Tag Archive | Carol Kilburn

What I Wish I Knew When I Bought My First New-Construction Home

Article From HouseLogic.com


By: Lisa Kaplan Gordon
Published: April 16, 2013


Building a new home lets you personalize your house for today’s needs and tomorrow’s dreams. Here’s how to plan your new home for future needs.


When I was designing our dream home 15 years ago, I was chasing around our toddler while laying out rooms and selecting finishes.

Back then, I didn’t let Ben out of my sight and couldn’t imagine a time when we wouldn’t be attached at the hip. So, I selected new-home options perfect for parents of a 16-month-old, never questioning if they’d work for parents of a 6-year-old, or 16-year-old.

Here are things that seemed like a good idea at the time.

Kitchen/great room combo: I figured one big space would be great for watching tiny Ben while I was cooking; he’d drum on a pot while I fixed him buttered noodles. But Ben grew up and now likes to watch “Law & Order” on TV while I talk on the phone with my mom, and my husband runs the disposal after dinner. The room sometimes sounds like Grand Central, and I now dream of a separate family room and a little less togetherness.

Two main-floor bedrooms: We downsized our master suite to squeeze in a second bedroom next to us – perfect for soothing a preschooler’s nightmares. Turns out kids outgrow nightmares, but skimpy closet space is forever.

A pass-through instead of cabinets: I gave up two kitchen cabinets to cut a pass-through from the kitchen to our mud-cum-crafts room so I could keep an eye on Ben’s finger-painting sessions. Ben hasn’t dipped a finger in paint in 12 years, and I could really use that storage now.

The Future is Now

If I were buying a new home today, I’d do things differently: I’d crystal-ball my thinking and plan for my future needs. That’s the beauty of buying new construction: You can focus on want-to-dos, rather than to-dos – even if you can’t anticipate all your wants.

Luckily, builders know the life of a new home is a journey, and have consultants who help you fast-forward your thinking about features you can install now that will make life easier later.

I brainstormed with a couple of executives from Toll Brothers and Ryland Homes about some forward-thinking, new-home options.

          •A main floor den that could be converted into another bedroom as your family grows.

On a related note, see how people are reinventing their living rooms (http://www.houselogic.com/photos/rooms/living-room-design-photos/).

          •Bedroom soundproofing (http://www.houselogic.com/home-advice/home-improvement/soundproofing-walls/) to ensure privacy.

Credit: Toll Brothers, Inc. (http://tolltalks.tollbrothers.com/2012/01/24/5/?cmpid=OHo1)

          •Roughed-in plumbing (http://www.houselogic.com/maintenance-repair/preventative-home-maintenance/plumbing/) and electric for an eventual attic or basement bathroom and kitchenette. If you don’t have the resources now, this is a great way to plan ahead. This extra living space not only could accommodate elderly parents or boomerang kids, but will increase the value of your home when it’s time to sell.

          •A double-deep, tandem garage that can fit three cars now, but can be walled-off later to add indoor space for an extra bedroom or bathroom.

More: Attic conversions (http://www.houselogic.com/photos/attics/going-attic-conversions-are-smart-remodeling-projects/) | Garage conversions (http://www.houselogic.com/home-advice/garages/converting-garage-into-room/)

          •Upgraded structured wiring throughout that can handle a souped-up Internet connection and other tech revolutions. Handy if you telecommute.

          •Temporary partition walls that attach to hardwood flooring, rather than subflooring. If you eventually want to combine bedrooms – kids move out – you’ll only have to do a floor repair and refinishing, rather than patch a gaping hole.

          •Plywood sheathing behind drywall and tile in bathrooms. These sheets of plywood let you attach grab bars anywhere without hunting for studs.

Credit: Mosby Building Arts (http://www.callmosby.com)

 Grab bars aren’t just for our later years. They’re also good for kids and aching weekend warriors who need a little help getting into and out of a tub.

          •An addition (http://www.houselogic.com/home-improvement/rooms/home-additions/). If you can site your home to accommodate a bigger footprint later, plan to run conduit through exterior walls for future electrical and plumbing needs.

Credit: CQ Surveying (http://cqsurveying.com)

 Unless you’re psychic …

You’ll never know today exactly what you’ll need in the future: It’s hard for me to imagine life beyond next Tuesday.

But choosing options for tomorrow is one perk of buying new. These forward-thinking selections can mean years of enjoyment as your family changes, and can make it easier to sell if moving – and buying new again — turns out to be the best alternative.

Learn about more benefits of a newly built home. (http://startfresh.newhomesource.com)


Which Stunning Stairway is Your Favorite?

Article From HouseLogic.com


By: Lisa Kaplan Gordon
Published: April 01, 2013


March was Stunning Stairway month at HouseLogic, and we shared some amazing ways to perk up tired stairs. Now it’s your turn to vote for your favorite!


During March, we brought you four clever stairway renovations that did amazing things with treads, risers, and banisters. Which is your fave? Vote and let us know!

To refresh your memory, here’s a recap. And after you vote, please share a picture of your own cool stairway redo in our comments section, below.

A Runner Shapes Up a Tired Staircase (http://www.houselogic.com/blog/home-improvement/how-to-install-stair-runner/): Rhoda of Southern Hospitality (http://southernhospitalityblog.com/painted-stairs-and-adding-runners/) covered four staircases in her split-level home with gorgeous, diamond-pattern runners.

Bead Board Risers Sweeten This Stairway (http://www.houselogic.com/blog/home-improvement/stair-remodel-with-beadboard/): Robyn and Steve (http://www.11magnolialane.com/2012/06/13/stair-redo-with-painted-treads-and-beadboard-risers/) brought bead board to the next level by using it on stair risers, which gave their stairway instant charm.

How a Clever Mom Turned a Stairway into Storage (http://www.houselogic.com/blog/home-improvement/stairs-storage/): Saving 4 Six (http://www.saving4six.com/2012/02/basement-steps-secret-storage.html) blogger Carrie created extra storage with drawers hidden in her stairway steps.

Brown Paper Make Treads Look Rich (http://www.houselogic.com/blog/home-improvement/stairway-gets-new-look-using-ordinary-brown-paper/): This blogger used plain brown paper to maker her stairway look rich and elegant for less than $100.

OK, now it’s your turn to vote. And please let us know why it’s your favorite redo in the comments section below.

 <a href=”http://polldaddy.com/poll/7006098/” mce_href=”http://polldaddy.com/poll/7006098/”>Vote for your favorite stairway makeover</a>

Have You Seen Your Refi and Mortgage Options Lately?

Article From HouseLogic.com


By: Dona DeZube
Published: April 08, 2013


Three good reasons to warm up to a refinance this spring.


Low interest rates and new loan programs abound this spring, so if you assumed your refinancing (http://www.houselogic.com/home-taxes-financing/home-loans-mortgages/refinancing/) and mortgage options were dismal, you’ll be surprised by these three offerings.

1. Refinance with new FHA fees

In a nutshell: FHA (http://www.houselogic.com/home-topics/fha/) raised insurance premiums for new borrowers, while lowering fees for some existing customers who refinance, making comparison shopping with private mortgage insurance worthwhile. Mortgage insurance covers the lender against losses caused when borrowers stop making payments.

The details: FHA’s new insurance premium rates include a great deal for existing FHA borrowers — you can refinance by paying a miniscule .01% upfront fee and an annual premium of just .55% if you got your original loan on or before May 31, 2009.

The catch: The deal is only for home owners who got their FHA mortgage on or before May 31, 2009.

The latest FHA deal (http://portal.hud.gov/hudportal/documents/huddoc?id=12-04ml.pdf) for new FHA customers buying homes isn’t nearly as sweet. You’ll pay a whopping 1.75% upfront fee and an annual premium of 1.35% – more if your loan is more than $625,500. For a $200,000 loan, that’s $3,500 for the upfront premium payment and $2,700 for the annual premium.

If you can meet the tougher underwriting and higher downpayment rules of private mortgage insurance companies, check to see what that would cost for your specific loan and location using calculators from such sources as MGIC (http://www.mgic.com/is/html/ratefinder.html), Radian (http://www.radian.biz/page?name=MIRateFinder), or Genworth Financial (http://mortgageinsurance.genworth.com/RatesAndGuidelines/RateFinder.aspx). Use the calculators to check how your payment would change depending on how much equity you have in your home.

2. Refinance underwater mortgage

In a nutshell
: If you owe more than your home is worth, you may finally be able to refinance into a lower rate thanks to the government’s HARP refinancing program (http://www.houselogic.com/home-advice/refinancing/harp-refinancing/).

The details: You can take advantage of historically low interest rates by using the latest version of the Home Affordable Refinance Program (http://www.houselogic.com/home-advice/refinancing/harp-refinance/), which removed a previous cap on how far below your mortgage your home value can be.

The HARP program even works if you’ve been hit by the economic double-whammy of a falling family income and a falling home price. You qualify for a HARP refinance (http://www.houselogic.com/home-advice/refinancing/harp-refinancing/) if:

          •You have income coming in.

          •You’ve made your mortgage payments on time every month for the past six months and have no more than one late payment in the past year.

The catch: Banks can layer their own tougher rules on top of the HARP requirements, and they’re not obligated to let you use the program to refinance your existing loan.

3. Refinance rental properties

In a nutshell: Some real estate investors have new loan options for the first time in years.

The details: In recent years, small landlords like me have had a tough time finding a bank to finance more rental property purchases. Once you had more than four rental property loans, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were no longer willing to guarantee your loans, even when your credit scores were top-notch and the property was able to turn a profit from day one of ownership.

Now, some banks participating in the HARP program are taking applications from landlords with multiple properties and lots of mortgages. HSBC recently agreed to look at a mortgage on a property I own in Baltimore. My current interest rate there is over 7% and if I get the HARP refinance it will fall to 4.6%.

It’s too soon to say whether the banks will actually fund me or any other landlord who wants to refinance.

The catches

          •Only Fannie Mae has made this change. (It’ll purchase up to 10 loans from any one investor.) Freddie Mac is still limiting single-family landlords to four loans.

          •Most banks discount your rental income by 25% when making investor loans, which adds up when you have multiple properties.

But, the fact that banks are accepting applications from rental property owners is a sign the credit spigot may be reopening for creditworthy real estate investors.

Are you shopping for a refinance or a mortgage to purchase a home? What’s your experience been like?

Turning Mason Jars Into a Creative Light Fixture

Article From HouseLogic.com


By: Lisa Kaplan Gordon
Published: April 11, 2013


April is Perk Up Your Patio month at HouseLogic, and we’re bringing you eye-catching projects that give your patio some pizzazz. At the end of the month, vote for your favorite.


I just love mason jars, those wide-mouth glass canning jars that hold everything from strawberry jam to fireflies. That’s one reason I’ve fallen for the DIY mason jar light fixture made by Taylor of the MaryJanes & Galoshes blog (http://www.maryjanesandgaloshes.com).

Although Taylor originally wanted it to light up her gazebo, she loves it so much she’s going to relocate it to her living room.

Taylor glued the jars to a wood plank, stuffed strings of Christmas lights (http://www.houselogic.com/home-topics/christmas-lights/) into the jars, then hung the whole thing in her gazebo, giving the fixture a saloon-meets-fairyland feel.

It all took only four hours (not including drying time for the stain) and $31 to build. Can’t beat that!

How She Did It

Taylor takes you step-by-step in her tutorial (http://www.maryjanesandgaloshes.com/2011/08/mason-jar-light-tutorial.html). Here are the basics:

          •Decide how long you want the fixture and select a plank accordingly. Taylor used a 2-by-12-inch plank that she cut 4 1/2 ft. long.

          •Lay out the mason jars (without tops) and cut holes in the plank using a hole saw bit the size of the tops of your jars. Sand the board until smooth.

          •Drill two smaller holes in each end to attach rope to hang the fixture.

          •Stain if you like.

          •String 6 ft. of rope through the end holes.

          •Glue the open end of the jars into the plank. Wait 48 hours for the glue to cure.

          •Stuff jars with Christmas lights.


Lessons Learned

          •In her tutorial blog, Taylor says to use construction adhesive to glue in the jars. But she now refines that because construction adhesive “isn’t real pretty and can be seen through the glass.” She advises using a clear epoxy instead.

          •Choose lighting with a brown cord, which is less conspicuous than white or green cord.

          •Make sure you tie a secure knot when hanging the fixture. “Obviously, if this thing fell it would be a huge glass mess,” she says.

Here’s What it Cost

          •12 mason jars: $5 from a flea market.

          •Rope: $5.

          •Stain: Free, because Taylor used what she had on hand.

          •Wood: $10.

          •Christmas lights: $8 (off-season).

          •Adhesive: $3.

Total: $31

For more ideas on how to use mason jars, check out our 5 Bright Garden Lighting Ideas (http://www.houselogic.com/home-advice/landscaping-gardening/garden-lighting/) and 5 Deck Makeover Projects Under $300 (http://www.houselogic.com/home-advice/decks/deck-makeover-ideas-under-300/)

Like pergolas? Here’s the first in our series: A Pretty Pergola Goes Up in Only 14 Hours (http://www.houselogic.com/blog/outdoors/pergola-project/). Next week, we’ll spotlight another cool outdoor project. At the end of the month, you can vote for your favorite.

Be sure to see our other amazing projects series, including our laundry room redo ideas (http://www.houselogic.com/blog/laundry-rooms/laundry-room-organization-ideas/), our fabulous pantry projects (http://www.houselogic.com/blog/kitchens/pantry-organization-makeovers/), and these delightful stairway makeovers (http://www.houselogic.com/blog/home-improvement/staircase-makeovers/).

Send us your pergola projects and tips. Include them in the comments section.

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.