By: Stacey Freed
Quick-and-easy tasks that’ll brighten up your interior.
The year’s coming to an end. Time to do four small tasks for a bright (and money-saving) new year.
#1 Clean Light Bulbs and Fixtures
Two great reasons to clean your light bulbs: You want as much light in your house as you can get as the days grow shorter, and, you’ll save money.
Dirty bulbs apparently shed 30% less light than clean ones, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.
Wipe bulbs with a cloth dampened by a mix of 1 oz. dish soap, ¼ cup white vinegar, and 3 cups of water. Get to it Dec. 1 so you’re ready for the curtain fall on the shortest day of this year: Dec. 21.
#2 Evaluate Homeowner’s Insurance
The holidays. You love them, but they do seem to eat up more cash than other times of year. Sure, you can scrounge around for change under your couch cushions, but that’s not going to offset much.
Why not get a home insurance checkup? Call your agent to go over the type of coverage you have, how much you really need, and how you can lower your premiums before your next monthly installment.
#3 Pack a Home Emergency Kit
The last thing you want during the holidays is for an emergency to chill your family’s cheer. Prepare for power outages and weather-related emergencies with an easy-to-find emergency kit.
Some items to include are bottled water, a hand-crank radio, a flashlight, batteries, a portable charger for your phone, warm blankets and, of course, a first-aid kit to patch up any boo-boos. Singing carols ’round the flashlight may not be ideal, but it’ll beat trying to celebrate in the dark.
#4 Buy Holiday Lights (After Dec. 25)
It’s tough to think about next Christmas when you’re still stuffed from a holiday dinner with all the trimmings. But think you must if you want to save on next year’s holiday. From Dec. 26 through year’s end, big-box stores try to clear the shelves of all that glitters.
Article by Stacy Freed
Durability is key for kitchen remodeling, but it doesn’t have to cost a lot.
About to remodel that old kitchen? Unless you’re cool with treating the hardest working room in your house like a museum exhibit, resist the temptation to buy the cheapest or shiniest materials available. Instead, go for durable options that can stand up to regular abuse.
Trust us: Although it may be tough to leave that raised, tempered glass bar top (ooh!) in the showroom, repairing its first (and second and third) chip will get old. Very fast.
Picking the right materials is easy if you do your homework. “There are amazing products out there,” says Jeffrey Holloway, sales designer at Stuart Kitchens in the Greater Annapolis area. “You’re looking at price point, sanitation, how easy it is to clean the product, its durability, and maintenance.”
Keeping those all-important features in mind, here are some materials to avoid during your next kitchen project.
#1 Plastic Laminate Counters
First off, there’s plenty of great laminate out there. It’s the entry-level, plastic laminate you want to stay away from, Holloway says. These are the ones that look thin and dull, as opposed to richly textured. They scratch easily, and if the product underneath the laminate gets wet (say, from steam rising from your dishwasher), it can delaminate the countertop. That means the edges will chip pretty easily.
Also, one misplaced hot pan on the plastic will result in a melted disaster zone you’ll remember forever.
But if you’re watching your budget, plastic laminate at the next level up is a good choice. “It’s got good color consistency, and there are a lot of retro and trendy patterns available,” says Dani Polidor, an interior designer and owner of Suite Artistry, and a REALTOR® in Pittsford, N.Y.
New laminate counter technology offers scratch resistance, textured surfaces, and patterns that mimic real wood and stone. “There are even self-repairing nanotechnologies embedded in some laminates,” says Polidor. “Other laminates have antimicrobial properties.”
A pro can install high-end laminate for 30 square feet of counter space for about $2,000. Laminate-type material with an antimicrobial finish costs an average $15 to $30 per square foot, according to FixR.
#2 Inexpensive Sheet Vinyl Flooring
You spend all day stepping on your floor, so quality really matters. At the lower price point, about $3 per square foot without installation, the cheapest sheet vinyl floorings tend to be thin.
“If your vinyl floor is glued down and the underlayment gets delaminated, say, by water seeping from your dishwasher or refrigerator, you’ll get bubbles in your floor,” Holloway warns.
Compare that with luxury vinyl tile, which costs about $11 per square foot without installation.
It’s still usually glued down, but it’s a little more forgiving than its less classy cousin. It can come in tiles, which you can grout so they mimic the look of higher-end stone, Polidor says.
#3 Some Laminated Cabinet Fronts
Holloway suggests staying away from lower-end thermofoil cabinet fronts. What is thermofoil? Contrary to its name, there’s no foil or any metal-type material in it. It’s actually vinyl that’s heated and molded around fiberboard. If the cabinet is white and the price is waaaaay affordable compared with other cabinets, think twice.
Cheaper thermofoil has three critical drawbacks:
1. It’s not heat resistant. If near a dishwasher or oven, it could delaminate.
2. It can warp and yellow with age, revealing its cheapness.
3. The “wood” underneath the thermofoil is also poor quality and won’t hold up over time.
But just as with plastic laminate, science has made great strides, and a host of new cabinets are remaking thermofoil’s reputation. “New European laminates have become all the rage for the clean-lined, flat-panel look,” Polidor says. “They’re budget-friendly and can look like wood or high gloss. It’s not your grandmother’s thermofoil.”
And it doesn’t come at Grandma’s prices, either. But the new thermofoil is much more affordable than custom cabinets (see more on this, below) and still satisfies with its rich look and durability.
#4 High-Gloss Lacquered Cabinets
A nice shine can be eye-catching. And spendy. About 20 layers of lacquer go on a cabinet for the high-gloss look. Ding it or scratch it, and it’s costly to repair.
“It’s a multi-step process for repairing them,” Polidor says. A better option for the same look is high-end thermofoil. (See? We said there were good thermofoil options!)
Thermofoil has a finish that’s fused to the cabinet and baked on for a more durable exterior. And it’s way more budget-friendly. This option costs $250 to $350 per cabinet, depending on the style, size, and color. To have a pro apply lacquer to your cabinets, expect to pay $50 to $100 per linear foot. For an average kitchen with 20 linear feet of cabinets, that works out to $1,000 to $2,000.
#5 Flat Paint
Flat paint has that sophisticated, velvety, rich look we all love.
But keep it in the bedroom. It’s not kitchen-friendly. Flat paint, also known as matte paint, has durability issues. It’s unstable. Try to wipe off one splatter of chili sauce, and you’ve ruined the paint job.
About the only place to use flat paint in your kitchen is on the ceiling (unless, of course, you have a reputation for blender or pressure-cooker accidents that reach to the ceiling; then, we suggest takeout).
Instead, you want to use high-gloss or semi-gloss paint on your walls. They can stand up to multiple scrubbings before breaking down.
#6 Trendy Backsplash Materials
Tastes change. So, avoid super trendy colors and materials when permanently adhering something to your kitchen walls. Backsplashes come in glass, metal, iridescent, and high-relief decor tiles, which are undoubtedly fun and tempting. They can also be expensive, ranging from $5 to $220 a square foot, and difficult to install. Pricing varies greatly based on materials, including metal, glass, granite, stone, and marble. After all that work and expense, if (er, when) your taste changes in a few years, it’ll be mighty tough to justify a redo.
Stick with a classic subway tile at $6 to $16 per square foot. Or, even more budget friendly, choose an integrated backsplash that matches your countertop material. “If you want pops of color, do it with accessories,” Polidor suggests.
Transform your home into a beautifully designed space — without the spendy price tag.
Home improvement pros and DIYers tout a fresh coat of paint as a favorite among low-cost home upgrades that can make a huge impact. But what else can you do to accessorize and decorate? Sometimes the little things can make a bigger difference than you’d think.
Professionals share the following easy and low-cost home upgrades to add a designer’s touch all around the house. These projects may even help increase your home’s perceived value.
For the Bathroom
1. Frame It
Estimated cost: starting around $100
That edgeless, builder-grade mirror hanging above the bathroom vanity may be prime for an update. Jessica Love, an interior designer with Urbane Design in Austin, Texas, suggests using DIY frame kits, like the ones from MirrorMate. Measure the mirror and choose from numerous frame styles and materials, like wooden walnut or shiny brass. The frame kit includes clips and metal strips to attach to the existing mirror. A once-forgettable mirror instantly looks customized and styled to the space, Love says.
2. Infuse Some Green
Estimated cost: $5 and up
Simply adding greenery can liven up bathroom spaces and soften harsh lines from all the heavy fixtures, designers say. Try a statement plant on the floor, like the vertical sword-shaped leaves of a snake plant or the feathery foliage from a bird’s nest fern. Or you could incorporate smaller plants, like a mini aloe in a white ceramic planter or an iron fern in a rounded marble vase.
Many renovators say they’re incorporating greenery to update their bathrooms for aesthetics, air purification, and odor-fighting abilities, according to the 2022 U.S. Houzz Bathroom Trends Study, a survey of 2,500-plus remodeling homeowners. Tight on space? Love suggests topping a shelf or vanity counter with an air-purifying indoor plant on a natural tray (for texture) along with a favorite candle.
3. Modernize Hardware
Estimated cost: hardware starting at about $2 apiece, faucets for $200 or less
Just swapping out the faucets and drawer pulls is a small home upgrade that can refresh an outdated bathroom. Try trendy gold or black cabinet pulls or a modern boxy-style faucet. “Mixed metals are trending right now,” Love says. “We’re seeing black with brass and brass with chrome.” Love’s favorite resource for inspiration is Build.com, which features a variety of manufacturers and styles.
4. Soften the Lights
Estimated cost: about $100 or less a piece ($40 to $120 per fixture for installation by an electrician)
Wall sconces can warm up the bathroom lighting, says interior designer Jessica Nelson of Jessica Nelson Design in Seattle. She suggests wall sconces hung on each side of the vanity mirror in a black, brass, or chrome finish. The bulb color’s temperature is important, Nelson adds. “My sweet spot is between 2700K [Kelvin] and 3000K. I do not recommend going any cooler than that,” she says. “2700K is a crisp but warm white, and 3000K is my personal favorite. It’s a really soft warm light.”
For the Bedroom
5. Add Molding to the Walls
Estimated cost: about $200, including a designer’s input
Installing molding on the walls behind the bed is an impressive home upgrade. Krisztina Bell, founder of No Vacancy Home Staging and Virtually Staging Properties in the Atlanta area, recently used black molding zigzagged across a wall to dress up a white, blank slate behind the bed frame. She says designers and woodworking artists are readily available on sites like Etsy.com (search under “professionally designed custom dimensional accent wall”). They will custom design a 3D digital model of the molding to fit your wall and provide an instruction packet, shopping list, and cutting and installation instructions so you can DIY.
6. Decorate With Mirrors
Estimated cost: $150 to $250“
I love adding a statement wall mirror to a bedroom,” says Channa Alvarez, interior designer and production designer at Living Spaces, a national furniture retailer in La Mirada, Calif. She suggests hanging a new mirror above a nightstand, dresser, chest, or bed. Try a mirror in an unusual shape, like a diamond, hexagon, or square silhouette. “If you’re itching for a redesign but don’t want to spend so much, a mirror is the perfect buy. It’s simple, affordable, and light-enhancing.”
For the Living Room
7. Texturize and Accessorize
Estimated cost: $50 to $150 to update a few accessories“
A room can appear one-dimensional when it’s missing texture,” says interior designer Lance Thomas of Thomas Guy Interiors in Lake Charles, La. Designers may add texture by incorporating dressers with fluted designs, chunky knit throws, velvet ottomans, or leather accent chairs. You can adapt that idea by scoping out items from other rooms in your house that you can mix in the living room to add texture and depth. Or shop secondhand stores for small items you can refinish, repurpose, or re-cover. For example, re-covered accent pillows are an affordable way to add texture to your furniture.
“Perhaps the best thing about accent pillows is they’re an easy seasonal item, making your living room feel different without costing as much as a new furniture buy,” Alvarez adds. “Throw pillows are a great and inexpensive way to incorporate new trends or add color to your living room.” Also, functional accents — like a set of three seagrass baskets — can be great for a corner or near a fireplace, Alvarez says. Then, “place throw blankets in them to give the room a cozy, inviting feel.”
8. Wallpaper the Shelves
Estimated cost: about $50 for a small roll
For homeowners who may be too timid to jump on the wallpaper comeback trend, try it in small doses and with less commitment (especially when using a removable peel-and-stick type). Interior designer Mel Bean of Mel Bean Interiors in Tulsa, Okla., suggests adding wallpaper to the inside back of a bookcase or other shelving unit to dress it up. Recently, she used a jagged, striped gray-and-cream-colored wallpaper behind each shelf on an all-white built-in to add texture, color, and a more custom look.
For the Kitchen
9. Bring in Some Bling
Estimated cost: starting at $2 apiece for cabinet hardware, $60 to $150 for pendant lighting (extra $40 to $120 per fixture for installation by an electrician)Don’t let an all-white kitchen become boring, Bell says. “Add industrial or contemporary black hardware and lighting to make a kitchen look more chic. Gold is trendy; or chrome, nickel, brushed silver, and stainless steel hardware and lighting are always safe bets,” she adds. Bell likes sites such as Overstock.com, Wayfair.com, or Amazon.com for affordable, stylish mid-century mod, industrial, or futuristic pendant lighting options.
For example, she used shiny gold canned pendants in an otherwise all-white kitchen to highlight the island. “Even just changing out one main fixture or series of pendants above a kitchen island can change the whole look of a room instantly without having to renovate the entire kitchen,” she says.
10. Dress Up the Pantry
Estimated cost: starting at $1 each for baskets and glass jars
Pantries have emerged as a kitchen favorite, so they’re a good choice for a home upgrade. They’re rated as essential or desirable by at least 80% of home shoppers, according to the National Association of Home Builders “What Home Buyers Really Want” consumer survey. Retailers such as the Container Store, Ikea, and Dollar General offer baskets and glass jars in all shapes and sizes.
“Invest in a label maker and go to town organizing your pantry so everything matches and looks almost decorative or too pretty to take snacks from,” Bell says. “This helps create visual order in the space too.” For example, stow pasta in a glass container, put the packaged bread and other products in shelf-sized baskets, and color coordinate the canned goods.
11. Accentuate With Flower Boxes
Estimated cost: $150
Boxes filled with flowers along the bottom ledge of your outside windows can enhance your home’s architecture and colors. “Flower boxes have this cozy and charming feel,” says Jackie Mosher, co-founder of Dzinly, a company in Royal Oak, Mich., that helps homeowners and real estate professionals digitally design exteriors. “They can add interest, dimension, and some personality.” Fill them all year-round. Mosher suggests using three different types of flowers (for example, greenery, a taller plant in the center, and a colorful accent flower).
The size, proportion, and positioning of flower boxes are important; don’t overdo it, she adds. Not every window needs one. Maybe it’s just the large picture window or the windows on a second story. To test placement, Mosher suggests duct taping cardboard cutouts to the windows to view the possibilities before drilling any holes.
12. Swap Out Lighting Fixtures
Estimated cost: $200 to $250Bring in a statement light above the front door for a functional and dramatic home upgrade. A hanging pendant or chandelier on the front porch isn’t just for extra illumination. It can enhance curb appeal, Mosher says. She suggests a fixture that’s about one-third or one-fourth the size of the front door (including the trim) and having it hang about 66 inches from the ground. “So many times, we hang them too high,” she says. “Let your front porch light be the loudest. The lights on the exterior should be your jewelry — your ‘wow.’”
If there’s no place for a pendant, upgrade the lights to the side of the door, such as with boxed lanterns in a black or antique bronze, she suggests. Her favorite site for inspiration: Bevolo.com, which recommends fixtures based on house style (modern, traditional, coastal, etc.).
13. Oversize the House Numbers
Estimated cost: $150 to $200
The home’s address numbers may seem insignificant for the outside design, but Mosher calls them one of her favorite inexpensive home upgrades. Large format, sleek black address numbers can add a modern vibe to a home, she says. “House numbers are like adding a statement watch to your outfit. It pulls it all together.”
The numbers can be in all-black or in colors, like even pink or teal, depending on the home’s style, she says. The placement varies too, from the side of the front door to above the garage or anywhere along the front. “These can become a focal point and add some flair,” she says. Mosher’s favorite site for inspiration for house numbers: Modernhousenumbers.com.
Episode 302 AskJasonGelios Show
Realtor Jason Gelios breaks down the home selling process in easy steps.
Episode 301 AskJasonGelios Show
Episode 300 AskJasonGelios Show
Learn the basics to avoid surprises.
After investing a lot of money in your home, the chance to get some of it back during retirement — while staying in the home — sounds like a good deal. That’s the idea behind a reverse mortgage. The option may especially appeal to homeowners who have significant equity in the house and want to age in place.
If you or a family member are exploring retirement planning, you’ll want to weigh reverse mortgage pros and cons, including the strict eligibility requirements and alternatives.
How Does a Reverse Mortgage Work?
A reverse mortgage is a loan you take against the equity in your home. You don’t have to make monthly principal or interest payments as you would with a traditional mortgage or a home equity loan. The lender distributes funds tax-free as a lump sum, a line of credit, or a monthly payment. You won’t have to repay the reverse mortgage loan as long as you’re living in the home, but it becomes due if you sell, move, or pass away. So, for seniors who plan to spend the rest of their life in their primary residence, the loan may never come due.
What Are the Requirements for a Reverse Mortgage?
Most reverse mortgages are Home Equity Conversion Mortgages, or HECM, loans insured by the Federal Housing Administration. Some private lenders and state or local governments also offer reverse mortgages, but they may not offer the same level of consumer protection.
HECM loans require borrowers to meet strict eligibility requirements, including:
With these strict requirements, many people won’t qualify for a reverse mortgage loan. But eligible homeowners will want to know reverse mortgage pros and cons.
What Are the Pros of a Reverse Mortgage?
A reverse mortgage has several benefits, including:
Reverse Mortgages Could Provide Income During Retirement
Retirees can use a reverse mortgage to supplement other retirement income streams, like Social Security or a pension. The reverse mortgage process allows homeowners to turn an illiquid asset (a house) into cash they can use for daily expenses.
Situations in Which the Mortgage Loan Will Be Due Are Clearly Defined
Until you move, sell, or die, you can continue borrowing and using the loan. But you or your heirs may need to sell the residence to cover the loan balance in the future.
The Loan Amount Won’t Exceed Your Home’s Value
With a changeable real estate market, some homeowners are concerned about what they’ll do if their home loses value. The good news is that FHA mortgage insurance fills the void between what you owe and the home’s sale price. That means you won’t be responsible for more than what your home is worth.
Reverse Mortgages Offer Tax-Free Payouts
The money you receive from a reverse mortgage isn’t considered taxable by the IRS. That means you could end up with more money in your pocket than what you’d pay for withdrawals from another retirement account, like a pretax 401(k).
What Are the Cons of a Reverse Mortgage?
Cons of a reverse mortgage include:
Risk of Foreclosure As with a home equity loan or home equity line of credit, failure to meet loan terms or keep up with costs could cause the lender to repossess the home through foreclosure.
A reverse mortgage carries insurance costs, closing fees, and origination fees. Discuss these costs with a loan counselor to avoid surprises.
Since you must be 62 to be eligible for a reverse mortgage, many homeowners can’t access it.
The proceeds must be enough to help cover property taxes, homeowner insurance premiums, and home maintenance costs. Failure to stay current in any of these areas may cause lenders to call the reverse mortgage due, which could result in the loss of the home.
Reverse mortgage scams often target homeowners facing foreclosure. Because of higher closing costs and other fees, taxes, and premiums, a reverse mortgage could be too expensive for a senior with financial problems.
Inability to Borrow the Full Value of the Home
Qualified homeowners may not be able to borrow the entire value of their home even if their mortgage is paid off. The amount a homeowner can borrow varies based on the age of the youngest borrower or eligible nonborrowing spouse, current interest rates, the HECM mortgage limit, and the home’s value. Most reverse mortgages have a “nonrecourse clause,” meaning you or your estate can’t owe more than the value of your home when the loan becomes due and the home is sold.
More Owed Over Time
As you get money through your reverse mortgage, interest is added to the balance you owe each month. That means the amount you owe grows as the interest on your loan adds up.
Potential Change in Interest Rates
Most reverse mortgages have variable rates, which are tied to a financial index and change with the market. Variable rate loans may give you more options on how you get your money through the reverse mortgage. Some reverse mortgages — mostly HECMs — offer fixed rates, but they may require you to take your loan as a lump sum at closing.
Interest Not Tax Deductible Each Year
Interest on reverse mortgages isn’t deductible on income tax returns until the loan is paid, either partially or in full.
What Are Alternatives to Reverse Mortgages?
If you don’t qualify for or you decide against a reverse mortgage loan, you still have financing options. A home equity loan, or second mortgage, lets homeowners borrow against the equity in their home. The loan amount is based on the difference between the home’s current market value and the mortgage balance the homeowner still owes.
If you don’t want to take out a large loan against your home’s equity, you may want to consider a home equity line of credit, or HELOC. You can draw funds as you need them and repay them using a variable interest rate. HELOCs can make sense for homeowners who need funds for ongoing home improvement projects or time to pay down existing debt. To qualify for the most attractive rates, you’ll need a high credit score, a low debt-to-income ratio, and substantial equity in your home.
Learn the basics about where to put them and how often to replace them.
Fires are burning faster than in years past due to modern home furnishings, open floor plans, and unprotected lightweight wood, according to the National Fire Protection Association. Homeowners only have two minutes (or less) from when a smoke alarm rings to react. For small fires, a fire extinguisher could save your home from destruction.
Melissa Gugni, a professional home organizer in San Francisco, has noticed that many fire extinguishers in her clients’ homes are tucked away and even left in their original packaging. “That could be a problem if they were needed in an emergency,” she says.
While many households know the importance of having a fire extinguisher, they may be fuzzy on upkeep. Steve Kerber, vice president and executive director of the Fire Safety Research Institute, offers guidance on fire extinguishers.
How Often Should You Replace a Fire Extinguisher?
The general guideline is every 10 years. But always check the manufacturer’s recommendation, which should be displayed on the fire extinguisher.
How Do You Know If Your Older Fire Extinguisher Still Works?
Most fire extinguishers have a pressure gauge that shows the current pressure. That will indicate if it has been used or damaged. Check to see if the pressure gauge is still within the device’s indicated proper pound per square inch (PSI) range. Also, make sure the extinguisher’s can, hoses, and nozzles aren’t damaged, dented, or rusted. If they are, it’s time to replace the extinguisher.
Where Should You Put Fire Extinguishers in Your Home?
In general, a portable fire extinguisher should be placed so that a person wouldn’t ever have to travel more than 40 feet to reach it. You should never have to travel up or down stairs to access an extinguisher either, Kerber says. Keep at least one on each floor of the home. Make sure nothing is blocking or limiting your ability to reach it quickly. So, avoid storing it under sinks, where it may be more prone to getting blocked by other items.
What Type of Fire Extinguisher Should You Have in Your Home?
There are actually many types of fire extinguishers. Here’s a primer on what the markings mean from the U.S. Fire Administration:
A: For use on ordinary materials like cloth, wood, and paper
B: For combustible and flammable liquids, such as grease, gas, oil, and oil-based paints
C: For electrical equipment, like appliances, tools, or other equipment that is plugged in
D: For flammable metals (geared to use in factories)
K: For vegetable oils, animal oils, and fats in cooking appliances (geared to use in restaurants)
Most home improvement stores carry multipurpose fire extinguishers that cover Class A through Class C. If you want to get more technical, look for a portable fire extinguisher with a rating of at least 2A:10B, Kerber says. That means it has a firefighting capacity equivalent to 2.5 gallons of water and 10 square feet for a BC type of fire.
Prepare now. Fire extinguishers can do their job only if they’re in good working condition and placed where you can quickly reach them.
A video by Jason Gelios | Senior Real Estate Specialist
Episode 298 AskJasonGelios Show
Article by Amy Howell Hirt
Absolutely stunning! No. 4 is a water-resisting showstopper.
We don’t ask much from bathroom surfaces.
Just that they be beautiful and withstand every cleaning chemical invented, steamy showers, piles of damp towels, and, did we mention tantrum-induced line-drives with bath toys?
Oh, and they should be easy to clean. That’s all.
So, what materials can live up to the ask?
We asked the experts. Here are 10 they recommend.
#1 Engineered Stone Countertop
Dying for a white marble countertop? Join the club. But get ready to seal, reseal, and reseal. Then repeat. Year after year.
Or, go for engineered stone, which can mimic marble (and other stone materials) for about the same cost, but minus the hassle. It’s nonporous, so it resists bacteria, mold, stains, and water damage better than the real thing. Better! And it never needs sealing.
#2 Glazed Porcelain Tile Floor
Moisture is Enemy No. 1 for bathroom floors, and glazed porcelain tile is its most worthy adversary.
Glazed porcelain tiles won’t hold onto water like laminate and porous materials, and the ones that are glazed with glass are nearly stain-proof. The same is true of today’s high-quality epoxy and urethane grouts, which don’t require sealing.
#3 Vinyl Floor
Time to rethink vinyl. Hear us out. Luxury vinyl tiles, which mimic stone and wood, are awesome at resisting moisture.
Other affordable options like laminate just can’t keep up. Plus, vinyl sheets are so large, you can cover a small bath without a single seam or grout line, making it easy on the eye and easier to keep clean.
#4 Plywood Cabinets
Yup. We said plywood. But today’s “grade A” offering isn’t your mother’s plywood. (Or your Swedish cousin’s, which is actually particleboard.)
Composed of pressed layers of alder, birch, or cedar, grade A plywood (also known as furniture-grade) remains more stable in the face of moisture than solid wood, which will shrink and swell when exposed to bathroom humidity (causing cracks in painted surfaces and even warped panels).
As for the finish, you don’t need to spring for anything fancy: The factory finish applied to cabinetry nowadays will hold up to the moisture. Isn’t living in the future great?
#5 Tempered Glass Shower Doors
While you need your glass to be tempered for safety, you don’t need a special spot-resistant treatment or upgraded texture to have crystal-clear shower doors.
“Glass is easy to clean,” says Ebony Stephenson, a certified kitchen and bath designer. “I tell my clients, ‘I’ll give you a squeegee and you can save $2,000.’ It’s a lot of money when you can just wipe off your glass.” So definitely get tempered glass, but skip the add-on treatments that promise no spots.
#6 Glossy or Semi-Glossy Paint
Mold and mildew are real concerns, even on the walls, thanks to bathroom humidity. So paint sheen matters.
A full-on glossy paint has a shiny, sealed surface that blocks out moisture and wipes clear of residue, say, from hairspray, without leaving a mark like a matte finish will. But the sheen can be a bit overbearing on anything more than trim and calls attention to wall flaws.
A semi-glossy finish will hold up to cleaning and moisture nearly as well, without calling quite as much attention to bumps, dents, and other imperfections.
#7 Cast Iron Tub
A tub forged from molded liquid iron is likely going to be the toughest thing in your house — maybe even your neighborhood, depending on where you live.
You may need extra support for your floor (and your pocketbook) to bring it home, but cast iron won’t chip, scratch, or dent like fiberglass, acrylic, or even porcelain can.
This tub is your forever tub. And probably your children’s forever tub. And their kids’.
#8 Porcelain-on-Steel Tub
Don’t let its acronym, POS, misguide you: Heat-fused enamel on steel will resist corrosion, abrasion, and chipping better than synthetic materials, and it’s much more affordable than cast iron.
#9 Acrylic Panel Shower Walls
Despite their light weight, acrylic wall panels, often called shower surrounds, aren’t lightweights. They resist chipping, cracking, and peeling, and are much easier to maintain than stone tiles or slabs. Unlike tile, they nail directly to wall studs or glue to the wallboards, so they don’t require grout. Acrylic is tougher than fiberglass and colored all the way through — so it’s less likely to scratch. So even a deep cut won’t be as obvious. They’re also more affordable than tile and available in textured patterns if you want to look like you splurged on a fancy design.
#10 Stainless Steel Sink
Stainless: not just for kitchens anymore. Corrosion- and stain-resistant, stainless won’t melt under a hot curling iron like acrylic can, and it won’t dent or chip like porcelain if nail clippers plummet down from the medicine cabinet.
And it’s the perfect match for the industrial-chic look that doesn’t seem to be going anywhere.
By: Douglas Trattner
Consider age, repair cost, pricing, energy efficiency, and whether to modify your kitchen to
accommodate a new unit. When an appliance is old and isn’t working efficiently, it may
seem natural to decide to replace it rather than repair it — may it rest in peace. But appliances often break before their time, making the repair-or-replace decision harder. Also, the replacement cost may give you second thoughts. If money is tight, you may have to repair the appliance and hope for the best. But if you’ve got some coin, replacing with a new,
energy-efficient model may be the better way to go. Those are a lot of ifs, and the repair-or-replace dilemma is often hard to resolve.
Here are some guidelines to help you decide.
Is It Really Broken?
When appliances stop working, we get so rattled that the obvious escapes us. Before you
panic, make sure:
-The appliance is plugged in.
-Circuit breakers haven’t tripped. (I once replaced a blender only to discover that the circuit
-Flooring hasn’t become uneven, which can stop some appliances from turning on.
-Vents and filters aren’t clogged with lint and dust.
Is It Still Under Warranty?
Check your owner’s manual or records to see if the sick appliance is still under warranty.
Most appliances come with a manufacturer warranty that will cover the cost of repairs
anywhere from one to three years after the initial date of purchase. If it’s still covered,
schedule a service call.
Is It Truly at the End of Its Useful Life?
Appliances have an average useful life — the typical lifespan after which the machine is
running on borrowed time. The closer your appliance is to its hypothetical past-due date,
the wiser it is to replace rather than repair.
Here are the typical lifespans of major appliances.
- Appliance Average Lifespan (Years)
- Exhaust Fan..............................10
- Range, electric.................13-15
- Range, gas..........................15-17
- Range/oven hood..................14
How to Follow the 50% Rule
In 2021, the cost to repair an appliance ranged from $100 to $300. Should you pay it? If an
appliance is more than 50% through its lifespan and if the cost of one repair is more than
50% of the cost of buying new, you should replace rather than repair. To do the math, you’ll
have to know the typical lifespan (see above) and get a repair estimate. Most service
companies charge a “trip charge” to diagnose the problem. These charges vary widely, so
be sure to ask when you arrange the appointment. If the company repairs the appliance, it
usually waives the trip charge.
DIY Whenever Possible
If you know your way around a socket wrench, you may be able to make simple appliance
repairs yourself and save labor fees. YouTube has lots of DIY repair videos, and user manuals
can help you troubleshoot. Can’t find your manual? Search online for “manual” along with
your appliance brand and model number. Most manufacturers provide free downloadable
PDFs of appliance manuals, and several websites specialize in nothing but manuals.
Deciding whether to repair or replace roofing is largely an exercise in timing — you don’t want to reroof too soon and waste money, but you don’t want to wait too long either.
Eventually, all roofs wear out and need to be replaced. In a tight economy, the decision about when to repair it is especially weighty. If you do it too soon, you’ll waste money. But if you wait too long, you’ll end up with leaks and expensive water damage. To get the timing right, you need to know how to assess your roof’s overall condition. That way, you can identify early signs of roof failure. A new roof was the exterior remodeling project with the highest ROI (tying with a new garage door), according to the National Association of REALTORS® 2022 “Remodeling Impact Report.”® The ROI came in at $12,000, matching the project’s $12,000 average national cost. More than half of the consumers surveyed said they invested in a new roof because they wanted to upgrade worn-out surfaces, finishes, and materials.
They were happy with the results, giving the project a joy score of 9.2 out of 10. Despite those impressive stats, if most of your roof is still in good shape, a spot repair makes sense. But if the roof shows signs of wearing out or is more than 20 years old, replacing it may be the smarter choice.
Be Alert to Early Signs of a Roof Leak
If you check your roof’s condition at least annually, you should be able to plan for necessary repairs.
Early signs of trouble include:
-Dark areas on ceilings
-Peeling paint on the underside of roof overhangs
-Damp spots alongside fireplaces
-Water stains on pipes venting the water heater or furnace
From the outside, you can assess your roof’s health by viewing it through binoculars.
Warning signs include:
-Cracked caulk or rust spots on flashing
-Shingles that are buckling, curling, or blistering
-Worn areas around chimneys, pipes, and skylights
If you find piles of grit from asphalt roof tiles in the gutters, that’s a bad sign. The granules shield the roof from the sun’s damaging ultraviolet rays. Black algae stains are just cosmetic, but masses of moss and lichen could signal decay underneath the roof. If you’re inspecting on your own and find worrisome signs, get a professional assessment. That’s an especially good idea if the roof is old or there has been a storm with heavy wind or hail. The national average cost is $210. Some roofing companies will do a very basic inspection for free before performing the work.
Certified roof professionals from the National Roof Certification and Inspection Association charge based on the market.
When Repairs Make Sense
You can usually repair a leak in a roof that is otherwise sound. The cost might range from $10 if you just need to squirt some roofing mastic into a gap alongside chimney flashing, to $300 to $1,000 to fix a leak in a roof valley. If something sudden and unforeseen, like a windstorm, causes a leak to appear, your homeowner’s insurance will probably cover the repairs. But you’re still responsible for limiting the damage, so put out buckets and try to get a local roofer to spread a tarp while you arrange for repairs. Insurance may not cover problems that stem from a worn-out roof or lack of maintenance.
The Cost of Re-roofing
Stripping old roofing and starting over typically costs about $4 a square foot for an asphalt roof on a one-story house with no penetrations or valleys. Or, you may be able to leave an existing single layer and add a second layer on top of it. A roof overlay is significantly less expensive and could cost 20% to 40% less than a replacement. This might seem like a smart way to save, but unless you’re so pressed for cash that your only other option is to risk leaks, it’s false economy. The second layer won’t last as long — only about 15 years rather than the standard 20. And you won’t get new flashing or underlayment or the opportunity to upgrade to features that make a roof stronger. Plus, when you sell, your re-covered roof will look a little lumpy, and potential buyers may interpret the two layers as a sign that other home improvements were also done on the cheap.
Make Sure to Factor in Hidden Costs
When you evaluate bids, don’t just look at the total. A bare-bones estimate might include a single layer of 15-pound building paper under the roofing. However, a better but more expensive bid includes 30-pound paper plus self-stick rubbery material along the eaves to protect against damage from ice dams. Bids might also differ in whether they include the cost of disposing of the old roofing, hourly rates for structural repairs, and gutter-related costs. Once you settle on a contractor, check whether the company is licensed and insured. Also discuss how the crew will minimize landscaping damage and who will pay for any that occurs. Schedule the roof work during dry weather if possible, so your lawn takes less of a beating. You’ll sleep better, too, if you’re not worrying about rain coming in when the roof is half-done.
Get the Most From a New Roof
A new roof isn’t something most families are thrilled to buy. But getting multiple benefits from it makes it easier to shell out the money. As part of a new roofing project, you can incorporate many features that make your home more environmentally friendly. Some of those may qualify for a federal tax credit to offset the cost, using IRS Form 5965. You can also choose roofing that’s more resistant to fire or damage from wind and hail. And that may qualify you for a discount on your homeowner’s insurance policy.
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.