5 Deck Makeover Projects Under $300

Article From HouseLogic.com


By: John Riha
Published: July 02, 2012


Want to upgrade your deck but watching your budget? Here are 5 easy deck makeover ideas, many well under $300.


1. Add solar lighting

If you’d like your wood deck (http://www.houselogic.com/outdoors/decks/) to come alive when the sun goes down, add solar lighting. Solar lights don’t need an on/off switch — they light up when it gets dark, then fade away 4-6 hours later.

You won’t have to plug them in or wire anything, either. Their solar-charged batteries are renewed every day, and the lights are built to withstand all kinds of weather.

Types and cost:

          •Paper lanterns (made from synthetic, weatherproof nylon; $20-$30) are made for hanging and come in all sorts of fun shapes, sizes, and colors.

          •Carriage lights can be fixed on top of a pillar or railing newel post. $45-$150.

          •Solar illuminated replicas of old-fashioned mason jars can be set on any flat surface, about $35.

          •Rope lights have small LED bulbs (http://www.houselogic.com/news/lighting/consumer-reports-shines-light-best-cfl-and-led-bulbs/) inside a flexible cord. A 25-foot-long rope with solar charger and stand is $25.

What else: Suspend lanterns from overhead trellises, railings, and nearby trees, where they’ll shed a soft, colorful glow. Wind rope lights around rafters and railings.

2. Install a stone landing at the foot of your deck stairs (http://www.houselogic.com/home-advice/decks/deck-makeover-ideas-under-300/2/)
3. Put up a privacy screen (http://www.houselogic.com/home-advice/decks/deck-makeover-ideas-under-300/3/)
4. Paint a faux floor rug on your decking (http://www.houselogic.com/home-advice/decks/deck-makeover-ideas-under-300/4/)
5. Wash and refinish your wood decking (http://www.houselogic.com/home-advice/decks/deck-makeover-ideas-under-300/5/)

 2. Install a stone landing at the foot of your deck stairs

Dress up the transition from your deck to your yard with a little hardscaping — a stone landing at the bottom of your deck stairs. Stones are a natural compliment to wood decks, and they’ll help prevent mud from forming where there’s heavy foot traffic.

Cost: Flagstone is priced by the pound; you’ll spend $60-$100 for enough stone for a 3-by-4-foot landing.

How-to: Techniques for installing a landing are the same as putting in a patio (http://www.houselogic.com/outdoors/patios/), although you’ll have to temporarily support your existing stairway while you work around – and under – it.

What else: You should be able to add a landing in less than a day. It’ll get done faster if you hire a pro, but it’ll cost you another $150-$200 in labor.

3. Put up a privacy screen

Whether you’re relaxing alone au naturel or entertaining friends, a little home privacy (http://www.houselogic.com/home-topics/home-privacy/) is always welcome. You can add some vertical supports and fill in a variety of cool screening materials that are as nice for your neighbors to look at as they are for you.

Types and costs:

          •Bamboo fencing comes in a 6-by-16-foot roll for $20-$25.

          •Lattice panels are either wood or plastic, $15-$30 for a 4-by-8-foot panel.

          •Grow climbing plants on a trellis ($20-$100) to create a living privacy screen (http://www.houselogic.com/blog/patios/screens-protect-your-patios-right-privacy/). Plant climbing vines in tall containers (http://www.houselogic.com/photos/gardens/container-gardening-ideas/) ($40-$120) to raise them above the deck surface and give them a head start filling in your screen.

          •Outdoor fabric resists moisture and fading; $12-$120 per yard. You’ll pay another $20 to have a seamstress cut and hem a 3-by-5-foot panel.

How-to: Your privacy screen should integrate with your deck; make the framework using the same basic materials as your deck railing and structure.

Add some flash by building a frame with 2-by-2- or 2-by-4-inch uprights spaced 1 foot apart, then weaving aluminum flashing between the uprights.

What else: Make sure to position your privacy screen where you’ll get maximum benefit. Sit on your deck and check your lines of sight.

 4. Paint a faux floor rug on your decking

Punch up a boring old deck with a faux rug. This is a fairly low-cost project with a big wow factor, and one you can share making with your (well-behaved) kids. It works best on a newly cleaned deck (see below.)

Cost: Most of your cost will be deck stain or paint in various colors. Because you won’t be using that much stain per color, you can buy quarts. Figure $15-$20 per quart.

How-to: Figure out a size, sketch out the design on your decking, and then all you have to do is paint or stain between the lines. You can use painter’s tape as a guide, but a little leakage is likely on a wood decking surface.

What else: Keep a few basic cleaning supplies on hand for any drips or spills. After the stain is dry, coat the entire deck with a clear deck sealer.

5. Wash and refinish your wood decking


 The ultimate deck makeover is none other than a good cleaning. Applying a coat of deck sealant afterwards ensures your wood decking (http://www.houselogic.com/home-advice/decks/deck-options/) looks great and will last for decades.

Cost: There are many brands of deck cleaning and brightening solutions. Some require the deck to be wet; others need the decking to be dry. Some are harmful to plants and you’ll have to use plastic sheeting to protect your landscaping. Consult the instructions carefully.

You’ll pay $15-$25 per gallon, enough to clean 300 sq. ft. of decking.

How-to: Scrubbing with a good cleaning solution and rinsing with a garden hose is more foolproof than scouring your decking with a power washer that may damage the surface of the wood.

What else: After you deck is cleaned, apply a coat of deck stain or clear finish. The sealer wards off dirt, wear, and UV rays, and helps prevent deck splinters (http://www.houselogic.com/blog/decks/wood-deck-maintenance-prevent-splinters/). A gallon covers 250-350 sq. ft., $20-$35/gal.


How to Pick Paint Colors

Article From HouseLogic.com


By: Jan Soults Walker
Published: December 17, 2012


Paint has remodeling power when you use it to emphasize a room’s best features or play down the flaws.


Every home suffers a few negatives, but not every solution requires pricey structural changes. Paint (http://www.houselogic.com/home-improvement/painting/) is an often-overlooked, low-cost remodeler’s remedy for common complaints with interiors, offering the chameleon-like ability to lighten, warm, enlarge, erase, or attract attention.

“Paint is a powerful tool that can enhance the architectural character and intent of space,” says Minneapolis architect Petra Schwartze of TEA2 Architects. “As you choose your paint, think about what the experience in the room should be.”

More Schwartze advice:

          •Always sample paint colors (http://www.houselogic.com/home-topics/paint-colors/) on a few walls. Don’t be shy about painting a few large swaths on walls and trim to consider the effect of natural and artificial lighting (http://www.houselogic.com/home-improvement/lighting/). Add samples to opposite sides of a room to judge the paint color from different angles.

          •Check the space with the samples in place and watch how the paint color changes at different times of the day.

          •Evaluate your reaction to the proposed colors: Does the space feel cozy or is the openness enhanced?

How to enlarge space with color

Painting walls white, cream, pastels, or cool colors (tinged with blue or green) creates the illusion of more space by reflecting light. Paint trim similar to walls (or use white on trim) to ensure a seamless appearance that visually expands space.

White or light colors lift a ceiling; darker shades can have a similar effect if you select a high-gloss paint sheen (http://www.houselogic.com/home-advice/painting/paint-sheen-guide/), which reflects light and enhances space.

Employ a monochromatic scheme to amplify the dimensions of a room. Select furnishings in one color and paint walls and trim to match. Lack of contrast makes a room seem more spacious.

Make walls appear taller by extending wall color onto the ceiling. Create a 6- to 12-inch-wide border of wall color on the entire ceiling perimeter, or wherever walls meet the ceiling.

Vertical and horizontal stripes of alternating color can make a room grand. While vertical stripes enhance room height by drawing the eye upward, horizontal stripes lure your gaze around the perimeter, making walls seem further away. Use similar light colors for low-contrast stripes, and your room will look even larger.

Creating intimacy

When a space feels cavernous, draw walls inward and make it cozy with warm colors (red-tinged) because darker hues absorb light. Similarly, a dark or warm color overhead (in a flat finish) helps make rooms with high or vaulted ceilings (http://www.houselogic.com/home-advice/home-improvement/vaulting-a-ceiling/) less voluminous.

Give peace a chance

The right paint choice can lend tranquility to a bathroom (http://www.houselogic.com/home-improvement/rooms/bathrooms/), master suite (http://www.houselogic.com/home-improvement/rooms/master-suites/), or other quiet, personal space. A palette of soft, understated color or muted tones help you instill a calming atmosphere. Some good choices include pale lavenders, light grays or greens, and wispy blues.

Define your assets

Call out notable features in a room with paint. Dress crown mouldings (http://www.houselogic.com/photos/home-improvement/crown-moulding-ideas/) and other trims in white to make them pop against walls with color. Make a fireplace (http://www.houselogic.com/maintenance-repair/preventative-home-maintenance/fireplaces-chimneys/) or other feature a focal point by painting it a color that contrasts with walls.

“Using a higher sheen of paint on woodwork, such as baseboards and door or window casings,” says Schwartze, “creates a crisp edge and clear transition from the wall to the trim.”

Hide flaws

Not everything should stand out in a space. Using a low-contrast palette is a good way to hide unappealing elements or flaws. Conduit, radiators, and other components painted the same color as the wall will seem to disappear.

Selecting low-sheen or flat paint colors also helps hide flaws. Unless walls are smooth, avoid using high-gloss paint because it reflects light and calls attention to an uneven surface.

What’s the cost?

As a DIY job, painting a 12-by-12-ft. space costs about $150, including paint, primer (http://www.houselogic.com/news/painting/interior-paint-primers-solve-problems-save-you-money/), brushes, drop cloths (http://www.houselogic.com/home-advice/painting/using-a-drop-cloth/), and other painting tools (http://www.houselogic.com/home-advice/painting/must-have-painting-tools/) and supplies. A professionally painted room using high-quality, brand-name paint costs $200-$400.

A Stairway Gets a New Look Using Ordinary Brown Paper

Article From HouseLogic.com


By: Lisa Kaplan Gordon
Published: March 28, 2013


March is Stunning Staircase Month at HouseLogic. Check out this plain-to-princely stair makeover, then vote for your favorite at the end of the month.


When I first saw pictures of Rachael Evans’ stairway upgrade, I honed in on the textured wallpaper she applied to the risers beneath what looked like cork treads.

But as I read Rachael’s post, I realized the treads were not cork or burled wood. They were MDF covered with stained brown paper – a decoupage technique that made the plain treads look expensive and elegant. It’s faux flooring for less than $100.

(If you’re a fan of faux, don’t miss this faux granite project (http://www.houselogic.com/blog/home-improvement/faux-granite-countertops/).)

Brown-Paper Stairs 101

This time-intensive but low-cost refinishing technique requires:

          •Brown craft paper (the kind you wrap packages with; $20 for a 200-ft. roll).

          •White glue ($12/gal. at craft stores).

          •Dark walnut stain ($8/qt.).

          •Floor-grade polyurethane, semi-gloss ($40/gal.). Look for water-based products to reduce your exposure to VOCs (http://www.houselogic.com/home-advice/air-quality/how-to-reduce-voc-exposure/); it also dries quickly.

Rachael has printed a complete tutorial (http://lovelycraftyhome.com/2011/11/09/the-ultimate-brown-paper-flooring-guide/) on how to lay down brown paper flooring. Here’s the basic process.

1. Remove carpet and padding.

2. Tape off baseboards to protect the paint.

3. Tear paper into 6- to 12-inch-diameter pieces; the smaller the pieces, the more leathery the floor will look. (Pieces with straight edges are good for applying next to walls.) Crumple into balls and toss into a contractor’s plastic bag until you need them.

4. Dilute glue with water using a ratio of 3 parts water to 1 part glue. Only dilute enough glue to use in one session.

5. With a paintbrush, brush treads with undiluted glue.

6. Dunk 5-6 balls of paper at a time into the diluted glue; squeeze out excess.

7. Lay paper on treads, overlapping a little. Brush the diluted glue mix over the paper to flatten and remove wrinkles.

8. Allow to dry for about 12 hours.

9. Apply stain, and let that dry for 48 hours.

10. Apply 12 coats of water-based polyurethane, sanding lightly between coats.

Wallpaper Risers

Once you’ve finished refinishing the treads, you can refresh the risers by applying paintable textured wallpaper. Rachael used an embossed print called anaglypta ($20 for 22 sq. ft.), which looks like vintage metal ceiling tiles.

To give the project a finished look, she glued a piece of trim onto the bottom of each riser.

Lessons Learned

1. Work on every other stair, so you can use the stairway while you’re refinishing. The project will take four days to complete, so you don’t want to be without your stairway for that long.

2. For best results, practice the technique on scrap wood before trying it on the stairs.

3. For a light, natural color, skip the stain.

4. Allow everything to dry completely before proceeding to the next step. Patience is key to good results!

Looking for more great stairway redo ideas? Check out these fantastic stairway makeover projects:

How a Clever Mom Turned a Stairway into Storage (http://www.houselogic.com/blog/home-improvement/stairs-storage/)

A Runner Shapes Up a Tired Staircase (http://www.houselogic.com/blog/home-improvement/how-to-install-stair-runner/)

Bead Board Risers Sweeten This Stairway (http://www.houselogic.com/blog/home-improvement/stair-remodel-with-beadboard/)

Also, take a look at these imaginative pantry (http://www.houselogic.com/blog/kitchens/pantry-organization-makeovers/) and laundry room (http://www.houselogic.com/blog/laundry-rooms/laundry-room-organization-ideas/) projects.

Why Gardening is Good for Your Heart

Article From HouseLogic.com


By: Lisa Kaplan Gordon
Published: December 10, 2012


Gardening and cholesterol-lowering drugs cut death risk in high-cholesterol adults.


Gardening not only is good for your soul (http://www.houselogic.com/blog/gardens/gardening-cure-depression/), it’s good for your heart.

That’s the conclusion of a new Veterans Affairs Medical Centre study (https://docs.google.com/spreadsheet/ccc?key=0ApYk07Wk3U8-dGF5UjVRX2s1NzM2WVFtLVhMQnZyVnc#gid=0) that shows combining cholesterol-lowering drugs (statins) with moderate exercise (gardening) lowers the chance of premature death more than either drugs or exercise alone.

The study, conducted with more than 10,000 U.S. veterans with high cholesterol over 10 years, showed that participants who were fit and taking statins cut their risk of death over that decade by 70%, far better than participants who exercised without drugs (50%). Veterans who didn’t exercise or take statins increased their risk of death by 35%.

Best part: It doesn’t have to be strenuous. Moderate exercise, like gardening or walking, is enough to increase the ability of statins to stave away the grim reaper.

Why You Need to Change Your Attitude About Housework

Article From HouseLogic.com


By: Lisa Kaplan Gordon
Published: March 04, 2013




No matter how much housework you do — do more! Not only will you clean your home (http://www.houselogic.com/home-topics/cleaning/), but you’ll burn more calories, ward off some cancers, even move closer to spiritual enlightenment.

At least, that’s what some researchers and authors promise – clean more, live longer and better.

          •A study of 200,000 women in nine European countries found that housecleaning between 15 and 17 hours a week – a little more than 2 hours per day – cut breast cancer risk by 30% among pre-menopausal women and 20% among post-menopausal women.

          •An Indiana University professor showed (http://www.my-health-software.com/view/items/housework.html) that 4 hours of work in and around the house helped hypertensive and pre-hypertensive patients lower their blood pressure, in some cases to normal levels.

          •As little as 20 minutes per day of vigorous housework can cut stress by as much as 20%, according to a University College London survey (http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/health/7338644.stm).

These studies have changed my relationship with sweeping and scrubbing.

My attitude has always been: I work so others might clean. I’ve employed wonderful cleaners ever since my first job as a copy girl, when I’d eat ramen nightly rather than mop a floor in my 500-sq.-ft. Manhattan rental.

Years later, I bit the bullet and vacuumed my four-bedroom house between cleaning lady visits. Actually, my three cleaning robots (http://www.houselogic.com/blog/maintenance-repair/window-cleaning-robots/) – Roomba, Neato, and Mint – did the vacuuming and sweeping: When I wanted a deep clean (http://www.houselogic.com/home-advice/maintenance-repair/home-cleaning-secrets/), I ran all three at once.

But that was then. Now, I realize that doing housework myself can help me achieve other goals I hold dear, like staying fit and living long.

Instead of looking at household chores as time-eaters, I now look at them as calorie burners. Here’s what an hour of housework burns:

          •Vacuuming and mopping: 194 calories

          •Dusting: 174 calories

          •Washing windows: 180 calories

          •Ironing: 113 calories

I wore a calorie-counting armband for a week, and on the days I vacuumed the den or scrubbed the bathroom for half an hour, I burned about 100 calories more than the days I did not clean. Theoretically, if I vigorously cleaned for 30 minutes each day, I would lose about 10 pounds a year (if I didn’t reward myself daily with a latte or bag of chips).

In fact, a British study (http://www.weightlossresources.co.uk/exercise/tips/housework_workouts.htm) found that women’s waistlines have expanded 6 inches over the past 60 years because they don’t clean their homes as long and hard as 1950s housewives, who burned up to 1,000 calories a day by doing housework without today’s modern machines (like my Roomba).

Perhaps, the best benefit of housework is that mindful cleaning can bring me closer to enlightenment, says “The Power of Now” author (and Oprah’s guru) Eckhart Tolle. Simply, the more one observes the moment, the less stress she will feel about the past and future.

We can all use a lot less stress. So instead of rushing through housework, or talking to my mother on the phone while I’m washing dishes, I’ll dive into the moment of cleaning. When scrubbing pots, I feel the water cascading over my hands, notice the tiny soap bubbles, feel the crusted food melt away – that kind of thing.

It’s a discipline that gets easier with time. But the more I stay in the now of cleaning, the calmer I feel. Really.

What’s your relationship with cleaning? Do you love it or loathe it? Besides a clean house, what benefits do you get from housework?

Keep Your Home Purchase on Track

Article From BuyAndSell.HouseLogic.com


By: G. M. Filisko
Published: March 30, 2010


You’ve found your dream home. Make sure missteps don’t prevent a successful closing.


A home purchase isn’t complete until you make it to the closing. Until then, the transaction can fall apart for many reasons. Here are five tips for avoiding mistakes that cause a home sale to crater.

1. Be truthful on your mortgage application

You may think fudging your income a little or omitting debts when applying for a mortgage will go unnoticed. Not true. Lenders have become more diligent in verifying information on mortgage applications. If you fib, expect to be found out and denied the loan you need to fund your home purchase. Plus, intentionally lying on a mortgage application is a crime.

2. Hold off on big purchases

Lenders double-check buyers’ credit right before the closing to be sure their financial condition hasn’t weakened. If you’ve opened new credit cards, significantly increased the balance on existing cards, taken out new loans, or depleted your savings, your credit score may have dropped enough to make your lender change its mind on funding your home loan.

Although it’s tempting to purchase new furniture and other items for your new home, or even a new car, wait until after the closing.

3. Keep your job

The lender may refuse to fund your loan if you quit or change jobs before you close the purchase. The time to take either step is after a home closing, not before.

4. Meet contingencies

If your contract requires you to do something before the sale, do it. If you’re required to secure financing, promptly provide all the information the lender requires. If you must deposit additional funds into escrow, don’t stall. If you have 10 days to get a home inspection, call the inspector immediately.

5. Consider deadlines immovable

Get your funds together a week or so before the closing, so you don’t have to ask for a delay. If you’ll need to bring a certified check to closing, get it from the bank the day before, not the day of, your closing. Treat deadlines as sacrosanct.

More from HouseLogic

How maintenance adds to home values (http://www.houselogic.com/articles/value-home-maintenance/)

Reducing closing stress (http://buyandsell.houselogic.com/articles/7-steps-stress-free-home-closing/)

 Other web resources

More on calculating closing costs (http://www.hud.gov/offices/hsg/ramh/res/sc3sectb.cfm)

More on the closing process (http://www.homeclosing101.org/closing.cfm)

G.M. Filisko is an attorney and award-winning writer who wanted a successful closing on a Wisconsin property so bad that she probably made her agent rethink going into real estate. A frequent contributor to many national publications including Bankrate.com, REALTOR® Magazine, and the American Bar Association Journal, she specializes in real estate, business, personal finance, and legal topics.

10 Clever Uses for Hydrogen Peroxide

Article From HouseLogic.com


By: Courtney Craig
Published: April 19, 2012


Is hydrogen peroxide a non-toxic weapon in your green cleaning arsenal? It should be!


When it’s time to clean, have your trusty green cleaners (http://www.houselogic.com/green-living/green-cleaning/) at the ready — baking soda, vinegar, castile soap (http://www.houselogic.com/blog/green-cleaning/castile-soap-eco-friendly-cleaner-budget-price/) — plus another ultra-cheap gem: hydrogen peroxide. You can use it anywhere, and can’t beat the price: A 16-oz. bottle only costs a buck.

Here are 10 ways you can use that ubiquitous brown bottle of 3% hydrogen peroxide to your home’s advantage:

In Your Kitchen

1. Clean your cutting board and countertop. Hydrogen peroxide bubbles away (http://1greengeneration.elementsintime.com/?p=1325) any nasties left after preparing meat or fish for dinner. Add hydrogen peroxide to an opaque spray bottle – exposure to light kills its effectiveness – and spray on your surfaces. Let everything bubble for a few minutes, then scrub and rinse clean.

2. Wipe out your refrigerator and dishwasher. Because it’s non-toxic, hydrogen peroxide is great for cleaning places that store food and dishes. Just spray the appliance (http://www.houselogic.com/maintenance-repair/preventative-home-maintenance/appliances/) outside and in, let the solution sit for a few minutes, then wipe clean.

3. Clean your sponges. Soak them for 10 minutes in a 50/50 mixture of hydrogen peroxide and warm water in a shallow dish. Rinse the sponges thoroughly afterward.

4. Remove baked-on crud from pots and pans. Combine hydrogen peroxide with enough baking soda to make a paste, then rub onto the dirty pan and let it sit for a while. Come back later with a scrubby sponge and some warm water, and the baked-on stains will lift right off.

In Your Bathroom

5. Whiten bathtub grout. If excess moisture has left your tub grout dingy, first dry the tub thoroughly, then spray it liberally with hydrogen peroxide. Let it sit – it may bubble slightly – for a little while, then come back and scrub the grout with an old toothbrush. You may have to repeat the process a few times, depending on how much mildew you have, but eventually your grout will be white again.

6. Clean the toilet bowl. Pour half a cup of hydrogen peroxide into the toilet (http://www.houselogic.com/home-topics/toilets/) bowl, let stand for 20 minutes, then scrub clean.

In Your Laundry Room

7. Remove stains from clothing, curtains, and tablecloths. Hydrogen peroxide can be used as a pre-treater for stains – just soak the stain for a little while in 3% hydrogen peroxide before tossing into the laundry. You can also add a cup of peroxide to a regular load of whites to boost brightness. It’s a green alternative to bleach, and works just as well.

Anywhere in Your House

8. Brighten dingy floors. Combine half a cup of hydrogen peroxide with one gallon of hot water, then go to town on your flooring (http://www.houselogic.com/home-topics/flooring/). Because it’s so mild, it’s safe for any floor type, and there’s no need to rinse.

9. Clean kids’ toys and play areas. Hydrogen peroxide is a safe cleaner to use around kids, or anyone with respiratory problems, because it’s not a lung irritant. Fill an opaque spray bottle with hydrogen peroxide and spray toys, toy boxes, doorknobs, and anything else your kids touch on a regular basis. You could also soak a rag in peroxide to make a wipe.


10. Help out your plants. To ward off fungus, add a little hydrogen peroxide to your spray bottle the next time you’re spritzing plants (http://www.houselogic.com/outdoors/landscaping-gardening/plants-trees/). Use 1/2 cup of hydrogen peroxide added to one gallon of water for your plants.

Another underutilized cleaner and problem-solver: The humble onion.