To get your home in tiptop shape for 2018, here are some important and efficient ways to get it ready.
Guest post by Andrea Davis
2018 is almost here! While you might consider making some New Year’s resolutions, you first need to think about your end of the year list. To get your home in tiptop shape for 2018, here are some important and efficient ways to get it ready.
1. Clean, clean, CLEAN!
If you haven’t taken care of the essential house cleaning chores, now is the time. You’ll want to quickly or deeply clean many areas of your home. These include:
- Gutters & downspouts
- Air vents
Not only does this give your home a refreshed look, it also keeps you financially savvy going into 2018. Without the proper cleaning, areas like the air vents and gutters can lead to expensive home repair bills.
2. Purge & Recycle
Nobody likes looking at a full closet, especially if you have holiday presents to add. So go through every bit of storage in your home – closets, attic, basement, garage, shed, etc. – and remove what you don’t need. You can either throw it away or recycle it by donating to a local secondhand shop. That way, you have tons of space for next year’s discoveries.
3. Increase Efficiency
If you’re going through bills and notice a marked increase in utility costs, now is the time to plan out an efficient home in 2018. This could be as simple as turning off the lights more often and conserving water. On the other hand, if you have some extra dollars, you might consider improvements like:
- Double or triple-paned windows
- Solar panel(s)
- Upgrade your faucets and water outlets
4. HVAC TLC
One of the most important – and expensive – parts of your home is the HVAC system. It keeps the house warm in the winter and cool in the summer. Because it does so much work, it needs some fine-tuning and maintenance at least every six months. To make sure you avoid an expensive bill in 2018, go through the system. Replace the filter, clean out the vents and make sure it’s all working smoothly. If you aren’t an HVAC pro, you can find plenty in the neighborhood to come for a quick checkup.
5. Review the Exterior
Roofing, landscaping, doors, siding – have you given them a thorough look? All of these are important to a beautiful appearance and optimal safety. You need to check for cracks, holes, overhanging branches and the like. You can always get a home inspector for a more in-depth review, but most of it you can do yourself. Doing a quick circle around the house with some spackle or caulk works at least in the short term.
Going into 2018 means letting go of 2017’s hassles. To feel free of any stress, you should take care of the essentials, including your home. Maintenance and some cheap upgrades could make all the difference personally and financially in the New Year. Don’t feel you have to go all out, or else you’ll be too tired for new tasks. Make sure there’s a nice balance of work and play so you get the best start to 2018.
Source: CB Blue Matter Blog
There is more to mowing grass than just pushing the mower back and forth. Did you know there are correct ways to mow your grass? Plus, knowing what the proper cutting length is and what to do about lawn clippings are important in keeping a healthy lawn.
Mow at the Right Frequency
There is a correct way to mow a lawn to get the cleanest, well-kept look. By keeping the grass at the right length, it keeps your grass stress-free and healthy. Grass should be a little longer during the hot summer months, especially in places that are in USDA Plant Hardiness Zone 9b like Houston, Phoenix, New Orleans, and Tampa. When grass is permitted to grow a little longer, the roots grow deeper, and the grass gives the soil cover from the hot sun. It forms an insulation that lets the soil better maintain its moisture.
Mowing at the right frequency is key. During fall, the most common lawn mowing frequency in Houston is bi-weekly, or every two weeks, with 83 percent of Houstoniteschoosing this option. However, if you get lawn treatment and water more frequently, you may want to consider weekly.
Plus, the blade of the mower needs to be sharp. If the blade is dull, then it will shred the tops of the grass. Shredded grass tips can leave grass susceptible to diseases.
The Correct Way to Mow Your Grass
The first thing to do is to adjust the height of the mower so that the mower doesn’t butcher the grass. Also, if the lawn is shady, then it will benefit from setting the mower blades at a higher height. Because photosynthesis helps grass grow, a longer blade of grass has more surface for conducting photosynthesis. This is one secret to developing a healthy lawn when parts or all of it stay in the shade.
Also, don’t scalp the grass by cutting it too short. When a lawn is scalped, it becomes vulnerable to disease and invites weeds. By scalping a lawn, it exposes the soil, and the grass becomes sparse and weak. Plus, this gives the sun an opportunity to feed the weed seeds in the soil so that they start to grow. A lawn that is cut too short will have a system of poorly developed roots and this will cause damage to a lawn from hot days or drought.
The best rule of thumb is to follow the one-third rule: If more than a one-third of the grass blade is cut off, it can damage the grass.
Another tip is to mow when the grass is dry. When grass is mowed when wet, it’s not harmful to the lawn, but the results can look mediocre. This is because grass that’s wet will clog the mower and this makes it more difficult to mow. The grass also clumps and causes an uneven cutting pattern. In addition, if clumps of wet grass are left on the lawn, then it can kill the grass under the clumps.
When you mow in the middle of the day in the sun, it causes the lawn stress. The individual blades of grass will lose water quickly and recover more slowly. You can either mow in the cooler part of the day or mow the area when it’s covered in shade. This will let the grass rebound quicker. Also, when mowing, don’t always follow the same pattern. This can create ruts and compacts the soil. Compacted soil and ruts can cause unhealthy grass, which can provide places for weeds to start growing.
What to Do With Grass Clippings?
One problem that crops up is what do you do with the grass clippings when finished? A solution to that is called “grasscycling.” This is when you let the grass clippings lay on the lawn after it’s cut. When this is done, it can provide up to 25 percent of what the lawn needs as fertilizer. It also saves money on fees and yard waste bags. A specialized mulching mower isn’t necessarily required, but you can put a mulching blade on the mower that you already have. Grasscycling works well if your grass is mowed often. It can be done on grass that is cut when it’s longer — if you don’t have a mulcher, rake the piles of clippings flat after mowing and then run the mower back over them.
As you can see, there is more to mowing grass than just pushing the mower around the yard. If done correctly, it can revitalize your lawn.
Katie Kuchta is a marketing guru, gardening and outdoor living expert, and self-proclaimed foodie. She can often be found cooking in the kitchen or on the hunt for the best tacos. Follow her on Instagram @atxtacoqueen.
Source: CB Blue Matter Blog
Wow fall homebuyers with these easy staging ideas from HomeAdvisor
Guest Post by Andrea Davis
Selling your home in the fall means adding small seasonal elements to make your home feel warm and welcoming. And, what better place to do that than in the kitchen? Here are some ideas to help you make your kitchen — and your home — appeal to fall homebuyers:
Fall counter decor
You should always keep the countertops nearly clear when potential homebuyers are walking through. In fact, you should keep it down to about two to three essentials if you’re living there from day to day. For the fall season, you can add small elements like placemats, fruit and leaf decor (window drapings, vase, etc.).
The smell of leaves, apple pie, pumpkin and cinnamon evoke the cozy feelings of fall. Candles are nice and actually baking something “fall-like” before a showing is a sure way to make potential buyers feel more at home during a showing.
Colors of fall
Depending on the current condition of your home, you might consider a fresh coat of paint. What color you decide to use may or may not be influenced by the season. While you should always lean towards neutral colors, you might consider accent walls or cabinets in browns or dark tones of red or green if you think they would work. The cost to paint an interior room is about $380, though prices will vary depending on the size of the room.
Bringing nature in
If there are windows in the kitchen, make sure to keep them clean. Depending on the weather outside during a showing, you might open them and let the fresh air in. It helps to create a flow between nature outside and the atmosphere you’re trying to create in the kitchen. If your budget allows, you might also accent the windows with fall-like window treatments to create an even easier flow. If you don’t have these treatments, a professional home stager can sometimes find them for a reasonable price.
Natural lighting elements
Lighting is an essential element of home staging, no matter the season. In fall, in particular, it’s all about enhancing the twilight or sunset and complementing of all the fall colors. For lighting in your kitchen, consider accent and track lighting. Or, you could install recessed lighting on a dimmer switch, which will allow you to control the brightness of the kitchen to complement the mood outside.
Source: CB Blue Matter Blog
Here are a few big-picture renovations you can make in surprisingly little time, whether you do it yourself or hire help.
Guest Post by Lauren White
Remodeling projects can seem like a distant fantasy when days off are usually consumed by errands and chores. What can you accomplish with the slim hours you have to spare? Here are a few big-picture renovations you can make in surprisingly little time, whether you do it yourself or hire help.
Time: 4-6 hours
Outdoor spaces are deceptively quick and affordable to make. If you have a half-day to spare, you can turn a patch of yard into a gorgeous patio before sundown. The processwill involve digging and leveling the area you need, preparing a base for proper drainage and laying your stones. Once the project is complete, you will have a relaxing outdoor living space to enjoy.
Keep your time down by choosing pavers or bricks that don’t need to be cut. Interlocking patio pavers come in many variations and they eliminate the dilemma of fitting awkward pieces together.
Time: 2-8 hours
It only takes a few hours to install a new kitchen backsplash, but it could take less time depending on the material you choose. If you paint the backsplash, it will take mere hours of preparation and application. Painting costs as little as $30. If you use peel-and-stick ceramic tiles or rolls of faux metal, it will take roughly the same amount of time.
If you have more than a few hours, make a stand-out backsplash using an adhesive tile mat and individual tiles. The adhesive mat will ensure that heavy tile materials don’t fall off, and requires less curing time than traditional, wet adhesive. Explore your tile options in HomeAdvisor’s resource center.
Weekend Window Replacement
Time: 2-3 days
High-efficiency windows are a strong investment, whether you are planning to sell or stay. These windows save homeowners anywhere from 10% to 30% in home energy costs. Efficiency is a top priority for today’s buyers, and this project has over 70% return on investment.
Removing old windows, installing heavy panes and finishing up with framing is a complex process. Professionals can do it in a matter of days, where it might take you much longer. Hiring a pro is worth it, because this renovation will put money back in your pocket when it is done right.
Time: 1-3 days
In most cases, you’ll want to hire a professional to replace your countertops. Installation and cutting needs to be very precise, and most counter slabs weigh up to and over 400 lbs! With the right amount of muscle, you can finish this job in 1-3 days. Some materials and pre-fabricated pieces can even be installed in 3-7 hours.
Upgrading your countertops can do wonders to improve your kitchen and raise your home value. Granite, for example, can handle a lot of wear-and-tear. If your kitchen is like the Union Station of your house, this low-maintenance, high-resistance material is perfect for your counters.
For the adventurous weekend warrior, check out these countertops you can make yourself.
Two-Week Hardwood Floor Refinishing
Time: 2-14 days
Flooring has a big impact on the appearance and value of your home. If your hardwood floors are in bad shape, you’ve probably already thought of refinishing them. Whether you hire a professional or do it yourself, you’re going to need at least two days.In fact, you may need as many as fourteen.
You will need one day for sanding and one day per layer of polyurethane finish. Each layer will need 24 hours to dry. Two to three layers of finish are recommended. If you’re going to stain the wood, add another day for that between sanding and finishing.
This project may take longer, but the results are worth it. Refinishing seals the wood against rot and moisture, and adds appeal for homebuyers. They will be more impressed by a glossy shine than rough, exposed wood. If you’re not sure it’s the right time for your floors, check out these answers to common questions to help you decide.
Investing in your property can mean a faster sale, or will at least give you a few extra luxuries to enjoy. See what you can accomplish with an afternoon or your next three-day weekend, and format your budget using these helpful cost guides.
Lauren White is a freelance writer who enjoys reading, hiking and traveling. She can usually be found on an outdoor adventure with her boyfriend and little sister on the weekends.
We have organized the guide into three sections: Before the Move, Moving In and Baby Proofing.
By NorthStar Moving Co-Founder Laura McHolm
On the move with a little mover in tow? Every parent knows having a baby at home is an adventure. Take that everyday baby voyage and mix in moving your home, now your adventure is more like a hike up Mt. Everest! Here’s the good news, if you plan ahead and take simple steps that trek will become a walk in the park (well maybe not, but a manageable stroll up hill.) Before you pack up and gear up for the baby + move exploration, check out this complete guide for parents moving with a baby to ease the stress and enjoy the transition.
We have organized the guide into three sections: Before the Move, Moving In and Baby Proofing. You can think of it like pregnancy, nesting and then labor!
Before the Move
Stick to Routine: Baby’s love and need their routine. Don’t let the moving to-do list and packing get in the way of your regular daily routine. Instead of pulling an all-nighter to pack, try to pack over a long period of time. Use naptime and baby’s early bedtime to get packing done in bits. Baby & parents need their sleep!
Create a Moving Calendar: To keep your head from spinning, it is best to plan your move 8 weeks out. Here is a Moving Day Count Down Calendar to copy, print and hang it up where you can easily refer to it while feeding the little one. This way you can take it day-by-day and get the satisfaction of checking off moving to-dos!
Use Childcare: During the actual moving day, when boxes and furniture are being moved, little ones should be somewhere else. Ask a trusted babysitter, friend or family member to take your bundle of joy for the day. It is also ideal to use childcare for days leading up to your move so that you can get more done on your moving calendar. There are great nanny and babysitting services that help you find qualified childcare.
Talk To Your Current Pediatrician: Your pediatrician is a great resource. If you are traveling long distance, ask them for tips for keeping your baby happy on a plane or long car ride. If you need to find a new pediatrician, make sure you get a copy of all of your child’s medical records to give to your new pediatrician. Get copies of all your child’s prescriptions and have them called into a pharmacy near your new home. Ask your current pediatrician for recommendations on how to find a new pediatrician close to your new home. When finding a new doc, it is recommended to set up a meet and greet appointment as soon as you move.
Pack a Baby Bag: You know the daily drill; pack half the nursery to carry with you wherever you go. Well, this time the baby bag (box or small suitcase) should include all of your needs for three days (if you’re moving a long distance, you may want at least one month of supplies with you rather than on the moving truck). Once you move into your new place, you may not have easy access to diapers, baby food, pacifiers and the important squeaky toy. So be sure to pack everything you need for three days (or more) in one place that you keep by your side for easy access on moving day and the first few days after.
Unpack the Nursery First: When moving in you should set up the nursery first. This will allow you to change your baby and easily put them to sleep on the first night in your new home. Arrange the nursery as closely as possible to your previous nursery. The familiarity will help you and your baby in the transition.
Setting Up The Crib: All new cribs on the market today meet the safety standards of the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) and the Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association (JPMA). When setting up a new crib or reassembling your crib look for the following suffocation and strangulation hazards:
- Sharp or jagged edges
- Missing, broken or loose parts
- Loose hardware
- Cut out designs in the headboard or footboard
- Crib slats more than 2 3/8 inches apart (width of a soda can)
- Corner post extension over 1/16 of an inch high
- Gaps larger than 2 fingers width between the sides of the crib and the mattress
- Drop side latches that could be easily released by your baby
Use Safe Bedding: Soft bedding can suffocate a baby, blocking the baby’s airway during sleep. Babies can suffocate when their faces become wedged against or buried in a mattress, pillow or other soft object. Use a safe crib with a firm, tight-fitting mattress covered with a crib sheet and nothing else in it. To keep your baby warm, use a sleep sack (wearable blanket).
Baby Proofing the New Home
I turned to the uber knowledgeable folks at Safe Kids Worldwide for a Baby Safety Checklist:
Crawl Through Your Home: The first step to a safe home, say the experts at Safe Kids, is to look at the world through your baby’s eyes. See what looks interesting and what can be reached. And I mean it literally – get down on your hands and knees in your new home and check for small things your baby can choke on. You will be amazed at what you discover! If you question if an item is a choking hazard, take an empty toilet paper roll and put the small object in it. If it fits completely into the roll, don’t let children under 3 play with it.
Test Alarms: Have working smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors inside all bedrooms, outside all sleeping areas and on every level of your new home. Test alarms monthly and change batteries once a year.
Install Gates: Install stair gates at the top and bottom of stairs. Stair gates at the top must be attached to the wall with hardware.
Secure Furniture: Secure furniture to the wall to avoid tip overs.
Check Windows: When decorating your new place, be sure to use cordless window coverings.
Mindful Unpacking: When unpacking, be sure to lock up medicines, vitamins, cleaning products, pet food, alcohol, poisonous plants, and chemicals (like paint, gasoline, etc.) and store them high out of your baby’s reach.
Your baby’s arrival was certainly the most blissful and incredible life change. Now you get to start the next chapter together in your new home. A home that is safe for your little one to play, grow and explore!
Laura McHolm is an organizational, moving & storage expert and co-founder of NorthStar Moving Company. NorthStar Moving Company is an award winning, “A+” rated company, which specializes in providing eco-luxury moving and storage services. www.northstarmoving.com