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)
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.
&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;lt;a href=”http://polldaddy.com/poll/7006098/” mce_href=”http://polldaddy.com/poll/7006098/”&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;gt;Vote for your favorite stairway makeover&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;lt;/a&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;gt;
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.
•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?
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.
•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.
•Stain: Free, because Taylor used what she had on hand.
•Christmas lights: $8 (off-season).
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.