THE PERFECT MASTER CLOSET

The perfect master closet creates ample space for one or two users and includes storage features to make the space easy to arrange and maintain.

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Remodeling a master bedroom, adding on a master suite, or building a new home all afford opportunities to create your ideal master closet — a gift to yourself that you’ll enjoy every day. Use these organization and storage ideas to develop your personalized plan of action for installing a great and practical closet

Expect to pay $1,500-$5,000 and up to equip an 8-by-10 foot, well-outfitted walk-in closet, assuming you hire a pro to build the room as part of a master suite addition. A DIY installation costs at least $800.

Layout and Space Requirements

A walk-in master closet should be a minimum of 7-by-10 feet for two users. That gives you space to line two or three walls with shelves, cubbies, and poles, and the elbow room to reach them easily.

For added convenience, include about 3 sq. ft. of floor space for a chair where you can perch to put on socks and fold laundry. If possible, leave enough room in the middle for a folding luggage table or built-in storage island with countertop, so you can open your suitcase when you’re packing for a trip.

Options for Storage and Organization

You could include a dresser in your master closet, but that isn’t always the best choice. A better option might be a closet-organizing system. These storage units have an array of compartments, each designed for specific pieces of your wardrobe, from individual shelves and bins for sweaters and tops to small drawers for lingerie and accessories to cubbies or racks for shoes, bags, and hats.

The components for master closet organizing systems cost $800-$5,000 or more, depending on whether you go with ready-made or custom-designed.

BOOST YOUR CURB APPEAL!

CURB APPEAL

When you’re selling a house, you don’t want potential buyers to drive by and keep on going. But if your home doesn’t have curb appeal—if it doesn’t look so great on the outside that people have to stop and take a look—that’s exactly what’s going to happen.

“A home’s curb appeal is always critical, since it’s the first impression for potential buyers,” says National Association of Realtors President Steve Brown, co-owner of Irongate, Inc., Realtors in Dayton, Ohio. “That’s why exterior replacement projects offer the greatest bang for the buck. Projects such as entry door, siding, and window replacements can recoup homeowners more than 78 percent of costs upon resale.”

But don’t freak out and exclaim, “I can’t afford to replace my windows and siding.” Oftentimes improving curb appeal can mean just doing a few small projects that can have a large impact. Many don’t cost a lot of money.

I spoke with three real estate professionals for their suggestions on how to improve your home’s curb appeal on the cheap. Here are their tips.
•Wash the windows.
•Evaluate foundation plantings, and trim back or replace as needed.
•Update the light fixture at the front door.
•Repair or install a new mailbox.
•Replace window treatments inside the house if necessary. “Take a look at the window treatments in the rooms on the front of the house,” suggests DeeDee Bowman, a Realtor with Coldwell Banker Hearthside in Lahaska, PA. “How do they appear from the street or front walk? Update or eliminate if needed.”
•Repair the front walk if it is cracked or heaved.
•Remove dead tree and shrub branches.
•Mow the lawn.
•Power wash your house. Before you hire a professional for this service, check out the Windex Outdoor Multisurface Cleaner, which attaches to a garden hose. I used this product when I was selling my old house, and it cleaned up our vinyl siding and windows so easily.
•Clean the entryway, front lights, and walkway of cobwebs, tree debris, dust, dirt, etc.
•Add colorful, potted plants along your walkway or entryway. “You can often find smaller plants on sale at hardware stores, flower markets, or gardening and home improvement stores,” suggests Romunda Craft, a Realtor with Century 21 Imperial Realty in Daly City, CA. “Another alternative—small succulents planted together in larger containers.”
•Paint your front door. “Doors leave a first impression as you enter the home,” says Inez Tomonelli, a Realtor with Lyon Real Estate in Roseville, CA. “Be sure that it is clean, or even add a fresh coat of paint or new stain.”
•Clean and sweep the driveway.
•Store all yard equipment, including children’s toys.
•Find somewhere else to park any extra cars, boats, trailers, or RVs.
•Do not use the porch for storage.
•Clean up after your pets.
•Store garbage cans where they are not visible from the street.

Curb appeal is the difference that sells nearly half of all houses on the market, so says the National Association of Realtors. If you’re getting ready to sell yours, investing some time and a little bit of money in improving your home’s curb appeal seems like a no-brainer.

Leah Ingram’s favorite price is free! She is the author of 14 books, including two on frugal living. Her book Suddenly Frugal: How to Live Happier and Healthier for Less was just released as an audiobook. Leah is the founder of the popular frugal-living blog called Suddenly Frugal. Right now if you subscribe to Suddenly Frugal, Leah will send you an exclusive freebie. Each week here on Parade.com she’ll be covering different money-saving ideas. If you have an idea, let her know. In the meantime, follow her on Twitter @suddenlyfrugal and “Like” Suddenly Frugal on Facebook.

FALL CHECKLIST

fall checklist

1. Stow the mower.
If you’re not familiar with fuel stabilizer, it’s time. If your mower sits for months with gas in its tank, the gas will slowly deteriorate, which can damage internal engine parts. Fuel stabilizer ($10 for a 10-oz. bottle) prevents gas from degrading.
Add stabilizer to your gasoline can to keep spare gas in good condition over the winter, and top off your mower tank with stabilized gas before you put it away for the winter. Run the mower for 5 minutes to make sure the stabilizer reaches the carburetor.
Another lawn mower care method is to run your mower dry before stowing it.
1. When the mower is cool, remove the spark plug and pour a capful of engine oil into the spark plug hole. 2. Pull the starter cord a couple of times to distribute the oil, which keeps pistons lubricated and ensures an easy start come spring. 3. Turn the mower on its side and clean out accumulated grass and gunk from the mower deck.

2. Don’t be a drip.
Remove garden hoses from outdoor faucets. Leaving hoses attached can cause water to back up in the faucets and in the plumbing pipes just inside your exterior walls. If freezing temps hit, that water could freeze, expand, and crack the faucet or pipes. Make this an early fall priority so a sudden cold snap doesn’t sneak up and cause damage.
Turn off any shutoff valves on water supply lines that lead to exterior faucets. That way, you’ll guard against minor leaks that may let water enter the faucet.
While you’re at it, drain garden hoses and store them in a shed or garage.

3. Put your sprinkler system to sleep.
Time to drain your irrigation system. Even buried irrigation lines can freeze, leading to busted pipes and broken sprinkler heads.
1. Turn off the water to the system at the main valve. 2. Shut off the automatic controller. 3. Open drain valves to remove water from the system. 4. Remove any above-ground sprinkler heads and shake the water out of them, then replace.
If you don’t have drain valves, then hire an irrigation pro to blow out the systems pipes with compressed air. A pro is worth the $75 to $150 charge to make sure the job is done right, and to ensure you don’t have busted pipes and sprinkler head repairs to make in the spring.

4. Seal the deal.
Grab a couple of tubes of color-matched exterior caulk ($5 for a 12-oz. tube) and make a journey around your home’s exterior, sealing up cracks between trim and siding, around window and door frames, and where pipes and wires enter your house. Preventing moisture from getting inside your walls is one of the least expensive — and most important — of your fall maintenance jobs. You’ll also seal air leaks that waste energy.
Pick a nice day when temps are above 50 degrees so caulk flows easily.

5. De-gunk your gutters.
Clogged rain gutters can cause ice dams, which can lead to expensive repairs. After the leaves have fallen, clean your gutters to remove leaves, twigs, and gunk. Make sure gutters aren’t sagging and trapping water; tighten gutter hangers and downspout brackets. Replace any worn or damaged gutters and downspouts.
If you find colored grit from asphalt roof shingles in your gutters, beware. That sand-like grit helps protect shingles from the damaging ultraviolet rays of the sun. Look closely for other signs of roof damage (#5, below); it may be time for a roofing replacement.
Your downspouts should extend at least 5 feet away from your house to prevent foundation problems. If they don’t, add downspout extensions; $10-$20 each. 6. Eyeball your roof.
If you have a steep roof or a multistory house, stay safe and use binoculars to inspect your roof from the ground.
Look for warning signs: Shingles that are buckled, cracked, or missing; rust spots on flashing. Any loose, damaged, or missing shingles should be replaced immediately.
Black algae stains are just cosmetic, but masses of moss and lichen could signal roofing that’s decayed underneath. Call in a pro roofer for a $50-$100 eval.
A plumbing vent stack usually is flashed with a rubber collar — called a boot — that may crack or loosen over time. They’ll wear out before your roof does, so make sure they’re in good shape. A pro roofer will charge $75 to $150 to replace a boot, depending on how steep your roof is.

7. Direct your drainage.
Take a close look at the soil around your foundation and make sure it slopes away from your house at least 6 vertical inches over 10 feet. That way, you’ll keep water from soaking the soils around your foundation, which could lead to cracks and leaks.
Be sure soil doesn’t touch your siding.

8. Get your furnace in tune.
Schedule an appointment with a heating and cooling pro to get your heating system checked and tuned up for the coming heating season. You’ll pay $50-$100 for a checkup.
An annual maintenance contract ensures you’re at the top of the list for checks and shaves 20% off the cost of a single visit.
Change your furnace filters, too. This is a job you should do every 2 months anyway, but if you haven’t, now’s the time. If your HVAC includes a built-in humidifier, make sure the contractor replaces that filter.

9. Prune plants.
Late fall is the best time to prune plants and trees — when the summer growth cycle is over. Your goal is to keep limbs and branches at least 3 feet from your house so moisture won’t drip onto roofing and siding, and to prevent damage to your house exterior during high winds.
For advice on pruning specific plants in your region, check with your state extension service.

10. Give your fireplace a once-over.
To make sure your fireplace is safe, grab a flashlight and look up inside your fireplace flue to make sure the damper opens and closes properly. Open the damper and look up into the flue to make sure it’s free of birds’ nests, branches and leaves, or other obstructions. You should see daylight at the top of the chimney.

Check the firebox for cracked or missing bricks and mortar. If you spot any damage, order a professional fireplace and chimney inspection. An inspection costs $79-$500.

You fireplace flue should be cleaned of creosote buildup every other year. A professional chimney sweep will charge $150-$250

John_Riha John Riha
has written seven books on home improvement and hundreds of articles on home-related topics. He’s been a residential builder, the editorial director of the Black & Decker Home Improvement Library, and the executive editor of Better Homes and Gardens magazine.

HANGING DRAPERIES

Design New England Drapery Rods

Considering buying new window treatments, but not sure how to get that designer look? Here’s a few pointers that can help!

  • Buy drapery panels that will either kiss the floor or puddle on it.
  • To create the illusion of a taller window, mount drapery rods 4″ – 8″ above the window casing.
  • To make your windows appear wider and let in extra light, extend the rods anywhere between 4″ and 10″ (excluding finials) beyond the window casing.
  • Drapery panels should have a combined width of 2-3 times the width of the window so if you have two panels framing a window, each panel should be 1 to 1½ times the window width.

For more great advice, see  http://www.drivenbydecor.com/2012/08/20-rule-of-thumb-measurements-for.html

 

Will Rising Interest Rates Lead to Homebuyer Rush?

housing interest
Mortgage rates soared to a two-year high last week, rising by the largest pace since 1987. (4.46%) Some economists are predicting 30-year rates to climb to 4.5 percent and 5 percent over the next 12 months, following the Federal Reserve’s recent announcement that it will soon end a program that has kept interest rates near all-time lows for months.

Home buyers may be concerned that the rising rates will dampen housing affordability. But economists say that rising rates shouldn’t derail the housing market recovery.

“Some people might decide to buy a smaller house in a different area, but you won’t see a big decline based just on interest rates,” says Jay Brinkmann, the Mortgage Bankers Association’s chief economist. “In the past, you would see a rise in homebuying activity with rate increases. People who are on the fence about buying a home get off the fence in a hurry when rates start to go up.”

As rates have edged up recently, pending home sales have moved up too. They rose 6.7 percent in May from April—at the highest rate since late 2006, the National Association of REALTORS® recently reported.

Analysts also point out that mortgage rates are still low by a historical perspective, even if they do tick up to 5 percent.

“Anything below 6 percent is historically favorable,” says Keith Gumbinger, vice president of HSH, a mortgage data publisher.

according to Freddie Mac’s latest U.S. Economic and Housing Market Outlook.

Despite the rising rates, housing still remains affordable. According to Freddie Mac economists, it would take interest rates rising closer to 7 percent before families earning median incomes would face housing affordability issues.

“The recent upturn in interest rates is sparking fears among some that the nascent economic and housing recoveries will be choked off before they produce sustained growth,” says Frank Nothaft, Freddie Mac’s chief economist. “Nothing in the recent trends suggests that we need to fear a major slowdown. A gradual rise in interest rates will not derail the recovery, and are an indication that the overall economic situation is improving.”

Source: “Mortgage Rates Won’t Derail Housing Recovery, Analysts Say,” Investors Business Daily (June 27, 2013)

HOUSING SUPPLY IS LOOKING GREENER

Green building is moving into the mainstream. About one in five homes — or 20 percent — built last year were “green,” according to a study by McGraw Hill Construction. What’s more, researchers predict green homes to make up 29 percent and 38 percent of new homes by 2016.

Energy efficient home features are becoming nearly standard practice among some homebuilders nowadays. Many builders see “green” as a way to compete against existing homes, boasting it as a way for home owners to save money on utility bills.

Even in a down economy, home owners have showed a willingness to spend more for green features, according to a separate McGraw-Hill Construction study.

While the thirst for “green” homes is growing, buyers will have to pay more for it.

Nexus Energy Homes COO Bruce McIntosh told The Wall Street Journal that green homes cost about 5 to 10 percent more than homes that aren’t “green.” However, McIntosh notes, material and construction costs for energy-efficient building are on the decline, which may help open the doors more to green building.

Also, home owners hope that green home features will lead to a higher sales price when they go to sell too.

Studies have shown that home owners can see higher sales prices when they go to sell if they’re home boasts green features. For example, last year, researchers from the University of California found that green-certified California homes netted 9 percent more than a comparable house without a green label. Green-certified single-family homes sold for $34,800 more than comparable non-green certified homes, according to the study.

On July 1, 2013, in Green Design, Home Trends, by Melissa Tracey

 

Make Your Own Potting Bench From Old Pallets

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There’s lots of creative ideas out there for using old pallets to create fantastic furniture and accessories. Since it’s garden season, this seems a great project to start with!

Courtesy of Better Homes and Gardens:

Start with two pallets that initially held boxes of tile because tile box pallets provide the longest and strongest lumber. Teisl says the potting bench’s 37-inch-high work surface is perfect for potting plants. What You’ll Need: One or two wooden pallets

Framing hammer

Pry bar

Measuring tape

Straightedge

Pencil

Miter saw or circular saw

2×4 lumber (optional)

Table saw

1-5/8-inch galvanized exterior screws

Screw gun

Glue (optional)

Level

Drill

Sandpaper

Tack cloth or vacuum

Stain and polyurethane or primer and paint

Step 1: Disassemble the Pallets Disassemble the pallet(s) using a hammer and pry bar. Be careful not to damage the ends of the boards during deconstruction. Select the widest, best-looking boards for the countertop. Measure the salvaged wood; its dimensions will determine how wide the finished bench can be. (Hawley’s benches usually measure 40-42 inches wide.)

Step 2: Make the Boards Uniform Using a straightedge, pencil, and miter or circular saw, mark and trim away splintered wood and square the edges of the boards — “unless you want to keep the nail holes,” Hawley says. “Some people think they look unique.” He suggests cutting off knotholes and other weak parts of the boards.

Step 3: Build the Legs Use the pallet base or 2×4 lumber for the legs. Because most pallets have three 2×4 pieces, you need to break down a second pallet or join two pallet pieces with screws to make a fourth leg. To get the hutch top above the countertop height, notch with the table saw 8 inches out of each of the two 2×4 pieces (for the back legs), and add another notched piece for the desired height of 60 inches. “Sister” these two notched pieces with screws, and glue, if you wish. These pieces can come from the other pallet’s 2×4 base pieces or from 1x material cut to match the width of the leg pieces. After you’ve notched out all four of the back legs and extension pieces, connect them with screws.

Step 4: Frame It Up Starting with the two back legs, attach a 1×26-inch board; this will be the depth of the bench. Screw it in perpendicular to the inside of the leg pieces so the tops of the boards will be 36 inches from the ground. Screw in the other front leg to the 1x piece so you have a configuration resembling a lowercase h. Repeat so you have two identical pieces that will serve as the framework for the left and right sides of your bench.

Step 5: Attach the Skirts Add one countertop board at the back of the bench to support it, then position the front face board, or skirt, and install it. “Sister” the front legs to match the thickness of the back legs. Flip the bench over and install the back skirt to complete the frame.

Step 6: Add Blocks Measure and install blocks on the back legs in the spaces directly in front of the back skirt. You will screw the final countertop piece into these blocks.

Step 7: Install the Countertop Choose your countertop pieces, lay them flush with each other from front to back, and screw them into place. The front countertop piece can overlap the front skirt slightly if you wish. You will have to cut the last piece to the appropriate width and length.

Step 8: Build the Bottom Shelf Support To create supports for the bottom shelf, about 7 inches above the base attach two 1x pieces to the front and back legs on each side. To ensure consistent shelf height, you can install temporary spacers (the longer pieces parallel to and touching the ground) and measure the distance between the tops of the spacers and the tops of the shelf-support pieces.

Step 9: Install the Bottom and Top Shelves Screw in the bottom shelf pieces using 1x material the same way you did the countertop. Add the top shelf, screwing it into the tops of the back legs.

Step 10: Add the Back Slats Install more 1x boards to form the back slats, generously and evenly spacing the boards so you can hook things over them in the future. Use a level to make sure the slats are straight.

Step 11: Cut Bracing Blocks Using 1x material, measure for length and cut two blocks with 45-degree ends. Drill holes into the edges so the blocks won’t split when you screw them into place. Start screws into the blocks.

Step 12: Install Bracing Blocks Position the bracing blocks on the insides of the back legs. Drive screws into the back legs, the countertop, and the back skirt. Drill in the back-skirt screws from the outside. These blocks will prevent side-to-side motion of the bench

Step 13: Smooth the Surface Remove all rough, splinter-inducing spots with sandpaper. Step 14: Stain or Paint Wipe down or vacuum the entire bench to remove wood dust. Stain or paint the bench. Hawley applies one coat of stain, then two coats of polyurethane, following the label instructions for drying times. If you paint, apply two coats of primer and two coats of paint for a long-lasting finish.

Courtesy of Better Homes and Gardens

http://www.bhg.com/gardening/yard/tools/make-your-own-potting-bench/#page=17

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