Monthly Archives: May 2016

Not Sure What DIY Project to Do Next? Ask a Professional

realtor tips for home improvementsTrying to decide which home improvement project to tackle next? When in doubt, ask people in the know. A professional realtor, interior designer or home inspector can steer you in the right direction on DIY projects that will add more value to your home.

How Professionals Show You the Way

Want to know how much money to spend on renovating your house? A realtor can help you decide on projects that will bring in buyers. An interior designer can advise you on the latest trends and colors to use while a home inspector will flag potential problems for you, like leaks, electrical issues, termite damage and building code violations. These professionals can help you separate what is an important improvement from a personal preference.

Focus Your Efforts on these 7 Areas:

  • Curb appeal – Sprucing up the landscape and front entry boosts the value of your home. Some of the ways you can do this are to:
    • clean up the grounds, edge and prune bushes
    • plant new flowers and shrubs for color
    • update lawn furniture, especially on porches
    • replace an old doormat
    • paint or re-stain the front door
  • Floors – Dirty old carpets are a turn off to buyers and are bothersome for allergy sufferers. Consider replacing it with engineered hardwoods or laminate. At the very least, have your carpets cleaned professionally.
  • Windows and Doors – Energy efficient windows and doors will help cut your power bills and provide a big selling point when you do decide to sell.
  • Paint – This is a great way to freshen up your entire house. Realtors will encourage you to use neutral colors to help buyers envision how their furniture and artwork will fit in the space.
  • Clean up – If you aren’t going to paint them, then scrub your walls. Make sure there are no dings or scuff marks. Don’t forget to clean the window blinds, baseboards and trim.
  • Cabinets – Even if you aren’t selling right now, declutter. It will save you time and effort, especially when it comes time to pack and move:
    • Add drawer and cabinet organizers
    • Fix loose drawers and hardware
    • Dust and clean out drawers and cabinets, especially in bathroom
    • Wipe down the outside of kitchen cabinets to remove grease from cooking
    • Paint or re-stain
  • Lighting – Like fashion, lighting fixtures go out of style. Update them and use new energy efficient bulbs. Natural light sells a house so consider installing a skylight or sun tube in dark, small rooms.

Small Fixes Bring Big Returns

You don’t have to take on a big renovation. Small do-it-yourself projects can make a big impact on the value of your home so don’t discount them. Just changing out an old vanity and the sink fixtures can revive the look of a bathroom. Focus your efforts on projects that will boost your home’s selling potential while adding to your family’s enjoyment. So ask a professional for their opinion, you’ll be glad you did.

Expert Advice

A fresh coat of paint is an inexpensive way to liven up any home – inside or out. Check out our blog, Paint Like a Pro – Tips for Painting Your Ceilings and Walls for the helpful hints you need to get started. From floor sanders and drills to paint sprayers and carpet cleaners, our expert staff is always on hand to help you get ready for your next home improvement job. As always, if you have any questions about pricing or how-to’s, don’t hesitate to contact us. Stop by our store — we’re open seven days a week.

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8 DIY Projects That Boost the Value of Your Home

diy home improvement projectsThinking of selling your home or just wanting to update your surroundings? Before you start an expensive kitchen remodel, consider how a few DIY projects could not only add value to your home, they can make your house more appealing to potential buyers.

Home Improvements Increase Real Estate Value

First, make a list of all the improvements you would like to accomplish. Talk with or a realtor or an interior designer for ideas on how to enhance your home’s appeal. Keep renovations in line with the sales value of your home and neighborhood. Your goal is to get a good return on your investment.

Fix Essentials First

Buyers typically look for existing houses where the basics like the roof, foundation and plumbing are in good shape. A remodeled kitchen cannot make up for a leaky roof; however, replacing a worn out roof can return as much as 80 percent of its cost at resale.

8 DIY Projects That Boost the Value of Your Home

  • First impressions – The front entryway is your first an opportunity to make a good impression. A freshly painted door, an awning and a working doorbell go a long way.
  • Address the basics – Add insulation, repair leaks, clean windows, rugs and wood floors. In addition, have the furnace and septic tank (if applicable) inspected.
  • Let in the light – Dark rooms are uninviting. Add new light fixtures and consider a sun tube or skylight to bring in natural light.
  • Improve the landscape – Curb appeal gets buyers in the door. Unkempt bushes and trees obstruct views. Mow the lawn, prune and plant shade trees and drought tolerant plants.
  • Go green – Use energy efficient appliances if replacements are needed.
  • Don’t forget your floors – Repair cracked tiles and squeaky floor boards. If you do replace the floors, consider engineered hardwoods or tile as an allergy free alternatives.
  • Paint – Neutral wall colors help buyers visualize their belongings in a room.
  • Declutter – Purge and organize clutter to help rooms look larger.

Add More Space for a Future Pay Off

If you’re simply looking to make improvements that will pay off down the road, consider building an addition. Every 1,000 feet increase of space can boost the sales price as much as 30 percent, especially when you keep the total square footage in line with the houses available in your neighborhood.

Quick and Easy Bathroom Fixes

Renovations don’t have to be overwhelming. Tackle one room at a time. If you can’t afford a major bathroom redesign, try some of these easy repairs:

  • Clean the grout
  • Apply fresh caulk
  • Replace the faucets
  • Add a new toilet seat
  • Update the vanity
  • Install a low flush toilet

Your DIY Efforts Will Show Big Results

Home improvements can help sell your home faster as well as make your life more enjoyable. Come up with a game plan, do your research and go for it. Take things one step at a time and soon your efforts will show big results.

Expert Advice

Still not sure what DIY project to start first? Our blog, Check These 10 Indoor and Outdoor Improvements Off Your Spring Checklist has helpful tips to get your house in awesome shape.

From circular saws and drills to paint sprayers and pressure washers, our expert staff is always on hand to help you get ready for your next home improvement job. As always, if you have any questions about pricing or how-to’s, don’t hesitate to contact us. Stop by our store — we’re open seven days a week.

Categories: DIY Projects, How-To's, Industry Trends, Restore and Renovate | 1 Comment

10 Steps to Cool Savings on Energy Costs

cut energy costs this summerWhat’s worse, the scorching summer heat or the burn you feel when you open the power bill? This year, don’t let high temperatures get you hot under the collar. A few simple DIY changes around your home will help you beat the heat and save some cool cash.

Take Steps to Lower Your Power Bill

Besides hanging a huge beach umbrella over your house all summer, what can you do to lower energy costs? By taking some of these simple steps, you will not only lower your power bill during the summer but all year long.

10 Steps to Cut Energy Costs During the Summer

  • Unplug your devices – Don’t just turn TVs and other appliances off, unplug them. They continue to drain power even when off. Invest in a smart strip which shuts off the electricity directed to each item.
  • Use ceiling fans – Fans circulate the air in a room and keep you cool. Set the thermostat at a higher temp and turn the fans on in the room you are occupying.
  • Close doors and vents – When rooms are not in use (like your guest rooms), shut them off and close off air vents to reduce the square footage your AC has to cool.
  • Add insulation – Sealing air leaks in walls, the attic and around pipes will cut down on energy loss. Blow more insulation into your attic.
  • Turn off lights – Don’t leave lights on in rooms you are no longer in.
  • Have the A/C inspected – Keep your system running efficiently and have your duct work checked for leaks. Dirty air filters make your unit work harder so change them regularly.
  • Install a programmable thermostat – These turn your AC down or off while you aren’t home.
  • Dry clothes outside – Take advantage of the summer heat and hang your clothes on a line or rack to dry. Dryers (along with refrigerators) are the biggest drain on your home’s energy.
  • Plant some shade – Trees and shrubs can help lower the heat on the outside of your home. Deciduous trees (ones that lose their leaves in fall) can offer shade during the summer but allow light to warm the house in the winter.
  • Turn off the oven – Plan meals that don’t involve heating the oven. Try using a toaster oven for warming and browning or a microwave … or grill outside!

Raise the Temperature and Start Saving

If you’re looking for even more cost savings, start setting your thermostat at a higher temperature. For every three degrees you raise it you can save 20% on your power bill. A good rule of thumb is to keep your thermostat set at 75 degrees or higher and use ceiling fans. A programmable thermostat will allow you to keep the A/C set at a higher temperature during the day and a lower one during the evenings when you are home.

Protect Your Home from UV Heat and Damage

Install UV film on windows that get substantial amounts of direct sun. It will reflect the heat back from the glass while allowing the light to come in. It is also good for keeping the sun from damaging expensive wooden doors and entry ways.

Roof Color Can Affect Its Temperature

If you are considering replacing your roof, look into a “cool roof”. The material these roofs are made of help reflect the heat and will keep the attic cooler. Roof color is also important. In warmer climates a lighter roof will help deflect heat while darker ones will hold heat.

Stay Cool with Big Savings

Making a few DIY changes around your home will lower your energy costs and your blood pressure. Stay cool this summer and use the money you saved on your power bill toward your next home project.

Expert Advice

Trying to get that power bill under control? Our blog, Find Air Leaks in Your House and Plug ‘Em Up Fast, will help you determine where they are in your home and how to tackle them.

From a ladder and a drill to an insulation vacuum and a blower, our expert staff is always on hand to help you get ready for your next DIY project. As always, if you have any questions about pricing or how-to’s, don’t hesitate to contact us. Stop by our store — we’re open seven days a week.

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4 Steps to Renew an Aging Concrete Driveway

diy concrete driveway repairYou’ve been working really hard on your home’s curb appeal and there’s one thing that has you stumped – the driveway. Do you repair the cracks or bite the bullet and replace the whole driveway? It’s a quandary facing many homeowners today. Let’s look at your options.

Age Matters When It Comes to Concrete

A driveway puts up with a lot, from the weight of the family cars to harsh weather conditions. Unfortunately, age does matter when it comes to driveways. Concrete surfaces have a life span of 20-25 years before the materials just give out.

Take a Real Look at Your Driveway

Take a close look at the condition of your concrete. Cracks less than a quarter of an inch wide are usually signs of expansion and contraction due to weather. Cracks larger than a quarter inch may be due to tree roots or water erosion underneath. Potholes are normally a sign that the concrete is deteriorating to the point where it needs to be replaced.

What You Need to Repair Your Concrete Surfaces

  • Cement resurfacing mixture – A fast drying polymer based coating that covers cracks.
  • Long-handle squeegee – To apply resurfacing material and work into cracks.
  • Duct tape – Tape off expansion joints to avoid filling them in with resurfacing solution.
  • Chisel – To cut debris from cracks.
  • Wire brush – Helps dislodge broken concrete.
  • Concrete sealer – Fills and expands in small cracks.
  • Trowel – Works sealants into cracks and smooths surface.
  • Sand – To fill in deep cracks first before applying sealant.
  • Water sealer – Helps waterproof your concrete.

Power Wash Your Driveway

Once you determine the condition of the concrete, power wash your driveway. Use cleaners and scrub brushes to remove motor oil, dirt and stains. A clean surface allows sealants to adhere and fill in cracks fully. Let the concrete dry full before using sealants.

Repair Your Concrete Driveway in 4 Steps

Step 1 – Fill cracks and potholes. Use a trowel to compress concrete caulk or sealer into cracks.

Step 2 – Protect yourself. Many products have harsh chemicals and fumes, so wear gloves and a mask.

Step 3 – Let it cure. It may be 48 hours before you can park cars on it. Read your product instructions for recommendations.

Step 4 – Seal it. After your repairs have dried, protect your concrete with water sealant.

Renew by Resurfacing

Resurfacing is an economical way to renew your concrete at a fraction of the cost of replacing it. The liquid compound dries quickly (in about 30 minutes) so work fast with a squeegee to smooth it across the concrete. Tape off your expansion joints so they aren’t filled. For a non-skid surface, use an old broom to brush across the mixture, giving it texture.

So Many Choices

Resurfacing allows you to choose different finishes (glossy or dull), colors and patterns. Due to the quick drying time, test a small area until you get the look you want. This process is not a permanent fix and will need to be re-done every two to three years.

Improve Your Curb Appeal

If you are trying to sell your home, a cracked driveway is going to raise a red flag for buyers. Consider resurfacing prior to putting your house on the market. It is amazing what a fresh, new driveway can do for your curb appeal.

Keep Your Driveway Looking Good for Years

Replacing a driveway can be a big expense but thankfully one that you only have to do once every 20 years, give or take. Repairing cracks as you find them will help keep your drive looking good for years to come.

Expert Advice

From concrete mixers and trowel machines to pressure washers and grout pumps, our expert staff is always on hand to help you find the right equipment for your next DIY home improvement project. Want more information on repairing a driveway? Our blog, The 7 Step Process to Restore Your Cracked and Eroded Driveways will help. As always, if you have any questions about what to choose, pricing or how-to’s, don’t hesitate to contact us. Stop by our store — we’re open seven days a week.

Categories: Featured Products, How-To's, Restore and Renovate, spring checklist | 1 Comment

DIY Pergola – Just What Your Patio has been Missing

outdoor backyard pergolaWant to add some architectural interest to your deck or yard? Add a pergola. Often called an arbor or trellis, these canopy-like structures will provide shade to an otherwise fully exposed area, among other advantages. Building one is an easy DIY project that requires an extra set of hands. Ready to raise the roof on your new pergola?

A Structure with a Purpose

What is the function of your pergola? Is it to provide a quiet secluded oasis for you in the garden or to act as a privacy screen for your outdoor dining area? Will it be free-standing or attached to the house? These are some of the considerations that will affect your design.

5 Things to Consider When Designing Your Pergola

  1. Style of your home – Whether French country or contemporary, Tuscan villa or mid-century modern, keeping your pergola design in the same style as your home gives you cohesive curb appeal.
  2. Ambiance – What kind of experience are you trying to create? Romantic, rustic, relaxing?
  3. Play up your property’s best features – Use the view you’ll see from under your canopy (river, stream, skyline, garden, etc.) to locate the pergola accordingly.
  4. Privacy – Adding additional lattice screens will offer seclusion.
  5. Think outside the box – Pergolas are often square or rectangle, although they can be round, octagonal or multi-leveled. Get creative.

Protect Your Pergola from the Elements

A pergola, like a deck, will need to be protected from the elements. Decide on the amount of maintenance you want to do on a yearly basis when selecting your materials. If you want to add lights or a ceiling fan, be sure to account for the added weight your structure will have to support. Electrical wiring will also need to be installed and hidden from view.

Materials to Use for a Pergola

  • Pressure treated wood – The least expensive option and can last a long time with weatherproofing.
  • Cedar – Can be costly but its naturally beauty is hard to beat.
  • Brick – Build the support pillars with brick and attach beams across the top for a sturdy structure.
  • Natural stones – Creates a rustic feel, especially when including a fireplace.
  • Wrought iron – Classic arched metal offers superior support for large plant coverings like roses or material such as canvas.

A Solid Foundation is Key

Whether you are adding a pergola canopy to a concrete patio or building a stand-alone structure, make sure your foundation isn’t going to shift. Use 6×6 posts to give you solid support. Always use stainless steel nuts, bolts and brackets that won’t corrode and give way.

To Build a Free-standing Pergola:

  1. Bury the support poles – Dig down at least 24-48 inches.
  2. Pack the dirt – Tamp it down firmly or pour concrete to stabilize the supports. Check posts to see if they are plumb.
  3. Cut pillars to same height.
  4. Place crossbeams on top – You’ll need help from those two extra hands for this stage.
  5. Cut lap joints – These interlocking notches connect posts and crossbeams. (Use stainless steel brackets if you prefer).
  6. Add optional lattice panels – Put these down the sides of the structure for privacy.
  7. Stain or paint – Protecting the wood will help it last longer.

Time to Decorate

After your pergola is built, decorate with climbing plants that may look delicate at first, but they can become heavy over time. Clematis, Passion flower, Wisteria, grape vines and of course, climbing roses are all good choices. Other decorations include a canvas ribbon awning or flowing outdoor curtains, which add sun protection and a bit of color, too.

Wow Factor

A pergola can add drama to a blah patio or create a quiet retreat in your garden. It is simple to build and will give your landscape the added “wow” factor it may have been missing. Beware, pergolas are like peanuts, you can’t stop at just one. Happy building!

Expert Advice

From jigsaws and hammer drills to post hole diggers and chop saws, our expert staff is always on hand to help you find the right equipment for your next DIY building project. Want more ideas on how to spice up your patio or deck? Learn how to Boost Outdoor Entertaining Potential with New Design Elements in our recent blog. As always, if you have any questions about what to choose, pricing or how-to’s, don’t hesitate to contact us. Stop by our store — we’re open seven days a week.

Categories: DIY Projects, Gardening and Lawn Care, How-To's | 1 Comment

A Message to the Beginner of Herb Gardening

Lavender Farm in Sequim, Washington, USADear, Runyon Equipment Rental: Well, well, well! I am not a gardener! My husband has had a vegetable garden for years and does the flower garden for us. I want to try my hand with an herb garden. I stumbled across your website and liked what I saw. I have rosemary in the front of my house and mint on the side. You gave some great ideas on the fragrances and colors. Any suggestion that you can give to get this beginner started would be great! Thank you! – Darlene, Hatfield, PA

Dear, Darlene: First of all, since you are a beginner, I recommend you purchase herbs at Lowe’s and keep your receipt! If the plant dies, you are able to receive a new one as long as you bring in your receipt with the dead plant. This policy was a lifesaver when I first began growing my own herbs. Bonnie plants come in a pot that you can plant in the ground. I think they are the best to buy, but I always cut the plant out of the pot prior to planting.

Some do’s and don’ts:

  • Avoid planting mint or lemongrass in the ground since these plants are known to be invasive and will literally overtake your garden. Plant these in containers!
  • Sage is lovely and grows into a beautiful bush, after about 10 years, though it starts to get leggy. Oregano is another perennial that tends to grow large and will need to be trimmed. I have mine in my English Garden surrounding the bird bath.
  • I love lavender too. I love to cook and make my own herbes de provence which is great on pork and chicken. There are many varieties of lavender, which is in the mint family. If you are using for culinary, buy lavandula augustifolia. Use the purple flower for cooking. I plant rosemary and thyme around lavender since they contrast so nicely.
  • Chives, which are a cross between garlic and onion in taste, add beautiful contrast because of their long green stems. They flower pinkish purple on top. Make sure the stem is not used when adding this herb to food. The texture is tough, and it would be like chewing on a stick. Chives also tend to be spreaders, so I have mine cornered with the patio and paver blocks.

All the above come back year after year and grow with great scent and with vibrant color. All herbs need a lot of sunlight, so  ensure these are planted in areas that receive sufficient sun. I always plant around Mother’s Day, which is right around the corner! Some words of advice – make your hole twice the size of your pot, remove the plant from the pot gently, and rub around the bottom and the sides so the roots are loosened, and then plant in such a position that their little heads poke out of the ground. I use top soil to fill in the hole surrounding the plant.

herbsThe next herbs are annuals. Unfortunately, they wither away at the end of the summer into fall. I always buy dill, basil, and Italian parsley. For eating basil, you will want to pinch off the tops so they won’t flower and make the leaf bitter.  In the summer, you have to pinch daily.

When picking them, grab from the top since it encourages growth. Pick after the dew has dried. I use juice size glasses, filled with water and put them in the fridge in separate glasses. They last about a week or two as readily available ingredients to flavor your cooking.

When drying herbs for winter’s use, I grab my colander and cut what I want, rinse from the hose and rubber band the stems together and hang upside down.  It takes about a week for them to dry out, remove the leaves from the stem over wax paper and dryingherbsthrow into the coffee mill.  I use little box tins from Michael’s and give as gifts too.

Plant citronella and lavender near your patio or seating areas since they are a known mosquito repellent. Herbs are super easy to grow – just water in the morning with a watering can or pump and be sure to water the dirt, not the plant. Feel the dirt, and if it’s not moist – the plant needs water. You’ll want pots that have a hole in the bottom and water until a small stream comes through. When your herbs are in the ground, again, just water the dirt.

Hopefully, you will have a wonderful herb garden that makes you happy like mine does for me. The food tastes so much better with fresh herbs!

From aerators and lawn mowers to wheelbarrows and tillers , our expert staff is always on hand to help you find the right equipment for your next outdoor DIY project. Looking for additional information on gardening? Check out our infographic on growing vegetables for more helpful tips. As always, if you have any questions about what to choose, pricing or how-to’s, don’t hesitate to contact us. Stop by our store — we’re open seven days a week.

Categories: DIY Projects, Gardening and Lawn Care, How-To's, Restore and Renovate, spring checklist | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Light It Up – Add a DIY Bonfire to Your Backyard

fireThere is nothing better than a roaring fire on a cool spring evening. By adding a fire pit or heater you will extend the time you use your outdoor space for entertaining. Stop waiting for warmer weather! Building a fire pit is a simple, inexpensive project and one hot idea to add value to your home.

Let There Be Fire!

First, ask yourself a few questions about how you plan to use your fire pit or heater?

  • Do I want a heat source or ambience? – To heat a deck, a propane heater works well. If you want to roast marshmallows, nothing beats an open flame.
  • Do I want to burn wood or gas? – Consider the cost of logs and propane tanks when trying to decide. Electric heaters are also an option.
  • How much maintenance do I want? You will have to clean out ash and debris from a wood burning fire pit. Gas heaters will just need tanks replaced.

Watch Out for Flying Embersbonfire snacks

Got your heart set on an open flame fire pit? Constructing one is an easy weekend project. You can make yours as simple or elaborate as you wish.

Here are a few things to keep in mind:

  • Check local ordinances – Do they allow open fire pits in your area?
  • Locate your pit away from trees and buildings – Flying embers can ignite roofs and mulch.
  • Use fireproof materials – If you decide to use mortar make sure it is for use on fireplaces.
  • Scout out the desired location – Is it level and dry? Determine if wind direction will blow smoke back toward house. Too much wind will make it hard to keep your fire going.
  • Have a fire extinguisher handy – A bucket of water will work too.
  • Keep the area around pit clear – If building the pit on bare ground, lay gravel around it and make sure there is no vegetation or roots to burn.

Easy to Build, Easy to Enjoy

Above ground fire pits are easy to build. First determine the materials you want to use (concrete pavers, fire bricks, stones). You can dry fit the blocks or use mortar. Consider buying a removable metal fire pit bowl for easy clean-ups of ash. Also a wire cover will help catch flying embers.

Steps for Building a Fire Pit:

  • Use the diameter of the wire cover to determine the outline of your pit.
  • Lay the first layer of blocks around the outside edge of the cover.
  • Remove the cover and continue building layers up to desired height – Stagger blocks.
  • Use a level as you go.
  • Install a fire pit bowl – It can lift out and make clean-ups easier.
  • Install grate – To allow air to get to the logs.
  • Place your logs inside, light, and enjoy

Fire Bowls – Keep it Moving

Want something a little less permanent? Portable fire bowls are an inexpensive way to dress up your patio and can be moved into storage over the winter months. Be sure to cover them when not in use to help prevent rust.

Relax with a Blazing Fire

Watching a blazing fire under the stars is a great way to relax. Don’t let the crisp evenings of spring and fall keep you from enjoying the great outdoors. Move the party outside with a new fire pit, fire bowl or heater. Now it’s time to add another log to the fire and get ready for the S’mores. As the caveman once said – “Fire good!”.

Expert Advice

From shovels and wheelbarrows to tampers and concrete mixers, our expert staff is always on hand to help you find the right equipment for your next outdoor DIY project. Want more information on how to build your own fire pit? Check out our previous blog “How to Make a Concrete Fire Pit or Fire Bowl in 5 Easy Steps” for more helpful tips. As always, if you have any questions about what to choose, pricing or how-to’s, don’t hesitate to contact us. Stop by our store — we’re open seven days a week.

Categories: DIY Projects, Fall Checklist, How-To's, Renovate, Restore and Renovate, spring checklist | Tags: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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