It’s Great To Be Home . . .

a homebody’s guide to home renovation and more

From Painted and Dated to Refinished and Refined March 4, 2009

Filed under: Reno — Liz @ 08:44
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When we first bought our house, our front door was nothing short of frightening.  Friends and family that weren’t put off by the huge iron bars were scared by the peach and mauve color scheme:

Front Door - Before


We assured them that we had no intention to leave the door the way it was – but we had no idea what we were actually going to do with it.  Replacing the door wasn’t an option, as we quickly learned that a replacement door and sidelites can run in the thousands of dollars.  Then we noticed that the other side of the door, the side that we could see from our entryway, was actually quite pretty (if you could look past all the glistening finishes to actually see the door):




So, finally we had a plan – the front door would be refinished and restored to its pre-painted glory.  A few days later, after the door was scraped within an inch of its life, it was stained to match our new wood floors – or so we thought!!  Turns out that the door was made out of a different type of wood than our floors, so the door took the stain much differently than our floors did.  Moral of the story – always test out the stain before you apply it!!  Luckily, we’re pretty happy with the finished product:


Front Door - After

(The lighter part at the bottom of the door is actually just glare – the door is really all the same color).


Deciding to refinish our existing door instead of replacing it saved us thousands of dollars, and we think the end result is awesome – warm and inviting instead of a scary mix of paint and metal.  What parts of your home did you revamp instead of replace to save some bucks?


Grab Bars Be Gone March 2, 2009

Filed under: Reno — Liz @ 08:42
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Anyone purchasing a home that has previously been lived in by someone else may find that a few details of the home do not suit their needs or lifestyle.  Luckily, most of the time these details can be easily fixed with just a little time and a few ideas.


That was the case with the bathtubs in our home.  When we moved in, each of the three bathtubs was outfitted with a plethora of grab bars (I’m talking at least three per tub).  

Grab Bars
(Alas, I did not have the foresight to photograph the grab bars in our tub, so we’ll just have to make do with this (slight) exaggeration).

Although these grab bars were necessary for the prior homeowner, we did not need them and found them to be a little unsightly and distracting so we decided to remove them.

At the time, we knew little to nothing about tile, or how to fix holes in tile – we thought that we were going to have to chisel out each of the tiles that had holes in them from the grab bars and replace them with new (and hopefully matching) tile!!  Luckily, it turns out that the remedy was a lot more simple and a lot cheaper.  Grout!!  Unsanded grout, to be precise.  According to the DIY Network, we needed unsanded grout, as opposed to sanded grout, because the holes that were going to be filled were less than 1/8 of an inch in diameter.  (Click here for a tutorial on how to mix and apply grout).

  After filling in those little holes with some white, unsanded grout to match the tiles, the holes blend in almost perfectly – I couldn’t believe it!


Unsanded Grout in Tile

After removing the grab bars and filling in the holes the bars left behind, each of our bathtubs instantly looked new and fresh.  The transformation was really amazing.  Go ahead and give your own bathtub a little sprucing up!!


Toasty Every Time February 25, 2009

Filed under: Reno — Liz @ 07:56
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It may just be that I am inept when it comes to faucets, but it seems like every time I take a shower I’m either scalded, frozen, or spend half my time fiddling with the handles to find the perfect temperature.  So, imagine my delight when I learned that there was this spiffy little contraption that could take the place of your regular shower valve and give you the perfect water temperature – every time!!!  I know, it sounds too good to be true.

Let me back up a bit.  I first encountered the thermostatic valve (yes, that’s the name of the perfect-water-temperature-creating device) while scoping out our contractor’s work before we hired him to renovate our house.  I went to the home of one of our contractor’s former clients and while I was checking out the tile work in the bathroom the homeowner began talking about the fabulousness of the thermostatic valve that our contractor had installed in his shower.  I, of course, had no idea what he was talking about and inquired “thermo-whatey-what?”  I’m sure he was very impressed.  

Turns out this thermostatic valve is a simple little device that takes the place of a regular shower valve (the shower valve is what you turn to select your water temperature).  It looks just the same as a regular shower valve, but instead of leaving you to fumble around with the water temperature the thermostatic valve allows you to pre-select a water temperature that will be maintained for every single shower you take.  Talk about awesome!!!!  Thermostatic valves are also great for children, because you can set the water temperature to ensure that little ones never get scalded (of course, you should also make sure that your water heater’s maximum temperature is set to no more than 120 degrees as recommended by the U.S Consumer Product Safety Commission).  

Here’s a pic of the thermostatic valve that we had installed in our shower:

thermostatic valve 

The little handle on the left is the “thermostatic” part of the valve – you set that little baby in place at your favorite temperature and then leave it alone.  When you turn the big valve on the right – bingo!!  Perfect temperature every time.  I’ve been really impressed with how well it works – I haven’t had to fiddle with the water temperature since it was installed, which is pretty awesome!!  Together with our recirculating pump, the thermostatic valve makes for an awesome shower.  

Click here to find out a little bit more about thermostatic valves.


Pump Up Your Home’s Value February 23, 2009

With the housing market like it is these days, lots of people are opting to spruce up their home to make it better suit their lifestyle rather than moving into a new place.  While there are an endless number of improvements you can make to a home, what are some investments you can make that will actually increase your home’s value and make it more attractive when you ultimately decide to sell it?  Real Simple magazine suggests making these changes:

  1. Spiff it up with paint.  Painting is one of those few things in life that provides instant gratification and can make a huge impact on the appearance of your home.  DIY painting is super cheap but pretty time intensive, while professionals can charge a pretty penny (about $3,600 to $6,000 for around 2,400 square feet, accordingly to Real Simple) but the job will be finished before you know it. If you paint the exterior of your home, it can cost between $8,000 to $11,000 for a professional job.  Not cheap, but painting the exterior can take your home from shabby to super in no time.
  2.  Add an outdoor deck.  Who doesn’t love outdoor living?  While exterior living space can’t technically be included in the square footage of your home, a buyer will definitely consider it to be a valuable extension of your home.  Real Simple found that in 2007 homeowners recouped about 85% of the cost of installing a wooden deck when they sold their homes.  


    Outdoor Deck

  3. Spice up your kitchen.  You’ve heard it time and again – kitchens sell homes.  So go ahead and make yours fabulous!!  But keep in mind the potential buyer pool when you’re renovating your kitchen so that you don’t price yourself out of the neighborhood.  While some neighborhoods demand high end appliances and granite countertops, in other neighborhoods a home with freshly painted kitchen cabinets and stainless appliances is all you really need.  Real Simple estimates that homeowners will see 83% of their kitchen investment back upon the sale of their home.
  4. Boost your bath.  Other than kitchens, bathrooms are the other rooms that can sell a house.  But “avoid anything too trendy,” says designer Vern Yip. “Choose classic features, like off-white subway tiles, that will appeal to people with both traditional and contemporary tastes.” There’s no need to splurge on fancy fixtures, either. “A tub is a tub. A Jacuzzi will never make or break a sale,” says designer Steven D. Bullock. If a major bathroom overhaul isn’t in your budget, consider reglazing the tile or tub for a fresh, updated look.  
  5. Switch out your old windows.  Real Simple says that homeowners received a return of 81% last year when replacing windows.  Not only are new windows attractive, but the lower energy bills will be attractive as well.  
  6. Pump up the curb appeal.  This is an improvement that I can’t wait to make in my own home!!  Right now the lawn is in great shape but the landscaping is pretty frightening – think hedges pruned into the shape of beach balls, for starters.  “Landscaping” the front of your house doesn’t have to involve hiring professionals.  If the basic bones of your yard are pretty solid, you can spruce things up with a few colorful potted plants.  However, sprinkler systems and trees are big ticket items that will really pay off in the long run.  The bottom line – make your yard both pretty and functional.  “Buyers make their decisions in exactly eight seconds,” says Barbara Corcoran, founder of the Corcoran Group, a Manhattan real estate firm. “After that, they’ve either fallen in love or are just honoring an appointment.”

    Front Lawn
    Not only will improvements to your home make buyers drool when you go to sell, but you get to enjoy all of the goodies while you’re living there!!  What improvements are you considering making to your home?    



Give New Life To Old Carpet February 20, 2009

Okay, so you’ve torn up all of your old carpets and put in beautiful new hardwood floors – now what do you do with all of that old carpet?  Don’t throw it out!!!!!  While carpet is cheaper than some other flooring options like hardwood floors it can still be pretty costly to purchase, so leftover carpet that is in decent shape can actually come in pretty handy.

Here are two great uses for your leftover carpet:

1.  Bind it up.  If you’ve ever looked into buying a rug, particularly a big one like an 8 x 10, then you know that they can be really (and I mean really) expensive.  So why not save yourself a little cash and have your leftover carpet bound into a few ridiculously cheap area rugs?  You can have pieces of rug bound for about $1 per linear foot – that’s less than $40 for an 8 x 10 rug, compared to almost $200 for a similar rug from Home Depot.  If you’re in the mood for a DIY project, this company even sells a product that helps you bind your own carpet.

We had tons of leftover carpet from our house after we put in hardwood floors, and the carpet was in perfect condition (seriously, the seller must have recarpeted the entire house about 5 seconds before she moved out!!).  Now, instead of being wasted, some of that leftover carpet from our house is living the good life as an area rug in my brother’s living room.  Pretty cool, right??

If you don’t have leftover carpet of your own to bind into an area rug, you can easily find carpet remnants at any store that sells carpet – at a great discount.  This is a great way to get a new area rug on the cheap.

2.  Fork it over.  Even if you don’t have a use for your leftover carpet, someone else probably does!!    Why not save a friend some money and help them give a room in their house an instant makeover?  In just a few hours, their old, dingy carpet can be removed and replaced with your awesome leftover carpet.    Everybody wins!!  And if you don’t know anyone that wants the carpet, you will have no problem selling it on Craigslist to someone who does.

TIP:  When the carpet is being removed from your home, remove it in pieces that are as big as possible – preferably avoiding making any cuts in the carpet.  That way, you will have nice big pieces of carpet to either reinstall or have bound into a rug.


Bargain Hunting February 18, 2009

When we first started the renovation, I was convinced that certain design elements were just out of reach.  They were too expensive, couldn’t have’em, end of story, period.  After briefly mourning the loss of my fancy goodies, I decided to take matters into my own hands – me, be denied glass tile??  I think not!!

So the quest began.  A little time spent perusing discount websites, home improvement stores, etc. finally led to victory.  Here are a few of the awesome steals you can find with a just little effort:


Example No. 1:  The oh-so-fancy sea blue glass tile in our master shower.  I am head over heels for this tile, and I can’t believe it’s mine!  Glass tile can be ridiculously expensive (up to $30 a square foot for some styles), and while we stayed away from the really pricey stuff we were able to steal this tile for less than half of its original price because it was being discontinued by the manufacturer.  Score!!

Example No. 2:  The undermount, scalloped porcelain sinks in our jack ‘n jill bath.  Would you have ever guessed that I found these beautiful babies for 20 bucks a piece at Lowe’s?  These suckers can easily go for up to $100 a piece, so I was beyond thrilled to polish off both sinks in that bathroom for under $40.

Example No. 3:  The blown glass pendant lights in our master bath.  These beauties are probably my favorite design element in our bathroom.  They have the exact same shade of blue as the shower tile, giving balance to the room and adding a fun pop of color on what’s otherwise essentially a tan wall.  The price, you might ask?  I was totally psyched when I found them at Lowe’s for about 1/4 of what they were selling for at two other stores that shall remain unnamed.    

Don’t let something like a price tag keep you from having the awesome design of your dreams – do a little research and you’ll find amazing deals that you won’t be able to stop talking about.  Let me know what great steals you were able to find for your own home!!


A Little Change Will Do You Good February 17, 2009

Now that you’ve seen the reno pics and the “after” floorplan, I couldn’t wait to let you in on a few more changes that we made to the house.  Check out the “before” v. “after” floorplans!






We kept most of the walls intact, but you’ll notice that we made these big changes:
  • removed the wall between the kitchen and den to create one huge living space
  • converted the old water heater closet into a pantry in the laundry room
  • added French doors to the office
  • converted the double closet in the master bedroom into one large closet
  • combined the dressing area and master bath into a large master bath
  • converted the master tub into a huge two-person shower by stealing about 12 inches from the closet in the third bedroom
  • pushed back the entry to the closet in the master bath by about 6 inches to align with the shower
  • added two new full height windows to the den, looking onto the covered patio
  • removed the sink from the laundry room and added a utility sink in the garage (using the original plumbing) so that we could have enough space to use a front-loading washer and dryer
  • flipped the refrigerator from the right side of the kitchen to the left side to accomodate a side-by-side fridge

 Pretty cool, right?  What changes have you made to your house to better suit your lifestyle?