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Three Home Improvements for Under $100

by: Sarah Russell

Are you caught up in the home improvement craze? Or trying to sell your home in a rough real estate market? Major improvements such as new flooring or a deck can really dip into your pocketbook, but you don’t need to do anything so extreme to improve the look of your home. When renovating on a budget, try to improve existing rooms and fixtures, instead of replacing them entirely. You’ll save money on materials and demolition costs. Focus first on the three key areas of your home that make a big difference in the appearance of your home – the entrance, kitchen and bathroom. With some simple renovations, you can improve all three for less than $100.

The Entrance

First impressions aren’t just for people! Take a step back and see your entrance as a guest or prospective buyer would. Has your welcome mat has lost its welcome appeal? Is your porch surrounded by dead plants or weeds? Is the paint on your door peeling or faded? If your entrance doesn’t wow you like it should, it’s time to spice it up! If you have a spacious porch, purchase a potted plant in a contemporary planter or a hanging basket of flowers. Potted plants run about $10 at a local garden store or general retailer.

Spruce up your front door with new paint. If the paint on your door is in good condition, but faded, wash it and give it a new coat of paint. If your old paint is peeling, you may need to scrape it off before putting on a new coat. Consult the paint department at a hardware store near you on the best way to paint your door. Overall, a gallon of interior/exterior gloss enamel will set you back no more than $20. And don’t forget the new welcome mat!

The Kitchen

Even though kitchen cabinets take up the bulk of the space in a kitchen, they’re often ignored in home renovation projects. But don’t fall into this trap! Cleaning and updating your kitchen cabinets can make a dramatic improvement in the appearance of your kitchen for almost no money at all! To start, give your cabinets a good cleaning – it’s amazing how much dust and grease can accumulate on them. Remove the cabinet doors from their hinges and wipe them down with the damp cloth. Tougher stains can be removed with cleaning chemicals, but make sure that the chemicals are safe for use on your cabinet material.

If you’re craving a major change, you may be able to paint your cabinet doors. For best results, take one of your doors to a hardware store. They can tell you whether your doors can be painted or not, and what materials you’ll need to do it. You can also update the look of your cabinets with new knobs and pulls. Knobs range from simple unfinished versions that cost as little as $.50 to decorative insert pulls that costs around $3 – the whole kitchen should cost you less than $20!

The Bathroom

After all the time you spend updating other rooms, your guest bathroom may be feeling a little neglected. Your guests will notice, so why not give this room a lift? You probably already have a nice set of guest towels and matching accessories, so focus your attention on adding new trim, artwork, and color. A fresh coat of paint goes a long way and if you plan well, you can use the leftover paint from your kitchen cabinets. Once the paint is dry, you can add wallpaper trim or stencil on a trim with complementary paint. A new piece of artwork will finish the look. You can purchase cheap posters from craft stores or use your imagination and make your own artwork. Mount a few seashells on colorful fabric in a picture frame (don’t use the glass) or press a few flowers from your new hanging basket and mount in a shadow box. Get creative and you’ll be amazed what you can do to improve the look of your home.

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How To Make Your Refrigerator More Efficient

by: Johnny Waymire

Most people don’t realize how much electricity a refrigerator uses. Unlike most household appliances, a refrigerator is working hard all the time. It is a heat pump, pumping heat out of the freezer, and using a fan to cool off the refrigerator unit. So, if you want to save money on your utility bill, you should make sure that your refrigerator is running at top efficiency.

The more efficient your refrigerator is, the less energy it will use. And that, of course, saves you money. Sometimes, the best way to make an old refrigerator more efficient is to simply get rid of it, and replace it with an Energy Star compliant new model. The savings on your electric bill can be substantial. Additionally, features such as automatic defrosting consume electricity as well. Modern designs are more energy efficient, and so replacing an old refrigerator almost always makes a great deal of sense.

Of course, whether your refrigerator is new or old, there are always other things that you can do to improve its efficiency. Is your freezer full? It should be. A full freezer is easier to keep cold. Filling milk jugs with tap water about two thirds the way up will eventually provide a nice block of ice that will help keep your freezer cold with minimal use of energy. And, in case of a black out, the jugs of frozen water will help keep other things in the freezer cold longer. Best of all, in case of a severe emergency — think hurricane season — the jugs of water can be thawed out and used. Remember, when you fill up those jugs to put in the freezer, don’t fill them all the way to the top. Water expands when it freezes. Two thirds full should be just fine.

Speaking of water, open water evaporates and condenses in a refrigerator. This makes the refrigerator work harder, and also tends to drip little annoying drops of water on your hands whenever you reach for something on the top shelf. So, if you put something wet into the fridge, make sure it is covered.

Another handy method of making your refrigerator more efficient is to use the “energy saver” setting on your refrigerator’s controls. The controls can be found on the inside of the refrigerator unit, often on the refrigerator’s “ceiling.” Try different settings, and be sure to use a refrigerator thermometer to make sure the settings keep your food cold, between 35 and 37 degrees fahrenheit, or around 2 degrees celsius. While you’re at it, get a freezer thermometer as well. The freezer should be around 0 degrees fahrenheit, -18 celsius. Check both thermometers regularly, particularly during the summer.

When opening the doors to your refrigerator and freezer, make sure you’ve already got a pretty good idea what you’re looking for. Keeping the door open while you “take inventory” is a bad habit that you should try to break. Know what’s in your refrigerator, and where it’s located. Refrigerator and freezer doors are kept closed with magnetic strips. The magnetic strips are embedded in a rubber seal around the door. Keep the seals clean. Debris on the seal can let air in and out, compromising the air tightness and making the refrigerator work harder.

You can test for good seals by slipping a dollar bill in between the door and the fridge. Close the door, and try to take the dollar bill out. If it’s easy to remove, your seals need cleaning. After cleaning, try using silicone spray to revitalize the old rubber on the seals. If this doesn’t improve things, you might want to see if you can get the seals replaced. You can order replacement refrigerator seals online, or by phone, from your refrigerator’s manufacturer.

Bob Vila recommends that you put replacement seals in the clothes dryer for a few minutes to warm them. Warming, he says, removes the crimps that come from being packed in the shipping box. And while your keeping the door clean, be sure to vacuum around the coils. The refrigerator coils are usually either on the back of the unit, or on the bottom of it. The coils are essential working parts of your refrigerator — they are how the refrigerator dissipates the heat that it is pumping out of the interior. Dirty coils don’t dissipate heat well, because the dirt acts like an insulator. Clean coils do what they’re supposed to do — dissipate heat at maximum efficiency.

These simple maintenance tips should make your refrigerator live a healthy, energy efficient life. And you’ll notice the difference on your utility bill.

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Increasing a Homes value and Adding Curb Appeal

by: Darin Sewell

Increase the curb appeal of your home for a faster sale. Many buyers will stay in your home longer if it’s staged appropriately tips to increase the curb appeal of your home. The exterior of your home, in conjunction with the landscaping, has the ability to make or break the first appearance. In other words, the exterior of your home is the first impression that buyers have in many cases and they will drive on to the next house on the list if the exterior is not appealing. In real estate, first impressions sell houses. The good news is that there are many things you can do to increase curb appeal without breaking the budget. Depending on the season, there are also many touches outside which will increase the curb appeal of your home and make more potential buyers want to see the inside.

Here are a few tips to increase the curb appeal of your home. You can address your home’s curb appeal by paying attention to the windows and doors so that they appear to compliment one another and work with the other textures and colors of the house exterior and the landscaping. Attractive landscaping elements, such as shrubs, trees, and flowers, can do a great deal to increase the curb appeal of your home. Properly choosing plants and trees can increase the curb appeal of your home while adding protection and efficiency. Flowers instantly increase the curb appeal of your home. Flowers are one of the easiest and least expensive ways to make the front of your house look inviting and instantly increase the curb appeal of your home. mow the lawn and edge the grassy areas adjoining walkways keep the yard free of all debris, litter and toys make sure that all exterior doors and openings have been properly cleaned and painted paint and trim exterior wood surfaces, particularly on the front elevations make sure that all automobiles and recreational vehicles are kept out of sight make certain that all garage doors are closed. Remove dead branches from trees, move lawn tools and outdoor furniture in poor condition to the garage, and neatly store kids’ toys. As for more expensive home staging techniques, consider painting your house indoors in more neutral colors and remove any busy wallpaper.

But another option that’s often overlooked is the garage door. Take a look at the message your garage door is sending. Studies show that replacing your garage door can increase the value of your home your home by as much as 4%. And even lower end doors that enhance the overall appearance will increase the value of the home by more than the cost of the door.

Increase the curb appeal of your home by ensuring the paint condition is good, paying extra attention to the front door and trim. Whether you paint, refinish, or replace the door, freshening up the entrance is sure to enhance your home’s curb appeal. The style and additions you choose for your front door can affect your family’s safety, as well as the amount you pay in heating and cooling bills. New stock doors give you dozens of options, while a custom door is often the focal point of the property. New doors range in price from about $100 for a steel door off the rack at the home improvement store to a custom designed wood door, which can cost thousands. And, even lower end doors that enhance the overall appearance will increase the value of the home by more than the cost of the door. The most popular materials for front door remodeling are wood, fiberglass, and steel. Wood Doors A classic choice, wood doors are sturdy and beautiful. Fiberglass Doors These doors area popular option because they combine the durability of wood with the ability to withstand extreme temperatures, all at a lower price than wood doors. Depending on your home’s exterior finishing, you might consider painting the door a color that complements the color of the trim, rather than matching it. You can also freshen up the entrance by polishing or replacing the hardware on the door. Door handle sets alone can run into the hundreds of dollars, but offer a high-quality finishing touch to your renovation project. If the doorknob, lock, and kick plate are shabby, buy new ones. Your front door should enhance the existing elements, not compete with them. The same rule applies for light fixtures, house numbers, and doorbells.

If you would like to increase the curb appeal of your home, you should consider replacing an existing window in your home with a bay or bow window. A bay or bow window helps you bring light into a room and expand a view. When considering whether to use either a Bay or Bow window, a “Bay” with it’s three sides is more traditional. Make sure to prune plants that are blocking the house from sight and blocking light from entering windows. And never underestimate the appeal of sparkling clean windows. Best to open windows when possible for that fresh, outdoorsy smell.

As the hot real estate boom is starting to slow down you can still make your home stand out among the others for a faster sale. Curb appeal is key and could make a difference in whether people stop and take a flyer, or drive right by. Curb appeal projects are always a good choice and the least expensive.

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Home Improvement Ideas Gone Awry

by: Jennifer Jordan

For every great home improvement idea there are several bad ones, lurking in the corners next to vinyl siding and Dutch doors. But, of course, bad home improvement is not an objective term: one man’s bad home improvement idea is another man’s great home improvement idea. Still, there are some ideas that most people will agree should never see the light of day, and definitely never be let inside the house.

Too Much of Anything: Floral patterns, pirate themes, farm scenery. Too much of anything – regardless of what it entails – is just flat out too much. If your house is decorated in floral pattern from attic to basement, it’s time to uproot some of your ornamentation. If your house is saturated with pirate themes, it’s fair to say you’ve gone overboard. If your house is adorned with nothing but farm scenery, you might consider plowing a new path. Instead of decorating your entire house in one theme, try limiting your theme to one room, and letting the rest of the house have a little variety.

Painting with Outrageous Colors: Maybe you’re young and in love with self expression, maybe you’re older and looking for something to set you apart. Whatever you are, painting with outrageous colors is a way to paint yourself remorseful. It may seem like a great idea to paint the inside of your house neon orange and the outside a not-at-all-subtle hot pink, but in the long run you will likely regret this. You may be forced by a covenant controlled community to repaint, or forced to repaint by your realtor when you attempt to sell. You may even be forced to repaint by your inner being, an inner being tired of feeling constantly trapped inside a Grateful Dead song.

Going for a Futuristic Look: Maybe you have a crazy looking chair sitting in your living room or perhaps you’ve trimmed the evergreen in your front yard to resemble something from 2060, whatever you’ve done to make your home look futuristic, stop right now and live in the present. For whichever reason, as there seems to be a lot of reasons to choose from, the “futuristic look” was one that never really took off. Maybe this is partly because it looks kind of silly or partly due to the fact that it’s hard to decorate for 2060 while living in 2007, but the main reason has to be that our conception of the “future” seems to be entirely off base. If we were to go mainly by our conceptions, by 2000 we would have all bought flying cars and taken family vacations to the moon.

Putting in a Pool (when you won’t use it): Putting in a pool isn’t always a bad idea: if you will actually use one then there is no reason not to have one. However, for many people the concept of a pool is more appealing than the pool itself. Pools are a lot of work: they require maintenance and they kill the lawn. For this reason, having a pool and not using it is futile. If you will only use a pool on occasion, don’t install one: just get a pass to the local recreation center. And, if you live in an area not conducive to year round swimming, such as Wisconsin or Colorado, replace your swimming pool dreams with something else, such as a hot tub.

High Maintenance Landscaping: There is landscaping, and then there is high maintenance landscaping. High maintenance landscaping – a lawn filled with trimmed trees, shrubs, and an assortment of flowers – may look particularly nice, and cause your neighbors to grow green with envy of your green thumb, but this kind of landscaping takes quite a bit of time, time you might not always have. Instead of going overboard and making your lawn parallel some botanic garden, keep your lawn nice with simple means. Landscape with flowers and shrubs that don’t require a lot of attention and stay away from landscaping with the kinds of flowers and shrubs who think they are all that and a bag of wood chips.

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Air Conditioner Efficiency Tips

by: Wolfe Plumbing

When the temperatures rise in the summertime, the efficiency of your air conditioners drops. There are some steps that you can take that will keep your home cooler, reduce your air conditioning costs, and provide savings on your energy bill.

Have your air conditioning unit inspected annually. They need to be periodically cleaned and tuned. Have a professional inspect and tune your system. Have them check the coolant charge, airflow, and the insulation on the cooling lines.

Keep rooms closed off and vents shut in rooms that are not used frequently.

Be sure your ducts are properly sealed and insulated. Duct leaks can allow cool air into your attic or crawl space or they can draw hot air and moisture into your home.

Install a timed thermostat that turns on the AC later in the day and off earlier in the evening when it is cooler.

Use fans to keep the cool air circulating thoughout your house.

Dark colored roofing absorbs a lot of solar energy, which is converted to heat in your attic and living space. The next time you re-roof your home, consider installing white or other light-colored shingles to reflect more solar heat.

When solar energy heats your attic, this heat radiates through the ceiling and heats the rooms below. Attic insulation slows this heat flow, and it also slows the heat flow out of your home in the winter. Add attic insulation to total 16 inches or more if you currently have less than 6 inches of insulation.

Windows allow sunlight to pour into your home. Awnings, sunscreens, or curtains over the windows that receive the most sun will help keep the heat out.

Obstructions surrounding the outdoor unit of your air conditioner will reduce the airflow over the condenser coil and lower the efficiency of your system. Be sure to remove any leaves, branches or debris from the outdoor unit to keep the air around the unit circulating freely.

Keep cool!

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Watch Battery Replacement

Learning how to replace the batteries in old watches is what gave me the idea for this site but is something that sounds alot harder than it really is.  Many replacement watch batteries can be found at the local drugstore but you need to find a good cross-reference match to ensure correct fit.  The other items needed are good tools: mini/micro screw drivers, and a watch back removal tool (if required).  Some watches have a pryoff back so the removal tool may not be needed, but for the screw on back ones (you know the ones with many little dents around the back plate) I really recommend a removal tool.  They can be had through places like Amazon and Harbor Freight.  A Harbor Freight one is $10 or less and batteries are about $6 so the more watches you have to replace batteries in, the cheaper it will be.  I will get into the how-to in my next post.

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Introduction and Mission Statement

On this site I hope to provide information on, as well as, learn some new, ways to go about repairing all sorts of broken things around the house.  I will also be getting into some home repair and discussing tools that i have used over the years, both good and bad.