10 Bathroom Materials That’ll Withstand Any Abuse

We don’t ask much from bathroom surfaces.

Just that they be beautiful and withstand every cleaning chemical invented, steamy showers, piles of damp towels, and, did we mention, tantrum-induced line-drives with bath toys?

Oh, and they should be easy to clean. That’s all.

So what materials can live up to the ask? We asked the experts. Here are 10 they recommend:

#1 Engineered Stone Countertop

Dying for a white marble countertop? Join the club. But get ready to seal, reseal, and reseal. Then repeat. Year after year.

Or, go for engineered stone, which can mimic marble (and other stone materials) for about the same cost, but minus the hassle. It’s non-porous so it resists bacteria, mold, stains, and water damage better than the real thing. Better! And it never needs sealing!

#2 Glazed Porcelain Tile Floor

It won’t hold onto water like laminate and porous materials, and porcelain tiles glazed with glass are nearly stain-proof — as are today’s high-quality epoxy and urethane grouts, which don’t require sealing.

#3 Vinyl Floor

Time to rethink vinyl. Hear us out. Luxury vinyl tiles, which mimic stone and wood, are awesome at resisting moisture.

Other affordable options like laminate just can’t keep up. Plus, vinyl sheets are so large, you can cover a small bath without a single seam or grout line, making it easy on the eye and easier to keep clean.

#4 Plywood Cabinets

Yup. We said plywood. But today’s “grade A” offering isn’t your mother’s plywood. (Or your Swedish cousin’s, which is actually particleboard.)

Composed of pressed layers of alder, birch, or cedar, “grade A” plywood (also known as furniture-grade) remains more stable in the face of moisture than solid wood, which will shrink and swell in response to bathroom humidity (causing cracks in painted surfaces and even warped panels).

As for the finish, you don’t need to spring for anything fancy: The factory finish applied to cabinetry nowadays will hold up to the moisture. Isn’t living in the future great?

#5 Tempered Glass Shower Doors

While you need your glass to be tempered for safety, you don’t need a special spot-resistant treatment or upgraded texture to have crystal-clear shower doors.

“Glass is easy to clean,” says Ebony Stephenson, a certified kitchen and bath designer. “I tell my clients, ‘I’ll give you a squeegee and you can save $2,000. It’s a lot of money when you can just wipe off your glass.’” So definitely get tempered glass, but skip the add-on treatments that promise no spots.

#6 Glossy or Semi-Glossy Paint

Mold and mildew are real concerns, even on the walls, thanks to bathroom humidity.  So paint sheen matters.

A full-on glossy paint has a shiny, sealed surface that blocks out moisture and wipes clear of residue, say from hairspray, without leaving a mark like a matte finish will. But the sheen can be a bit overbearing on anything more than trim, and calls attention to wall flaws.

A semi-glossy finish will hold up nearly as well to cleaning and moisture, without calling quite as much attention to bumps, dents, and other imperfections.

#7 Cast Iron Tub

A tub forged from molded liquid iron is likely going to be the toughest thing in your house — maybe even your neighborhood, depending on where you live.

You may need extra support for your floor (and your pocketbook) to bring it home, but cast iron won’t chip, scratch, or dent like fiberglass, acrylic, and even porcelain can.

This tub is your forever tub. And probably your children’s forever tub. And their kids’.

#8 Porcelain-on-Steel Tub

Don’t let its acronym, POS, misguide you: Heat-fused enamel on steel will resist corrosion, abrasion, and chipping better than synthetic materials, and it is much more affordable than cast iron.

#9 Acrylic Panel Shower Walls

Despite their lightweight, acrylic wall panels, often called shower surrounds, are not lightweights. They resist chipping, cracking, and peeling, and are much easier to maintain than stone tiles or slabs. Unlike tile, they nail directly to wall studs or glue to the wallboards, so they don’t require grout. Acrylic is tougher than fiberglass and colored all the way through — so it’s less likely to scratch, and even a deep cut won’t be as obvious. They’re also more affordable than tile and available in textured patterns, if you want to look like you splurged on a fancy design.

#10 Stainless Steel Sink

Stainless: not just for kitchens anymore. Corrosion- and stain-resistant, it won’t melt under a hot curling iron like acrylic can, and won’t dent or chip like porcelain if nail clippers plummet down from the medicine cabinet.

And it’s the perfect match for the industrial-chic look that doesn’t seem to be going anywhere.

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

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Tech Up Your Style

 

By Melissa Dittmann Tracey, REALTOR® Magazine

ces-logoThe mega consumer electronic showcase, CES, lands in Las Vegas this week. It may not be the place you typically go to for décor trends, but technology is having an undeniable influence in home design, like see-through refrigerators and smart lighting.

Consumers look to you for expertise too. Forty-two percent of Americans say they would look to their sales agent to provide suggestions about how staging their home with smart home products could impact the sale of their home, according to a newly released Coldwell Banker Real Estate survey of more than 3,000 Americans.

So what do we see that has potential this year to spice up some designs? Here are a few picks from CES 2018.

Accent Wall Light Show

 

Photo credit: Nanoleaf

Photo credit: Nanoleaf

Nanoleaf’s color-changing Aurora light panels would make for an attention-getting accent wall in small or big doses. Connect them in any configuration you like. They just stick to the walls. The panels change colors, and you can sync the lights to music and also with one of your AI’s, Alexa, Siri, or Google Assistant. The panels are touch-sensitive so with a tap you can turn them on and off, dim them, or change the color.

Statement Refrigerators

Refrigerators just keep getting smarter. LG’s new InstaView ThinQ smart refrigerator features a 29-inch touchscreen that becomes transparent if you knock on it twice. You can also use the touchscreen to manage your food and get automatic reminders when items are running low.

Photo credit: LG

Photo credit: LG

Samsung has a similar model in appearance with its 2018 version of its Family Hub smart refrigerator. This year’s model offers support for Samsung’s Bixby voice assistant to handle voice commands. It can connect to other third-party devices for the smart home too. So you can actually view what’s happening outside your front door from your refrigerator door.

Photo credit: Samsung

Photo credit: Samsung

Notice both the Samsung and LG models are both featured in black stainless, which we still believe will be a growing competitor to traditional stainless steel.

Mirror, Mirror on the Wall … 

Photo credit: Kohler

Photo credit: Kohler

Check out this smart mirror. Kohler is introducing a new Verdera Voice Lighted Mirror, which is a bathroom mirror that has Amazon’s Alexa built-in. It features a dual-microphone solution for accuracy in voice-control and speakers are housed in the casings. There is also a motion-activated wayfinding nightlight for safety, and LED lights for makeup application or other grooming needs. It can also communicate with other connected products in your Wi-Fi network.

Is that an AI in your ceiling? 

Photo credit: GE

Photo credit: GE

Talk with your ceiling lights. You’ll be able to with GE’s Smart Ceiling Fixture. It is a large disk that boasts a speaker in the middle. You can give it voice-driven tasks on anything, like adding an item to your grocery list or telling it to play music. You can also tell it to adjust the warmness or coolness of the lights. It responds to your commands. Flush mount or recessed can lighting options will be available.

Melissa Tracey

Melissa Dittmann Tracey is a contributing editor for REALTOR® Magazine, writing about home & design trends, technology, and sales and marketing. She manages the magazine’s award-winning Styled, Staged & Sold blog.

“Copyright National Association of REALTORS®. Reprinted with permission.”

 

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When to Drop Your Listing Price

Daily Real Estate News |

Though low inventory is prompting buyers to raise their offers in order to beat out competitors, you still want your sellers to know: an overpriced listing will linger on the market. Buyers pay attention to time on market and may erroneously assume something is wrong with a property that has gone “stale.” Real estate pros say it’s critical to determine what time frame is considered stale in your market and drop the price of your listing before getting to that pivotal moment.

“I typically drop the price after the second week on the market, usually in $5,000 to $10,000 increments,” says Laura Barnett, CRS, GRI, a sales associate with RE/MAX DFW Associates in Coppell, Texas. “But I may be more aggressive than most.” Price cuts in the hot Dallas-area market, where Barnett works, haven’t been common lately, she says. But “there is a strange change that is in the air, and sellers are starting to have to become more humble. I would not say it is a buyer’s market, but a new balance between buyers and sellers has been hitting us since August.”

Soaring home prices may make buyers pause, but houses are still selling fast. Nationwide, the average time a home spent on the market was 34 days in September, down from 39 days a year prior, according to the National Association of REALTORS®. Some sellers may be adamant about “testing the market” with a high asking price, so you should have a game plan for what to do if it backfires. “I don’t believe in testing the market, but if we enter the market [with a list price] pushing the top of the range, we can easily gauge response within seven to 10 days,” says Dana Rice, a sales associate with Compass in Washington, D.C. “It’s almost a certainty that if we don’t get an offer within that first 10-day period, then we’ve missed the mark.”

Rice says she’s seen sellers do a rapid price adjustment that can then result in a quicker sale. You can “bring those same buyers back—the ones who liked the property in the first place and who will view the price adjustment as ‘the seller is listening to me,’” she says.

“Copyright National Association of REALTORS®. Reprinted with permission.”

 

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8 Exterior Renovations to Boost a Home’s Value

Daily Real Estate News

Replacing the roof may be the most important upgrade your client can make to the exterior of his or her home, according to the National Association of REALTORS®’ 2017 Remodeling Impact Report. The report takes a look at the cost of the most common exterior and interior renovation projects and gauges how appealing they are to home buyers at resale.

REALTORS® ranked new roofing, vinyl windows, and garage door as the three exterior projects that have the most appeal to buyers. Based on the potential for return-on-investment, the following exterior projects offer the best chances for the biggest returns at resale, according to the report.

New roofing

  • Cost estimate: $7,500
  • REALTORS®’ estimated cost recovered: $8,150
  • Percent of value recovered from the project: 109%

New garage door

  • Cost estimate: $2,300
  • REALTORS®’ estimated cost recovered: $2,000
  • Percent of value recovered from the project: 87%

New fiber-cement siding

  • Cost estimate: $18,000
  • REALTORS®’ estimated cost recovered: $15,000
  • Percent of value recovered from the project: 83%

New vinyl windows

  • Cost estimate: $18,975
  • REALTORS®’ estimated cost recovered: $15,000
  • Percent of value recovered from the project: 79%

New steel front door

  • Cost estimate: $2,000
  • REALTORS®’ estimated cost recovered: $1,500
  • Percent of value recovered from the project: 75%

New vinyl siding

  • Cost estimate: $13,350
  • REALTORS®’ estimated cost recovered: $10,000
  • Percent of value recovered from the project: 75%

New fiberglass front door

  • Cost estimate: $2,700
  • REALTORS®’ estimated cost recovered: $1,800
  • Percent of value recovered from the project: 67%

New wood windows

  • Cost estimate: $35,000
  • REALTORS®’ estimated cost recovered: $20,000
  • Percent of value recovered from the project: 57%

—REALTOR® Magazine

“Copyright National Association of REALTORS®. Reprinted with permission.”

 

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5 Doable DIY Projects to Send Your Home Equity Soaring

A new front door has the highest ROI, not to mention the boost in curb appeal.

You’re going to save money with DIY home improvement projects. Sure, everybody knows that.

But did you know how much? Cut professionals out of the equation and you can save half the cost of a project — or more.

What’s more, you get a great return on your investment. Meaning, the financial value you get out of a DIY project is much more than what you put in.

Here’s a rundown of some top money-saving projects, using cost and recovered costs data from the “Remodeling Impact Report” from the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®.

#1 New Steel Front Door

Few replacement projects have as much upside as a new steel entry door. Not only will you recover about 75% of the cost of having an entry door professionally installed, but you’ll spruce up your curb appeal big time. Want proof? Ninety-six percent of homeowners responding to the “Remodeling Impact Report” say they are happy or satisfied with their new front door.

Of course, you’ll save even more if you tackle this project yourself. Know your door parts (jambs, threshold, stops) before digging in. You’ll be putting in a pre-hung door that includes jambs, so the old stuff has to come out. If you can, preserve the old casing (trim) that goes around the door. Otherwise, plan to buy new casing.

If You Hire If You DIY
Cost $2,000 Cost $250
Recoup at sale $1,500 Recoup at sale $1,500
% recoup 75% % recoup 600%

This is a good one to have a friend or spouse lend a hand. It’ll take six to eight hours if it’s your first time. Remember the three-legged mantra of door installation: Plumb, level, square.

Tired of looking at that big blank billboard every time you pull into your driveway? Change out your old garage door for a spiffy new steel model and the whole neighborhood will thank you. Save some cash by keeping the same motorized opener.

If You Hire If You DIY
Cost $2,300 Cost $850
Recoup at sale $2,000 Recoup at sale $2,000
% recoup 87% % recoup 235%

A steel garage door comes in four panels that are relatively lightweight but awkward — get a friend to lend a hand and you’ll have this project done in a day. Then stand back and admire along with 95% of homeowners in the “Remodeling Impact Report” who said they were happy or satisfied with their new garage door.

#3 New Vinyl Windows

If you want to replace four or more windows, or a second-story window, then hire the work out. Being up on a ladder with an object as bulky as a window is no place for a non-professional. Pros bring scaffolding, which takes time to set up but ultimately makes the work faster and safer.

Replacing one, two, or maybe three first-story windows is a good DIY job. Anything more and the pros will get the job done with better efficiency in terms of time and hassle.

If You Hire If You DIY
Cost (per window) $556 Cost (per window) $250
Recoup at sale $444 Recoup at sale $444
% recoup 80% % recoup 178%

If you’ve measured your rough opening correctly and bought the right window, then one window should take you three to four hours. You’ll get faster with subsequent windows.

#4 New Wood Flooring

Few projects are as satisfying, while recovering such a high percentage of your investment, as new wood flooring. According to the “Remodeling Impact Report,” 96% of homeowners were happy or satisfied with their professionally installed hardwood floors. Combine that with a 91% return on your investment, and you’ll likely be a very happy homeowner.

For the DIYer, installing hardwood flooring is a bit labor intensive, but the techniques are fairly easy to master. Once you get the hang of it, installing prefinished hardwood flooring should go smoothly.

If You Hire If You DIY
Cost $5,500 Cost $1,770
Recoup at sale $5,000 Recoup at sale $5,000
% recoup 91% % recoup 282%

#5 Insulation Upgrade

OK, maybe it’s not the sexiest project. After all, it’s tucked out of sight in your attic. But you can feel it with increased comfort, and see the savings on your energy bill. Those are big pluses.

Upgrading an under-insulated attic space can save you up to 50% per year in energy costs. With a pro cost of $2,100, it’ll take at least a couple of years to pay off your investment with savings. Do it yourself, however, and you’ll only spend about $700 for enough 10-inch-thick fiberglass batt insulation to cover a 20-foot-by-40-foot attic space. You’ll pocket the savings much sooner.

It’s also an awkward project, it can be messy, and you’ll need to bundle up behind protective clothing. However, insulating your attic is a low-skill project that most DIYers can pull off. Just be sure not to stick your foot through the drywall under the attic floor joists!

If You Hire If You DIY
Cost $2,100 Cost $700
Recoup at sale $1,600 Recoup at sale $1,600
% recoup 76% % recoup 229%

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

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6 Near-Genius Ways to Fool Burglars Into Thinking You’re Home

Your home: You love it, but sometimes you have to leave it.

Whether it’s the eight hours a day or eight days on a dreamy beach, allowing your biggest investment to fend for itself can be stressful. And it’s a legit concern; when your home looks empty, break-ins happen. A lot. Ugh.

You could deter burglars by never leaving your house again. Or you could do the next best (OK, way better) thing, and just make it look like someone is there all the time. Here’s how.

#1 Light Up a Room (From the Road)

Your parents may still rely on their lighting timer — on at 8 p.m., off at 7 a.m. That old-fashioned option still works, but apps are more fun. They not only turn your lights on and off, but can do so randomly for a more realistic effect. And you can decide to flip on your porch light while sipping a mojito in Fiji.

You can Google your options, but one affordable example is the Lutron Caséta Wireless system (about $80 for the device and $55 per switch). You replace your current wall switches with these wireless ones and “talk” to your lights from afar.

#2 Fake a Netflix Binge

Nothing says “we are definitely home” like the colorful glare of a television dancing in the window.

Put the little FakeTV gizmo where it can project light onto a curtain, and that’s exactly what your home will say to passersby.

The device (which runs between about $20 and $40 depending on size) plugs into an adapter and can either work on a timer or with a light sensor, so it can switch on when it gets dark.

#3 Change Up Your Shades Remotely

Leave your window shades down while you’re gone and you might as well put out a “Gone Fishin’” sign.

Check out wireless options to throw some shade on the go. Several companies have systems — including Hunter Douglas PowerView, Pella Insynctive, and Lutron Serena — that allow shades to go up and down at your command for about $300 to $500 a window.

#4 Make Some Noise

Burglars can change plans in a hurry at the first sound of life inside a home — they’re a bit tetchy that way. So one option when you’re just gone for the day is a noise app, like Sleep And Noise Sounds that can play on a homebound phone, tablet, or computer. With noises like vacuuming and a boiling kettle, it can deter a thief who cracks open a window.

#5 Make Them Ring And Run

“Burglars will often ring your doorbell, and if no one answers, they’ll go around back and kick in the door,” says Deputy Michael Favata with the Monroe County Sheriff’s office in New York. Now you can answer the door with the Ring Video Doorbell ($180 for the basic model).

If someone pushes the doorbell, you can talk to them through an app on your phone. Whether it’s your nosey neighbor or a sketchy stranger, you can say, “I’m in the basement” while you’re really on the slopes. They’ll never know. And even if they don’t believe you, they know they’re being watched (insert devilish laugh here).

#6 Try a No-Tech Technique

Not everything requires a gadget. Here are ways to up your home security without downloading a single app:

  • Hire a house sitter. Then someone will be home.
  • If there’s snow, have a neighbor walk up and down the path to your door, shovel a passage up to the garage door and drive in and out of the driveway. If it’s hot out, ask them to keep your plants looking fresh with regular waterings. And don’t forget to bring them a nice gift from your getaway.
  • Ask friends, family, or neighbors to just be present on your property — use your patio, play in your yard, or bring in the mail.
  • Invite a neighbor to keep a car parked in your driveway. During the holidays, they may be happy if they need overflow for visitors.
  • Install a fake security camera for as low as $8. Burglars may not notice these fakes don’t have all the wiring necessary to be real. And their blinking red lights offer reasonable doubt.
  • Get a dog. A real dog. While you’re at work or running errands, nothing deters bad guys and gals like a barking, slobbery security guard. And when you go away, having a pet sitter stay can be as economical as some boarding facilities (especially if you have multiple dogs), and you’ll get the benefit of a human and canine sentinel.

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

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9 Things Real Estate Agents Wish You Knew About Selling Your Home

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When it comes time to sell your house, having a great listing agent is one of the keys to making it happen. And yet, the agent can’t do it all—your help is needed. Help your agent help you!

Ideally, you will have an open, honest relationship with your listing agent. But even then, there are some things your agent might be reluctant to tell you. Whether to spare your feelings or because he assumes you already know, here are some things your listing agent wishes you knew. Listen up and learn!

1. Your stuff is lovely, but…

“While your home may be beautifully decorated, it still looks like your home, not the buyer’s,” says Teresa Stephenson, vice president of residential brokerage at Platinum Properties in New York.

In particular, clutter can make a home feel cramped and leave a bad first impression.

2. Stop hiding things from me

Leaky faucets? Termite infestation? An air conditioner that barely blows cool air?

“Don’t keep any of your home’s flaws from your agent because you are scared it might hurt your sale,” says Karen Elmir, founder and CEO of the Elmir Group in Miami.

Remember, your listing agent is on your side and knows what must be fixed or what can slide—so go ahead and share the good, the bad, and the ugly. Whatever you hide from an agent could rear its head as a nasty surprise later.

3. You need to fix a few things

Katie Messenger, a Realtor® with Bello Dimora Real Estate Network in Kentucky and Cincinnati, wants clients to know they might have to spend a few bucks to make their house look its best.

“Replace the trim the dogs scratched up. Clean the scuff marks off the walls. Power-wash the algae off the vinyl siding,” she says. “To you, it’s totally normal because you’ve lived with these issues for years. To buyers, these will look like expensive repairs, which means they’ll have to lowball you, or not make an offer at all, because your house ‘needs a lot of work.’” Even if it actually doesn’t.

4. Your remodeling might not pay off much

Blood, sweat, tears, and a heck of a lot of cash might have gone into your remodeling projects, but that doesn’t mean there’s a guaranteed payback for any of it, as illogical as that might seem.

“An ROI, or return, on a home’s upgrades does not necessarily increase value,” says Michael Kelczewski, a Realtor with Brandywine Fine Properties Sotheby’s International Realty in Delaware and Maryland.

It largely depends on what kind of home improvement you do; here’s a list of some common renovations with their return on investment.

5. Be nice: Don’t overprice!

While listing at a high price and then coming down as necessary seems like the best way to avoid leaving any money on the table, you could actually be shooting yourself in the foot.

“If you overprice your home, buyers may not catch that, but buyer’s agents will,” points out Doc Reiss, managing broker at Town & Country Real Estate in Port Angeles, WA. “When a home is overpriced, buyer’s agents will either avoid bringing their buyers or, worse yet, they use it as an example to sell another property: ‘See how much nicer this one is for the price than the last one we saw?’”

6. Cleanliness really does count

Do people really not clean their house before it’s shown to potential buyers? Yep.

Andrew Mak, an agent with Corcoran in New York, says things like a greasy stove, dust on the floors or furniture, and unkempt bathroom fixtures like the shower, sinks, and toilets are noticed most during a showing.

“The kitchen and the bathroom are the two main areas where cleanliness—or lack thereof—is most obvious,” says Mak. Gross. (You did want to sell this house, right?)

7. Have some patience

Yes, we know you thought your beautiful house would fly off the market the moment it hit, but that’s not always the case. In fact, realtor.com data show that homes sit on the market for an average 66 days.

“The real estate process is a long process from showings to inspections to negotiations,“ says Kelczewski. “Be patient! Persevering leads to success.”

8. Don’t hurt the messenger

“When I present a lowball offer, a long list of repair items, or a low appraisal, I am just relaying information from another party,” Messenger says. “I know it’s an emotional and sometimes frustrating process; however, I am not the one writing ‘insulting’ offers, performing home inspections, or appraising the home.

“I am a representative of your best interests, so know that I am always in your corner to fight for what makes the most sense for you—not all of the other parties involved in a real estate transaction,” she says.

9. Selling your home isn’t a spectator sport

“Some sellers don’t realize that hiring a real estate agent doesn’t mean they get to sit back with a bag of popcorn and watch the home sale unfold,” says Jonathan Self, a Realtor with Center Coast Realty in Chicago.

“Selling a home is a team effort, even when you hire a real estate agent. If you can keep your home clean and tidy and arrange for someone to dog sit during showings, I can be 100% focused on selling your home for top dollar. That cooperation and partnership makes it much easier for me to do a good job for you.”

“Copyright National Association of REALTORS®. Reprinted with permission.”

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12 Simple Home Repair Jobs to Lift You Out of Winter’s Funk

Accomplishments — even little ones — go a long way toward a sunny outlook. Fortunately, there are plenty of easy, quick home repair chores you can do when you’re mired in the thick of winter.

For max efficiency, make a to-do list ahead of time and shop for all the tools and supplies in one trip. On your work days, put the basics in a caddy and carry it from room to room, checking off completed tasks as you speed through them.

#1 Sagging Towel Rack or Wobbly TP Holder

Unscrew the fixture and look for the culprit. It’s probably a wimpy, push-in type plastic drywall anchor. Pull that out (or just poke it through the wall) and replace it with something more substantial. Toggle bolts are strongest, and threaded types such as E-Z Ancor are easy to install.

Eliminate squeaks by squirting a puff of powdered graphite ($2.50 for a 3-gram tube) alongside the pin where the hinge turns. If the door sticks, plane off a bit of the wood, then touch up the paint so the surgery isn’t noticeable.

#3 Stop Creaky Floor Boards

They’ll shush if you fasten them down better. Anti-squeak repair kits, such as Squeeeeek No More ($23), feature specially designed screws that are easy to conceal. A low-cost alternative: Dust a little talcum powder into the seam where floorboards meet — the talcum acts as a lubricant to quiet boards that rub against each other.

#4 Remove Rust on Shutoff Valves

Check under sinks and behind toilets for the shutoff valves on your water supply lines. These little-used valves may slowly rust in place over time, and might not work when you need them most.

Keep them operating by putting a little machine oil or WD-40 on the handle shafts. Twist the handles back and forth to work the oil into the threads. If they won’t budge, give the oil a couple of hours to penetrate, and try again.

#5 Repair Blistered Paint on Shower Ceilings

This area gets a lot of heat and moisture that stresses paint finishes. Scrape off old paint and recoat, using a high-quality exterior-grade paint. Also, be sure everyone uses the bathroom vent when showering to help get rid of excess moisture.

#6 Fix Loose Handles and Hinges

You can probably fix these with a few quick turns of a screwdriver. But if a screw just spins in place, try making the hole fit the screw better by stuffing in a toothpick coated with glue, or switching to a larger screw.

#7 Replace Batteries on Carbon Monoxide and Smoke Detectors

If you don’t like waking up to the annoying chirp of smoke detector batteries as they wear down, do what many fire departments recommend and simply replace all of them at the same time once a year.

#8 Test GFCI Outlets

You’re supposed to test ground-fault circuit interrupters them once a month, but who does? Now’s a great time. You’ll find them around potentially wet areas — building codes specify GFCI outlets in bathrooms, kitchens, and for outdoor receptacles. Make sure the device trips and resets correctly. If you find a faulty outlet, replace it or get an electrician to do it for $75 to $100.

Another good project is to replace your GFCIs with the latest generation of protected outlets that test themselves, such as Levitron’s SmartlockPro Self-Test GFCI ($28). You won’t have to manually test ever again!

#9 Clean Exhaust Filter for the Stove

By washing it to remove grease, you’ll increase the efficiency of your exhaust vent; plus, if a kitchen stovetop fire breaks out, this will help keep the flames from spreading.

#10 Clean Out Clothes Dryer Vent

Pull the dryer out from the wall, disconnect the vent pipe, and vacuum lint out of the pipe and the place where it connects to the machine. Also, wipe lint off your exterior dryer vent so the flap opens and closes easily. (You’ll need to go outside for that, but it’s quick.) Remember that vents clogged with old dryer lint are a leading cause of house fires.

Related: How to Maintain Your Dryer

#11 Drain Hoses

Inspect your clothes washer, dishwasher, and icemaker. If you see any cracks or drips, replace the hose so you don’t come home to a flood one day.

#12 Check Electrical Cords

Replace any that are brittle, cracked, or have damaged plugs. If you’re using extension cords, see if you can eliminate them — for example, by replacing that too-short lamp cord with one that’s longer. If you don’t feel up to rewiring the lamp yourself, drop it off at a repair shop as you head out to shop for your repair materials. It might not be ready by the end of the day. But, hey, one half-done repair that you can’t check off is no big deal, right?

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

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16 Useful Rules Every Organized House Follows

Homes don’t clean themselves. But these rules (wake and make!) will make you feel like they do.

A few simple daily habits could make it seem like you’ve got a self-cleaning house.

Rules like …

#1 Dedicate 20 Minutes a Day Every Day

You don’t need to set aside 20 hours one day to get things in order. You only need 20 minutes every day.

Focus on tackling clutter in just one room. You might only pare down a single drawer or shelf, but “it will make you feel accomplished at the end of the day, and at the end of a week, you will see how much you can declutter,” says professional organizer Helena Alkhas.

Small tasks add up quickly when you’re saving them to do all at once. So if it takes less than a minute to complete, do it immediately.  Put that cup in the dishwasher rather than the sink.  Break down that Amazon box for recycling right after you unbox your goodie.  (Hot tip: Want a reminder of how much you can get done in a minute? Next time your coffee goes cold, pop it in the microwave for a minute, and just stand there. For the whole minute. It’s kind of a long time.)

#3 Start a Load of Laundry Before Work

If you have a full load in the hamper, toss it in while you’re getting ready for work. By the time you leave, it will be ready for the dryer.

When you get home, you’ll already feel ahead of schedule with just a little fluffing and folding to do. Just make sure you’ve properly maintained your dryer to reduce the risk of a fire.

#4 Always Leave a Room With Something in Hand

Oh hey, conveniently, you’re always walking into other rooms. Why not pickup a hitchhiker or two?

Every time you leave a room, take a quick scan for anything that belongs where you’re going, and you’ll start habitually keeping clutter under control.

#5 Deal With Your Mail Every Time You Bring It In

With so much of your important mail going straight to your inbox, sometimes you’ve got days of fliers and junk mail to wade through every time you make it to the USPS mailbox.

To banish paper clutter from your home — and make sure you catch anything actually worth reading — immediately sort through your mail, recycling the nonsense and putting the keepers in an assigned spot.

#6 Scan and Trash Weekly

Thanks to this fancy technology stuff, you can clear out all receipts, invitations, insurance documents, and other important paperwork.

Take a few minutes every weekend to scan and save everything, then toss it all it the recycling. With smartphone apps like Genius Scan, you always have the tools in the palm of your hand.

#7 Tidy Up During Downtime

In the five minutes it takes to nuke your lunch, you can unload and possibly reload the dishwasher, or wipe off the countertops and appliances. You’ll be surprised how much order you can restore to your home during these normally wasted waiting-on-something moments.

#8 Make Your Bed as Soon as You Get Up

According to retired Admiral William H. McRaven, author of “Make Your Bed: Little Things That Can Change Your Life … and Maybe the World,” “It will give you a small sense of pride, and it will encourage you to do another task and another and another. By the end of the day, that one task completed will have turned into many tasks completed.”

#9 Do Chores in the Same Order

Whether you’re cleaning on a Saturday or Wednesday, your mind (and body) will move more quickly from vacuuming to mopping to dusting if you check chores off in the same order — making it easier to keep your home tidy and clean.

Headphones and a throwback playlist are a recommended, but not required, part of the routine.

#10 Spot-Clean Bathrooms Nightly

Just as clutter attracts clutter, bathroom funk quickly multiplies.

Stock every bathroom with Lysol wipes and you can quickly and easily clean the countertop and toilet when you brush your teeth or help the kids get ready for bed, Alkhas says.

While wiping, you’ll naturally put away the floss, hair ties, and other clutter in your path.

#11 Stop Dirt and Clutter at the Door

Image: Liz Foreman for HouseLogic

Establish a house rule that shoes, bags, jackets, and “pocket items” — your keys, sunglasses, wallet, and phone — are stowed in a drop zone at the door.

Make this easy to enforce by assigning one hook and open shelf for every member of the family — double that for those with lots of extracurriculars, Alkhas says.

#12 Clean Out the Fridge Weekly

The night before your garbage day, “wipe off the shelves and clean out anything that has no chance of being eaten,” Alkhas says. You’ll get a clearer view of your food options and open up space for ingredients needed in the coming week.

#13 Empty the Dishwasher Every Morning

The conquest of a homemade dinner (OK, a “home-prepared” dinner, most days) feels short-lived when you’re left with a mountain of dishes and no place to put them.

Take a couple minutes every morning to empty the dishwasher and you’ll stay ahead of the game.

#14 Conduct a Nightly Tidy-Up

Every night, take a laundry basket on a tour of your house and pick up anything that’s out of place. “You don’t have to put it away now. If you want, plan to do it on Saturday and it won’t take much time at all,” Alkhas says.

If there are more than two people in your household, separate the day’s clutter into assigned baskets for each family member to put away daily or weekly.

With this routine, Alkas adds, “you’ll wake up to a living room that’s decluttered and a kitchen that is tidy, and you can start your day fresh.”

#15 Follow a Clean-Out Schedule for Your Storage Areas

Just because it’s hidden behind a cupboard door doesn’t mean it’s exempt from clutter status.

Establish a schedule, perhaps every month, to rid a specific storage space of its dead weight — like expired food in the pantry, excess gadgets in a kitchen drawer, or the cupboard holding the gazillion ragged dishtowels you’ve had since your tiny college studio apartment. (It’s time to let those go.)

#16 Keep Everyone Involved

When one person leaves a dish in the sink, it paves a slippery slope for others to follow suit.

So have a “The Brady Bunch”-style family meeting to make sure everyone understands their responsibilities and chores for maintaining order in the home. Serve brownies. They’ll show up.

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

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