To calculate how much remodel you can afford, follow these four steps: Ballpark the cost, establish a spending limit, get quotes from contractors, and set your priorities.
When it comes to home improvements, knowing what you want is the easy part. The tougher question is figuring out how much you can afford.
Follow this four-step plan to arrive at the answer.
1. Ballpark the CostsFirst, get a handle on how much your remodeling dreams will cost. In general, major upgrades, such as a bathroom remodel or a family-room addition, run $100 to $200 and more per square foot. If you’ll be using a design pro or remodeling contractor, discuss your project with them to get a rough idea of costs.
2. Figure Out How Much You Have to SpendOnce you’ve zeroed in on a project, the next question is whether you have the money. If you’re paying cash, that’s easy to answer. But if you’re borrowing, you need to assess how much a bank will lend you and what that loan will add to your monthly expenses.
There are three basic types of loan options:
Because a HELOC is a line of credit rather than a lump-sum loan, it comes with a checkbook that you use to withdraw money as needed, up to the maximum amount of the loan.
The catch is that the minimum payment on a HELOC is just that month’s interest; you’re not required to pay back any principal. Like only paying the minimum due on a credit card, that’s a recipe for getting stuck in debt.
Instead, establish your own repayment schedule. You can do this by paying 1/60th of the principal (for a five-year pay down) or 1/120th (for 10 years) in addition to the monthly interest. If you can’t afford that much, then you should reconsider your project.
3. Get Quotes from ContractorsBefore seeking bids, determine exactly what you want, right down to the kitchen countertop material and the type of faucet. By specifying these details up front, you ensure that prospective contractors are all pricing the same items.
Get recommendations for at least three contractors from friends, neighbors, and other tradesmen who you trust. Give each one your project description and specific product lists and request an itemized bid. To find the right contractor:
Reality Check: Cost Overruns
Take the winning contractor’s bid and add a 15% to 20% contingency for the unforeseen problems and changes that occur on every project. Is the total still within your ability to pay? If so, you’re ready to get started. If not, it’s time to scale back your plans.
4. Set Priorities and Trim the Project to Fit Your BudgetDreams and budget not in alignment? Carefully scale down your dream — chances are you’ll end up satisfied and solvent. Enlist your contractor for suggestions on cutting costs — that way, he’ll be an ally in helping you stick to your budget.
Low-cost alternatives. For example, specify laminate countertops instead of granite.
Keeping older items that are still in working condition. Appliances, furnaces, and lighting fixtures can be upgraded later.
Making the project smaller. Trim that bathroom addition from 100 square feet to 80 square feet.
Buy it yourself. You’ll save up to 20% on your project costs if you buy materials and appliances yourself. Be sure to coordinate your BIY efforts with your contractor.
*Marks, Oliver (n.d.). Budget for a Remodel. Retrieved from, https://www.houselogic.com/remodel/remodeling-tips-advice/how-to-budget-for-home-remodel/.
Home Improvements: $100 or LessTip 1: Spend an hour with a pro.
Invite a Realtor or interior designer over to check out your home. Many Realtors will do this as a courtesy, but you will probably have to pay a consultation fee to a designer. Check with several designers in your area -- a standard hourly fee is normally less than $100.
In an hour, a professional can give you lots of ideas for needed improvements. Even small suggestions, such as paint colors or furniture placement, can go a long way toward improving the look and feel of your home.
Tip 2: Find inspiration.
Want an even cheaper alternative to a professional consultation? Search for remodeling and decorating inspiration in design-oriented magazines, books, TV shows and Web sites. Simply tear out or print off the ideas you want to try and start your to-do list. Keep it simple: when remodeling on a tight budget, do-it-yourself type projects are best.
Tip 3: Inspect it!
Not every home improvement is cosmetic. Hidden problems like deteriorating roofs, termite infestation or outdated electrical systems can negatively impact your home's value. Hire an inspector to check out the areas of your home that you don't normally see. Small problems, like a hidden water leak, can become expensive headaches if you put off repairs. A little investment now can save you loads of cash later.
Tip 4: Paint, paint, paint.
One of the simplest, most cost-effective improvements of all is a fresh coat of paint. Newly painted rooms look clean and updated -- and that spells value. Neutral paint colors appeal to the greatest number of people, therefore making your home more desirable. On average, a gallon of paint costs around $25, leaving you plenty of money to buy rollers, tape, drop cloths and brushes. So, buy a few gallons and get busy!
Tip 5: Cut energy costs.
If you think your utility bill is a fixed amount, call your local utility company to find out. Many energy providers offer free energy audits of their customers' homes. They can show you how to maximize the energy efficiency of your home. A power- and water-saving home will conserve your money now, and is more valuable in the long run. Plus, you can use the money you save for more updates!
Home Improvements: $100-$200Tip 1: Plant a tree.
Plan for the future with a landscaping improvement that will mature over time: a shade tree. Not only will a mature tree make your home more desirable, it will also provide a habitat for wildlife and add curb appeal. Plus, a properly placed tree can cut your cooling costs by as much as 40 percent. So why not grab a shovel already?
Tip 2: Low-maintenance landscaping saves you money now, adds value when you sell.
Shrubs and colorful plants will add curb appeal to your home, but make sure you "think green" while you're shopping at the local garden center. Purchase plants that are native to your region, or water-conserving drought-tolerant vegetation. These require less water and maintenance, which means you'll save time and have a little more green in your yard and your wallet.
Tip 3: Add a money-saving luxury.
Here's another way to tap into extra savings: install a water filtration system in your kitchen. Not only do these systems purify your water, you'll also save the money you were spending on bottled water. A water filtration system is an inexpensive addition, but it's the sort of small luxury that home buyers love.
Tip 4: Improve the air quality inside your home.
Air quality isn't just about outdoor conditions --older carpets can hide contaminates and allergens. Hire a professional company to test your indoor air quality to determine if your rugs need to be replaced. When choosing new flooring, update your home with environmentally-friendly natural products like tile or laminate floors. Hard surface floors are easier to keep clean, and are usually more appealing to buyers.
Tip 5: Save the popcorn for the movies.
Few structural elements date a house more than popcorn ceilings. So dedicate a weekend to ditching the dated look and adding dollar signs to the value of your home. First, visit your local hardware store for a solution to soften the texture. Then, simply scrape the popcorn away. It'll bring your house into the new millennium with minimal cost and effort.
Home Improvements: $200 to $400Tip 1: A messy lawn creates a bad first impression.
Overgrown or patchy lawns and oversized bushes will cause your home to stand out -- in a bad way. The good news? Taming your jungle is an easy fix. For a few hundred dollars, you can hire a lawn service company to trim your lawn and shape your hedges. Your home's curb yard will go from cluttered to clean-cut -- without blowing your budget.
Tip 2: Cleanliness counts.
You only get one shot at a first impression, so make the interior of your home shine from the entrance to the exit. For less than $400, you can hire a cleaning service for a thorough top-to-bottom scrubbing. Even if you clean your home regularly, you likely miss or overlook some nooks and crannies. Let a cleaning service do the dirty work to really make your home sparkle.
Tip 3: Visually increase your home's square footage.
The size of your home dramatically affects its value, but square footage isn't the only thing that counts. Make sure your home feels as large as possible by visually increasing the space in every room.
Sunny rooms feel larger and more open, so replace heavy drapes with blinds or shutters that let light in. Also, adding a large mirror in each room can visually double the space in a room. Finally, clear the clutter. For less than $400, add an attractive shelving unit to an underused space and store your clutter out of sight.
Tip 4: Add new energy-efficient fixtures.
A functional, decorative ceiling fan is a beautiful thing. But an outdated, wobbly, loud or broken fan is a useless eyesore. Replace old fixtures with new to make your home more enjoyable now -- and increase the bottom line should you decide to sell.
Tip 5: Small bathroom updates equal a big return.
Bathroom updates are always a smart move. Even if you can't afford a full remodel, small changes can update the room without bruising your bottom line. For a quick, inexpensive face lift, replace dated wallpaper or light fixtures with updated paint and lighting.
Home Improvements: $400 to $750Tip 1: Update your bathroom and add lots of value.
The two rooms that gain the most value from small renovation are the kitchen and bathroom. You can do a minor bathroom remodel for less than $750, and even one cost-effective change will guarantee a lot of bang for your buck. Replacing an outdated vanity, old plumping or lighting fixtures or adding a new tile floor will give your bath an updated, modern look -- without breaking the bank.
Tip 2: Any kitchen update equals added value.
The same rule applies in the kitchen. You don't have to start the room's design from scratch to maximize your home's value. Start by swapping out just one item, such as a stained sink or ancient microwave for shiny new stainless models. Even small kitchen updates will add big value to your home.
Tip 3: Replace any worn carpets or area rugs.
Take a look at your home's soft flooring. Are your carpets and area rugs stained or worn? Nothing turns buyers off more than the thought that they will immediately need to replace all of the flooring in a home. If a limited budget keeps you from replacing all the flooring, start by replacing the carpet in the room that shows the most wear and tear. You can replace the others as your finances allow.
Tip 4: Keep up with regular maintenance and repairs.
Walk around your home and make a list of all the small things that need to be repaired. Small repairs may not seem important by themselves, but little things can add up to create the impression that your home has been neglected. Don't feel comfortable tackling repairs yourself? Hire a handyman for a day and watch your "to-do" list disappear. Staying on top of maintenance today eliminates problems down the road should you decide to sell.
Tip 5: Get help with getting organized.
Hire a lifestyle coach for a day. How does that help your home? The coach will help you organize your life, which includes organizing your home. A clutter-free house is part of a more organized life, and an orderly home is more valuable.
Home Improvements: $750 to $1,000Tip 1: Go tankless.
Trade your standard water heater for a tankless model. Most old-fashioned water heaters keep 50 gallons of water hot at all times -- whether you use the water or not. Tankless water heaters heat only the water you need, as you need it. The eco-friendly water heater will save energy and money, and will help set you home apart if you sell.
Tip 2: Upgrade your appliances.
Eighty-six the old school appliances for sleek new energy-efficient ones. An appliance with an energy star label has been certified by the government to use 10 to 50 percent less energy and water than conventional appliances. Matching stainless appliances will not only look great now but will make your home shine brighter than the competition if it's on the market.
Tip 3: Go for the green.
Everyone loves a yard with thick, green grass. With less than $1,000 and a weekend's time, you can replace your existing patchy mix of weeds and grass with fresh new sod. You'll be amazed at the difference this one change will make in your home's curb appeal and value.
Home Improvements: $1,000 to $1,500Tip 1: Spruce up your ceilings.
The ceiling makes up one-sixth of a room's total area, yet is often the room's most neglected space. Updating your home's ceiling will add architectural interest, and net a lot of bang for your buck. If you still have popcorn ceilings, hire a contractor to scrape them smooth or do it yourself. To add a sophisticated custom look to a smooth ceiling, install crown moldings or box beams for a coffered look. Small touches like this will help your home stand out from the pack.
Tip 2: Update your home's entrance.
Your front door and entrance are among the first thing people see when they enter your home, so they should complement your home's overall design. If your existing door isn't up to par, pick up a more energy-efficient and attractive replacement. Whether you choose a solid wood door or a decorative entry with stained glass panels, a welcoming front door is sure to increase your home's bottom line.
Tip 3: Consult a design pro.
If you're unsure of which design style or paint color to use, hire a designer. They'll bring discriminating taste and a trained eye to help with making the big decisions. Even if you don't have the funds to do a full remodel now, they'll help you put together a cohesive plan to ensure a pulled-together finished look. When you get the right mix of time and money, you'll know exactly which project to tackle next.
Home Improvements: $1,500 to $2,000Tip 1: Save on air conditioning costs.
Tired of expensive energy bills? A whole house fan is a great alternative to air conditioning and uses one-tenth the electricity of AC. "Green" home improvements like the energy-saving fan are popular with today's home buyers. As the cost of electricity continues to rise, green energy alternatives will only gain popularity.
Tip 2: Brighten up.
A bright way to increase the value of your home is to add lighting. A well-lit room feels more cheerful, and makes spaces feel larger and cleaner. Bright rooms also show you have nothing to hide, so prospective buyers will feel at ease when touring your home.
Hire an electrician to add recessed lights to a dim kitchen or family room or elegant sconces to a formal dining or living room. You'll enjoy the lighting now, and your home will feel more welcoming to home buyers later.
Tip 3: Add the right landscaping and watch your home's value grow.
Landscaping makes a huge difference in the curb appeal of your home. For less than $2,000, hire a landscape designer to create a plan that will make your home's exterior really shine. For maximum impact, plant mature trees or fast growing varieties. Though these can be pricy, they will instantly make your home feel more established.
Home Improvements: $2,000 to $3,000Tip 1: Kitchen or bath remodels are always a safe bet.
Improving your home is a solid investment at any level -- but if you have two to three thousand dollars, a great place to start is by upgrading either the kitchen or bath. You don't have to do a complete floor-to-ceiling remodel in either room to reap financial benefits. In fact, modest kitchen or bath updates can be your best bet for a big return, netting an 80 to 85 percent return on average.
Tip 2: Protect your investment.
A home is the largest investment most people make, so treat it that way! Hire a financial planner to analyze all of the financing options that are available. A financial whiz can tell you if you should refinance to lower your monthly payments or pull out some equity to pay for value-adding improvements.
Tip 3: Bring the outdoors in.
Consider turning two standard windows into an opening for beautiful French or sliding glass doors. Full-view glass doors really brighten up the space and a light and airy room is always more attractive. Also, with a view of the outdoors, the room will feel much larger. Another bonus: modern doors are energy-efficient, cutting down on heating and cooling costs. That means more cash in your pocket now and a financial bonus should you decide to sell.
Home Improvements: $3,000 to $5,000Tip 1: Add closet or garage storage.
Realtors agree that ample storage space tops most home buyers' list of wants. For less than $5,000, consider upgrading your home's storage by adding custom shelving to a closet or garage. Then, get organized. Start by sorting your belongings, then stash them away in your new closet. You'll end up with a clutter-free space that maximizes your home's value.
Tip 2: Green flooring choices equal more green in your wallet.
Worn, tired carpet will not only turn off homebuyers, but it can make you feel worn and tired too. Replace it with the hottest trend in flooring: renewable, environmentally-friendly bamboo. Solid surface floors are easy to keep clean and give your home an upscale look and feel. "Green" flooring choices, like bamboo, minimally impact the environment and are a big selling point to today's environmentally-conscious home buyers.
Tip 3: Resurface concrete.
Replacing the cracked concrete surfaces around your home can cost a small fortune. But for a fraction of that cost, concrete can be resurfaced in a multitude of colors and finishes. Consider adding a cobblestone finish to your driveway, a brick look to an old walkway or a slate finish around the pool or patio. Whichever texture you choose, it will be a huge improvement over standard concrete -- and potential home buyers will take note.
Home Improvements: $5,000 and UpTip 1: Refresh the exterior paint.
The condition of your home's exterior is critical to the overall curb appeal. If you put your house on the market and the exterior paint looks bad, a buyer may assume the interior has been neglected as well.
Refreshing your facade with a coat of paint will preserve and protect your home's exterior siding, and the right paint color can transform a home from dull to dazzling. But remember to choose your color wisely -- a house painted with an overly bright or bland color will make a house less appealing and hurt the value.
Tip 2: Go solar to save some green.
Save energy bill greenbacks by going "green" with a solar water heater. The installed price is anywhere between two to five thousand dollars, but these systems can slash your hot water bills by as much as 80 percent. You'll also attract energy-conscious home buyers should you decide to sell. Install a solar water heater where there's unobstructed southern exposure and you'll have savings made in the shade.
Tip 3: Kitchen remodels are king.
Most experts agree that if you plan on updating only one room in your house, it should be the kitchen. Large, open kitchens have become the social hub of the modern home. High-end touches like granite countertops, custom cabinets and energy-efficient stainless steel appliances are the gold standard in modern kitchens. Experts agree that kitchen remodels return an average of 80 to 85 percent of every dollar spent. You can expect an even higher return if you are remodeling an extremely outdated kitchen.
*"Increase Your Home Value on Any Budget". (n.d.). Home and Garden Television. Retrieved from, https://www.hgtv.com/design/real-estate/increase-your-home-value-on-any-budget
With more and more areas struggling with droughts, conserving water is more important than ever. Even if you’re not living in a drought-stricken region, cutting back on water use also means a lower utility bill and helps conserve a precious resource.
Whether you’re ready to cut back on your showers or replace your lawn with water-wise plants, there are lots of big and small ways that you can conserve water around the home. Don’t worry if you can’t do everything on this list. Just pick a few things to start with, and do more as you can.
Even a few small changes can add up to hundreds of gallons in water savings each year! Here are 20 water-saving tips to get you going…
1. Shower Bucket. Instead of letting the water pour down the drain, stick a bucket under the faucet while you wait for your shower water to heat up. You can use the water for flushing the toilet or watering your plants.
2. Turn off the tap while brushing your teeth. Water comes out of the average faucet at 2.5 gallons per minute. Don’t let all that water go down the drain while you brush! Turn off the faucet after you wet your brush, and leave it off until it’s time to rinse.
3. Turn off the tap while washing your hands. Do you need the water to run while you’re scrubbing your hands? Save a few gallons of water and turn the faucet off after you wet your hands until you need to rinse.
4. If it’s yellow, let it mellow. This tip might not be for everyone, but the toilet is one of the most water-intensive fixtures in the house. Do you need to flush every time?
5. Fix your leaks. Whether you go DIY or hire a plumber, fixing leaky faucets can mean big water savings.
Water fact: The average American household uses 400 gallons of water per day!
6. Re-use your pasta cooking liquid. Instead of dumping that water down the drain, try draining your pasta water into a large pot. Once it cools, you can use it to water your plants. Just make sure you wait, because if you dump that boiling water on your plants, you might harm them.
7. Head to the car wash. If you feel compelled to wash your car, take it to a car wash that recycles the water, rather than washing at home with the hose.
8. Cut your showers short. Older shower heads can use as much as 5 gallons of water per minute. Speed things up in the shower for some serious water savings.
9. Choose efficient fixtures. Aerating your faucets, investing in a low-flow toilet, choosing efficient shower heads, and opting for a Water Sense rated dishwasher and washing machine can add up to big water savings.
10. Shrink your lawn. Even better: lose the lawn completely. Instead, opt for a xeriscaped landscape that incorporates water wise ground cover, succulents, and other plants that thrive in drought conditions.
Water fact: One in eight people worldwide does not have access to clean drinking water.
11. Don’t run the dishwasher or washing machine until it’s full. Those half-loads add up to gallons and gallons of wasted water.
12. Keep an eye on your bill to spot leaks. If your water bill spikes suddenly, there’s a good chance that a leak is the culprit. Call in a plumber to check your lines to save water and cash!
13. Install a rain barrel. Rainwater harvesting is a great way to keep your plants hydrated without turning on the hose or sprinkler.
14. Flush with less. Older toilets use a lot of water. You can reduce your usage by sinking a half gallon jug of water in the toilet tank. Do NOT use a brick, because it will break down and the sediment can damage your tank.
15. Water outdoor plants in the early morning. You’ll need less water, since cooler morning temperatures mean losing less water to evaporation. It’s not a great idea to water in the evenings, since this can promote mold growth.
Water fact: Scientists predict even more droughts in the future due to climate change. They also predict longer and more severe droughts.
16. Hand-washing a lot of dishes? Fill up your sink with water, instead of letting it run the whole time that you’re scrubbing.
17. Use less electricity. Power plants use thousands of gallons of water to cool. Do your part to conserve power, and you’re indirectly saving water, too!
18. Wash Fido outdoors. That way, you’re watering your yard while you’re cleaning your pup. Just make sure that the soap you’re using isn’t harmful to your plants!
19. Skip the shower from time to time. Do you really need to shower multiple times a day or even daily? Skipping even one shower a week adds up to big water savings.
20. Re-use grey water. Check to make sure that this is legal where you live, but in some areas you can do things like re-route the runoff from your clothes washer and use that water for things like flushing the toilet.
What are some ways that you guys save water around the home? Let’s keep the conservation going in the comments!
*Striepe, Becky. (n.d.). 20 Ways to Conserve Water at Home. Retrieved from, https://www.care2.com/greenliving/20-ways-to-conserve-water-at-home.html.
Switch your shower head
If yours is old it likely rates at 5.5 gallons per minute(gpm) or more. Newer ones can be as low as 1.5 gpm. Look for a model that's at least lower than 2.5 gpm. That's approximately 45 gallons of water saved per 15 minute shower. Think about all the hot water you're not having to heat.
Check your faucet aerators
Installing low-flow faucet aerators is the single most effective water conservation savings you can do for your home. Plus, they are cheap and easy to switch.
Speed up hot water
If you wait for more than 30 seconds for hot water at any faucet in your home, install a recirculation pump to stop wasting water. Some pumps can be installed by a savvy do-it-yourselfer, but if in doubt hire a licensed electrician. Consider this: 3 minute wait for hot water equals 7.5 gallons wasted times 2-times a day equals 15 gallons down the drain a day or over 5,000 gallons of wasted per year. You're paying for that! Check out three of our favorite pumps at www.grundfos.com, www.autocirc.com and www.wattspremier.com.
Swap the toilet
Some newer toilets don't just use less water, they have dual flushing systems to use less water for liquid waste and more for solid. Check out the Aquia™ Dual Flush Toilet at www.totousa.com for one of our favorites.
Pack the Dishwasher
You'll wash more dishes with less water in the dishwasher over hand washing. To be even more sensitive to the environment, consider using a reduced phosphate, or phosphate-free dishwasher detergent.
An in ground cistern plumbed directly to your irrigation system would be a dream, but also very expensive. Try augmenting your outdoor water supply by installing a rain barrel or two fitted to your downspouts. A favorite of ours is at www.gardeners.com.
Swap your bulbs
You've likely heard about compact fluorescent bulbs (CFLs) by now. We say don't switch just because, do it as your other bulbs burn out. And don't feel like you have to put them everywhere. You might still like an incandescent by the bed or a reading chair. Look to put CFLs in lights that stay on for longer periods of time. Studies have shown that flipping CFLs on and off shorten their life.
Clean filters and screens
Dirty air filters reduce the efficiency of your furnace, just as a dirty lint screen reduces the efficiency of your clothes dryer. Check furnace filters at least monthly, and clean your lint screen every time you use your dryer.
Add Ceiling Fans
They may not be able to cool or heat a room, but they do mix air keeping you from having to adjust the thermostat.
Don't heat and cool unnecessarily.
Many homes lose a great deal of their conditioned air to leaky and inefficient duct work before it reaches the intended destination. Have a licensed HVAC contractor check and fix any bad ducts.
Program Your Home
Switching to a digital thermostat will ensure a more accurate indoor temperature. A programmable thermostat that adjusts throughout the day will be more efficient. However, if you stay or work at home, opt for a simple non-programmable digital model. A few of our favorites can be found www.carrier.com and www.lennox.com. Check with your local HVAC contractor to find the best one for you.
Don't over condition one room to make another comfortable. Have a licensed HVAC contractor balance your system so that every room remains a relatively constant temperature. This may cost a bit, but you'll be paid back in not just energy saved, but comfort.
Just Good Ideas
Install a small recycling center in the kitchen, mud room, or garage to handle items that can be recycled. Don't take a bag when you only buy a couple of items at the grocery, and try to buy just what you need.
Have an energy audit
Not as painful as another type of audit. Visit hes.lbl.gov to conduct a self-directed energy audit. You'll get immediate and realistic information about what you can do to make your home more efficient. For more through, in person energy audit, check out www.hometuneup.com to see if there's an inspector near you. They can come in and check for air leaks, see what areas of your home may be under insulated, and recommend some quick fixes to lower your energy bills.
Planting trees and shrubs in a few choice locations on the south and west sides of your home can reduce your energy bill. Plus, studies have shown that a nice landscape helps raise property values.
You probably have antiques of some sort in your home. They are the ultimate example of reuse and recycle, but if you are building or renovating, try using reclaimed or rapidly renewing materials for your flooring, siding, and roofing.
Ban the bottle
Stop drinking water from a bottle. Get a favorite cup or bottle and add a water cooler or filter to your house. Our favorite bottle is from www.mysigg.com. For a water cooler, check out www.island sky.com for a new water machine that makes fresh, potable water from the humidity in the air. Not bad for the long, humid Southern summers.
Try reusable bags
The petroleum used to make 14 traditional plastic grocery bags is enough to drive a car a mile. The 380 billion plastic bags that Americans throw away each year are made from millions of barrels of petroleum, contributing to global warming, depleting oil supplies, and driving up costs of petroleum-based products like gasoline and energy for our homes.
Switch to reusable bags and reduce this waste. Also, reusable bags are generally larger than traditional plastic shopping bags making the grocery store trip just a little easier.
*Belden, Derick (n.d.). 21 Real Life Ways to Go Green. Retrieved from, https://www.southernliving.com/healthy-living/going-green/20-real-life-ways-go-green#reusable-grocery-sack.
Transform your space with these easy, practical ideas and see how small changes add up to big benefits for our planet.
Trash Matters - Recycle
In many neighborhoods, Green living begins just outside the front door with curbside recycling. Paper, plastic, and aluminum account for 85% of packaging materials, and each is recyclable. Aside from produce, most grocery items are packaged in containers made to be recycled. If your family plows through a pantry full of groceries every week like we do here, start recycling. You’ll be amazed at how much trash and precious resources you’ll save from going into landfills. When we began a voluntary recycling program, the news spread quickly, and from the inspiration of one kitchen, we’re now kicking off a pilot recycling program for our entire company!
Crack the code by checking with local recycling centers for a listing of what can and cannot be recycled in your neighborhood. Before you begin, simplify sorting by designating colored containers or bags for easy separation and collection.
The checkout line dilemma--paper or plastic? Neither is acceptable for environmentally savvy shoppers. Paper bags generate an extreme amount of air and water pollution during production, and plastic bags pose serious threats to wildlife because they do not decompose. The solution is simple: Choose reusable cloth bags made from lightweight canvas, nylon, or recycled cotton. Eco-bags, as they are often called, are durable, budget-friendly alternatives for transporting groceries. Bags can be purchased in most supermarkets, online, and at local farmer’s markets. Select those that compress easily for storage, and stash several in your car.
Choosing to reuse helps decrease our consumption of precious natural resources and minimizes the volume of nonbiodegradable materials in our landfills. By making the switch, our Test Kitchens Professionals prevent an estimated 312 bags each per year from ending up in public landfills.
Going Green, One Kitchen at a Time
Everywhere you turn, Green is the word. Grasping the basics begins by cutting our daily production of household waste. An average kitchen contributes more than 200 pounds of waste each year, making it the ideal place to reduce our environmental impact. Take the challenge, and go Green with the Southern LivingTest Kitchens as we reduce, reuse, and recycle our way into an eco-friendly kitchen.
3 Simple Steps:
Green Kitchen Guide
Going Green in the kitchen has never been so simple. With little effort, your small changes will add up to big benefits. Before you begin, consider starting a home composting program to help reduce food and yard waste.
Check out the links we’ve included to help you transform your kitchen and monitor your eco-impact. Visit www.thegreenguide.com and www.epa.gov/climatechange/emissions/ind_calculator.html. You’ll be amazed at the lasting impact made by one environmentally friendly kitchen!
Composting―Benefits Beyond the Kitchen
Three squares a day plus snacks create waste that adds up quickly, especially among larger families. It’s estimated that we could prevent 38% of our discarded food from going into landfills by composting. Use nature’s decomposition process to recycle raw food scraps and chemical-free yard clippings into rich organic soil. Take a load off your garbage disposal, and begin a home composting program that benefits the environment and your garden.
Getting started is easy. First, choose a kitchen and outdoor compost bin that’s right for you. In our Test Kitchens, we collect raw food scraps in ceramic crocks. We have found that lining the collection bins with biodegradable cellulose- or corn-based bags makes for a no-mess transfer to our outdoor compost bin. (The bags are available from www.cleanairgardening.com.) Next, it’s important to familiarize yourself with the type of food scraps that can and cannot be used in compost bins. As a general rule, all raw fruit and vegetable materials can be composted. Materials to avoid include meat-, fish-, and dairy-based foods as well as any food prepared with fats including oils, butter, dressings, and sauces.
Good Composting Materials: Fruit rinds and pulp, vegetable peels and stalks, nut shells, tea bags, coffee grinds and paper filters, crushed eggshells, grass clippings.
Check out these helpful resources for starting your own home composting program:
Follow the links below, and crack the recycling code:
Looking for reuseable cloth bags? Try one of these Web sites: www.reusablebags.com or www.cleangreenbags.com.
*Crowe PH.D, Kristi Michele (n.d.). Eco-Friendly Kitchen. Retrieved from, https://www.southernliving.com/healthy-living/going-green/eco-friendly-kitchen.
This will convince you to finally spring for that farmhouse sink.
Even though the last episode of Fixer Upper has already aired, the influence of Joanna Gaines's signature modern farmhouse style shows no signs of stopping. If you've considered adding shiplap to your kitchen walls or debated installing a farmhouse sink any time in the past few years, the HGTV stars probably had something to do with it. And now a new report from RealEstate.com is giving us another reason to want to add farmhouse touches to our homes: It may actually boost it's sale price.
According to the report, which analyzed 1.9 million home sales between 2016 and 2017, home listings that included traditional farmhouse-inspired details tended to sell for higher prices. The report looked particularly at entry-level homes (or those in the lower-third value tier), and found that certain key terms did correlate with higher premiums. While "solar panels" correlated with the highest sales premium for entry-level homes, after energy concerns, buyers were all about Joanna Gaines-inspired style. Listings with the term "craftsman" saw an average 34 percent sales premium, "coffered ceiling" and "clawfoot tub" both saw 29 percent, while "farmhouse sink," "wainscot," and "exposed beams" all saw 26 percent premiums. Listings that mentioned "barn door" and "butcher block" also saw higher sales prices.
Clearly, entry-level home buyers are gravitating towards the modern farmhouse aesthetic—and we have a feeling Fixer Upper has something to do with it. After bingeing five seasons of the show, it's no surprise that the appeal of wood paneling and exposed wood beams is rubbing off on home decor trends. And now we know that besides being one of the most popular looks of the moment, you could even make some money off of it if you plan to sell your home soon. Like all trends, this look won't last forever, but if you were searching for an excuse to finally splurge on that farmhouse sink, well, you just found it.
*Holdefehr, Katie (n.d.). How the "Joanna Gaines Real Estate Effect" Could Help You Sell Your Home for More. Retrieved from, https://www.southernliving.com/syndication/joanna-gaines-real-estate-prices
You know the material and style you want, but make sure you consider how the new flooring will fit in your space—literally.
One of the most prioritized, and often most expensive, elements to update in a home is the flooring. Floors are given a lot of decor responsibility, from designating the purpose of each room to defining different living spaces within a larger room, to creating an overarching, cohesive design aesthetic in a house.
Flooring trends certainly come and go—shag carpeting and linoleum tile anyone?—so it’s likely that you will take on a flooring project at least once or twice in your home-owner lifetime. If you’re currently planning a renovation, you might be tempted by the newest take on light stained hardwood floors, or the newly popular light gray shade of hardwoods. Or perhaps the colorful, patterned Moroccan floor tiles that have grown in popularity over the last few years have caught your eye.
Because there’s so much to consider when choosing a flooring material—from the price to the durability of the material, not to mention the style—it can be easy to overlook one of the most important practical elements of your choice: Will it fit in the space where you’re planning to install it? And we don’t mean the square footage, though that’s obviously important. When the new floor is installed, will the doors still have enough height clearance to open and close without scraping anything? If you are redoing the floor of one room, and not the adjacent rooms, will there be a height difference between the two floors?
Floors are unique in that you don’t always need to fully remove the existing floor before installing a new one, so it’s possible you won’t be starting from scratch. (Just think about how many times Chip and Joanna Gaines have confidently pulled up dated carpet and found original hardwoods in one of their fixer-uppers.) And since every home and its history of past floors is different, height is not really something flooring manufacturers can standardize or advertise in a way that will be meaningful to every homeowner.
It’s important to consider what your existing floor height is (not only the distance to the subfloor but also in comparison to any adjacent rooms, your baseboards, and doors) and get a good idea of the condition of every layer before you make any decisions about new flooring. If you’re working with a contractor, they should advise you on this and the materials you’ve chosen, but it could be ignored in the interest of saving time and money, so make sure you raise this concern if your contractor does not.
If you don’t take the proper precautions and the new flooring you install is a significantly different height, it’s likely you’ll end up with a tripping hazard in a doorway or baseboards that have to be reinstalled, both of which would be frustrating realizations to come to after all the hard work has been done. It might be the least of your concerns when you’re first researching and shopping for floors, but don’t make the mistake of writing off the vertical specs of that tile before clicking “add to cart.”
*Burch, Maggie (n.d.). The One Thing I Wish I Knew Before Picking New Flooring. Retrieved from, https://www.southernliving.com/home/remodel/installing-new-floors-height-clearance.
There’s literally no room for error in tiny cooking spaces…
Petite kitchens definitely have their perks: they clean up quick, and you have everything you need within arms reach. You won’t feel like you've sprinted all over an industrial restaurant-style kitchen after preparing one bowl of scrambled eggs. There’s also a reason folks build out gigantic, sprawling kitchens when the opportunity presents itself. But fear not, even in the tiniest of cooking zones, there can be a space for everything. Here are a few things to ditch to make room for the real necessities.
The Silverware Drawer
. Hear us out. I wrote recently about how taking my silverware out of the drawer and putting it onto the counter made all the difference in my ONE drawer kitchen. Now unwieldy kitchen gadgets can live in the drawer, and my silverware is tidily organized on the counter in pencil holders. (Inexpensive, too!)
Paper Towels on the Counter
Now that you’ve got silverware on the counter, it might be time to rethink paper towels on the counter. For families that use them frequently and in large quantities, their place on the counter may be priority. But if you don’t use many, consider a behind-the-door or under-the-counter holder to save on prep space.
Superfluous, Incredibly Niche, Single-Task Gadgets
Why do I have an avocado cuber, an avocado knife, and an avocado spoon? I eat maybe one avocado a week. A butter knife works just fine. Another example: those tiny pans made for one egg. Maybe a bit redundant if you ask me.
Major Clutter Culprits: Mugs and Tupperware
Mugs make for qiuppy, cute, and useful gifts. And while I appreciate them, and would love to actually use all of them, there are about two I stick with. They tend to not stack well, and simply take up a lot of unnecessary room. And Tupperware? We’re all familiar with the cabinet of misfit plastic containers. Toss any pieces that seem to be permanently separated from their lid or vice-versa.
Multiple measuring spoons.
I have a spoon that is adjustable from a teaspoon to a tablespoon. And boy oh boy. Is it a game changer when you only have ONE kitchen drawer. This is a must have for tiny kitchens. Ditch the bulky, multi-piece sets. Every square inch of space counts after all.
With a just a little rearranging, smart organization, and clever swaps, a tiny kitchen can be just as organized as any kitchen with endless cabinets and prep space.
Tell us: what are your favorite ways to work around tiny drawers and minimal cabinet space?
*Owen, Katherine (n.d.). 5 Things To Get Ride of in a Small Kitchen. Retrieved from, https://www.southernliving.com/home/organization/things-to-get-rid-of-small-kitchen.
It’s officially summer, which means it’s time to take your living outside, and spend as many days enjoying your outdoor space as possible. It’s also the perfect time to give your outdoor area an upgrade—whether it’s a porch, patio, or terrace. Living in the South, we’re lucky to enjoy moderate temperatures that allow almost year-round use of those outdoor living areas, so these are updates you’ll enjoy for many months to come. We’ve rounded up 5 easy ideas to update your outdoor space this season that’ll make a big impact without breaking the bank.
Get Creative With Your PlantersShop the Dollar Store for any kind of plastic containers you’d like to turn into a planter, no matter the color. Think: large storage baskets, beach buckets, even trash cans. Then spray paint your plastic planters with whatever color strikes your fancy—whether you’re trying to emulate terra cotta, gray stone, or just want them to coordinate with the rest of your decor, there’s a spray paint shade out there for you.
Cover Your CushionsIf you already have a full set of cushions and pillows for your outdoor furniture, but would like to refresh the colors and patterns, you don’t need to start from scratch. Wayfair, Ikea, and even H&M Home have plenty of cushion and pillow cover options at prices that’ll make you want to redo your deck every year.
Look UpIf you have a covered deck area or porch, utilize the vertical space if you aren’t already. Install hanging planters, drape bistro lights across the ceiling (or create a ceiling with string lights if one isn’t already there), or even hang outdoor curtains to make your outdoor space feel more like a living room.
Now Look DownJust as they do indoors, rugs can have a big impact on your outdoor living area, so even if that’s the only change you make this summer, your space will feel distinctly different. Because of the materials they’re made out of, outdoor rugs are often much cheaper than those made for indoors. But if you’re looking for an even more budget-friendly idea or can’t find a rug you like, DIY your own! You can brush or spray paint a border or other patterns on a plain rug to make a bold statement in your space.
Add LightSometimes all a space needs is an ambiance refresh. Depending on how exposed your outdoor space is, you can get really creative with the lighting sources. We already mentioned hanging pretty string lights, but we’re also big fans of oversized lanterns and stone hurricanes for candles, which always provide the best lighting for evening gatherings. If your porch is covered, you could even bring a couple table lamps outside.
*Burch, Maggie (n.d.). 5 Easy and Affordable Upgrades You Can Make to Your Outdoor Space This Summer. Retrieved from, https://www.southernliving.com/home/porch/summer-outdoor-space-updates
Green is in! Environmentally conscious buildings reduce their carbon footprint and lower the greenhouse gas emissions that have been tied to global warming. Not only that, but these homes also result in reduced energy use, which lowers your energy costs. Green building is also very popular — especially with millennials — and that demand can potentially raise the resale value of your house when the time comes to sell it.
If you aren’t currently in a green home, you can still make your home as green as possible. Most homeowners upgrade every now and then. Just make a plan so your annual upgrades are eco-friendly. Here are eight ideas.
1. Use Reclaimed Wood for Remodeling and New BuildingRe-purposing is one of the key tenets of eco-friendly building. Cutting down additional forests contributes to global warming. Trees do a great deal to recycle air and reduce pollution, as well. Not only that but tear-downs and remodeled homes often have reclaimed wood available.
So, if you’re planning a new addition, or remodeling your kitchen countertops, consider doing it with reclaimed wood. It’s a great design choice, too!
2. Consider Pre-Owned ItemsOn the reclamation and re-purposing front, purchasing pre-owned, rather than new home additions, is another great way to do that. While we often think of “eco-friendly” as being energy-related, it also concerns holding off on ordering brand-new, virgin materials unless absolutely necessary.
Thinking of new kitchen furniture or a new sofa? Check out local thrift shops or Habitat for Humanity stores. They often have gently used merchandise that looks good and wears well.
3. Buy an Energy-Efficient Garage DoorGarage doors often get left out of the eco-friendly discussion. They shouldn’t! Garage doors need to be replaced every 15 to 20 years, on average. They’re the largest moving part in most homes. Their ability to create energy efficiency that leaves heat in and cold out is therefore very significant in regulating the temperature inside your home and reducing your energy expenditure.
Many doors also use re-purposed natural resources. Recycled steel is often used, for example, which reduces the amount of material that would otherwise end up in a landfill.
4. Install Larger, More Energy-Efficient WindowsEco-friendly homes heat as much as possible with the sun. The more sunshine you have streaming into your house, the less you’ll need to burn fossil fuels for energy. One great method for getting sun in your house is larger windows. South-facing exposure is best, but larger windows on all sides will contribute to using a natural source for heat and light.
Then, when you purchase the windows, make sure they have the most energy-efficient sealing and insulation possible.
5. Maximize Your Air FlowAir flow causes at least 20 percent of your home’s heating and cooling energy to escape. If it’s cold outside, heat can escape through doors, basement walls, and windows. And if it’s hot outside, cool air can dissipate through attics, doors, and windows. Energy can also leave through ducts or around electrical switches.
Make a thorough inspection of possible air flow leaks. Fixing some may require caulking or other materials to impede the drafts under doors or weather seals.
6. Make Your Yard Eco-FriendlyThe maintenance of lawns and gardens is not necessarily environmentally friendly. If you live in a hot climate and have a rose garden and a vibrant green lawn, for example, you may be overusing water. Water is a precious natural resource in short supply in many areas of the country. Lawns and gardens also use pesticides, which use chemicals that can be toxic to some plants and wildlife, like squirrels and deer, plus garden pollinators like birds and bees.
Consider planting your yard with wildflowers native to your area. They require a minimal amount of water and upkeep and are beautiful and vibrant.
7. Catch Rainwater for Your Lawn and GardenAlthough you should strive to make your lawn and garden use as little water as possible, most yards need at least some. Catching rainwater is a perfectly eco-friendly method to obtain what you need.
You can purchase a rainwater barrel at most home and garden stores, or simply use an existing barrel. Harvesting water is simple: You leave the barrel out when rain is forecast. Then, you use it to water your garden and lawn. One word of caution: Standing water can be a breeding ground for mosquitoes, which can be a health hazard. Use it up as quickly as possible, and keep it covered when you can.
8. Install a Solar Hot Water HeaterLike garage doors, hot water heaters need to be replaced every 10 to 15 years. If this year is a replacement year, consider a solar hot water heater. They save on energy and add considerably to the resale value of your home. They’re easier to install than other eco-friendly moves, such as solar roof panels, because they simply pump solar-heated water.
The U.S. Department of Energy estimates that a solar hot water heater will save 50 to 80 percent of the cost to heat your water.
Eco-friendly upgrades like these eight will lower your carbon footprint and your bills, and increase the eventual resale value of your home. Best of all, they are incremental projects and not major renovations. You can continue to enjoy your home while it becomes better and better for the environment.
*Wild, Megan (Feb. 15, 2017). 8 Eco-Friendly Home Upgrades To Make This Year. Retrieved from, https://www.homes.com/blog/2017/02/8-eco-friendly-home-upgrades-make-year/.