry and use as desired.

As you can see, upgrading your container and pots for spring can be both fun and easy. What ways have you revamped old containers?

 

Linda Lee Ruzicka is an avid gardening blogger and expert. In her spare time she can be found enjoying and relaxing in several gardens around her home that she tends.

Ambient Lighting Tricks to Warm Up the Whole House

They say setting the mood is like flipping a switch and we couldn’t agree more. Lighting plays a lead role in making your house feel like home. Here are 10 lighting tricks to enhance your home’s aura.

Guest post by Kelsey Roadruck, Houzz

They say setting the mood is like flipping a switch and we couldn’t agree more. Lighting plays a lead role in making your house feel like home. Here are 10 lighting tricks to enhance your home’s aura.

1. Control natural lighting. If you thought only stormy weather could make a breezy beach house look dark and moody, take a second look at the photo above. The lucky homeowner can draw the sheer curtains closed without completely blocking out the sun. They also get a postcard-worthy view of sunrise and sunset every day from their glass doors. The dimmed fixture above casts a warm light in an all-white room while the cloudy landscape photo tones down the views of the beach.

2. Be picky about your paint. Ask a professional about a paint’s light reflectance value (LRV) before you commit to a color. Lighter colors tend to be more reflective than dark shades. Pay attention to sheen level too since glossy finishes are more reflective than matte finishes.

3. Experiment with materials and finishes. When mixed and matched strategically, these seemingly small details can determine the mood of a whole room. This white and grey bathroom would look stark and cold without the brass fixture above. The candles around the tub help warm the room up too.

4. Install a dimmer switch. There’s nothing relaxing about straining your eyes in a room that is too bright or too dark. Use a dimmer in addition to layering your light sources for ultimate light control. Believe it or not, installing a dimmer switch can be a DIY project.

5. Recess your lights. Even if the bulb is not that bright, a central fixture with multiple bulbs and a shiny finish can be overpowering. Recessed lighting conceals the bulbs and therefore can lights feel softer. You could also hide strip lighting underneath cabinets for a nice nightlight on your way to the kitchen or bathroom. Check out this ultra contemporary island that appears to be floating mid-air.

6. Go a different direction. Uplights, like sconces and track lighting, create a soft glow. On the other hand, downlights cast ominous shadows that can really add mystery to a romantic room. Get creative by backlighting wall decor for a play on color and shapes.

7. Take a refresher course in lightbulb basics. The type of bulb is equally important as its fixture. Halogen, fluorescent and LED bulbs have a range of temperatures from warm (or yellow) to cool (or blue) hues. This is a matter of personal preference, but typically yellowish bulbs warm up cool-colored rooms nicely and vice versa. Bluer bulbs also help brighten darker spaces, like basements and windowless bathrooms.

8. Find your favorite shade. Bright colors, playful patterns and funky shapes can bring personality into a stale space. Smoky glass chandeliers intensify intimate vibes in a dining room while big paper lanterns enliven sophisticated home offices. The teal shades on this fixture match the pillows and put an icy sheen on the large dark walnut bookcase.

Note: This ceiling light is reflected in the whimsically shaped mirror that will help spread light further into the room.

9. Try twinkle lights. Not limited to holiday decor, you can use twinkle lights all year round. Drape them over windows for some extra sparkle or fill jars or empty wine bottles with a bundle of battery-operated fairy lights for an illuminated vignette.

10. Open flame. It’s no secret that candles are customary to ambience, but they’re often reserved for after dark. Next time, try starting a fire first thing in the morning and you’ll find that candles are as effective for waking up as they are for winding down. The heat will naturally draw you out of bed and the rising sun will energize you. We’re channeling all the feels from this rustic bedroom. The corner fireplace and candle chandelier are nothing short of mesmerizing.

A Beginner’s Guide to Wonderful Wallpaper

Wall coverings serve as a beautiful accent piece in any room and can be as subtle or as fun as you desire. Here’s how to welcome a wonderful wall treatment into your home.

Guest post by Michelle Lee, Houzz

Wallpaper has a longstanding and misunderstood reputation for being obnoxiously bold and a nightmare to apply and remove. However, it has been entirely reinvented with new materials and appropriately renamed as “wall coverings.” You’ll see it popping up again in designs everywhere. Wall coverings serve as a beautiful accent piece in any room and can be as subtle or as fun as you desire. Here’s how to welcome a wonderful wall treatment into your home.

Learn the Basics

Wall coverings come in wide range of patterns, styles and materials. In comparison, paint is uniform and very 2D while wallpaper opens the door to a new dimension to play with. A great first step to deciding if it’s right for you is to browse inspirational home photos and save the ones that appeal to you the most.

Just like paint and fabric, you can order swatches of wallpaper to test on your walls before you commit. Full rolls can cost anywhere between $50 for plain paper versions to $300 for custom made or 3D textured options. It’s highly recommended, even by the most experienced DIYers, to hire an experienced professional for the final installation. And unlike its predecessors, many wall coverings use a safe and easy-to-remove adhesive for painless removal.

Know Your Options

There are thousands of different designs in production for wallpaper, so chances are if you have a particular look in mind, you’ll find it. On the slight chance it doesn’t exist already, you can commission a custom-made pattern or make your own. Traditional paper coverings are still made today, but vinyl wall coverings are also available and are great candidates for high-traffic areas since they’re glossier and can easily be wiped down.

The Williams Morris designs are popular for historic or arts and crafts style homes and floral patterns are a timeless classic. Alternatively, mural-style wallpapers are a great choice for modern art connoisseurs. They can be made to resemble an oversized print or photograph, a landscape or a cityscape of your hometown. Wall paneled paper pays homage to industrial style and can be made to resemble a brick, wood or concrete wall. If you want something more in-the-moment, graphic, geometric and ombre designs are very contemporary.

Textured grasscloth and silk wall coverings have a unique look and bring warmth and a sense of luxury to any space. These coverings are often one uniform color for people wanting a subtler look. Consider the tone and vibe you’re going for and how it looks from different angles, rooms and light when you’re shopping for the perfect fit.

Choose a Location

Wallpaper works great in just about every room of the house, but materials should be thoughtfully chosen. For example, vinyl coverings are a great choice for kitchens and bathroom since they are moisture-resistant and can easily be wiped clean of dirt or food stains. If you want to test treatments in a small area, consider a low-traffic area such as a powder room or laundry room. If you don’t want to line an entire wall from floor-to-ceiling, you can install wallpaper above wainscoting for a half-wall look. Just like paint, wall coverings also make eye-catching accent walls.

Other fun places to try it out include the entry, along the stairwell, on the ceiling or in a nook. Wallpaper disguises wall blemishes, sets spaces apart in an open floor plan and, with the right pattern, enlarges small spaces. Wallpaper can also be applied to items other than walls, such as lining the back of a bookcase or shelving unit, a large cabinet, dresser or armoire for a stunning look.

Want to Buy Smart Home Tech in 2018? Look Out for These Products

Want to Buy Smart Home Tech in 2018? Look Out for These Products

,  COLDWELL BANKER LLC

It’s no surprise that smart home tech adoption is growing. In fact, our annual Smart Home Marketplace Survey unveiled on Monday found that over the past year, the number of consumers with smart home technology grew by 33%! We’re confident that this number will continue to grow as smart home gadgets become more intuitive and connected, but we were curious to see what kinds of products consumers were eager to buy in 2018.

Part of our survey ranked the types of products people were looking to buy in 2018 and found that smart entertainment, smart security, and smart temperature were the three categories consumers are most eager to add to their homes this year. Our team has scoured the CES Smart Home Marketplace (sponsored by Coldwell Banker, of course) and found the smartest – and coolest – products for you to add to your smart home wish lists this year.

Smart Entertainment – LG’s 65 Inch 4K OLED Roll-Up TV

Photo Credit: Sarah Tew/CNET

Yes, you read that right – this TV can roll up like a poster. The original concept for this TV was unveiled two-years ago, but LG has now unveiled a bigger, more sophisticated model for consumers. The concept behind this flexible and portable TV is that it can free up wall space that homeowners might want to open up when the TV isn’t in use. For example, if you are hosting a fancy party, you can roll up the TV and free up 65 inches worth of space which you can use to hang up artwork. And for quality family time, this TV can roll up and create a distraction-free zone! What’s more – this roll-up TV has excellent sound and picture quality, so a win all around.

Photo Credit: Somfy


Smart Security – Somfy Outdoor Cam
Somfy unveiled its new Somfy Outdoor Cam, which was also the winner of this year’s CES Innovation Awards. The Outdoor Cam comes equipped with some sharp features including the ability to intelligently tell the difference between whether the motion detected outside your home is a harmless animal or car, or a sketchy trespasser. What’s more, the camera can actually tell how long an intruder has been lingering outside of your property and can sound a warning siren within a preset amount of time to ward off any trouble! The camera integrates with Google Assistant, Amazon Alexa, and Apple HomeKit.

Smart Temperature – Microsoft’s Smart Thermostat Powered by Cortana

Photo Credit: Microsoft

Those of us using Windows computers are familiar with Cortana – and now she’s making a foray into smart home products. Microsoft officially unveiled its GLAS smart thermostat powered by Cortana which is a sleek, glass-encased touchscreen thermostat with an OLED display. This thermostat does more than just heat and cool your home – it monitors air quality, checks the weather and it is intuitive enough to learn your routines and preferences. The GLAS thermostat will be available in March 2018 and will retail for $319. Stay tuned for more Blue Matter content coming out of CES and be sure to follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for exclusive video from the show floor throughout Smart Home Month.

If you’re already affiliated with Coldwell Banker and want to learn more about our Smart Home initiative, visit CB Exchange and search “Smart Home.”

How to Winterize Your Sunroom

Early winter is the best time to give your sunroom a deep cleaning and set it up for use in the coldest season. Try these tips to turn it into a winter retreat.

 

Guest post by Lea Schneider

If you have a sunroom, take advantage of all the light coming into your house and transform it into a winter-ready haven. After plenty of use from a busy summer and fall, early winter is the best time to give your room a deep cleaning and set it up for use in the coldest season. Try these tips to turn it into a winter retreat.

Clean and Bright

Make the space welcoming with a good scrub. With the windows closed for the winter, you can easily do some deep cleaning without breezes blowing dust around.

  • Start by decluttering. Pack away warm-weather decor like seashells and outdoor toys for use next summer. Relocate any summer and fall plants that are now dormant.
  • Use the top-down cleaning method. Clean ceiling fans and light fixtures with a microfiber duster or your vacuum dust attachment. A window cleaner makes short work of any grime left on glass light covers.
  • Dust the walls with your microfiber duster and polish the windows with window cleaner.
  • Vacuum baseboards, floors, chair cushions, and rugs.

Get Comfortable

In the summer, you may throw yourself on a mesh chaise lounge or Adirondack chair and let the breeze blow through the chair. In the cold months, cushions are a must. Find comfortable cushions for your outdoor furniture that you can snuggle up in.

If you’re in the market for new items, choose furniture that’s cozy enough for winter indoor use but can stand up to moisture and wind during the summer months when you leave the windows open. All-weather wicker, teak, and aluminum are inviting choices.

When it comes to choosing an aesthetic, think of your sunroom as an extension of the decor in your home.

  • Select pieces that are in line with the styles you love in your main living areas so that your design flows from your other rooms into your sunroom.
  • Arrange pieces to create comfortable conversation and easy flow in and out of the space.
  • Find a focal point. In this case, take advantage of the sun streaming through the windows and showcase your view. The combination of snow and big bare trees against the sky is beautiful. Add a rocking chair where you can relax and enjoy the view.

Go for Cozy


The sun should bring in some heat during the day, but you’ll want to include other things that make you feel warmer.

  • Install a space heater or electric fireplace if your sunroom is perpetually chilly.
  • Layer the floor to block the cold. Put down a rug pad followed by an indoor-outdoor rug that you’ll be able to use all year long.
  • Add throw pillows made with outdoor-grade fabric that can be used during winter and summer.
  • Place plush throws over the back of the sofa and chairs so that they are easy to grab.
  • Bring in winter decor. Small potted Norfolk pines, a tray of scented candles, a basket of pine cones, and a stack of books make the room feel welcoming.
  • Finish your space with lighting. Place string lights around the room, then add a table lamp and floor lamp to make it easy to enjoy the space on gloomier days.

Don’t neglect your sunroom during winter. When the days get shorter and colder, take time to transform your home’s bright spaces into a relaxing winter escape.

 

Lea Schneider is a professional organizer who spends her spare time rehabbing her 1950s ranch. Lea writes for The Home Depot and provides advice on topics ranging from organizing your closet to updating your patio with furniture and accessories. Click here to find The Home Depot’s patio furniture options for your sunroom.

This article is editorial content that has been contributed to our site at our request and is published for the benefit of our readers. We have not been compensated for its placement

Apartment Renovation: How to Do It Right

An apartment renovation can be every homeowner’s dream — and nightmare. You can create your dream home, but costs can spiral out of control. If you’re planning a renovation on your apartment, keep these tips in mind.

An apartment renovation can be every homeowner’s dream — and nightmare. On the one hand, homeowners are excited about turning their homes into the spaces they’ve always dreamed about, but they’re also worried about the possibility of costs spiraling out of control. If you’re planning a renovation on your New York apartment, keep these tips in mind.

1. To create your budget, add up your projected costs … then double it.

Budgets written down on paper make total sense, but they often don’t anticipate everything that could come up during the reno. You may discover that your subflooring is severely damaged and needs to be replaced before you can even think about laying down that Brazilian walnut flooring you’ve had your heart set on. Or maybe there’s heretofore undiscovered water damage that will need to be repaired. If you haven’t set aside a cushion for the unexpected, you could find yourself spending a lot more than you’d planned. By automatically doubling your estimated budget, you’ll be able to anticipate and deal with any unexpected expenses.

2. First do what you have to do, and then you can do what you want to do.

The phrase “Work now , play later” can totally be used when it comes to your NYC apartment renovation. Whether you’re putting together a $10k job or you’re planning to drop half a million dollars on your renovation, it’s natural that you want something that reflects all of your hard work (and money) with an obvious aesthetic upgrade. Everyone loves the sexy part of home renovations — picking out the Carrara marble countertops, or deciding between an AGA or a Wolf range, or figuring out which Farrow & Ball paint shade will best show off your fabulous living room while bringing out the color of your eyes.

But while there’s nothing cool about, say, spending $30k on a plumbing upgrade, If your apartment needs under-the-hood fixes, make those first. There’s no point in “putting lipstick on a pig.” Take care of the plumbing issues, electrical problems, or any damage that’s causing issues with your apartment. It may mean slicing some of the budget for the more cosmetic fixes or postponing some of them, but in the end, you’ll be thankful you did. If you ignore glaring structural issues with your apartment, you’ll pay much, much more for them in the long run — and fixing them later might even mean having to tear out your precious aesthetic upgrades in the process.

3. Consider using less expensive materials.

You may have your heart set on an all-marble kitchen, but mixing some of your surfaces with a less expensive material like butcher block can save you several thousand dollars or more. If you find that you have to spend more than you thought on structural and behind-the-scenes issues, be creative when it comes to your aesthetic fixes.

4. Don’t go cheap when it comes to contractors.

You may think that if one plumbing contractor gives you a bid for $5k and another gives you a bid for $9k, it’s an obvious choice: Go with the cheaper option and have more money to spend later. Well, you could assemble a line that wraps around the city a thousand times filled with people who’d tell you they wish they hadn’t made that decision. When it comes to NYC apartment renovations, don’t cut corners that you will regret later. Go with the contractor with the great reputation who’ll do it right the first time. This strategy will save you money down the road.

Fastest Remodels that Make the Most Impact

Here are a few big-picture renovations you can make in surprisingly little time, whether you do it yourself or hire help.

Guest Post by Lauren White 

Remodeling projects can seem like a distant fantasy when days off are usually consumed by errands and chores. What can you accomplish with the slim hours you have to spare? Here are a few big-picture renovations you can make in surprisingly little time, whether you do it yourself or hire help.

Instant Patio

Time: 4-6 hours
Budget: $3,000

Outdoor spaces are deceptively quick and affordable to make. If you have a half-day to spare, you can turn a patch of yard into a gorgeous patio before sundown. The process will involve digging and leveling the area you need, preparing a base for proper drainage and laying your stones. Once the project is complete, you will have a relaxing outdoor living space to enjoy.

Keep your time down by choosing pavers or bricks that don’t need to be cut. Interlocking patio pavers come in many variations and they eliminate the dilemma of fitting awkward pieces together.

One-Day Backsplash

Time: 2-8 hours
Budget: $30-$600

It only takes a few hours to install a new kitchen backsplash, but it could take less time depending on the material you choose. If you paint the backsplash, it will take mere hours of preparation and application. Painting costs as little as $30. If you use peel-and-stick ceramic tiles or rolls of faux metal, it will take roughly the same amount of time.

If you have more than a few hours, make a stand-out backsplash using an adhesive tile mat and individual tiles. The adhesive mat will ensure that heavy tile materials don’t fall off, and requires less curing time than traditional, wet adhesive. Explore your tile options in HomeAdvisor’s resource center.

Weekend Window Replacement

Time: 2-3 days
Budget: $5,000

High-efficiency windows are a strong investment, whether you are planning to sell or stay. These windows save homeowners anywhere from 10% to 30% in home energy costs. Efficiency is a top priority for today’s buyers, and this project has over 70% return on investment.

Removing old windows, installing heavy panes and finishing up with framing is a complex process. Professionals can do it in a matter of days, where it might take you much longer. Hiring a pro is worth it, because this renovation will put money back in your pocket when it is done right.

72-Hour Countertops

Time: 1-3 days
Budget: $3,000

In most cases, you’ll want to hire a professional to replace your countertops. Installation and cutting needs to be very precise, and most counter slabs weigh up to and over 400 lbs! With the right amount of muscle, you can finish this job in 1-3 days. Some materials and pre-fabricated pieces can even be installed in 3-7 hours.

Upgrading your countertops can do wonders to improve your kitchen and raise your home value. Granite, for example, can handle a lot of wear-and-tear. If your kitchen is like the Union Station of your house, this low-maintenance, high-resistance material is perfect for your counters.

For the adventurous weekend warrior, check out these countertops you can make yourself.

Two-Week Hardwood Floor Refinishing

Time: 2-14 days
Budget: $1,600

Flooring has a big impact on the appearance and value of your home. If your hardwood floors are in bad shape, you’ve probably already thought of refinishing them. Whether you hire a professional or do it yourself, you’re going to need at least two days.In fact, you may need as many as fourteen.

You will need one day for sanding and one day per layer of polyurethane finish. Each layer will need 24 hours to dry. Two to three layers of finish are recommended. If you’re going to stain the wood, add another day for that between sanding and finishing.

This project may take longer, but the results are worth it. Refinishing seals the wood against rot and moisture, and adds appeal for homebuyers. They will be more impressed by a glossy shine than rough, exposed wood. If you’re not sure it’s the right time for your floors, check out these answers to common questions to help you decide.

Investing in your property can mean a faster sale, or will at least give you a few extra luxuries to enjoy. See what you can accomplish with an afternoon or your next three-day weekend, and format your budget using these helpful cost guides.

 

Lauren White is a freelance writer who enjoys reading, hiking and traveling. She can usually be found on an outdoor adventure with her boyfriend and little sister on the weekends.

 

References

  • www.bhg.com/home-improvement/remodeling/budget-remodels/weekend-home-projects/
  • www.houselogic.com/remodel/remodeling-tips-advice/house-remodeling-how-long-does-it-take/
  • www.fix.com/blog/tile-kitchen-backsplash-in-one-day/
  • www.thespruce.com/easiest-and-cheapest-backsplashes-1821174
  • www.popularmechanics.com/home/outdoor-projects/a22394/how-to-build-a-bluestone-patio/
  • www.thespruce.com/process-of-installing-replacement-windows-1822901
  • www.replacementwindowsfordummies.com/articles/energy-efficient-windows-advantages-and-disadvantages
  • www.remodeling.hw.net/cost-vs-value/2017/
  • www.valentiflooring.com/blog/hardwood-floor-refinishing-project-how-long-does-it-take
  • www.thespruce.com/cost-to-refinish-hardwood-floors-1314853
  • www.homeadvisor.com/r/refinishing-hardwood-floors/
  • www.rempros.com/estimating-time/kitchen-countertop-replacement.html
  • www.diynetwork.com/how-to/rooms-and-spaces/kitchen/how-to-install-a-granite-kitchen-countertop
  • www.homeadvisor.com/cost/kitchens/tile-backsplash-install/
  • www.homeadvisor.com/cost/outdoor-living/install-a-patio-or-pathway/
  • www.homeadvisor.com/cost/doors-and-windows/install-windows/
  • www.homeadvisor.com/cost/flooring/refinish-wood-flooring/
  • www.homeadvisor.com/cost/cabinets-and-countertops/install-countertops/