Month: December 2011

Want to Dress Up Your Kitchen For The New Year?

How a little “magic” can make a big difference


granite countertop kitchen.jpg


Remodeling your kitchen can run anywhere from $1,200 for new countertops to $50,000 or more for a complete overhaul and the process can take anywhere from a week to six months or longer.


To spruce up your countertops, drawer fronts or appliances with a new look without the big investment (of money or time), however, Carter Oosterhouse has a few suggestions.

stainless steel kitchen drawers.jpg

Featured in a “10 Minute Kitchen Makeover” segment on the Rachel Ray Show, Oosterhouse touts the ease, affordability and flexibility of adhesive faux finishes. You can get faux stainless steel to apply to your appliances, or even drawers and cabinet doors if you’re going for an industrial look. One sheet, about three feet wide by 26 to 28 inches long, runs about $20.


For your countertops, he suggests a faux granite — the sheets are also about three feet by 30 inches, and run about $30 per sheet.

stainless fridge.jpg

Another stainless steel finish option is stainless steel paint. Thomas’ Kitchen Art offers Refrigerator and Range/Dishwasher kits to refinish your appliances with a paint that contains flecks of real steel. The process is a bit more involved than Oosterhouse’s peel and stick solution — requiring three coats of paint topped with one to three coats of clear urethane. See Consumer Reports’ video review of the paint here.

For the Handyman (or Woman) in Your Home

4 cool gift ideas to make those odd-jobs a little easier

Whether you’re giving to an avid or accidental DIY’er, the experts agree these gifts are sure to please:

  1.  Keychain flashlight. Have you ever noticed you never have a flashlight handy when you need one? Often times, a small but powerful light will more than do the trick — like the Arc-AAA LED Flashlight or LD01 Keyring Flashlight by Fenix, reviewed at
  2. Tool bag.  Chances are there are one or more tool boxes floating around, but a rugged tool bag with a shoulder strap is lighter, can be carried hands free, and set on most any surface without fear of scratching — like the well reviewed tool bags from Veto Pro Pac, or the Dewalt Tradesman’s Tool Bag, both available at Amazon.
  3. Laser level and stud finder. Whether your project is big (like adding on a room) or small (like hanging a picture), a level is an indispensable tool. Consumer Reports rated the Black & Decker Projected Crossfire Auto Level Laser a “best buy” (available at Amazon).
  4. 4Multi Tool. Knives, pliers, wire cutters, scissors, ruler, screwdriver and more — all in one small tool. Popular (and well-reviewed) choices include the Gerber Crucial F.A.S.T. Tool (at GerberGear), the Leatherman New Wave Multitool and (at Amazon) and the Kelvin.23 All In One Tool (at Think Geek).

Deadline Approaching for Home Improvement Tax Credits

If you’re considering eligible projects, now’s the time

In addition to your mortgage interest deduction, your home may entitle you to other tax credits this year, including for certain home improvement projects. The tax credits were extended from last year, but at lower levels — and installation (not simply the purchase) must happen before the end of the year for the expense to be eligible.

Energy-efficient home improvements eligible for the federal tax credits include:

  • Exterior windows including skylights and storm windows
  • Insulation, exterior doors and roofs, including improvements such as caulking, weather stripping and sealing
  • HVAC systemsincluding central air, heat pump, furnace, boiler, water heater or biommass stove

To qualify, windows, doors, insulation and roofs must be expected to last no less than five years (a two-year warranty is required to demonstrate this) and must be installed in (or on) your principal residence.

For more details on Energy Efficient Home Tax Credits, visit The Alliance to Save Energy and Energy Star.

Home improvements made for medical reasons — such as installing entry/exit ramps, modifying hardware on doors, installing railings and support bars in bathrooms, etc. — may also be eligible for tax credits. The “Capital Expenses” section of IRS Publication 502 has more detail.





Home For The Holidays

11 different wreaths to celebrate the season

In addition to the crowds, the shopping, the baking and the eating, the holidays bring an opportunity to dress up your home inside and out. From traditional to edible, the options are endless when it comes to wreaths.

1.         Stay with tradition — hang a fragrant evergreen wreath on your front door. You can buy one pre-made or make your own (see Dolores Monet’s site for instructions)

2.        In the Southwest?Make a succulent wreath like this one featured in Better Homes & Gardens (how-to instructions on their site here)

3.        Light up the night— hang a wreath of lights on your front door (be sure to tape the electric cord securely out of the way) like this one from Real Simple

4.        More is better— why hang one when you can hang three? Like these from Marth Stewart (available at Grandin Road)

5.        Bring on the bling — satin ribbon, costume jewelry, faux gems… if it glitters, sparkles or gleams, it goes on this pretty wreath (featured on Better Homes and Gardens)

6.        Want something different? Hang a beautiful basket full of seasonal flowers and greens like paperwhites, juniper and moss (like this one from Southern Living)

7.        Hang ‘em high — if you have the room, this wreath chandelier (see the how-to on Martha Stewart) packs a punch


8.        The things you can do with an old bike tire — add some glitter, a few starfish and some coral and voila! For step by step instructions, go to DIYNetwork.

9.        Simple and surprising — lights and lacy doilies make for a striking combination (featured on Martha Stewart)

10.      Hang it… or eat it? For the bakers, this gorgeous wreath from Fancy Flours relies on snowflake cookie cutters, sparkling sugar, silver dragees, royal icing and a lot of cookies.

11.        Protect your door — use a door hanger for your wreath rather than driving a nail into it. Try the “Clever Hanger” or the “Zip ‘n Hang” for easy-to-use, invisible door hangers.