Getting in the Remodeling Mindset

side yard after 1

Remodeling is a complicated process, especially for homeowners taking the DIY route. Luckily, with a little foresight you can organize your project, minimize anxiety and create a comfortable home for years to come.

Need help getting started? Check out these stress-busting tips from fellow DIY aficionados.

Visualize your new design

Begin by envisioning your future space. What will be the focal point? Which colors and textures would you like to incorporate into the design?

Magazines are a classic source for ideas, but these days, DIY enthusiasts use online design boards, social media platforms and renovation blogs to get their creative juices flowing.

Historical architecture, modern art and even local buildings also can inspire flair at home.

“Sometimes a unique storefront display, or the architecture and lines of a cityscape can create a concept for the perfect look,” said Dina Riccobono of Pfister Faucets.

Rely on your intuition. Aaron Schoenberger of Fix & Flip Network keeps future owners in mind before making definitive plans for a fixer-upper.

“When looking to remodel a home I am inspired by a variety of things. For one, I consider the purpose of the remodel (i.e., will the home be my primary residence or rented/sold) and base the project on that. The purpose gives me inspiration,” the house-flipping expert said.

If you’re planning to sell in the near future, avoid overly-unique features. Ultra-modern or excessively ornate interiors may deter potential home buyers looking for classic styles.

Consider function and lifestyle

Aside from aesthetic preferences such as paint colors and textiles, remodeled spaces must function properly for the home’s residents.

“Deciding to want to change something comes from my need to want my family’s house to feel like home. If something isn’t working with who we are and our style, it’s a goner,” said Selene Galindo, a mother and home decor writer.

Owners of older homes with dated or potentially dangerous fixtures should prioritize safety upgrades. Samantha Pregenzer, a professional organizer, tackled her home’s most unfavorable features first.

“Since we have three small children, I worked on and have completed a lot of the jobs that were bumped to the top of the list, like the swimming pool for safety reasons,” the Bay Area mom said.

Create a budget and then some

Lidy Dipert of Hello Lidy recommends always budgeting for additional costs, especially because DIY mishaps sometimes require professional assistance to fix.

“I think the most stressful part of a remodel for us is the money. The budget always seems to end up being a lot more than you plan for, so we always expect to go over,” the mother of three said.

Scarlet Paolicchi of Family Focus Blog faces the same issue but has learned to cope with the unexpected. “Planning ahead is a good way to deal with this so that you know exactly what to expect and in terms of money and time,” she advises.

Completing a project yourself can save a significant amount of money, but the work is not always easy, as Debbie Westbrooks of Refresh Restyle learned. “The first time I laid tile on a patio, I thought it was difficult. Before the job was over I realized it wasn’t that bad, except on the knees!”

Tackle one job at a time

DIY writer Nicki Parrish says she minimizes stress by focusing on one project at a time. This has allowed her to stay in her home during major DIY renovations.

Kayla Janachovsky, who is currently on her own remodeling journey, says the clutter and dysfunction during a renovation are tiresome. She advises to stay social.

“Spend time away from the house — restaurants, friends’ houses, yoga classes — anything that makes you happy and gets you out of the clutter for short bursts of time,” she said. “Then just keep reminding yourself that once this is all done your house is going to become a home, and you’re going to LOVE it!”

Sometimes, bypassing your own doubts can be the most difficult part of remodeling. “The decision to go ahead with a remodel is the hardest thing,” said Shellie Wilson, founder of Craftbits. ”Once you have made that commitment, everything else is easy.”

Whatever the project, plan wisely. With a reasonable blueprint and potential costs in mind, you can alleviate the hassles and create a space you’ll love for years to come.



5 Ways to Dress Up your Front Door

By Michael Franco

Ostensibly, a home’s front door is there for one reason and one reason only: to let people come and go while keeping the inside environment secure and separate from the outside. But a front door is so much more than that. It is often the first thing that draws the eye of a passerby or visitor. It also sets the style and mood of your home, welcoming guests with an air of elegance, friendliness, whimsy or warmth.

If your front door is not setting the tone you want, here are some fun, easy and rewarding ways to make it the arresting centerpiece it deserves to be.

1. Decorate it

Source: Verge Architecture

There are nearly limitless possibilities for decorating your front door. You could simply paint it a different color (or colors), hang a wreath in the center or add a dramatic house number above or to the side. Other options include installing long shutters on either side or adding a playful, historic or decorative specialty door knocker. Online retailer Architectural Depot sells a wide range of knockers, from chili peppers to poodles, that are sure to make you smile when you come home at the end of a long day.

2. Replace it

A study commissioned by door manufacturer Therma-Tru found that replacing a home’s front door can increase the perceived value of the home. In the study, enhancing an entryway upped a home’s perceived value by as much as five times the cost of the new door.

Source: Zillow

When replacing your door, don’t think only about swapping one door for another — although that alone could dramatically increase the appeal of your entrance. Instead, look to enlarge the entryway by installing a door with windows on either side or above. This will add a sense of grandeur to the front of the house and create a more pleasant atmosphere inside, thanks to the added natural light.

3. Light it up

Source: Suzanne Tucker of Tucker & Marks Inc.

If you don’t already have lights at your front door, installing them can be a big presentation booster. If you do have lights, consider replacing them to update the look of your entry. Wall sconces are available in a myriad of designs, from traditional lanterns to sleek modern steel models. You can find thousands of sconces at online retailers such as Destination Lighting. If you have a porch, install a hanging fixture to cast a welcoming pool of light on the front door. Finally, to add dramatic flair, place outdoor spotlights on the ground and aim them at the door, so it can truly take center stage.

4. Add planters

One of the quickest ways to enhance your entryway is to set a plantercontaining a variety of different colored and textured plants and flowers on either side of the door. You can create an Old World look with vase-like cement planters, go Zen with simple geometric-glazed pots or strike a whimsical note with old tin or wooden buckets. A common approach is to place a tall plant, such as a grass, in the center of the pot, then surround it by a low-grower like ivy. If you live in a cold climate, after the growing season has passed, use the planters to display seasonal decor, such as pumpkins for Halloween or painted white branches withtwinkle lights for Christmas.

5. Go high tech

The front door isn’t necessarily the most technologically advanced part of the house, but with the IS7121-2 Audio/Video Door Answering System, a doorbell and phone combo from VTech, you can change that. You simply install a doorbell module beside the front door, then indoors, plug in the two video phone receivers wherever you’d like. When someone rings the doorbell, the module automatically snaps his picture and sends it to the handset. You can then choose to stream video and have a conversation with the visitor or go answer the door in person. Or if you’re not feeling very social, pretend you’re not home. The system stores up to 100 images, so at the end of the day or a week later, you can review who’s stopped by.

As a phone, the IS7121-2 includes Voice Announce caller ID, HD audio, speakerphone, last 10-number redial, caller ID for both the current call and call waiting and many other features. It’s a system that’s sure to banish the phrase “dumb as a doornail” forever!

While style and budget will be considerations, any improvement you can make to your home’s most prominent feature is likely worth the investment of time and money. Remember, your front door makes the first and last impression of your home for anyone who comes knocking.

This post has been brought to you by VTech. Its facts and opinions are those of

Bob Vila is the home improvement expert widely known as host of TV’s This Old House, Bob Vila’s Home Again, and Bob Vila. Today, Bob continues his mission to help people upgrade their homes and improve their lives with advice online at His video-rich site offers a full range of fresh, authoritative content – practical tips, inspirational ideas, and more than 1,000 videos from Bob Vila television.


8 Tips for Building Your Own Treehouses

Whether it’s sleeping under the stars, telling ghost stories or simply enjoying the great outdoors, treehouses are where summer memories are made.


Now is a perfect time to build your own backyard treehouse just in time for summer. But before grabbing a hammer and nails, there are a few things you should consider to ensure your treehouse is built to last.

Check out these eight tips from the pros at California-based O2 Treehouse and Fall City, WA-based Nelson Treehouse and Supply.

1. Make sure you have a good tree. Consider hiring an arborist to check the health of the tree to make sure it’s going to last. Find out which pests are associated with that type of tree.

2. Assess how much weight your tree can handle and whether your structure can be suspended or will need additional supports.

3. Do your homework with regard to regulations. Make sure you are within the square-footage limit outlined in your area’s building code. Sometimes the structure can’t exceed the height of the main residence.

4. Talk to your neighbors. If your treehouse is going to overlook your neighbors’ backyard, they’ll likely have something to say about it. It’s better to be open and communicative with your neighbors because often, that respect is all they want.

5. Consider buying treehouse hardware or even a pre-fab treehouse kit (they typically cost thousands less than a custom design) to make the construction phase easier.

6. For the interior, imagine you are designing a boat that is always moving. If, for example, you are hanging a picture on the wall, make sure it will actually stay there.

7. Use flexible and multi-functional furniture. For example, a sectional sofa that can be carried up in pieces and assembled in the treehouse is ideal.

8. Play with different patterns and textures. Things that are flat and 2D can have a big impact in a tree and they’re easy to transport.


Treehouses: They’re Not Just for Kids Anymore

The Leaf House by O2 Treehouse is dubbed the 'floating lantern'  because of its striking silhouette against the night sky.

With the days getting longer, now is the perfect time to build a backyard treehouse for your kids — or for yourself. Treehouses are no longer just play spaces for children; they’re also places for adults to unwind, pursue their hobbies and even make their primary residence.

Today, about 15 companies are in the “treehouse business,” with specialized teams of engineers and interior designers building custom-designed backyard escapes and providing kits and tools for homeowners looking to construct their own.

Here’s a look at the growing trend.


Fall City, WA-based Nelson Treehouse and Supply, featured on Animal Planet’s “Treehouse Masters,” has built everything from breweries and recording studios to spas with steam showers — all suspended in trees.

“A lot of people think of treehouses and children, but 9 out of 10 treehouses we build are for adults,” said Daryl McDonald, the team’s foreman. “People want an escape pod — a way to get out of the busyness of being in a home.”

Pete Nelson, owner of Nelson Treehouse and Supply, poses by a Ohio brewery treehouse he designed on Animal Planet's "Treehouse Masters." New episodes of the popular TV show begin on May 30.

Ohio brewery treehouse (interior)

Tory Jones, the TV show’s interior designer, says the sky is the limit when it comes to designing a treehouse. But first you must think about what you need that extra space to be and how you want it to function.

“Design follows function,” she said. “I’ve literally done everything from mid-century modern to contemporary and mission craftsman style.”

CeeLo Green stopped by the Record-High Recording Studio built by Nelson Treehouse & Supply to lay down a track.

Inside the Ohio Butterfly treehouse by Nelson Treehouse & Supply.


O2 Treehouse, a California-based company that will be appearing in an upcoming episode of “Treehouse Masters,” is experimenting with not only function but design.

“I’ve gotten into more complex forms in the geodesic family,” said Justin Feider, the company’s owner and lead builder. “One of my favorites is the honeysphere with 200 openings.”

The Honey Sphere by O2 Treehouse.

Feider says the geodesic shape makes sense for a treehouse because of its strength. The design is also a reflection of architecture and nature, he says.

“People’s consciousness of the green movement and their inherent responsibility in that story has been on the rise,” Feider explained. “Treehouses are part of that. They’re the poster child for living sustainably in a natural structure — a symbiotic relationship with a tree.”


This Austin, TX treehouse designed by Nelson's team has a spa inside.

Both Nelson and O2 provide treehouse consultations, construction and installation in the U.S. and abroad. The process typically takes between two days and nine months, depending on the size and complexity of the project.

“If you want installation, we quote on a custom basis because every tree is different,” Feider explained. His custom structures normally cost between $35,000 and $100,000. Treehouses built by Nelson Treehouse and Supply typically fall in the $80,000-$200,000 range, but their prices also vary depending on the project.

“We do a lot of little ones. A ‘kid deck’ up in a tree would take us 2-3 days,” McDonald said. “The finished product is big enough so you could pitch a tent but nice enough so you could just sleep under the stars. It’s fun because of the immediate gratification.”

At the other end of the spectrum, the biggest project McDonald completed was a 1,000-square-foot treehouse with a 500-square-foot deck. “It had a clawfoot tub,” he said. “It was the most extreme one I’ve worked on.”


Making the Most of An Open House Visit

Open houses are the gold standard in real estate. They’ve been around for decades and will be ingrained in the buying and selling of homes for years to come. But as a buyer, are you making the most of your open house visits?

Here are some best practices for buyers at all ends of the home-buying spectrum.

Use the open house to learn the market without committing

Couple Looking at homeFor the most part, open houses are just that — open. They make it possible for anyone to see a property in a certain time period, without an appointment or even being a very serious buyer.

New buyers should leverage the open house opportunity to get a feel for the market. In today’s world, using online search tools, mobile apps and the open house, a buyer can start to get a feel for pricing and the market before committing to an agent. Most importantly, open houses are some of the best ways for buyer and agent relationships to start.

You don’t have to sign in (but don’t be rude)

The biggest fear of some newer buyers is that a real estate agent at an open house will be all over them, ask for their contact information and then start harassing them for the next three weeks. It does happen, but it’s also common courtesy to at least recognize and say hello to the agent at the open house.  Don’t forget, in addition to trying to sell the home for her client, for safety reasons, the agent is keeping a look out for who is coming and going. It’s polite to say hello and introduce yourself to the agent, but you can also politely decline to sign in.

If you’re an active buyer, you should make yourself known to the agent. Let the seller’s agent know who your agent is and don’t be afraid to express interest. When it comes time to review an offer with a seller, listing agents like to put a face to a name.

Watch the other buyers

You can tell a lot about the activity and marketability of a home by watching the other buyers. If you observe a lot of people walking in and out quickly, the home probably has some issues. Are the buyers hanging around, asking questions of the listing agent and huddling in the corner talking to their spouses or partners? If so, it could be a sign this is a well-priced and “hot” listing. If you’re interested too, observing other buyers at the open house could help you learn about the competition.

Ask the agent questions

The real estate agent is there for a reason. It’s his job. If he is the listing agent, ask him questions. He is a direct line to the seller. He should know more than anyone about the property and the seller. Your agent can funnel your questions to the listing agent. But if you’re there, ask away. Watch the agent’s facial expression and reaction to your questions. If it’s a competitive market, ask questions such as: “Why is the seller selling?” “Is there a certain day to review offers or have you had a lot of showings?” In a slow market, ask how long the property has been on the market and what the seller’s motivations are. A good agent will engage you because it’s good for his seller.

Be open to meeting your future agent

When considering a new doctor, lawyer or CPA, you don’t get the chance to see them in their element until you’ve decided to work with them. Not true for real estate agents. Some of the best buyer/seller/real estate relationships begin at open houses.

A good agent is wearing two hats at the open house. In addition to watching the serious buyers and getting feedback for the seller, an active agent is also looking to interact with future clients.

Face to face, informal and relevant, the interaction with an agent at an open house is important. You can get a feel for a person just from a brief meeting. If you sense the agent could be someone you could work with, ask some open-ended questions, such as “How’s the market?” and “What areas do you cover?”

Why open houses have been around for decades

At any open house, there are people at every stage of the home-buying game, from just testing the waters to looking at homes daily, making offers and working closely with an agent. For someone new to the market, it’s helpful to know the best practices for visiting open houses and interacting with the real estate agent. For more experienced buyers, the open house is an opportunity to make a second or third visit, getting a closer look at the details and uncovering things you may have missed earlier. There are lots of reasons why open houses have been around for decades — and why you should take full advantage of them.


Homes Where You’ll Feel Like A Kid Again

There’s nothing like a backyard treehouse to complete a family home. Whether it’s a deck built high in the trees to stay away from pirates or a miniature estate for playing house, kids dream of having a space to call their own and spark their imagination. Here’s a look at homes for sale embracing the great outdoors and what it means to be a kid.

Wimberley, TX

15 Spring Valley Dr, Wimberley, TX
For sale: $392,000

Wimberley, TX
Sometimes kids want the real thing — or as close as they can get. This Wimberley, TX playhouse is made to look like a general store complete with a sign and rocking chair on the front porch. The main residence is also suited for a family with 3 bedrooms and a large eat-in kitchen.

Bainbridge Island, WA

16698 Agate Pass Rd NE, Bainbridge Island, WA
For sale: $465,000

Bainbridge Island, WA
Living in the Pacific Northwest often means you have a forest retreat waiting in your backyard. This Bainbridge Island, WA home is prepped for enjoying the outdoors with a hammock area, fire pit and fire engine-red playhouse.

Mendham, NJ

5 Mansfield Ct, Mendham, NJ
For sale: $775,000

Mendham, NJ
This Mendham, NJ playhouse has some definite curb appeal all on its own. A shingled roof, front porch and white trim are complemented by a manicured lawn and Adirondack chairs — not a far cry fromhomes in The Hamptons.

Henderson, NV

2821 Maryland Hills Dr, Henderson, NV
For sale: $995,000

Henderson, NV
Palm trees and sand — what more could a kid want? Try a swingset complete with a climbing wall, slide, fire pole and more. The property also has a pool and water slide for escaping the hot afternoon sun.

Princeton, NJ

46 Heather Ln, Princeton, NJ
For sale: $2.895 million

Princeton, NJ
A classic treehouse never gets old. Professional arborist and treehouse craftsman Jonathan Fairoaks took advantage of mature trees on this Princeton, NJ property to build a two-story structure and deck only accessible by two flights of stairs.

Sausalito, CA

106 Cloud View Rd, Sausalito, CA
For sale: $2.995 million

Sausalito, CA
This Sausalito, CA home has several selling points. Listing agents Susan Hewitt and C.J. Nakagawalove that sliding doors open directly to an oversized backyard with a deck, fire pit, hot tub, playhouse and climbing walls.

Miami, FL

7245 SW 104th St, Miami, FL
For sale: $4.4 million

Pinecrest, FL
Seemingly out of a cartoon, this green-and-purple treehouse is a fun addition to this Miami Mediterranean. The backyard also features a resort-style pool with a cascading waterfall.


5 Reasons to Divorce Your Home Insurance Provider


Couple looking at billsBy Samantha Alexander 

When you and your home insurance provider entered into holy insurance matrimony, you may not have noticed all the little things that bothered you. You may have been blinded by love — or convenience — and rushed into a policy without getting to know the company. And now, you are feeling trapped in a relationship with a carrier that isn’t your best match.

Luckily, home insurance policies aren’t forever. And if you have serious problems with your current provider, it may be time to part ways. So how do you know if it’s time to throw in the towel? Here are five reasons to divorce your home insurance provider:

1. High premiums

Failing to comparison shop can force homeowners to settle for high premiums from the start. And even homeowners who do shop and find great rates will sometimes find their premiums have risen over time. Either way, if you are paying too much for your home insurance, it might be time to wave goodbye to your current carrier. Most experts recommend that homeowners shop their policies at least once a year.

2. Inadequate coverage

All home insurance policies are not made equal, and some companies offer a limited amount of coverage options. Discovering that your policy limits coverage for artwork or jewelry can be a tough lesson to learn, especially if you make the discovery after filing a claim.

If you find that your current policy isn’t able to provide you with the full extent of coverage you need, you should look for a carrier that can meet your coverage needs, even if it means scheduling endorsements — add-ons to your policy.

3. Poor customer service

Nothing can prompt a homeowner to say “it’s not me, it’s you” to an insurer faster than poor customer service. If your home insurance provider is hard to reach or fails to process a claim in a timely fashion, then it’s time to move on.

Just make sure you do your research before swapping carriers. Consult customer reviews from trusted consumer watchdogs such as Consumer Reports or J.D. Power and Associates when looking into new insurers. You should also make sure your prospective provider offers 24/7 claims processes.

4. Financial instability

In any relationship, trust is key, and your relationship with your insurer is no exception. Knowing your home insurer is financially stable is an important element of that trust. After all, you are investing your money in premiums trusting that the insurer will be able to fulfill its financial obligation to you in the event of a claim. A.M. Best Company rates insurers on their financial stability, and they can be rated anywhere from A++ (superior) to D (poor).

Why is this important? What if there’s a disaster that affects thousands of homeowners in your area at once? You need to be sure your carrier has the resources to match its coverage commitments. If your provider doesn’t have a strong rating, you may want to move on to a more stable, trustworthy provider.

5. Major life changes

Did you recently get married? Buy a car? Move to a new city or state? Major life changes should cause you to re-evaluate your insurance needs. For instance, it may benefit you to shop for a new carrier if you move to a new location, as rates can vary greatly.

Insurance rates are partly based on location, so you may be able to find a more affordable policy with a different provider. If you bought a new car, you may want to switch to a provider that allows you to bundle your home and auto policies for a discount. Whatever your major life change, consider re-evaluating your insurance.

Making it official

If you do decide to switch providers, the best time to leave your insurer is close to the end of your policy period to avoid cancellation fees. However, make sure you don’t leave your current insurer without having a new policy in place. Insurance providers frown on gaps in insurance coverage — and that prompts them to increase premiums. Be sure to maintain continuous coverage even when you’re switching.

If you are experiencing any of the scenarios listed above, or you’re just plain unsatisfied, then it’s time to switch providers. No one likes to go through a breakup, but sometimes a clean break is for the best. Don’t worry, there are plenty of other fish — or insurance providers — in the sea.