Bright East Village two bedroom, two bathroom condo on a wide, quiet, one-way, tree lined street. [Read more…]
Published: July 31, 2012
Tackling major home improvement projects during the hot months can minimize inconvenience to your family.
Betsy Taylor and her husband decided to embark on a major home improvement project one winter: renovating their kitchen in Portland, Maine.
“We hadn’t planned on redoing the floors, but after three weeks of tracked-in Old Man Winter, the contractor replaced it at no additional cost,” she says. “While it was nice to have a new free floor, in retrospect, I wish we had waited for summer when our chances of terrible weather were minimized. By the third week of construction, I just wanted my home back!”
While sometimes the winter blues can make a person want to make home improvements, in many cases, summer is the best time for such projects. While summertime is when attention moves outdoors, that doesn’t mean all summer home improvements need to be relegated to the patio. Here are a few home improvements perfect for summer that you may not have considered:
1. Don’t build the pool, but plan it
“Summer is the best time for a self-analysis for big outdoor-area improvements,” says landscape designer and winner of the 2009 Oasis Award for outdoor kitchen design, Brian Griffith. “Ask yourself, `how do I use my outdoor space?’ Then ask yourself, `how do I wish I used my outdoor space?’ Summer is a really good time to take a good look at how you experience outdoor living.” And take note of Griffith’s rule of thumb: “The less comfortable it is, the less likely you are to use it.”
2. Focus on your windows
When the dog days hit, the next best thing to being outside is looking outside. There’s nothing like a great summer storm through a big picture window. And there is no better time than summer to invest in new windows to keep out the cold in winter and minimize heat in the summer — or just expand your view all around.
3. Shade, shade, shade
A super-hot summer can leave your patio and barbecue areas neglected. Consider using the summer months to plant new trees in strategic places that will afford you some great natural shade at some point down the road. In the meantime, look into other ways to get shade now. “Covered porches, umbrellas, and affordable pergolas really help make wonderful living spaces,” says Griffith. These days, shading devices come in so many shapes and colors, so you can embrace your own style and keep things cool.
4. Prepare for winter
Any large-scale construction jobs are best done in the summer months for a lot of obvious reasons. (For one, as in Taylor’s case, no workmen will be trailing in heavy winter mud and slush to and from your indoors to outdoors.) But also, it’s ultimately less intrusive to you and your family if, say, to install new insulation, taking a wall down would otherwise freeze you out. So, whatever grievances you have — from the leaky roof at the last big spring rain to that room that you can’t live without — break ground on those improvements in the summer and take the kids to the pool.
“Summer is definitely the time to repave your driveway,” says Steven Mazur, a carpenter in New York City. “You will get a lot better adhering than when it’s cold. And it’s just a generally bad idea to repave when it’s raining or snowing.” Summer is also the time to do work to any walkways on your property.
6. Refinish outdoor surfaces
A beautiful gloss to a wooden deck will not only protect it, but make it look like new. “Summer,” advises Mazur, “is definitely the time to re-oil wood, refinish the deck, or just scrape off old paint and repaint.” These are projects that are easy do-it-yourselfers, and are best accomplished, and then enjoyed, in the summer months.”
Almost any home improvement can be tackled in the summertime. Taylor, now at home in her beautiful new kitchen says, “Next we plan to do some work on our roof.” Not wanting anyone to slip on ice and fall off of it she says with a smile, “We are scheduled to begin this June.”
This article originally appeared on AOL Real Estate: Top Home Improvement Projects for Summer
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Want summer comfort but hate the AC? Follow these tips, and you’ll keep your house cool without frosty air conditioning.
You don’t have to switch on the air conditioner to get a big chill this summer. These tips will help you keep your house cool without AC, which will save energy (and avoid AC wars with your family).
Block that Sun!
When sunlight enters your house, it turns into heat. You’ll keep your house cooler if you reduce solar heat gain by keeping sunlight out.
- Close the drapes: Line them with light-colored fabric that reflects the sun, and close them during the hottest part of the day. Let them pillow onto the floor to block air movement.
- Add awnings: Install them on south- and west-facing windows to reduce solar heat gain by up to 77%, says the U.S. Department of Energy. Make your own by tacking up sheets outside your windows and draping the ends over a railing or lawn chair.
- Install shutters: Interior and exterior shutters not only reduce heat gain and loss, but they also add security and protect against bad weather. Interior shutters with adjustable slats let you control how much sun you let in.
- Apply high-reflectivity window film: Install energy-saving window films on east- and west-facing windows, which will keep you cool in summer, but let in warming sun in the winter. Mirror-like films are more effective than colored transparent films.
Here’s more information about energy-efficient window coverings.
Open Those Windows
Be sure to open windows when the outside temperature is lower than the inside. Cool air helps lower the temps of everything — walls, floors, furniture — that will absorb heat as temps rise, helping inside air say cooler longer.
To create cross-ventilation, open windows on opposite sides of the house. Good ventilation helps reduce VOCs and prevents mold.
Fire Up Fans
- Portable fans: At night, place fans in open windows to move cool air. In the day, put fans where you feel their cooling breezes (moving air evaporates perspiration and lowers your body temperature). To get extra cool, place glasses or bowls of ice water in front of fans, which will chill the moving air.
- Ceiling fans: For maximum cooling effect, make sure ceiling fans spin in the direction that pushes air down, rather than sucks it up. Be sure to turn off fans when you’re not in the room, because fan motors give off heat, too.
- Whole house fans: A whole-house fan ($1,000 to $1,600, including install) exhausts hot inside air out through roof vents. Make sure your windows are open when you run a whole-house fan.
Power Down Appliances
You’ll save money and reduce heat output by turning off appliances you’re not using, particularly your computer and television. Powering down multiple appliances is easier if you connect them to the same power strip.
Don’t use heat- and steam-generating appliances — ranges, ovens, washers, dryers — during the hottest part of the day. In fact, take advantage of the heat by drying clothes outside on a line.
Plant Trees and Vines
These green house-coolers shade your home’s exterior and keep sunlight out of windows. Plant them by west-facing walls, where the sun is strongest.
Deciduous trees, which leaf out in spring and drop leaves in fall, are best because they provide shade in summer, then let in sun when temperatures drop in autumn. Select trees that are native to your area, which have a better chance of surviving. When planting, determine the height, canopy width, and root spread of the mature tree and plant accordingly.
Climbing vines, such as ivy and Virginia creeper, also are good outside insulators. To prevent vine rootlets or tendrils from compromising your siding, grow them on trellises or wires about 6 inches away from the house.
Speaking of shade, here are smart, inexpensive ideas for shading your patio.
Want more tips for staying cool this summer? Substitute CFL and LED bulbs for hotter incandescent lights.
Also, try insulating your garage door to prevent heat buildup.
Published: May 22, 2012
As summer begins, the battle for the thermostat can get heated. Here are our stories from the front. How do you draw the battle line in your home?
Love it! Hate it! Can’t live without it! Can’t live with it going full blast! Air conditioning ignites our passions, and that doesn’t help when it’s 90 degrees outside.
Sometimes those passions combust into full-fledged air-conditioning wars, where families and friends battle for control of the thermostat. Mostly, there’s just a lot of whining about being too hot or too cold.
Since Memorial Day is the unofficial start of summer, we thought we’d share our own air-conditioning passions. Feel free to add your two cents (unless you’re saving to pay the AC bill).
Blame your mother
As with most obsessions, my love of air conditioning probably started in childhood.
My mother ran hot, so our suburban New York house was a meat locker from Memorial Day through Labor Day. Consequently, my internal thermostat is set low, and I like the temperature in my own Virginia home to match.
My husband, however, grew up in Minnesota, has zero body fat, and is always trying to get warm. He likes our house to feel toasty in January and July.
Through 18 years of marriage, we’ve brokered a truce rooted in the idea that he can always pile on more sweaters and blankets to get warm, but I can strip off only so many clothes or sheets to feel cool. In summer, the AC is my domain, but I never set the thermostat below 70: I’m hot, but I’m not made of money. — Lisa Kaplan Gordon, blogger
Is it just me?
Every year my husband and I make a minor bet to see who can hold out the longest before switching on the AC. Our rationale: Every day we don’t use it, we’re not paying for it. And with our dogs wanting to go out and in all summer, we aren’t the most efficient AC users. Plus, we like fresh air.
One year, I was definitely in the losing camp. He was traveling, and I decided not to turn on the AC while he was gone. I woke in the middle of the night dripping with sweat. It didn’t seem hot outside, so I thought I might be going through “the change” that curses middle-aged women. I made an appointment with my doctor.
After she examined me, she asked me one question: “Have you turned your AC on?”
“Well, then, that’s your problem.”
I lose the AC bet most years. I turned it on last night to combat allergies. A stuffy head will win every time. — Lara Edge, editor
I live in a city that is hot, stinky, and breezeless in the summertime, so I can’t live without air conditioning. Unfortunately, two close friends are anti-AC extremists. This makes socializing with them difficult when the temperature soars.
Even a steady breeze generated by a ceiling fan causes the wife in this duo to wince from “discomfort.” As she puts it, she can’t stand being pounded by air. During the summer, they’re known for storming out of restaurants, boutiques, and coffee shops because the proprietors won’t turn the air down.
Sadly, once the temperature hits 80, I don’t see either one of them again until Labor Day. — Deirdre Sullivan, editor
An AC system of one’s own
My husband and I both work from home. He likes to keep the house cold. So cold that I would routinely wear sweat suits even on the hottest summer days. So cold that I’d leave the house to run errands in my sweat suit only to return and change when I realized that the only place I needed to wear a jacket was inside our house.
We remodeled a few years back to create a larger office for him. Instead of running the existing HVAC into the addition, we installed a separate system. Now, he can chill out — way out — all day, and I can put away the sweat suits in May with the rest of my winter clothes. — Dona DeZube, blogger
What’s your stance on the AC? Do you battle for domination with the people you live with?
An inviting open house can put your home on buyers’ short lists.
Get ready for your open house — stress-free — by starting early and breaking down your to-do list into manageable chunks. Use this timeline of 35 tips and your house will stand out from the competition on open house day.
Four weeks before the open house
- Ask your parents to babysit the kids the weekend of the open house. Then book a reservation for your pet with the dog sitter or at the kennel. Having everyone out of the house on the day of will help you keep your home tidy and smelling fresh. Plus, no dogs and no kids equal more time for last-minute prep.
- Line up a contractor to take care of maintenance issues your real estate agent has asked you to fix, like leaking faucets, sagging gutters, or dings in the walls.
- De-clutter every room (even if you already de-cluttered once before). Don’t hide your stuff in the closet—buyers will open doors to size up closet space. Store your off-season clothes, sports equipment, and toys somewhere else.
- Book carpet cleaners for a few days before the open house and a house cleaning service for the day before. Otherwise, make sure to leave time to do these things yourself a couple of days before.
Three weeks before the open house
- Buy fluffy white towels to create a spa-like feel in the bathrooms.
- Buy a front door mat to give a good first impression.
- Designate a shoebox for each bathroom to stow away personal items the day of the open house.
Two weeks before the open house
- Clean the light fixtures, ceiling fans, light switches, and around door knobs. A spic-and-span house makes buyers feel like they can move right in.
- Power-wash the house, deck, sidewalk, and driveway.
One week before the open house
- Make sure potential buyers can get up close and personal with your furnace, air-conditioning unit, and appliances. They’ll want to read any maintenance and manufacturer’s stickers to see how old everything is.
- Clean the inside of appliances and de-clutter kitchen cabinets and drawers and the pantry. Buyers will open cabinet doors and drawers. If yours are stuffed to the gills, buyers will think your kitchen lacks enough storage space.
- Put out the new door mat to break it in. It’ll look nice, but not too obviously new for the open house.
Week of the open house
- Buy ready-made cookie dough and disposable aluminum cookie sheets so you don’t have to take time for clean up after baking (you can recycle the pans after use). Nothing says “home” like the smell of freshly baked cookies.
- Buy a bag of apples or lemons to display in a pretty bowl.
- Let your real estate agent know if you’re running low on sales brochures explaining the features of your house.
- Clean the windows to let in the most light possible.
- Mow the lawn two days before the open house. Mowing the morning of the open house can peeve house hunters with allergies.
Day before the open house
- Make sure your real estate agent puts up plenty of open-house signs pointing in the right direction and located where drivers will see them. If she can’t get to it on the Friday before a Sunday open house, offer to do it yourself.
- Put away yard clutter like hoses, toys, or pet water bowls.
- Lay fresh logs in the fireplace.
Day of the open house
- Put checkbooks, kids’ piggybanks, jewelry, prescription drugs, bank statements, and other valuables in the trunk of your car, at a neighbor’s house, or in your safe. It’s rare, but thefts do happen at open houses.
- Set the dining room table for a special-occasion dinner. In the backyard, uncover the barbeque and set the patio table for a picnic to show buyers how elegantly and simply they can entertain once they move in.
- Check any play equipment for spider webs or insect invasions. A kid screaming about spiders won’t endear buyers to your home.
- Clean the fingerprints off the storm door. First impressions count.
- Put up Post-It notes around the house to highlight great features like tilt-in windows or a recently updated appliance.
- Remove shampoo, soap, toothbrushes, and other personal items from the bathtub, shower, and sinks in all the bathrooms. Store them in a shoebox under the sink. Removing personal items makes it easier for buyers to see themselves living in your house.
- Stow away all kitchen countertop appliances.
One hour before the open house
- Bake the ready-to-bake cookies you bought earlier this week. Put them on a nice platter for your open house guests to eat with a note that says: “Help yourself!”
- Hang the new towels in the bathrooms.
- Put your bowl of apples or lemons on the kitchen table or bar counter.
- Pick up and put away any throw rugs, like the bath mats. They’re a trip hazard.
15 minutes before the open house
- Open all the curtains and blinds and turn on the lights in the house. Buyers like bright homes.
- Light fireplace logs (if it’s winter).
- Didn’t get those cookies baked? Brew a pot of coffee to make the house smell inviting.
During the open house
Get out of the house and let the REALTOR® sell it! Potential buyers will be uncomfortable discussing your home if you’re loitering during the open house. Take advantage of your child- and pet-free hours by treating yourself to something you enjoy — a few extra hours at the gym, a trip to the bookstore, or a manicure.
More from HouseLogic
7 Tips for Staging Your Home
10 Steps to a Perfect Exterior Paint Job
Dona DeZube has been writing about real estate for over two decades. She lives a suburban Baltimore 1970s rancher on a 3-acre lot shared with possums, raccoons, foxes, a herd of deer, and her blue-tick hound.
Sunny, top floor, vintage greystone three bedroom, two bathroom unit, beautifully renovated while keeping classic, original details. [Read more…]
Pristine single family home in North Center! [Read more…]
When your house no longer suits you, you can move or remodel. Find out which big change is the right investment of your housing dollars.
Deciding whether you should move or remodel? The most important things you need to consider are the four things you can’t change: your home’s value compared to the rest of the neighborhood, how much you love your neighborhood, the size of your lot, and the cost to move your stuff to a new house.
Just about everything else—remodeling costs, the hassle of living in a construction zone, or the ability to live happily without one more bathroom–is a personal preference. After all, your home isn’t just your largest investment; it’s also the place where your family lives.
1. Will remodeling make your home better than everyone else’s?
To make the right move-or-remodel decision, you have to know:
- Your home’s value. Easy. Just ask a REALTOR® to estimate it and tell you how it compares with the value of the other homes in your immediate neighborhood. Ask her what she thinks your house will be worth after the improvements, too.
- Your neighbors’ home value. Hit some open houses. Seeing the inside of area homes will inspire you; help you make good choices about finishes, room sizes, and how much to spend; and, admit it, entertain you.
- Your remodeling costs. Once you’ve got your renovation vision, get a quote from a home improvement contractor or, if you’re remodeling it yourself, tally the costs of the items on your supplies shopping list.
Then add the remodeling costs to the value of your home. If the number you get is more than 10% above the average value of homes in your neighborhood, you’re over-improving and probably won’t be able to sell for what you put into the remodel.
Here’s why: No one wants to buy the most expensive home on the block (your home) if they can spend the same money to get a similar home on a block of higher-priced homes. Would you pay $200,000 to live on a block where all the other homes are valued at $100,000? We hope not.
Make home improvements that are typical for the neighborhood. Don’t put granite countertops in a trailer, and don’t put laminate countertops in a Trump Tower condo. Your tour of open houses gives you a chance to verify that your planned remodel isn’t an over- or under-improvement for the neighborhood.
2. Do you love where you live?
Want to keep your kids in the same school district, but can’t find or afford a bigger, better house? Love the neighbors? Have an easy commute to work? Stay put. If you’ve soured on the traffic, the neighborhood’s crime rate, or the nosy neighbors, move on.
3. Do you have room to expand?
If your remodeling plans include increasing the overall size of your home, the size of your lot may be the deciding factor in whether to move or remodel. If you live in a 1,500 sq. ft. ranch on a 3,000 sq. ft. lot, you might be able to add a second story to turn it into a 3,000 sq. ft. two-story, but you’re not likely to add 1,500 sq. ft. at ground level. And if you have a septic tank and well, the location of those will limit how and where you add onto your home (or cost you a bundle to move).
4. Can you afford to move?
Consider these moving costs: sale costs for your existing home, shipping your household goods, buying window treatments and possibly furniture for the new house, costs to fix up your existing home before sale, higher utility costs (if your next house is bigger), insurance cost differences, and property taxes.
More from HouseLogic
Q&A: Author Sarah Susanka Talks Budget-Smart Remodeling
Should You Move or Improve?
Other web resources
Find your local remodelers
Average project cost
Dona DeZube, HouseLogic’s news editor, moved across the same street twice when she remodeled two houses in Columbia, Maryland, before she moved to a house in Clarksville, Maryland. She remodeled that house and then moved back to the same street in Columbia. She despises moving, but her husband loves remodeling.
Just north of the River, and east of the North Branch of the Chicago River, west of the Gold Coast/Streeterville and south of Old Town lies River North. An energetic neighborhood with galleries, the Mart, Trump Tower, boutique hotels, classic steakhouses as well as a tasty collection of dining cuisines to choose from.
The cornerstone of the neighborhood, of course, is the Chicago River and the North Branch. An active and working river, with barges and boats, water taxis and tours, kayaking and what will be the next biggest park improvement after Millenium Park which is now celebrating 10 years. Our river, especially between the Michigan Avenue Bridge and Wolf Point boast a wonderful array of architecture. The Chicago River Walk, anticipated to open summer 2016, will revitalize the land and create another public park. The design plans include conceptual ideas for each of the six blocks from State Street west to Lake Street with distinctive identities and purpose, each with its own theme: The Marina (from State to Dearborn); The Cove (Dearborn to Clark); The River Theater (Clark to LaSalle); The Swimming Hole (LaSalle to Wells); The Jetty (Wells to Franklin) and The Boardwalk (Franklin to Lake). Gina Ford in a Chicago Magazine interview by Whet Moser called this new space “River Theater”. I can’t wait to walk it!
Published: March 29, 2012
Martha Stewart spring cleans like a pro — because she is a pro. But the rest of us seek an easier way. Welcome to <i>The Anti-Martha Stewart Spring Cleaning Guide.</i>
For the record, we love Martha Stewart. She has elevated housekeeping to high art, which protects home values. Martha’s taught us the devil is in the details, and that even mundane chores can be tackled with grace, diligence, and elbow-high rubber gloves.
That said, spring is here, and cleaning is required. But who’s got the time or energy to rip apart every square inch of the house? When we saw a Martha blog that suggested cleaning our kitchen range in only 22 steps, we threw in the towel and shouted, “Get real!”
Then, we created our Anti-Martha Stewart Spring Cleaning Guide, acknowledging that top-to-bottom cleaning is a good idea, but nobody’s idea of a good time.
Except for Martha. Almost 30 years ago, when I was a cub reporter in Westport, Conn., I interviewed Martha at her Turkey Hill estate there. Then, she was a fabulous local caterer about to hit the big time with her book, “Entertaining.” She gave me a tour of her place — the Federal-style house, glorious gardens, chicken coop — and was appalled to hear I had never eaten an egg fresh from a chicken’s butt.
She straightaway gathered powder blue eggs with brown spots, walked them back to the best-appointed kitchen I’d ever seen, and whipped up the best omelet I’d ever eaten.
Lesson learned: Effort bears fruit (or eggs).
But days have only 24 hours, and work, family, and the tyranny of getting in 10,000 steps makes spring cleaning Martha-style merely a fantasy for most of us. So, we created our own get-real guide.
Our guide is all about time-savers and corner-cutters. Our advice:
- Don’t scrub when a good soak will do.
- Take small bites out of large tasks: If you live long enough, you’ll get it clean.
- Invest in white vinegar companies, because vinegar is the one cleaner you can’t do without.
- If a machine can clean it better and faster, buy it or rent it.
But seriously, folks. Here’s a little preview of our guide.
- Shower heads: A warm white vinegar bath will get rid of mineral deposits.
- Windows: Use coffee filters or microfiber cloths instead of paper towels to wash windows and avoid streaks.
- Patio furniture: Vacuum wicker furniture with an upholstery attachment.
- Primo declutter tip: Get rid of “fat clothes” first, which make you feel bad about your body.
Hey, we’ve got a million of these. Martha, we’re sure, is shaking her head in dismay. But we’re sure our guide will help you get clean in spring and still have time to enjoy the season.
And that’s a good thing.