DIY Renovation Tips

DIY Renovation TipsIf you’re thinking of buying a fixer-upper for the first time, whether to live in yourself or to flip, doing some of the renovations yourself can be satisfying and economical. You’ve watched plenty of television shows where novices remodeled a house in two or three days, so how hard could it be? But, before you start tearing out walls and ripping up flooring, there are a few important renovation blunders to avoid.

Know your limitations

Despite what you’ve seen on TV, until you have some experience under your tool belt, you won’t know your own strength, endurance and patience for the time, difficulties and potential setbacks you’ll encounter. Often what seem like minor projects can turn into major issues if you run into mold, mildew, old wiring and other costly issues.

The best strategy is to start with one small project to see if you

  • Enjoy doing it.
  • Can complete it in a timely fashion.
  • Don’t run into difficulties or problems you cant solve.

Know who to call

Before tackling a project, take time to contact an experienced friend, family member or helpful neighbor to get their advice. If you don’t have a knowledgeable acquaintance, visit your local DIY or neighborhood hardware store and speak to their department expert. Many times, they offer weekend classes to teach the basics of home improvement projects.

Know if you need a permit

Most people know that they need a permit for a major construction or home addition, but many municipalities require permits for smaller changes you may not realize or consider. Some cities require permits for projects as simple as replacing the front door or changing the exterior color. Often, homeowners assume that interior upgrades don’t require permitting, but if you add a kitchenette to your game room or create a mother-in-law apartment, many times you’ll need a permit.

Neglecting getting a permit may derail your home’s sale or add costly changes and repairs later on.

Know which tools you need

Home renovations are not the opportunity to try your “MacGyver” skills. Repurposing tools and household objects seems great … until you’re in the middle of your project with drying mastic trying to hold tiles in place with your knees and toes. Tools are expensive. If you don’t have the right tools, and can’t afford to buy them, see if you can rent them from your DIY, rental or farm store. Some local libraries offer tool rental too, so check out all the options before you need that pipe wrench, specialty saw or clamp.

Purchasing specialty tools for a single renovation project may make it cost prohibitive. In that case … hire an expert.

Know the resale value

According to the Remodeling annual cost vs. value report, less expensive upgrades like entry door, garage door and window replacements perform better on resale over more upscale changes to kitchens or bathrooms.

Renovations need to be appropriate for the neighborhood to add true resale value, according to Bob Vila. So, while you may love a gourmet kitchen, and want it in your own home, don’t plan to recoup the expense when the time comes to sell.

Compliments of Virtual Results.

Ideas for Dry-Scaping

Ideas for Dry-ScapingYou’ve decided to make your new home as ecologically sustainable as possible. You’ve changed out the toilets for low-flow versions and added insulation, installed bamboo flooring, energy-efficient windows and natural gas appliances. Now, it’s time to tackle the yard. Before you tear out that water-guzzling turf, make a plan to replace it with an aesthetically pleasing low-maintenance xeriscape.

Dry-scaping, desert-scaping, or xeriscaping, is landscaping that serves to utilize less water, conserve energy and protect the local environment and wildlife. That doesn’t mean you have to replace everything with sand and cacti though. Most climates support a variety of plant life, so just be sure to select regionally native plants. Here are some ideas to get you started.

Functionality

Lawns offer play and activity space, so if you use your yard (children’s playground, entertainment, extension of living area), be careful to use materials and designs that enhance—rather than diminish—the usefulness of your landscape. For example, replacing turf with coarse gravel would not work for a play area. Instead, use pea gravel, sand, mulch or recycled materials especially designed for playground use.

Create entertainment areas with paver stones, gravel or an artful combination. For some great ideas, check out these images.

Site Planning

Before installing your xeriscape, take time to determine how water, wind, shade and sun factor into your yard. If your property is on a slope (even a slight change in elevation), determine how water naturally flows. Avoid placing a playground or entertainment area at the lowest point where water might pool—reserve that area for plants. Preserve existing trees and install shade-tolerant plants in their shadow. Consider heavier ground cover (lava rock, larger gravel, native plants) for areas exposed to wind to prevent erosion.

Maintenance

The advantages of no lawn to mow can quickly be overshadowed if your xeriscape becomes a haven for weeds. Before spraying weed-killer, however, check local requirements for herbicides that work best and are safe for the local environment. Cover the bare soil with landscaping fabric that is water permeable and use garden staples or heavier stones to hold it in place. Layer your gravel or mulch over the fabric making sure it is completely covered. On the other hand, a better option is to use at least 4 inches of mulch. Do not use plastic sheeting under your gravel or mulch: Water will run off, your ground cover will slide around, and you’ll just be adding to future landfill.

Conservation

Consult with a landscaper or local gardening shop for the best plants to add to your xeriscape to conserve water and soil. If plants might require added water during very dry seasons, install a drip-irrigation system that adds water slowly and directly at the plant site. Drip-irrigation reduces waste compared to sprinklers and prevents both overwatering and evaporation.

Alternative Materials

Natural landscaping materials such as mulch and gravel may be enhanced by the use of alternatives such as re-purposed rubber tires for playground areas, recycled concrete and brick for rock garden and retaining walls, and tumbled glass “mulch” to add color to raised beds and decorative pathways.

Compliments of Virtual Results.

Spring Means Servicing Your Air Conditioner

Servicing Your Air ConditionerIn preparation for warmer summer days, spring is the perfect time to have your air conditioner serviced. With regular service, air conditioning units can continue to function in the most efficient and effective way possible. Neglected units are more costly to run and deliver poorer air-cooling quality.

DIY air conditioner maintenance

Several components of your air conditioning unit are easy for you to maintain. According to the US Department of Energy, the most important item is to check your filter. A dirty or clogged air filter reduces normal airflow. When airflow is reduced, the filter no longer outputs cool air at optimum levels. In addition, the blower may force some air around the filter, so the air entering your rooms may have dust particles, pollens and other allergens that a clean HEPA filter would block.

Some air conditioner filters are reusable and can be removed and rinsed out with a hose. Others require replacement, so you may need to check them more than once during the warm season. You especially may need to replace them after times of high pollen or dust, or if your pet sheds. Some filters are located in the air conditioner unit itself, and some are located in the grates or grills. Filters in room air conditioners typically are located behind the grill that faced the room.

Another component that homeowners can easily care for are the coils. As dirt and grime builds up on the coils, they become inefficient at absorbing heat. Clean the evaporator coils, located in the unit, annually.

Check outdoor condenser coils, usually enclosed in a cover with fins, and clean dirt and debris from the fins gently with a broom. Better yet, purchase a fin comb at a local big box retailer or HVAC dealer to clean built-up debris from your air conditioner’s fins. If any of the fins are bent, they can block airflow and reduce your efficiency. The fin comb will straighten bent finds, opening up the airflow. Remove any weed or plant overgrowth from the coil casing. Trim foliage at least 2 feet away so that the condenser has adequate airflow.

If you have a room air conditioner, check the seals that connect to the window to make sure there are no leaks. Use foam window sealing strips to fill in the space so that no warm air enters around the cooled air.

If you have access to your air conditioner’s drain channels, clean them with a stiff wire occasionally to make sure water deposits do not block them and cause excess humidity in your home.

When to call an expert

Always call an expert if your air conditioning unit makes strange noises, does not cool at all, or cycles too frequently. A certified HVAC technician will inspect wiring, mechanical parts like fans and motors, and test and refill the refrigerant lines.

Servicing your air conditioning system now will insure that your home is comfortable once temperatures hit the 80s.

Compliments of Virtual Results

Drought Tolerant Landscaping Ideas for New Home Owners

Landscaping IdeasIn the excitement of buying and decorating a new home, remember to plan for the long-term when you start landscaping. With the recent widespread drought problems, installing sustainable, drought-tolerant landscaping not only saves water, it means your efforts will survive season to season, saving you both time and money.

What to keep and what to remove

Making your landscaping impervious to drought does not always mean ripping out everything. For example, if you have large trees, do your best to keep them since they supply a shade canopy for your home, conserving energy. In addition, they provide a protective habitat to native birds and other wildlife, and a cover for other plants. For the most drought tolerant option, consider removing your turf grass. A standard lawn requires constant watering to stay green. Replacing just part of your lawn with a rock garden interspersed with native plants and ground cover can reduce your water bill and increase your environmentally responsible footprint.

What to plant

For the best results, plant species native to your region. Finding the right plant is not difficult thanks to websites like Plant Native that list regional plants, and the nurseries that can supply you with the right species and give you expert advice state by state. In addition, they provide lists of community service organizations that offer classes and tutorials on local flora. Other places to find information include local universities, plant nurseries and garden shops.

Add ground cover

Removing turf and non-native plants that require consistent watering is just part of the process. Covering exposed ground with lava rock and mulch helps it retain water and reduces erosion. Consider installing ground cloth under your rock and mulch to reduce weed growth and retain additional moisture. According to the University of Ohio, property mulching reduces the soil temperature and adds nutrients to the soil, making existing plants more drought tolerant and less susceptible diseases, or to attacks by insects.

Try compost

Adding compost to your soil before you mulch increases the likelihood that the rain or irrigation waters absorb into the soil rather than running off. According to the Arboretum and Public Garden at UC Davis, composting is second only to mulching to save water and improve drought survival.

Update your irrigation system

An old or faulty irrigation system wastes precious water and costs money both in increased utility bills and lost landscaping, so have it inspected to be sure it is operating properly. Make sure to water according to the landscaping and soil, including less frequently on clay soils since they store water, and more frequently at smaller amounts for sandy soils. Install modern smart technology controls taht automatically sense rainfall and other conditions, and adjust both the water amount and watering frequency. Consider using a grey-water irrigation system that uses water from your household sinks, tubs, showers and washing machines to water your landscaping. Since this water is not exposed to toilet waste, it generally is beneficial to plant life if combined with biodegradable soap and detergent use.

Proper landscaping increases your home’s value and curb appeal. We can help you find local professionals to advise you on the best drought tolerant ideas for your landscaping.

Compliments of Virtual Results