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Hire a Pro or DIY – that is the question!

When it comes to maintenance and repairs, professional labor can be one of the more costly portions of a homeowner’s budget. While many people opt to save cash by doing work themselves, not everyone possesses the skills necessary to fix their own homes (even with the help of online instructional videos). Attempting a DIY project without careful preparation and a complete knowledge of the task could result in expenses that far exceed the cost of a contractor.

Even if you have the experience and know-how, it’s important to consider the time, materials, tools and permits required for your home improvement project. Here’s how to know which projects you can tackle yourself, and which you should probably leave to the experts.

1. Hanging wallpaper.

The verdict: Hire a pro.

The challenge of hanging wallpaper is keeping it straight and matching up the patterns correctly. Sometimes bubbling can occur, and that strip of paper will need to be removed and replaced. This can result in running out of wallpaper and needing to order more. Don’t want to risk it? Hire a professional.

2. Painting the exterior of your home.

The verdict: Hire a pro.

Painting the exterior of a house is a big job that requires extensive use of tall ladders (and sometimes climbing up on the roof). Homeowners should consider safety requirements before tackling an exterior job.

3. Fixing a clogged garbage disposal.

The verdict: Try to DIY it.

A clogged disposal may be cleared by using a small specialty wrench that fits into a hexagonal opening on the underside of the disposal while the disposal is turned off.

4. Fixing a running toilet.

The verdict: Try to DIY it.

A running toilet can be comfortably fixed by a DIY-er with a toilet rebuild kit from any hardware store. These kits typically contain straightforward and easy-to-follow instructions. On the other hand, one-piece or specialty toilets can be tricky and might need the professional touch.

5. Installing a light fixture.

The verdict: Hire a pro (probably).

Electrical repairs and installations are at best expensive. Taking a little time to research and understand your electrical system can give you the necessary skills to do some electrical projects yourself. When installing a light fixture, low-voltage projects can be safely performed by a homeowner, as these are less likely to cause structural or bodily harm. Stick with a professional for anything over 50 volts.

6. Patching a hole in drywall.

The Verdict: Try to DIY it.

Nearly any homeowner can patch nail holes. Using a spackle knife, fill in each hole with lightweight putty and scrape the excess off the walls. Wait for the putty to dry and sand down the spot until it’s smooth. Then, paint the repaired spots with primer. Larger holes in drywall require more steps to repair and may be best left to the professionals.

7. Cleaning gutters.

The verdict: Try to DIY it (if you’re comfortable on a ladder).

To prevent water damage from clogged gutters, leaves should be cleaned out of them every spring and fall. For single-story homes with level grounding around the foundation, go ahead and handle the task yourself (if you’re an experienced ladder-climber). Try to do this project when you have someone there to hold the ladder and help. If you aren’t up for the challenge of moving a ladder and steadily climbing up and down it to clear debris, hire someone else to complete this important task.

8. Re-grouting tile.

The verdict: Try to DIY it.

The surface of tile grout is porous, so dirt can get trapped in cracked grout, which leads to discoloration and further damage. The first step in repairing grout is to choose the right one. Grout choices consist of four different types: sanded, unsanded, acrylic latex or epoxy. Measure the space between your tiles to figure out which type of grout you should use. If the space between the tiles is less than 1/8 inch, use an unsanded acrylic or epoxy grout. If the space is larger than 1/8 inch, it is suggested that you use a sanded grout. Also, don’t forget to match the grout color before making your final purchase! The next step is to clean the grouted area. Then, use a grout saw to remove any damaged grout and then dampen the joints with a wet rag. Mix the grout according to the manufacturer’s directions and begin grouting the tile. It’s important to fill all the joints completely and smooth over the surface with a damp sponge to remove any excess. Allow the grout to set firmly and then clean with a damp rag.

9. Installing molding.

The verdict: Hire a pro.

Not all homeowners have a power saw or the skills to cut and safely install crown molding while on a ladder. The measurements must be accurate and the cuts must line up seamlessly. Unless you have experience, it’s best to leave this job to the professionals.

10. Fixing a sticking window.

The verdict: Hire a pro.

There are a number of reasons that a window might stick. It may be a buildup of dirt and debris in the window casing. Problems in the foundation of your home can cause windows to lose alignment and get stuck. Sometimes, a window is painted and shut before it completely dries, which glues the window closed. High humidity can cause doors and windows to swell and bind them in the jamb.

Fixing a stuck window may involve removing the window and could require using a belt sander or planer. If you don’t have the tools or the know-how to safely use the tools required, leave it to the professionals.

7 Disappearing Kitchen Trends

Your home, your rules. Meaning: Do whatever makes you happy. But as we run through 2021 we’re finding some trends that are on their way out. Again, there’s no rule saying you can no longer have any of these features for your own kitchen. If you’re planning on renovating and are looking for styles that will endure, though, it might be smart to avoid these overdone trends.

1. Navy Cabinets

Navy is a classic for a reason, but it starts to feel boring when everyone is using it on their lower cabinets or kitchen islands. If you want to include some color in your kitchen, why not try a color that feels a little different — like green, black, or even a natural wood tone? There are plenty of other versatile colors to try that aren’t navy, so push your design a little bit further than what everyone else is doing right now. 

2. Basic Tile Backsplashes

If you’re going to add a backsplash, don’t just do half the wall (it’s pretty common but it feels like a halfhearted design attempt). Right now, giant slabs or fully tiled walls are in. Just a note for anyone going with tile: Try embracing a different shape other than a traditional rectangle. If you’re worried about longevity, work in a warm neutral color palette to add versatility. 

3. Ornate Hardware

Forget anything flashy. Instead of shiny gold hardware, we’re seeing a return to more muted brushed or matte black finishes. And that’s if there’s hardware being used at all. Minimal cabinet design, where there’s no hardware at all, seems to be the direction kitchens are headed in.

4. Cluttered Countertops

With many of us still working from our kitchen tables (or just cooking a lot) in 2021, countertops around the country are getting cleared off.Cluttered countertops feel stressful and make it harder to keep surfaces clean. Keep out only what you use every day and then find a new home for everything else (in a cabinet or in a donation box!).

5. Farmhouse-Style Cabinets

It’s been a long time coming, but we think farmhouse-style is on its way out in favor of clean-lined and incredibly modern-looking cabinetry. Think: sleek, totally flat-faced panels. With less grooves and molding, they’re easier to clean. Yay! 

6. Open Shelving

The divisive wall of open shelving is out. For most home cooks, it’s an unrealistic way to store glasses and dishes because of how much dirt and grime accumulates in between uses. (Yes, even when things are constantly being used, washed, and put away.) Keeping upper cabinets allows you to tuck away items that could be cluttering up your counters. If you do see open shelving, it will be smaller, single shelves or a small ledge that holds more decorative accessories instead of dishes. 

7. Cool Gray Paints

Gray, like the navy we mentioned above, is an incredibly versatile hue but it gets boring when everyone is using the same color over and over. For kitchen renovations, it used to be, “When in doubt paint the walls or cabinets a cool gray.” Now? Skip it! If you really love gray and want to use it, try a warmer gray with more earthy undertones to help it feel fresh. 

the kitchn.com | caylin harris

An Organized Home Office; 7-Day Plan

Whether you’re using your home office to work from home or for personal business, getting it clean and organized can make your time there more productive and pleasant. Piles of work papers and to-dos are visual reminders of things you don’t want to be doing. Take this opportunity while you’re at home more to whip it into shape. This plan will help you clear the clutter and put systems in place to make it easier to keep things looking good all year.

Make a Plan of Attack

How big your home office is, and just how packed full of stuff it is will make a huge difference in how much time you’ll need to devote to get it in shape.
If you use your home office regularly, or if your home office is large or has accumulated a lot of clutter, plan to spend a few longer stretches of time on a weekend and follow up with shorter tasks during the week.

If it’s a small space or not too cluttered, you may be able to compress the plan into a single weekend — read it over before beginning and tailor it to work for you.

Day 1: Deal With Paper

Decluttering tasks: What is all of that clutter? Do you even need to keep this stuff? This is the day to find out. At the end of today’s tasks, your home office may very well look worse than when you began — consider yourself warned!

  • Do some research. Sometimes we keep things simply because we are not sure if it’s OK to throw them out. Go on a fact-finding mission (call your tax preparer or search online) and figure out what you need to keep and for how long.
  • Sort and stack. Work your way through your home office, pulling every loose paper out of drawers, shelves, cupboards etc. As you go, sort your stuff into categories as best you can, shredding and tossing what is no longer needed.
  • Make quick temporary labels for your category piles with a marker on plain paper — it’s amazing how quickly you can lose track of what goes where.
  • Set aside anything that does not belong in your home office and make a point of returning it to where it belongs (or to whom it belongs to) today.

Cleaning tasks: Keep a shredder, recycling bin and trash can nearby for obvious junk mail and garbage.

Day 2: Make Some Space

Decluttering tasks: Pour yourself a big cup of coffee or tea, because you’ll need the boost to get through today’s task — but when you’re done, your workspace should be feeling significantly better.

  • Pull every (nonpaper) item out of your desk and office storage and sort it into piles, placing like with like — for instance, all letter writing supplies in one pile; everything computer related in another.
  • Now take a closer look at those piles, removing unneeded duplicates (do you really need three staplers?) and anything that doesn’t belong in your office.
  • Armed with the knowledge gained on your fact-finding mission on Day 1, dip into your files and see if there are papers you can safely get rid of.
  • If you haven’t yet moved to a paperless home office, go online today and set up paperless statements and billing.

Day 3: Get Organized

Decluttering tasks: Think outside the file box to find an organizational system that works for you. Here are a few ideas for organizing your home office:

  • A grid of clipboards on the wall can make for a handy place to keep papers organized.
  • Wall-mounted cups keep frequently used supplies neat and within reach.
  • Labeled, open-top baskets on shelves are great for people who like piles.
  • Traditional files are still useful for important documents.

Day 4: Freshen Up

Cleaning tasks: Give yourself a big pat on the back, because the hardest work is now behind you! Today is all about making your home workspace fresh and clean, so it will be a healthier, more pleasant place to spend time in.

  • Vacuum your home office from top to bottom. Use an attachment to clean window treatments, high corners and fabric lamp shades.
  • Wipe down shelves and surfaces with a damp microfiber cloth.
  • Use monitor wipes to clean your screens.
  • Use a keyboard cleaner to blow dust from between the keys or gently clean them with cotton swabs.
  • Bring in some fresh plants to help clean the air.

Day 5: Consider Comfort

Decluttering tasks: How comfortable is your home office? If you use your workspace often, it’s important to have an adjustable chair with proper support, good lighting and perhaps a small stool to put your feet up on. See what you can do today to make your home office more comfortable.

Day 6: Add a Personal Touch

Decluttering tasks: The beauty of a home office is that you can emphasize the home part as much as you like. Bring in family photos that make your smile or treasures from your travels; drape a beautiful textile over your chair; or store your office supplies in pretty fabric or woven baskets and china teacups. Cut a few fresh flowers from the garden and place them in a vase on your desk. Light a scented candle while you work. Do whatever makes your office feel more like you.

Day 7 and Beyond: Do Daily Maintenance

Decluttering tasks:

  • Aim to handle paper as soon as you get it, rather than letting it pile up. If you don’t have time to do this daily, set up an inbox with slots for a few broad categories (bills, work, school) so papers will be easier to handle later.
  • Post a note detailing what you should save and for how long.
  • Schedule a weekly time to empty your inbox.

Cleaning tasks:

  • Straighten up your home office before you are done working each day. Bring the coffee cups back to the kitchen and completely clear your desktop.

Your Summer Home Checklist

Keep an Eye on Irrigation Systems

A faulty sprinkler or irrigation hose that goes unnoticed can quickly cause big problems for your lawn and garden. Make a habit of checking each component once a week, especially in summer.

Install Screen Doors

If you use them, now is the time to take down the storm doors and put up screen doors to let the summer breezes pour in. Be sure to inspect screens carefully, patching holes as needed — even a tiny hole can be enough to let in a mosquito.

Reorganize Your Kitchen

The change in seasons is a good time to rethink how you have things arranged in the kitchen. If there are small appliances you use more in the warmer months (a blender for smoothies, perhaps, or an ice cream maker), move them to a more accessible spot, and you will be more likely to use them. Stations devoted to a certain purpose can also do wonders. If you have children on summer vacation, create a self-help station stocked with healthy snacks. Or create an iced-coffee bar or smoothie-making station for yourself with all needed supplies within reach.

Update First-aid Kits and Emergency Supplies

Be prepared for everything from minor snafus to natural disasters with well-stocked first-aid kits in the house and car, plus emergency supplies for your family and pets. Not sure what to include? The American Red Cross has a helpful checklist.

Make Space for Summer Crafts

A dedicated space for arts and crafts can provide screen-free entertainment and a creative outlet — and it’s not just for kids! Even if you must work all summer, having a space to devote to a hobby can re-energize and inspire you.

Organize and Put Away School Papers

If you have kids, at the end of the school year, it can be tempting to jump right into summer. But taking the time to sort through each child’s school things will help prevent clutter from piling up, and you can start the summer fresh. Sort through the papers, artwork, and projects from the year, and choose the best representative pieces (and those that most pull at your heartstrings) to save in a portfolio or document box, then recycle the rest. If you want to preserve more than you can keep, consider scanning the artwork into your computer and creating a photo book with the pictures.

Set Up a Spot to Dry Beach Towels and Swimsuits

Soggy, sandy beach towels getting dragged through the house is a mess waiting to happen — but you can easily prevent this with a bit of planning. Choose a dedicated spot, either just outside the door (a covered porch works well) or in the mudroom, as shown here, and hang a row of sturdy hooks for wet towels and bathing suits. Once dry, sand can be easily shaken off outdoors, so it doesn’t end up in your washing machine!

Lighten up the Decor

Roll up heavy rugs, put crisp percale or cooling linen sheets on the beds, and bring in accents in lighter hues for the warmer months ahead. Breezy white curtains look delightfully cool in summer, but if the weather gets quite hot where you live, you may want to leave heavy window coverings up. Closing the shades during the heat of the day can actually help keep your house cooler.

Keep Cooling Systems Running Smoothly

Take the time before hot weather sets in to dust ceiling fans, install window air-conditioning units, and schedule maintenance for a whole-house cooling system.

Refresh Your Bathroom

Shower curtain liner looking a little dingy? Bath towels seen better days? Give your bathroom a mini spa makeover, and swap out your tired old bath linens for fresh, fluffy new towels and a new curtain liner. Use a woven basket to corral rolled towels. And contain toiletries on a tray or in zippered containers.

Schedule Major Outdoor Projects

Whether you are dreaming of a new patio or need to replace a deck, don’t delay booking a pro for your projects. Their schedules tend to fill up quickly in the summer.

Clean Gutters and Downspouts

If you did not get your gutters cleaned in spring, be sure to get this essential task checked off your list as soon as possible. Leaf- and debris-clogged gutters can lead to leaks and siding damage with summer storms.

Catch Up on Projects and Maintenance

No one is perfect, and chances are there are a few home-maintenance projects you have been meaning to tackle. Why not make June the month to get caught up?

Get Seasonal Gear Ready

From camping to beach trips, summertime activities come with a lot of gear. Get it cleaned up and ready now so that you’re not surprised by a leaky tent or blown-out beach umbrella when it’s too late to replace them.

Make Your Summer Must-do List

Beach days, lemonade on the porch, pick-your-own fruit farms – with so much to look forward to in summer, don’t let it zip by in the blink of an eye! Be sure you are making the most of your season by creating a list of your personal must-dos, and posting it where you can see it. A big chalkboard or family bulletin board would be ideal.

Family Handyman |Updated: Mar. 31, 2021

6 Small Steps You Can Take Today to Get Organized for Good

The thought of getting (and staying) organized spurs a variety of reactions in different people. Some consider it a quick but necessary chore, while others see it as an insurmountable obstacle. However, organization isn’t just a way to get your physical belongings in order. It can also help build confidence, add fulfillment to your life, and foster a positive mindset (something many of us need these days more than ever).

1. Toss Out Fear and Guilt

Decluttering can also bring about feelings of shame and guilt, which are usually manifested because we assign emotional attachments to our possessions. As you consider getting rid of something, your thoughts might turn to the family member or friend who gave it to you, which can make you feel guilty even if the object is outdated or broken. Guilt can also arise if you have clothing you bought for a special occasion, such as a honeymoon, that you will never wear again because it’s not your style or doesn’t fit right anymore. Toss items that no longer suit you. Or, if you feel like the item could have a potential life with someone else, consider donating or consigning the clothing.

2. Set a Schedule

Although many of our schedules have changed recently, we still need structure in our days. Humans naturally crave a sense of accomplishment, whether that’s achieved through completing a crossword puzzle, learning a new skill, or tidying up around the house. Sticking to an organizing schedule can boost feelings of productivity as you check items off your to-do list. Remember that your plan doesn’t have to be strict or detailed to be effective; it can simply be used to create a better sense of control over your day.

3. Do Daily 15-Minute Projects

To conquer a disorganized home in quick daily bursts, pick a short task to do each day. Finishing one to-do will give you a sense of accomplishment that can help motivate you to take on another small project tomorrow. These small tasks can be as simple as sorting mail, organizing your sock drawer, cleaning out your medicine cabinet, or conquering that dirty sink.

4. Break Larger Projects Into Sections

Start small to avoid getting overwhelmed by sizeable tasks. For example, if you want to organize your kitchen, start by cleaning out your pantry. Focus first on throwing away expired items or donating shelf-stable items you won’t use, then work on arranging like items together the following day (store breakfast foods, condiments, and grains on separate shelves, for example).

If you want to tackle your closet, start by evaluating what your lifestyle is like today and if your wardrobe reflects it. Acknowledge that styles, our bodies, and even our work environments can change over time. Only hang on to things you love and those that are meaningful to you. Try not to get stuck on aspirational thoughts about the clothing you’re going to wear someday. Instead, celebrate who you are today by letting go of judgments, she says. Remember that it’s OK to let those pieces go so that someone else can enjoy them.

5. Get the Kids Involved

Whether you have kids, grandchildren, or nieces and nephews around the house, it’s never too early to teach children how to organize. Encouraging kids to get involved can help you let go of perfectionism, appreciate their efforts, and value the input of young ones. The more you can involve kids and get them to think creatively, the more they will be willing to participate.

6. Donate or Sell Unwanted Items

Now that you’ve cleaned out your cabinets and closets, the final step to staying organized is parting ways with your old stuff. To get rid of unwanted items, start with your inner circle. Ask friends or family if they want anything, spending extra attention to family heirlooms. Another option is to find a charity you want to support. Donating to a cause that is meaningful to you will make it easier to part with something since you know that you’re helping someone in need. If you want to sell it, try Facebook Marketplace, Craigslist, or consider online consignment shops like Poshmark and ThredUp or TheRealReal for luxury items.

As you start organizing, remember that creating a functional home that works with your lifestyle is key. It should be a reflection of who you are and what you love. A good way to keep that up is by organizing seasonally so you can evaluate what you typically wear and what is or isn’t working in your home. Just remember to start small!

BHG | By Christie Galeano-DeMott | June 18, 2020

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