Home Improvements

5 Ideas to Increase the Value of a Basement

Photo courtesy Shannon Dittmann

The basement doesn’t just have to be a space to throw all of that extra storage. Show it as usable space, and it may even help you increase the value of the home. Basement remodels typically recoup about 70 percent of their costs at time of resale, which can add a tremendous amount of value to your home.

Making it the coolest room in the house may not be too difficult either. After all, basements tend to stay cooler during the summer months, making this an ideal place for the family to hang out when the weather heats up outside.

1. Create an In-Home Theater

Basements not only are typically cooler than the rest of the home, but they’re also usually darker. For that reason, they’re an excellent place to add a theater to watch movies on those hot summer nights. Best of all, you don’t have to do a complete basement remodel, with costs around $50,000, to gain this space. A TV mount costs around $250, while built in seating costs around $840 – $1,680. (Just be sure for safety to completely waterproof the room before running wires through the basement.)

2. Make a Children’s Play Area

Basements are often neglected areas of the home, used primarily for storage and not much else. So why not turn your unused basement space into a new playroom for your kids?

Start with the staircase. Most basements have only partially finished staircases so installing a new one will help make the space more comfortable as well as safer. Next, ensure that you have egress windows installed, and that the basement is fully waterproofed. From there, you can carpet the floors to make the space more comfortable, and move your children’s toys downstairs to make more space in their rooms.

3. Create an Adult Entertainment Space

Photo courtesy Shannon Dittmann

If you love to entertain, consider building a bar into your basement. Basements are already the ideal place to install a wine cellar, so why not take it a step further and put in an entertainment area and bar for parties as well? Basements that walkout onto patios can be the ideal place for summer entertaining, giving guests a way to get in out of the heat or a summer rainstorm. Consider putting in a tile floor to give the room a finished look and keep the floors easy to clean. Match the bar countertop to the color of the floors for a fresh, stylish appearance.

4. Create a Garden Utility Room

If you spend any time out in the garden, you probably know about the dirt, tools, and pots that accompany this hobby. Basements are a great place to install a utility sink and counter, and to store all of your garden paraphernalia. Installing a french drain and a hose will make cleanup a snap, while shelving placed just beneath the windows will give your plants a place to sprout before you take them outside for the summer.

5. Create a New Family Room

Photo courtesy Shannon Dittmann

Family rooms often get even more use than the more formal living room, so family rooms in a cooler basement can get a lot of use during the summer months. Basements finished as family rooms may be coveted by homebuyers too, giving you the maximum return on investment. This includes not only tiling or carpeting the floors, but also putting up drywall to complete the walls as well. Consider adding a suspended acoustic ceiling to help insulate the basement from the sounds above, while making the rooms more attractive at the same time.

 

 

10 Reasons to Get a Fire Pit

On the fence about adding one? Find out the benefits and which type is right for you

By Laura Gaskill

Photo by Michael Prokopchak, ASLA – Discover patio design inspiration

1. Fire pits are crowd-pleasers. Lighting up a fire is a natural way to create a focal point at an outdoor gathering. Whether it’s the hypnotic dancing flames or some sort of primal memory, the fact is that people love to gather around fire. And if you’re looking for an excuse to invite people, all you need to say is “We’re lighting up the fire pit tonight. Want to come over?”

 

Photo by Michael Tebb Design – Look for landscape design inspiration

2. A fire pit doesn’t have to be wood-burning. Wood fires are glorious, and in the right conditions, a wood-burning fire pit can be the perfect backyard addition. But if you have close neighbors or live in an area with restrictions on wood burning, you’re not out of luck. Just make yours a gas or propane model instead of wood-burning.

 

Photo by Urban Oasis – Browse patio ideas

Fire Pit Fuel Options

Wood Fire Pit

  • Pros: Wood-burning fire pits are straightforward to build, with many options available at all price points. If you’re DIY-savvy, you can even build your own.
  • Cons: Wood fires contribute to air pollution, and their use is banned or restricted in some areas. Sparks flying out of the pit can also increase fire dangers; using a protective screen can help minimize this risk.

Natural Gas Fire Pit

  • Pros: Lighting the fire in a gas fire pit is as easy as flipping a switch, which may mean you use it more often. Gas fire pits can often be installed where wood fire pits cannot, such as on decks.
  • Cons: Installation is more expensive and is dependent on being able to connect to an underground natural gas line. Once installed, you cannot move the fire pit.

Propane Fire Pit

  • Pros: Like natural gas, a propane-burning fire pit is quick and easy to light. Some propane fire pits are free-standing and can be moved easily.
  • Cons: You will need to monitor propane levels and haul the (heavy) canister back and forth to the store regularly for refills. Some (but certainly not all) propane fire pits look a bit clunky. It’s not easy to hide a bulky propane tank, and some pits do this better than others.

 

Photo by Outdoor Dreams – Browse patio photos

3. A fire pit lights up the night. All the fancy landscape lighting in the world can’t compete with the flickering blaze of a real fire. Use the warm light emanating from your fire pit to light up a far corner of your yard without having to fuss with electricity.

 

Photo by Tierney Conner Design Studio – Browse patio ideas

4. A fire pit can work in spaces both large and small. Even a compact urban yard or patio can handle a fire pit. In fact, it’s sure to become the centerpiece of a small yard. In a large yard, sprawl out with a big fire pit surrounded by bench seating for a crowd.

 

Photo by Urrutia Design – Discover patio design ideas

5. A fire pit is an outdoor feature you can use year-round. You would be hard pressed to find a backyard feature as versatile as the fire pit. In the summer, roast s’mores by starlight. In fall and winter, wrap yourself in a thick blanket and sip hot cider or cocoa while gathered with friends and family around the cozy blaze.

 

Photo by Hsu McCullough – Browse patio photos

6. A fire pit creates a cozy atmosphere for two. Fire pits aren’t just good for parties, they are equally suited to romantic nights for two. You may be tempted to skip the wine bar when you can sip vino beside the fire in your own backyard as stars twinkle overhead.

 

Photo by Maric Homes – Discover patio design inspiration

7. Fire pits are available at all price points. From simple fire bowls and DIY projects to elaborate custom designs with built-in bench seating, there is sure to be a fire pit that fits your budget. Whichever style you choose, don’t skimp on safety, and be sure to place the fire pit on a nonflammable surface.

 

 

Photo by Michael Kelley Photography – Discover landscape design inspiration

Fire Pit Safety Tips

  • Fire pits should be at least 10 feet from your home or other structures. Some city and county codes may require an even greater distance, so be sure to check before you build.
  • Don’t place a fire pit beneath a tree or overhang.
  • Don’t burn on “spare the air” days if these are used in your area.
  • Don’t put a wood-burning fire pit on a deck. A gas fire pit won’t send out dangerous sparks, making it the safer choice.
  • Educate your kids about fire safety, and always supervise children around an open flame, even when you’re sure they know the rules.
  • Keep a container of water, a hose, a fire extinguisher or all three on hand whenever you light up the fire pit.

 

Photo by Design by Misha – Browse landscape photos

8. You can even use a fire pit to make dinner. Make a backyard campout feel even more authentic by cooking dinner over the open flames. Cooking over a gas fire pit is not advised, but if you have a wood fire pit, you’ve got options: Place a grill rack over the fire to cook above the flames, or wrap up foil packets and tuck them among the coals. Then pull up a seat and dig in. Food always tastes better outside!

9. And, of course, a fire pit is perfect for s’mores. Kids (and kids-at-heart) know that making s’mores is one of life’s great pleasures. With a fire pit in your own backyard, why not make every Friday night s’mores night?

 

Photo by Ward-Young Architecture & Planning – Truckee, CA – Browse patio photos

10. A fire pit may help you sell your home. According to a recent Houzz survey, fire pits are among the three most popular backyard additions by renovating homeowners. In other words, fire pits are hot. Having an attractive and well-maintained fire pit in your yard could give your home an edge if you decide to sell. But once you have that cool new fire pit, you probably won’t ever want to leave.

 

 

Clever Ways to Add or Boost Attic Storage

 

When it comes to extra storage an attic is a wonderful place. There many different ways in which you can turn your attic into a place that provides loads of storage despite its sloped ceiling. So, take a look at the ideas below and hack your attic for boosting storage:

 

1. Design The Walk in Closet of Your Dreams Inside The Attic


Image via: attic works

2. Build Benches with Storage Drawers


Image via: home dit

3. Install a Built in Bed With Storage Drawers and Shelves


Image via: simplicity in the south , houzz

4. Build a Bookcase in Place of The Stairway Railing


Image via: modern home tours , elephant buffet

5. Create Storage Inside a Knee Wall


Image via: new england

6. Build Modular Shelving Along The Walls


Image via: houzz

7. If You Want to Create a Bunk Room in The Attic Then Add Bookcases at The End of The Bunk Beds


Image via: thrifty decor chick

8. Install a Pull Out Wardrobe or Drawers in The Under-Eaves Space


Image via: jerosch , houzz

9. Build a Bookcase with a Bench and Create a Cozy Reading Nook That Can Store Your Books Too


Image via: freddy and petunia

10. Invest in Free Standing Storage Solutions Depending Upon The Size and Storage Requirement of Your Attic


Image via: houzz

Before and After: 13 Dramatic Kitchen Transformations

Many people want to change their kitchen, whether it’s because it functions poorly, their taste has evolved or they purchased a home marked by someone else’s style. In fact, “can no longer stand the old kitchen” is the top reason homeowners choose to remodel kitchens, according to Houzz research. If you’re experiencing kitchen fatigue and are looking for inspiration, take a look at these 13 kitchen transformations. Perhaps you’ll find your kitchen soul mate here.
Wood to White
Many homeowners ditch wooden cabinets in favor of white. Our first group of before-and-afters shows four kitchens where this was done, in a variety of styles.1. Raising the RoofKitchen at a Glance
Who lives here: A professional executive coach and a beer distributor, their 10-year-old daughter and two Pembroke Welsh corgis
Location: Groton, Massachusetts
Size: 251 square feet (23.3 square meters)
Designers: Halsey Platt and Diana MacLeod of Platt BuildersBEFORE: The kitchen in this Massachusetts home occupies what used to be a barn, and the low roof meant windows that were just 12 inches tall.

AFTER: The homeowners raised the roof 18 inches, allowing for bigger windows and a proper view. The remodel also exposed some of the original beams, and added new ones to highlight the space’s historical character.

Cabinets: in English Linen finish, Candlelight Cabinetry; Bakes cabinet pulls and Sheraton cabinet knobs in dark antique: Horton Brasses; wall planking: painted in Mayonnaise OC-85 by Benjamin Moore, Boral; rustic glass pendant lights: Pottery Barn; Iron/Tones undermount sink in white: Kohler; three-legged bridge faucet: Rohl; single-drawer dishwasher with panel: Fisher & Paykel

Read more about this kitchen remodel

The Renovations That Will Pay Off the Most for Your Home in 2017

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panic_attack/iStock

New year, new home improvement projects? Whether you’re dying to update your kitchen, add a half-bath, or kick back on a brand-new deck, it pays off big-time knowing just what kind of return on investment your dream renovation might deliver. And you’re in luck, because Remodeling magazine has just released its annual Cost vs. Value report, which analyzes what you’ll pay for various upgrades—and how much you’ll recoup on that investment when you sell your home.

For this much-read report (which, by the way, is celebrating its 30th anniversary), researchers scrutinized 29 popular home improvements in 99 markets nationwide, polling contractors on how much they charge for these jobs as well as real estate agents on how much they think these features boost a home’s market price. From there, they divided each project’s upfront cost by the home’s resale value; the resulting percentage gives you a sense of how well each particular reno “investment” pays off.

There wasn’t a lot of change between the 2017 report and its 2016 predecessor, with most projects retaining their value.

But what is noteworthy is that the value of pricier projects rose significantly over last year, says Craig Webb, editor of Remodeling. He believes this indicates that the housing market is healthier and more bullish than ever.

“When the market is hot, Realtors® are more likely to give value to more expensive renovation projects, because they expect that the market will stay hot and people will pay the price,” he explains. “When the market is cool, Realtors tend to put less value on those big-dollar projects, because they have concerns about whether the house will get sold in any state.”

Still, the perennial chart toppers for ROI are the cheapest to pull off. This year (as last), the No.1 finisher was installing loose-fill fiberglass insulation in the attic. Not exactly sexy, but boy, is it cost-effective! In fact, this is the only project that regularly pays back more than you invest, with an average 107.7% ROI.

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This pink insulation won’t put you in the red.DonNichols/iStock

Next up is replacing a run-of-the-mill entry door with an attractive yet tough steel replacement at 90.7%, followed by manufactured stone veneer at 89.4%. Glamorous, no. Valuable, very.

Yet homeowners all need to come to grips with the fact that most renovations won’t pay them back in full. On average, in 2017, you can expect to get back 64% on every dollar you plow into home improvements (same as last year).

Plus, your returns will vary widely by project—and sorry to bring your expectations down another notch, but the payoff on big, alluring, “HGTV-ready” renovations isn’t so great. Adding a bathroom, for instance, will bring only a 53.9% ROI when you sell; a master suite, 64.8%.

Top renovation trends nationwide
Remodeling’s report also points to broader renovation trends that seem to be catching on nationwide. One definitely worth watching is energy efficiency—including simple jobs like adding insulation.

“We added [the category of] attic insulation only last year, and we were surprised at how well it did,” Webb says. Similar projects are installing better-insulated windows and doors.

One new category this year speaks to another hot trend: universal design, which ensures that a home’s features can be used just as easily by the elderly and disabled as anyone else. That means things like grip bars in showers, lever-style doorknobs, and wider, wheelchair-friendly doors. A universally designed bathroom, for instance, reaps a respectable 68.4% ROI.

“This is the first year we’ve included universal design, and it’s truly a rising category,” says Webb. “It’s based on a growing desire to age in place and a greater awareness of people with disabilities.”

Last but not least, the 2017 data suggest that “curb appeal” projects (such as new doors and exterior siding) generate higher returns than improvements done on a home’s interior. In other words, it really isn’t what’s on the inside that counts. If you’re trying to sell, pretty up the outside and it’ll pay off in spades.

How to decide if you need to renovate

fancy-garage-door

Fancy new garage doors could be a good investment depending on where you live.hikesterson/iStock

So if you’re now sitting there scratching your head wondering which upgrades to make, take a step back and ask yourself this question first: How long do you plan to live in your home?

“If you see yourself keeping the house for at least five years, you shouldn’t worry about value at all,” Webb says. The reason: Housing trends and fads can change dramatically in this amount of time, so what’s hot today could be passé all too soon. So if you plan to stay put, renovate however will make you happy, period.

If, on the other hand, you’re planning to sell in less than five years, “then looking at the return makes sense,” says Webb. Just keep in mind that tastes vary widely by location, so it’s important to pinpoint what’s hot in your area (which is why Remodeling breaks down its data into nine U.S. regions). For instance, composite decks may be big in the Midwest, whereas the South is gaga over new garage doors. As Webb points out, “Every one of the 29 projects had at least one market where the payback was over 100%. So every project got love somewhere.”

Check out this chart below to get a sense of how much various midlevel renovations will cost, and pay you back down the road.

 

HOW TO STAIN A DECK IN 4 EASY STEPS

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All summer I have been looking at my deck, knowing that a change was needed. I’ve been planning a deck refresh for months and after a very rainy July I’ve finally completed my project. Here’s how to stain a deck (and the lazy but effective way to strip and prep it too).

HOW TO STAIN A DECK STEP 1: PREP WORK

Before we bought our home, it was used as a rental property. It’s safe to say that nothing was maintained before we moved in and the deck was no different. The deck needed a good cleaning before we did anything, so we decided to use our pressure washer to get rid of years of grime (we have this Ryobi 2700 psi Pressure Washer).

pressure-washing-deck

Why yes, that’s me – unbrushed hair, in PJs and running a pressure washing. Isn’t that how people do DIYs?

A note about pressure washing: be careful. You need to get pretty close to make a difference in the wood, but don’t get too close or your will take some of the wood clean off. I did that in a few spots, so start far and move to where you’re at a safe distance. Our deck was chipped and a lot of the wood was showing already, so I knew I was at a good distance when I saw the wood changing color. This step also helped with stripped as a lot of the loose paint came clean off.

HOW TO STAIN A DECK STEP 2: STRIP IT.

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I really didn’t want to sand the deck. I knew it was going to be a lot of work, and time was of the essence. I was reading a lot of reviews online about the Behr Premium Wood Stain & Finish Stripperand they were mixed. I decided to go to the Home Depot and speak to someone myself about it.

The lady I spoke with, used the product herself and said it worked great. She said to follow the instructions exclusively as the complaints she has had came from people who didn’t read the bottle and did their own thing.

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I used a foam paint roller to spread the Behr Premium Wood Stain & Finish Stripper on, the process was pretty quick. There is no diluting the product and make sure to shake the container. We didn’t at first and it came out in a thin liquid, when it should be a thick and goopy consistency.

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It’s important to follow the instructions for application, it tells you the optimal time for application. We did ours in the morning when the heat was low and there was less direct sunlight.

We let the wood stripper sit for 45 minutes on the bottom deck and about 30 minutes on the top deck, any area that started to dry (due to direct sunlight) we used the garden hose on the mist setting. When it was ready, we took a deck brush and scrubbed hard. Who am I kidding with “we”, my husband did that part.

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Remember this is basically an acid so don’t use your brand new running shoes, my husband wore rubber boots and clothes he didn’t care about. If you’re wearing rubber boots – the deck is slippery, so watch your footing.

Spray off the stripper and you’ll see the paint start to come off! We first did it with a garden hose but switched over to the pressure washer after. It made it so much easier.

behr-paint-stripper

The wood stripper got almost all of the previous paint off. There were a few spots where I still had some paint left over, and I should have sanded it off but I didn’t. I don’t recommend doing that as if you’re staining – this will not cover it up. I would say I got 95% of all the previous red paint off the deck. Keep that in mind.

HOW TO STAIN A DECK STEP 3: CLEAN IT

all-in-one-wood-cleaner

The lady at Home Depot couldn’t stress this step enough. You need to use the Behr Premium All In One Wood Cleaner after the deck stripper. It takes all the remaining stripper off the deck, so the stain or paint will adhere better.

how-to-strip-deck

I’m the kind of person who starts a project and just wants it done. I hate it when it takes multiple days, but I also knew that I would be choked if the stain didn’t work due to me rushing and skipping steps. I used the wood cleaner a few hours after the stripper was used. I diluted the wood cleaner in a 1:1 ratio of water and went to work. I used the pressure washer to rinse it off, then let it dry and rinsed it off again. Rinse it until all the foam is gone. Let the wood dry for 24 hours.

HOW TO STAIN A DECK STEP 4: STAIN IT

FINALLY! We’re at the step where your hard work shows. This step went surprisingly fast and the immediate results made my Millennial brain happy.

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I decided on the BEHR PREMIUM® Semi-Transparent Weatherproofing All-In-One Wood Stain & Sealer, tinted in Redwood Naturaltone ST-122. I chose semi-transparent because I wanted to show the natural grain of the wood but still give it a nice color. It’s made out of a 100% acrylic formula, which seals out the elements and sun’s harmful UV rays for up to 6 years on high traffic areas like decks, and up to 8 yrs. on fences & siding. I like how it saves me a step on sealing, it has a sealer built in.

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The application was really easy. I used a deck pad and brushed it on, it took me 20 minutes to do my whole deck and 10-15 minutes for the trickier areas like the seating bench and stairs. For those trickier areas, I used this deck staining detail kit. It says to use two thin coats, but in some areas, I used a thicker application by accident. You can’t tell I did that, it evened out nicely. I used a whole can on my first application.

I was planning on putting on my second coat the next day but noticed the deck still felt a little tack so I waited. Then it rained a few days later. So I had to put off the second coat for a few weeks.

The second coat was easy and brought a beautiful finish to the deck. It looks so much better now and I love the results.

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DECK STAIN BEFORE AND AFTER.

What a difference it made! The wood is old, but the Behr Premium® products brought the life back to it. I love the way it looks. I was intimated with this project at first, but my best advice is to dive in and just do it.

deck-stain-before-after

DIY: Refresh Your Bathroom With a New Sink and Vanity

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Give your ol’ WC a quick update for just a couple hundred bucks and a few hours of your time.

You’re tired of your old, dated bathroom, but not yet ready to do a full-on remodel — it’s a common scenario.

Here is an easy fix that can cost you as little as $200 and about an afternoon’s worth of time: a new vanity/sink combo.

An updated sink and vanity will stand out and draw the eye to it, instead of to other bathroom elements that may be less than perfect. And if you happen to be replacing an old pedestal sink, you will instantly give yourself more storage space.

Many vanity styles are available at your local home improvement store. They come in all shapes and sizes to fit just about any bathroom, even the tiniest of rooms. Some models even have a matching mirror to help you complete the new look of your bathroom.

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A new vanity can add personality to even the smallest powder room. Courtesy of Zillow Digs.

The best part is you can save a lot of money by doing the installation yourself. Here are tips to help get you started.

Selecting a vanity/sink combo

  • Consider the size of the room and the space you have available for the sink. You want to select a vanity that not only fits in the room, but also is in correct proportion to the room and the other elements within it. For example, you may not want to put a tiny vanity in a spacious bathroom with lots of light. The same is true of the opposite scenario: Be wary of putting a large vanity in a small bathroom, even if the room technically has enough space for it.
  • Select a vanity that coordinates well with the style and color scheme of not only the bathroom, but also your home overall, and any future updates that you may have planned for down the road.
  • Make certain to purchase a vanity that has no back. This will make it much easier to fit the cabinet around the plumbing, and provide easy access for the installation.
  • Don’t forget about the faucet! In most cases you will need to purchase your faucet separately. Be certain to pick one that is an “easy-install” faucet.

Installation tips

  • Allow enough time to complete the project, especially if this is the only bathroom in your home.
  • Before beginning your project, make sure you have all the tools and materials you need at hand. It’s also a good idea to check the box that the new sink/vanity came in to make sure that all fasteners and hardware are there. There is nothing worse than getting halfway through a project only to find that you’re missing a screw or a drawer pull.
  • Install the new faucet into the new sink prior to installing the new vanity.
  • Plan for the removal of the old sink. For example, if the new vanity is a different size than the old, you will most likely need to touch up the wall paint in the area, and possibly even repair parts of the wall.
  • It never hurts to have a helper. You may need help with removing the old sink and putting the new one in place.

With your new vanity installed, your bathroom will look and feel newer and better, and you will have the pride of having done the job yourself.

3 Things to Look For in Replacement Windows

If window replacement is in your future, it’s time to read up on the latest in available features and materials.

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Of all the components that go into residential construction, windows stand out as one of the few that heavily influence both the look of the home and its performance. But while windows are visible indoors and out, playing roles in interior design as well as outward curb appeal, people rarely install new windows for aesthetic reasons alone. Typically, says Jim Eldredge, a product manager with Sears Home Services, window-shopping homeowners are driven by practical concerns that include energy efficiency, maintenance, and security. If for any reason you’re now in the planning stages of a window replacement project, “your timing couldn’t be better,” Eldredge adds, noting that in recent years, window design and manufacturing have advanced by leaps and bounds. Today, the best windows boast an unprecedented degree of sophistication and offer a host of compelling new features. Some are minor—nice to have but nonessential. According to Eldredge, however, there are at least three features that are “worth it to insist on.” Read on to learn which are the most pivotal, and why.

 

ENERGY EFFICIENCY

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“A good window is a poor wall”—that old saying goes back to the days when wood-framed, single-paned windows couldn’t compete with the thermal resistance of an insulated exterior wall. “That’s changing,” says Eldredge. There’s still no such thing as a perfect window, but many now boast best-ever efficiency. If you’re pursuing window replacement in an effort to conserve energy and control utility costs, Eldredge recommends “focusing only on windows with Energy Star certification,” like the Weatherbeater line installed by Sears Home Services. Weatherbeater windows are double-paned for added insulation, and argon, a denser-than-air gas injected in between the panes insulates even further. Another secret to the efficiency of modern windows: the use of a transparent, micro-thin layer of metal oxide, known as low-e coating. In the summer, low-e works to limit solar heat gain, while in winter, it prevents heat from escaping. Year-round, low-e protects rugs, upholstered furniture, and artwork from fading under the effects of ultraviolet sunlight. “It’s like sunscreen for your house,” Eldredge concludes.

 

LOW MAINTENANCE

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If they’re going to look great and perform well over the long term, windows require care. How much? That “depends a lot on the material composition of the frame,” Eldredge says. Wood, though beautiful, demands the most attention. Aluminum stands up comparatively well to the rigors of year-round exposure, but it falls short in other ways. For example, as it’s an extraordinarily effective conductor of heat, aluminum usually makes for a poor insulator. Vinyl manages to combine the best of both worlds—the look of wood and the durability of aluminum. It’s perhaps no surprise that, as Eldredge points out, “vinyl windows are increasingly the go-to choice.” A popular option from Sears Home Services, Weatherbeater vinyl windows require little more than occasional cleaning. Of course, nobody likes cleaning windows, but some—Weatherbeater included—facilitate the dreaded chore with tilt-in sashes that provide easy access to the exterior glass. Once you eliminate what was always the trickiest part of doing it the old-fashioned way, “window-cleaning gets a whole lot easier,” Eldredge says.

 

SAFETY & SECURITY

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You may live in an area where break-ins are rare, but it’s comforting to know your home can defend against would-be intruders, if necessary. “The trouble is that not every homeowner feels that way,” Eldredge says. Perhaps as a consequence, many customers who decide on window replacement do so for a simple reason—”they want to feel safer,” Eldredge says. In assessing the safety and security features of any given replacement window, “start with the hardware, including the locking mechanism,” Eldredge says, “but don’t ignore the glass.” Some types of glass are tougher than others. Upon impact, a traditional window shatters all too easily, leaving a gaping hole. But thanks to an interlayer of polyvinyl butyral (PVB), security glass boasts enhanced strength. You may need to ask for it; security glass typically doesn’t come standard. For example, among the window offerings from Sears Home Services, only the Weatherbeater Max line includes security glass. But while it may not be the right choice for everyone, there’s good reason to consider it if you’re concerned about crime or windblown debris in a storm.

 

Many pursue window replacement only once, if at all, in their tenure as homeowner. Unfamiliar territory for most, window replacement tends to provoke no small amount of anxiety. It’s a significant undertaking, both in terms of scope and consequences, and there are significant costs involved—not least because for all but the most ambitious do-it-yourselfers, the project entails hiring a pro. You can start by soliciting estimates from reputable contractors in your area—it’s never too early. Or, to explore your options further, you can go online now to schedule a free in-home consultation with Sears Home Services. Operating nationally, with a decades-long track record of success, Sears matches you with an expert coordinator, ready to walk you through the entire process, from the earliest stage of selecting a window to the final installation. Best of all, unlike local outfits, Sears provides a Satisfaction Guarantee. When you’re dealing with a component of your home as critical as its windows, it means a lot to work with a trusted brand. As Eldredge puts it, “There’s nothing like peace of mind.”

new-windows

 

How to Flip a House (and How Much Money You Can Make)

By Margaret Heidenry

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Stephan Zabel/iStock

Ah, the house-flipping dream. Buy a run-down home, fix it up, put it on the market—and profit, big-time! Flipping may have hit its peak in the bubble years leading up to the 2007 housing market crash, but this is one dream that definitely hasn’t died. However, just because you’ve watched a lot of HGTV doesn’t mean that you know how to flip a house.

Earlier this year, RealtyTrac reported that homes flipped in the first quarter of 2016 had yielded the highest average gross flipping profit—the difference between the purchase price and the flipped price, not counting renovation expenses—in 10 years. The magic number: $58,250.

But just how much money you make will hinge on taking the right approach—so be sure to check out these pointers on how to flip a house. For real.

How to find a worthy house to flip

“Stick with the age-old adage of buying the cheapest home in the nicest neighborhood,” says Eric Workman, senior vice president of marketing at Chicago-based Renovo Financial, a private lender specializing in the house-flipping space. But don’t pick just any old shack—look for a home with  “good bones,” Workman says. Translation: one that’s structurally sound, has a decent roof, newer windows, and an HVAC system that’s less than 10 years old, as well as modern electrical and plumbing.

Next, a flip should need only cosmetic changes such as new cabinets, countertops, flooring, and paint.

“These renovations can usually be done without the delays of permits, plus the upgrade costs will be relatively fixed, helping to eliminate unforeseen expenses,” says Workman. And always look for homes in neighborhoods close to public transportation or in good school districts as they tend to sell quickly.

How much should you pay for a house you’ll flip?

Your goal should be to make a 10% to 20% return on your investment. So how do you crunch the numbers? For starters, find out what your fixer-upper will sell for once you’re done with it by looking at the sales price for similarly sized homes in the same neighborhood that are move-in ready, says broker Bobby Curtis at Living Room Realty in Portland, OR.

Let’s say, for instance, that homes in tip-top shape in the area sell for $300,000. To get a ballpark figure for a run-down house, cut that price by three-quarters (75% of $300,000 = $225,000). Then subtract the cost of repairs (if repairs cost $30,000, that would be $225,000 – $30,000 = $195,000). That’s about the most you should pay for your flipped house without cutting too much into your profits.

As for financing a flip, it isn’t that different from buying a regular home. You’ll either pay cash or take out a mortgage—just consider going for a 10- or 15-year mortgage, which will offer a lower rate. After all, odds are you won’t own this home for long anyway.

How fast should you flip?

Don’t kill yourself (or more accurately, flip yourself into an early grave) to rush the flip. But also note, you don’t want this house sitting around for long. Curtis recommends looking for a place that will take four to six weeks to renovate. A short deadline ensures you’ll buy and sell the house in that same housing market. Plus, owning a house for less than two months keeps costs like interest and taxes at a minimum.

This means that finding contractors who do quality work quickly is key to your success. For that reason, it’s crucial that you do your due diligence before you hire one: Make sure to meet with at least a few contractors, get their license number, references, and an estimate of what they think renovations will costs. Keep an eye out for red flags—e.g., contractors who ask for money upfront or in cash aren’t playing by the usual rules, and might be trying to take your money and run.

That said, you should accept the fact that the cost of repairs will almost always run over. As such, “you absolutely, positively must overbudget” so you have a financial cushion for those inevitable cost overruns, says Joseph Chiera of The Realty Cousins of Poughkeepsie, NY. Design backups will also help with budget shortcomings.

“If you’re planning to use high-end hardwood flooring priced at $5 per square foot, have a nice backup at $2 per square foot.” Here’s a list of renovations and how much they pay off at resale.