Month: May 2013

Home improvement return on investment

It wasn’t long ago – maybe a couple of decades – that a homeowner trying to sell a home could sink some money into some last-minute projects and expect to see a windfall when the home sold. That faded about 10 years ago and the return on investment (ROI) has continued a downward trend over the past couple of years.

According to an MSN Real Estate article, ( in 2005, ROI on home renovations was 85 percent; now it’s 57 percent. There are a couple of lessons here that homeowners should consider when it comes to return on investment for home improvement projects.

You won’t make a profit on home improvements.

When it comes to home improvement projects, the simple fact is that when it comes time to sell your home, major projects will add value to your home. The problem is that you won’t usually recoup the full cost of your investment. A big kitchen upgrade will increase the value of your home, but you’ll only see 72 percent ROI. An upgrade to your main bathroom may cost you $10,000, but will only add $6,800 in value.

Make home improvements for yourself, not the new homeowner.

You’ll get the best ROI if you plan to stay in your home for a few years. This will allow you to get use out of your new master bedroom, newly remodeled kitchen or refinished basement.

There are some last minute home improvement projects you should be doing.

The good news here is that these are projects that you can do yourself, they don’t cost a lot and they will show a major ROI when you sell.­­­

  • Clean and de-clutter every room in the house, removing excess and putting a lot of things in storage.

  • Brighten the appearance of your home with new, higher wattage light bulbs and let natural light in wherever possible.

  • A healthy lawn increases curb appeal. Concentrate on it when you know you’re going to list your home. Having your landscape professionally done prior to listing is a good idea.

  • Ask your REALTOR® for more suggestions. They will have more ideas for helping appeal to potential buyers, which will help you sell it quickly and for closer to your asking price.

Tips for mowing

One of the secrets to a nice, full, green lawn (besides seeding, fertilizing and watering, of course) is in how you approach mowing it. When it comes to mowing your lawn, even little things affect how your grass will look.

Armed with these six tips, your lawn will look its best and be easier to care for this summer and for summers to come!

Make sure your mower blade is sharp

A dull blade tends to rip the grass rather than cutting it clean. The ends will then dry out, giving your lawn a dull look. It also invites pests into your yard. It’s always a good idea to sharpen the blade during a mower tune-up at the beginning of spring.

Mow when your grass tells you to… not when the calendar does

Some people mow every Saturday like clockwork. Different types of grass thrive at different heights. Optimal height for cool-season grasses is 3-3.5 inches high; for warm-season grasses it’s 2-2.5 inches. You should allow it to grow one-third taller than its optimum height, then cut it back to that height. As the summer wears on, your grass will grow more slowly and you will not need to mow as often until it becomes dormant in the fall.

Don’t rush

Your mower works best at a certain speed and it’s usually best to err on the side of moving more slowly. Also, don’t skimp on mower coverage. There’s nothing more frustrating when you’re mowing than seeing a high strip appear after you just passed over it. Overlap each pass by at least three or four inches. While this may mean about five extra minutes mowing time, it ensures that you won’t have to make another pass because the grass is uneven.

Vary your mowing pattern

Grass will lean and tends to grow in the direction that it has been mowed. If you mow in the same clockwise pattern every time, your grass will grow in that pattern. Mowing in the same direction every time tends to compact the soil, which can cause visible ruts to form in your lawn. If you change the direction that you mow each time, your grass will grow more upright and you can avoid those nasty ruts.

Cut grass when it’s dry

Cutting wet grass is hard on your lawn and on your equipment. Wet grass clogs the mower and causes the blade to slow down, which gives you an uneven cut. When the grass is wet, it tends to lay in clumps or mat up, which blocks light to the newly mown grass.

To bag or not to bag

That is the question. There are schools of thought that say to collect the clippings, which will help you to avoid thatch. But clippings don’t cause thatch. If you are cutting no more than 1/3 of the grass’s height, not bagging the clippings is beneficial to your lawn. The cut grass decomposes quickly and returns nutrients to the soil.

Tree root damage

Trees add aesthetic value to your home by adding color and foliage. They also attract songbirds. From another standpoint, older trees not only add aesthetic value, the shade they offer also serves to block the sun, which will lower your energy costs in the summer. 

Tree roots can also cause damage to your home and property. With proper maintenance, though, trees can add to the value without costing you an arm and a leg. 

The roots of most trees grow down and out. As the tree grows the roots spread; they don’t care what they come in contact with, what they move or what they break in order to provide oxygen and nutrients to a tree. 

Lawn and landscape

Because the roots grow out so wide and draw so much from the soil, it deprives other plants and grasses from getting the nutrients they need to survive. Roots can cause lawn damage ranging from visible aeration roots to bare spots. Talk to the experts at your local nursery to get suggestions about soil erosion and the best seed and topsoil to help keep your lawn green and lush. 

Concrete and asphalt

Tree roots are strong and stubborn. They move practically anything with which they come into contact. They are capable of lifting or cracking sections of driveway and sidewalk, creating an unsightly and dangerous footpath. They can also break through asphalt driveways and cause them to break apart and flake away. 

Home foundations

While tree roots are unlikely to cause damage on new homes with properly sealed cement, in older homes where the foundations are cracked, invasive tree roots can imbed themselves, causing serious damage. They can cause indirect damage by causing soil shrinkage. If you think you may have a problem, call a foundation expert who may offer solutions. 


Anyone with clay pipes running to their sewer know the damage that can be caused by tree roots. Every growing season, the roots work their way in and eventually restrict the flow of water so much that the water backs up into the home. Proactive, preventative maintenance is advised; have a plumber auger the drain line every 12-18 months.

The problem with tree roots is that if you try to remedy the situation yourself, you could cause damage to the tree (even kill it.) Be safe. Call to get an expert’s advice about how to deal with tree roots.

The three most important words in home repair

If you’ve got a project that you can’t DIY, there are three words that are absolutely essential when it comes to hiring a professional to do the work: licensed, bonded and insured.

The truth of the matter is that anyone can say they are, and a few will even advertise they are when they’re not. It’s very rare, but it does happen. By asking to see proof, you will be able to establish that you will be protected in the event of damage.

Simply put, if they don’t produce current documentation, don’t hire them. They may do good work, but the big “what if” factor comes in to play. What if something happens? What if they cause damage to your home? What if an employee gets hurt? What if they cause damage to your neighbor’s property?


Being licensed means the contractor is registered to perform certain types of work. It is important to know what types of remodeling and repair requires a license. Electrical and plumbing usually requires a license, but other areas do as well. A quick call to your local building codes enforcement office will tell you what you need to know.


Being bonded means the contractor has deposited secured funds, with a bond company and that money is available to pay any claims by a customer against the company. Companies that issue bonds require that the contractor go through an underwriting process that includes data concerning professional credentials, personnel, financial statements and ethics. Bond money is controlled by a state agency and used to pay a variety of claims against the contractor.


Last, but certainly not least, any contractor you hire should be insured as a protection of your liability. If a worker is hurt on the job and the company is not insured, the claim would be filed against your homeowner’s insurance. You may also be liable for worker’s compensation. You will be forced to pay for any damage caused to your home by the contractor’s negligence or be forced to file a claim with your insurance, which means you still have to pay the deductible. If insurance denies the claim, you have to go through the time and expense to sue the contractor.

Seeing proof that they are licensed, bonded and insured will go a long way toward reducing any question you have about the contractor. Determining if the contractor is licensed, bonded and insured is the first important step in hiring a remodeling contractor. Not only will this help you determine if the contractor is eligible to do the work, it can potentially save you a small fortune if something happens.

Recycling, Restoring and Reusing – 12 Ways to Reuse Bread Tags

You may look upon this simple, ubiquitous household item as something you just have to throw away. But there are some legitimate uses for bread tags that may have you thinking twice before tossing them. They can help with organization, offer material for craft ideas and even household cleaning. 


If you’re reading this on a desktop, chances are you’ve got a gnarled mess of cords going into an outlet strip or surge protector. Identify the cords by writing what they are and clipping a bread tag near the plug. 

Have you ever grabbed a roll of tape, only to have to struggle with finding the end? Simply mark the end with a bread tag. This works on masking, electrical and packing tape. 

Everyone has keys on a ring that they have no idea what it’s used for because they thought they’d remember what lock it went to. Write it on the bread tag and put it on the key ring. 

Use a bread tag to store rubber bands rather than a ball so they won’t break or lose their elasticity. They can also be used to store plastic ties that you find holding toys in boxes and shipping electronics, which can also be reused. 

If you’re a gardener, bread tags can be used to identify your plants. Just write what the plant is and slip a tag onto your garden fence. 


No one likes doing laundry, and folding socks is perhaps the biggest pain in the neck. Save yourself some aggravation by clipping your socks together with a bread tag to hold them together throughout the whole laundering process. 

You can dry pantyhose, stockings and hose on a wire coat hanger by attaching them to the hanger with a bread tag. 


Got some gunk on the inside of your microwave or paint residue on a window? Bread tags are perfect as mini scrapers for getting that stuff out in hard to reach corners. 

You can turn a regular sponge into a scrubber sponge by wrapping a net produce bag around it and holding it in place with a bread tag.

Craft projects

Decorate wine tags to make things like bookmarks, wine charms and placeholders for knitters. 

Missing pieces from games? Have the kids decorate personalized bread tags. 

Spray paint them silver and gold to make a great clip for hanging lights around the holidays.

Of course, there are other ways to use bread tags. Some guitar players use them as picks, but that didn’t fit into any categories. What are some other ways to reuse bread tags?