Do-It-Yourself Tips to Tile a Bathroom

When it comes to fitting bathroom wall tiles, the average DIYer can obtain a professional looking finish with the right tools, clear instructions and a bit of patience. Even if you have absolutely no experience, you should be able to complete a small- to medium-sized bathroom in a weekend, and it can add a fantastic finish to the room. There are a few essential tools required in order to successfully mount wall tiles, including a tile cutter or tile saw (electric cutters are slightly more expensive but are excellent value), an adhesive spreader, a grout spreader, tile spacers and a spirit level.

Before affixing the tiles, ensure that your walls are clean, dry and as flat as possible. The shape and size of your bathroom will ultimately determine how much tile cutting is involved, but if you have a good tile cutter and a few spare wall tiles, then even tricky cutting is pretty straightforward. Start with the lowest row of wall tiles first and work up the wall from bottom to top.  However, if your tiling includes openings such as a window, use this as the starting point to ensure that the wall tiles are equal around it. When tiling round a window, always ensure that the cut wall tiles are placed at the back of the reveal.
If the area is to come into contact with water (highly likely in a bathroom), ensure that you use a waterproof adhesive. Most come ready-mixed nowadays although mixing it with water is an easy procedure. For ease, work on small sections to ensure that the adhesive doesn’t dry before you are able to apply the tiles. Fix your first tile to the adhesive and then use spacers to separate the rest of the wall tiles as you mount them. Use a damp sponge to wipe away excess adhesive from the surface of the wall tiles.

When cutting wall tiles, use a felt-tip pen to mark the cut.  This can then be wiped off so that no marks are left on the surface. If using a manual tile cutter, score the tile and then snap it; if using an electric cutter, simply line up the marked line with the blade. Once cut, smooth any sharp edges with a tile sander.

It is vital that you use a waterproof grout if the wall tiles are to be used as a covering around a bath or in a shower. Allow the tile to set for 24 hours on the wall before applying grout; this will ensure that the adhesive has fully set. Apply the grout and make sure that all joints are adequately filled. Wipe away excess and use a grout finisher to smooth the joints. Do not rely on grout to provide a completely waterproof seal on its own.  You will need to use a waterproof sealant to seal the gap between the bottom tiles and the bath or shower unit.


Select a Style For Your Yard

The first thing you need to do before making any purchases is to decide what style or theme is right for you, formal, casual, rustic, southwestern, Japanese, or something else.  There are a lot of possibilities. When you’ve made the initial decision, stay with that style and theme so the overall effect does not become confusing. For instance, you wouldn’t necessarily want to combine bronze garden sculptures of saints or cherubs with rustic wooden wagon wheels.

Decide what is going to be the main purpose of your patio.  What are you primarily going to use the space for?  Do you plan to entertain a lot and cook outdoors regularly? If that is the case, make sure you have ample room to accommodate a barbeque and cooking area for a large amount of guests. Perhaps you want your patio to be more of an intimate, meditative sanctuary for basking in the sun or gazing at the stars, curling up with a good book or just contemplating life and recharging your batteries.

Create paths or walkways that wind their way from one area to the next. Paths can be very soothing and if planned carefully they can be very helpful when gardening. You can construct them from stone, brick, flagstone, gravel, or just mown turf, although be aware that grass paths need  more work. Locate benches along the pathway to create some wonderful seating areas from which to enjoy your garden or a piece of beautiful garden sculpture.

Garden structures help create forms and lines, which will give your patio design definition and dimension. This definition will be preserved even during the winter months when most plants are free of foliage. By including a pergola or gazebo, you can create a garden design that will be attractive all year round.

Choose garden and landscaping elements built to withstand the weather, sturdy, yet attractive. You can include wood patio furniture made from treated pine, cedar, teak, or eucalyptus; metal patio furniture made from wrought iron or aluminum; a trellis, an arbor, or some decorative fencing. Another element to consider is a water feature, which can bring beauty and atmosphere to a garden design.

There are many landscaping choices available to you; make your choice carefully, and then stick with that plan. That doesn’t mean it has to be boring or monotonous, just maintain an underlying theme, and remember that an asymmetrical balance is still a balance.


Custom Cabinets vs. Stock Cabinets

Cabinets are all over your home:  Kitchen, bathroom, garage, bedrooms, etc. We walk past them every day, we, use them, lean on them, sit on them but really never take into account their significance.

There are a couple of different options you have for replacing your cabinets. Stock cabinets cost substantially less than custom cabinets and are ideal for homes with basic shaped kitchens. They are often easy to pick out, and have delivered and installed all in a matter of a single day. Many stock cabinets can come in authentic and synthetic styles with interchangeable door styles that meet semi customized standards.

On the flip side, stock cabinets also carry a stigma of perceived lower quality craftsmanship, wood grade and a general difficulty in assembly. Just like any investment, the return on investment will be a direct result of the quality that you put in.

Another option is custom cabinets. Custom cabinets are ideal for those with a larger budget to spend and provide 100% customization abilities. Where stock cabinets have a very short turnaround time from purchase to installation, custom cabinets could take up to 60 days to be built and installed. If you have the time to wait for such cabinets, the craftsmanship and hand finish to the cabinets is a lasting quality that far surpasses those of stock cabinets. With custom cabinets, you will be able to have personal preferences built into the cabinets such as a wine cooler, sink space, sliding doors, or any kind of creative element you would like to add.

Another deciding factor in the process of choosing your style of cabinets will be the craftsmanship of the home. If you have a smaller home or one that turns and twists from odd spaces, your options would be very limited with stock cabinets. Whereas stock cabinets are built to predictable dimensions, custom cabinets can be built to accommodate the size and style of your home.

By region, kitchen remodels have a high ROI all over, ranking at least in the top three.  Your investment into your home improvements will be a direct result of what is attained from the finished product.


Neutral Color Palettes for your Home

 Whites, grays, creams, beige and brown are all timeless neutral colors used extensively as home paints. Over the years, these neutral colors have evolved and their modern avatars include olive green, jade, lilac, cool silver, organic grays, soft yellows and so on. Browns are considered ‘near-neutral’ colors.

Neutral palettes are a good base while giving your home a paint make-over for a classy, soothing, elegant ambience. The correct neutral colors go with everything, giving a beautiful canvas to work upon, making it possible to create extremely chic, versatile rooms. They can be spruced up with colorful accessories and are easy to match with furniture.

Keep in mind the following points when you opt for a neutral color palette:

• There has to be sufficient contrast so that the whole neutral look does not end up looking boring.

• A neutral color combination might look lifeless if the room does not have access to good natural light.

• Curtains, window draperies, slipcovers and pillows should all be in sync with the neutral theme.

• The undertones or second shades associated with neutral colors are gold, peach, tan, yellow etc.

A subtle neutral color palette is both an end in itself or provides an ideal backdrop for bold statements. They never go out of fashion and blend easily with the surroundings.

Subtle, neutral colors provide an excellent backdrop for walls and ceilings. White is the perfect backdrop for bold artwork and contemporary furniture. Colors look great against a background of white. Inject a bit of color by painting the doors and window frames in a contrasting color to enhance the white on the walls. Whites also contrast well with rich, dark furniture colors. Even off-white can convey a feel of richness and depth.

To give your home a warm, comfortable rustic feel, use dark neutral shades of brown, rust and black. While opting for browns and greens, choose a lighter or softer shade of these colors that have a touch of earth tone in them, for instance a more faded or antique olive green.

Gray is a neutral color that will work on the walls in most any decorating scheme. Even the palest shades of gray will shimmer when sunlight enters the room and give off a warm glow when offset with undertones of white or cream. Gray is associated with sophistication, offering opportunities to decorate in black and white.

As a standalone option, beige might look drab and uninspiring but it provides numerous options in terms of furnishings and decorative accents. When using beige, add a tinge of lighter or darker neutrals to make the room look lively.

Neutrals offer a comfortable alternative to jarring bright colors. They create a fabulous background for other colors to dominate. Neutral hues make hallways and other small areas appear more spacious than they really are; they are a good choice for living areas because they go with any color of furnishings. But remember to have small accents of color to break the monotony of a completely neutral pallet.

If you intend to sell your house in the future, then it’s better to opt for neutral colors for better resale value as you will find most prospective buyers prefer a neutral palette.


Smart Storage Solutions for Your Kitchen

Here are ten essential tips for smart kitchen storage:

1 ] Utilize redundant space.

If you are installing shelving, think laterally with your installation – you can go floor to ceiling for example. Use insides of cupboard doors for hanging; quality hooks are good if well installed.  However, be ‘clever and don’t crowd’

2] Display rather than conceal.

Be creative when storing your utensils, pots and pans and ornaments and make it fun. Create open and closed storage by combining closed cupboards with open displays units.  These can be bought or custom made.

3] Get rid of the fitted kitchen look.

Free up the walls, use freestanding antique dressers, [glass fronted ones let you see everything at a glance] rails for hanging, metal industrial shelving units, or bakers racks from catering suppliers – store the least used things at the top!

4] Organize Drawer space.

You can get an array of different drawer dividers.  Wooden ones add a bit of interest and don’t mark like their plastic counterparts.  Be sure you measure accurately before purchasing

5] Thoughtfully load your larder.

If you are lucky enough to have a larder or pantry, you should use the space thoughtfully, mainly for storing groceries. The design of your pantry should be a bit like the inside of your fridge – with all the surfaces utilized.

6] Group items by function.

Whether it’s an interesting ceramic pot holding your wooden spoons or bakeware in a dedicated drawer – it is always far easier to find things in logical places.

7] Circulate your gadgets.

We are all proud of our latest gadgets, but more often than not we build up a space hungry collection – too much to display all at once.  Think seasonal—if this is something you don’t use in summer months, store it out of sight until the warmer months.

8] Get Containers for every use.

Clear plastic containers are good for cereals, but best stored in a cupboard and brought out only at breakfast, whereas tall elegant glass ones containing pastas and pulses in great shapes, textures and colors can be on display all the time. Square containers are good in cupboards for space savers. Check your local bric-a-brac/antique shop for other unique storage containers.

9] Be Clean and safe.

Long gone are the days when you had a plastic bin hidden under the sink unit, where dirt and germs collected – this space is now freed up for cleaning and utility product as bins and recyclers are designed to be space effective and look great. Corner bins are often practical where space is limited.

Make sure you have a good range of clips, pegs and fasteners to keep food fresh and plan a cycle of storage cleaning to ensure everything hidden is kept regularly spic and span. Think of kids and pets when planning to keep certain things like cleaning product out of harm’s way.

10] Cut out the distance.

Utensils, cutting knives are best near their place of use.  There are now a diverse range of storage products for knives, from worktop freestanding units to wall magnets.

Also consider practicality of where things are.  Having your large dinnerware close to the dishwasher can save time and effort.

With a bit of planning and enthusiasm, you will be able to treat kitchen storage as a creative project – not just a functional chore.


Budgeting Your Kitchen Remodel

1. Decide how much you want to spend, and stick to it.
Setting a budget for your kitchen remodel and staying within it sounds so obvious and simple, but it’s harder than you think.

The average cost of an upscale kitchen remodel is more than $80,000, but three factors should determine whether you want to spend that much. The first is how much you can afford to spend. Take a look at your finances to determine this number.

The second is how long you plan to stay in your house. If you are planning on selling the home within five years, then your kitchen renovation should be viewed as an improvement on a real estate investment. Only spend what you think you will get back when you sell the house. If you plan on living in your home longer than five years, you should do a remodel that will make you and your family the most comfortable.

The third factor is your neighborhood. Is it modest, or upscale? If you put a ruling class kitchen in a middle-class neighborhood, you’ll lose money on your investment when you sell your house. Don’t over-improve.

2. Know how the costs will break down.
Labor will consume anywhere from 20 to 35 percent of your project costs. Cabinets can also devour a big chunk of your kitchen remodel budget.

Here’s how it breaks down, on average:

35 percent: cabinets
20 percent: labor
20 percent: appliances
10 percent windows
5 percent: fixtures
3 percent: fittings
7 percent: other

3. Set aside 20 percent of your budget to handle the unexpected.
You’re going to encounter surprises in your kitchen remodel, especially in an older residence. There are all sorts of budget-busting surprises lurking behind the walls or under the floor. Like when you rip out your walls and discover your electrical wiring is out of date. Or you pull out your dishwasher and discover the floor beneath it is rotten thanks to a water leak you didn’t know about. Leave some wiggle room in your budget to cover these surprises.

4. Make a list of your renovation priorities.
What’s most important to you? New appliances? New cabinets? Write down your priorities so if unexpected costs hit your budget, you’ll still get the top things on your list done.

5. Know the details of how you will pay for this project.
There are many ways to pay for a kitchen remodel, but home equity loans are the most popular because they’re tax deductible. Other options include refinancing, taking out a personal loan or taking a loan against a retirement plan.

Even if you have cash in hand, borrowing money at a low interest rate may be smarter than pulling your money from an investment account getting a higher return.

If you’re getting a loan, factor in costs like interest and loan origination fees. Also, find out when you’ll get the funding from your loan. You’ll need to make deposits with your contractors, and you’ll need to pay for materials up front.

6. Decide whether you’re going to stay in your home while renovations are taking place.
Living someplace else while the work is being done is a good idea and will lessen your stress. Take into account the cost of an apartment or hotel, storage fees and moving fees.

If you stay, there will be a cost to your sanity. You could also set up a temporary kitchen in an adjacent room, and you should add in the cost of doing this.

7. Factor in the cost of eating out.
Face it, you will be eating a lot of meals in restaurants or bringing home take-out food while your kitchen is torn up. Fit this expense into your budget at the outset.

8. Create a spreadsheet for your budget and check it often.
Put your budget and how much you’re actually spending on spreadsheets so you can keep tabs on how much you are actually spending. If you see a cost overrun starting to happen, you can stop it.

9. Do some of the small work to lower your costs.
You don’t have to pay someone else to do all the work. Demolition – taking out the old cabinets, appliances and flooring – is easy to do.

10. Avoid extras. Don’t be tempted to deviate from your budget mid-project.
If you catch yourself saying “It would be so great if we added (fabulous kitchen feature here),” stop yourself. This is how budgets get blown. Go look at that remodeling budget you made in step 1, and repeat the number like a mantra. You can live without the little extras.


5 Quick Home Makeover Tips

You don’t have to sink a lot of time or money into updating the décor of your home.  Use the following quick makeover tips to express changes in your style.

1. Make Use of Rugs – These can be large, medium, round or square rugs depending on your style. Area rugs can change the feel in a room and also protect your flooring.  They also work well on hardwood floors to define spaces. They’re perfect for dining rooms, living rooms, family rooms and foyers, and create an instant personality within each space.

2. Incorporate Mirrors – Mirrors in entrances and hallways instantly add depth to your home. Use mirrors across from windows and doorways. Save space by hanging full-length mirrors on doors and walls. Turn cocktail tables and chests into mirrored surfaces to create some sparkle and reflect the ceiling above.

3. Introduce New Fixtures into Your Home – This is one of the simplest changes you can make to define your home. Use the color scheme in each room as a guide. Polished silver or bronze fixtures work well with dark colors. Change cabinet handles and faucet fixtures in bathrooms and kitchens. High pouring faucets allow you more room in the sink especially when cleaning large pots and pans.

4. Add Molding and Paint – Adding molding, wainscoting and beefy trims creates instant detail and architecture to an otherwise bland space.  Use chair rails to divide walls in your dining room or down the hallway. Crown molding also adds height to ceilings.

5. Change the Flooring – While this makeover tip is quick, it can also be costly. Many flooring companies can change a carpeted floor to a hardwood surface in as little as six hours.  Do some judicious investigation of types of wood and prices before going ahead with the project.

It’s often the little things that add up to a big change in how you feel and function in your environment. Use these simple quick tips to rejuvenate your spirit and redefine any space in your home to best suit your family’s personality.


Make the Most of Your Kitchen with a Banquette

 Though many people may not be familiar with the term “banquette,” the odds are they’ve seen one.  These are the diner-style upholstered bench/booths that are commonly seen in restaurants and frequently in homes. Each one has a personality of its own – fitting seamlessly in to the most unexpected spaces – never failing to provide a tremendous sense of style and comfort. It’s where families gather to share their events of the day and where we feel enveloped with a sense of warmth and protection at night. Best of all a banquette is suitable for any style of kitchen.

These banquettes typically require less space for traffic flow, provide great additional storage solutions, and ultimately seat more than conventional table and chairs.

Take a look around your kitchen and neighboring spaces and see how you could make the most of your kitchen dining area with a space saving banquette. Maybe you have an old butler’s pantry, awkward corner, inefficient laundry area or window alcove that’s a perfect fit. Bay windows are an ideal spot for banquette dining, and could potentially seat 6 – 8 people comfortably.

Tips To Consider When Designing And Building A Banquette:

Know how you want this dining area to function for you. Will it be used for homework, computer time, reading, lounging or for meals only? Design it accordingly.  

For a more comfortable seat consider a cushion of 4”-5″ thick, and be aware of the firmness of that seat. It will compress and ultimately change the height slightly. With a cushion this thick, your base seat should be 14”-15″ high (finished from the floor). It may seem low, but once the luxurious cushions are installed the proportion will be perfect. Lastly, angle the back slightly to allow for maximum comfort.

If you’re opting for a more contemporary look without any seat cushions at all, then the finished height of the seat base should be 18″ high (from the floor) and have a seat depth of a minimum of 18″. When upholstering the seat and back, provide a good 24″ overall for depth of seat which will allow for the thickness of the upholstered back. Measure a favorite chair at home to help you determine the finished height and depth you like.

Banquettes can be designed in all shapes and sizes; it ultimately depends on how much space you’re working with. L-shaped, U-shaped, curved or straight, your banquette will become a focal point in your kitchen.

Each person will occupy approx. 24-30″ of space to comfortably eat while using a fork and knife. That said consider 24 square feet will seat 4 people.

Upholstering the banquette seats and backs in a faux leather, vinyl, or outdoor fabric will make it much easier to maintain and is also much simpler to slide in and out of. Loose cushions become more problematic and are less comfy – and it’s all about the comfort factor!


The Risk from Chemical Odors

Chemical odors in the home can be harmful to your health. According to the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology 50% of Illnesses are Caused or Aggravated by Pollutants. Chemical odors are given off from a wide variety of products. They include mothballs, paint, solvents, pesticides, fragrances such as perfumes and air fresheners, adhesives, smoke, dry-cleaned clothes, and cleaning agents, to name a few. Researchers say that these types of odors can cause a number of medical problems, including respiratory problems.   

Effective green deodorizers will break down harmful chemical odors into harmless byproducts without masking them and result in a safer and healthier environment. By continually destroying chemical odor, you will improve your indoor air quality and prevent exposure to toxic and hazardous chemicals.

With a little investigative work, and using safe, non-toxic products, you can eliminate harmful odors and chemicals. The end result is a safe home that is healthier for you and your family. 


Great Ideas for Painting the Exterior of Your Home

Most likely, one of the primary goals you have for your home is to maintain the value of your investment. Exterior residential painting may well be high on the list of important things to do. If you are a do-it-yourself type person there are many steps to doing the job correctly. If you are not, you may want to hire a professional to do the job for you. Either way, the right preparation is essential.

Your primer should be of very high quality. This will hold true for both pre-painted or bare wood surfaces. The top coat will only look the way you want it to if you put a good primer in place. Depending on the type of siding and its condition, pressure washing your home is step number one. This will remove your old flaking paint and get rid of your dirt, wasps’ nests and mildew. You should then remove any remaining loose paint followed by sanding the house to prepare for the primer coat. Using a cleaning agent with bleach is a great option for removing the mildew. If you live in an area that has continual high humidity, or live near a body of water, a mildew inhibitor may well be in order. Exterior residential painting is effective only if done properly.

If there are any gaps between the siding boards or masonry, you should consider using caulk to seal the spaces. Be sure you use the correct caulking material on each surface.  Be sure to check your metal areas such as gutters, flashing, etc. for peeling paint. This should be removed with strong brush or metal brush. Primers are available for metal as well as siding. Acrylic paints mildew somewhat less than oils, but still will mildew. If this is an issue at your residence be sure to use a type that will slow the development of mildew.

Masonry can present other issues. If five years old or less, it may leach through your painted coating. This can be avoided by application of muriatic acid diluted according to directions on the container. This is a very strong acid and precautions must be taken. Rubber gloves and safety glasses are a must.

Masking tape applied to light fixtures, door knobs, door bells or other immovable objects will help considerably with the cleanup. It takes a little more time, but will be worth the effort in the long run.  Remember to protect shrubs, walkways and other common areas.

Using an expert exterior residential painting contractor may be the best option if you are under time or other restrictions. It is more than a one day job. Take your time. Do your prep work and remember primer must be high quality, or the topcoat will not look the way you would like it to and may ultimately peel and put you back to square one.