My Top 11 Home Improvement Ideas For 2011

My Top 11 Home Improvement Ideas For 2011

I figure it’s high time for me to create my own “top 10” home improvement ideas, but since it’s 2011 now, I thought I’d do a “top 11” list :-).  There are some things that will always be at the top of any list, but I’ve thrown in a couple of home improvement ideas that probably won’t show up on any traditional “top 10” list and may be relevant for this year… So let’s jump in:

Fix the cracks in your walls and paint them! Okay, this one probably makes every DIY ideas list, but it really is the best way to get the most for your home improvement dollar. Keeping good paint on both the exterior and interior walls actually saves money in the long run as well. If you want to do it yourself and don’t think you have the time, try a room at a time. Check out this blog post for more ideas.home improvement ideas

Caulk and Weatherstrip. Make sure your windows and doors are sealed against the weather. A good trick you can try is to hold a candle or lighter near the edges of your exterior doors and along the edges of your windows to find drafts. A sensitive hand works well too. With the soaring cost of energy, this is an often over-looked home improvement idea that doesn’t take a lot of money or time to address.

Insulate your attic! Most homes are inadequately insulated. Insulating your attic will pay for itself in the long run and reduce the energy you’ll burn heating and cooling the inside. While you’re at it, attic heat exhaust fans or wind turbines will keep hot and cold air from remaining trapped in your attic. If you live in the south, this rates at the top my home improvement ideas for 2011.

Update your fixtures! Walk through your house and see what fixtures need updating or repair. When I say fixtures, I mean faucets, ceiling fans, flush-mount and hanging lights, drain assemblies, toilet tanks and tank kits. (Make sure your toilet works properly and there are no leaks under any sinks). That covers what I mean by “fixtures”….

Check the functionality of all those gadgets! Like garage doors and openers, windows and sashes, doors and doorknobs (oil that squeaky door hinge already), fence gates, plugs and switches.

Landscaping! Mowing and trimming is fine, but putting in some flower beds or a rock garden can really spruce up the curb appeal of any house and possibly set your home apart from the rest of the neighborhood. Especially a good idea if you’re getting ready to sell.

Update your kitchen! A new counter top and cabinets may be great, but if you can’t afford that kind of renovation you might look into refacing your cabinets. There are some really awesome new products on the market that are surprisingly inexpensive.

Add an alternative energy source to your home! Heating, cooling and lighting your home is not getting cheaper. There is a trend beginning to add solar panels to help defer the cost of electricity. Some systems are very expensive, but if you are considering making such a move, a little research might prove that it’s not too bad of an investment. Keeping a backup gas-powered generator comes in handy too, when the power goes out.

Increase storage! There are three places that are often over-looked when it comes to optimizing storage area in a home; garages, sheds and closets. You can add shelves to a garage, build a shed, and usually add a shelf or two to at least one or two closets.

Programmable thermostat! Most people leave the house for a large portion of the day. You can switch out that old mercury thermostat for a quality digital and programmable thermostat. The most common are daily, 5-2, and 7-day programmable. I prefer the 7-day programmable thermostat, and you can choose what suits your needs best.

Add an electrical outlet! This may seem like a silly idea, but take a look around your house and see if you are using extension cords or if you need to unplug one thing to use another. It’s a purely convenience oriented tip, but one of my pet favorites. Adding an outlet isn’t too hard, but if you are unsure how to accomplish it, an electrician can do the work for you.

Well, that’s my list for the new year. I’m betting there is at the very least a couple of good home improvement ideas you probably hadn’t thought of in there yet.

Happy 2011!

*free image courtesy of digitalart
Read More
How Much Does A Handyman Charge?

How Much Does A Handyman Charge?

What Should A Handyman Charge? So what should a handyman charge? depends. The short answer - in Dallas, and most everywhere else, the cost range can be dramatic...and confusing.…

Read More
Paint Your Own Sidewalk Address Curb Numbers

Paint Your Own Sidewalk Address Curb Numbers

Curb address numbers are fairly easy to paint with just a little know-how.

curb number painting

Upward Facing Curb Numbers Were Painted Without Protective Coating In May, 2008

You can get everything you need for simple black and white address curb numbers at your home improvement store for under $15 plus a few things you probably already have around the house. There are many complex and colorful designs you can attempt, but if you’ve never painted a curb, start with a basic black numbers on a white background or white numbers on a black background. Here’s what you’ll need:

  1. One can each of black spray paint and white spray paint. I recommend Rustoleum brand and use their basic flat enamels. You can improve the overall look by using a specialty paint like Painter’s Touch but the basic flat enamel works great.
  2. 1/2″ wide masking tape.
    curb address numbers

    The exact same curb after 3 years, 11 months

  3. Masking paper.
  4. Three inch high numbering stencils
  5. Small brush for touch ups.

Make Your Address Curb Numbers Look Good

To start, figure out exactly where you want the numbers to appear on your curb. Using the 1/2″ masking tape, tape your numbers together lining the stencils up along the edges. If you use Cole oil board stencils your numbers will be about 1″ apart. (Cole numbering stencils used to be available at Home Depot, but recently I have not been able to find the numbers-only pack there…maybe they were just out of stock)

Prepare The Curb Surface Properly

Once you locate the spot for your numbers, use a heavy brush to knock off the dirt from the curb, then mask an area 5″ high by 11″ wide. This width can vary depending on the actual numbers you are painting. For example, if your address is 1111 Fox Avenue, you will not need all of 11 inches. Tape your numbers together, then measure the combined width, then add 1-2″ on each side. You can tape some newspaper around your painting area to protect the surrounding area from over spray. Then simply apply your background color. If you want white numbers, apply a black background. Use a back and forth motion and lightly cover the entire area, paying attention to the edges and corners. Continue spraying until you have good coverage. Rough concrete requires a little extra paint. Let your back ground dry for a few minutes until the surface feels dry to a light touch.

Apply The Curb Number Stencils

Once your background is dry enough to apply tape to it, center your assembled number stencil to the background, and tape it securely on all edges. Mask the remaining background from getting painted.

My Curb Number Painting Techniques

Paint the stencils carefully using short bursts of paint. You can wear rubber gloves and use your fingertips to press the edges of the numbers as you go and that will minimize under spray. Once complete, you can remove the stencils immediately and allow the numbers to dry a little.

If you have some under spray, spray a little paint into the cap of the paint can and use a small brush to touch up any areas that need it.

painted curb number

Basic white numbers on a black background

Finally, remove all your masking and you will have new curb numbers that should last for years!

The curb shown in the second photo is painted on an upward facing curb in Dallas, Texas and has endured several hail storms, 2 ice-overs and the other regular heavy Dallas storms. It was painted exactly as described in this article. Since then I have discovered that you can spray a clear protective coating on top and get more years life out of the paint job. Reflective coating on top of your painted curb numbers helps them to be visible at night and acts as a protective coating as well.




Read More
How To Replace A Simple Light Fixture

How To Replace A Simple Light Fixture

Simple light fixtures can cost as little as $8.00 or as much as a few hundred. Here you will learn how to replace a simple common light fixture. It covers the basics, but you can apply these steps to almost any fixture.

Read More

Exterior Painting Tips and Tricks

Painting Tips That Will Help Every Homeowner

To give your house a maintained, clean appearance, promote friendly neighbor relations and gain instant curb appeal, exterior paint is the first thing you may want to consider. Painting the exterior of your house gives it a fresh and clean look and can add value to your home when you plan to sell. Here are some painting tips to consider before tackling the exterior of your home:

  1. Power wash your bricks or siding. You want to be sure your surface starts out clean. Old, peeling paint won’t suddenly be cured because there is fresh paint on top of it. Preparation is always key to a good paint job. You’ll have to do some scraping, but a good power wash is the best way to begin. You can rent a power washer, or hire someone to do the job for you. Be careful when you spray vinyl siding though. A direct hit of pressurized water can dislodge and even remove a well applied siding.
  2. Remove staples, nails, hooks and other excess hardware. As a painter, I am still amazed at how much I’ve seen accumulate on a house. Staples from last Christmas’ lights, nails, hooks for hanging planters and so on can accumulate over the years if not attended to regularly. Spend an hour or so and get it all cleaned up!
  3. Trim brush, bushes and other growth away from the house. A well manicured yard goes a long way for both the looks of your property and the ease of painting the exterior of your home.

  1. Make sure you have all the tools you need for painting. Ladders, brushes, drop cloths, rollers, sandpaper, scrapers, are just the beginning of the things you’ll need. There is also a painters tools checklist on this blog you can check out.
  2. Make sure you are physically able to paint your house. This painting tip sounds obvious, but just know that you will be climbing ladders, carrying 5 gallon paint buckets and doing a myriad of physical activity every day of the job. At the end of each day, there is clean up as well which takes time. You can eliminate a great deal of the labor if you hire a handyman or a day laborer to assist you. You can save hundreds of dollars in the long run just by hiring out at least some of the work.
  3. Write out your cost for painting materials and time before you begin. There is a lot more cost than just the price of paint. Spackling, sand paper, primer, power washing, caulk and other minor home exterior repair items add up. Painting the exterior of your home is a large undertaking. If you’re going to do the job yourself, it may take several weekends to get the job done.
  4. Hire out what you don’t want to or can’t do. Hiring a good and reliable handyman can make the difference between being able to, and not being able to paint your house on your own.

The list above does not necessarily reflect a complete list of considerations, it is simply intended to be helpful.

I’ve listed below the elements of a typical exterior painting job here in Dallas, but most homes in the US have similar construction. You can also navigate my blog to find other useful tips and lists as well.

  • Trim around windows and doors
  • Fascia
  • Gables
  • Soffets
  • Paneled siding
  • Doors
  • Decorative iron
  • Trellis
  • Fences
  • Gates

I hope you found this article useful. Please comment! If you have questions or want to share some painting tips of your own, please do!~ Phil

Read More
How To Paint A Room – Interior Painting Tips

How To Paint A Room – Interior Painting Tips

Interior paint jobs begin with surface preparation. How well your walls, trim and ceilings turn out will be a direct result of what goes into preparing them for the final paint. Drywall changes over time. Protruding nails can show up as small bumps over time, cracks from foundation settling and other causes can slowly but surely deteriorate the appearance of a once-beautiful paint job. Depending on your time and money budgets, house painting can become a weekend job that can last several weeks or even months, or can last a week or two as a full-time endeavor.

Read More