South Carolina continued: A close-up view of the kitchen. The owner said he spent about $300,000 on renovating the former church, which is one of two castle-like buildings on the property. Originally featured as a House of the Day in May—.
The right tools and pre-winter maintenance will ensure that your home and your family are safe and from cold-weather threats.
First, understand the threats
Blizzards. Storms with heavy winds and large amounts of snow accumulation can cause roof or other structural damage and leave you isolated.
Ice storms and ice dams. Ice storms coat structures, trees, power lines, cars, roads—and virtually everything else—with ice. As the ice melts, large chunks can fall and cause injury to anyone below. When ice melts during the day and then re-freezes at night, ice dams, which block water from flowing in the gutter, may form. This condition can force water back under the roof line and cause leaks.
Sleet or freezing rain. Combinations of snow and freezing rain may cause slippery conditions and coat roads, sidewalks, and driveways with ice when temperatures drop.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency recommends that home owners have shovels on hand, as well as melting agents, such as rock salt. Some of the new, more environmentally friendly deicers include calcium magnesium acetate and sand to improve traction. Be sure to stock up early in the season, as these agents tend to be in short supply during periods before a well-publicized storm.
FEMA also advises you have enough fuel to maintain heat in your home, as well as a backup heating source: firewood if the home has a working fireplace, or a generator to power heaters in case of power failure. However, use caution as these can represent fire hazards when not used correctly. Be sure to follow directions explicitly and keep a fire extinguisher. Some generators and fireplaces also require proper ventilation, according to the Institute for Business and Home Safety, so follow directions carefully and keep them away from curtains or other flammable items.
Stock up on extra blankets, warm clothing, and enough food and water to sustain your family in case of a few days of isolation. And a transistor radio with fresh batteries can help keep you updated on news and information in case of a power outage.
Protect your home
Before winter, there are some precautions you can take to protect your home from the ravages of cold weather storms:
Winterize your home. Check shutters, siding, and other exterior materials to ensure they’re secure, says retired contractor and home improvement expert and writer John Wilder of Jacksonville, Fla. High winds, ice, and moisture from winter storms can easily strip off such outside elements if they’re loose.
Be sure that gutters are clear of debris and that walkways are even and don’t represent tripping hazards that can be exacerbated with snow or ice. Caulk drafty windows and apply weather stripping to doors—both inexpensive strategies that can keep heat in your home. Air sealing can help you save about $350 in energy costs or one-third of your average annual heating and cooling costs. The average annual home energy bill is about $2,200, according to Energy Star, of which about $1,000 represents heating and cooling. An assortment of air sealing materials and tools, including silicone foam, caulk, aluminum flashing for flues, and additional insulation, will run roughly $100-$350.
Watch your roof. Consider roof heating cables to prevent ice dams on roofs and in gutters, Wilder recommends. They emit a low level of electric-powered heat and prevent ice from blocking gutters and downspouts. These cables can also help melt snow as it falls and help prevent it from accumulating on your roof, where its weight may cause damage.
The cable costs approximately $50-$100 for a 65 to 100 ft. package and can be purchased online or at home improvement retailers. Well-ventilated attics, which release warm air and melt ice, can reduce the risk of ice dams as well, according to the Institute.
Winterize pipes. Be sure your pipes, especially those exposed or in unheated areas like crawl spaces, are wrapped in insulation to prevent freezing and bursting. Also, learn where your water shut-off valves are so you can turn off the water supply in case of a leak. Six feet of insulation can cost anywhere from $7 to $17; it’s available at most home improvement stores.
Trim tree branches. Branches that overhang roofs or areas where you park your car—or which are simply overgrown—represent a risk to structures, vehicles, and people. Keep trees trimmed and remove those that are weak or sickly to prevent them from falling on or near your home. Tree trimming and removal pricing varies greatly, and you may have additional restrictions if you live in an historic community or if the trees are close to power lines.
Check with your municipality about any regulations and contact your local Chamber of Commerce, municipal offices, or contractor rating sites like MerchantCircle.com or AngiesList.com to get the names of reputable pros. Tree trimming and removal can be dangerous, so don’t attempt it on your own unless you’re experienced.
By keeping your home in good repair and stocking up on the supplies you’ll need before the rush for rock salt and shovels begins, you’ll be as ready as possible to tough out the storm.
Take a look at the most common things that can go wrong when you have guests and learn how to prevent them.
That’s just one of many hosting nightmares that can end your holiday party before it even begins. Thankfully, some of the most damaging mishaps easily can be avoided. We collected five of the most prevalent issues and give you preventative tips to keep your holiday party on track.
Problem: The oven doesn’t heat
For any holiday occasion, the oven is the most important appliance in your house. If it fails to work, the centerpiece of your meal could go from roasted beef, ham, duck, or Tofurky to Peking Duck from the local Chinese takeout joint.
How to avoid:
- There are any number of reasons a stove can break, but one common cause of disaster is easy to prevent. Don’t self-clean your oven until AFTER the holidays. You risk blowing a fuse or a thermostat, and tracking down an oven technician around the holidays can be tough.
Problem: The kitchen sink clogs
The day after Thanksgiving is the busiest of the year for plumbers. The prime cause of this clog-a-thon is the mistreatment of drains when cooking holiday feasts. We hope your Thanksgiving went well, and that you avoid clog-a-thons for the rest of the holidays.
How to avoid:
- Fats and cooking oils can solidify in your pipes, so never dispose of them in your kitchen sink.
- If you have a garbage disposal, make sure it’s running before anything goes in it, and never feed it any stringy, fibrous, or starchy foods like poultry skins or potato peels.
- To fix, don’t rely on chemical drain-clearing products that can harm your pipes. Use a snake instead, available for $15 at your local hardware store. Best to keep one on hand.
Problem: The heat goes out
As the party’s host, you’re supposed to hang guests’ coats—not apologize to them for having to keep them on. A lack of heat can stop a holiday party dead in its tracks.
How to avoid:
- The key to avoiding freezing your party to a standstill is regular maintenance of your HVAC. Every 90 days, a new one-inch pleated furnace filter should be installed. If you haven’t done it in a while, now’s a good time to replace it.
- Also inspect insulation on refrigerant lines that are leading into your house. Replace them if they’re missing or damaged.
Problem: The toilet stops up
Toilets have a way of clogging up at the worst times, such as during parties and when you have overnight guests. This is especially true if you have a low-flow toilet from the early 1990s.
How to avoid:
- Don’t flush anything other than sewage and toilet paper down the toilet. And there’s nothing wrong with putting up a polite note to remind your guests to do the same.
Problem: The fridge doesn’t cool
Without a properly functioning refrigerator, your meat could get contaminated, your dairy-based treats could go sour, and you may not be able to save your yummy leftovers. To avoid discovering a warm fridge after it’s too late, take these simple precautions.
How to avoid:
- Get a thermometer for your refrigerator to make sure each shelf stays below 40 degrees and you can be aware of any temperature changes.
- Also make sure the condenser coils located on the back of the unit or beneath it are free to breathe. Coils blocked from circulating air by cereal boxes atop the fridge, or dirtied by dust or pet hair can prevent a fridge from keeping cool.
Qualifying for the $200-$500 federal tax credit on new windows and doors depends on two measurements, U-factor and Solar Heat Gain Coefficient.
Which Labels Matter?
The two labels you should look for: The U.S. Department of Energy’s blue-and-yellow Energy Star label, which specifies the climate zones the product is certified for, and the white National Fenestration Rating Council label. Nonprofit NFRC is the industry-recognized certifying body for windows and doors. It reports raw numbers only; Energy Star tells you whether those numbers constitute superior performance, putting its seal of approval on those products that meet its standards.
To confuse matters, DOE has issued a blue label that manufacturers can use to signify that a product qualifies for the tax credit. But DOE doesn’t require that manufacturers include it.
What You Need to Get the Tax Credit
For windows or doors to qualify for the credit, two NFRC-supplied measurements must each be equal to or less than 0.3, regardless of climate: U-factor and solar heat gain coefficient (SHGC). You must also have the manufacturer’s signed statement that the product complies with IRS requirements. This either comes with purchase or can be downloaded from the manufacturer’s website.
Don’t be swayed by ratings the manufacturer may post on its own label. A window or door’s frame and other components (weather stripping, sidelights, transoms) can significantly affect its energy efficiency, so NFRC measures based on the entire unit, not just the window glass or door slab alone. Manufacturers, on the other hand, sometimes report values that don’t take the entire unit into account, according to Energy Star.
A Guide to Measurements
The NFRC label typically lists five measurements, including the tax credit-critical U-factor and SHGC. The other three are somewhat less important to energy performance, according to Energy Star, but can help you judge how well a window or door will perform in a particular application—for example, whether it’ll let in enough light.
Where you live affects which measurements are most important, but the tax credit requirements are uniform across the country. There are four Energy Star climate zones, differentiated by whether heating, cooling, or a mix of the two is most critical to energy performance.
Range: 0.20 to 1.20
The lower the number, the better an insulator the window or door is.
Tax credit qualification requirement: 0.3 or less
Efficient Windows Collaborative climate recommendations:
- Northern: 0.35 or less
- North Central or South Central: 0.4 or less
- Southern: 0.60 or less
A low U-factor means that less heat escapes in the winter, which makes it particularly important in cold northern climates, according to the Collaborative, a coalition of government agencies, research organizations, and manufacturers that promote efficient window technology.
2. Solar Heat Gain Coefficient (SHGC)
Range: 0 to 1
The lower the number, the less solar radiation—and heat—the window or door allows inside.
Tax credit qualification requirement: 0.3 or less
EWC climate recommendations:
- Northern: The highest you can find (paired with a low U-factor) if cooling isn’t a significant concern; up to 0.55 if cooling is a significant concern.
- North Central: 0.4 or less for climates with significant air conditioning; up to 0.55 for climates with moderate air conditioning.
- South Central or Southern: 0.4 or less.
SHGC refers to the solar radiation a window or door allows inside. Seek the lowest possible SHGC rating in warm climates to minimize the use of air conditioning. Look for a slightly higher number in cooler climates so that the sun can help heat your home in winter, but be sure to balance SHGC with an efficient U-factor for your area.
3. Visible Transmittance
Range: 0 to 1
Lower number means the room will be dimmer; a higher number means the room will be brighter.
Tax credit qualification requirement: none
This number applies to windows or doors with windows only. Visible transmittance is the amount of light a window allows to pass through. With older window glazing techniques, VT and solar heat gain were basically the same; the brighter a room, the hotter it got. But new technologies allow windows to let in lots of light while the room stays cool.
Consult VT numbers if you’re looking to reduce glare in a room or fill it with natural light, but be warned that a very low VT may mean you have to use artificial lighting even during the day.
4. Air Leakage
Range: N/A, but .0.3 is standard building code
The lower the number, the more airtight the window or door.
Tax credit qualification requirement: none
This number, expressed in cubic feet per minute per square foot of window/door area, represents the amount of air that the window or door’s frame allows to pass through. Energy Star standards don’t consider air leakage because it’s difficult to measure accurately and can change over time as frame materials expand, contract, or warp in place, according to the EWC. Still, this measurement can help you compare similar products, especially if they’ll be buffeted by the elements.
5. Condensation Resistance
Range: 1 to 100
The lower the number, the more condensation the window or door allows to build up.
Tax credit qualification requirement: none
Condensation resistance is a measure of how much moisture a window or door allows to build up on the surface (which can drip onto wood and cause mold or discoloration) or between glazing layers (which can’t be clean and blocks your view). Energy Star-rated windows tend to resist condensation well, so this number won’t likely affect your purchase decision.
Before Buying New Windows:
What You Need to Know About Buying Energy Efficient Windows
Repairing Windows May Be the Smarter Option
Paint has remodeling power when you use it to emphasize a room’s best features or play down the flaws.
“Paint is a powerful tool that can enhance the architectural character and intent of space,” says Minneapolis architect Petra Schwartze of TEA2 Architects. “As you choose your paint, think about what the experience in the room should be.”
More Schwartze advice:
- Always sample paint colors on a few walls. Don’t be shy about painting a few large swaths on walls and trim to consider the effect of natural and artificial lighting. Add samples to opposite sides of a room to judge the paint color from different angles.
- Check the space with the samples in place and watch how the paint color changes at different times of the day.
- Evaluate your reaction to the proposed colors: Does the space feel cozy or is the openness enhanced?
How to enlarge space with color
Painting walls white, cream, pastels, or cool colors (tinged with blue or green) creates the illusion of more space by reflecting light. Paint trim similar to walls (or use white on trim) to ensure a seamless appearance that visually expands space.
White or light colors lift a ceiling; darker shades can have a similar effect if you select a high-gloss paint sheen, which reflects light and enhances space.
Employ a monochromatic scheme to amplify the dimensions of a room. Select furnishings in one color and paint walls and trim to match. Lack of contrast makes a room seem more spacious.
Make walls appear taller by extending wall color onto the ceiling. Create a 6- to 12-inch-wide border of wall color on the entire ceiling perimeter, or wherever walls meet the ceiling.
Vertical and horizontal stripes of alternating color can make a room grand. While vertical stripes enhance room height by drawing the eye upward, horizontal stripes lure your gaze around the perimeter, making walls seem further away. Use similar light colors for low-contrast stripes, and your room will look even larger.
When a space feels cavernous, draw walls inward and make it cozy with warm colors (red-tinged) because darker hues absorb light. Similarly, a dark or warm color overhead (in a flat finish) helps make rooms with high or vaulted ceilings less voluminous.
Give peace a chance
The right paint choice can lend tranquility to a bathroom, master suite, or other quiet, personal space. A palette of soft, understated color or muted tones help you instill a calming atmosphere. Some good choices include pale lavenders, light grays or greens, and wispy blues.
Define your assets
Call out notable features in a room with paint. Dress crown mouldings and other trims in white to make them pop against walls with color. Make a fireplace or other feature a focal point by painting it a color that contrasts with walls.
“Using a higher sheen of paint on woodwork, such as baseboards and door or window casings,” says Schwartze, “creates a crisp edge and clear transition from the wall to the trim.”
Not everything should stand out in a space. Using a low-contrast palette is a good way to hide unappealing elements or flaws. Conduit, radiators, and other components painted the same color as the wall will seem to disappear.
Selecting low-sheen or flat paint colors also helps hide flaws. Unless walls are smooth, avoid using high-gloss paint because it reflects light and calls attention to an uneven surface.
What’s the cost?
As a DIY job, painting a 12-by-12-ft. space costs about $150, including paint, primer, brushes, drop cloths, and other painting tools and supplies. A professionally painted room using high-quality, brand-name paint costs $200-$400.
Understand how a home security system works and how to choose professional installation that best fits your needs and budget.
How a home security system works
A home security system works like this: a keypad in your house’s entryway communicates with sensors and motion detectors around the home. The brain of the system—the control panel—is installed in the attic or utility room.
If an intruder breaks a window or kicks in a door:
- The sensor sends signals to the control panel, which typically uses your phone line to contact an off-site monitoring station.
- Simultaneously, it sets off an ear-splitting siren within the house.
- Staffers call the house immediately and ask for a password.
- If there’s no response, or if the person who picks up the phone gives the wrong password, monitors will notify the police.
Types of installers
Once you’ve elected to invest in a home security system, you’ll need to decide whether to go with a national installer or a local company. Security experts recommend choosing a company with at least ten years’ experience. Either way, you’ll spend $35 to $75 per month on monitoring fees.
- National firms boast that their call centers are fully redundant, which means if a center in Oshkosh loses power, the Vancouver center will pick up the slack.
- Local installers are going to be close by, and those companies have an incentive to do a great job in order to maintain their reputation in the community.
- Full service companies—ones that operate and control all aspects of your home security system, from installation to service and monitoring—generally provide good personalized care and attention to detail.
Before you sign a contract:
- Talk to neighbors who own a home security system about their installer; if you’re new in town, ask firms for letters of reference.
- Choose a company that offers 24-hour repair service.
- Finally, educate yourself online before making a call; websites such as www.alarmsystemreviews.com offer useful information about home security systems.
Understand home security systems’ price, installation, and options.
What you’ll pay
A home security system’s price comes in two forms. First, there’s the equipment cost, which can vary from $250 to $700, depending on the options you choose. Some companies may offer a basic package at a deep discount just to get your business.
They make their real money on the monthly monitoring fee, which ensures that someone is keeping an eye on your home 24/7. Expect to pay $35 to $75 a month for that peace of mind.
Talk to your insurance agent about a discount
You might be able to save money. Some insurance companies will shave off a percentage of your yearly premium if you have an electronic alarm system; a few go as high as 20%.
With an average national premium of $800, according to the National Association of Insurance Commissioners, that means a basic security system can pay for itself in as little as three years.
Prepare for light construction…
Installing a basic home security system takes a pro about three hours. If you’re building a new house or an addition, you can simply run the wires through open walls. Retrofitting an older home takes more time.
…Or go wireless
You can also go completely wireless. In this case, key components of your home security system are battery-powered and communicate with a monitor device inside your home. That monitor is in touch with a remote cellular network—the heart of your provider’s service.
Some critics point out that a wireless home security system can be disabled more easily than a wired one.
Get more than security
Sensors or detectors can be added to address just about any household danger, from fire to carbon monoxide poisoning. Elderly home owners can even get a wearable “panic button” in case they fall or need assistance.
Some home security systems are part of a larger home automation complex that will adjust your home’s temperature, turn lights on and off depending on whether a room is occupied or not, and even water your landscape plants when soil dries out. Expect to pay $5,000 or more for a full home automation system.
The key element: you
For all its bells and whistles, a home security system is useless if you don’t use it correctly and consistently. Resolve to learn how to arm and disarm your system, teach each family member, and use it daily. And don’t forget to use those stickers and signs to broadcast your new home security system. Some security experts say their presence is the biggest deterrent of all.
Incorporating universal design into your new bathroom guarantees access for everyone and saves money in the long run.
Deciding to add universal design
As smart as universal design is, it can be a tough sell. Ninety-five percent of home builders report that buyers aged 55 or older can be resistant to purchasing a home with universal design features, according to the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB). That’s interesting when you consider that two-thirds of those buyers also say they plan to stay in their own homes after retirement.
There are two reasons for this disconnect, says remodeler Dan Bawden of Houston, founder of the NAHB’s Certified Aging-in-Place Specialist (CAPS) program. First, buyers don’t like to face the prospect of getting older. Second, there’s the notion that a universal design bathroom will look institutional, like a hospital facility.
Los Angeles bathroom designer Sarah Barnard battles both these misperceptions frequently. “No one ever asks me for universal design features up front,” Barnard says, “but I recommend them to every single person I consult, even if they’re 25 years old.
“It’s funny—the closer people are to retirement, the less they want universal design. They say, we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it. I tell them, even if you’re perfectly healthy and able-bodied right now, if you have an accident or develop a health problem, the last thing you’re going to want to deal with is a three-month remodeling project to retrofit your bathroom.”
Most important, contemporary universal design features are aesthetically pleasing, even hip. “A bathroom with universal design does not have to be ugly!” Barnard says. “In fact, a well-designed accessible space can be spa-like and luxurious. There are attractive high-end finishes out there, such as luxurious grab bars with beaded escutcheons. They’re not like the grab bars in public restrooms.”
If you’re thinking about adding universal design features, consider consulting a CAPS-certified contractor. CAPS builders are trained specifically on which building features accommodate certain disabilities.
Most universal design features are simply modifications of products and design specifications that you would consider for any bathroom space.
Wider doors. A 30- or 32-inch-wide interior door is considered standard, but universal access requires 32 inches of clear space when the door is open, which usually means specifying a 36-inch-wide door. Expect to pay $20 to $30 more for a 36-inch-wide door over the cost of a 32-inch door.
Be sure to check how much space a larger door requires when it swings open. Bathroom doors should swing outward.
Grab bars for shower, tub, and toilet. Bawden recommends covering the framing of the entire tub, shower, and toilet surround with ½-inch pressure-treated plywood so that you can install grab bars anywhere on the wall, either immediately or at any time in the future.
Adding the plywood costs about $250 for labor and materials per area; grab bars cost from $50 to $300, depending on the quality of the finish. Expect to pay $50 to $100 per grab bar for labor.
If you have restricted mobility, consult a CAPS-certified builder about how many grab bars you need, what sizes they should be, and where they should be located. Because different health issues require different bar placements, it isn’t a good idea to add more than one bar now if you’re healthy.
A curbless shower. These showers have no lip at the floor and can be accessed by those using a wheelchair or other mobility device. The floor slopes down toward the drain; a swing-out door or a shower curtain keeps water contained. From a design standpoint, the minimalist lines fit seamlessly into a contemporary spa-style bathroom.
A curbless shower requires that the shower pan or drain be slightly lower than the surrounding flooring. Typically, your building contractor lowers the shower floor area by trimming the tops of the floor joists (and strengthening them if necessary), then installing a concrete shower floor (for tile) or a curbless shower pan.
Installing a curbless shower costs about the same as installing a “regular” fully tiled shower stall. However, expect to pay an additional $200 to $300 in labor for modifying floor joists.
Lever-style door handles and faucets. Lever-type handles are easier to use than twist-type knobs or handles, and they’re especially convenient for those with arthritis or with limited dexterity in their hands. They’re available in as many styles and finishes as other faucets and handles, at comparable prices.
Hand-held shower. These versatile shower heads attach to a flexible hose that makes them easy to use while sitting. “I convince people to consider these because they’re great for cleaning the tub or shower,” Bawden says. “Plus they have a ‘trickle’ or ‘pause’ setting that allows you to shave or wash your hair without wasting water.” Hand-held units are no more expensive than fixed shower heads.
A shower bench. “A triangular bench in the corner of a shower has multiple uses,” Bawden says. “If you need to sit in the shower, you can, but the able-bodied can use it to store stuff or balance while shaving.”
Choosing an acrylic shower surround with a built-in bench costs no more than a plain stall, and adding a built-in corner bench to a tiled shower costs around $150 extra. A folding, waterproof shower seat that attaches to the wall costs $150-$500.
Tall toilets with no-slam seats and lids. “I put these in every bathroom unless the bathroom is for small children,” Bawden says. “People love them; they’re easier to sit on and more comfortable.” Test-drive one in a showroom to see if you agree; tall toilets are 16 to 18 inches high compared with the standard 14 or 15 inches. Additional cost for a tall toilet is minimal, around $50 more for comparable styles.
Wall-mounted sinks. To provide space beneath a bathroom lavatory for wheelchairs or other mobility devices, consider a wall-mounted sink. Wall-mounted sinks have no vanity cabinet or supporting legs underneath, yet they’re designed for strength and durability. Depending on the style, some have shrouds that conceal drain traps and water supply tubes under the sink. Expect to pay $200 to $1,000 and up.
If cabinets are desired, mounting them at least 9 inches off the floor allows room for a wheelchair footrest to pass underneath.
Wheelchair clearance. Wheelchair-accessible bathroom dimensions require clear space of at least 5 feet (60 inches) in diameter to allow a 180-degree turn. If space is at a premium, consider keeping the room open rather than compartmentalizing the toilet so that a wheelchair’s turning radius can be accommodated.
Here’s how to get the bathroom of your dreams without making your budget a nightmare.
A mid-range bathroom remodel is a solid investment, according to Remodeling magazine’s annual Cost vs. Value Report. An average bath remodel of $15,782 will recoup about 65.2% of those costs when it’s time to sell your home, and a more extensive $50,000 job returns about 58%. In addition, you can maximize the value of your investment by using these smart strategies, which will create a stylish yet budget-friendly bathroom.
1. Stick to a plan
A bathroom remodel is no place for improvisation. Before ripping out the first tile, think hard about how you will use the space, what materials and fixtures you want, and how much you’re willing to spend.
The National Kitchen and Bath Association (NKBA) recommends spending up to six months evaluating and planning before beginning work. That way, you have a roadmap that will guide decisions, even the ones made under remodeling stress. Once work has begun—a process that averages 2 to 3 months—resist changing your mind. Work stoppages and alterations add costs. Some contractors include clauses in their contracts that specify premium prices for changing original plans.
If planning isn’t your strong suit, hire a designer. In addition to adding style and efficiency, a professional designer makes sure contractors and installers are scheduled in an orderly fashion. A pro charges $100 to $200 per hour, and spends 10 to 30 hours on a bathroom project.
2. Keep the same footprint
You can afford that Italian tile you love if you can live with the total square footage you already have.
Keeping the same footprint, and locating new plumbing fixtures near existing plumbing pipes, saves demolition and reconstruction dollars. You’ll also cut down on the dust and debris that make remodeling so hard to live with.
Make the most of the space you have. Glass doors on showers and tubs open up the area. A pedestal sink takes up less room than a vanity. If you miss the storage, replace a mirror with a deep medicine cabinet.
3. Make lighting a priority
Multiple shower heads and radiant heat floors are fabulous adds to a bathroom remodel. But few items make a bathroom more satisfying than lighting designed for everyday grooming. You can install lighting for a fraction of the cost of pricier amenities.
Well-designed bathroom task lighting surrounds vanity mirrors and eliminates shadows on faces: You look better already. The scheme includes two ceiling- or soffit-mounted fixtures with 60 to 75 watts each, and side fixtures or sconces providing at least 150 watts each, distributed vertically across 24 inches (to account for people of various heights). Four-bulb lighting fixtures work well for side lighting.
4. Clear the air
Bathroom ventilation systems may be out of sight, but they shouldn’t be out of mind during a bathroom remodel.
Bathroom ventilation is essential for removing excess humidity that fogs mirrors, makes bathroom floors slippery, and contributes to the growth of mildew and mold. Controlling mold and humidity is especially important for maintaining healthy indoor air quality and protecting the value of your home—mold remediation is expensive, and excess humidity can damage cabinets and painted finishes.
A bathroom vent and water closet fan should exhaust air to the outside—not simply to the space between ceiling joists. Better models have whisper-quiet exhaust fans and humidity-controlled switches that activate when a sensor detects excess moisture in the air.
5. Think storage
Bathroom storage is a challenge: By the time you’ve installed the toilet, shower, and sink, there’s often little space left to store towels, toilet paper, and hair and body products. Here are some ways to find storage in hidden places.
- Think vertically: Upper wall space in a bathroom is often underused. Freestanding, multi-tiered shelf units designed to fit over toilet tanks turn unused wall area into found storage. Spaces between wall studs create attractive and useful niches for holding soaps and toiletries. Install shelves over towel bars to use blank wall space.
- Think moveable: Inexpensive woven baskets set on the floor are stylish towel holders. A floor-stand coat rack holds wet towels, bath robes, and clothes.
- Think utility: Adding a slide-out tray to vanity cabinet compartments provides full access to stored items and prevents lesser-used items from being lost or forgotten.
6. Contribute sweat equity
Shave labor costs by doing some work yourself. Tell your contractor which projects you’ll handle, so there are no misunderstandings later.
Some easy DIY projects:
- Install window and baseboard trim; save $250.
- Paint walls and trim, 200 sq.ft.; save $200.
- Install toilet; save $150.
- Install towel bars and shelves; save $20 each.
7. Choose low-cost design for high visual impact
A “soft scheme” adds visual zest to your bathroom, but doesn’t create a one-of-a-kind look that might scare away future buyers.
Soft schemes employ neutral colors for permanent fixtures and surfaces, then add pizzazz with items that are easily changed, such as shower curtains, window treatments, towels, throw rugs, and wall colors. These relatively low-cost decorative touches provide tons of personality but are easy to redo whenever you want.
Want to upgrade your deck but watching your budget? Here are 5 easy deck makeover ideas, many well under $300.
You won’t have to plug them in or wire anything, either. Their solar-charged batteries are renewed every day, and the lights are built to withstand all kinds of weather.
Types and cost:
- Paper lanterns (made from synthetic, weatherproof nylon; $20-$30) are made for hanging and come in all sorts of fun shapes, sizes, and colors.
- Carriage lights can be fixed on top of a pillar or railing newel post. $45-$150.
- Solar illuminated replicas of old-fashioned mason jars can be set on any flat surface, about $35.
- Rope lights have small LED bulbs inside a flexible cord. A 25-foot-long rope with solar charger and stand is $25.
What else: Suspend lanterns from overhead trellises, railings, and nearby trees, where they’ll shed a soft, colorful glow. Wind rope lights around rafters and railings.
2. Install a stone landing at the foot of your deck stairs
3. Put up a privacy screen
4. Paint a faux floor rug on your decking
5. Wash and refinish your wood decking
2. Install a stone landing at the foot of your deck stairs
Dress up the transition from your deck to your yard with a little hardscaping — a stone landing at the bottom of your deck stairs. Stones are a natural compliment to wood decks, and they’ll help prevent mud from forming where there’s heavy foot traffic.
Cost: Flagstone is priced by the pound; you’ll spend $60-$100 for enough stone for a 3-by-4-foot landing.
How-to: Techniques for installing a landing are the same as putting in a patio, although you’ll have to temporarily support your existing stairway while you work around — and under — it.
What else: You should be able to add a landing in less than a day. It’ll get done faster if you hire a pro, but it’ll cost you another $150-$200 in labor.
3. Put up a privacy screen
Whether you’re relaxing alone au naturel or entertaining friends, a little home privacy is always welcome. You can add some vertical supports and fill in a variety of cool screening materials that are as nice for your neighbors to look at as they are for you.
Types and costs:
- Bamboo fencing comes in a 6-by-16-foot roll for $20-$25.
- Lattice panels are either wood or plastic, $15-$30 for a 4-by-8-foot panel.
- Grow climbing plants on a trellis ($20-$100) to create a living privacy screen. Plant climbing vines in tall containers ($40-$120) to raise them above the deck surface and give them a head start filling in your screen.
- Outdoor fabric resists moisture and fading; $12-$120 per yard. You’ll pay another $20 to have a seamstress cut and hem a 3-by-5-foot panel.
How-to: Your privacy screen should integrate with your deck; make the framework using the same basic materials as your deck railing and structure.
Add some flash by building a frame with 2-by-2- or 2-by-4-inch uprights spaced 1 foot apart, then weaving aluminum flashing between the uprights.
What else: Make sure to position your privacy screen where you’ll get maximum benefit. Sit on your deck and check your lines of sight.
4. Paint a faux floor rug on your decking
Punch up a boring old deck with a faux rug. This is a fairly low-cost project with a big wow factor, and one you can share making with your (well-behaved) kids. It works best on a newly cleaned deck (see below.)
Cost: Most of your cost will be deck stain or paint in various colors. Because you won’t be using that much stain per color, you can buy quarts. Figure $15-$20 per quart.
How-to: Figure out a size, sketch out the design on your decking, and then all you have to do is paint or stain between the lines. You can use painter’s tape as a guide, but a little leakage is likely on a wood decking surface.
What else: Keep a few basic cleaning supplies on hand for any drips or spills. After the stain is dry, coat the entire deck with a clear deck sealer.
5. Wash and refinish your wood decking
The ultimate deck makeover is none other than a good cleaning. Applying a coat of deck sealant afterwards ensures your wood decking looks great and will last for decades.
Cost: There are many brands of deck cleaning and brightening solutions. Some require the deck to be wet; others need the decking to be dry. Some are harmful to plants and you’ll have to use plastic sheeting to protect your landscaping. Consult the instructions carefully.
You’ll pay $15-$25 per gallon, enough to clean 300 sq. ft. of decking.
How-to: Scrubbing with a good cleaning solution and rinsing with a garden hose is more foolproof than scouring your decking with a power washer that may damage the surface of the wood.
What else: After you deck is cleaned, apply a coat of deck stain or clear finish. The sealer wards off dirt, wear, and UV rays, and helps prevent deck splinters. A gallon covers 250-350 sq. ft., $20-$35/gal.