Pantries seem like a good idea at first, but before long they can become the kitchen’s equivalent of a disorganized closet.
If your pantry is headed in that direction, these four projects from some of our favorite bloggers could help you remake your pantry into an organized haven.
Then vote for your favorite at the end of this post, and see which pantry makeover is the most popular with our readers.
A Lazy Susan Pantry
This is a very clever idea — using Lazy Susans to make items in hard-to-reach corners accessible.
Decorchick installed six carousels to display food that once hid in pantry corners. Although she and her dad made the carousels, you can buy versions at any home improvement store.
A Blackboard Pantry for Only $50
A thrifty military wife, 11 Magnolia Lane’s blogger, turned a cupboard into a practical and whimsical closet-style pantry, complete with polka dot trim and blackboard paint — all for only $50.
Most of that $50 was spent on glass containers, so you could probably do it for less.
An Adjustable Pantry
Another smart idea, this one from blogger Honey & Fitz: Remove the standard homebuilder’s plastic-coated wire shelves and replace them with easy-to-adjust sturdy wood-and-steel shelves.
By making the shelves adjustable, Honey & Fitz created room for a rolling baking station that stores a mixer and baking supplies.
Take a look at the most common things that can go wrong when you have guests and learn how to prevent them.
7 Trick-or-Treating Safety Tips
Berkeley County, WV and City of Martinsburg are holding Trick or Treat on Saturday, November 1, 2014. Please check with your local neighborhoods for times.
1. Prescription Drugs: Remove or lock them up prior to showings.
2. Stow away valuables.Valuables include everything from the mail left on the countertops (which may contain personal information and bank statements) to such items as jewelry, artwork, cellphones, and gaming systems.
3. Remove family photos.
4. Make a house safe for the buyers and the agent. Turn on the lights prior to showings — whether it’s daytime or evening — so that agents and buyers can move safely through the home and not have to face any dark unknowns.sellers should make sure there are no potential hazards in their home, like loose floorboards or carpets. They don’t want to risk someone tripping and falling in their home and potentially open themselves up to liability.
5. Keep the house locked. Doors need to be kept locked at all times. A home is being presented to the public, and it may attract intruders.
6. Beware of unexpected visitors coming to your doorstep. Only real estate professionals using the lockbox should gain access to their home.
The Safety Talk You Need to Have With Clients
September 2014 by Melissa Dittmann Tracey
Your dog may be your best friend, but he’s not your yard’s BFF. Here are some guidelines to help you all get along.
DO: Select plant species that reduce fleas, such as lavender, rosemary, and mint, and others that are good for dogs to eat — blueberries, strawberries, wheat grass, and oat grass.
DON’T: Select plants that can make your dog sick, like foxglove, iris, monkshood, and lily of the valley.
DO: Landscape with urine-resistant plants, such as Euonymus japonica (Japanese spindle tree) and Burkwood osmanthus.
DON’T: Freak out when you find yellow and brown spots in your lawn caused by urine. Reseeding is a simple and easy cure for those spots. Or create a potty station.
DO: Create paths or walkways along routes your dog already travels.
DON’T: Think you can redirect your dog away from areas he’s already claimed. Don’t resort to planting thorny shrubs or other plants to deter him. You’ll both be sorry.
DON’T: Spread toxic lawn and plant care products, which can harm dogs. A National Institute of Health study showed that professionally applied pesticides were associated with a 70% higher risk of canine malignant lymphoma.
Home buyers and sellers planning a kitchen redo have a lot of questions they need answered: What style of cabinets are in? What’s the newest color for countertops? What appliances should I install when there are so many? How do I ensure that my kitchen will be a gathering hub?
The cost of redoing a kitchen is on the rise, averaging $109,000 for an upscale renovation and $55,000 for a mid-range transformation, according to the 2014 Cost vs. Value Report. You can serve as a much-needed resource for clients, advising them on the dos and don’ts when considering a kitchen remodel and helping them identify improvements within their budget.
We asked some favorite kitchen pundits, including John Petrie, president of the National Kitchen & Bath Association and his firm, Mother Hubbard’s Custom Cabinetry in Mechanicsburg, Pa., about everything from paint to hardware to snazzy light fixtures.
Experts say the following dozen trends are generating the hottest buzz in kitchens this year:
1. Safety first. No matter how stunning a kitchen looks or how well it functions, it won’t make one iota of difference if fire occurs. Cooking is the leading cause of home fires, according to the National Fire Protection Association. Home owners have multiple ways to guarantee safety, such as paying full attention when cooking, knowing to smother a flame with a lid if a fire starts, and knowing how to operate a fire extinguisher properly.
When considering a kitchen renovation, clients should consider additional safety systems, such asGuardian Safety Solutions International Inc.’s fire suppression system that turns off a range to prevent reignition.
Design choices can also help curb accidents, such as ovens placed within easy reach of all family members, tactile floors to avoid falls, and good illumination.
2. Cleaner, contemporary lines. Styles fade in and out, typically following suit with fashion trends and the economy. This year, home owners are gravitating away from traditional and even eclectic designs, instead opting for streamlined, modern looks, says Petrie. This preference is showing up in less-ornamented cabinet fronts, sometimes with a flat door or minimal molding and simpler hardware. Trends also include less exotic countertop patterns, simpler floor choices such as wood planks or bigger tiles with less grout, and pared-back color palettes.
If your clients prefer some texture, materials like brick warm up a space with a handcrafted look. Try applying it to novel areas — how about on the ceiling?
3. Open wide. Whether it’s small or large, a kitchen that opens to other rooms — including the outdoors — offers space to cook. Clients could consider the different zones of a kitchen, such as eating and living space, says designer Jeffrey Collé of Estates by Jeffrey Collé in East Hampton, N.Y. His upscale remodeled kitchens often feature fireplaces, TVs, sound systems, and butler’s pantries — they’re now referred to as “caterer’s kitchens” since they include space and equipment to cook and clean up.
4. White still tops. While white continues to maintain its front-runner status because of its classic chic connotation, gray has increased in popularity, showing up in stained and painted cabinets and countertops fabricated from quartz, quartzite, limestone, granite, and marble with lots of gray veining. If home owners are making choices for a kitchen where they’ll live for years, opting for gray makes sense, but if they’re making improvements to sell, it may be smarter to stay with more buyers’ preference for white. Despite conventional wisdom, some pops of color can liven up a kitchen.
5. Wood neck-to-neck with porcelain tile. These two choices command the greatest attention for flooring. Both are easy on feet and highly durable, and many porcelain tiles mimic wood so well they’re hard to differentiate. For those who favor wood, narrower widths are in again — 2 to 3 inches typically fit contemporary taste; for those who prefer porcelain, bigger tiles — 12 by 24 inches — are making inroads.
6. Quartz is the new granite. Because of its ubiquity, due in part to so many imports and lower prices, granite has lost star power. What’s taking its place is quartz, which is similar to quartzite; it’s easier to maintain and affordable (though not always as inexpensive as the least expensive granite), and it offers a less-fussy patterned appearance to suit contemporary styles. For home owners who still love marble for its old-fashioned cachet yet fear its porosity and stainability, there are quartzes that are difficult to differentiate, particularly from white Carrera marble.
7. Induction, steam ovens, microwave drawers, and more.There’s lots happening on the appliance front; some trends have been around but are increasing in popularity, while others are brand new. But a modern layout continues to separate cooking equipment so multiple cooks can work together without getting in each other’s way.
Here are some examples of appliance trends:
- Microwave drawers that are easier for all generations to reach than those placed above a range or cooktop.
- Induction cooktops that heat up and cool down faster, saving energy. Their higher prices may deter some, as may their need for higher amps, says Shirley Hood, appliance salesperson and spokesperson for Abt Electronics and Appliances in Glenview, Ill.
- More powerful gas range burners that offer higher output, even 18,000 BTUs.
- Steam ovens that cook faster and allow for healthier food preparation, along with a second convection oven; some steam ovens include a cleaning function that permits spills to be removed without heating and smelling up a kitchen for hours, says Hood.
- French-door style refrigerators that make it easier to view contents when doors are opened, they’re now available from some manufacturers with four doors.
- Hot-water dispensers on refrigerator doors.
- Refrigerator drawers, which can be located anyplace in a kitchen or family room for easy access and let family members get to fresh foods without crowding the main work zone.
- Beverage centers and wine coolers that are placed strategically at points of use.
- Dishwashers that have three and four racks for silverware and utensils; also, models that use less water, are quieter and bigger, and place jets along side walls.
- Integrated appliances, better camouflaged behind panels to dress up open-style kitchens.
- Faucets that conserve water and have touchless controls.
- Long, deep, one-bowl sinks, sometimes with cutting boards to conserve space.
- Smaller appliances that fit into smaller condos and homes.
- Built-in coffee makers fully in view. Everyone wants to be a barista!
8. Drawers beneath countertops rather than doors. Rather than have to go through a two-step process of opening below counter cabinets and reaching into and rummaging through shelves, drawers that pull out and present all their contents are taking hold. The one downside: These shelves aren’t adjustable as are those in many cabinets.
9. Glass splash and more. Backsplashes have become a major focal point; subway tiles are still popular, though now with beveled edges; matte rather than glossy finishes; a variety of colors rather than just classic white; and in larger 4-by-10-inch formats rather than traditional 3-by-6-inch sizes. Today’s trend is also to lay the tiles in vertical rather than horizontal rows. Bigger glass tiles in shimmery hues are grabbing attention, too—and they represent a green choice, made out of recycled materials. Another option is handcrafted tiles with an Art Deco and Frank Lloyd Wright influence.
10. LED lighting. Because it’s been mandated by certain states and the federal government has required that incandescent lamps be phased out unless sufficiently energy efficient, more professionals and home owners are making the switch to energy-wise LEDs underneath cabinets and in cans, pendants, chandeliers, and sconces. Costs have come down for LEDs, and lighting trends lean toward fewer but larger pendants above islands and more decorative fixtures above tables.
11. Look, ma, no desk. Due to the trend of using smaller personal electronic devices—computers, tablets, phones—fewer homeowners need a separate desk. Nowadays, a designated counter with several outlets, sometimes concealed, becomes the go-to charging station replacing a desk.
12. Eating in and cooking out. An eating area is more de rigueur, whether it’s a big table, a corner banquette with a table, or a countertop. And outdoor kitchens, with varying dimensions depending on climate and budgets, remain popular. Many home owners no longer want the full panoply of outdoor appliances, which were often underutilized and overpriced; a good grill sometimes may be sufficient.
Sources: Charles B. Clark Jr., vice president of engineering services at the Brick Industry Association, Reston, Va.; Jeffrey Collé, Estates by Jeffrey Collé, East Hampton, N.Y.; Dan Hechtkopf and Reid Heidenry, South Beach Investment Realty, Miami Beach, Fla.; Shirley Hood, marketing, ABT Electronics and Appliances, Glenview, Ill.; Claudia Juestel, Adeeni Design Group, San Francisco; John Petrie, president, Mother Hubbard’s Custom Cabinetry, Mechanicsburg, Pa..; Kristin Petro, Kristin Petro Interiors, Elmhurst, Ill.
15 Spring Home Maintenance Tips
Don't delay on these preventative measures—ones that will help you save on your utility bills and avoid big repairs later on.
By Gary Foreman
March 14, 2013
Hallelujah. Spring has arrived. For those of us who’ve been trapped inside our homes to stay out of the cold, we get to rediscover the outside world again. It’s also time for some home maintenance items that will help you avoid big repair bills later on.
Inspect your roof. Whether you have shingles, tin or even concrete tiles, your roof is your home's first line of defense against water damage. Now is the time to inspect and repair any water damage. If you delay, you could find yourself facing water damage inside your home, too.
Clean your gutters. Gutters direct rain away from your roof and home, protecting both in the process. Clogged gutters, meanwhile, open your home to water damage—and there's a good chance you won't notice the damage until you need an expensive repair.
Clean or replace your HVAC filters. You need to do this more often than once a year. A dirty filter forces your HVAC system to work harder, which in turn drains your wallet. It could also shorten the life of your blower motor.
Clean your dryer vent. Not all lint is caught in the lint trap; some makes its way into the dryer vent. A clear vent will save you money by reducing the time your dryer has to run. A plugged vent not only wastes money, but could also cause a house fire.
Check the washing machine fill hose. Look for cracks that could become leaks. A leaky hose under pressure can cause major damage in a short period of time.
Clean and repair your screens. Trying to reduce your electric bills this summer? In many parts of the country, you can keep your house cool (at least at night) by opening windows. Gently scrub on a flat surface with soapy water. Also, patch small holes, as needed.
Clean decks, driveways, fences and other outside surfaces. A pressure washer makes the work much easier. If you don't have one, borrow one from a neighbor or rent one from a home center. While you're cleaning, inspect for damage that needs mending.
Fix cracks in your walks, driveway and the outside of your home. Unlike the human body, cracks in asphalt, concrete or stucco don't heal themselves. Fortunately, most of these repairs are fairly easy if done immediately.
Repair any cracked or peeling paint. A good paint job makes your home look nice, while providing a protective barrier from the elements. Touchup painting is easy to do and inexpensive.
Vacuum your refrigerator coils. The coils you’ll find on the bottom or back of your refrigerator conduct the hot air from inside the unit. If they're coated with dust, they do the job less efficiently and cause your fridge to work harder. That means a higher electric bill for you. Use a vacuum cleaner hose or a brush to clean the coils.
Replace the batteries in your smoke detectors. You never know when you'll need them. Sometimes, it’s a matter of life or death, so take the time to change the batteries now.
Prepare your lawn mower for summer. Change the engine oil and sharpen the cutting blade. You'll lengthen the life of the mower and improve the look of your lawn.
Check seals around windows and doors. Winter weather can crack and harden caulk and other weather seals. Inspect them now and repair and replace as needed. You'll reduce your air-conditioning bill and could prevent water from entering your home and causing damage.
Clear vegetation around your AC compressor. To work efficiently, the compressor needs good airflow. Prune any plant growth that could block it.
Drain your water heater. Sediment builds up in your water heater tank. Use the spigot near the bottom of the heater to drain it. By doing so, you'll prolong its life and reduce your electric bill.
You'll probably need to dedicate a couple days to complete the list, but don't look at them as chores. View them as crucial preventative measures—ones that will help you save on your utility bills and avoid big repairs later on. It could be the highest paid work you'll do this week!
Gary Foreman is a former financial planner who founded The Dollar Stretcher.com website. The site features thousands of articles on how to save your valuable time and money including more on home maintenance.
TAGS: housing, home improvements, personal finance
Published: January 30, 2014
•By: G. M. Filisko
As you calculate your tax returns, consider each home tax deduction and credit you are — and are not — entitled to. Running afoul of any of these nine home-related tax mistakes — which tax pros say are especially common — can cost you money or draw the IRS to your doorstep.
Sin #1: Deducting the wrong year for property taxes
You take a tax deduction for property taxes in the year you (or the holder of your escrow account) actually paid them. Some taxing authorities work a year behind — that is, you’re not billed for 2013 property taxes until 2014. But that’s irrelevant to the feds.
Enter on your federal forms whatever amount you actually paid in 2013, no matter what the date is on your tax bill. Dave Hampton, CPA, tax manager at the Cincinnati accounting firm of Burke & Schindler, has seen home owners confuse payments for different years and claim the incorrect amount.
Sin #2: Confusing escrow amount for actual taxes paid
If your lender escrows funds to pay your property taxes, don’t just deduct the amount escrowed, says Bob Meighan, CPA and vice president at TurboTax in San Diego. The regular amount you pay into your escrow account each month to cover property taxes is probably a little more or a little less than your property tax bill. Your lender will adjust the amount every year or so to realign the two.
For example, your tax bill might be $1,200, but your lender may have collected $1,100 or $1,300 in escrow over the year. Deduct only $1,200. Your lender will send you an official statement listing the actual taxes paid. Use that. Don’t just add up 12 months of escrow property tax payments.
Sin #3: Deducting points paid to refinance
Deduct points you paid your lender to secure your mortgage in full for the year you bought your home. However, when you refinance, says Meighan, you must deduct points over the life of your new loan. If you paid $2,000 in points to refinance into a 15-year mortgage, your tax deduction is $133 per year.
Sin #4: Misjudging the home office tax deduction
The deduction is complicated, often doesn’t amount to much of a deduction, has to be recaptured if you turn a profit when you sell your home, and can pique the IRS’s interest in your return. But there’s good news – there’s a new simplified home office deduction option if you don’t want to claim actual costs. If you’re eligible, you can instead claim $5 per sq. ft. up to 300 feet, or $1,500.
Sin #5: Failing to repay the first-time home buyer tax credit
If you used the original home buyer tax credit in 2008, you must repay 1/15th of the credit over 15 years. If you used the tax credit in 2009 or 2010 and then sold your house or stopped using it as your primary residence, within 36 months of the purchase date, you also have to pay back the credit.
The IRS has a tool you can use to help figure out what you owe.
Sin #6: Failing to track home-related expenses
If the IRS comes a-knockin’, don’t be scrambling to compile your records. Many people forget to track home office and home improvement expenses, says Meighan. File away documents as you go. For example, save each manufacturer’s certification statement for energy tax credits and lender or government statements to confirm property taxes paid.
Sin #7: Forgetting to keep track of capital gains
If you sold your main home last year, don’t forget to pay capital gains taxes on any profit. You can exclude $250,000 (or $500,000 if you’re a married couple) of any profits from taxes. So if your cost basis for your home is $100,000 (what you paid for it plus any improvements) and you sold it for $400,000, your capital gains are $300,000. If you’re single, you owe taxes on $50,000 of gains. However, there are minimum time limits for holding property to take advantage of the exclusions, and other details. Consult IRS Publication 523.
Sin #8: Filing incorrectly for energy tax credits
If you made any eligible improvements in 2013, such as installing energy-efficient windows and doors, you may be able to take a 10% tax credit (up to $500; with some systems your cap is even lower than $500). But keep in mind, it’s a lifetime credit. If you claimed the credit in any recent years, you’re done. Fill out Form 5695.
The first part of the form, which covers systems eligible for a larger tax credit through 2016, such as geothermal heat pumps, can be complex and involves crosschecking with half a dozen other IRS forms. Read the instructions carefully.
Sin #9: Claiming too much for the mortgage interest tax deduction
Taxpayers are allowed to deduct mortgage interest on home acquisition debt up to $1 million, plus they can also deduct up to $100,000 in home equity debt.
This article was original published in January 2011.
This article provides general information about tax laws and consequences, but shouldn’t be relied upon as tax or legal advice applicable to particular transactions or circumstances. Consult a tax professional for such advice.
Read more: http://www.houselogic.com/home-advice/taxes-incentives/common-tax-mistakes/#ixzz2uUOtbjSQ
Follow us: @houselogic on Twitter | houselogic on Facebook
~~•Published: January 30, 2014
•By: G. M. Filisko