4 Drawbacks of Home Equity Loans

Taking out a home equity loan against the value of your property can backfire if you fail to avoid these common pitfalls in the borrowing process.

Red brick wall with four bricks missing | Home Equity Loans
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  • When you need a quick source of funds, a home equity loan or home equity line of credit (known as a HELOC) can be tempting. Done wisely, you can use the lower-interest debt secured by your house to pay off debts with high interest rates, like credit cards, to save in the long run.

Even better, use it for value-adding home improvements, like remodeling your kitchen. If you use the loan that way, you may be able to deduct it on your federal taxes. (You’ll have to itemize to get the deduction, though).

Consider carefully before you cash in home equity to spend on consumer goods like clothing, furniture, or vacations. Home equity loans aren’t always the best choice for accessing cash. 

That’s because you’re staking your home against your ability to pay off the debt — and that’s just the beginning of the potential pitfalls of home equity loans.

Drawback #1: Money Doesn’t Come Cheap

A home equity loan is a second mortgage on your house. Interest rates are usually much lower for a home equity loan than for unsecured debt like personal loans and credit cards. But transaction and closing costs, similar to those for primary mortgages, make home equity loans a pricey — and imprudent — way to finance something you may want but don’t absolutely need, like a fur coat, exotic vacation, or Ferrari.

The average closing costs on a $200,000 mortgage are $4,070. To compare offers on competing home equity loans, use a calculator that compares fees, interest rates, and how long you’ll take to pay back the loan. Ask your current mortgage lender if it offers any discounts if you get a second mortgage from the same company.Popular Reads

Drawback #2: Early Payoff Can Be Costly

Home equity loans almost always have fixed interest rates, so you know your monthly payment won’t rise. Do check to see if there’s a pre-payment penalty — a fee the lender will charge if you pay back the loan early because you sell your house, or you just want to get rid of the monthly payment.

Such early-termination fees are typically a percentage of the outstanding balance, such as 2%, or a certain number of months’ worth of interest, such as six months. They’re triggered if you pay off part or all of a loan within a certain time frame, typically three years. Despite the penalty, it may be worthwhile to refinance if you can lower interest rates sufficiently.

If you want to be able to borrow money periodically, it may make sense to go for a home equity line of credit instead of a lump-sum second mortgage. Although more lenders are charging stiff prepayment penalties for HELOCs too, these are triggered when the line is closed within a certain period, such as three years, not when the balance is paid off. Bear in mind that interest rates on most HELOCs are variable.

The big advantage to a credit line is that you can borrow whatever amount you need as you need money. The big drawback is that the lender can shut off the line of credit if the value of your home falls, your credit goes south, or just because it no longer wants to offer you credit.

Drawback #3: Beware Predatory Lenders

Some lenders don’t act in your best interest. Theoretically, lenders are supposed to follow underwriting guidelines on appropriate debt and income levels to keep you from spending more than you can afford on a loan. But in practice, some unscrupulous lenders bend or ignore these rules.

Always shop around.Most Popular in Homebuying

Drawback #4: Your House Is at Stake

A home equity loan is a lien on your house that usually takes second place to the primary mortgage. As such, home equity lenders can be left with nothing if a house sells for less than what’s owed on the first mortgage. To recoup losses, second-mortgage lenders will sometimes refuse to sign off on short sales unless they’re paid all or part of what they’re owed.

Moreover, even though the lender loses its secured interest in the house should it go to foreclosure, in some states, it can send debt collectors after you for the balance, and report the loss to credit agencies. This black mark on your credit score can hurt your ability to borrow for years to come.

There are benefits to home equity loans. Often you can write off the interest you pay on the loan. Consult a tax adviser to see if that’s the case for you. And the rates can be lower than what you’d pay for an unsecured, personal loan or if you used a credit card to make your purchase.

“Visit HouseLogic.com for more articles like this.  Reprinted from HouseLogic.com with permission of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®.”

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Who Represents You in a Real Estate Transaction?

Knowing which type of relationship you have with your agent, and his broker, will help you negotiate the best possible deal, whether you’re a buyer or a seller.

A for sale sign in front of a house
Image: Liz Foreman for HouseLogic
  • When you hire a real estate agent, it’s important to understand whose side she’s on as you select a home to buy (or list your current home for sale) and head towards closing, where the actual transfer of ownership happens. There are a lot of ways agents may represent clients. Yours might represent:

By knowing where your agent’s loyalties lie, you’ll know what you can tell her and what you can’t. (If, for example, you’re dealing with an agent who doesn’t represent you but is representing the sellers of a home you want to buy, you won’t want to tell her how high you’re willing to go on the price.) In some states, your agent has to explain the type of representation (also called agency) she’s offering you and ask you to sign a contract identifying who the agent and her broker represent. If an agent doesn’t bring up the subject or ask you to sign a contract, ask about it so you know whom she’s representing.

No matter what form of representation you agree to, watch out for your own interests and understand the six ways brokers and agents represent clients below.

1. Buyer’s Agency

Want the agent to represent you and only you when you buy a home so that all the information you share with her is confidential? Opt for an exclusive buyer’s agent.

Who pays the buyer’s agent? Surprisingly, even if you hire a buyer’s agent, you can still ask the sellers to pay his fee. You can pay your buyer’s agent yourself, or ask the seller (or the seller’s agent) to pay your agent a share of their sales commission.Popular Reads

2. Seller’s or Listing Agency

An exclusive seller’s agent represents only the sellers, not the buyers. If your exclusive seller’s agent finds a buyer for your home, he may have another agent — maybe even a co-worker from the same brokerage — represent the buyer in your transaction. In some cases the buyer may have no agent at all. Your exclusive seller’s agent is loyal only to you, so it’s OK to discuss strategy with him.

Who pays the seller’s agent? The seller pays a commission to the seller’s agent from the proceeds of the sale. The seller’s agent may, and often does, share the commission with the homebuyer’s agent.

3. Subagency or Cooperating Agency

Let’s say you find a home online. You call the real estate brokerage that’s offering the home and an agent who answers the phone offers to show you the home right now. You think, “Great, she’s showing me the home, she must work for me.” But unless you’ve hired her as your buyer’s agent, she’s working for the sellers.

The same thing can happen if you go to see a home with an agent whose brokerage doesn’t hold the listing. That agent is assisting you, but she’s not your agent; she’s cooperating with the sellers to get you to buy their home.

In some states, that agent may also be a subagent (think subcontractor) of the seller’s agent. Some states allow subagents, some don’t.

Bottom line: Always ask any agent showing you a home whom she represents. Never tell a subagent anything you don’t want the sellers to know.

Who pays the subagent? The seller’s agent shares her commission with the subagent.

4. Dual Agency

In many states, agents can represent both the buyer and seller. These dual agents seek to bring both sides together. They can’t do something that’s only good for you and not for the other side.

A dual agent situation often arises when one agent represents the buyers and the sellers of the same home. The agent must disclose the relationship and, in many states, you must agree in writing to such dual representation because of the potential for conflicts of interest. While dual agents have an obligation not to share any confidential information of a client without their permission, be sure to inform the agent that the information is confidential and know that any non-confidential information may be shared with the people on the other side of the transaction.

Who pays the dual agent? Usually the seller pays the commission.

5. Designated or Appointed Agency

What happens when the buyer’s agent and the seller’s agent both work for the same broker?

To make sure both sides of the home sale are treated fairly in this situation, some brokers designate an agent in their company to represent only the buyers and another to represent only the sellers. A designated agent or appointed agent will be loyal to you and only you. The strategy helps avoid a dual agency situation.

Who pays the designated agents? The sellers pay the commission and the designated agents share it.

6. Nonagency or Transaction Brokerage

In some states, you can work with an agent who acts as a facilitator. By doing so, you set up a nonagency, transactional, or facilitator relationship with the “agent” even though that person is technically not your agent under the law. Typically, nonagents owe you fewer obligations and duties than those who are actually agents. For instance, they would still be required to treat you fairly, but wouldn’t necessarily owe you confidentiality.

Nonagent responsibilities vary from state to state. To find out what those services entail in your state, ask the broker and agent.

Who pays the nonagent? You, as the seller, might agree to pay a flat fee or a commission, which would be stipulated in the listing agreement.

A REALTOR® can help you sell faster, get a better price, and guide you through what can be a complex process. So you’ll want to find an agent who suits your needs. Knowing which type of relationship you have with your agent, and his broker, will help you negotiate the best possible deal, whether you’re a buyer or a seller.

“Visit HouseLogic.com for more articles like this.  Reprinted from HouseLogic.com with permission of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®.”

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Building a Deck? 5 Questions to Ask Before You DIY

Find out if DIY or hiring a pro is right for your deck project.

Image: Philippe Gerber/Getty
  • Building a deck expands your livable outdoor space so you can do more of what you love — entertaining, dining, or relaxing under the stars. But large projects like adding a new deck or repairing an existing one can be daunting, even for a savvy DIYer.

Safety is a big consideration when creating any kind of structure. Deck collapses can not only ruin a great party, but more important, endanger your guests. Since many of the decks that fail are built incorrectly or haven’t been properly maintained, asking the right questions is critical. That way, you can build a deck that puts safety first.

Whether you’re planning to build a deck or give some love to your existing deck, these five questions will help you decide if you have the skills and resources to DIY or the job should be left to a pro.

#1 How Complex Is Your Deck Plan?

Image: Philippe Gerber/Getty
  • The size and scope of your deck build will determine how much it costs, how long it will take to complete, and whether you need pro help. As you assess your project, think about key questions like:
  • Will the deck attach to the house or be freestanding?
  • What width will the deck be and what height from the ground up?
  • How will foot traffic flow from inside to outside?
  • Will your deck need stairs and/or railings?
  • What’s your timeline for completion?

If your dream deck is large or complex, or you’re operating on a quick timeline, hiring a contractor may be worth the extra money. But smaller, less complicated decks with no deadline could be a good opportunity to DIY.

#2 What’s Your Budget for Deck Construction?

Image: Chris Rogers/Getty
  • If your goal with a DIY is to save cash, do the math first to see if the savings are worth it.

Decking options include redwood, at $6 to $36 per square foot, and vinyl, at $10 to $18 per square foot. Basic pressure-treated wood is less expensive, at around $2.15 to $5.50 per square foot. You’ll also need to order concrete, hardware, railings (if applicable), and any tools you don’t own.

Hiring a pro for deck construction costs $15 to $35 per square foot for an average-size deck but could increase depending on the size of the deck, the material you choose, and your location. If you’re on the fence about whether to hire someone, ask several reputable contractors for a quote. Not sure who to contact? Your real estate agent can likely make recommendations.

HouseLogic tip: As you plan your budget, factor in the cost of ongoing deck care and maintenance. Depending on the material you choose, repairs and upkeep may cost more.

Get More Out of Your Investment

Seasonal cleaning and regular maintenance can keep your deck looking good and extend its lifespan. That means you’ll get more seasons out of your investment.Read More InDeck Maintenance Schedule & Tips

#3 What’s Your DIY Skill Level?

Image: Philippe Gerber/Getty
  • Even an experienced DIYer may not have all the skills required to take on a large exterior project like building a deck. Skills include the ability to:
  • Design a deck structure that suits your home’s style
  • Appropriately scope the project and order the correct amount of materials
  • Precisely measure and cut lumber
  • Work with power and hand tools
  • Manage the project to completion in a timely way

If any of these skills raise a red flag, your money and time could be better spent turning the project over to a contractor.

#4 Is Your Deck’s Building Site Level?

Image: Philippe Gerber/Getty
  • If the site of your deck is perfectly level, the build will be more straightforward and better suited to DIYers. As the ground slopes, you’ll need to account for its steepness during construction. Slight to moderate slopes can be managed by increasing the depth of deck footings, but a grade of 45 degrees or more may need an engineer’s eye.

You’ll also want to assess how water settles in the area you plan to build your deck. If you’re concerned about water pooling under the deck, you may need to install a drainage system. A yard with a complex drainage problem could pose problems for a DIY deck build. But a contractor may be able to quickly address any issues.

#5 Will Your Deck Require a Permit?

Building codes and restrictions vary by local area and neighborhood (if an HOA oversees yours). For example, decks of a certain height, size, and location may trigger the need for project pre-approval or a building permit.

You can apply for permits on your own through the appropriate local government offices. But keep in mind you may need to provide construction plans and site plans that can challenge you if you’re a first timer. An established contractor should be able to quickly navigate the permit process if required.

Building Your Deck: DIY or Contractor?

Image: Philippe Gerber/Getty
  • Your answers to these questions will tell you if you can tackle building a deck or should consider spending money to hire a pro.

Building your deck on your own will save money on labor, but could take longer. You also risk a lower-quality project if you’re an inexperienced builder.

An experienced deck builder will likely finish the job faster and with higher quality. But a contractor will bill labor fees, material fees, and possibly other charges depending on the project’s size and scope.

“Visit HouseLogic.com for more articles like this.  Reprinted from HouseLogic.com with permission of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®.”

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What Is an Egress Window?

These escape hatches also add natural light and ventilation to basements.

Image: Harald_Alexander/Getty
  • An egress window looks like a regular window but opens fully to allow a person to escape a building in an emergency — for example, a house fire. In fact, these windows are essentially escape hatches. Most local building codes require them to be installed in finished basements, especially if the upgraded space will include a bedroom.   

In addition to providing an escape, egress windows can increase natural light and ventilation in your basement. And the ones with attractive interior trim can make your basement living space look more appealing. 

What Is a Window Well?

Image: Melissa Kopka/Getty
  • A window well is a hole dug into the ground outside a basement egress window to give a person room to crawl out. Without a window well, these windows can’t work. The term “window well” also refers to a shield typically made of galvanized steel or polyurethane that lines the hole in the ground outside the egress window. It attaches to your home’s foundation to protect the basement from rocks, dirt, and moisture, and keep the hole from collapsing.

Types of Egress Window

Different types of windows can serve as egress windows as long as they meet requirements for size and clearance dictated by local building codes and by the International Residential Code. Note: Costs are for windows only, not installation. 


Casement egress windows are the most common type. They are hinged and swing in and out or like a door, sometimes using a hand crank. They have one pane of glass. These windows can improve ventilation and airflow in a basement and provide a small but effective escape outlet.  

  • Cost per window: $200 to $500
  • Best for: Smaller areas in a basement or basements that don’t have much wall space


Single-hung egress windows have two panes of glass, and the bottom sash moves up and down while the top sash is immobile. They can be the most affordable option. 

  • Cost per window: $100 to $500
  • Best for: Basements with a lot of wall space and homeowners on a budget


Double-hung egress windows have two panes of glass, and both the top and bottom sashes move up and down. This lets more air into a basement for circulation. They need to be relatively large – nearly 5 feet tall and 5 feet wide – to meet code requirements.   

  • Cost per window: $250 to $500
  • Best for: Larger spaces and warmer climates where you want to throw the windows up and let the mild air into the basement 

Horizontal sliding

Horizontal or sliding egress windows open like a sliding glass door but are typically smaller than a door, around 4 feet by 4 feet.  

  • Cost per window: $150 to $700
  • Best for: Basements with a lot of wall space or narrow window wells


In-swing egress windows open inward and are a good choice for older basements or those with small window openings. You can use a smaller window well with them because the glass panel swings inward. 

  • Cost per window: $350 to $700
  • Best for: Older basement spaces with small openings
Image: Andrea Rugg/Getty
  • Building Code Requirements for Egress Windows

Check your local building code office to get specific requirements for basement egress windows. The windows must adhere to code for you to legally use your basement as a bedroom.  

If you finish your basement and don’t install proper egress windows, not only will your living space be unsafe, but you also won’t recoup the cost of your remodel when you sell your house.    

Generally, these windows need to meet requirements regarding: 

  • Minimum clearance: The height of the open window should be large enough for an outfitted firefighter to climb through. 
  • Window well size: The recessed area outside the window should be large enough for a person to climb out of so they can move away from the building. 
  • Maximum height above the floor: The bottom of the window must be no more than 44 inches above the finished floor.  
  • Window barriers and opening ability: The windows must allow for easy and intuitive opening. A person should be able to exit the window without tools, keys, or unnecessary barriers. 

Egress Window Installation Costs

Installing these windows takes skill and experience — and may also require a permit. You can expect to pay around $40 to $50 an hour for labor to install them. For egress windows above ground, expect to pay $500 to $1,000 per window. For windows below ground, you’ll need to excavate the area, which will require a lot more time and labor costs. Expect to pay $2,400 to $4,000 for a subfloor egress window installation.  

Image: photovs/Getty
  • How to Calculate Egress Window Cost

To calculate the cost of egress windows, answer these questions: 

  1. What kind of windows do I want? 
  2. Do I need to change the existing wall to accommodate the window?
  3. Should I make adjustments to the window well?
  4. Do I need to dig a window well? 
  5. Will I need additional materials (paint, insulation, etc.) for this project?

Also, consider the value that windows add to your home and possible savings from replacing old ones with new, more energy-efficient versions.  

Egress Window Installation: DIY or Contractor?

Installing new egress windows isn’t a simple job. It may involve cutting a large opening into a masonry wall in your basement and adding a window that meets building code requirements. In many places, you’ll need a building permit to add a new egress window. 

If you do it wrong, you’ll have a leaky window below ground level and possible structural damage to your house. It’s best to call a contractor to install new egress windows or replace existing ones. 

The smartest, safest way to save money on your basement remodel is to DIY another part of the project, like painting walls, laying flooring, or demo-ing old cabinets or non-load-bearing walls. Leave the installation of egress windows to the pros. 

“Visit HouseLogic.com for more articles like this.  Reprinted from HouseLogic.com with permission of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®.”

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HVAC Maintenance Checklist

Here’s an easy, doable preventive maintenance checklist to keep your heating and cooling system in top shape.

  • It’s a good idea to hire an HVAC company to inspect and do maintenance on your system every fall and spring. They’ll do things like inspect and clean the wiring and mechanisms of the air conditioner and furnace, which are a bit more challenging for the average homeowner.

But you can prolong the life and increase the efficiency of your system if you follow this simple HVAC maintenance plan:

HVAC checklist for homeowners
Image: HouseLogic
  • Some things you should do immediately; other tasks only need to be done seasonally or once a year.

10 Steps That’ll Prolong Your HVAC’s Life

1. Buy a better filter if you haven’t already. The new high-efficiency pleated filters have an electrostatic charge that works like a magnet to grab the tiniest particles — even those that carry bacteria.

2. Replace the filter at least every 90 days. But check it monthly. If it looks dark and clogged, go ahead and change it. If you have pets, you’ll probably need to change it monthly.

3. Make sure there’s at least two feet of clearance around outdoor air-conditioning units and heat pumps.

4. Remove debris, such as leaves, pollen, and twigs weekly during spring, summer, and fall from top and sides of outdoor air-conditioning units and heat pumps. Don’t allow the lawn mower to discharge grass clippings onto the unit.

5. Monthly, inspect insulation on refrigerant lines leading into the house. Replace lines if missing or damaged.

6. Make sure unit is level. Annually, ensure that outdoor air-conditioning units and heat pumps are on firm and level ground or pads.

7. Stave off clogs. Annually, pour a cup of bleach mixed with water down the air-conditioner condensate drain to prevent buildup of mold and algae, which can cause a clog.

8. Shut off the water supply to the furnace humidifier in summer. In fall (or when you anticipate turning on the heat), replace the humidifier wick filter, set the humidistat to between 35% and 40% relative humidity, and turn on the water supply.

9. Never close more than 20% of a home’s registers to avoid placing unnecessary strain on the HVAC system.

10. Replace the battery in your home’s carbon monoxide detector annually.

“Visit HouseLogic.com for more articles like this.  Reprinted from HouseLogic.com with permission of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®.”

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Attic Cleaning: What You Can’t See Can Hurt You

Cleaning your attic removes allergens and respiratory irritants that can make your family sick.

Boy wearing gas mask in cloud of multi-color smoke
Image: Jens Magnusson/Offset

Attic cleaning probably isn’t your idea of a good time. But the dust, dander, and mold in that often-neglected room could be irritating your family’s lungs and kicking up allergies. Plus, a clean attic will enable you to put your great attic ideas into action.

“No one thinks about their attic, but it’s a problem area,” says Mike Tringale of the Consumer Healthcare Products Association.

Attic allergens and irritants constantly seep into your living area through ceiling hatches, doors, recessed lights, and heating and cooling systems (especially if they’re located in your attic).

Attic Cleaning Basics

  • Dust walls, window frames, and rafters with an electrostatically charged cloth (think Swiffer) or duster, which grabs twice as much dust as cotton cloths. Don’t forget to dust exposed roof trusses, attic fan blades, light bulbs, fixtures, hatches, and door frames.
  • Vacuum with a HEPA (high-efficiency particulate air) filter vacuum cleaner, which channels all vacuumed air through a filter designed to remove even microscopic particles. A less expensive choice: Install a top-quality, high-efficiency filter bag in your vacuum.
  • Line shop vacuums with a plastic bag, which traps irritants and makes debris disposal easy.
  • Wear a National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health mask, which filters a high percentage of airborne particles.
  • If you suffer from allergies — 50 million people in the U.S. do, according to the American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology — hire a professional to remove the debris. Prices for pro attic cleaning vary depending on region and nature of the cleanup. Get an estimate before hiring a cleaning contractor.

Keeping Irritants Out of Your Attic

Preventing mold growth and sealing out insects and vermin help reduce irritants in your attic.

Mold: Small roof leaks and old, cracked caulking can let in moisture, which may lead to mold damage. Once a year, and after each big storm, walk around your home to inspect your roof from all angles. Repair any loose, missing, or broken shingles. Check windows for missing caulking or cracked panes.

Don’t bother buying a home mold test kit, which may register mold spores that are constantly in the air anyway. If you suspect mold or can see a mold-covered area that’s larger than about 10 square feet, call a certified indoor air quality professional to evaluate your situation.

Dust: Many of those tiny dust mites you see floating around are really dust mite particles, roach parts, and vermin dander made of dried saliva, urine, and feces.

These dust proteins can trigger allergic reactions, so search for tiny cracks and openings in your roof, walls, and windows where vermin and insects can enter. Seal attic air leaks with caulk and polyurethane foam, and repair any holes in attic ventilation screens that are under the eaves and in gable ends.

“Visit HouseLogic.com for more articles like this.  Reprinted from HouseLogic.com with permission of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®.”

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How to Pick Paint Colors to Fix Any Room’s Quirks

Paint colors can do a ton to fix a room’s flaws for not much money

Image: A W / EyeEm/Getty

Every home suffers a few negatives, but not every solution requires pricey structural changes. Paint is a frugal remodeler’s go-to solution to perk up a problem room.

Here’s how to pick paint colors to give any room a facelift:

Choosing Paint for a Room That’s Too Small

Painting walls white, cream, pastels, or cool colors (tinged with blue or green) creates the illusion of more space by reflecting light. 

White or light colors on walls lifts the ceiling, bringing your eyes up, which makes you feel like you’re in a larger room.

How to use paint color to make a room seem bigger:

  • Paint trim similar to walls to ensure a seamless appearance that visually expands space. 
  • Use a monochromatic scheme to amplify the dimensions of a room. Select furnishings in the same color. Lack of contrast makes a room seem more spacious.
  • Extend wall color onto the ceiling an additional six to 12 inches. This will make the room seem taller.
  • Paint vertical or horizontal stripes. Vertical stripes enhance room height by drawing the eye up; horizontal stripes guide your gaze around the perimeter, making walls seem farther away. Use similar light colors for low-contrast stripes, and your room will look even larger.
  • Get a bit of a similar effect if you really want a darker shade by selecting a high-gloss paint sheen, which reflects light and enhances space. 

For a Room That’s Too Large

When a space feels cavernous, draw walls inward and make it cozy with warm colors (red-tinged), because darker hues absorb light.

Similarly, a dark or warm color overhead (in a flat finish) helps make rooms with high or vaulted ceilings seem less voluminous.

For a Room That Needs a Soothing Vibe

The right paint choice can lend tranquility to a bathroomprimary suite, or other quiet, personal space. A palette of soft, understated color or muted tones help you instill a calming atmosphere.

Some good choices include pale lavenders, light grays or greens, and wispy blues.

For a Room With Special Features That No One Notices

Call out notable features in a room with paint. Dress crown moldings and other trims in white to make them pop against walls with color.

Make a fireplace or other feature a focal point by painting it a color that contrasts with walls.

“Using a higher sheen of paint on woodwork, such as baseboards and door or window casings, creates a crisp edge and clear transition from the wall to the trim,” says Petra Schwartze, a Minneapolis architect with TEA2 Architects.

For a Room With Something Ugly to Hide

Not everything should stand out in a space. Using a low-contrast palette is a good way to hide unappealing elements or flaws.

Conduit, radiators, and other components painted the same color as the wall will seem to disappear.
Selecting low-sheen or flat paint colors also helps hide flaws. Unless walls are smooth, avoid using high-gloss paint because it reflects light and calls attention to an uneven surface.

How to Pick Paint Colors for Any Room

  • Sample paint colors on a few walls.
  • Use large swaths of paint so you can get a real feel for the color.
  • Add samples to opposite sides of a room to judge the paint color from different angles.
  • Check the space with the samples in place and watch how the paint color changes at different times of the day.
  • Check the color on cloudy days, sunny days, and at night when you’ve got artificial lights on.

“Visit HouseLogic.com for more articles like this.  Reprinted from HouseLogic.com with permission of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®.”

REALTOR® /Broker

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Tips to Create a Simple Garage Workshop

You can build a garage workshop, complete with lighting, for less than $500.

  • Garages often harbor a not-so-secret second life: heroic home workshop. They’re well-suited to the task, with a tolerance for the noise and dust of do-it-yourself projects.

You can assemble a basic workbench, cabinets, shelving, and add simple overhead lighting for less than $500. 

But if a garage workshop isn’t comfortable and convenient to use, you’ll avoid projects rather than enjoy them. 

Here are the essentials:

Get (or Build) a Solid Workbench

Your primary work surface should be a rock-solid bench with a hard and heavy top. Buy or build the best you can manage. (Then vow to keep the top clear — tools and materials have a way of eating up workbench space). 

Premade workbenches run $100 to $500 and come in many lengths; they’re usually 24 inches deep. A 38-inch height is typical, but you might be more comfortable with a work surface as low as 36 or as high as 42 inches. Some benches include vises, drawers, and shelves.

Build one yourself using readily available plans. A simple, sturdy workbench takes less than a day to build and materials cost less than $100. The Family Handyman magazine offers detailed instructions for several, including an inexpensive, simple bench. A more complex bench with a miter saw stand and drawers costs $300-$500 to build and takes a weekend.Popular Reads

Install Bright Light

Garage work surfaces need bright ambient light and strong task lighting.

  • High-intensity lights (halogen, LEDs, and others) are great for over-bench task lighting. An LED task light with a flexible goose-neck ($75-$150) puts light where you need it.
  • If your garage has a finished ceiling, recessed fixtures (can lights) are inexpensive ($10-$20) and are good for task and ambient lighting.
  • Ceiling-mounted fluorescent light fixtures are the classic, low-cost solution for workshop lighting. A two- or four-bulb, 48-inch fluorescent fixture costs less than $50.

When shopping for workshop lighting, think lumens rather than watts. A lumen is a measure of lighting brightness, and is a handy way to compare today’s new energy-efficient light bulbs. Lighting fixtures and bulbs have labels that indicate lumens per device. A general rule of thumb is to use 130 to 150 lumens per square foot of work space. 

For example, a 40-watt fluorescent bulb puts out about 2,200 lumens. A 60-watt incandescent bulb puts out about 800 lumens.

Be Sure to Have Adequate Electrical Power

Along with your new lights, be sure your garage workshop has adequate electrical service — outlets and capacity — to accommodate your arsenal of power tools. Place outlets nearby; don’t depend on extension cords stretched across your garage — they can be a tripping hazard. If you don’t have 30-amp circuits on your garage service, talk with an electrical contractor about making this simple upgrade. 

Ballpark $75-$100 an hour for an electrical contractor, plus a probable service-call fee of $50 to $100. Rates will vary across regions of the country.

Good electricians work quickly, so installing shop lights might take only an hour or two if access to electrical service is readily available. Increasing circuit capacity generally requires running new, heavier-gauge wire from your circuit-breaker box to the shop site. 

Create Smart Storage

Don’t make yourself rummage through old coffee cans full of rattling bolts and bits: Visit home improvement centers for garage storage ideas and products.

Modular, wall-mounted garage storage systems let you configure shelves, bins, and hooks the way you need. Cost is about $10 per sq. ft. of wall space.

Plastic bins and hefty tubs protect tools, sandpaper, and tool manuals from insects, rodents, and dust. A 10-gallon plastic tub with lid is $5-$8.

Old kitchen cabinets, available where salvaged building materials are sold, are a great way to add storage — and a homemade workbench. Salvaged cabinets are about 50-75% cheaper than new. Top a run of cabinets with ¾-inch plywood for a durable work surface.

“Visit HouseLogic.com for more articles like this.  Reprinted from HouseLogic.com with permission of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®.”

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Organize Your Home in a Month in Less Than an Hour a Day

A super-easy plan for getting organized without adding to your home-is-school, home-is-work, home-is-everything time burden.

Image: Westend61/Getty
  • Did you ever notice that your self-improvement pacts with yourself are action oriented? Walk 10,000 steps a day. Fix that leaky faucet. Register for VolunteerMatch.

But “get organized”? It’s a goal so broad that just trying to figure out what action to take makes you wonder what you were thinking in the first place. It’s like you need an organizing plan for your organizing.


Here it is. Follow these steps, spending less than an hour day (sometimes just a few minutes), to a better organized home:

1. Do That Project

“What about your space is making you feel uncomfortable or overwhelmed?” asks Amy Trager, a professional organizer in Chicago. Is it the paperwork disaster in your office? The pile of clothes teetering on your dresser? Or that mess that surrounds your doorway? Start with what’s annoying you, she says. One hour on that task will rev up your organizing engine.

2. Create a Go-Away Box

Put in it anything you’re planning to donate (or give to a friend or take to recycle). And keep it by the door so you can easily grab it when you’re leaving.

3. Deal With the Decorations

Hallelujah — the holidays are over! When you’re putting away your décor, donate anything you didn’t bring out last season and separate decorations by holiday. No need to dig through your St. Paddy’s clovers when you’re searching for a menorah.

4. Create a System for Your Entryway

Set up a “command center” so your front door doesn’t become a lawless accessories arena, especially during winter months. Add hooks for coats, bins for shoes, and a mail sorter if you need it. (Remember to keep a place for your go-away box.)

5. Wrangle Your Pet Supplies

Minimize the time spent scrambling when your pup is desperate for a walk or eager for a meal. Hang hooks and cubbies near the door and keep leashes, kibble, bowls, and toys in one convenient spot.

6. Organize Your Spices

Arrange your herbs and spices alphabetically, by cuisine, or by brand — whatever makes them easier to find when you’re in the middle of your noodle stir fry.

7. Pare Down Your Utensils

You’ve accumulated several dozen kitchen utensils in your culinary career: can openers, microplanes, four wine openers (what?!). Cut back the collection and use drawer dividers to keep the rest in order.

8. Reconfigure Your Pots and Pans

Stop digging around in your shelves for the oversized, cast-iron skillet. Donate the pots and pans you hardly use and install cupboard organizers to help manage the rest.

9. Throw Away Expired Foods

You’ve never used Worcestershire sauce after that one time. Go through your refrigerator and pantry, and ditch or donate anything past its prime or that you won’t use.

10. Stack Your Pantry Staples

Make better use of your pantry by sorting through your staple dry goods — think flour, sugar, pasta, oatmeal, dry beans — and put them in airtight, stackable containers. You’ll free up a ton of space, too.

11. Downsize Your Kitchen Gadgets

You had noble intentions when you purchased that spiralizer. (Zucchini noodles every night, right?) Give those space hogs to someone else with lofty dreams.

12. Say No to Coffee Mug Overload

Every time you lose a sock, a new coffee mug appears. Keep one or two mugs for every coffee or tea drinker, and donate the rest.

13. Sort Your Food Storage Containers

No singles allowed. Toss any tops or bottoms that have no mates.

14. Reassess Your Display Shelves

Shelves crammed with knickknacks, books you’ll never read, and stuff you somehow accumulated are just a waste of space. Donate books to the library, discard the junk, and arrange what’s left in a way that pleases you.

15. Deal With Your Cables

With a Roku, PlayStation, DVD player, and cable box, it’s no surprise your entertainment center is a mess. Use bread tags or cable ties to create ID tags for each plug and bundle the clutter with Velcro strips.

16. Put Clothes on New Hangers

Switch your clothes over to the slimmer, grabbier hangers. They use less space and keep your clothes from sliding down to your closet floor. As you do this, discard the clothes you never wear.

17. Corral Your Accessories

Belts, scarves, purses, hats — all the accessories that don’t have a drawer or spot in the closet can end up everywhere. Buy an accessories hanger or install a simple series of hooks to give your wardrobe’s smallest members a home.

18. Purge Under the Bed

Under-bed storage is ideal for out-of-season clothing. But when out-of-season becomes out-of-sight and out-of-mind, clear out those clothes you’ll never wear again from this precious storage space.

19. Declutter Your Desk

When your workspace is swimming with collectibles, staplers, Post-its, and more, paring down can keep you focused when it’s time to hunker down.

20. Shred Old Paperwork

Not every form, statement, and tax record needs to stay in your filing cabinet forever. Check out this list to make sure you’re not wasting space. Shred the rest to ward off identity thieves.

21. Tidy Your Files

Now that you’ve shredded unnecessary paperwork, tidy up your files by organizing them and labeling them clearly. Colorful folders can help organize by theme (home stuff, tax stuff, work stuff, etc.).

22. Get Rid of Mystery Electronics

Admit it. You’ve got a drawer where black mystery cords, chargers, and oddball electronic bits go to die. Free up that drawer for better uses or at least get rid of the items you know for sure are “dead.”

23. Pare Down Your Personal Care Stuff

Your intentions were honorable when you bought that curl-enhancing shampoo — but it expired two years ago, and you haven’t used it since. Throw away any expired potions, salves, hair products, and medicines.

24. Tackle Under-the-Sink Storage

Clean everything out. You’ll be amazed at what you find (like those Magic Erasers you could never find). Then put everything you’re keeping back into bins you can easily pull out so that nothing gets lost again.

25. Hang a Shelf

Wall storage is so often overlooked. Find a spot in your home where a shelf would solve a problem and hang it. Maybe it’s for some toiletries in the bathroom, laundry supplies, or your kid’s stuffed toys.

Related: Yep, You Can Put Shelves There: 5 Inspired Storage Ideas

26. Reduce Your Towels and Linens

There are the towels you use — and the stack of towels you never use. Donate them to the animal shelter. Those torn pillowcases? Convert to rags or toss. Same for napkins, dishtowels, potholders, etc.

27. Hang a Shoe Organizer

Hanging shoe organizers can solve a ton of storage problems beyond the obvious. They can store scarves, mittens, cleaning supplies, craft supplies. You can even cut them to custom-fit inside a cabinet door.

Related: Ideas for Using Shoe Organizers

28. Organize Your Junk Drawer for Good

There’s no shame in a junk drawer, but why not organize it? Dump the whole thing on one surface and sort everything into piles. Use drawer dividers to keep each pile in its own space.

29. Store Your Tools the Right Way

Finding the right Phillips-head screwdriver to put together that cute IKEA bookshelf shouldn’t be so hard. Track down your hammers and screwdrivers, and arrange them in one easy-to-access spot, like a pegboard.

30. Plan for the Future

See how much you’ve accomplished! Take a look around your newly organized home, noting any spaces you missed. Then dream a bit about your next home project. Maybe paint that dining room, finally?

“Visit HouseLogic.com for more articles like this.  Reprinted from HouseLogic.com with permission of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®.”

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