Handy Tips

DIY Ideas for the Home

JUNE 11, 2017

DIY Home Details
We all want our homes to represent us, these beautiful DIY projects are sure to inspire.

(Today’s features were chosen by Debbie from Refresh Restyle)


DIY Library Card Catalog by Sadie Seasongoods

DIY Industrial Pipe Towel Bar by Simply Beautiful Angela

How to make your Furniture Extraordinary with Upholstery Tacks by Just The Woods

DIY Industrial Shelves by Welsh Design Studio

DIY Farmhouse Art by Making It In The Mountains

How to Create a Beachy Colored Look with Paint by Rain On A Tin Roof

Your Ultimate Garage Organization Guide

By Jennifer Kelly Geddes


Jodi Jacobson/Getty Images

Your garage isn’t a giant storage pod, so why is it crammed with junk while your car sits in the driveway? The fix: garage organization, which not only gives your vehicle some breathing room, but can also boost your home’s market value when you eventually sell.

According to a survey of 500 Realtors®, 82% say a messy garage is a big turnoff for potential buyers. Don’t let yours do the same! Here’s how to whip your garage into shape.


Old newspapers, magazines, and catalogs that have been banished to the garage are never going to be read again—so just toss them, says Emma Gordon, an organization expert at Clutter.com. Ditto for those plastic trays that came with your plants (keep them around and you’ll be dealing with spiders), paint stirring sticks, disposable paint trays, and other remnants of DIY projects.

“Almost every garage in America has a flimsy aluminum tray coated in house paint, with a matching roller in a crumpled grocery bag,” says Gordon. The reality is, you’re not going to get another use out of these items. Odds are, you’ll forget you have them and buy them again anyway!

But take note: Gardening chemicals, old paint, and other hazardous materials need proper disposal so they don’t end up in the water supply, notes Julie Coraccio, an organization coach at Reawaken Your Brilliance in Raleigh, NC.

Call your local health department for the location of the nearest special waste drop-off site. Or if the items you’re chucking may still have value, consider holding a garage sale or donating instead. We’re talking about old PCs, printers, outgrown sporting equipment, deflated balls of every variety, too-small shoes, clothes, VCRs, and VHS and cassette tapes (no, they’re never going to make a comeback).


Once you’ve tossed and donated your unwanted items, start your garage organization by grouping what’s left into piles of like items. Some to consider: lawn and garden, automotive, tools, sports equipment, and seasonal decorations. Designate a section of the garage for each category and decide how to store them. Clear plastic bins are ideal for Christmas lights and wreaths, and shelves can hold liquids (paints, solvents, gardening sprays). For tools, including rakes, shovels, ladders, trowels, and other gardening implements, mount a pegboard.

“Get as much stuff off the floor as possible,” Gordon advises. If things aren’t hung up, they’ll morph into piles and those piles will become clutter. Once you have things arranged on your wall, take a dark marker and outline each tool so you’ll know exactly where to place it after it’s used.




Open wire or chrome metro shelving is another good way to tackle garage organization. Make areas for camping items (sleeping bags, lanterns, tents), sports equipment (skates, tennis balls, rackets), and pet stuff (shampoo, leashes, and toys).

“Label everything so you can easily find what you need—or create a map that you can keep near the garage door,” says Gordon. And don’t forget the ceiling! (Think S-hooks or simple planks laid across beams.) “This is a great place for things that you don’t access frequently, such as luggage or holiday decor,” she notes.

Lastly, set up a small “mud room” near the door with a bench or chair, tray or large basket for shoes, and a few hooks. You’ll be encouraging family and guests to take off their footwear and hang up their coats in your now nicely organized garage.


Photo by Organized Living

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Five Things to Do Now to Prepare Your Home for the Summer Heat

Test for Ventilation Leaks

Your air conditioner is functioning efficiently—great! If you have leaks in your home, though, it doesn’t really matter, because that perfectly cooled air is slowly leaking out. You can call in a professional, but it’s simple enough to conduct your own home energy audit first.

First, look for actual leaks: drafts in your windows and doors. If you do find any leaks, you can seal them up with caulk and weather stripping. Speaking of windows, MyHomeIdeas suggests a few additions to keep them cool: reflective film, sunscreen-fabric curtains, roller shades.

If you’ve never checked the attic or basement insulation in your home, it may have compacted over the years, which means it’s not covering everything it should. Check your insulation for leaks and gaps. Former Lifehacker contributor Timothy Dahl suggests you look around pipes and ductwork, specifically, and fill those areas using expanding foam. You should also make sure the attic floor is insulated without blocking vents. When it comes to adding large amounts of your own insulation, keep in mind: it can be a pretty messy job.

Set Up a Barrier for Bugs

Summer weather seems to bring out the bugs, and San Joaquin Pest Control explains why:

For the most part, many bugs and insects go into some form of hibernation during the colder months. Other insects migrate someplace warm to wait out the colder months. Still others decide the best way to stay out of the cold is to camp out in your home. You may see more bugs in your house in the winter months, although many of them make their homes inside walls and attics where you are unlikely to encounter them…The minute it starts warming up, the bugs of summer will begin to flock to your area.

In my old apartment, we’d get an influx of ants every year. If you don’t have a landlord to take care of pest control, or you just want to do it yourself, there are a number of ways to keep bugs from coming in.

First, make sure everything is properly sealed. And if you checked for leaks, you’ve already done this. Check the caulking around your windows and doors, then fix any drafts or gaps with new weather stripping and caulking. Spray your outdoor perimeter with a pesticide, along with baseboards, sinks, windows, and doors. There are specific options for creating an insect barrier, too: Ortho Home Defense and Raid Bug Barrier, for example.

Read all the applicable warnings on the pesticide and make sure your pets don’t get into it. It’s easy enough to make your own DIY natural repellant, and Apartment Therapy offers a simple solution here.

Change Your Ceiling Fan Direction

Yes, your ceiling fan is designed to rotate differently depending on the season. In winter months, it should rotate clockwise to help distribute heat that’s risen. In the summer, though, you should run your fan counter-clockwise at higher speeds to get a breeze going.

Check to see which direction the fans in your home are moving, and, if necessary, hit the small black switch near the base to change directions.

Prevent Water Damage

Summer weather isn’t just hot and sticky. It can also be stormy and, sometimes, dangerous. For example, hurricane season hits in the summer months, and with it often comes flooding. Make sure your house is protected, and as Quick and Dirty Tips points out, this starts with your foundation:

check your basement for cracks and leaks. Build up dirt or place grates outside your house to direct water away from the foundation. If the dirt you currently have has settled around your house, water will start running toward your house. As a general rule, a grate of one-inch-per-foot will ensure proper water runoff.

Again, make sure your windows and doors are properly sealed and caulked, too. You should also test your gutters. Turn on your garden hose and place it inside the gutter so water begins to run. Then, walk around your home’s perimeter and check the gutter. Look for water coming out of any places it shouldn’t. You should also check your gutters for dips or sags where water might pool near your house.

Inspect your roof to ensure it’s in good working order (remove any debris and leaves while you’re up there). You can call a professional, but if you want to do it yourself, HouseLogic lists a few issues to look out for:

  • Cracked caulk or rust spots on flashing.
  • Shingles that are buckling, curling, or blistering.
  • Missing or broken shingles.
  • Cracked and worn rubber boots around vent pipes.
  • Missing or damaged chimney cap…
  • Masses of moss and lichen, which could signal the roof is decaying underneath. Black algae stains are just cosmetic.

You can check your indoor ceiling for early signs of leaking, too. You might notice dark water stains or peeling paint. If you do find a leak, you want to call in a professional as soon as possible, especially if you live in an area that gets hit hard with summer rain.

Now is the time to make a few changes around your home to prepare for the extreme weather. With a few tweaks and inspections, it’s easy enough to make sure you’re in good shape by the time summer arrives.

How To: Test for Lead Paint

Used in most homes before being banned in the late 1970s, lead paint still exists undetected in many places. Before digging into any renovations on an old home, run this important test to protect your health.


There’s nothing quite like the joy of living in a home with character, craftsmanship, and history within its walls. Yet, while remodeling an older house is a fun and worthwhile adventure, it’s important to note that most homes built before 1978 contain—or once contained—paint made with lead, which we now know can cause a host of health problems, especially for children. Originally used for its fresh appearance, quick-drying properties, and resistance to moisture, lead-based paint was proven dangerous decades ago and its use was quickly discontinued. However, in many places, these original coats of paint are still present on walls, windowsills, and baseboards today. As a result, testing for lead paint is a critical step for anyone moving into an old home in the modern age, especially when renovations are on the horizon. Ensure your home is safe before settling in by following this guide.


Store-bought lead test kit with swabs and confirmation card
Utility blade or small, sharp knife


Two common types of DIY lead test kits can be found in most hardware and paint stores: rhodizonate-based kits and sulfide-based kits. The type you choose will depend on the color of paint you’re testing. Rhodizonate kits are known to give false positives on red and pink paints, while sulfide kits are known to give inaccurate results on dark paint.

Once you’ve chosen the type of test that promises the most accurate results, you’ll find that most kits of either kind facilitate several tests for less than $100, which isconsiderably cheaper than hiring someone to perform the test for you.

On each wall, windowsill, or baseboard where you’re testing for lead, choose spots where the paint seems to be at its thickest (particularly if you suspect there are additional layers of paint underneath). Here, use a utility blade, or small, sharp knife to make a quarter-inch incision, slicing through the surface paint and revealing all the previous layers beneath it.

Most lead test kits come with swabs that require precise handling in order to use each one correctly. Generally, the swabs must be pinched in two designated areas in order for the solid and liquid chemicals inside to mix together. Next, you’ll open the swab to reveal the soft tip and press down on the incision made in the paint for the length of time specified on the test’s packaging (usually a few seconds). Apply pressure in a circular motion to make sure the swab has ample contact with each layer of exposed paint.

Now, look for a sign. Many popular rhodizonate-based test swabs will turn red if lead is present, although red paint (even traces of it from a previous layer) can create a false positive. Sulfide-based kits will turn dark grey or black, which of course can create a false positive when dark paint is already present. Even if you choose the correct test kit for your visible paint, additional testing may be required depending on the colors you find underneath.

Should your swab comes back clean, you’re likely in the clear, but double-check your work to be safe. Most test kits come with a confirmation card, which you can use to make sure the chemicals on your swab are reacting properly. The card comes with traces of lead on it, which will cause the swab to change color when it comes in contact with the paper. Now, if your swab remains colorless, you’re out of the woods.


The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) offers a specific set of steps to take if the paint in your home tests positive for lead. Since scraping and sanding painted surfaces can release lead dust and create an airborne health hazard, it’s important to take these steps seriously and follow them to the letter before beginning any renovations:

• Using the EPA’s locator, find a certified inspector or risk assessor to conduct a thorough testing throughout your home.

• Review the written report provided to you upon the testing’s completion, and ask for your inspector or assessor’s recommendations on whether you should seek an abatement professional to remove all lead completely or come up with a strict maintenance plan to prevent exposure.

• If abatement is recommended, the EPA’s locator can also help you find a lead paint abatement specialist. Once you’ve hired a certified professional to remove lead from your home, they must notify the EPA at least five days before beginning the abatement process. Depending on how much time you’ve spent in the home already, blood tests may be needed in order to determine your family’s level of exposure and whether any medical response is in order.

• If a long-term maintenance plan is recommended rather than abatement, you’ll be given a set of instructions that include regular inspections and, in the case of renovations, working only with lead-safe certified home contractors who know exactly how to perform their work in a way that’s safe for all involved.

Rest assured that the patience required to accurately ensure your home is lead-free is always worth it in the end. After all, “safety first” isn’t just a catchphrase; it’s a must for keeping you and your loved ones healthy and happy in a home of any age.

6 Real Estate Secrets You Can Learn From House Flippers

You’ve seen the TV shows: Individual finds a foreclosed home in the best neighborhood in town, scoops up said home for a steal, fixes it up, and sells it for a significant profit. What those DIY and home improvement shows don’t necessarily show you, though, is how tough flipping houses for a profit can actually be.

But professional house flippers have insights that can be helpful to just about anyone who’s looking to buy or sell real estate. Here are the six secrets house flippers know that you can apply to your own real estate adventures.


1. Location always rules

It’s the age-old real estate adage: “Location matters.” For flippers and buyers alike, location is one of the more important criteria when buying. “I have learned that the best homes that sell for the most money and quickly are in areas where people want to live,” says Justin Udy, a real estate agent with Century 21 Everest Realty Group in Midvale, UT. If you’re hesitating in buying a home because of a locational factor — it backs up to a busy road, for instance — don’t buy it. Down the line, other buyers will hesitate for the same reason.

2. Consider resale as you go

Of course you want to put your own stamp on your new home, but you should also avoid superpersonalized design choices. Just because you like shag carpet doesn’t mean potential buyers will love it just as much when it comes time to sell. In addition, don’t overinvest in design upgrades. Flippers make a conscious decision not to “overupdate” their homes (for instance, adding marble tile when the comps all have ceramic), and as a buyer you should also consider your comps (otherwise known as your neighbors’ homes) when renovating your space.

Consider the upgrades and fixes that will be attractive to buyers who want to be in your neighborhood, adds interior designer and licensed real estate agent David Schneider of Schneider Kennedy Design in St. Louis, MO. “For instance, in some neighborhoods, laminate flooring is fine, while in another it is taboo,” he says.

3. Aim for instant equity

House flippers know not to buy homes at market value — they need to be well-underpriced (like a foreclosure) so the flippers have immediate equity. This allows flippers to quickly make repairs and sell without having to wait for the market to catch up to the price they want.

Homebuyers can adapt this rule for their own buying strategy. It’s not easy to find a house that’s extremely underpriced — and if you do, it’s probably not one you’d want to live in while you’re fixing it up — but you can aim to buy a lower-priced home in the neighborhood you want, live in it and make modest repairs, and then sell it years later for a profit. By that time, the market value should (hopefully) surpass your purchase price plus improvement expenditures.

4. Be diligent with inspections

Surprises usually aren’t happy news for a home flipper. A home may look OK on the surface, but professional flippers know that problems can lurk beneath what you see. Thorough inspections are key to help minimize fix-up costs — and make sure you know exactly what you’re getting into so that you can plan your budget accordingly. These inspections are essential to understanding the difference between a cosmetic fixer-upper and a serious rehab.

The same rule applies to homebuyers. When your HVAC or plumbing breaks unexpectedly because problems weren’t pointed out during an inspection, you might have to save up more cash before you can afford to make the cosmetic fixes you’d planned when you submitted the offer.

5. Have a backup plan

In other words: Always consider the worst-case scenario. For flippers, the goal is to buy, renovate, and sell, but what if the listing just sits on the market and those dreaded “carrying costs” start to add up? Sometimes a change of course is necessary when the local real estate market is soft and it doesn’t make financial sense to list your home for sale. Then what? “If the entire market turned around and no more homes were selling, ask yourself, ‘Could I lease this property and make a monthly profit?'” says Justin Udy. “A long-term exit strategy should be considered with any investment.”

6. Hire professionals

When it comes to home repairs, the old saying “You get what you pay for” rings true. Home improvements and upgrades affect both your enjoyment of your new home while you live in it and also your ability to sell it quickly (and at a good price) when you’re ready to move on.

“Seasoned professionals are worth their weight in gold,” says Udy. “Your goal is to maximize perceived value [when selling a home], so craftsmanship is important. Surround yourself with professionals. Get multiple bids and hire the person that seems to be the best for the job and most realistic — not the most expensive. I found the cheapest bid never does the best work and the most expensive just costs more. Remember, good work is not cheap and cheap work is not good. Just find someone good, professional, and competent.”

Don’t Freeze Up: 5 Tips to Winterize Your Home

  • Parker Beauchamp


Extreme cold weather can be hard on both you and your home, bringing with it added exposure and liabilities during the harsh winter season. As temperatures drop, the more susceptible your home becomes to added vulnerabilities.

So how you can reduce common homeowner risks that come along with the frigid winter weather? Don’t freeze up when it comes to knowing the necessary precautions needed when cold weather, snow and ice hit your area. Follow these tips to prepare for impending winter weather conditions.


1. Check the Exterior of Your Home

Protecting your home from the inside out is the first step to staying warm during freezing weather conditions.

The key to keeping the quality of your home in good condition throughout the harsh winter — such as below zero temperatures, snow, and ice — is proper preparation of the exterior of your home. Winterize your home prior to the seasonal change by checking the condition and quality of your home’s many external facets:








2. Maintain Sidewalks and Driveways

Along with cold weather and snow comes ice — which means driveways and sidewalks tend to become more dangerous. To eliminate unnecessary falls or injuries, always maintain your walkways, porches, patios and driveways by shoveling, plowing or salting.

Each home and surrounding property has different needs that need to be addressed and tended to. Determine a method that suites your budget and schedule availability, and remember to always remain cautious when walking on outside surfaces during the winter.


3. Wrap Pipes in Insulation

The last unpredicted event you want to occur in the middle of the winter is the bursting or freezing of pipes. Fortunately, this can be avoided by wrapping pipes in insulation (such as pipe sleeves or electrical heat tape).

Some pipes that are most likely to be at risk and must be cared for prior to the winter season are:

Exposed pipes in unheated areas of your home.

Exterior pipes.

Plumbing pipes.


You should also consider adding an extra layer of safety to your home, so you can be immediately notified should a pipe burst or leak. By implementing equipment, such as a smart water leak detector, you can receive instant notifications if a pipe is leaking, to prevent water damages that could be detrimental to you most valuable assets.

Remember, if you plan to head south for the winter, shut off your main water supply and set your furnace no lower than 55 degrees. These quick and easy-to-do steps can mean the difference of whether you file a major homeowners claim when you return home.


4. Use Your Thermostat Appropriately

Chances are, your initial reaction to dropping temperatures is to crank up the heat. Unfortunately, doing this too quickly or without preparation can be harmful to your home’s heating system.

Avoid drastically changing your thermostat to eliminate issues of malfunction and dramatically increasing energy costs and usage. One way to easily control these adjustments is by purchasing a smart thermostat. Smart thermostats allow you to remotely control temperatures with the click of a button, via smartphone, tablet or laptop. Begin changing temperatures gradually so you don’t cause a heat wave for your home and family members!


5. Assemble an Emergency Kit

In the event you experience a blizzard or freezing temperatures, you should always have a backup plan in place.

Consider creating an emergency plan that consists of critical resources, such as:

Food and water.

Candles and/or flashlights.

Blankets or other alternative heat sources (i.e. fireplaces, kerosene lamps).


Charged communication devices.

Always inform your family members of emergency backup plan strategies, tools and resources so you can eliminate a scramble in the event action is needed.

Interested in learning how you can enhance the safety and security within your home? Download the free ebook, “Smart Homes, Smarter Insurance” for helpful tips.

11 Things in Your Garage to Throw Away Right Now

They’re just wasting space at this point.



If you are running out of storage space in your workshop, it may be because you are piling the stuff you use on top of the stuff you don’t. Instead of adding more shelving, do an audit of your belongings and cut the cord on what you don’t need.

Old Paint

Painting is the most popular DIY project that we all take on at some point. Whether we need a gallon or a quart we usually end up with a bit of extra paint that we no longer need. It can be wise to save it for touch ups later, but usually the paint ends up in a closet along with the ten other cans we have from previous projects. To dispose of paint that you no longer need, call your local paint retailer and ask if they recycle paint (most do). After that, just drop it off and enjoy your new found storage space.

 Used Paintbrushes and Pans



If you buy quality paint brushes and clean and care for them after each use, then they will last a long time. But when you don’t clean your brushes and let them dry with paint on them, it’s difficult to bring them back to life, especially if they are of cheap quality. If you’ve got a bunch of old paint brushes that are past their prime, or pans that are no longer serviceable, it’s time to toss ’em.


CDs and DVDs



The garage is where CDs and DVDs go to die, or at least to never been seen again. Reclaim those boxes and shelves by donating these items to charity. It’s unlikely you’ll be needing these relics ever again, which is why you put them in a box to be forgotten in the first place.




Many of us collect things, often times very obscure things. Regardless of street value your collection may have a lot of personal value to you. If you’ve got the room to keep your collection, then by all means display them proudly and enjoy. But if your Hard Rock Cafe shot glass collection is just collecting dust, then donate it to your local fraternity or Goodwill.

Outdated Electronics



Are you holding onto your old TV because you hope to one day use it in a guest room, or you need your VCR for those spontaneous viewings of wedding video? Those are not good enough reasons to clutter your home with outdated technology. Donate them and then convert your precious media into digital format for future safe keeping.

Duplicate Tools



Over time we begin to acquire more tools than we actually need or use. Multiple socket sets, adjustable wrenches, and screwdrivers are the main culprits. As you take inventory of what tools you already have, set aside the ones you don’t need and either sell them or donate them to make room for the tools you use.

Tool Cases and Bags



If you’re a contractor on the go, then plastic molded tool cases are required to transport your tools safely from one jobsite to the next. But for most DIYers who don’t stray far from their home workshops, tool cases and bags take up much needed storage room in closets or on shelves. Resale value might take a hit if you don’t have the original storage case, but otherwise if you store your tools and chargers on shelves, then you can dump those cases and save some space.

Outdated Automotive Tools and Equipment



That timing light you used 20 years ago on your classic Bronco—a car that you no longer own—can probably be donated to a local vocational school along with the other automotive gear that’s just not relevant to today’s modern vehicles. When is the last time you changed your oil? If you can’t remember then it’s time to get rid of the pan and filter wrench that are just taking up space.

Old Tools



There is something nostalgic about old tools. They remind us of the deck we built on our first house, or they were passed down to us by our parents or grandparents. Quality hand tools are meant to be cherished and can be used for many years to come, but older power tools have a limited lifespan and as they get near the end they can become dangerous to use. Always check for fraying cords and anything that feels loose before using an older power tool. If something doesn’t look right, then just don’t use it. The risk isn’t worth it, and there’s no reason to keep a power sander from the Carter administration around for sentimental reasons.

Sporting Goods



Is there any good reason to keep old skateboards and baseball bats that haven’t been touched in 20 years? Get rid of them. If you get inspired to start skating again, then buy another one. Sporting goods are often awkward things to store and they can take up a lot of space. Donate them to Goodwill or sell them on Craigslist or a sports resale store.





Books are beautiful, but they also take up a ton of storage space. If you can part with books you’ve already read or have no intention of, then donate them to your local library or school for someone else to enjoy.

7 Important Home Renovation Tips You Might’ve Missed

by Andrea Davis



New year, new you, right? Sure! If you’re like most people, the new year is chock-full of health- and wellness-related resolutions–but why stop there? Your home could use some improvements in the new year too. If a major home improvement is on your list of resolutions, it pays to have your plans established before you get started. So, to avoid your renovations becoming irritations, here are some budgeting and organizational guidelines to help you get where you’re going:

1. Prioritize by necessity.

It’s important to tackle any serious home maintenance problems before an aesthetic remodel begins. If you plan to renovate an entire space, practical improvements will be handled as construction moves forward. But, if your project is strictly design-based, running into overlooked structural problems will mean additional costs.

2. Weigh the costs of hiring a pro.

Depending on the scope of your project, hiring a professional is a good idea. If you’re repainting an accent wall, consider it DIY-able. But, with projects like additions and remodels, or major installations (HVAC, plumbing or new lighting) a pro is an absolute must. A professional will work according to deadlines, save you money on materials and avoid major mistakes that will drastically change the timeline (and cost) of your renovation.

3. Time the project realistically.

If you need a contractor, it’s important to book a job several months in advance (this especially applies to local remodeling contractors). Before you book a contractor, make sure you understand your project’s timeline. Lofty expectations for a completion date will make your remodel difficult for everyone involved.

4. Check on permits.

Codes vary from city-to-city, so investigating local ordinances is extremely important for your renovation timeline. Permits are not free–budget accordingly and rely on your contractor to acquire any necessary paperwork.

5. Keep a “slush fund” handy.

Setbacks are a part of any renovation. If your house is particularly old or has some (loveable) quirks, your timeline shouldn’t be overly rigid–allow some leeway for hangups. Also, it’s important to setup a secondary account to cover any unforeseen problems. A contractor will help you address any issues that pop-up and quote them accordingly.

6. Avoid reusing materials.

If you hire a general contractor, materials usually clock in at a cheaper price. But, if you decide to buy your own materials it’s important to avoid reused items. Beware of salvaged material as well–while recovered items are fine for certain projects (building furniture from reclaimed wood is a popular alternative to buying new pieces), the quality of salvage is never certain. Allowing your contractor to purchase new materials is always preferable to any other alternatives.

7. Be prepared to move out.

If your renovation is extensive, moving out for the duration (or at least the loud part) of the remodel is strongly recommended. Aside from the volume and mess, there can be fumes and emissions that are unhealthy–especially for young children. Also, it can be difficult for the contractor to work around your sleep/work schedule.

Your Winter Home Maintenance Checklist

Keep your home and yard safe and running smoothly as temperatures drop and activity moves indoors

December 5, 2015
Fluffy snow and sparkling icicles may make for a winter wonderland, but they can also bring on drafts, fallen tree limbs and worse (hello, ice dams). Avoid spending your holidays handling winter-related disasters with a bit of preventative maintenance — we spoke with experts to get the lowdown on the best ways to prevent ice dams, frozen pipes and other winter woes.
1. Stay ahead of ice dams. Ice dams form because the edges of a home’s roof are colder than the upper regions (where more insulation is below), causing ice to form around the eaves. Snow melts above, and the melted snow backs up behind a “dam” of ice, potentially causing leaks and permanent damage to the roof and home — if you’ve ever experienced an ice dam on your roofline, you know what a nightmare it can be. We spoke with Gerry Dunleavy, owner of Gerry Dunleavy Construction in Winchester, Massachusetts, to find out how to prevent ice dams from forming, and what to do if you notice one getting started. (Hint: Prevention is far easier than treatment!)

Before winter weather sets in:

  • Remove debris from gutters — water can back up, causing leaks and ice dams or damage to your roof and siding.
  • Inspect and upgrade attic insulation and ventilation.
  • Purchase a roof rake.
  • Remove snow as quickly as possible after storms — use your roof rake to regularly remove snow from the roof of your home (or hire someone to do this for you).

What to do if you notice the beginnings of an ice dam:

  • Carefully remove snow and ice if possible without damaging roof and gutters.
  • If you have heat cables, turn them on. Heat cables cannot prevent or fully remove ice dams, but can melt enough of the ice to create a channel for water to flow out, preventing some damage.
2. Keep an eye on trees. Big snowfalls can settle onto tree limbs, making them heavy and more prone to breaking — which can be especially dangerous if a tree is within reach of your house. Ease the burden on your trees by brushing off snow after each snowfall, using a broom to extend your reach. Don’t shake the tree to remove snow, since this can cause brittle limbs to break. Proper tree maintenance in the fall, paired with regular snow removal, should help prevent breakage — but if a limb does fall during winter, have it removed as soon as weather permits.
3. Keep paths cleared of snow and ice. Regular shoveling (or snow blowing) is the best way to keep walkways, driveways and sidewalks safe and ice-free all winter. Keep some pet- and plant-safe ice melt or sand on hand to provide traction on stairs and other slippery areas, and flag the edges of your driveway and sidewalk so you know where to stop shoveling when the snow gets deep.

If you plan to be away during the season (and your area gets snow), hire a service in advance to clear the snow while you are away. Some cities give tickets if you allow the sidewalk in front of your home to become impassable, because this creates unsafe conditions for pedestrians.

4. Have your fireplace cleaned. If you haven’t done so yet, have your fireplace cleaned by a certified chimney sweep. Regular cleaning is a necessary safety measure for wood-burning fireplaces and wood stoves, since buildup of creosote (from past fires) inside the chimney can potentially cause a house fire. Gas fireplaces should be checked too —even though gas is a clean-burning fuel, there could be an old nest or other debris blocking the chimney.
5. Prevent frozen pipes. Because water expands as it freezes, frozen pipes can burst, leading to extensive water damage and costly repairs. We spoke with Gaëlle Gagne, owner and vice president of Galeforce Home Services in Auburn, New Hampshire, to find out how to keep pipes safe in winter.

Steps to prevent pipes from freezing in winter:

  • Insulate pipes — at least those by windows and doors, and in unheated areas of the home.
  • Disconnect your hose from the outside hose bib (outside faucet).
  • If prone to freezing, leave faucets dripping slightly — the theory is that running water does not freeze.
  • Keep the heat set no lower than 55 degrees Fahrenheit (12.7 degrees Celsius) when you are away.

Too late? Here’s what to do if a pipe freezes:

  • Turn on the tap of the frozen pipe and leave it open while treating the pipe.
  • Allow warm air to flow safely to the affected area — always use any heat source (electric heating pad, blow dryer, space heater) safely to avoid potential harm and damage to your home and its occupants.
  • If you’ve found one frozen pipe, check all the taps in the house — if only a drip comes out, there is likely another frozen pipe.
  • If you cannot access the frozen pipe, or if your efforts to thaw it do not work, call a licensed plumber.



6. Protect entryway flooring.Between tracked-in snow, ice, road salt and sand, entryway floors can really take a beating in the winter. Increase the longevity of your flooring by using floor mats both inside and outside each entrance to your home. Provide a boot scraper or brush outside for removing excess snow, and a waterproof tray inside for placing wet shoes and boots.

7. Check your emergency supplies. With winter storms comes more potential for power outages — be prepared with fresh bottled water, shelf-stable foods, flashlights and batteries, first-aid supplies and a hand-cranked radio and smartphone charger.



8. Keep heating system running smoothly. If you notice any strange new noises coming from your heaters, or if one area of the house suddenly seems colder, have the system looked at right away, as these can be signs something is wrong. Wondering how to properly maintain your heating system? Gagne shares these tips:

  • If you heat with oil, have your furnace or boiler cleaned every year.
  • If you heat with gas, you can have it done every three years or so.
  • Make sure to change the air filters in your furnace regularly.
  • When using high-efficiency heating systems, make sure that PVC vent pipes are cleared of snow and debris.



9. Check batteries in smoke and carbon monoxide detectors monthly. This is especially important during winter, when we keep windows closed and use wood-burning stoves and fireplaces more often. Make sure you have smoke and carbon monoxide detectors in each bedroom, on each floor of the house and in the kitchen. Check detectors monthly and change batteries as needed.


10 Great Painting Tips

By  – November 15th, 2015 11:23 am

Most of us dread room painting. It’s monotonous, messy, and time-consuming. If there ever was an activity that could benefit from thoughtful tips and techniques that make it easier, neater, and more all-around pleasant, it would be room painting. Here is a small collection of painting tips that we like. They mostly apply to house painting, but many of them can be applied to all sorts of domestic and hobby painting.

We’d love to hear what some of your favorite painting tips are. Please leave them in the comments below.



Instead of using painter’s tape to mask off above baseboards and other areas you don’t want painted when painting trim, use a so-called paint shield. They are inexpensive and come in various styles and sizes. You can also use a wide putty knife, a dust pan, even a piece of cardboard with a straight edge. The shield is especially useful when painting baseboard on a carpeted floor.
Link: How to Paint Trim



To raise up chairs and other pieces of relatively light furniture for painting, drill some temporary screws into the bottom. Just be careful not to split the wood. Raising the piece up will keep it from sticking to whatever you are painting it on and will raise it up a little higher for easier access. Link: Paint a Room Without Making a Mess!



To give you a better, neater way of wiping paint off of your brush (so you don’t get it in the gutter of the lid and down the sides), create a drip stopper/squeegee in the middle of the can. You can use a bent coat hanger for this or even just put a taut rubber band around the can and across the center of the top. Link: Paint a Room Without Making a Mess!



To prevent paint from pooling in the gutters of your cans (and spattering everywhere when you tap the lid shut), sink a few drain holes in the gutter with a nail or ice pick. Link: Jimmy DiResta’s Jimmy Tips: Paint Brushes & Cans



Trim the crusty, splayed edges of your rollers at a tapered angle to prevent the edge of the brush from creating tracks as you paint. Link: Secrets to Using and Preserving Paint Brushes and Rollers



For a quick and clean masking material for door knobs and fixtures, use aluminum foil to cover them. Link: Aluminum Foil Paint Protector



Aluminum foil can also be used to cover the inside pan (extending over the edges) of a paint tray so that clean-up is little more than balling up the foil. Cover will several layers in case the foil tears.
Link: Lowes Fix in Six



You can make a quick and handy paint receptacle and brush holder out of a plastic milk jug. Link: My Home Look Book



You can take your favorite acrylic paint, in any color, and turn it into fabric paint simple by adding Textile Medium to it that you can get in any craft store. Link: 10 Painting Tips Tricks You Never Knew



When cleaning brushes, you never want to let the brush rest on the bottom of the solvent container. An easy way to create a brush holder that suspends the brush to the desired height in the solvent is simply by using a splayed-out binder clip in the manner seen here. Link: Secrets to Using and Preserving Paint Brushes and Rollers