smart home improvement ideas
  • #1. Smart Home Improvement Ideas

How to Plan Ahead for Your Projects

When it comes to home improvement, unless you plan ahead for your projects, you could get into a whole lot of trouble. Whether the project is large or small, you will need to think it through and then plan ahead for it to run smoothly.

When thinking ahead, you need to consider what your future needs might be. You may think that extra bathroom space would be better used as an office, but when the children reach their teenage years, an extra bathroom may save your sanity.

Also you need to think about how the project will change the traffic flow or other features in your home. If sunlight shining through your kitchen window is a feature you love, then realise that a new room or deck just outside it will prevent the sun reaching that area. An extra room will also decrease your yard space.

If you are doing the project yourself, make sure you have the time to finish it within a reasonable period of time. If you are hiring professionals, make sure they are licensed and insured, and get word of mouth approvals of their work ethic.

If you do some of the work yourself, make sure your hired pro can start when you want him to. A contract with clear outlines of work to be completed, materials to be used, time and costs, is an absolute necessity.

  • Permits

Permits may be necessary for larger projects, especially additions or structural changes. This can take some time, so be sure and start early. You also need to plan to fit the work in with your own future plans. If you’ve been planning a month overseas, just before you leave is not the best time for your project to get started. If you need some peace and quiet to finish a course of study, then wait until you’re done before you allow the sound of hammers and saws to invade your space.

  • The workmen

The workmen will need to park their vans and vehicles in a place that is easy for them to access their tools. It’s not a good idea to carry out extensive gardening right before your home improvement project. Heavy boots could flatten it quickly. A few friendly rules for the workers will help save any existing gardens, and make sure your own vehicle is kept free for use.

Try not to get carried away with expensive fittings. Costs usually overrun to some extent with any project.

Good quality fittings – as opposed to gold-plated faucets will be more than adequate and help keep the budget costs under control On the subject of faucets, if you plan to spend your later years in that house, go for ergonomic ones especially for arthritis sufferers. Even if you do sell, that can be a good selling point.

  • #2. Smart Home Improvement Ideas

How to Install Crown Molding and Baseboards

Crown molding is the finish that closes any gaps between the ceiling and the wall. Baseboards do the same work between wall and floor. Both are necessary to give your room that finished look, rather like icing on a cake.

The right kind of crown molding can enhance your room beautifully, but the wrong type can look odd and be overwhelming. You have to choose the type of molding that goes with the style of your home.

The main difference is in the width. Ranch-style homes or plain homes will look better with somewhat narrower moldings than ornate homes or mansions. However, a plain home can be made to look more luxurious with the addition of moldings and baseboards that are wider or deeper.

If you are a reasonable handyperson, you will be able to install these moldings yourself, thus cutting costs. However, the degree of difficulty is reasonable, so if you are a learner, it may be best to leave it to an expert.

Moldings and baseboards are sold in lengths of 8,10 and 12 feet, so you’ll need to measure how much you want before buying. Always get a little more than you think you need to allow for the miter corner cuts and joining.

Prime and paint the pieces before you put them up and that will save a lot of effort, especially with the crown molding. Do both sides to seal them. You may need to touch them up once they are installed, but that will take a lot less effort than painting the whole length. Place the pieces across a couple of sawhorses to paint them.

A good rule to remember is to measure twice and cut once. In other words, double check your measurements, then cut with a miter saw. It probably won’t be a perfect cut, but you can fill any gaps in with joint-filler.

Cut and install as you go, nailing the molding in place and countersink the nails. If there are any gaps, fill them in with a bead of caulking. Cover the holes where the nails are with wood filler compound and when it’s dry paint over the spots with a small brush.

If this is the first time you’ve cut crown moldings, you will need to practice on scraps. You may be able to find scraps of molding at a building site or get some from a friendly carpenter, otherwise buy a bit extra for practice.

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  • #3. Smart Home Improvement Ideas

How to Lay Hardwood or Laminate Floors

Changing flooring from a tatty old carpet to a new hardwood or laminate flooring is one thing that will accentuate the wow factor in any home. Not only will it radically improve the looks of the room, it may improve the health of the occupants, since wooden flooring is recommended for those who suffer from allergies.

The difference between hardwood and laminate flooring is that the laminate is a thin veneer of wood welded to a particleboard base. Being so thin, it cannot be sanded back and re-stained several times like hardwood flooring, therefore it will not last as long.

Hardwood may also be layered with veneer, but the base is also hardwood, just not quite as good a quality as the top layer. It lasts for ages.

So what’s the first thing to do, apart from measuring and ordering? Pull up your old carpet, then clean away the accumulated dirt and dust from underneath it. Mask and goggles will be needed to do this job, later on you may need kneepads.

Any other floor surface, e.g. linoleum, can be left in place just so long as it is firm and smooth. Regardless of what type of floor you are laying, you should always use a vapor barrier.

As with tiles, allow an extra 10 % when ordering your flooring, this will allow for any cracks, wrong measuring or the offset that you may have forgotten to factor in.

Apart from the flooring, you’ll need glue, spacers (1/4 inch blocks you can make yourself) and underlay. The underlay will provide insulation for heating and sound. The spacers need to go right around the edges of the room to keep the flooring from butting right up against the wall. The flooring will need 48 hours to acclimatize in the building where it is to be installed.

After the carpet has gone, remove the baseboard and door trims. Lay out the first row of boards without the glue to check on the alignment, placing the grooved side to the wall. Don’t forget to use the spacers as you go. If the length of the boards needs adjusting, they can be cut with a handsaw or an electric one. When you come to the final board, turn it around the other way to mark it for cutting, unless you are lucky enough to have it fit in at full width.

Ready to glue? Remove all the boards you just laid except for the first one. Apply glue to the end and re-lay the boards. Wipe off any excess glue while it’s still wet. That’s the first row done. From now on you have to glue the long sides as well as the ends. To protect your boards, use a block of wood between boards and hammer when gently tapping into place. Do just one board at a time. Some floating flooring can be clipped together.

Once the glue is set, the spacers may be removed and the baseboard and door trims replaced. Always allow proper ventilation when using glue of any kind.

  • #4. Smart Home Improvement Ideas

How to Lay Tiles

Just as in painting and wallpapering, the preparation for tiling is of extreme importance. Any grease, oil or wax must be removed, or adhesive tiles will not stick. All high points must be sanded or planed down and the base should be smooth. Loose floorboards should be nailed down, but if the floor is in bad condition, it may be necessary to lay a new base. You may wish to do this anyway for a more professional finish.

Cement panels that are 3 ft by 5ft by ¼ inch thick are what to use. They should be screwed down every 6 inches. Before laying the panels building codes in most areas call for a ¼ inch notched trowel mud base of “thin set” mortar. The panels should be laid in staggered fashion so there are not four corners together.

Measuring the floor to get the centerline is crucial. Use chalk string so you can flip it down for a good mark. Ignore offset shapes in the floor outline. To check you have the true center, where the lines cross, measure 3 inches along one line and 4 inches along the line that is at a 90-degree angle to it. Then measure from the end of one line, across to the end of the other one and it should be 5 inches. If it is not, check your measurements again.

Once you are satisfied that you have the true center line, lay tiles along it each way without cement. In this way you can see whether the gap between the last tile and the wall is too narrow. It is very difficult to cut tiles that narrow, so save yourself some frustration and move the parallel line back by half a tile or about 4 ½ inches. Remember to re-mark it.

When it’s time to lay the tiles properly, use them from each box in turn, then if there is a color variation, it won’t be so noticeable. Always order about 10% more tiles than you need to allow for breakages and cracks and to keep some for future repairs. Work out the pattern your tiles must be laid in before applying the tile cement to the floor. Only do one fourth of the floor at a time or else the cement may be dry out too quickly. Leave it until it is a little tacky, but not enough to stick to your finger. It should take about 15 minutes.

The first tile you lay should be at the center of the room and be exactly level with both lines. Otherwise, the whole floor design will be uneven. When you come to the last row, place a loose tile butted up to the wall and over the gap that is left, onto the last tile laid. In this way you can mark where to cut it. Measure each row separately to allow for any minute variations.

To fit tiles around pipes, use a paper pattern and lay it on the tile, marking with a pencil. Then cut with scissors. Remember you must not wash the floor for a week after laying tiles.

  • #5. Smart Home Improvement Ideas

How to Install Shelves

With all the hardware that the new mega hardware and other stores sell, many home improvements are very easy to do and installing shelves is one of them. You can get the type that has a steel track with slots for steel brackets to fit into, then it is a cinch to screw or clip your laminate boards to the brackets. The job can be done in very little time.

First you must decide where the shelves are to go. A stud-finder will help you find the studs to anchor your steel track to, otherwise use appropriate wall anchors or butterfly bolts. These metal bolts have steel wings on each side that expand when they are in the wall. But be sure you put them in the right place; you can never take them out. You can also use self-tapping drywall anchors that don’t need to be pre-drilled. Lead anchors need to be used for cinderblock walls.

Wall-fixed shelving is a great space–saver, but make sure no one will bump their heads on the bottom shelf. Once you’ve decided on the spot, measure down from the ceiling to where you want your top shelf. Measure the distance between the tracks and make sure it is level and even. Allow about a 4-8-inch overhang for the shelves so that the edges are not right on the brackets.

Place each track on your mark and push a pencil through the open holes that are meant for the anchors, marking their position on the wall. Use a drill and screwdriver to insert the anchors and then when you’ve checked the level again, hold the track in place and insert the screws into the anchors. Do the same for the second track.

Once the tracks are up, all you need to do is tap the brackets on so that the clips hold them. Then lay the particleboard or laminate shelves across the brackets. There should be clips or fixtures to hold them in place. Voila! Your new shelving is ready to hold your books, ornaments or whatever bric-a-brac that you desire.

There are other kinds of shelf, like the single shelf with Wall Plate and wooden, triangle brackets. The steps are basically the same in that you attach the Wall Plate to the wall, then the triangle wooden bracket and finally, the shelf. It is important to keep the drill level and even when you are drilling the holes, or it will ruin the level of the finished item.

  • #6. Smart Home Improvement Ideas

Ideas for Upgrading Your Kitchen

There are many things you can do to upgrade your kitchen. We have discussed things like painting and changing the cupboards in other articles. How about something a little different? What about the counter-tops? Those shiny-topped counters look great in showrooms, but remember they are like a mirror and will show every crumb and fingerprint twice over.

Instead, go for laminate, matt finished countertops for ease of cleaning and durability. Tiles might look nice, but the grout will stain, so give it a miss. If you entertain or cook a lot, lots of counter space is necessary, so you may be able to find a spot where you can add more. If you can afford it, granite is the way to go. Granite countertops are sure to give that wow factor a huge boost.

Another great idea for the kitchen is a range hood over the stove. Not only will it look fantastic, it will keep the kitchen cleaner by taking out all the steam and greasy particles that float in the air – and land eventually on the top of your cupboards. A dishwasher will also be a great way to upgrade. It will also upgrade your quality of life – but follow the new trend to have it installed a little higher to save you bending. And talking about quality of life, if you haven’t yet used a wall-oven, that’s the next best thing to install. It will save your back a lot of wear and tear bending down with that heavy baking dish.

Of course, it you put in a wall oven, you’ll want a new cook top too. Is there enough room to install it in an island? Being able to access the cook top from every side is very convenient. You may also get extra storage space with it. Another way to make your kitchen look great would be to install a pantry, if you don’t have one already. If you do, consider replacing the doors. If space is at a premium, you may be able to fit sliding doors to it.

New faucets that are especially for arthritics will enhance your kitchen even if you don’t have arthritis. They are still easier to turn on than other faucets and they look great. While you’re about it, a new back splash will go a long way to improving the overall look. You’ll still need a sink even with that new dishwasher.

If you decide to get built-in cupboards, go for the type with big drawers rather than doors. You get much more use of the available space due to the tier effect.

These simple ideas to upgrade your kitchen don’t cost heaps but will make your kitchen one to be proud of.

  • #7. Smart Home Improvement Ideas

Tips for Planning an Addition to Your Home

It’s exciting to think about having an addition to your home. At last there will be room to entertain, or the children can have a bedroom each and stop squabbling. Or maybe you are going to build another bathroom.
Your home is the single biggest investment that you are likely to make and an addition will add value to it. But it’s important to plan carefully for your addition. You need to sit down and cost it out. To do this you will need quotes from a builder, but don’t forget the plumber, plasterer and electrician, if these are needed.

Don’t get quotes from just one person or firm. It’s wise to try at least three because it may save you lots of money. But don’t necessarily go for cheap. Make sure you get someone reliable and honest who is a good tradesman. When you are at the costing stage, decide what work, if any, you will be able to do yourself. Be realistic and remember what other things you may have to accomplish in that time frame.

If you use a General Contractor, he will handle all the paperwork like permits as well as organize for other tradesmen that are needed. If you hate handling these sorts of details, he is the one for you. Make sure he is not operating outside the law, though. Two things that should put you on guard are if a builder solicits work door to door or if he ‘just happens’ to have materials left over from the last job. Other things that can alert you to possible fraud are: he may want to be paid in cash only; he prefers you to see to the permits; asks for payment upfront or is not listed in the phone book as a business.

Having chosen your builder or tradesman, always be sure you get a written contract that states clearly what you want done, what the time-frame should be, the type of materials used and the amount and method of payment. To get this you need to make it clear exactly what you want done. If there is something in the contract that you don’t expect or like, query it; don’t sign it.

If you need to get a loan to pay for your addition, make sure that is all done before you sign any contract with the builder. The other way around this is to have a clause added that the work is only to be done once the loan is approved. Shop around for financing to get the best interest rates and terms.

  • #8. Smart Home Improvement Ideas

Tips for Finishing a Basement

If there is one under-utilized space in most homes it is the basement. Why? Because it is dank, dark, full of nasty but essential things like pumps, boilers, electrical wires and ductwork. Plus we use it for storing all the junk we don’t want but can’t bear to get rid of. But with a little – okay a lot, of planning it can be turned into an attractive and useful room. Just think about it; here is the perfect addition to your house already complete with walls, floor and ceiling. It’s even insulated by Mother Earth. What more could you want?

Start dreaming and planning. There are experts in this field who will be able to help you maximize your available space and hide those unsightly pumps and things behind designer cupboards. You won’t even think about this being the service area of the house once it’s all done. You could have a spare guest room, a game room for the teens, an office or study or a combination of all – along with a built–in bar if you want one.

Many basements have a problem with moisture. If yours seems damp, tape a sheet of plastic to one of the walls. If water forms on the front of the plastic, the dampness is caused by condensation. If after a few days there is moisture on the back of the plastic, then it’s due to leakage coming through the walls from the outside.

Moisture problems must be treated before anything else is done, or else all will be spoiled. An expert will know what to do about it – you might be surprised how easily it can be fixed. It could be a simple matter of rerouting a downpipe.

Once the moisture problem is solved, you will be able to attend to other necessary areas like framing the walls, laying a suitable floor and disguising those things that cannot be moved. Even though you have earthen insulation outside, you’ll still need insulation in the walls for warmth. It is usually cool in the basement in summer, but in the winter it will be colder. You will need heating, lighting and ventilation.

A good hint for the drywall process is to lay rosin paper on the floor to catch all the excess, and then it is a simple matter to roll the paper up along with the waste and dispose of it. Sure beats scraping it up afterwards. One thing to remember is that you will still need permits and inspections to see that all is done in a safe manner and according to law. But once the experts have done all the hard work, you can get in there and show off all your handyman skills.

  • #9. Smart Home Improvement Ideas

Tips for Converting an Attic

If you are lucky enough to have a home with an attic, this could be the ideal place to convert to gain that extra room you’ve dreamed of having. After all, it already has walls, floor and ceiling, so that is more than half the cost of building an addition, right? Certainly, an attic does have all the components of a basic room, but there are some unique – and maybe costly – problems with converting an attic.

Although you have the basic structure, the walls are low and the roof sloping, so unless you want to be bumping your head all the time, something will have to be done about that. You will need to have the walls extended vertically, which means the roof will have to be lifted. Even if you decide to leave that part as it is and simply sacrifice floor space to get your height, there are other considerations. The flooring may need to be strengthened. Most attics have substandard flooring support because they are not meant for living areas.

Insulation is another problem. Being right at the top of the house will make your attic very hot and very cold, depending on the season, so insulation is of prime importance. You may also need insulation in the floor. Roof or dormer windows may need to be installed; you don’t really want to depend on artificial light day and night. Extra vents will be needed to make sure there is enough ventilation – both in and out.

Wiring for electricity will have to be run to service the room or rooms created. This can be costly unless it is done at the same time the house is being built. You may also need plumbing, depending on what the rooms are for.

Another consideration is access. If the rooms are going to be used often, you may need something easier to negotiate than a ladder or steep stairway. At the very least a handrail (or two) will make it safer. These jobs are better left to the expert – preferably one who has had experience with converting attics. But that doesn’t mean you will have nothing to do

Painting is the same whether upstairs of down and that is something anyone can do – well, almost anyone. Once the main alterations are done, you could install the moldings yourself and lay the carpet or other flooring. You can fix shelves and light fixtures and of course decide on the furnishings. If you are building a house and think you could make use of the attic in the future, have all of the above details seen to at the time of building to save your costs later on. It will even pay to have the internal cladding stored up there while there is room to get it up.

  • #10. Smart Home Improvement Ideas

When Should You Hire an Expert?

You have planned your renovations down to the last detail and know how everything is going to look, but you hope to do these things yourself to save money. You don’t really need that expert – or do you? There are some times that an expert may be necessary.

If you are extremely busy and will have to burn the midnight oil to complete your renovations, consider hiring an expert. It will save you lots of effort and the frustration of trying to do too many things at once. You will burn out, or your wife may divorce you.

When the job is something you have no expertise with, it makes sense to call in the pros. Sure, it looks simple and you can get lots of great advice from your local handyman’s store, but you just might make a mistake that will cost you more than the project is worth. Or you might complete the job only to find it looks really amateurish. An expert can save you money with professional advice and expertise.

An expert is necessary when plumbing, electricity or structural alterations are involved. It is against the law to touch many of these areas if you are not a qualified tradesman. A jail term or large fine is not what you are looking for, right? Not to mention making a mess of things, then having to pay the pro twice as much to fix it.

Read up on the rules regarding simpler renovations that you really do know enough about to complete satisfactorily. For instance, does that paintwork really need washing down, or sanding back? How many coats does it need? And how long should the drying time be between each coat? Is it even the right paint for the area?

When hiring an expert, it will pay to get quotes from at least three before you decide whom to hire. Don’t be afraid to ask around for advice regarding the reputation of the company or person. Is he a slow worker or likely to take days off without notice? Are there any complaints on file about the company? Is their work done properly or is it shoddy? If you can’t get any feedback from family or friends, check with the local better business bureau. Also, your hardware store may be able to advise you on a trustworthy pro.

Local firms are often the best to work with. Larger companies may be further away and when they leave, it’s hard to get them back to complete anything left undone. Local companies rely on local people to hire them, so must remain on their toes regarding excellent work.