Posted by JoAnn M. Drabble on 10/9/2018

Doing a home improvement or renovation is a great way to add value to your home while learning something new. If you decide to DIY, you can enlist the help of your family and learn together.

But, when you’re taking on a task you’ve never done before, there’s a lot that can go wrong. You might go over budget, or the project might take significantly longer than expected. Sometimes we start jobs that we don’t have the expertise (or permits) to finish and have to call in a professional sinking more time and money into what was supposed to be an inexpensive renovation.

To help you avoid some of these common pitfalls, we’ve provided these tips for running a successful home improvement project so you can focus on your renovation and not on the headaches that come with it.

1. Know when to call the experts

Undertaking a do-it-yourself project can be fun and rewarding. However, some tasks are better left to the professionals. Plumbing and electrical mistakes, in particular, can be dangerous and costly if you get it wrong. You don’t want to disregard the safety of you, your family, and your belongings just to save money on hiring a professional.

2. Call the best expert for the job

Call multiple professionals for a quote before accepting an offer.

If you received what seems a very low quote for a job, make sure to call other experts in the industry to see how much they would charge for the job. Getting an unusually low offer could be a sign that the contractor will rush the project or use cheap materials.

Alternatively, if you receive a quote that seems too high, the contractor may have a busy schedule or might not really want the job, so they’ve offered you a price they don’t expect you to take.

Regardless of who you choose, see if you can find reviews and testimonials to make sure you’ve selected a contractor who is professional and has good customer feedback.

3. Aim high with your budget

When homeowners take on a renovation, they tend to underestimate the costs. To avoid being shocked by going over budget, estimate what you think the total costs would be and then at another twenty percent. That twenty percent could account for damaged building materials, mistakes, or last-minute changes and customizations--all are frequent on DIY projects.

4. Don’t work without a design or blueprint

Even for simple home improvement projects, it’s best to start out with a plan. Having detailed measurements and drawings to refer to will help you avoid costly mistakes. We’ve all felt the temptation to “eyeball it” when working on a project--taking the extra few minutes to measure and refer to your plan will save you time in the long run.

5. Relax and focus on the results

Home improvement projects can be a source of frustration for many families. If you aren’t an expert, it’s easy to get angry when things aren’t going as you planned. If you find yourself frequently hitting a wall-literally or figuratively--step back from the project and refocus on the end goal, improving your home for years to come.




Categories: Home improvement   renovation   DIY  


Posted by JoAnn M. Drabble on 9/28/2018

Donate first

Before moving into your new space, make sure to get rid of all those things you don’t need anymore.

Have you actually used that discounted bundt pan in the past year or two? If not, donate to your favorite local charity shop. Someone else might get use out of it, and you’ll be saving yourself from more clutter in your new home.

Think vertically

Vertical storage is a tried-and-true method of using space, and the kitchen holds some unique opportunities for making the most of it.

Hanging pot racks, magnetic knife strips, mounted dish-drying racks installed above the sink, and rods with hooks for towels, aprons, small tools and oven mitts are all excellent ways to keep clutter in its place — and keep the surfaces and lower area of the room free.

Find beautiful cleaning tools

The ugly truth is that a lot of everyday items just make sense to keep out — but that doesn’t mean they have to be such an eyesore.

Skip the plastic and get yourself a classic wooden broom, natural fiber dish brush and a glass soap dispenser. These items don’t cost much, but they add a softer look while also getting the job done.

Tap into change

Just because your place didn’t come equipped with a dishwasher doesn’t mean you have to suffer. Installing a quality faucet with a pull-down sprayer can make your chores less of a chore (and, as long as you swap it back before you move out, it shouldn’t violate your rental agreement).

Have space and the budget for something more? Portable dishwashers are a massive timesaver. From small countertop models to wheeled butcher-block-top options, there are sizes that fit into almost any space and require nothing more than your standard sink to function.

Live the island life

A kitchen island is a versatile tool for almost any space — even the tiniest micro apartments!

Whether you choose a larger center-of-the-room-style piece or a small butcher-block number, these additions create more counter space and storage, all in one piece.

Bonus: If your island has wheels, it can serve as a portable bar for your next party. (Hey, if we can call bingeing our favorite shows with a few of our closest friends a “party,” so can you.)

Light it up

Another timeless tip: Good lighting is everything.

If your kitchen is dedicated to getting things done and starting your day, invest in cool lighting — the kind that washes everything in a bright, sunlit glow. A refreshing, cooler light wakes us up and creates an invigorating feeling.

If you’re more of a romantic and enjoy taking your time in the kitchen, keep relaxing, warm lighting around so that you can let the day melt away as you sip your merlot.

For those who prefer a bit of both, app-enabled bulbs can customize the mood for any occasion, and some even use every color of the rainbow.

Think (temporarily) BIG

If there’s one common complaint about renting, it’s the stark white walls. Removable wallpaper adds a touch of personalization and won’t break the bank — or at least, it doesn’t have to.

To keep costs low, stick to one accent wall. Finding a large-scale print will make the space feel larger, and layering a sizable mirror on top will maximize the look and any light.

Curate unique displays

One of the best ways to keep an assortment of oddly shaped kitchen items is to dedicate either one section of the room (think: the top 12 inches of the walls) or one wall to showing them off.

Whether it’s your grandmother’s antique creamer collection or the jumble of cookie cutters that won’t fit into your drawers, making them into a vignette adds a layer of personalization to your space while also providing covert storage in plain sight. Easy-to-install hooks or some simple shelves are great ways to achieve this solution.

Keep it alive

Every room deserves a plant. Not only do they look good, but they also improve the quality of the air around them. If you don’t have the floor or counter space to spare, a hanging plant will do the trick.

No natural light in your kitchen? Or perhaps you’re better at killing plants than keeping them green? No matter — there are plenty of realistic artificial plants these days, which means everyone can benefit from the organic shapes of ferns, succulents and the ever-popular fiddle-leaf figs.

Have pets? Make sure to check the toxicity of your plants before choosing their placement.





Posted by JoAnn M. Drabble on 8/23/2018

Eye-Catching Charm on a Small Budget

There are dozens of small, inexpensive home improvements that you can do to up your home's curb appeal. Adding curb appeal to your house not only makes it easier to sell, but it also gives your house that nice and finished look in which you can take pride in. When deciding on which upgrades to make to your house, consider what your house currently looks like and what will look best with it.


Paint the Front Door, Trim or Shutters

Most exterior paint will cost you approximately $30 a gallon. Painting your home can definitely add some brightness and revive your house. Pick a bold color that makes your house stick out, but make sure to match it to the rest of the colors on your house. Properly prep all surfaces before you paint so you'll get great results that will last for years to come.


Upgrade Your Mailbox

It doesn't matter if you have a regular mailbox by the road or if you have a box mounted to your house, adding a new mailbox can add curb appeal. You can find a new mailbox starting around $20. When you install your mailbox, make sure that you are following the regulations that are set forth in the city that you live in. If you have a simple mailbox mounted on your house, this home improvement project should take less than an hour to complete. If you have a full-size mailbox at the road, plan for at least two hours or so to complete the project.


Install New House Numbers

If your house has old or faded house numbers on it, purchase some new numbers to spruce up the curb appeal. Try to match your new house numbers with the finish that is on your exterior light fixtures. Simple house numbers can start at $2.00 for a number or you can look into customized plaques that can cost $50-$100.


Plant a Tree

Planting a tree is one of the most common ways to add curb appeal to your house. Before you plant a tree, consider how big the tree will get and how it will affect your house. If you have enough space, try planting two trees to frame your house or your entryway.


Replace Exterior Lighting

When buying new exterior light fixtures, consider both the style of your home and the function of the lights. You want them to be able to adequately illuminate your entryway and make it safer. Look for fixtures that have the same mounting system as the current ones that you have to save yourself some time. Exterior light fixtures can be found anywhere from $20 and up. Check salvage shops, you might be able to find vintage lighting to match the age and look of your home.

Install Flower Boxes

If your house is lacking color, try adding flower boxes. Install them on the front porch railings as well as below the windows. Window boxes are relatively cheap or you can DIY them in an afternoon. The flowers and soil may actually cost you more than the box, and remember, you have to maintain the flowers to actually add curb appeal. If you rather not add flower boxes to your house, then consider buying some container gardens in pots and placing them on your front steps or porch.







Posted by JoAnn M. Drabble on 8/23/2018

Steps to a De-cluttered Kitchen

Reduce clutter and live simply with these tips for better organization in the kitchen. Scale back on cookbooks, don't buy another coffee mug, and then take a deep dive into this challenge and learn how to streamline your lifestyle.

Commit to the Pantry Challenge


Take a close look at the items in your pantry, especially the ones way in the back. Make a goal to use any items that are expiring in the next three months. Bonus points if you can incorporate three of the ingredients into a single meal. More bonus points if you can use up all these items in a single week.

Stack Your Cookware


Make better use of cabinet and drawer space and have a system for stacking cookware. Regardless of quality, pan protectors will help protect non-stick surfaces from scratches and will prolong the life of your pots and pans. You can make protectors like these; a single layer of felt cut into an asterisk shape will do the trick, but I recommend double-layered for added durability.

Keep the Fridge Free of Magnets and Artwork


It’s easy to let kids' artwork consume every spare inch of your refrigerator. Keep the chaos at bay by framing select pieces of artwork, or purchasing a shadowbox frame that doubles as a secret built-in storage unit – totally genius.

Reduce Unused Small Appliances and Tools


Some small appliances get used a lot, and those are the ones you should keep handy. However, whether we want to admit it or not, there are some appliances – like a veggie spiralizer, ice cream maker or specialty stand mixer attachments – that we rarely use, and we can certainly do without them taking up a whole cabinet of their own. If you must keep the lesser-used appliances, carve out a new space for lesser-used appliances in an unused closet or on a shelf in your basement.

Find Order in Your Silverware Drawer


Store-bought utensil trays are good for simple organization, but storage systems that take into account serving pieces and lesser-used hand tools – like potato mashers and can openers – are often better off custom built. This drawer organization system built by Sarah at The Ugly Duckling House proves that you can retrofit any drawer to meet your individual needs.

Organize Your Refrigerator


When there’s an assigned place for everything – and everything’s in that place – it’s a whole lot easier to find what you need. I always struggled with loose condiments wedged in the narrow door shelves, so a rotating tray has been the perfect accessory for our fridge. Not only can we spin it to access a specific item, but at dinner time we can pull the whole tray out and transfer it to the table so that everything remains contained and accessible. This same system works perfectly for salad dressings too!

Reduce Your Stash of Plasticware


Assess your collection of plastic containers. First, separate items that aren’t yours; label and bag them so you can return them to their owners. Then separate items that don’t have a lid or lids that are missing their bottom. Next, check for cracks and melted plastic – those too can go. Finally, filter out plastic items that are from to-go containers. Put those containers to better use, such as organizing screws and hooks in your workshop. The goal? A much-less cluttered cabinet where you can always find what you need.

Keep Bulky Items Off of the Countertop


While it’s usually fun to show off your colorful stand mixer or high-velocity blender for a little while, it sure is nice to get that counter space back when the appliances aren’t in use. The Rev-A-Shelf is without a doubt my favorite invention, because it keeps the tool as accessible as it needs to be, and eliminates the back-breaking movements we all know from trying to lift one of those things from the bottom cabinet, or the top shelf in your pantry. Get one for every appliance!

Use Wall Space to Your Advantage


A magnetic bar installed on the wall is a magical way to store your most-used knives. Keeping them out of a drawer prevents them from getting dinged up, and getting a knife block off the counter saves valuable space, too.




Categories: Uncategorized  


Posted by JoAnn M. Drabble on 3/28/2018

Low Pressure in Showerhead

Most showerheads and faucets now come with water-saving devices called reducers. They’re great for saving water (and money), but sometimes these models are not as powerful as you would like. To remove the water reducer, unscrew the showerhead off its arm. Look inside for the reducer; it is usually a bright color. Remove the gasket that holds the reducer in place then remove the reducer. Another cause of bad water pressure is hard water which can leave mineral deposits in a showerhead and restrict water flow. To clean a showerhead, soak it in vinegar to loosen and remove deposits. Boiling the vinegar, letting it cool a bit, then placing the showerhead in it will make it work even faster. If your water pressure hasn’t improved, check the shut off valves (both cold and hot) for your shower to see if they're not open as fully as they could be.


Dingy Faucet Handles

While we'd all probably like to replace our faucets, but sometimes the budget doesn’t allow it. Those original one-handled clear plastic faucet handles can get a bit funky over time from hard water deposits or simple daily use. You can pick up replacements at the home center for a few dollars, or if they're in good shape, save money by removing them (all it takes is a screwdriver) and giving them a soak in vinegar and a good scrubbing with an old toothbrush. You'll be surprise at how well they'll shine and gleam.


Exhaust Fan Woes

Over time, dust builds up in the fan slits and makes it work less efficiently and effectively. You can test the fan's strength by placing one square of toilet paper in front of it when running to see how much air it is drawing in (however, this may only show you how strong a fan you have installed). If replacement isn't an option, give the fan a good cleaning with a vacuum hose fitted with a brush attachment. It's also possible there could be a blockage in the exhaust pipe. To clean this, you can use a dryer vent brush, which has a flexible long handle with a brush on the end.


Cabinet Facelift

If your bathroom cabinets are looking dingy but are still in good functioning shape, there's no need to feel stuck if your budget is limited. Even builders' grade laminate covered cabinets can be freshened up. There are kits available that include all primers and paint/epoxy layers, or you can simply sand, prime and paint using ordinary materials. To make the job easier, remove all the doors, drawers, hardware and work on these parts in a clean workspace away from the bathroom. It's best to use rollers or foam brushes to get a smooth finish, and you should top it off with a coat of polyurethane or polycrylic. For the finishing touch, pick up some new knobs and pulls.


Broken Tile

Cracked or broken tile is not only unsightly, but can also be a trip hazard, a sharp exposed edge, or an entry point for leaks. Cut around the broken or cracked tile at the grout line using a tile saw attachment for a rotary tool. If it's not loose, you'll need to break up the tile using a hammer or a cold chisel. Make sure you protect the surrounding good tile. Clean the area thoroughly and check to see if there is a void that may have cause the tile to crack. If so, apply a leveler compound, smooth, and allow to set. Apply mortar to the back of the tile and area it's being inserted, and set in place, making sure it is level with the surrounding tile. Allow the mortar to set and apply grout. When this sets, apply a grout sealer.


Dirty Grout

A big mistake homeowners often make is not sealing the grout lines after doing a tile job, or not requesting the grout be sealed after having the job done for them. It won't take long to regret this decision when irregular color patterns start showing up in the grout. But all isn't lost. Manufacturers have vastly improved grout cleaning products that will get the job done. However, these products are pretty noxious and you'll need to take a lot of precautions. An alternative is a mixture of hydrogen peroxide and baking soda, and there is always the option of use a steam spot cleaner. No matter what you use, you'll need some elbow grease and heavy-duty brushes. Once you've cleaned the grout and allowed adequate drying time, seal the grout. Be sure to check the manufacturer’s recommendation on any addition steps to take before applying the sealer.







JoAnn M. Drabble