By: John Riha
Your home’s interior lights want to help you have fun, feel better, and save energy.
Will you let them?
It used to be we’d walk into a room and flip on the light switch, maybe slide the dimmer up or down a bit to change the brightness.
But that’s so old school. Instead, press a tab marked “Cooking” on a wall-mounted panel to let all kitchen task lights come up to full brightness while lights in the family room dim so the kids can play video games.
Or hit the button marked “Romance,” and the lights throughout the house go out while the lights in the bedroom ebb to a soft glow that turns a sultry blue.
Household technology is undergoing a transformation that’ll make lighting more integral to our everyday lives. Not only will we see better, but we’ll use light to alter our moods, protect our well-being, safeguard our houses, and save bunches of energy.
“Home lighting today is about lifestyle enhancements,” says Paul Nagel, chief product development officer at Savi Controls, a designer and manufacturer of commercial audiovisual control and automation products in Sandy, Utah. “We want to know how to control light to create environments we’re comfortable in, and have energy efficiency while we do it.”
Lighting Our Homes With a Purpose
Today’s progressive lighting schemes aren’t about turning lights on and off; they’re about being partners in your lifestyle. The concept is simple: Imagine all your home’s light fixtures as a single system that can be programmed into a variety of zones. Each zone is dedicated to particular task or mood and can be controlled by wall switches, a master wall panel, or a smartphone app.
So in addition to “Cooking” and “Romance” zones, you might have buttons for:
Easing the Fear of Lighting Technology
Do your eyes glaze over at the thought of yet another layer of high tech added to your everyday life? Fear not: In the hands of a pro, zone lighting systems are relatively easy to install. Home automation companies and lighting contractors can retrofit your house with a single-zone system in half a day or, with more time, install a whole-house system.
You’ll get an easy-to-understand central control unit that “talks” with new switches, light fixtures, and bulbs that are specially made to receive wireless signals. You decide on your zones, and once everything’s set up, the light throughout your house will change intensity and color on command.
DIYers Can Zone Out, Too
Relatively low-cost mini-systems are coming to market that’ll let you install your own zones, even if your geekability quotient is near zero.
Philips Hue smart light starter kits feature smart LED bulbs, the Hue Bridge, and a variety of smart accessories to help you easily set up a smart lighting system. Screw in your light bulbs, plug the Hue Bridge into your Wi-Fi router, and download the Hue app. Add your lights to your system and you’re ready to go. The system works with either Bluetooth or the Bridge.
No Dim Bulbs Here
Other DIY smart bulbs are on the market. They’re made to replace any screw-in type of lightbulb. All you need is a free app you download to your phone so you can dim lights, change colors, and turn individual lights on and off.
(FYI: Smart bulbs also work via conventional on/off wall switches; you’re not locked into controlling them with an app.)
ilumi bulbs come in different strengths. You can download the ilumi app, connect the bulbs with your iOS or Android device via Bluetooth, and enjoy smart lighting throughout your home with no hub or bridge. You’ll need to have your smartphone within range of ilumi bulbs (meaning within 100 feet) so that your phone’s Bluetooth network, with its short-range capability, can talk to them.
LIFX has created smart lights that do more than illuminate, according to its owner, Buddy Technologies. LIFX Clean can be scheduled to emit high energy visible wavelengths that can eliminate bacteria in your home. And LIFX Nightvision can be set to emit infrared wavelengths that boost your security camera’s ability to see in the dark.
Using Light to Alter Moods and Stay Healthy
If you’re feeling blue, it may be the light. Light can affect our moods and, ultimately, our health. Just ask anyone with seasonal affective disorder, a type of depression characterized by low energy and poor concentration. MedlinePlus estimates that 10 million Americans have SAD. The therapy is exposure to more daylight or to artificial lights that mimic the properties of natural light.
The health- and mood-altering properties of light haven’t been lost on lighting manufacturers, who’ve come up with a variety of new home lighting products that claim to have health benefits. Although clinical proof can be hard to come by, the products are intriguing.
Dynamic lights vary between warm white (2600K) and cool light (5600K) so that the natural rhythms of daylight are reproduced indoors. That helps keep you happy during the depths of winter. Several manufacturers make dynamic lightbulbs, also called full-spectrum bulbs.
The Withings Sleep Tracking Mat can be installed with a one-time setup under the mattress, and the pad is compatible with most mattresses. The mat tracks sleep metrics including duration and onset; deep, light, and REM phases; continuous and average heart-rate; and snoring duration. On top of that, you can control lights and temperature by getting into and out of bed.
LEDs — The Energy-Sipping Superstar of Home Lighting
LED (light-emitting diode) lights are now the standard in home lighting. In fact, other types of lights, like incandescent and fluorescent, are no longer being manufactured. LED benefits include:
LEDs can be made small — really small. In fact, some lights are no bigger than the point of a pencil. That’s changing how we illuminate our homes. For example, hundreds of tiny LEDs can be embedded in sheets of drywall to create walls and ceilings that glow.
Mixing Light and Home Automation
Lighting solutions can be standalone projects, but they’re often paired with other home automation features to create a holistic home environment that’s controlled by a single wall panel and app. For example, press that “Relax” button on your scheme choices, and as the lights dim, you’re surrounded by the soothing sounds of jazz.
Lights are essential components of home security systems, too, teaming up with video cameras, alarms, and motion sensors to keep your house safe, whether or not you’re there.
Another advantage of automated energy management systems is that they combine smart thermostats, Energy Star appliances, and lighting schemes to trim energy costs across the board, and that’s a future we can all live with.
By: Amy Howell Hirt
Create a peaceful home with these best practices for eliminating stress.
Your home should be your refuge. It should clear away the day’s distractions and help you feel organized, focused, and calm. Oooooom.
So why does it feel less like a yoga studio and more like the middle of a five-lane intersection?
Maybe a different perspective on your habits and routines is all you need to fix it.
That’s what a couple of psychologists — and anxiety experts, to boot — say. Here, they share some stress-nixing habits that can make your home a source of solace. Consider this your prescription for a totally chill home.
#1 Regularly Ditch What Annoys You
A few times a year, look over everything sitting out in your home. If it doesn’t serve a present-day purpose or make you feel good, it’s got to go.
Keeping things around out of guilt — the Pilates mat you haven’t touched in months or the handmade quilt from Grandma that isn’t quite your style — only crowds the eye and brings on stress, says Perri L. Zinberg, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist in Los Angeles.
#2 Use a Drop Zone Every Time You Walk in the Door
Avoid the distress of searching for your keys (OMG, again?) by designating a bowl or cubby for items like sunglasses, your wallet, or your phone that you frequently need to grab on the way out the door. Oh, and use it. On the way in. Every single time.
#3 Delegate the Chores Everyone Hates
No one has ever reached nirvana while being their household’s chore martyr. Distribute chores among family members and rotate them weekly so no one feels stuck with the same task.
If it’s an option, schedule a housekeeper to stop by once a month. It could be way more therapeutic than you expect. “Having a house cleaner of some sort has saved a lot of marriages, because [a home’s cleanliness] is one of the major things people fight over,” Zinberg says.
#4 Fill Your Home With the Sounds You Love
Tune out the literal (and mental) noise of the day by turning on whatever music or sounds make you happy or calm. A playlist that speaks to you can motivate you to sit back and enjoy your home’s peace or fire you up to do a deep clean, which satisfies both your body and soul.
#5 Enjoy the Silence, Too
A TV or radio droning on in the background keeps your brain buzzing. “Make sure there are times when there’s no noise in the house,” says Amy Wood, Psy.D., a psychologist in Portland, Maine. “It’s very soothing and healing and meditative.” Create a set time — during dinner prep or right before bed, perhaps — for pure, luxurious quiet. Ahhh. . . .
#6 Put Out-of-Season Items Out of Sight
Twice a year — or quarterly, if you’re a true clotheshorse — put out-of-season clothing and bedding into storage. You won’t believe how luxurious it feels to effortlessly browse through your clothing options with more elbow room in the closet. If you’re short on storage space, get a few under-bed containers or inexpensive vacuum-seal bags.
#7 Make Your Bed
Turns out your mom was right. Sorry. Research has found people who adopt this habit are happier overall. And it’s much more pleasant to slip into a neatly made bed at the end of a long day, Zinberg says.
#8 Take Tech Time-Outs Daily
You can’t unwind if you never unplug. Find an outlet near the door and create a charging station where you can drop your phone, laptop, and tablet when you get home.
You can even set your phone to airplane mode for a set period of time every day, Zinberg suggests.
And while Google, Siri, and Alexa can be helpful tools, artificial intelligence can distract from relaxation, bonding, and learning time with family, Wood points out. So, include them in the nightly blackout.
#9 Dim the Lights Every Night
Turning down the lights sends a visual cue to your brain that it’s time to chillax. So install dimmers on your bedroom and family room outlets and make sure your bulbs emit relaxing warm light (around 2,700K) rather than cool light, which tends to energize instead of chill.
Every night, perhaps after dinner, take a second to dim your home into evening mode.
#10 Make Time and Space for Your Hobby
Hobbies aren’t an indulgence: They’re a necessity for good mental health. “You must make room for the things that feed your soul,” Zinberg says.
This can be as simple as assigning a chair as your reading nook or outfitting the corner of a room for crafting, Wood suggests. That makes it much easier to nestle into the thing that gives you respite.
#11 Pause Before You Purchase
Get in the habit of pausing — for 24 hours — before you hit “buy” on a new item for your home. Consider how that new dresser or rug could affect your overall stress level.
Will you go mad trying to keep it clean? Is it so flimsy you’ll be buying a new one next year? If so, it’s not worth the anxiety, no matter the low, low price. Zinberg recommends buying old, well-built furniture and having it refinished. “It costs about the same as the pressed-board stuff, which you have to put together yourself and doesn’t last as well over time,” she says. And, it should be said, you deserve high-quality things.
Sign that paperwork. Write those checks. Get those keys!
The closing. It all comes down to this. The grand finale. Once you have the keys, the house is yours. (Cue: Air horn sound!)
Nice work getting this far. You’re almost a homeowner! Let’s run through some questions you may have as you cross the finish line.
What Does “Closing” Mean?
The close or settlement is when you sign the final ownership and insurance paperwork and get the keys to your new home.
The closing process technically begins when you’ve signed a purchase and sale agreement. That agreement should specify a closing date. From the signing date to the closing date typically takes four to six weeks. During this time, purchasing funds are held in escrow, where your money is safe until the deal is officially done.
What’s a Closing Disclosure?
Lenders must provide borrowers with a closing disclosure, or CD, at least three days before settlement. This form is a statement of your final loan terms and closing costs.
You have three days to review the CD. compare it to the loan estimate you received shortly after you applied for the loan. If you need a refresher on loan estimates, you can view a sample version here.
The point of this formal review process is to ensure there are no surprises at the closing table. If there’s a significant discrepancy between the loan estimate and the CD, notify your lender and title company immediately. Depending on what the underlying issue is, the closing has to stop and a new closing disclosure must be sent out with a new three-day review period.
The LE includes a couple of items that can’t change by the time you get the CD — namely interest rate and lender fees. Some items can change by only 10% (fees paid to local government to record the mortgage might be one). Others can change without limit, like prepaid interest, because it can’t be predicted at the start of the loan process.
When Will the Final Walk-Through Happen?
Most real estate sale contracts allow the buyer to walk through the home within 24 hours of settlement to check the property’s condition. During this final inspection, which usually takes about an hour, you and your agent will make sure any repair work the seller agreed to make has been completed.
During the walk-through, you’ll also double-check that everything in the house is in good working order. Be sure to:
If anything is amiss, your agent will contact the listing agent and, in most cases, negotiate to get the seller to compensate you at closing — typically in the form of a personal check — for the costs of fixing the problems yourself.
Worst-case scenario: You have to delay closing to resolve problems. If that unlikely event happens, your agent will help you address the issue.
Who’s Invited to the Closing?
Certain people will be there. Who, exactly, depends on your state. Typically, you’ll be joined by:
Nonetheless, as the home buyer, you’ll have to sign what might seem like a mountain of paperwork — including the deed of trust, promissory note (promising the lender you’ll pay back the loan), and other documents. That cramp in your wrist will be worth it once everything is done.
How Much Will I Pay for Closing Costs?
If you’ve heard people vent frustration with the process of buying a home, you’ve likely heard complaints about unexpected costs at closing. Let’s unpack what you should expect so you’re not surprised, too.
Closing costs can vary widely by location and your home’s purchase price. Costs are split between you and the seller, but as the buyer, you’ll cover the lion’s share. You can generally expect your closing costs to be 3% to 4% of the home’s sales price. So, on a $300,000 home, you can pay anywhere from $9,000 to $12,000 in closing costs. (Meanwhile, the seller typically pays closing costs of 1% to 3% of the sales price.)
You can try to predict closing costs with calculators like Nerdwallet’s, which lets you plug in your mortgage details to get a rough estimate of what your costs will be.
Closing fees often include (but are not limited to):
What Should I Bring? (Other than Champagne?) At the closing you should have:
What Is Title Insurance, and Why Do I Need It?
Every lender requires borrowers to purchase title insurance — a policy that protects you and the lender from outside claims of ownership of the property. Wait, you may be asking, some random person could show up and claim they own the house? Sounds crazy, but it happens.
Let’s say a previous owner didn’t pay all of their property taxes. Because those taxes remain against the property, the taxing entity could potentially take your home if you don’t have a “clean” title. Title insurance also protects you from ownership claims over liens, fraudulent claims from previous owners, clerical problems in courthouse documents, or forged signatures.
The title company will perform a comprehensive search of deeds, wills, trusts, and public records to trace the property’s history and verify that you’re becoming the rightful sole owner of the property.
Typically, lenders have a preferred title company they work with, but ultimately the buyer decides which title company to use. Your agent could offer a few referrals.
Title insurance comes in two forms:
What If There are Last-Minute Issues? Should I Panic?
For your loan to be approved, it has to go through underwriting. The underwriter’s job is to validate all of your financials — confirming that your income, credit, and debt haven’t changed since you were pre-approved for the loan. The underwriter will also review the property’s characteristics and appraisal. If everything checks out, your mortgage will be approved.
If something goes wrong during underwriting though, you’ll have to address the problem before you can close on the home. Let’s say your credit score dropped because you recently purchased a car with an auto loan, or maxed out your credit cards. This isn’t necessarily dire, but you may need to delay closing as you work with your lender to take steps to raise your score. (Also, for that reason, it’s a good idea to hold off on big purchases, avoid overusing a credit line, and doing really anything that could result in a credit inquiry until after the closing.)
OK — Can I Celebrate Now?
If you’ve made it through close — YES! Once you’ve climbed that mountain of paperwork and have those keys in your hands, you now officially, finally own a home.
Congratulations! You put in a lot of hard work, including building relationships with your agent, your lender, and other experts along the way.
Now it’s time to start investing in other relationships. Like with your new neighbors
By: Amy Howell Hirt
Adopt a few of these home tips to find a bit more cash each month.
Your house gives you so much: security, pride, shelter. With all that on the line, it’s easy to assume the costs of keeping it up just are what they are. But wait. There are plenty of expenses that are simply a waste. Here’s how to save money each month without putting a dime of home value at risk.
#1 Clean Your Lightbulbs
What? Who does that? Well, smart people (those who know shrewd, easy ways to save money). A dirty bulb emits 30% less light than a clean one. Dust off both the bulb and fixture, and you might be able to cut back on the number or brightness of lights in each room without noticing any difference.
#2 Keep Your Fridge Full
Solid items snuggled together retain the cold better than air and help keep one another cold — requiring less energy overall. Leaving town for awhile and fridge is empty? Fill voids in the fridge or freezer with water bottles.
#3 Switch Your Bulbs to LEDs
The average light-emitting diode, LED, light bulb used five hours a day can save $10 to $20 in energy costs vs. an incandescent bulb. If you replace just five of your most-used incandescent bulbs, your savings will add up.
And LEDs last 15 to 20 times longer than incandescents, so you won’t have to replace them nearly as often.
#4 Use Power Strips
Here’s how to save money — a lot of it — on bills. Appliances like coffee makers, TVs, and computers continue to suck power even when they’re off, which can add 20% to your monthly utility bill and increase the average household’s annual electric bill by $100 to $200. And did you know the AC adapter for your laptop keeps drawing power even if the laptop isn’t plugged in? Stop this slow money burn by connecting them to an easy-to-switch-off power strip.
#5 Use a Toaster Oven When Possible
Toaster ovens use roughly one-third the electricity used by a full-size electric oven.
#6 Set Your Water Heater to 120 Degrees
Hot water heaters often come with a factory setting that’s higher than you need. You’ll cool your water heating costs by 3% to 5% every time you lower the temperature setting by 10 degrees.
#7 Insulate Your Water Heater
For about $30, an insulating jacket or blanket can shave 7% to 16% off your water heating costs for the year. Just make sure to follow the manufacturer’s directions to avoid creating a fire hazard.
#8 Wash Clothes in Cold Water
Just switching from hot to warm water will cut every load’s energy use in half, and you’ll reap even more savings taking the temp down to cold. And don’t worry: Your clothes will get just as clean from cold water, thanks to the efficiency of today’s detergents (except in the case of sickness, when you’ll want hot water and bleach).
#9 Use the Right Dryer Cycle
If you’re using a high heat setting for each load, you could be using more energy than you need. Almost all fabrics can be dried with a lower heat setting, such as the permanent press setting. It uses less energy and has the bonus of extending the life of your fabrics. Save the higher heat for items such as sheets and towels.
#10 Use Homemade Cleaners
Many commercial products rely on baking soda or vinegar for their cleaning power, so why not make your own? Odds are, you likely have a lot of the ingredients sitting in your cabinets or pantry right now.
#11 Cut Back on Laundry Detergent
Never mind the barely visible measurement lines in the cap: You typically need only a tablespoon of detergent. And, clothes actually get cleaner when you use less, because there’s no soap residue left behind.
#12 Ditch Disposable Sweeper and Mop Head
Stop throwing money away every time you clean! Refill your Swiffer Sweeper with microfiber cloths. Just cut to size and use them dry for dusting or with a little water and floor cleaner for mopping. Or switch to a microfiber mop with a washable head.
#13 Stop Buying Dryer Sheets
Another easy swap? Give up your dryer-sheet habit (about $10 for 240 loads) in favor of wool dryer balls (about $11 for four, which can last for up to 1,000 loads each). Of course, depending on your laundry preferences, you can always just go without either.
#14 Cut Scouring Pads in Half
Most clean-ups don’t require a full one.
#15 Don’t Rinse Dishes
Two minutes of rinsing with the faucet on full-power will consume five gallons of water — the same amount efficient dishwashers use during an entire cycle. Shocking, right? And it’s an unnecessary step, since most newer models are equipped to remove even stubborn food debris. Just be sure to clean the dishwasher trap regularly to keep your dishwasher running efficiently.
#16 Keep a Pitcher of Water in the Fridge
You won’t have to waste time and money running the faucet, waiting for it to get cold enough for a refreshing sip.
#17 Set a Timer for the Shower
The average American takes an eight-minute shower and uses about 16 gallons of water. It’s easy to linger, so set a timer for five minutes. Or try this more entertaining idea: Time your shower to a song or podcast segment.
#18 Install Low-Flow Fixtures
By installing a just one low-flow showerhead, the average U.S. household can save about 2,700 gallons of water every year and decrease home water consumption by 40% or more.
#19 Replace Your Old Water-Hogging Toilet
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says that by replacing old, inefficient toilets with WaterSense-labeled models, the average family can reduce water used for toilets by 20% to 60% — nearly 13,000 gallons of water savings per year. (WaterSense-labeled toilets are independently certified to meet criteria for both performance and efficiency, according to the EPA.) They could also save more than $140 per year in water costs.
#20 Close Closet Doors
Each closet and pantry may hold a paltry amount of square footage, but you’re still heating and cooling it. Add up all the storage space, and you’ve got the equivalent of a small room. Shut the doors to keep the conditioned air out.
#21 Program the Thermostat
You can save as much as 10% a year on heating and cooling by simply turning your thermostat back seven degrees to 10 degrees Fahrenheit from its normal setting for eight hours a day. You can easily save energy in the winter by setting the thermostat to around 68 degrees while you’re awake and setting it lower while you’re asleep.
#22 Don’t Crank the Thermostat Up or Down Too Far
A common misconception is that a furnace works harder than normal to warm a space back to a comfortable temperature after the thermostat has been set back, resulting in little or no savings, says Energy.gov. In fact, as soon as your house drops below its normal temperature, it will lose energy to the surrounding environment more slowly. Avoid setting your thermostat at a colder setting than normal when you turn on your air conditioner. It won’t cool your home any faster and could result in excessive cooling and unnecessary expense.
#23 Use Fans Year-Round
Ceiling fans can reduce your summer cooling costs and even reduce winter heating bills — but only if used correctly. Flip the switch on the base to make the blades rotate counterclockwise for a cooling effect or clockwise to help distribute heat in the winter. And in the warmer months, an attic or whole-house fan can suck hot air out and help distribute cooler air so you can give the AC a little break.
#24 Caulk or Weatherstrip Around Doors and Windows
Caulk may not have the charisma of something like solar panels, but using it to seal air leaks around doors and windows will deliver immediate savings. You’ll spend $3 to $30 and save 10% to 20% on energy bills.
For gaps between moving parts that can’t be caulked, add weatherstripping.
#25 Add Insulation
By sealing air leaks and installing the right insulation in places like attics, crawl spaces, and basements, homeowners can save an average of 10% on heating and cooling.
#26 Plant Shade Trees
Block the summer sun to lower cooling costs. Planting one shade tree on the west side and one on the east side of your home can shield your home from the sun during the summer months (but avoid south-side trees, which block winter sun). Carefully positioned trees can save up to 25% of the energy a typical household uses, according to Energy.gov. Plus, healthy, mature trees add an average 10% to a property’s value, says the Arbor Day Foundation.
#27 Use Curtains as Insulation
Another way to practice energy-saving passive heating and cooling? Open curtains on sunny windows in the winter and close them in the summer.
#28 Cool With a Cross Breeze
On a breezy day, open a window on the side of your house that’s receiving the breeze, then open another on the opposite side of the house. Make sure the window on the receiving side is open a little less than the exhaust side to accelerate the breeze. You can also use a fan if there’s no breeze outside.
#29 Check Your Mortgage PMI
You’ll generally pay between $30 and $70 per month for every $100,000 borrowed, according to Freddie Mac. Keep in mind this amount can vary based on your credit score and your loan-to-value ratio — the amount you borrowed on your mortgage compared to the home’s value.
once you’ve built 20% equity in your home, you can ask your lender to cancel your PMI and remove that expense from your monthly payment. If the value of your home appreciates before then, you might be able to cancel sooner.
#30 Check Your Home Insurance for Savings
Your homeowners insurance should change as your life changes. Installing home security devices — including smoke detectors, burglar and fire alarm systems or dead-bolt locks — could reduce your premiums, says the Insurance Information Institute.
Bundling your home and auto coverage could also save money on both policies. To be sure you’re getting the best price, check that any combined price from one insurer is lower than buying the coverage separately from different companies, according to the III.
A “Consumer Reports” survey found that of the 21% of consumers who had changed home insurance carriers in the past five years, 62% were motivated by better rates or because their current carrier had raised rates. So, you could save by going with a new company.
#31 Borrow Tools Instead of Buying
How often are you going to use that expensive demolition hammer once you remove your bathroom tile? Not so much? Rent it from a home-improvement store for a fraction of the cost. Be sure to do the math for each tool and project, though. Sometimes the rental price is high enough to justify buying it.
Or join a tool lending library or cooperative to borrow tools for free or much less than retail stores.
#32 Cut Back on Paper Towels
Households average about $115 per year, or $2.20 per week, on paper towels. Over 10 years that’s $1,150. Instead, try machine-washable cotton shop towels. They clean up messes just as fast and cost a few dollars for five. Save paper towels for messes that need to go straight into the trash, like oil and grease.
#33 Stop Buying Plants for Curb Appeal Every Year
A pop of color in your landscaping perks up your curb appeal. But instead of wasting household funds on short-lived annuals, invest in perennials that will keep giving for years to come.
#34 Water Grass in the Morning to Save on Your Water Bill
Turning the sprinkler on at midday is kinda like watering the air — especially when the mercury soars. Lose less to evaporation by watering during cooler hours (but avoid overnight watering, when too-slow evaporation can invite fungus growth).
#35 Make Your Yard Drought-Tolerant
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, a traditional lawn can use up to 10,000 gallons of water per year, while a xeriscape yard can use as little as 2,500 gallons of water per year, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. This can result in a savings of 7,500 gallons of water per year.
Low flow toilets may be a not-so-glam upgrade — but they can pay off in other ways.
When it comes to bathroom renovations, toilets take a back seat (pun intended). After all, they aren’t the most aesthetically pleasing part of your fab bathroom remodel. But when it comes to water use, toilets have the flushing power to jack up your water bill.
We’re here to help you take the plunge into all things low flow toilets. Our deep dive will explore the different types of low flow toilets and whether one makes sense for your next bathroom makeover.
What is a Low Flow Toilet?
Low flow toilets are environmentally friendly; they’re designed to reduce water usage and save money on your utility bills. Their designs have improved since they were widely introduced in the 1990s. That, plus the fact that they hold less water, means they’re sleeker, smaller, and more modern looking.
How a Low Flow Toilet Works to Save Water
A low flow toilet can operate through either gravity or pressure assistance.
For gravity-driven toilets, the flapper in the toilet tank releases the water into the bowl to flush. Then, gravity takes over, dragging the waste and water through your plumbing.
A pressure-assisted toilet uses a water-filled tank to push the water from the toilet tank through the bowl once the valve is opened.
Both mechanisms will affect the toilet’s ability to remove waste, the amount of water used, and the design. These differences result in a few different types of low flow toilets. Knowing how they differ can help you buy the right one for your bathroom.
Types of Low Flow Toilets
Let’s take a deeper look at low flow toilet types and what they can do for your bathroom.
Gravity-Fed TankGravity-fed low flow toilets aren’t as strong as pressure-assisted toilets, but they’re much quieter. A toilet that relies on gravity functions best on the home’s upper floors and is generally not advisable for a basement or ground floor.
Because gravity-fed toilets don’t require a more modern water supply system, they don’t wear pipes as much as pressure-assisted units. That means gravity-fed toilets could be suited to older homes, where pipes could be more prone to leakage.
On the negative side, gravity-fed tanks tend to use more water, so they’re not the most eco-friendly option.
Two-button flush toilets use two separate gravity-based flushing mechanisms with different strengths. They can accommodate each kind of waste, whether liquid or solid. A dual-flush toilet is one of the most eco-friendly options, offering significant water savings when used appropriately.
Power-Assisted and Pressure-Assisted Models
A pressure-assisted toilet provides the most water pressure, and that prevents clogs. However, that pressure comes with more noise, and it can potentially cause damage to pipes in older homes.
Power-assisted toilets are a more expensive low-flow toilet option, costing about $250 versus $180 for a two-button flush and $100 for a gravity-fed toilet, without installation.
Low Flow Toilet Benefits
Upgrading to a low flow toilet in your bathroom offers benefits, such as:
Low Flow Toilet DisadvantagesPotential downsides of low flow toilets include:
Low Flow Toilet Installation: DIY or Contractor?
Toilet installation will generally take two to four hours for a DIY homeowner. A contractor may take slightly less time.
Be aware that toilet installation isn’t the most straightforward DIY project. Plus, your plumbing or water system could suffer if the installation isn’t done properly. So, if you don’t have experience, the best move might be to hire a contractor.
A contractor will be more expensive since they charge a labor cost in addition to the money you’ve paid for your toilet. But the effort and time saved may also save you headaches in the long run.
How Much Water Will a Low Flow Toilet Save?
The Environmental Protection Agency says toilets use 30% of the water in residential homes, so upgrading your toilet can save you a huge amount of water and money overall.
Of course, the exact amount of money you save from a low flow toilet depends on how much water and energy your toilets consumed before and the price of water area.
Based on EPA averages and statistics, a low flow toilet can save your home about 11,000 gallons of water a year, translating to $140 to $180 per year in water costs. With the average price of a low flow toilet around $250, you can break even on a new low flow toilet within two years of purchasing.
By Kristina Morales
By: Alaina Tweddale
There are better ways to spend.
“They were this gorgeous, greenish-teal, and they looked great in my laundry room,” says Eliesa Prettelt, avid DIYer and author of “A Pinterest Addict” blog.
The washer/dryer combo was perfect. Such a delightful way to brighten laundry day — with a cheerfully colored front-loader set. They could actually make laundry fun!
But after barreling through three sets in four years, she knew she’d made a mistake. “They looked so pretty, but I had nothing but problems with them,” she says.
She eventually gave up and got nondescript, white, commercial-grade top-loaders she scored for less than half the cost of her original machines. They may be plain, she says, but “I’ve had no problems since.”
Lesson learned. The hard way. Now for learning the easy way. Here are seven common money mistakes homeowners make — and now you won’t.
1. Contractor House Calls
Think you need a pro to fix that leaky toilet? You’d be surprised how easy it can be to fix it yourself — and save the typical $70 to $120 per hour plumbers can charge (and don’t forget the boost in your can-do attitude). You can often find home remedies for small jobs like a leaky faucet or a broken garbage disposal on YouTube. Just make sure the source is reputable. And check out several videos on the same repair. That’ll help make sure you don’t miss a crucial step.
“We save a couple hundred dollars per year by doing small home repairs ourselves,” says Lauren Greutman, frugal living expert and author of “The Recovering Spender: How to Live a Happy, Fulfilled, Debt-Free Life.”
For those who prefer an expert, try smaller, local retail appliance stores, Greutman suggests. “It’s a little-known secret that they usually have repair people who are very inexpensive.”
2. Extended Warranties
It’s tempting to insure your new, big purchase, but according to “Consumer Reports,” you’re probably already as covered as you need to be.
How’s that? Most major appliances come with at least a 90-day manufacturer’s warranty. Buy with a major credit card (Visa, Mastercard, Discover, or American Express) and it will likely double that standard warranty.
Combine that with the fact that “Consumer Reports” found most products don’t break during the standard two- or three-year service contract period. When they do, the repair cost is usually just a few dollars more than the cost of the warranty.
Instead of paying for an extended warranty, stash the cash in a savings account earmarked for home repairs. When you need it, it’ll be there.
3. Flashy Feature Appliances
The newest appliances come with super fun features. Who wouldn’t want an oven that talks, remote access to your AC, or bottle jets in the dishwasher (hey, new parents)? Still, it may not be financially wise to replace a fully functioning older model just to gain modern perks. So says Arthur Teel, owner and operator of The Handyman Plan in Asheville, N.C. Circuit boards break, and energy efficiency numbers don’t always add up, he says.
Yup. That’s even true for some energy-efficient appliances that boast cost savings. “Spend $1,000 on a new, energy-efficient stove, and it could take 10 years of energy savings to offset the cost of the new stove,” he says. “Unless you have a really old appliance, it’s probably efficient enough for your needs. Also, putting the appliance into the landfill isn’t exactly great for the environment.”
4. Budget Bulbs
Incandescents may be easy on your everyday household budget, but they’re tough on your energy bill. Start replacing them now with LEDs. To help swallow the initial costs, just replace them as they die out. A typical LED bulb can recoup its cost in less than six months. Even better, since LEDs can last a decade or more, you won’t have to buy bulbs as often, and your energy costs will be lower.
5. Commercial Cleaning Supplies
Even if you’re buying off-brand products to save costs, you’re still wasting money. You don’t have to spend anywhere near the cost of commercial products.
“Vinegar will clean a lot of things, and it’s a heck of a lot cheaper than buying pricey cleaning supplies,” says Prettelt. She also likes baking soda and hydrogen peroxide, each of which can be found for just a fraction of the cost of their popular store-bought equivalents.
“You can use these natural products in your dishwasher, in your garbage disposal, in your wash,” Prettelt adds. Easy peasy. And it’s super cheap.
That’s right. You can make dishwasher soap from a cup each of borax and washing soda, a half-cup of kosher salt, and five packets of unsweetened lemonade mix. Or whip up your own window cleaner with these simple ingredients:
6. A Storage Unit
If it doesn’t fit in your home, is it really worth keeping? Ditch nostalgia and think with your bank account: At a cost of $20 to $450 per month, it may be time to purge the junk.
If you can’t bear to part with something you don’t use regularly — say, Great-Grandma’s heirloom china — rethink your home’s organizational storage. Clean out the closet, craft shelves beneath the stairs, or build window seats with drawer storage. You’ll be investing in your home instead of giving money to a storage vendor.
7. Private Mortgage Insurance
Bought your house with less than 20% down? You’re probably paying for private mortgage insurance, or PMI (a type of insurance that guarantees your mortgage lender will be covered if you default). On a $300,000 mortgage loan, you’d pay between $1,500 and $3,000 each year, depending on the premium you’re required to pay for PMI. You’ll have to pay for PMI until your loan balance drops to 78% of the original appraised value of your home. You can also request an end to paying PMI premiums once your loan balance has dropped to 80% of your home’s value.
That 2% difference could cost you hundreds, even thousands of dollars, depending on your home’s mortgage balance. So, keep an eye on your statement and whip out that calculator when you’re getting close. Then, if you’re feeling really savvy, keep paying that amount every month — but apply it to your mortgage principal instead. Do that, and you could recoup your PMI fees. Because as you pay down your principal, you’ll pay less in interest, potentially saving thousands. Now how savvy is that?
Episode 309 AskJasonGelios Show
Episode 308 AskJasonGelios Show
You may not know it, but your home could have indoor air pollution. Here’s how to clear the air.
You probably clean your home regularly, but your indoor air quality could benefit from a thorough cleaning, too.
Recent studies point to why: The air you breathe inside your home can contain two to five times more pollutants than outside air, according to U.S. Environmental Protection Agency research. Consider that Americans spend about 90% of their time indoors, too.
What’s Causing Indoor Air Pollution
Other factors also contribute to the problem. Wildfires, like the ones in Canada that spread to the U.S., can compromise outdoor air quality. That outdoor air can enter homes, making it unhealthy to breathe the indoor air, the EPA says. Other causes of indoor air pollution range from household cleaners and chemicals — those emitted from paints and furnishings — to cooking appliances, fireplaces, tobacco, pet dander, mold, dust, pressed wood products, coal heating, and even candles.
Compounding the issue, today’s super-sealed, energy-efficient homes can lead to a buildup of pollutants. This can create health problems including respiratory illnesses and allergy flare-ups, migraines, and even heart disease, according to the World Health Organization.
“A lack of ventilation is the most common culprit behind air quality issues,” says Lane Dixon, vice president of operations at Aire Serv, a Tennessee-based heating and air conditioning company. “When the air can’t circulate properly, allergens, dust, and debris build up within the home.”
12 Ways to Improve Indoor Air Quality at Home
Experts offer these 12 tips that can help you keep your indoor air quality as clean as the rest of your home.
#1 Invest in an Air Purifier
The EPA’s AirNow.gov program reports on the air quality across the U.S. With the air quality index at “very unhealthy” or even “hazardous” levels in some areas of the U.S. in summer 2023, consumers may be considering buying air purifiers. Using an air purifier (also called a portable air cleaner or air sanitizer) and/or upgrading the air filter in your furnace or HVAC system can improve indoor air quality, the EPA says. The devices are designed to filter the air in a single room or area.
The main types of air purifiers are HEPA purifiers (capture at least 99.97% of particles larger than 0.3 microns), activated carbon technology (filters that use high-absorbency carbon), ultraviolet technology (uses shortwave ultraviolet light to kill airborne pathogens), and ionic purifiers (send negatively charged ions and clean the air using electrically charged filters).
Tips: Check for an AHAM Verifide mark, which shows the air cleaner’s clean air delivery rate and suggested room size, and signifies that the manufacturer’s claims about performance have been verified independently, says a spokesperson at the Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers. Place air purifiers in the center of a room, away from anything that may block it, and clean filters regularly, he says.
#2 Maintain Good Indoor Hygiene
Cleaning your home regularly can help reduce indoor pollutants like dust, pet dander, and mold. Wipe down hard surfaces with a damp cloth and vacuum carpets weekly with a HEPA-rated filter (capable of capturing 99.97% of particles larger than 0.3 microns), suggests Martin Seeley, CEO and founder of Mattress Next Day in the U.K. The American Academy of Allergy Asthma & Immunology recommends washing bedding weekly in hot water (130 degrees Fahrenheit) to kill dust mites — allergy-triggering, microscopic creatures that thrive in bedding, upholstered furniture, and carpets.
#3 Change HVAC Filters Regularly
More than a quarter of Americans admit they never change their home’s air filter, according to a consumer survey from The Zebra, an insurance comparison site. Air filters can remove allergens and pollutants and help improve overall air quality, Seeley says. Replace them per manufacturer’s guidelines; experts usually recommend at least every three months. During heavy-use months in the winter or summer if you have pets, check filters monthly.
Tip: Choose air filters with high MERV (minimum efficiency reporting value), ratings on a scale of 1 to 16. In general, the higher the rating, the better the filter can capture certain particles.
#4 Open the Windows
Natural ventilation is key to improving air quality, according to the EPA. Even during cooler months, opening a window just a crack for at least 10 minutes a day can prevent stale, stuffy air and the accumulation of indoor contaminants. But keep windows closed when outdoor pollution is a problem.
Create “stack ventilation” by opening windows at the same time on higher and lower levels to create a breeze throughout the house, suggests Christine Marvin, chief marketing and experience officer at Marvin, a windows manufacturer. Or, consider adding a heat recovery ventilator or energy recovery ventilator to your HVAC system to circulate fresh air from the outside. Turn these devices off, though, when outdoor air pollution is a problem.
#5 Watch Humidity Levels
Humidity can be an air quality nemesis, leading to mold, mildew, and bacteria. To keep humidity in check, use dehumidifiers to remove moisture from the air. Also, always use an exhaust fan in the bathroom during showers and for at least 15 minutes afterward. To gauge humidity levels, consider buying a hygrometer, which is like a thermometer for humidity. Keep indoor humidity levels from 30% to 50% relative humidity, the EPA advises. If a home’s too dry, humidifiers add moisture to the air. For example, ultrasonic humidifiers emit cool mist to increase humidity. Follow the manufacturer’s directions on cleaning and use.
#6 Flip on a Fan
Floor fans, exhaust fans, and ceiling fans can all be used to increase a home’s ventilation. During the pandemic, studies showed that ceiling fans could help move the air inside a space and reduce the indoor transmission of airborne pathogens.
#7 Clean Your Pet
Yes, even your beloved pet can lower indoor air quality by leaving behind dander, microscopic skin flakes that linger in the air and can trigger allergies and respiratory issues. Clean pet bedding regularly. Create pet-free zones in the house. Try a paw wiper, such as silicone washer cups lined with bristles, to clean paws before pets enter your home to avoid tracked-in outdoor contaminants.
#8 Vent While Cooking
About 30% of indoor contaminants come from cooking alone, according to the “International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health.” Lower your risk by venting cooking aerosols while cooking. Gas stovetop ranges have come under fire because of the nitrogen dioxide and carbon dioxide emitted during use. A range hood fan, which should be vented to the outside, creates a vacuum in the house to help remove dangerous gasses when cooking.
#9 Use Air-Cleaning Plants
NASA-backed research has shown plants can help remove toxins from the air. Often, the larger and leafier the plant is, the greater the air-purifying impact. Among nature’s best air purifiers: English ivy, bamboo palm, parlor palm, snake plant, red-edged dracaena, peace lilies, and Boston ferns.
#10 Limit Indoor Chemicals
Cleaning products can produce volatile organic components, which can irritate eyes, nose, and throat and even cause organ damage after heavy exposure. These components can be found in products like paints, cleaning liquids, air fresheners, and hairspray. Aire Serv’s Dixon suggests avoiding chemical-laden household products containing ammonia, chlorine, and triclosan — contributors to poor indoor air quality. When using cleaning products, increase ventilation by turning on fans or opening windows. Store your cleaning products — as well as paints and pesticides — away from the house, in the garage or a shed. Or, opt for cleaning products with natural ingredients, like baking soda or vinegar. Chemicals may lurk in other areas of the home too, such as formaldehyde in pressed wood furniture, flooring, and even carpet fabrics. Look for products with low or no formaldehyde.
#11 Swap out Candles
Certain types of candles may add scent but worsen indoor air quality. Candles made from synthetic fragrance oils and paraffin wax can release airborne soot — consisting of phthalates, lead, and benzene — that can trigger respiratory and allergy symptoms, according to the EPA. Experts suggest using candles made of beeswax, palm oil, soy, or other plant-based waxes, which can burn cleaner and longer. Also, the Children’s Environmental Health Network suggests choosing candles with a single wick, increasing ventilation when burning, and burning candles for only one or two hours at a time.
#12 Monitor and Test the Air
You can buy devices to use at home that detect, monitor, and report on air pollutants like particulate matter, radon, carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, formaldehyde, volatile organic compounds, and environmental factors. The devices, which the EPA calls low-cost air pollution monitors, use a number, color, or graphic to display the level of pollutants the device’s sensors detect. But there are no widely accepted air concentration limits for most pollutants indoors, so each manufacturer determines the levels that trigger an alert, the agency says. It also notes that the cost usually relates more to device features than performance. The EPA doesn’t produce the monitors, but it does evaluate certain air sensor technologies, generally in outdoor conditions. You can find scientific information about using air sensor monitoring systems from the EPA’s Air Sensor Toolbox.
Of course, there are limits on what you can control in your home environment. But making some changes can help you and your family breathe a lot easier.
Find the right answer for you by learning what to expect.
If your bathroom needs an update, but you don’t want to overhaul the entire space with a remodel, it may be time to refinish your bathtub. Refinishing could make the room look fresher and more modern. You could tackle this project yourself with some guidance or hire a professional for a higher cost.
Here are some tips to help you decide whether refinishing your bathtub is right for you and how to choose between DIY and bringing in a pro. Either way, once the project is done, just add bubbles and relax.
What’s the Difference Between Bathtub Refinishing, Resurfacing, and Reglazing?Some people use terms like bathtub refinishing, resurfacing, and reglazing interchangeably. However, each term has a distinct meaning.
Some signs that it’s time to refinish your bathtub include:
Of course, you may want to refinish the tub, not because it’s worn out, but because you want to change the color to match your bathroom’s aesthetic. Paint will help personalize the look with a new color, but the paint can chip away and might require repainting in the future.
Is It Worth It to Refinish a Bathtub?Refinishing a bathtub could give your bathroom a serious facelift, but it’s not always the right intervention. Replacing a tub is more expensive and labor-intensive than refinishing. But sometimes, replacement is the best option.
To determine whether refinishing your tub is worthwhile, consider the following:
Safety EquipmentPrep EquipmentCleaning ProductsMaterials to Fill in Dents and ScratchesSanding/Buffing ToolsBathtub Refinishing Tools
– A fan for ventilation
– Long sleeves – Tape to section off the area
– Drop cloths to keep the area clean
– Rags to wipe up spills– Bleach or an abrasive cleaner like Comet
– Sponges and rags– Epoxy, which may come in your DIY kit, or bathroom putty
– A sponge brush or sprayer to apply epoxy– A manual or palm sander, steel wool, or sandpaper
– Rags to wipe up dust– Paint or glaze
– Roller or brush
– Small brushes for touch-upsBathtub Refinishing: Step by StepBefore you dive into this project, check out the basic steps. That way, you can decide whether you feel comfortable DIYing or should go with a professional. This is a general guide for bathtub refinishing. So, if you choose to DIY the project, look for more detailed instructions.
#1 Prep the Space Before Resurfacing the TubBegin by ensuring the space has adequate ventilation. Use an exhaust fan to remove toxic fumes and open windows and doors or use an industrial or portable fan to circulate and replace the air for up to two days while the product dries. This step is critical to your health and safety, as you’ll work with hazardous materials. Next, remove clutter, protect your fixtures, lay down your tarp, tape off the area, and collect all the necessary supplies.
#2 Clean the BathtubBefore you do anything more, you have to scrub. Deep clean the tub to remove every trace of soap scum, mold, dirt, and other debris. The cleaner the tub, the better the coating product can adhere to the surface. If your bathroom is easy to clean, this step may not take as long.
#3 Fill Bathtub Dings and ScratchesUse epoxy or putty products designed for bathrooms to fill in gashes, dings, holes, and scratches in your tub. You may want to speak with a professional if the tub needs more than cosmetic care. Sand down textured or inconsistent bathtub surfaces before proceeding.
#4 Buff the BathtubThoroughly buff out the whole tub to strip its topmost layer, using a sanding machine, sandpaper, steel wool, or other buffing tool. This step removes the peeling remnants of the last coating and helps even out the tub’s surface.
#5 Clean and Buff the Bathtub (Again!)You’ll repeat the cleaning and buffing process a few times. Since the sanding process releases dust particles, you must clean the tub thoroughly each time you buff. If any dust remains, your finishing product may not adhere.
#6 Apply Bathtub Refinishing ProductWearing a mask, gloves, and goggles, and working in a well-ventilated space, apply the coating product with a brush or spray. DIY kits likely include this product, but otherwise, you’ll have to pick it up separately. You may have to use a few layers. Let the product dry completely. Consult product instructions for details on the time to dry.
#7 Clean the Bathtub (Yes, Again!)Once the product is thoroughly dry, you can clean the space, remove the tape, and rinse your tub to remove any lingering chemicals or dust. If you need to reapply caulk or grout, wait until the tub has completely dried.
#8 Regularly Maintain Your BathtubRegular bathtub maintenance could help your new finish last longer and look better. To maintain your tub, try to clean it after every use. That may sound daunting, but the more often you clean, the less time and effort it takes. Ensure you have bathroom ventilation to avoid excess moisture that may lead to mold. Refer to the instructions on your DIY kit or refinishing product for how to best preserve the coating.
How Long Does It Take to Refinish a Bathtub?Factors like humidity and your bathtub’s materials and age could affect how long refinishing takes. Generally, the refinishing process takes two to five hours. Professionals may complete the project more quickly, and first-time DIYers may take a little longer. But don’t grab the bubbles yet. Before you can enjoy a luxurious bath in your newly refinished tub or soon-to-be spa-like bathroom, you must let the tub dry. This could take up to 48 hours but may need only 24 hours.
DIY Bathtub RefinishingWhether you hope to save money or are ready for a new project, you may want to DIY your bathtub refinishing instead of hiring a professional. Fortunately, you can, though the process may include a few messy steps. Consider the following to help you get started.
Bathtub DIY KitsMany retailers sell DIY kits that make refinishing the bathtub a more straightforward process. The kits include materials like epoxies, putties, or enamels that work with the most common types of bathtubs. They may also come with brushes, sprayers, rollers, and sandpaper. Some even include specific tints to change the color of your bathtub.
The Safety of a DIY Bathtub RefinishWhile you must take safety precautions, the bathtub refinishing process is relatively uncomplicated. The most strenuous work is cleaning and sanding down the tub a few times. Make sure you take breaks as needed and stay hydrated.
Sanding the tub and applying products like epoxy release dust particles and hazardous chemical fumes. Protecting your lungs and skin throughout the process is paramount to your safety. Wearing gear like an N95 mask, gloves, goggles, long sleeves, and long pants could go a long way in keeping you safe.
Ventilation is essential for your lungs and for allowing the space to dry. Keep a fan on and, whenever possible, open your windows to maximize airflow in the area.
Quality of ResultsDIY bathroom refinishing may save you money, but it’s unlikely to bring you the same quality results a professional would get. A pro may achieve a smoother finish or a higher shine. However, a DIY tub refinish could still look great, even if it doesn’t quite reach professional standards.
Professional Bathtub RefinishingIf you don’t want to DIY your bathtub refinish, you could always bring in a pro. Contractors’ typical process for refinishing a bathtub is similar to the DIY process. They start by deep cleaning the tub. Then, they remove the existing finish and repair any cosmetic problems. Finally, they spray on a finish for uniform coverage in the color of your choosing. While they follow the same basic steps as DIYers, with experience on their side, they often have smoother and more seamless results.
Why Do Professionals Get Different Results?While DIY bathtub refinishing kits and home improvement stores could certainly offer you the refinishing tools it takes to get the job done, professionals have access to more specialized technology. Higher quality tools plus expertise mean contractors often leave you with more polished results that last longer.
Cost to Refinish BathtubsIf you hire a professional, your tub’s materials and size may impact the price. Fiberglass is at the low end of the cost spectrum, with prices ranging from $250 to $600, according to a Fixr cost comparison. On the other hand, an acrylic tub could cost $400 to $700. These estimates include labor and materials. If you DIY the project, you could expect to spend around $75 on supplies, according to the Homewyse cost calculator. (Depending on where you live, your costs may be slightly higher or lower.)
For comparison, a basic replacement bathtub could cost $200 to $800, and deeper soaking tubs could cost up to $12,000, Fixr reports. Labor costs may add $500 to $2,000. While refinishing your bathtub yourself saves the most money, even bringing in a professional typically costs less than replacing the tub.
Final Thoughts: Tub RefinishingRefinishing a tub could give your bathtub the makeover it needs. Refinishing a bathtub with enough preparation and precaution is a relatively clear-cut DIY project. However, you could splurge on professional refinishing for a more polished look. Replacing your bathtub ultimately comes at a higher cost, but it may be the right call if your tub has significant damage or if you plan to remodel the bathroom.
Find out how to hang drywall before deciding how much help you need.
Whether adding a cutout between rooms, doing minor wall touch-ups, or bringing your wall’s outdated textures into this decade, you’ll need to get familiar with drywall. Drywall installation has a reputation as a labor-intensive project, and rightfully so. But if you’re an experienced, capable DIYer, you might be thinking about trying to install drywall on your own.
Before diving in, you’ll want to dig into the finer points of DIY drywall installation and determine if soloing is your best bet or if this project is best left to the pros.
When to Consider Replacing Drywall
Here are a few indications that your drywall needs some love.
Holes or Dents
Minor holes or dents are the first signs that you should consider replacing your drywall. They can point to cosmetic damage or more severe damage to your home’s framing. Holes near an electric outlet could also indicate a bigger problem with electrical wiring damage.
Water damage in your drywall can require costly repairs to your ceiling and floors. Once you figure out the source of water damage and stop the leak, replacing your drywall is a good next step toward preventing water damage from ruining your home’s interior.
CracksDrywall cracks tend to develop in high-stress areas and often signify framing problems or deeper structural issues. After determining the source of the cracking, replace your drywall to avoid any unnecessary dust.
Drywall can discolor because of shifts in temperature and humidity, which often signal plumbing or roofing issues. Minor spots left unaddressed may grow and contribute to mold or mildew. Start by addressing the root cause and assessing whether the drywall damage warrants replacement paneling. Once you know what’s causing the discoloration, you may be able to take preventive measures, such as using a dehumidifier.
If you see any of these problems in your drywall, it’s time to get out the repair tools or call a contractor. Leaving these situations unchecked could end up causing more significant damage to your property. If you’re going to DIY it, you may want to consider a few tips for hanging drywall.
Tips Before You Hang Drywall
Once you’ve decided to hang or repair the drywall yourself, keep a few things in mind:
Take Proper Measurements
Measuring twice and cutting once is a smart rule for any DIY project. Taking precise measurements and accurately recording them can help avoid several problems.
Leave a Floor Gap
If your drywall panels intersect with your home’s floors, leave a half-inch gap between the drywall and the floor. The gap will allow your home’s floor to expand without damaging the drywall and help prevent moisture-wicking.
Look for Moisture and Mold-Resistant Drywall
If you’re hanging drywall in a heavy moisture area, such as a bathroom, look for water and mold-resistant drywall, such as green board drywall. While it isn’t waterproof, it is moisture resistant, making it an excellent option for walls in your bathroom that won’t have direct contact with water.
Find the Right Drywall Thickness
Different thicknesses of drywall are needed for different kinds of framing. For example, use one-half-inch drywall for framing with spans of 16 inches or less, and use 5/8-inch drywall for framing with spans of up to 24 inches.
Following these guidelines can help you avoid issues and lead to a better installation experience.
Materials and Tools for Installing and Hanging Drywall
Before hanging drywall yourself, have a basic DIY toolkit with a drill, hammer, screwdrivers, utility knife, and utility saw. Then, you’ll need a few materials and tools specific to drywall installation.
Each drywall panel weighs 50 to 60 pounds, and panels typically come in twos. Despite their size and weight, they’re made of fragile material and can easily break if mishandled. That means you’ll need a second set of hands, so it could be time to cash in a few favors from all those friends you’ve helped move over the years.
These help secure your drywall paneling to studs. Different thicknesses of drywall will require different screw lengths, so make sure you’ve taken measurements and found the right screw according to your drywall thickness.
When you install drywall, you’ll see seams where the separate drywall panels intersect. Drywall tape covers these seams and forms a strong joint between the two panels. The tape is nonstick, meaning you must apply a joint compound to use it properly.
Drywall joint compound, known as mud, is a paste that will cover any seams in your drywall paneling when applied to a properly fitted drywall tape. Mud can help you repair any minor cracks or holes in the drywall. It can also prepare your drywall to be painted, making it essential in the drywall installation process.
Now that you’ve got a good sense of process and materials, you might want to estimate your costs.
Estimating Costs for Hanging Drywall
Drywall installation costs depend on several factors, including:
Drywall sheets cost 50 cents to 80 cents per square foot, depending on thickness. Thicker options cost more but may be worth the price in spaces that require more insulation or moisture resistance. Note that the drywall thickness you choose will depend on building codes and where the drywall is being hung. For instance, one-half-inch drywall is commonly used for most interior walls, while 5/8-inch drywall is used where code requires fire-resistant material.
Room Size and Shape
The size and shape of a room will affect the amount of paneling you need to purchase. Remember that some oddly shaped rooms may have more square footage than you think. To know how much drywall you need for a wall or ceiling, measure the length and width of the area. Multiply the width by the height to get the square footage of the wall. Once you’ve measured all the areas that need drywall and calculated their square footage, add up all the quantities to get the total square foot amount. To know how many drywall sheets you need, divide the total square footage you’ve calculated by 32 (for four-square-foot-by-eight-square-foot sheets), 48 (for four-square-foot-by-12-square-foot sheets), or 64 (for four-square-foot-by-16-square-foot sheets).
Removal of Old Drywall
If your project requires removing old drywall before installing new panels, you must factor in disposal costs. You may need to add labor costs if you outsource the work to a contractor.
Taping and Mudding
You’ll need to purchase the right amount of tape and mud to join all the seams in your drywall. Of course, this cost increases with a larger installation. Once you’ve determined the size and number of drywall sheets you need, you can calculate how much drywall your project will require. Multiply the number of sheets needed by the perimeter of each sheet. For eight four-square-foot-by-eight-square-foot sheets, you’ll need (8 x 32) 256 feet of tape. You’ll also need about 0.05 pounds of mud per square foot of drywall.
If your drywall project requires you to install new framing in your home, the extra materials will increase the material cost, plus the labor to install. After all, this part of the project may not be a DIY project if new framing is required, and you don’t have any experience. If framing is necessary, you may want to expand the budget for support from a professional contractor and construction crew.
Let’s talk more about how to tell if your project can be tackled as a DIY or if it’s best left to a contractor.
Drywall Installation: DIY or Contractor?
So, where exactly should you draw the line between trying to DIY hanging drywall or hiring a pro? It comes down to several factors, besides the cost, such as:
How Much Labor Is Involved?
There’s a lot to consider when DIYing a drywall project. Will your drywall installation require intricate cuts? Is it on a ceiling or a hard-to-access area? Is it a one-person job? Are you knowledgeable about codes? Minor repairs may be easy to tackle on your own, but for a significant drywall replacement you may need more help than you realize. Remember that hanging panels isn’t the end of the process, and you’ll need to tape and mud the drywall as well.
Will I Need a Permit?
Drywall installation typically doesn’t require a permit unless you work on support structures, load-bearing walls, or framing. You can check local and state government requirements to confirm whether you’ll need a permit for your drywall project. Working with a licensed contractor may save time if the installation requires a permit.
Do I Have Enough Experience in DIY Home Repair?
While drywall installation isn’t the most complicated home DIY project, it can be challenging for an inexperienced renovator. If you haven’t done basic home improvement projects, it may be wise to seek help from a contractor.
When Should I Hire a Contractor?
There are some instances when bringing on a contractor is non-negotiable. Hiring a contractor may be best if your project is large and complex or involves structural adjustments.
Hiring a Contractor: Is It Worth It?
While planning for drywall repair, replacement, or installation, compare the pros and cons of working with a contractor vs. DIY-ing and consider the price differences.
Average Cost of Drywall Installations: DIY vs. Contractor
All elements considered, installing drywall as a DIY project costs an average of $1.50 to $3 per square foot. Contractors typically charge $70 to $80 per hour for labor (plus the cost of materials), but these prices vary per job and contractor.
Advantages of Working with a Contractor
While contractors charge for labor and typically ask you to cover the costs of materials, your financial investment could be well worth it. Contractors can help you save time on large-scale projects. This is especially true if you have less experience in DIY repair and installation. For a small-scale installation, hanging drywall yourself might be more cost-effective. But as your project grows, you will benefit more from hiring a contractor. Of course, working with a licensed contractor means your project most likely will improve in quality, too, thanks to their years of experience and expertise. If you are looking for a contractor for your drywall project, a REALTOR®, a member of the National Association of REALTORS®, can recommend a qualified local contractor.
Putting Up Drywall: DIY or Contractor?
If you’re not feeling confident that you can manage DIY drywall installation, reach out to a pro to get a quote. Then, move on to bigger and better things, like choosing the perfect paint color, thumbing through creative wall ideas (did someone say Lego wall?), or maybe, just maybe, taking a bit of time to relax.
Episode 307 AskJasonGelios Show
Episode 306 AskJasonGelios Show
Jason Gelios is a Husband and Father. After that, a Top Producing REALTOR®, Author of the books 'Think like a REALTOR®' and 'Beating The Force Of Average', Creator of The AskJasonGelios Real Estate Show and Expert Media Contributor to media outlets across the country.