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 Outdated appliances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 Either way, outdated appliances are usually less attractive and drain more energy than newer models on the market.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

Advertisements

9 Signs It’s Time to Update Your Bathroom

If a bad layout, poor lighting and leaky fixtures are getting in the way, it might be time for some changes.

A bathroom should be a place of comfort — the optimal environment for a relaxing soak or getting ready efficiently during a harried morning.

“You’re going to spend time in there every day,” says Sarah Hurd, part of the mother-daughter team behind Short Story Renovations, a Baltimore-area design, rehab and staging company. “You should not hate your bathroom.”

If a bad layout, poor lighting and leaky fixtures are getting in the way, it might be time for some changes.

Here are nine signs that your bathroom could use a little work.

1. Not photogenic

“It’s weird how you can see in a picture what you can’t see anymore with your own eyes,” says Angela Hurd of Short Story Renovations.

The fix: She and her daughter, Sarah, recommend that clients take a photograph of their bathroom to get a better sense of what they might not otherwise notice. People can become blind to the discord — from a mismatched color palette to accumulated junk on the vanity counter, she says.

2. Outdated colors

Funky hues can be one of the most noticeable signs that a bathroom is out of date.

The fix: White, gray and black palettes will lend an element of ageless beauty to any space, says Michael Merschat, an architect with high-end residential design-build firm Wentworth Inc. of Chevy Chase, MD.

People are coming back to “that white, timeless look, be it a very modern-style white or something with a little more traditional flare,” he says.

 

Crisp, neutral palettes can lend calm sophistication to any bathroom. Photo from Zillow listing.

3. Smells like a bathroom

“With some bathrooms, you walk in and they just have an old bathroom smell,” Sarah Hurd notes. It’s another indication that it’s time for a renovation.

The fix: Replacing a toilet’s wax seal, fixing a persistent, mold-causing sink leak, or adding better ventilation to a windowless bathroom can all be sure fixes for a fresher-smelling experience.

4. Bad layout

Awkward bathroom layout is another indication that it’s time for an update. Odd arrangements, such as a toilet directly next to the bathtub, are typical in bungalows and houses built in the 1920s, ’30s and ’40s, when plumbing was a new phenomenon.

The fix: Installing a separate water closet can be a winning move, Merschat says. “It gives a nice bit of refinement to the room when the toilet isn’t sitting out in the middle of the space.”

An outside-the-box arrangement can refine an otherwise predictable space. Photo from Zillow listing.

5. Leaks

When brown water stains appear on the ceiling below the bathroom, it’s definitely time to make repairs and update.

The fix: Take the opportunity to put in modern fixtures that conserve water and speak to your style, Merschat advises.

6. Poor lighting

“If you’re either blinded by the lights that are overhead, or it’s so dim you can barely see yourself in the mirror, that’s a problem,” says Sarah Hurd.

The fix: Better light fixtures and brighter light bulbs may be the first step on your path to a bathroom redo.

New light fixtures easily brighten and modernize the space. Photo from Zillow listing.

7. Stylistic relics

If you have wallpaper or popcorn ceilings still hanging around from decades past, your bathroom is due for an update.

The fix: Wallpaper is making a comeback, so think about using it in a new way. “We’ve actually redone powder rooms where we’ve put wallpaper on the ceiling to give it a different pop,” Merschat says.

8. Low on storage

Can’t store all the things you need in the bathroom? This calls for action.

The fix: Install a larger vanity, or add shelves above the toilet. You could even knock out a wall and steal a little space from another room to create a linen closet.

Install a new vanity with broadened storage options, like open shelving. Photo from Zillow listing.

9. Time to sell

If you’re not interested in fixing up your bathroom for yourself, do it for your home’s next tenants.

The fix: A fancy new washroom can add just the right panache to spur potential buyers to action. “Redoing a bathroom that’s just an eyesore within the house might make a huge difference,” Merschat says.

If you’re ready to renovate, start thinking about the look you want for your new bathroom. At Short Story Renovations, the Hurds use Pinterest to share ideas with their clients.

“[We] start a board that all of us can put stuff on,” Angela Hurd explains. “That way [our clients aren’t] in the dark about what we’re trying to do.” This practice helps everyone involved get a feel for one look and stick with it.

 

Posted by Becca Milfeld on Zillow

 

5 Signs It’s Time To Replace Your Windows

Don’t skimp on quality windows: If your windows look worn, your house will, too.

Every home will need new windows at some point. Here’s how to know when the time is right.

Your house may not be able to talk to you, but nevertheless it gives you signs when something’s not right. A home’s windows are particularly communicative. Although they don’t last forever, high-quality, well-maintained windows could last for 20 years or more, but there are many factors at play. (Windows in a coastal city like Charleston, SC, might age faster than they would in Los Angeles, CA, for example.) If your windows are more than a few decades old, listen carefully to what they’re telling you, so you’ll know when they need to be replaced. Here’s what to be on the lookout for.

1. They’re damaged, warped, or broken

It’s sometimes possible to repair a window instead of replacing it. If your window’s problem is minor, such as needing new weatherstripping or hardware, a repair might be the best option. But replacing a damaged, warped, or broken window sash or frame is almost always preferred to attempting a repair. “Even if the windows are still operable, they can develop problems,” says Kris Hanson, Senior Group Manager in Product Management at Marvin Windows and Doors. Do your windows fog up? Are they drafty? Do they stick when you try to open or close them? Do they refuse to stay open? If your windows are communicating in those ways, they’re telling you to replace them.

2. You want to reduce your energy bill

Windows provide some heat in the winter by letting in sunlight. But drafty windows can cause your energy bills to be about 10% to 25% higher, according to Energy.gov. Replacing your windows with energy-efficient ones can reduce your heating and cooling bills. Bonus: If you’re considering listing your home for sale, those new windows — and the resulting energy cost savings — can be a big selling point.

But don’t assume all windows are the same; it’s important to consider your specific needs. One factor? Your location. “Marvin offers a wide range of energy-efficient options and can tailor your windows to best suit your climate,” says Hanson. “Insulating glass is standard in all Marvin windows, along with thousands of options that meet the Energy Star Most Efficient designation, the highest standard for efficiency for the program.”

3. Your home needs a makeover

Windows are one of the most prominent features of a home, and if they look worn, your house will too. Look to see whether the color is fading or the window material is warping, or whether old screens or storm windows detract from the curb appeal of your home, suggests Hanson. “Architects and builders know that good design is critical for the longevity of a structure. Design considerations are a close second to quality when selecting new windows, and the overall vision or design theme of a home or space should be a driving force in the window selection process,” he adds.

While you’re upgrading your home’s appearance, you might also wish to change the type of window from a fixed sash to a window that opens. This way, “you can create a more comfortable interior and improve airflow through your home,” says Hanson. Another option? Install larger windows to increase a room’s natural light, which has aesthetic and health benefits: According to the Lighting Research Center, daylit environments increase productivity and comfort, plus help regulate your circadian rhythms for better general wellness.

4. You just survived a severe storm

If you live in a hurricane impact zone or other area prone to severe weather events, you’re probably prepared for the possibility of damaged windows. In fact, just living near the coast can do a number on your home’s exterior, including your windows. “If you worry about the effects of sea salt, humidity, or coastal winds, consider Integrity windows made with Ultrex fiberglass,” says Hanson. “These windows resist corrosion and remain stable in extreme temperatures because of a material that expands at the same rate as glass.” But even if you don’t live in a coastal region, if your top priority in a window is low maintenance, windows made with Ultrex fiberglass would be a smart choice. “The finish is three times thicker than the competitors’, which ensures Integrity windows won’t crack, dent, chip, or peel — they’re virtually maintenance-free,” adds Hanson.

5. You’re renovating a historic home

Maybe you moved into a historic home that suffers from vinyl replacement windows that detract from the home’s historic charm. The wrong window can dramatically change the overall look of a historic home and can even interfere with its integrity. If your goal is to install historically accurate replacement windows, a company that can handle custom requests should be your go-to. “Marvin specializes in creating customized windows to match one-of-a-kind spaces as well as producing exact replicas for historical homes,” says Hanson.

 

Posted by Laura Agadoni on Trulia

DIY Updates That May Boost Your Home’s Value

Complete these projects and you may love your home so much you’ll want to hold onto it.

Boosting your home’s value doesn’t have to mean a complete remodel. In fact, quite a few home improvement projects aren’t worth the effort if you’re hoping to quickly increase your home’s value.

However, there are plenty of do-it-yourself projects you can accomplish with a few weekends of hard work. And don’t let the letters D-I-Y scare you away from efforts toward increasing your home’s value. Successful DIY projects simply require thorough research and preparedness.

Here are a few DIY updates throughout your home that could increase its sale price.

Kitchen: Add adhesive backsplash tiles

You can find self-adhesive backsplash tiles in a variety of styles and colors. A DIY backsplash tile project is both easy to install and practically mess-free.

First, clean the walls with warm, soapy water. The tiles won’t stick as well if the wall surface is coated with grease or dirt.

Be sure to follow the exact instructions for the brand of adhesive tiles you’re working with. Generally, you’ll be instructed to install the tiles from left to right, completing the bottom row first.

If you’re working around any outlet plates, take them off. Be sure to leave a bit of space when placing the tiles around the edge of the outlet so you can get the wall plates back on again with ease. If you need to cut any tiles, a razor knife will take care of the job.

If you need to remove or reposition tiles, they will peel off with heat from a hair dryer.

Bonus idea: You don’t need to replace your current cabinets to get an updated feel. Try an all-paint, no-construction approach, or remove your cabinet doors completely to showcase what’s behind them.

Bedroom: Install crown molding

Enhance your bedroom’s style with nothing more than a few strips of wood. Installingcrown molding may sound tough, but it actually doesn’t involve much more than picking up some molding (essentially, decorative strips of wood) from your local home improvement store, cutting it to size, and using a nail gun to attach it to the top of the wall.

Courtesy of Zillow Digs.

Courtesy of Zillow Digs.

A home improvement store can help you identify the exact tools you need, as well as cutting the molding to size.

Bonus idea: Install ceiling fans for added air circulation and lighting. You’ll both save on the electric bill by cutting A/C costs and gain a decorative element for the room.

Laundry room: Revamp and revitalize

Update your laundry room or closet by removing the builder-basic wire shelving and replacing it with more attractive wood shelving options or even cabinets.

Courtesy of Zillow Digs.

Courtesy of Zillow Digs.

Paint the closet, improve storage, and add decorative elements to make it a space you look forward to revisiting each week.

Bonus idea: Add an expandable rod between shelves for added air-drying space.

Garage: Clean and paint the floor

If your home is a few years old, chances are the floor of your garage and driveway may have a few stains.

Try blotting the stains with newspaper to soak up excess oil, then use liquid dishwashing soap, hot water, and a scrub brush to tackle the rest. Once finished, pour some kitty litter on the remaining stained areas to absorb any extra residue.

After cleaning the floor, consider filling any concrete cracks you see, then apply a specially formulated garage floor paint, which will help protect against oil and mildew.

Bonus idea: Install shelving or racks. You can use a pallet to store and organize sporting equipment and a pegboard to hang items like folding ladders and gardening tools.

Yard: Upgrade landscaping

You don’t need to start a garden to impress potential buyers. Add some greenery along walkways and patch up any bald spots you see with fresh sod. Be sure to trim and maintain trees and bushes, too.

Courtesy of Zillow Digs.

Courtesy of Zillow Digs.

Bonus idea: Use drought-friendly plants when updating your landscaping, and choose plants with a long lifecycle. Perennial plants are a good choice, as they come back year after year.

Other DIY quick fixes

  • Clean your gutters.
  • Power wash your sidewalks.
  • Paint the front door.
  • Change your light fixtures.
  • Update your window treatments.
  • Upgrade cabinet knobs and drawer handles.

While these tips for home DIY projects will get you started, don’t begin any project without additional research. From instructional DIY blogs to online video tutorials to classes at your neighborhood home improvement stores, there really are endless resources for you.

Posted by Sarah Pike on Zillow

8 Rental Kitchen Makeovers Under $100

Spice up bland decor with budget-friendly kitchen makeover ideas that solve common rental eyesores.

A bland or outdated kitchen can present a steep challenge to any renter who craves a little more style in the heart of their home. That’s because the things that make the most impact in a kitchen — namely, appliances, cabinets, and countertops — tend to be pricey. (And replacing or updating them is completely inadvisable if you want to get your security deposit back.) But that doesn’t mean there aren’t plenty of things you can do to spice up your decor. Read on for budget-friendly solutions to the eight most common problems renters encounter in their kitchens.

Problem: Inefficient lighting

Solution: Under-cabinet adhesive lights

We know what you’re thinking: “Those touch-light things? Like the ones in infomercials?!” And the answer is: Yes. These stick-on battery-operated lights can be hidden underneath cabinets to cast a lovelier glow than your standard overhead fluorescent. Plus, they cost only about $5 each. If you want something slightly higher-end, you can also hang a tiny plug-in pendant light or mini-chandelier over the sink from a hook. Just be sure to secure the power cord far away from the sink.

Or add a dose of high style and opt for a faux fixture, no electrical skills required! (Who says an unlit chandelier can’t just be a cool ceiling accessory?) Purchase and hang a nonfunctional light fixture to get the look, like the apartment kitchen at Prism at Park Avenue South in New York, NY.

Problem: Outdated appliances

Solution: Peel-and-stick wallpaper and attention-grabbing accessories

Surprise: Wallpaper isn’t just for walls. Temporary wallpaper has lots of uses, including adding personality to outdated refrigerators and other appliances. If wallpaper patterns are too busy, you can opt for stainless steel film, which will make even the most yellowed plastic panel on a dishwasher look modern. The key phrase is “temporary” — make sure you’re using a peel-and-stick product that can be removed without leaving a sticky residue behind. As for stoves, you’ll definitely want to avoid using paper here. Instead, drape a cute tea towel over the door handle for a colorful pop of “art.”

Problem: Unfortunate cabinetry

Solution: Stylish pulls and handles

For a few dollars, you can completely change the look of cabinets (or even drawers) by swapping out the handles in favor of something a little more stylish. Of course, you’ll want to keep the originals handy so you can swap them back in before you move out. If you really can’t take another day staring at faux pine, you can cover the doors with temporary wallpaper (again, make sure it won’t leave a residue behind before you tackle them all). If you’re a really, really good negotiator, your landlord might allow you to paint them. Don’t get your hopes up, though, because you might not get approval, but if you offer to paint them a neutral color (white, black, gray) or if the landlord was going to replace the cabinets soon, there is an ever-so-slight chance of a “yes.”

Problem: No storage

Solution: Baskets, carts, and hooks

The tops of your cabinets are likely doing nothing but collecting dust. Make the most of this often overlooked space by adding stylish baskets and bins for storing rarely used things (holiday decor, anyone?). You can also squeeze in storage with a rolling cart (a bar cart can work brilliantly). And never underestimate the power of hooks like those under-cabinet cup hooks, which turn your collection of cute mugs into decor.

Problem: Boring floors

Solution: A kitchen mat

The kitchen isn’t the best place for an area rug for obvious reasons (hello, tripping hazard and stain magnet). But a chef’s kitchen mat, which is made from durable material with a no-slip backing, adds a touch of personality and feels good underfoot when you’re standing at the counter, endlessly chopping salad ingredients. Rugs in the kitchen (or any space, really) can also help define an area, which is helpful if you have an odd layout. Case in point: the rug in this apartment at New Manchester Flats in Richmond, VA, shows how to anchor a dining area in an open-concept apartment.

Problem: Basic backsplash

Solution: Tile decals and stick-on panels

Like faux wood cabinets, builder-grade tiles can look cheap. Enter tile decals. These are removable designs that add pattern and color. They can be a little pricey, but you need only a few to brighten up a backsplash. Or you can completely cover up the offending tiles with peel-and-stick panels that mimic the look of embossed metal.

Problem: No privacy, no view

Solution: Window film

If you have a teeny-tiny kitchen window that happens to look upon a gritty back alley (or you just don’t want prying eyes looking in at you when you’re making coffee in your jammies), this product is basically heaven-sent. Window films are translucent, decal-like sheets that add a privacy-boosting pattern without completely blocking out light.

Problem: Ultraneutral palette

Solution: Bring on the colorful accessories!

You’d be surprised at the impact that a boldly patterned trash can, colorful new countertop canisters, and even a vibrant fruit bowl can make. The bright patterns on these chairs at ArtHouse in Seattle, WA, immediately attract attention. By shifting the focus to these stylish extras, you’re less likely to notice the kitchen’s lesser charms.

Posted by Brie Dyas on Trulia

Before & After: Cottage Curb Appeal Makeover

When a South Carolina couple moved into their new little cottage, it was in desperate need of some TLC.

With very little budget, the couple put their DIY skills to the test and focused on a few key updates that would go a long way.

First, they updated the home’s awkward window placement. They removed the window to the right of the front entry, and added a window in the large expanse on the left. This was the biggest part of the renovation, and it greatly boosted the home’s curb appeal.

The next step was making simple barn shutters from three planks side-by-side and a trim piece connecting them at the top and bottom. Painted bright blue, the shutters liven up the white siding.

Next, the couple set out to update the entry. They removed gutters and replaced iron posts with thicker wooden posts.

Replacing the old screen door with a paned wooden door created a more welcoming approach, and adding trim to the portico completed the entry’s transformation. Painting the posts white was a risky move with the white siding, but it allows the new wooden door to pop and serve as a focal point.

Finally, decorative touches like painting the beaded board ceiling blue and bringing in a copper lantern added some much needed personality without breaking the bank.

Posted by Lindsay Jackman on Zillow

 

Eco-Friendly Home Updates That Save You Green

Invest in home improvements that benefit the environment (and your budget) year-round.

banknote house icon concept; Shutterstock ID 99611015; PO: Cat Overman; Job: blog post

banknote house icon concept; Shutterstock ID 99611015; PO: Cat Overman; Job: blog post

Each year, Americans save billions of dollars by employing energy-saving measures and investing in energy-efficient homes. Some upgrades — like Energy Star appliances, new hot water heaters, or geothermal pumps — can be pricey upfront, but there are plenty of small, inexpensive updates that will make a big difference in your budget over time. Here are some places to start.

Go low-flow

Thousands of gallons of water go down the drain every day. Toilet flushing and showering are the two biggest culprits. One solution is to upgrade your home’s plumbing fixtures so you use less water to accomplish the same task.

Low-flow fixtures, which are both inexpensive and easy to install, can reduce your home water consumption by as much as 50 percent, and save you up to $145 a year on electricity, according to Energy Star.

Insulate, insulate, insulate

Upgrading your home with energy-efficient insulation is one of the quickest energy payback projects you can undertake. If your house doesn’t have enough insulation (and many homes don’t, especially those built before 1980), bringing it up to current standards will not only make it more comfortable all year long, but you’ll save money — anywhere from 10 to 50 percent on your heating and cooling bills.

Consult the Department of Energy’s ZIP code specific recommendations for the right amount of insulation for your climate.

Use compact fluorescent light bulbs

Yes, fluorescent bulbs are more expensive that regular bulbs, but each bulb can save up to $40 over the lifetime of the bulb, and they last 10 times longer than conventional bulbs.

Install a programmable thermostat

Did you know that the average household spends about $2,000 annually on energy bills, and that close to half that figure can be attributed to heating and cooling?

Enter the programmable thermostat. When used properly (don’t be intimidated!), this little gadget, which you reset when you’re asleep or away from your home, can pay for itself in a matter of months. Annually, you’re looking at saving up to $150 or more.

Posted by Vera Gibbons on Zillow