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Take Style Cues From TV Homes

Before you engage in any remodeling or decorating projects this year, take some time to figure out your “style”, those sorts of surroundings that make you feel peaceful, relaxed, and at home.

There are lots of ways to get a handle on your style. Designers recommend perusing magazines, cutting out pictures of photos that spark something in you  – – negative or positive – – noting on each clipping what that something is, and keeping them in a folder to review with your designer or remodeling contractor later. You’ll begin to see patterns emerge to help you define what you’re going for.

Here’s another fun way to go about the same thing: take a critical look at the homes inhabited by your favorite TV characters.

What do you like? Do you tend toward the comfortable, small town, welcoming place with a front porch and a pie cooling on the window sill like the Taylors’ cottage-style home in The Andy Griffith Show? Are you more attracted to a chic suburban aesthetic, with stylish but family-friendly furnishings, like the Petries’ New Rochelle residence in The Dick Van Dyke Show? Maybe you covet a city apartment, with the latest modern touches, like the Drapers’ place in Mad Men.

What do you see in TV homes that you’d like to avoid or escape? What about the hastily-built tract home with walls that might fall over if you lean on them too hard, like the Bluths’ in Arrested Development?  Perhaps you’re tired of living in a hot mess of chaos and deferred maintenance like the Connors in Roseanne or the Hecks in The Middle.

Silly? Yes, but useful too. A lot of time and effort has gone into creating those sets to make you feel as if you could walk right in, sit on the couch, and have a cup of tea (or a martini, if you’re lucky enough to be invited for cocktails with Don and Megan.) Heck, the three different homes in Modern Family represent quite a wide range of styles. No less an authority than Architectural Digest has profiled the care taken by that show’s set designers to make sure that all of the main sets reflect the characters that inhabit them.

Wise homeowners plan before remodeling, starting with the style or feel they are going for. Why not have some fun with it? Now, go forth and couch surf for design ideas!

Image courtesy of jennythip at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Wise Weather Precautions for Your Home in the Spring

Most of us (school children excepted) are grateful for the mild winter we’re having, but don’t forget the one thing we know for sure about the weather: it will change.  Spring can be as hazardous to your home as winter is if you’re not careful.

Here are two spring weather dangers, and what to do about them:

  1. High Winds and Downed Trees

We’ve had such high winds over the past week that Fairfax County had to open schools two hours late one day. Those gusts were unseasonably early, but provided a foretaste of what we know we’re in for in March. To keep you and your home safe next time the wind blows, get overgrown trees trimmed back and have larger trees close to the house removed. Use a certified and licensed tree expert to be sure trimming and removal is done safely (we know the best!) Local authorities recommend, if a tree does fall on your house, that you get everyone out, call 9–1–1, and don’t go back in until dangers due to compromised utilities or structural safety have been identified and fixed. For a fuller list of safety measures when a tree falls on your home, the road, or power lines, see http://www.fairfaxcounty.gov/news2/if-a-tree-falls-what-to-do-and-who-to-call/.

  1. Heavy Rain

All that water falling from the sky is terrific for your garden, but it could be a real hazard to your basement or roof. Make sure your landscaping is graded away from your home’s foundation to prevent water pooling and flooding your lowest level. If you have any water coming into the basement already, consult an expert about a French drain and/or sump pump system. If you already have a pump, consider a battery backup to keep it running if a storm knocks out your power. Keep gutters free of debris so water doesn’t overflow and get under your roofing material or damage your siding. If your roof is more than 10 years old, or is showing signs of age (shingles curling up at the edges, soft spots or concave areas, stains – no matter how small – on your ceilings), get a licensed roofer out now to repair or replace.

Wise homeowners don’t let the weather get the best of them. Now, go forth and welcome Spring!

Image courtesy of Sira Anamwong at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

This Valentine’s Day, Show Your Home Some Love

As February 14 approaches, don’t neglect the major relationship you have with your home! Who else so consistently provides you sanctuary, shelter and comfort?

Here are five ways to show your home a little love:

(1) Clean the Windows. As soon as the last winter storm is over (later this month, surely), have a professional window cleaning company brighten up the glass inside and out. You’ll be surprised at how reasonably priced this service can be, and how much more light a good cleaning will let into your rooms.

(2) Touch Up the Paint. Refreshing the finish on scuffed baseboards or nicked trim, adding an accent paint color to one wall, or switching things up with a whole new color scheme can all be pretty high-impact, relatively low-cost changes for your space. Professional painters do a terrific job and are the best choice if you’re strapped for time. Whether your paint job is DIY or done by a professional, check out our Seven Tips for the Perfect Paint Job before getting started.

(3) Refresh the Deck. Spring is just around the corner and you’ll want to be outside when things get warmer. You may not need to completely replace the deck to get one that looks like new. Sometimes a simple powerwashing will do the trick. If the deck boards need repair, consider replacing them with a more durable wood-look composite material, like Trex. Depending on the condition of your underlying structure, properly credentialed contractors (and we know lots) may be able to lay a new top over the existing foundation/frame for a much lower cost than total replacement.

(4) Update Fixtures. Isn’t it high time you brought your house into the 21st century? Simply switching out old doorknobs, cabinet and drawer pulls, faucets, and lighting for newer versions can really update your home’s look. A word of caution: always hire licensed electricians and plumbers for any switch-outs involving electrical or plumbing fixtures. Older homes in particular may have outdated wiring or pipes that require specialized knowledge that you, or the average handyman, won’t have. Failing to do the work properly could result in fire or flood.

(5) Replace Countertops. Putting down granite or quartz where you have laminate can completely update the look of your kitchen or bath, and is so much less expensive and disruptive than a total room makeover.

Wise homeowners take care of the house that takes care of them. Now, go forth and love your home.

Image courtesy of SweetCrisis at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Home Improvement ROI Secrets Revealed

I’m ridiculously, excited. It’s that magical time of year when my inner home improvement nut and my inner nerd both get satisfied.

What does this mean? First, perhaps, that I need psychological intervention for split personality disorder. Secondly, for you dear reader, it means you can plan (I LOVE to plan) for maximum return on your home improvement dollar this year.

Cutting to the chase, Remodeling Magazine has come out with the Remodeling 2017 Cost vs. Value Report! You can read it for yourself at www.costvsvalue.com.  It compares the average cost of 29 popular remodeling projects to the value retained when the home is sold. One of the best parts is that you can drill down in the report to your specific region (we in the DC Metro area are on the extreme north end of the South Atlantic Region.)

So, why do you need to read further? Can’t you just go to the report and get the information for yourself? Ah, yes, as far as it will allow you to go, but here is where you are blessed because you’re reading this blog. Only special people like real estate or home improvement professionals are authorized to receive the charts pertaining to particular metropolitan areas instead of being limited to the regional data that any Tom, Dick, or Harry can see. Since I am one (home improvement pro, that is), I’ve got the Washington DC report in my hot little hands and am now going to reveal some of it’s secrets to you (aren’t you glad you got out of bed and turned on your computer this morning?)

So, here goes . . . drumroll please . . . a-a-a-a-a-a-a-nd the highest-ROI-yielding home improvement in DC is . . . fiberglass attic insulation, with an average $1,375 cost and an average $2,179 resale value, for 158.5% of the cost recouped.

Ta-da!

Not excited by insulation? Well, sexier home improvements like midrange bathroom and major kitchen remodels return 60% and 58.5% in DC, respectfully, 5% – 10% lower than the same improvements’ returns in the rest of the South Atlantic Region and the nation. Interestingly, DC area folks get more by doing less in the kitchen arena, with midrange minor remodels returning 79.7%, a couple points higher than in the South Atlantic region and only a half point lower than the national average.

Wise homeowners always try to get the most bang for their buck. Now, go forth and improve profitably!

Image Courtesy of renjith krishnan at freedigitalphotos.net

Word to the Wise: Snow Removal Important (And May Be Required by Law)

With a storm a-comin’, you’ll want to know your obligations for snow removal. Here’s a review, posted last year but still very relevant:

Ahhhhhh, the Snow Day: delight of school children, scourge of their parents.

Perhaps you think you’re ready. Your pantry and Netflix queue are full and your calendar is not. No need to shovel snow or de-ice, you figure; you’re not going anywhere anyway.

I hate to be the bearer of unwelcome news, but that’s where you’re wrong.

Here are three reasons to care about the state of your walkway, driveway, and even adjoining sidewalks in winter weather:

  1. Because It’s the Law

Metro DC localities address snow removal in ways ranging from friendly suggestions to rules with penalties for breaking them. For example, Fairfax County encourages residents to clear walkways by making an emotional appeal to the safety of neighbors, school children and others.

Alexandria takes a more hard-nosed approach, threatening a $50 fine if you fail to remove snow and ice from the sidewalks abutting your home within 24 – 72 hours of a storm’s end.

  1. Because You’re More Popular Than You Think

Just because you don’t have anything scheduled, don’t conclude you won’t get visitors. You know the mailman will come up the walkway, right? (Heck, it’s the official USPS credo: “Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night . . .”) Neighborhood kids may come knocking to see if your kids can play. Your sweet, cane-wielding neighbor may decide the presence of your car in the driveway on a weekday is all the invitation she needs for a pop-by.  Any one of these folks could end up heels-over-head if you’ve failed to remediate slippery conditions, leading to payouts by your homeowners’ insurer and a likely raise in your premium rates.

  1. Because You May Need To Get Out Quickly

If an emergency occurs (high fever, kitchen knife accident, gas leak), you need a quick and safe escape route.  An icy walkway, or snow piled up to prevent your vehicle from moving, will slow your progress, potentially with dire consequences.

If you can’t remove snow due to age, infirmity or other limitations, don’t despair. There are plenty of licensed, insured professionals happy to do it for you (we can refer you to the best.) You may also have teenaged neighbors thrilled to make a buck for a little bit of hard labor or the altruistic friend only too happy to assist if you just ask. Reach out, accept some help, then sit back and enjoy the “found time”, secure in the knowledge that you and your visitors are safe.

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