Alarms play an important part in keeping your home safe. Smoke alarms and other fire alarms can give you an early warning in case a fire breaks out somewhere in your house, which is why it’s recommended that you keep your alarms in working order. To make this easier, some homeowners opt for hardwired alarms which don’t require periodic battery changes to stay active; these alarms are powered by your home’s electrical wiring, so they’re always functional as long as you have power.
Unfortunately, these alarms sometimes go off when there isn’t a fire threat as well. While you don’t want your smoke alarm or other warning system to miss signs of an actual fire, it can be pretty frustrating if your alarm goes off all the time when there’s no actual danger. If you have issues with an alarm that seems to always be going off, here are a few things that might help.
Cleaning Your Alarms
If you have a smoke alarm that’s way too sensitive, especially if I didn’t used to be, then there’s a good chance that you need to clean it. Dust, dirt, and similar small particles are some of the most common causes of alarms becoming too sensitive over time. The reason that this occurs is that these small particles can interact with your alarm in the same way that smoke particles do, triggering its sensitive mechanisms. Carefully cleaning your alarm with canned air or using a vacuum designed for electronics use can remove the dust and restore the alarm to proper working order.
It’s worth noting that insects might also be part of the problem with your alarm, especially if there’s a bit of a dust buildup on the alarm unit. These may be cleared out when you blow the dust free from your alarm, but it’s possible that you’ll need to place insect baits or spray bug spray on the wall near your alarm to help get rid of them. Just make sure that you don’t spray the alarm itself, and keep in mind that even spraying near the alarm might temporarily set it off.
If dust isn’t the culprit for your overly sensitive alarm woes, humidity might be the problem. If the humidity is too high, water condensing on the sensors within the alarm, or even just water vapor or steam interacting with those sensors, can interfere with the alarm and cause it to go off. This can be especially problematic as too much water within the alarm can actually damage the alarm mechanism and cause it to completely stop working or start sounding all the time.
If humidity is your issue, the only way to take care of the problem is to remove the humidity. This can be accomplished with a dehumidifier placed in overly humid rooms, pulling water from the air and keeping it from affecting the alarm. If the problem is that the alarm is too close to a stovetop or otherwise being exposed to steam, you’ll need to do a bit more work to fix the issue; you’re going to have to install a hood, vent, or some other method of redirecting the steam before it comes in contact with the alarm. If you don’t, the steam will likely ruin the alarm sooner or later.
In some cases, issues with smoke alarms are caused by electrical problems or insufficient current to keep them properly powered. For battery-powered alarms, all that’s required is to change the battery every few months to keep the alarm in good working order. With hardwired alarms, though, it’s a little more complicated. You’re going to need to call in an electrician to check out the situation, and they’ll either have to fix the wiring or possibly replace the alarm if it’s found to be defective.
Fortunately, HomeKeepr can help you find the electrician to straighten out your alarm woes. Signing up is free, so join today and get connected with the pro you need to get the job done.
Ron and Kathy Kern began looking in earnest for their forever home this past spring when their youngest child finished college. The couple hoped to trade their two-story, four-bedroom house in the Indianapolis suburbs for a smaller, one-floor ranch where they could more comfortably age in place.
Unfortunately, it didn’t work out the way they had hoped.
The Kerns put in four offers, withdrawing the last one and losing their escrow in the process when they learned how much the home’s needed renovations would cost. After the demoralizing experience, they decided to suspend their search until Ron, 61, retires from his job at an engineering firm sometime down the line.
“We’ve never experienced a market like this before. … It’s a roller coaster we’re ready to get off of for a while. This last offer just did us in,” says Kathy, 58, a recently retired ATM specialist at a credit union. The empty nesters, who live in Fishers, IN, are having trouble sleeping and losing weight as a result of the stress. “When you do find that house where you don’t have to remodel anything, that’s the house that everyone else is looking for.”
After contending with more than a year of record-high and fast-rising home prices, ruthless bidding wars, offers that are all cash and 10% to 20% over the asking price, and a historic shortage of properties for sale, many shoppers in today’s pandemic-fueled housing market are suffering from buyer fatigue.
Some are burned out and taking a break, or leaving the market entirely. Others fear another housing bubble is on the horizon (even though real estate experts believe that’s not likely) so are sitting this one out. And there are those who were priced out as home prices rose higher than their budgets.
“The ultimate sign of buyer fatigue is putting a search on pause,” says Realtor.com® Chief Economist Danielle Hale. “I can understand how in today’s tough market some buyers may not be willing to keep searching.
“There is a real grief that happens if you bid for a house and don’t get it. Mentally a part of you was already committed to the home,” she says.
Only about a third of recent homebuyers had their first offer on a property accepted, according to a Realtor.com survey from January of recent and prospective first-time buyers.
The situation was bleaker for first-time buyers, many of whom struggle to come up with the down payment. Roughly 68% of first-time buyers fell in love with a home, but ended up not being able to buy it, due to being outbid or not securing financing, or the house failing inspection, according to the survey.
The COVID-19 pandemic and all the safety concerns that come along with it have exacerbated the situation. Some potential sellers have become more hesitant to list their properties, worsening the housing shortage. Meanwhile, desperate buyers who can work remotely for part of—if not the entire—week are moving farther outside of big cities and into smaller urban areas, boosting prices and competition across the country.
“It’s likely to continue to be competitive for the foreseeable future unless something drastic changes and we see a lot more homes for sale,” says Hale. But “even if some buyers bow out, there are still plenty of buyers in the market.”
Many local and first-time buyers are being priced out
The work-from-home (aka anywhere) phenomenon has pushed prices up to unheard of heights in many parts of the country where they had previously been more reasonable. But many white-collar workers who no longer need to go to an office in the big, pricey cities on the coasts have been able to sell their expensive homes and use that cash to purchase homes in vacation areas as well as the farther-out suburbs and smaller cities. That’s made it harder for locals to compete.
“It’s pretty bad in our market for first-time buyers,” says Barbara Jordan, a real estate agent at Coldwell Banker Realty in Tampa, FL. Many of the buyers who are winning the bidding wars are from the Northeast, Chicago, and California who are selling their homes and moving to Florida. “What we’re seeing is up to 20, 30 offers on a house. The ones who win are the cash buyers or have money they can throw on top.”
The first-time buyers—most of whom are college-educated, with good jobs and often 20% down payments—sometimes just can’t compete, she says. That’s because it’s harder to get offers accepted with a mortgage. Sellers want to know they’ll get the prices offered to them even if their property doesn’t appraise for as much.
“It’s so sad—they’re good people who have done everything right,” says Jordan of these buyers. “But a lot of them are pulling back from the market.””
On the other side of the country, Los Angeles–area real estate agent Scott Pinkerton says his clients who can afford to stay put are doing just that.
“A lot have gotten frustrated by losing out to all-cash offers, investors, and being outbid,” says Pinkerton, of Century 21 Peak. Some who could have afforded a single-family home are realizing they may be able to afford only a condo now or they may need to move to a cheaper location if they want to buy. “What they want is no longer available in their price range.”
But others are just waiting for the right opportunity.
“I’ve got clients sitting on the fence who reach out to me every so often, checking to see what the market is and what they can get for their money,” he says. “Some people are sitting around waiting for a shift in the market.”
Not everyone can wait until the market cools further and more homes come online. Many of Dallas-based associate broker Debbie Murray‘s clients are out-of-towners who got jobs in the area and need places to live (whether they’re going into the office one day a week or five). The Dallas region, in particular, has become a hot spot for big companies (such as Toyota) relocating their headquarters or expanding operations in the area.
One couple from Chicago whom Murray worked with put in 11 offers before one was finally accepted. They recently closed on a $1.1 million home they bought sight unseen for roughly $100,000 over the list price with no contingencies.
“If you’re moving here from out of state, you have no choice,” says Murray, who’s with Allie Beth Allman & Associates.
Taking a break can price some buyers out
Taking an emotional health break from an active home search can be a financial risk. While bidding wars may die down a bit, potentially saving buyers some big money, prices and mortgage rates are still rising.
“Unfortunately in our market, prices just keep increasing, and in some cases for a buyer who waits too long, can price them out of the neighborhood they desire the most,” says Brad Pauly, a real estate broker at Pauly Presley Realty in Austin, TX. “I do tell them that I understand what they’re going through, but to try and push through and wait for the next week of properties to hit the market.”
During the COVID-19 pandemic, Austin emerged as one of the nation’s hottest markets. Median home list prices surged more than 46% in the metropolitan area from March 2020, when the pandemic upended life in the U.S., through August 2021, according to the most recent Realtor.com data. (Metros include the main city and surrounding suburbs, towns, and smaller cities.)
He’s seeing homes sell for 40% over the list price as out-of-towners from the coast have moved in and are bidding up prices.
“You’ve got to be the crazy buyer to win. You have to be the one who’s willing to pay well over market value to buy the house you really want,” Pauly says.
Even those who can afford the higher price tags aren’t finding the home they want with so few properties for sale.
“It’s kind of like the whole world is against them. They’re throwing their hands up. They’re defeated,” says real estate agent Greg Nino, of Re/Max Compass in Houston.
The Kerns, who were trying to find a forever home in the Indianapolis suburbs, certainly had enough—at least for now.
“We’re going to stop looking for a while,” says Ron Kern. “Right now the entire market is so out of whack. … You don’t have time to think through all the things that need to be thought through.
“We’re really fortunate that we don’t have to move. We’ve got a nice house. We can stay here for a while,” he says. “But at some point it would be nice to move toward something that’s more fitting for people our age.”
A woodburning stove can be a great addition to your home. Not only do they provide non-electric sources of heat during the winter, but many people enjoy the dry heat provided by woodburning stoves and similar heaters and they aren’t limited to the old-school cast iron stoves. Modern woodburning stoves come in a number of styles and forms, including pellet stoves that use small wooden pellets for a more controlled burn and more manageable heat options.
While there are certainly advantages to freestanding wood stoves, it’s important that they’re installed and used safely. It should go without saying that an improperly installed or operated wood stove can be very dangerous. To keep you, your family, and your home safe, here are some things that you should keep in mind when considering installing a freestanding wood stove or pellet stove.
Finding the Right Spot
Location is important when it comes to installing a wood stove. Obviously you’re going to want to put your stove in a location where you want heat, but there’s more to picking the right place than that. You’re going to need to find a place where your stove can provide that heat safely without creating a fire hazard or potentially creating a dangerous situation for people or pets moving through the room.
A big part of this involves finding an area with enough clearance for the stove. This is the amount of room around the stove that needs to be kept clear of flammable items and surfaces that might catch fire if they get too hot. This will differ from stove to stove, but it will be listed among the stove’s specs and other important information. The clearance indicates how far the stove needs to be placed from bare walls, and should also be considered with respect to furniture, walkways, and other areas where household items and inhabitants might be. If there isn’t enough room to give the stove the clearance it needs, you’ll have to find another location for it.
Exhaust and venting are two other safety considerations that you need to keep in mind when planning on installing a woodburning stove or pellet stove. Though you might think that these are essentially the same thing, they’re actually two different systems. The exhaust system is your chimney, while the vent is the pipe that connects your stove to the chimney.
While some older homes feature double-thick unlined brick chimneys that can be used if they’re carefully inspected for cracks and other damage, newer homes will likely need to have a new chimney installed. Ideally these should be factory built or professionally installed and lined, as you need to be sure that the chimney won’t leak or otherwise release noxious gases into the house. As for the stovepipe that’s used for the vent, it needs to be at least 24-gauge steel or similar metal and should be insulated. To avoid gas buildup, it needs to be as short as possible, and shouldn’t have more than two elbows.
Installing Your Stove
There are several other safety considerations that you need to keep in mind when installing a stove as well. If you have children or pets, gates or similar boundaries should be installed to help childproof the stove and prevent burns. A fire extinguisher should be mounted nearby for easy access. When positioning the stove, it’s important to make sure that you can access the ash drawer and other components for cleaning and maintenance so you can prevent the buildup of potentially flammable materials. There may be additional considerations that depend on the layout of your home and the type of stove you install as well.
If you’re wanting to install a new stove, HomeKeepr can help. Sign up for a free account today to get connected with pros that can make sure your chimney is properly installed, your stovepipe vents the way it should, and your stove is safely installed to keep you warm all winter long.
Original Post: https://blog.homekeepr.com/installing-a-freestanding-stove-safety-first?sharedby=vincent-russo
I just found this really interesting article over at HouseLogic/National Association of REALTORS®. Check it out and please let me know what you think…
…”When you’re house hunting, the pressure of competition can move you from “Hmm, I like that, but it’s too pricey,” to “I have tohave that!” You think, so what if paying for this house will put me way over budget? I can cut back somewhere else, right? But that kind of thinking can get you into trouble. Trouble that’s totally avoidable.”…
As summer slowly shifts to autumn, cooler days and chilly nights are just around the corner. While this can be a relief after the summer heat, it won’t be as much of a relief when your heating costs start stacking up. Fortunately, it’s possible to prepare in advance to avoid some of the extra costs of winter while still keeping your home comfortable throughout the season. Though there are countless ways to do so and the right options for you will largely depend on your specific home, here are some little things you can do now that will have a big impact on how well your home keeps out the cold air this winter.
Prep for the Cold
The first thing that you should do when trying to get ready for the coming cold is to make sure you’ve blocked off many of the ways that cold air enters the house. There are a lot of potential fixes and preparations you can make, so here are a few suggestions to give you an idea of the sort of things you should do:
Check the caulking and weatherstripping on your doors and windows, making repairs as needed
Check the insulation in your attic, replacing any that’s tattered or upgrading all of it to insulation with a higher R value
Inspect your roof for signs of damage and repair any leaks or damaged shingles
Look for cracks or other damage in both your windowpanes and the frames of the windows
Store any window air conditioners or close their vents and cover them with an insulated air conditioner cover
Cover windows with a layer of thermal plastic on the inside, using a heat gun or hair dryer to shrink the plastic once it’s in place to create the strongest barrier to heat transfer
Place covers or sheets of wall insulation over crawl space doors and other areas where cold air might get under your house
These preparations should be done alongside any other winter prep that you do, such as applying insulating pipe covers and covering outdoor faucets to prevent possible pipe freezes.
Make Sure Everything Works
Alongside your checks to prevent drafts and leaks during the winter, it’s important to spend a little time to make sure that your home’s heat source will run safely once temperatures drop. Here are a few considerations when it comes to testing your home heating:
Clean your chimney and have it inspected if you have a fireplace that you plan to use for primary or secondary heating
Test your heating system to make sure that it functions properly
Replace the batteries in smoke and carbon monoxide detectors and ensure that fire extinguishers are charged and within their effective dates
Make sure that external vents for fuel-burning furnaces or heaters function properly so that they won’t stick or stay closed while in use
This is also a good time to make sure that all of your emergency supplies are in date, all your flashlights work, and that you have at least two ways to receive weather alerts in case there’s a harsh winter.
Get Ready for Winter
There are a few inspections that you should really get done around this time of year as well, before temperatures start to drop significantly. The big ones are your roof and your heating system, though having someone look at limbs that hang over your home or that could present a falling hazard during the winter is a good idea as well.
HomeKeepr can help you hook up with the pros to get these inspections done. Creating a HomeKeepr account is free, so sign up today to connect with roofers, HVAC pros, and others that can give your home a professional inspection to make sure that you’re ready for whatever this winter might bring. You’ll be glad you did once the cold weather hits.
Sometimes, the purpose of features in your home isn’t quite apparent. This can lead to you having an “a-ha!” moment later when the purpose of a seemingly quirky home feature becomes apparent. With some features, though, that moment can take a while to arrive. One feature that might not seem to have a real purpose, if you aren’t already aware of what it’s for, is a plant ledge.
Plant ledges were pretty popular in the mid 90s and early 2000s, so homes built or remodeled around this time are likely to have these random high ledges in rooms that may not seem that practical at first glance. You can probably guess to at least some of the purpose from their names, but plant ledges can be used for a number of things. Given that plant shelves and similar storage options are coming back into style, here’s a bit more information on plant ledges and how they can beautify your home.
As the name implies, plant ledges were ledges built into the wall that were typically intended to hold potted plants of some variety. These ledges were placed high on the wall, usually within a foot or so of the ceiling in that space that isn’t often used for shelving and other storage. Some plant ledges had built-in lighting to better illuminate their contents, though this wasn’t the case with all of them. Many homeowners would put silk plants on their plant ledges to reduce the amount of maintenance required to keep them in good shape, but live plants were also used, especially those that don’t require a ton of water or direct sunlight.
Depending on where the ledges were installed, they might appear only on a single wall, or could surround a room. In some cases, they even worked their way around fixtures in the room, such as ledges that connected with the tops of cabinets and made their way around the kitchen area. While the plant ledges in a home were placed in areas where they would be seen, most of the ledges themselves were fairly simple in design so as not to take away from the beauty of their contents.
Not Just for Plants
Though they are known as plant ledges, these high ledges can be used for a wide range of decorative items. Some feature grooves cut into the top ledge surface, allowing decorative plates or similar items to be displayed without a fear of them shifting and falling off the ledge. Vases, awards, and other decorative items can also be placed on the ledges to accent various rooms. Often, people use these ledges to hold a mix of items, including both plants and other pieces, to create a more diverse space.
The size, width, and location of the ledges can differ depending on what they’re intended to hold as well. In addition to grooves, spacers and other cutouts can be placed in the ledge to help them hold specific items more safely. Wider ledges also come in handy when it comes to holding bigger items, while thinner ledges are ideal for smaller or thinner pieces that you intend to display.
Considering Plant Ledges?
With shelves and storage pieces becoming popular as ways to hold plants and other display items, a plant ledge might sound great for some of the rooms in your home. They tend to take a bit more work to install than just a simple shelf, but the look that they create is typically worth the extra effort. You can talk with a contractor or remodeling expert to see how best to incorporate plant ledges into your home.
HomeKeepr can help you to find the contractor you need to get this done as well. Signing up for a new account is free, so join today and get started planning your new look with plant ledges in your home.
First impressions go a long way. This is applicable to not only when you meet someone new, but also when somebody sees your house for the first time. Regardless of whether it’s a friend or colleague coming over to visit or a prospective buyer looking at a property you’re trying to sell, the importance of curb appeal shouldn’t be underestimated.
You might think that it takes a lot of work and money to update the curb appeal of your home, but that doesn’t have to be the case. It’s possible to significantly increase the curb appeal of your home and your property just by changing your landscaping. Here are a few ways that your landscaping can change up the look of your property and give your overall curb appeal a significant boost.
Adjusting Existing Landscaping
It doesn’t take a lot to turn around your existing landscaping and dramatically increase your curb appeal. Depending on the state that your trees, shrubs, and other plants are in, it may just be a matter of trimming everything back and taking the time to shape some of the more unruly growth you’ve got going on. Trim down bushes and create a more uniform texture, cut back overgrown limbs, get vining plants under control, and otherwise reign in your existing growth so that it looks much more manicured.
Once you’ve got your current growth under control, consider adding some accents to your landscaping. This can come in the form of colored mulch or gravel beds to add more definition to some of your flowers or plants, fountains or other features to provide a bit of contrast, and possibly even removing a few plants or moving potted plants to a new area to ease up on crowding and create a bit more symmetry in your yard. Even if you don’t make major changes, these little accents and changes can still make a big difference.
New Landscaping Additions
If you want to make bigger changes, consider adding more plants to your yard that will accentuate what you’ve already got there. Put in additional bushes or shrubs of similar types to what you’ve already got on your property to help fill out areas that seem a bit thin in coverage. Add sod to create more uniform ground coverage so that the various clovers, creepers, and other plants don’t distract from the look of your home. Put in some flowering annuals if most of your landscaping contains plants that don’t really flower to add splashes of color to break up all the green. Just look at what you’ve already got and think about how you might improve it.
Of course, it’s important to remember that sometimes a bit of contrast can really help your landscaping as well. Don’t be afraid to add flowers or other plants that don’t seem to go with everything else if you find something that you really want to stand out. If you take the time to come up with a landscaping plan that will be visually striking, it will really get people’s attention the first time they see your home.
Give Your Landscaping a Boost
Depending on what you have in mind, there are a number of ways that you can change up your landscaping through DIY projects. In some cases, though, you may need to bring in a landscaping pro to make more significant changes to your home’s landscaping. Not only will a professional be able to tackle larger projects more quickly, but they may also be able to offer suggestions on the specific shrubs, plants, and other landscaping choices that you add to your property.
If you do want to bring in a landscaping pro, HomeKeepr can help. Using the HomeKeepr app you can find pros in your area based on real recommendations from people you know and trust. Creating a HomeKeepr account is free, so sign up today and find the landscaper that will help you take your curb appeal to the next level.
Keeping the climate in your home under control is important throughout the year. Not only do you need to have a reliable way to keep the heat of the summer sun at bay, but you’ll also want some method of keeping toasty and warm on cool autumn evenings and throughout the frigid winter. For many homeowners, this means a forced-air heat pump, usually as part of a combined central heating and cooling system. This isn’t the only option that’s available, however.
Though you might think radiator heating is a product of a bygone era, radiator heating systems are actually the second most popular home heating option out there. Depending on where you live and the type of system you use, they can actually be more comfortable than forced-air heating and may even use less electricity to keep running. If you’re considering upgrading your home heating system, here’s what you need to know about radiator heating to help you decide if it’s right for you.
The function of a radiator system is pretty simple: heat travels through the system, warming up the radiator. The heat then radiates out into the open air, creating natural circulation of the air in the room. As more heat enters the air, the warmer air rises toward the ceiling and cooler air drops down closer to the floor. This air is in turn heated up by the radiator, causing it to rise, cycling heat throughout the room. After a little time has passed, the entire room will be warmed up without the noise and dust or allergen circulation that forced-air units often cause.
Though radiators come in a variety of forms, the actual radiator units typically have a lot of bends, folds, and fins in their design. This is to maximize the surface area of the radiator unit, giving it more contact with the surrounding air. The more surface area there is, the more heat can be transferred at once, and the faster the radiator will heat the surrounding area.
The old type of radiator that you’re likely most familiar with are steam radiators, which function by pumping in steam that’s heated elsewhere in a boiler. The steam heats up the radiator, and as it cools it condenses into water which drains and returns to the boiler. While this was a functional system, the pressure created by the steam could sometimes cause radiator units to rupture or create other hazards. That’s part of the reason that these radiators have kind of fallen out of favor in modern times.
More modern radiator systems use hot water instead of steam to transfer heat, as this can be done without creating potentially dangerous pressure build-ups. Heated water enters the radiator, cycles through the loops to transfer its heat, and then cooler water leaves through another valve. The water is then reheated and cycles back through the radiator so that it can continue to heat the room. What pressure might build up in the form of air within the water lines is released through bleed valves that are mounted on the radiator units themselves.
Is Radiator Heat Right for Your Home?
While radiators aren’t right for everyone, they do provide quality heat without the added noise of forced-air systems. Many homeowners consider radiator heat to be less dry overall than forced-air heating, and the heat that radiators provide can last for a while even when the radiator isn’t operating due to the more gradual heat release that they use. They do take a while to get going, however, so they aren’t ideal for those who want to be able to turn on the heat and immediately see the mercury start to rise.
If you think that a radiator system might be good for your home, consult with a home heating expert to see what options are available to you. HomeKeepr can help you find a heating pro in your area. Signing up for an account is free, so sign up today and get connected.
Having enough storage space is a struggle that many homeowners face. Even when you have plenty of closets and cabinets, there are often additional odds and ends that don’t really seem to belong anywhere. The resulting clutter can be frustrating, and often results in things like unorganized junk drawers or a desk that becomes something of a cluttered catch-all for things that don’t have anywhere else to go in the house.
There are ways to get around some of this clutter, though. You’re likely already familiar with some spaces where you can store some of your odds and ends, but there may be options that you haven’t considered yet. Here are a few more areas that you might consider to help declutter your home and find a place for everything.
Under, Over, and Behind
When you look in your cabinets or closets and see the clutter there, you might actually be missing one possible solution to your problem. There’s usually some empty space around the clutter that you can take advantage of with relatively little effort, provided you recognize it for what it is. Instead of focusing on what’s on the shelves or in your existing storage areas, start looking under, over, and behind those areas. Options include:
Hang a shoe holder on the back of a closet door and place various small items into its pockets to better organize the space
Install under-cabinet hardware to mount can openers, paper towels, sliding drawers, or even things like your microwave to free up counter space
Place hooks on the backs of cabinet doors or on cabinet walls to hold measuring cups or other small items, organizing them for easy access
Add shelves or an over-the-toilet organizer to your bathroom to hold towels, soaps, makeup, and other items that might otherwise sit around your sink or crowd your bath area
Install hooks near entrances, in bathrooms, in the laundry room, and in other locations where you might need to hang up coats, towels, or other items
There are a lot of other options available as well, and you can find a wide range of racks, storage solutions, and modular shelving kits that will help you to take advantage of this otherwise unused space.
Making More Storage
If you need a bit more storage than a shoe rack or a bin can provide, there are a few slightly larger projects that can give you a lot more space for your odds and ends. While some of these require a bit of construction, others focus on replacing some furniture pieces to make them more functional. Just a few of these projects include:
Make better use of the space under beds by adding bed frames with built-in drawers that slide out for easy access
Install a shelving system in your attic or garage and use it to hold storage bins, organizing the contents of each bin and labeling them for easy reference
Add a small set of shelves to your broom closet, laundry room, or other out-of-the-way area, cutting out an area between studs so that you can add recessed shelving if necessary
Replace ottomans, nightstands, coffee tables, or other furniture pieces that are purely decorative and opt for versions that contain more storage
Depending on the layout of your home, there may be other options available to you as well. If you do a lot outdoors, you might also consider adding a shed or other outdoor storage solution to get the items you regularly use out of the house and where you actually need them.
Bring In Some Help
Organization can be tricky, so don’t be afraid to bring in a pro to help. Professional declutterers, interior decorators, handymen, and more can help you find places to put all your odds and ends or make suggestions on the best places in your home to add more storage. Sign up for a free HomeKeepr account to help you connect with the handyman or other pro that will help you get your clutter under control.
Homeowners must look up municipal regulations before installing a fence.
Latticework and horizontal boards are popular contemporary fence styles.
Darker, neutral-colored fencing can make a garden pop and add curb appeal.
Whether to keep newly adopted dogs safe or to increase privacy while making greater use of the backyard, the home renovation frenzy spurred by the pandemic has led many homeowners to put up a fence.
With more than 320 million linear feet of residential fencing in the U.S., fences with the right style, color, and height can boost curb appeal and help sales, according to Maryland-based Home Innovation Research Labs, which conducts research on building trends and is owned by the National Association of Home Builders.
“People have spent more time at home during the pandemic and devoted some of their travel and restaurant budgets to outdoor living,” says Ed Hudson, director of Home Innovation Research Labs. He attributes the increased interest to a desire for privacy, showed by an increase in average fence height from 6 feet to 6 ¼ feet over the last year. Landscape architect Ryan Kettelkamp dubbed the fence he and wife and business partner Claire installed on their Evanston, Ill., property “fortress Kettelkamp.”
But the question looms: Do fences make good neighbors as Robert Frost wrote in his poem, “Mending Fences”? Yes, as long as certain criteria are met, including how well they are constructed and maintained, says Summit, N.J., area Compass salesperson Stephanie Mallios. “A chain link fence wouldn’t appeal to most in our area,” says Mallios.
Despite the difficulty finding lumber and spending more for materials during the pandemic, new sources from places like China—and new materials, like welded wire panels from farm supply stores—are helping meet fencing demands, Kettelkamp says.
If your clients are considering installing a fence, offer them these seven considerations and suggest they gather more information from the American Fence Association and its list of AFA contractors.
1. Placement. Before putting up a fence, homeowners should study their property survey to know where a fence belongs. Some homeowners might ask a neighbor if they want to split the cost.
2. Height. Most municipalities regulate residential fence heights—some won’t allow one around the front yard. Cities are also likely to weigh in on fences within the property, such as those enclosing a swimming pool. Homeowners should check their local regulations for specifics.
3. Style. The style and detailing—including pickets, backer rails, caps, and latticework—reflect a personal preference that generally relates to the home’s style, Kettelkamp says. Many big box and garden stores sell readymade pieces, while custom work can be fashioned that can add novel details. The most popular style is vertical boards, says Hudson. However, Kettelkamp is seeing more boards installed horizontally, which adds a modern flair.
4. Material. There is a wide variety of choices, from wrought iron to pressure-treated wood, cedar, or ipe (similar to teak), plastics such as vinyl, and faux woods like Trex and Azek. Each offers its own pros and cons, including different prices to different degrees of durability and sustainability. For example, wrought iron won’t require as much care as painted wood, and certain materials can be treated with a water repellent to resist warping and prevent animal damage, according to the AFA. Certain woods are also more common in various parts of the country—hence, their cost may be less. The most popular type of fence is treated wood, typically Southern yellow pine that is rot resistant. In recent years, there’s been an uptick in popularity of plastic due to price and supply chain disruptions of lumber, Hudson says. Vegetative trees and bushes can work as a natural fence, though homeowners should be aware of the need to buy them large enough to be a screen and then to water, feed, and trim them.
5. Installation. Some homeowners may not know that there’s fence etiquette that refers to the “good side,” which looks more finished than the “bad” or “rough side” with construction showing, according to The Fence Authority. To be a good neighbor, the finished side should face toward a neighbor. Some fences are identical on both sides, thus eliminating the problem.
6. Color. Many homeowners prefer to borrow a color from their home’s exterior, a strategy that color expert Amy Wax of Your Color Source in Montclair, N.J., suggests so conflicting shades aren’t distracting. “If there is a softer color in the palette of the home that is in the neutral family, a soft greige, light gray, or even a medium gray, apply that color to the fence so it will tie into the colors of the house without taking away from the home,” Wax says. “Another option,” she says, “is a darker option that will disappear.” While black has become popular, she suggests a hue in the bronze family or charcoal gray. Kettelkamp likes black because he finds it makes a garden pop.
7. Price. Most costs have gone up during the pandemic as materials have become scarcer, particularly wood. Certain woods have always been more expensive than others—for example, Western red cedar is more than Southern yellow pine. A stock cedar fence will run about $50 a linear foot, Kettelkamp says, while a custom design can jump from $200 to $250 for the same size. Metals, too, can be pricey. Kettelkamp has found wrought iron runs in the $20 to $25 range per linear foot for a readymade fence, but a custom one can climb to $250 or more.
When a Site is Rural
In more rural areas, “if homeowners need to keep in dogs or kids, often it’s just livestock type fencing—steel posts with wire or livestock panels that are used,” according to landscape designer Laurie Van Zandt of The Ardent Gardener in Huntsville, Utah. “This way, views are preserved, and the feeling is more open.” Even in cases of new construction in her area, where there are communities that have CC&Rs (covenants, conditions, and restrictions), they usually don’t allow fencing to preserve views, Van Zandt says. In addition, she says, “properties tend to be pretty large, an acre or more, so it would be pretty prohibitive to install fencing.”
Barbara Ballinger is a freelance writer and the author of several books on real estate, architecture, and remodeling, including The Kitchen Bible: Designing the Perfect Culinary Space (Images Publishing, 2014). Barbara’s most recent book is The Garden Bible: Designing Your Perfect Outdoor Space, co-authored with Michael Glassman (Images, 2015).