5 Signs You Need to Upgrade Your Kitchen

Brighten it, expand it, organize it — whatever it needs, your kitchen is an update away from ideal.

Your kitchen is likely the most loved room in your home — and the wear and tear proves it. It’s the hangout for hungry teenagers, the conversation station during the holidays and the catch-up room after a busy workday.

A functional and appealing kitchen is important not only for your family but for your guests, too. After all, a delicious meal is only so appealing in a messy and cluttered kitchen.

Here are five signs that your kitchen may need an upgrade.

1. Outdated appliances

Perhaps they were there when you moved in, or maybe they came with you decades ago when you bought the home. Either way, outdated appliances are usually less attractive and drain more energy than newer models on the market.

Consider their safety, too. If you have to press a secret combination of buttons and chant a spell to light your range, it’s time to upgrade to newer, safer appliances.

When you do upgrade, consult a professional electrician to make sure everything is wired properly and up to code.

2. Damage and wear

Nobody expects your kitchen to stay in like-new condition forever, but damage beyond normal wear and tear needs addressing.

Water damage from a leaking fridge or dishwasher can cause mold on and underneath the flooring or peeling on the countertops, floors and walls, depending on the materials.

Cracked, peeling or chipped countertops and floors are prime spots for dangerous bacteria to reside — and hide from cleaning supplies. Even clean counters and floors with stains can cause your guests to think twice when they’re invited over a second time.

Upgrading to newer counters made from a durable material like granite is a good investment that can last practically a lifetime.

3. Not enough counter space

If your counters are covered with appliances, utensils and food, you need an upgrade. Ideally, your counters should always be clutter-free, and everything should have an easily accessible place.

Adding more counter space doesn’t have to mean tearing down walls and rehauling the layout. If your floor plan allows, installing an island is a great and relatively simple way to add counter space.

If it’s not the space but the clutter that’s the problem, larger cabinets or deeper drawers will increase storage so you can reclaim your counters.

4. You can’t find anything

Do you look forward to cooking or dread the time commitment? How much time is actually spent on food prep versus searching for the right utensils, appliances and dishware?

A disorganized kitchen makes it difficult to find anything, which can cause anxiety over cooking and render your kitchen useless. A fresh design and organization strategy is a worthy investment to get you eating in your own home again and enjoying the cooking process.

5. Your house won’t sell

Saving for your new home is often the priority when moving. But upgrading your current kitchen before you go is an investment that may very well pay for itself.

Home shoppers often gravitate first toward the kitchen. So, if you’ve been having trouble selling your home and the kitchen’s outdated — that could be the reason.

Buyers are usually more interested in move-in ready homes that require little or no remodeling. A more appealing, upgraded kitchen can be a motivating factor for buyers, hopefully resulting in less time on the market and a better selling price.

Make the necessary upgrades when the time comes, and your kitchen will reclaim its rightful place as the heart of the home.

 

Posted by Luke Caldwell on Zillow

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The Best Time to Buy Everything for Your Home, From Linens to TV

Calendar: bgblue/iStock; products: Amazon.com

Calendar: bgblue/iStock; products: Amazon.com

If you’ve bought a home recently, odds are you aren’t rolling in money right now. In fact, between your mortgage payments and bills for repairs and much-needed upgrades, your coffers might be pretty bare—which is a shame, since part of the fun of owning a home is furnishing it. Right?

But even if money is tight, that doesn’t mean you can’t splurge a little—especially if you time your purchases right. There are good (read: cheaper) times to buy certain items and not such good times. Know thy difference! All you need is a little patience and the ability to curb your I-want-it-NOW instincts to save big bucks on everything from televisions to carpeting and tools.

Here’s your month-by-month guide on what to buy when you want to save big.

Linens: January

Find deep discounts on bedding, bath towels, linens, and other related products during January “White Sales,” with closeout prices both online and in stores. And don’t worry, other colors will be discounted, too; it’s called this only because linens were available only in white waaaay back when this sale was invented in 1878.

You can also find deals on linens in August when students head back to college and department stores are pushing dorm room supplies.

Furniture: January and December

Looking to buy a couch, dining room set, or any other big-ticket piece of furniture? Shopping after the new year can save you some serious scratch. The reason: Designers and manufacturers release new models in February, making furniture stores eager to ditch their outdated inventory, which hogs a whole lot of floor space. That means you could save 30% to 60% on a couch. Who wouldn’t like an extra thousand or so in their pockets?

Televisions: February and November

Black Friday is a no-brainer for TV purchases, but you can also take advantage of Super Bowl frenzy in late January and February to score a great deal on a big TV.

“Sales of TVs are often at their highest around then, since consumers want to watch big games on bigger screens,” says Kendal Perez, a savings expert with CouponSherpa.com. But it’s not just Super Bowl demand that lowers the price: The latest and greatest in TV technology is unveiled at January’s Consumer Electronics Show, which drives retailers to discount older models to clear the store shelves. (Yes, stores still exist.)

Snowblowers and shovels: April and May

Don’t wait till snow falls to buy your cold-weather gear. Pick up a new snowblower and shovel in the early spring, when “they’re less in demand and retailers want more room for barbecues and patio furniture,” says Perez. You might find decent deals on Black Friday, but they likely won’t beat spring discounts.

Carpeting: May

May is the slow season for carpeting, so if you’ve been waiting to go wall to wall—or replace your worn-out shag—hit up your local carpeting center this month. Homeowners are too busy thinking about the outdoors to bother renovating their indoors, so you’re likely to find good deals on square footage.

Gardening supplies: April

Everyone’s stocking up on gardening supplies during the spring, and you’ll find big-box home improvement stores such as Lowe’s and Home Depot competing for customers with amazing “Spring Black Friday” (yes, it’s a silly name) sales, usually in middle to late April.

“Expect deals like five for $10 mulch, BOGO free seed packets, and discounts on other gardening essentials,” Perez says.

Tools: June and November

Millions of wives and children seeking the perfect Father’s Day gift makes June a great month to refresh your tool collection. You’ll find dozens of sales on everything from drills to nails to saws. Black Friday is another great time to catch especially good deals on tools.

Outdoor furniture: July and August

Don’t pick up your new patio furniture at the beginning of the season—wait until late summer, when the bulk of buyers have already done their shopping and retailers are putting their inventory on deeper discounts.

Picnic and grilling supplies: August and September

You’ll find acceptable discounts on new picnic and grilling supplies in May and June, but the best deals will be found in August and September, “when retailers are pushing out inventory to make room for winter-related accessories,” says Perez. Expect savings of up to 75%—and if you need a lawn mower, pick it up at the same time to score an even better deal.

Major appliances: Holiday weekends

Retailers aren’t tricking you: Those holiday markdown sales really are the best time to buy new appliances. If you’re itching for a new fridge and Presidents Day, Memorial Day, Labor Day, or any other major retail holiday is around the corner, hold your horses.

“Most holiday weekends will feature some kind of discount or special financing on large appliances,” says Perez.

Different holidays are better for different bargains. Memorial Day is best for that fridge, because new models arrive in June. Look at Labor Day and Columbus Day for washer-dryer units, dishwashers, stoves, and ranges, whose lines are often refreshed over the holiday season. But even if it’s not the “right” holiday for your must-have major appliances, still wait for the next shopping day—sales during holidays will still be better than standard prices.

Paint: Summer holidays

“Many homeowners take on paint tasks and other home improvement projects when the weather is warm,” says Perez. You might think more homeowners out to buy means prices rise, but the opposite is often true: With more competition on the market, retailers are more likely to lower prices to entice buyers. Look for paint promotions during Memorial Day and Fourth of July weekends, a great time to stock up on your favorite colors.

 

Posted by Jamie Wiebe on realtor.com

10 Essential Skills Every New Homeowner Should Have

Don’t let clogged gutters or a running toilet put a damper on your new-home high.

Ah, the joys of homeownership — you can paint the walls any color you choose, let Fido run free in your backyard, and finally leave your bike outside your side door, without getting a citation from your property-management company.

There are many perks of having a place to call your own, but the honeymoon can come to a sudden end as soon as something goes awry. Suddenly, there’s no one to call when your toilet just won’t stop running, a leak appears below your bedroom window, or your garbage disposal gets clogged. You’ve got to figure out how to fix the problem yourself — or hire someone to do it.

But with a little patience (and some smart internet research), it’s possible to take on many common home maintenance tasks yourself. Who knows: You may even start to take pride in your newfound handyman (or handywoman) skills! Whether you’re moving into a new home in San Diego, CA, or Wilmington, DE, these 10 skills are essential techniques that new homeowners across the country should know how to do.

Such things as knowing how to shut off the water to your sink are essential skills to pick up soon after moving into your new home.

1. How to change your air filters

Chances are, if you’re moving from a rental, your landlord took care of this task for you. Changing your air filters regularly is important to maintain air quality. “We get calls from homeowners who can’t figure out why their homes are so dusty,” says Bailey Neal, CEO of Nestive, a Nashville, TN-based home maintenance, repair, and cleaning service. “Come to find out: They’ve never changed their air filters.”

Neal says for new construction, consider changing your filters every two to three weeks at first, because of the initial drywall dust. Every three to six months is recommended for people without pets or allergies; if you have pets or allergies, every 30 to 90 days is best. Once you determine the size of your filters (it will be printed on the old one, for example 10x20x1), such services as Amazon or EZFilter can automatically deliver new filters at a determined frequency.

2. How to shut off your water

Ask someone, whether it’s your home inspector, a friend with construction experience, or a plumber, to locate and show you where the main water valve is in your home. “Water is one of the leading causes of damage in homes,” says Neal. “If you can shut off your water quickly, you can prevent thousands in damage.” Neal notes that if you’re going to be away for longer than one or two days, you should turn off the water to your washing machine — it’s as simple as turning the water-valve handle behind the machine to the right. “If there’s a leak while you’re gone, that water is going to run continuously,” he says.

3. How to change the temperature on your water heater

Many manufacturers set water-heater thermostats to reach 140 degrees, but most houses need only a maximum of 120. Setting the thermostat to a lower temperature prevents the potential of scalding, slows mineral buildup and corrosion in your heater and pipes, and can save you $10 to $30 per each 10-degree reduction on your annual energy bill. Plus, it’s as easy as turning a dial.

4. How to turn off your gas

If you smell gas or suspect there’s a gas problem, your first step should be calling your gas company. But it’s important to know how to turn off the gas yourself just in case you need to. The shut-off valve is usually located outside at the meter and will require an adjustable pipe or crescent-type wrench to operate.

5. How to fix a running toilet

A running toilet might sound like the start of a joke, but it can be very annoying — not to mention become a waste of water that could amp up your next water bill. Toilets run for several reasons: problems with the flapper, chain, or float are the most common. A diagnosis and repair is quick and easy. And remember, the water inside the toilet tank is clean, so don’t worry about putting your hands in there.

6. How to turn off power to different parts of your house

“We had a customer who bought a new house, and the first week she was there, her hair blow-dryer suddenly stopped working,” says Neal. “Our electrician went in, hit the ‘reset’ button on the outlet, and the dryer started working again.” The lesson? Look to see if your outlet has a reset button (common for grounded outlets, which are typically located in kitchens and bathrooms, since they are close to water); and while you’re at it, familiarize yourself with the circuit-breaker box. Neal says it’s common for power to die in one room of the house and people then think there’s a power outage. “They don’t even think to go to the breaker box to see if it has tripped,” he says. “Especially if you have (an) older house, the wiring was not built to handle the same capacity of modern electrical systems. Older homes will get overloaded quicker.” When you move into your new home, take some time to flip your circuit-breaker switches and figure out what controls what room — and that the switches are properly marked.

7. How to find a wall stud

It’s important to locate wall studs, which are vertical wood boards behind your drywall, when you’re hanging heavy wall adornments in your new home — including TV wall mounts, shelves that will support significant weight, or even a heavy mirror. Luckily, technology has made it pretty simple to do this — for around $10 at a hardware or home improvement store, you can purchase a stud finder that will help you locate the boards. Pro tip: Studs are almost always spaced either 16 or 24 inches apart.

8. How to clean your gutters

Clogged gutters are no joke. They can cause water to flow onto the wood trim and siding of your house, which can eventually lead to rot — and replacement, notes Neal. Gutters should be cleaned every year, or twice a year if you have overhanging trees. If you feel confident on a ladder, you can clear the gutters yourself by suiting up (wear long sleeves, gloves, even goggles and a mask) and using a small garden shovel to clear the muck, followed by a high-pressure water rinse from your hose. Focus on clog-prone areas: mainly where the downspouts join the gutter system.

9. How to caulk

Caulking is a simple task but delivers big impact — not to mention, it keeps air and water at bay. First, pick the right caulk. For a long-lasting seal, choose permanently waterproof, flexible, shrinkproof, crackproof silicone caulk. (Skip acrylic caulk, which can shrink and crack over time.)

Next, remove old caulk with a utility knife and make sure your surface is clean and dry. Cut the nozzle of the caulk tube to your desired bead size and run a line of caulk — make sure to use even pressure when applying with a caulking gun. Finally, smooth the line with a wet finger. Need more instruction? Do a little research about proper caulk protocol, and you’ll be sealed up in no time.

10. How to maintain your appliances

This doesn’t exactly seem like a skill, right? But you’d be surprised: Knowing how to properly clean and maintain your appliances is key to extending their life span. For one resource, locate your oven’s instruction manual (or look it up on ManualsOnline.com) and run the self-clean feature — no need to bake your cookies with lasagna leftovers from the previous homeowner.

If your refrigerator is equipped with a water dispenser (i.e., it makes its own ice), we’re betting it has been awhile since the filter was replaced. Again, use the manual to determine the correct filter model and how to replace it. Next, clean your dryer vent of lint buildup — in the lint trap, behind the lint trap, and in the duct that leads to the outside of your home. Then clean your dishwasher filter or trap (depending on your dishwasher model) and run an empty cycle on “hot” with a cup of white vinegar: This will remove all grease and grime. And finally, know how to unclog the garbage disposal — a clean toilet plunger can work or, in more extreme cases, an auger, which is sold at home improvement stores.

Posted by Liz Olech on Trulia

5 Appliances to Take from Dull to Sparkling

Regular cleaning is something we must all do to keep a healthy and functioning home. But often, we forget about all the appliances we have and how to give them a bit of a deep clean to help them really sparkle. Here are five appliances that you can make sparkle with some simple cleaning tips. 

Coffee Makers

Using 3 parts water and 1 part white vinegar, your coffee maker will be refreshed and no longer carry the residue from pots of coffee made throughout the last several months. By taking this water and vinegar mixture and running it through your coffee pot like you are brewing a fresh pot of coffee, you will experience a cleaner tasting coffee the next time you are ready to brew your coffee. After running the mixture, clean the coffee pot carafes and filters like normal and you will be ready for a fresh pot of coffee.

Dishwasher

Many people forget about the dishwasher thinking that running dishes to clean will automatically clean the dishwasher. Unfortunately, your dishwasher can get clogged and still need a refresher rinse similar to that of your coffee pot. Using white vinegar by pouring about 1/2 – 1 cup in the bottom of your dishwasher, you can run a wash cycle and the the vinegar do its magic. You can also use a dishwasher cleaning tablet like Affresh. This tablet is also placed in the bottom of your dishwasher and with a wash cycle will also clean your dishwasher. Use a sponge to wipe down your doors and the sided of the dishwasher for any excess dirt.

Microwave

Mix 1 cup vinegar and 1 cup water, place it in a microwave safe bowl or cup and turn on your microwave for 2 – 5 minutes. The microwave will create a steam bath for the vinegar water mixture and this mixture will reduce any food accidentally left in your microwave. This mixture will also reduce food odors that have formed from the microwave food products. After performing this step, then use the mixture … be careful, it will be hot … and a sponge and wipe down the rest of the inside of the microwave and wallah … you have a sparkling clean microwave.

Oven

If you have a self cleaning oven, you can run this program and then using a damp sponge or rag wipe down the excess ash that cleaned away the food drippings. If you do not have a self cleaning oven, using oven clean or a baking soda paste (made with baking soda and water), spray or wipe the cleaner or paste on the the inside of the oven and let it sit overnight. Be sure to remove any racks and clean them separately. The next day, wipe down the inside of the oven and then if need be use a little vinegar and water with a couple drops of dishwashing detergent to wipe down any excess. Now you have a clean oven with no food odors ready for all your new dishes to share.

Washing Machine

You can naturally clean your washing machine with once again vinegar and baking soda. Using 1/2 – 1 cup of vinegar to run inside your machine for the first few minutes. Then you can add about 1/2 cup of baking soda and wipe down the inside of the machine in a temporary pause phase of your cycle. Then run the cycle completely without clothes in the machine. The rinse cycle will naturally rinse away the vinegar and baking soda. You will also need some cleaning solution to clean the areas of your machine that hold your softener or bleach. This can be done by wiping down the area or using a small brush to clean the area. You can also use a tablet formula to clean the inside of your washer if you want to make it easier for you. Tide makes a great product as does the Affresh organization.

With all this cleaning of major appliances, you will have fresh and clean food, dishes and laundry to eat, use and wear.

Posted on HomeZada

Savvy Shopping for Black Friday Deals

Set your alarm (or just charge up your laptop). Black Friday is almost here, and the deals on household goods are unbeatable!

Thanks for your purchase. Cropped image of a customer paying to shop assistant by a credit card at the cash desk; Shutterstock ID 252655090; PO: Cat Overman; Job: blog post

Thanks for your purchase. Cropped image of a customer paying to shop assistant by a credit card at the cash desk; Shutterstock ID 252655090; PO: Cat Overman; Job: blog post

With the holiday shopping season already under way (earlier than ever!), you may be thinking Black Friday is the time to buy that HDTV or budget laptop you’ve been eyeing. After all, the prices are so attractive. Just $150 for a name brand TV? Prices on bargain model laptops starting at only $99? The deals are pretty hard to resist.

Don’t just fixate on electronics, though. Consider purchasing items for your home, too. Sure, these purchases may not be as sexy as a sleek new phone, but there are plenty of great deals on items you’ll use year-round.

Large appliances

This is the time of year when you see retailers bundle sets — like washers and dryers, for example — and sell them at a discount. And the savings can be significant — up to several hundred dollars off, plus free local delivery and haul away. Special financing may also be available.

Don’t need a set? Don’t worry — individual appliance deals are impressive, too.

Oh, and if you have your heart set on that pricey, but oh-so-worth-it, Dyson vacuum cleaner, now is a good time to buy one.

Kitchen items

Need a new blender? Coffee maker? Microwave? It’s an ideal time to purchase these types of items as well, as the deals are better than average, according to dealnews.com.

And there’s no time like the present to complete your dream kitchen. Keep an eye out for normally expensive brands which may now be affordable, once you consider the rebate.

Tools and hardware

Whether you’re in the market for a storage cabinet, mechanic’s tool set, generator, lawn and garden gadgets, or snow blower, you’ll find it available at prices that won’t break the bank.

Tabletop essentials

You’ll see savings on everything from holiday collectibles to ornaments and figurines — just in time for the rapidly approaching holiday season. Whether you’re hosting relatives, entertaining guests, or just feeling festive, Black Friday is a good day to shop for tabletop essentials that can help set the mood.

Posted by Vera Gibbons on Zillow