new homes en-US City Shopping: Finding Your New Frugal Home <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/city-shopping-finding-your-new-frugal-home" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="" alt="looking at a map" title="looking at a map" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="188" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p>Living frugally means more than paying attention to the small details of our financial lives. Sometimes the broad brushstrokes we make can affect our lifestyles more than anything else. People seldom talk about how the place we choose to live can add to &mdash; or detract from &mdash; our frugal goals. Besides the obvious factors like job opportunities, proximity to family, and property prices, what are some other things we should consider when exploring cities and deciding where to make a new frugal home? (See also:&nbsp;<a href="">Live Where It's Cheap</a>)</p> <h2>Cost of Living</h2> <p>Typically, when we think of cost of living, we look at things like the prices of property, food, and education. But some other costs have a way of sneaking up on you.</p> <p><strong>Property Tax/County Tax</strong></p> <p>When I moved from Chicago to Portland, Oregon I didn&rsquo;t realize there was a temporary county tax in place. Though it only lasted a few years, I hadn&rsquo;t budgeted for it, and it was an unpleasant surprise. Research property tax rates and special taxes imposed by the country that might affect your bottom-line.</p> <p><strong>Climate/Weather</strong></p> <p>Harsh winters and brutal summers can add up to high energy bills. Consider how typical weather patterns year-round will affect your budget &mdash; especially if you&rsquo;re moving from a temperate climate to one with bigger seasonal extremes.</p> <p><strong>Transit Options</strong></p> <p>Transportation costs can be a budget-buster. Communities without bike lanes, a well-organized mass transit system, or pedestrian-friendly streets mean you&rsquo;ll be depending on your car almost exclusively. Don&rsquo;t forget to look at airport options for longer trips too. Is there a regional hub nearby? The size of the airport often dictates what airlines service the area, how often flights leave, and how expensive tickets will be.</p> <h2>Community</h2> <p>A lively and engaged community can be a boon to savers. Strong communities mean neighbors help neighbors and interact with each other through a wide range of social and commercial activities.</p> <p><strong>Like-Minded Neighbors</strong></p> <p>Every town is different. Though it might be hard at first, try to get a read on the local vibe. Do neighbors seem to congregate together or go solo? Are there clubs, coffee shops, or organizations where people connect with each other to explore interests or network professionally? A strong community can help frugal folks meet, encourage each other, and exchange ideas.</p> <p><strong>Resale Environment</strong></p> <p>Thrift stores, charities, yard sales, and <a href="">farmers markets</a> help make up the fabric of a local community. Do a bit of exploring and find out if your new town has any thrift stores, encourages yard sales, or hosts farmers markets. All are great venues for finding bargains or making a few bucks on the side.</p> <h2>Entertainment/Activities</h2> <p>Well-designed communities don't forget about play. Opportunities to enjoy nature, explore, meet your neighbors, and be engaged culturally are important parts of a well-rounded frugal life.</p> <p><strong>Colleges and Universities</strong></p> <p>The presence of colleges or universities may be the single biggest clue about what frugal resources can be found in a community. Colleges host symposiums, lectures, plays, debates, concerts, and authors from around the world. These cultural events are often free for students and open to the broader community for a nominal fee. Besides these formal events, college campuses bring energy and liveliness to a town that&rsquo;s hard to match in any other way.</p> <p><strong>Parks and Natural Attractions</strong></p> <p>Sure, sometimes it&rsquo;s great to splurge on a movie. But communities that lack public spaces, parks, hiking trails, or natural attractions make movies the only option. Explore what <a href="">destinations or activities you can find that are nearby and free</a>.</p> <p>Choosing a new place to call home is a big decision. How a city or town is designed to support a thrifty lifestyle is just one piece of a much bigger puzzle. But many of the qualities outlined above go far beyond simple frugality; they&rsquo;re also important parts of rich civic life &mdash; and that&rsquo;s hard to put price on.</p> <p><em>Have you made a major move recently? How has your new town helped or hurt your frugal pursuits? Were there any pleasant surprises that ended up saving you some serious cash?</em></p> <br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">This article is from <a href="">Kentin Waits</a> of <a href="">Wise Bread</a>, an award-winning personal finance and <a href="">credit card comparison</a> website. Read more great articles from Wise Bread:</div><div class="view view-similarterms view-id-similarterms view-display-id-block_2 view-dom-id-3"> <div class="view-content"> <div class="item-list"> <ul> <li class="views-row views-row-1 views-row-odd views-row-first"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="">How to Live a Retired Life Before Retirement</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-2 views-row-even"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="">6 Places It Pays to Relocate To</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-3 views-row-odd"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="">Who Moved My Stuff?</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-4 views-row-even"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="">How to Live in a Big City on a Small-Town Budget</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-5 views-row-odd views-row-last"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="">9 Items City-Dwelling Dudes Should Keep in Their Bags</a></span> </div> </li> </ul> </div> </div> </div> </div><br/></br> Lifestyle city life moving new homes small town Tue, 22 May 2012 09:36:36 +0000 Kentin Waits 929268 at 9 Costly Things New Homeowners Don't Prepare For <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/9-costly-things-new-homeowners-dont-prepare-for" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="" alt="New homeowners" title="New homeowners" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="141" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p>When you&rsquo;re buying a new home (and that could be a new build or a used home that&rsquo;s new to you) you are caught up in a whirlwind of things to do, people to see, papers to sign, and plans to make.</p> <p>Most of all, you&rsquo;re excited. And rightly so.</p> <p>Then, moving day comes. Once all the boxes are unloaded, and the furniture is shoved roughly into the right rooms, you grab a coffee and take a breather. And that&rsquo;s when it dawns on you. This is only just the beginning.</p> <p>As a new homeowner, there are whole lists of things you need to take care of, and almost all of them cost money. Sometimes, a lot of money.</p> <p>So, if you&rsquo;re planning to buy a new home, have just signed the paperwork, or are moving in next week, this list is for you. And if you know someone who's moving in, be a buddy and warn him or her as well.</p> <p>Note: The figures next to the titles are rough guides based on an average sized U.S. home (2,700 sq. ft.) with a typical yard (1/5<sup>th</sup> of an acre), but obviously they could be much higher or lower depending on the size of your home, its location, and the condition it&rsquo;s in.</p> <h3>1. Window Coverings and Treatments &ndash; Up to $2,000</h3> <p>&ldquo;Oh, look at all the windows! It&rsquo;s so bright, so spacious, the views are lovely!&rdquo; Well, yes they are. But you don&rsquo;t want people viewing you at night, or looking in whenever they want, so all those windows need coverings. If it&rsquo;s a new home, you&rsquo;re going to be spending hundreds (and probably thousands) of dollars on blinds, curtains, curtain rods, tie backs, valances, and shades (even more if you're not too handy and have to have someone come and fit them for you). If it&rsquo;s an old home, you may be fine for a year or two, but you&rsquo;ll need to decide if you want to live with the old owner&rsquo;s treatments or have your own. To offset the high costs, remember to look for deals on blinds and other window coverings long before you move in.</p> <h3>2. Landscaping and Groundskeeping &ndash; Up to $30,000</h3> <p>Walking around new neighborhoods, you see all sorts of beautiful landscapes. And often, on new builds, the landscaping at the front of the house is included in the price. Hurray! Oh, but then there&rsquo;s the back. And there, almost always, you&rsquo;re on your own. Depending on the size of the yard and the HOA rules and restrictions, you could be looking at $10,000 - $30,000 worth of landscaping materials and labor. Want a deck or a patio? That&rsquo;s even more money. And then you may need sprinklers, irrigation, and other services. If you move into an old home, that&rsquo;s no guarantee of a great yard. Many foreclosed homes may have been left vacant for a long time, and a once attractive yard could be a wreck, if it was even finished in the first place. So, do your homework. See if you can hustle the homebuilder for a finished back yard too, or ask the seller to drop the price to cover landscaping. If it's foreclosed, a short sale, or some other kind of repo, guess what? Yep, you&rsquo;re on your own. Time to dig into the savings.</p> <h3>3. Major Appliances &ndash; Up to $10,000</h3> <p>New home builds usually include a dishwasher, microwave, and stove, with the option of a fridge/freezer, washer, and dryer. They are basic, unless you opt for the upgrades in your contract, but if you do, they could add a chunk to your monthly mortgage payment. If you buy a used home, you may not have any appliances included, especially on a repossession, short sale, or foreclosure. You could always hunt around on Craigslist for used appliances, but they won&rsquo;t come with a warranty. So figure on spending a nice chunk of change when the time comes to upgrade.</p> <h3>4. HOA Fees &ndash; Up to $700 a Month</h3> <p>Many new homes come with a Home Owners Association, and most used homes have HOAs as well. In theory, they&rsquo;re a sound idea. They are there to keep the neighborhood looking great, and deal with trash collection, playgrounds, community pools, street lighting, common areas, snow removal, and so on. Of course, in practice many people hate the HOA because they extend their reach far beyond what most people consider fair. They can tell you what colors you can and can&rsquo;t paint your house, what type of blinds and window treatments are allowed, what you can and can&rsquo;t put in your yard, and the list goes on. Oh, and it costs you. A typical HOA can run $100 a month. Some are just a few hundred a year, while in the higher-end neighborhoods, you may not see much change out of $1,000 every month! Did you see that one coming? Before you buy, make sure you know what the HOA dues are, but remember, they can go up annually and you have little say in the matter.</p> <h3>5. Furniture &ndash; Up to $20,000</h3> <p>That&rsquo;s a very rough estimate. Clearly your particular tastes can range from Ikea to custom-built furniture, but what you need to know is that most homeowners completely underestimate the amount of furniture they&rsquo;ll need. This is especially true when moving into a bigger home. You may now have two areas for relaxing, a living room and family room. You could also have a den, a library, a nook or study, extra bedrooms, guest rooms, or even a game room. Depending on what you&rsquo;re moving into, you could have a very empty-looking house that needs to be filled. Get ready to go shopping.</p> <h3>6. Insurance &ndash; Up to $2,000 Annually</h3> <p>There are a few different types of insurance you need to have when buying a home. First, you must have homeowners insurance. The average cost of this is around $700 annually, but this again varies by state. If you live in a duplex or other type of connected building, the insurance may be covered in your HOA dues or your monthly escrow. You should also have contents insurance, based on the value of your possessions. You could, of course, skip this payment. But if tragedy does strike, you could lose everything.</p> <h3>7. Property Tax &ndash; Up to $10,000 &nbsp;</h3> <p>When it comes to property tax, a lot of people get sticker shock a year after they move into a new construction. The reason for this is simple; the taxes are based on the empty lot the home was built on. But a year later, the assessors come around and put a new valuation on the lot, which now has a beautiful home sitting on it. Many people see their initial tax payment double, or even triple, in just one year. You can also face much higher taxes based on the particular school district you live in. And of course, taxes vary greatly by state. The average property taxes paid in New Jersey are almost $8,000, as opposed to $2,000 in Colorado.</p> <h3>8. Utilities &ndash; Up to $400 Monthly</h3> <p>Again, if you live in the Playboy mansion that figure will be greater. And in a new one-bedroom apartment, much less. But on average, when moving into a new home, you will see utility bills in the hundreds of dollars. This can be quite a shock, especially if you were formerly in a small apartment or even living with your parents. And what&rsquo;s worse, depending on when you move in, you could really get a wake-up call. Bills in the summer months can come with higher rates, so you may budget based on the winter bills, only to be unprepared for summer. The best thing you can do to prepare is ask the utility companies for the history of the property, if it&rsquo;s used. If it&rsquo;s new, ask neighbors who have already moved in what they&rsquo;re paying. If you're first on the block&hellip;good luck!</p> <h3>9. Repairs and Maintenance &ndash; Who Knows!</h3> <p>I saved the worst till last. One of the biggest unknown expenses of owning a home is the repairs and maintenance costs that can hit you out of nowhere. If you were formerly renting, that was all taken care of. Now it&rsquo;s all on you. If the boiler blows up, you pay. If the roof leaks, you pay. If strong winds blow your fence down, you pay. If vandals put rocks through your windows, you pay.</p> <p>Basically, you pay. And these bills can be steep. You&rsquo;ll soon find out that hourly labor costs for plumbers, electricians, and builders are usually a lot more than the hourly wage you get paid. There are standard call-out charges, which you pay before they even look at the problem. It can be a nightmare. You can, of course, buy insurance to cover appliances, boilers, A/C units, and so on, but there are deductibles to pay. And like any insurance, the small print can really bite you.</p> <p>Are you a new homeowner? Did a situation or expense recently pop up that you were not planning for? Let us know.</p> <p><i>This article was made possible by the support and inspiration of&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">Genworth Financial</a>, a S&amp;P 500 insurance&nbsp;company with more than $100 billion in assets</i><em>. Check out Genworth's website for more information on their&nbsp;<a href="">mortgage insurance</a> and <a href="">reverse mortgages</a>&nbsp;products.</em></p> <p><a href=""><img width="605" height="454" alt="" src="" /></a></p> <h2 style="text-align: center;">Like this article? Pin it!</h2> <div align="center"><a data-pin-do="buttonPin" data-pin-count="above" data-pin-tall="true" data-pin-save="true" href=";;description=9%20Costly%20Things%20New%20Homeowners%20Dont%20Prepare%20For"></a></p> <script async defer src="//"></script></div> <p style="text-align: center;"><img src="" alt="9 Costly Things New Homeowners Don't Prepare For" width="250" height="374" /></p> <br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">This article is from <a href="">Paul Michael</a> of <a href="">Wise Bread</a>, an award-winning personal finance and <a href="">credit card comparison</a> website. Read more great articles from Wise Bread:</div><div class="view view-similarterms view-id-similarterms view-display-id-block_2 view-dom-id-5"> <div class="view-content"> <div class="item-list"> <ul> <li class="views-row views-row-1 views-row-odd views-row-first"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="">What It Really Costs to Own a Home</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-2 views-row-even"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="">Home Details I Overlooked the First Time</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-3 views-row-odd"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="">7 Times to Update Your Homeowners Insurance</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-4 views-row-even"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="">6 Money Moves to Make After Buying Your First House</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-5 views-row-odd views-row-last"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="">Why You Should Ask for a CLUE Report Before Buying a Home</a></span> </div> </li> </ul> </div> </div> </div> </div><br/></br> Real Estate and Housing cost of homeownership first time home buyer furniture home improvement homeowners insurance new homes Fri, 18 May 2012 10:36:08 +0000 Paul Michael 929147 at 5 Ways to Save Money on New Flooring <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5-ways-to-save-money-on-new-flooring" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="" alt="people on floor" title="people on floor" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="166" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p>As a financial planner, you're probably wondering why I would be in a position to give you flooring advice. Personally, I don't blame you. Prior to <a data-mce-href="" href="">building our dream home</a> a few years ago, I didn't know squat about flooring. Now that my wife and I have examined every flooring know to man, we feel pretty confident to share some tips.</p> <p>Here are five tips and ideas for how to save money the next time you buy floor covering. (See also: <a href="">15 Home Decorating Ideas for Under $5</a>)</p> <h2>1. Know Your Objective</h2> <p>The biggest mistake that people make when it comes to buying floor covering is choosing the wrong product for their lifestyle. Got a steady stream of messy kids going in and out of your house? Then installing carpet in a hallway, where it could easily stain or show wear, isn&rsquo;t a good choice. However, carpet might be perfect for bedrooms or other low-traffic areas of your home where you want to create a cozy environment.</p> <p>Different types of flooring products have inherently different usage limitations. For instance, if you want to install something that will hold up for 20 years, ceramic tile is obviously more durable and long-lasting than carpet.</p> <p>However, within each product category there&rsquo;s a wide range of quality to be aware of. An inexpensive ceramic tile can shatter easily if you drop something heavy on it, whereas a more expensive porcelain tile would hold up under the same situation.</p> <p>Similarly, a carpet made with an inexpensive fiber type (like <a href="" data-mce-href="">olefin</a>) can look trampled down after a year of moderate wear, whereas an expensive wool carpet would still look brand new. So remember that cheaper floor covering isn&rsquo;t always better if it ends up disappointing you or it wears out too quickly and causes you to have to invest in another floor sooner than you planned.</p> <p>To make sure you&rsquo;re buying the right floor covering for your needs, do your research and consult with a few experienced salespeople at different stores.</p> <h2>2. Buy In-Stock Inventory</h2> <p>No matter what type of flooring you want, you&rsquo;ll save money by selecting in-stock inventory instead of making a special order from a store sample. Floor covering manufactures give big discounts to dealers who buy in bulk and those savings get passed on to customers.</p> <p>There are probably one or two flooring stores in your area that are known for power-buying, or getting products by the trailer load. Then they stack it deep and sell it cheap!</p> <p>If you're building your dream home or have something specific in mind, you probably won&rsquo;t find the exact shade of pink carpet or the exotic hardwood species you want. But when you need to install flooring in a kid&rsquo;s bedroom, dress up a floor to sell your home, or freshen up a rental property, buying in-stock floor covering is the best way to get a quality product for less.</p> <h2>3. Install It Yourself</h2> <p>A big part of the cost of floor covering is labor and installation. If you&rsquo;re handy or are willing to learn how to install a certain type of flooring product, it can save you a bundle. While I'm not that handy &mdash; far from it! &mdash; my father-in-law is and helped us with our house. There are some products, like laminate flooring, which are easy to install with just a few <a href="">basic tools</a>.</p> <p>If you can recruit a neighbor, friend, or family member like I did to help, installing new floors or a kitchen backsplash can be fun and gratifying weekend project. You&rsquo;ll find lots of help by searching YouTube for how-to videos on every type of floor covering installation.</p> <h2>4. Use a Remnant</h2> <p>One of the least expensive ways to put down <a data-mce-href="" href="">new flooring</a> is to take advantage of what floor covering dealers call a carpet remnant. Remnants are leftover pieces from a carpet roll that are sold at big discounts. They&rsquo;re a low-cost solution when you need good carpet for a small bedroom, home office, porch, or walk-in closet.</p> <p>Floor covering retailers also end up with leftover boxes of tile, wood, or laminate that they&rsquo;re willing to sell at a huge discount. This is a great option when you need to spruce up floor covering in a foyer, laundry room, or bathroom.</p> <h2>5. Ask For a Discount</h2> <p>My final tip is probably the easiest way to get a good deal &mdash; <a href="">ask for a discount</a>. You&rsquo;ll have more success negotiating price with a small, independent retailer than you will with a large home center. Most independent dealers have 5% to 10% of bargaining room built into their prices, because haggling is not uncommon.</p> <p>If a dealer isn&rsquo;t willing to lower their price, try offering to pay your bill with cash. When you pay a merchant with a credit card, you can get some great perks &mdash; but it costs them. The fees they pay to process your credit card can be over 2% of the total sale depending on the type of card you use.</p> <p>Another way to get a discount is to ask for a lower price if you&rsquo;re willing to do some or all of the installation yourself. By moving furniture or removing and disposing of your old flooring, you can shave a significant amount off the labor portion of your bill.</p> <p>I recommend that you build good rapport with a flooring retail owner or salesperson and simply ask them the best way to get a bargain. You might be surprised how much they&rsquo;re willing to help you save money, so you become a happy customer and refer your friends and family for future sales.</p> <br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">This article is from <a href="">Jeff Rose</a> of <a href="">Wise Bread</a>, an award-winning personal finance and <a href="">credit card comparison</a> website. Read more great articles from Wise Bread:</div><div class="view view-similarterms view-id-similarterms view-display-id-block_2 view-dom-id-1"> <div class="view-content"> <div class="item-list"> <ul> <li class="views-row views-row-1 views-row-odd views-row-first"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="">Chinese Money Habits - How My Culture Influences My Attitudes Toward Money</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-2 views-row-even"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="">9 Costly Things New Homeowners Don&#039;t Prepare For</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-3 views-row-odd"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="">Home Details I Overlooked the First Time</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-4 views-row-even"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="">Seller concessions and buyer bargains - What to ask for in the current real estate market.</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-5 views-row-odd views-row-last"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="">5 Money Moves That Will Ruin Your Mortgage Application</a></span> </div> </li> </ul> </div> </div> </div> </div><br/></br> Real Estate and Housing budget decorating furnishings haggling new flooring new homes Mon, 07 May 2012 10:24:08 +0000 Jeff Rose 927592 at Screwdrivers to Saws: Stocking Your First Toolbox <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/screwdrivers-to-saws-stocking-your-first-toolbox" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="" alt="too many hammers" title="too many hammers" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="145" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p>&ldquo;If all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.&rdquo; This is a clever metaphor about the all-too-human habit of resorting to the same old coping mechanisms available to us, no matter what our problems. It can also be a literal, real-life lesson. Sometimes, there&rsquo;s no substitute for having the proper tool for the job. What follows is a list of tools to which every household should have ready access, as well as some that may just come in handy, in order of practical necessity. (See also: <a href="">10 Home DIY&nbsp;Projects You Can Do in One Day</a>)</p> <h3>Hammer&nbsp;</h3> <p>Surprise! Sometimes, the job really does require a hammer. Such as when you want to put a nail into a wall stud to hang a heavy picture. Or when you want to put a compression snap or a grommet into a sewing project. Or crack a particularly tough walnut. The possibilities are limited only by your imagination. A standard claw hammer with a smooth face suits most household purposes just fine and can be purchased for a very reasonable price at discount stores or home improvement centers.</p> <h3>Safety Glasses</h3> <p>No excuses. Safety glasses are cheap and available. They used to be dorky looking, but now there are stylish, even cool-looking ones. And nothing is cooler than having your safety glasses stop a foreign object from poking you in the eye. I&rsquo;ve experienced a poke in the eye, resulting in a scratched cornea, and that is some misery, believe me. I don&rsquo;t even want to think about possibly losing sight in an eye.</p> <h3>Utility Knife</h3> <p>Aliases: Razor knife, box cutter, carpet knife.</p> <p>This may be the most frequently used tool in our house. If you shop at warehouse stores, as we do, you have plenty of cardboard to cut up for recycling. If you garden, a retractable razor knife in your pocket is invaluable for cutting twine or plastic ties, taking cuttings, grafting limbs, or sharpening stakes. If you do much in the way of mail order shopping, putting the retractable blade of a razor knife at the least-exposed setting makes it perfect for opening boxes without slicing the contents.</p> <p><strong>Safety Tip:</strong> As they taught me in the Future Farmers of America, always cut away from yourself. (I have a scar to back that tip up.)</p> <h3>Screwdrivers</h3> <p>Every household runs across the need for screwdrivers. Some small, battery-operated gadgets even require a screwdriver to replace the batteries. A medium and small bit in both Phillips head and straight screwdrivers should handle most situations. If space in your toolbox is an issue, you can get a single screwdriver with various bits stored in the handle. These can be gotten for very reasonable prices, and they have the additional benefit of including a larger selection of bits. The drawback of the all-in-one screwdriver is that the shaft is necessarily large to accommodate the interchangeable bits, so in a tight space (like a screw recessed down inside a plastic tube), they can be a problem. If you wear eyeglasses, a set of tiny screwdrivers can be a huge convenience, and these can also be purchased economically.</p> <p><strong>Safety Tip:</strong> Some screws require great downward pressure while turning, and it&rsquo;s easy to slip. So, as with knives, always position yourself so that, should the screwdriver slip, you are out of harm&rsquo;s way. (I have a scar to back that tip up, too.)</p> <h3>Tape Measure</h3> <p>How do I love thee? Let me count the ways. I love thee to the <em>depth</em> and <em>breadth</em> and <em>height</em> my soul can reach&hellip;and how am I going to measure depth, breadth, and height without a tape measure? When I write &ldquo;tape measure,&rdquo; I mean a rigid, retracting metal tape measure, not a limp, fabric or plastic sewing one. In fact, a retractable metal tape measure comes in darned handy for sewing (no pun intended). But on top of that, a tape measure is useful in accurately hanging pictures, moving furniture, measuring the height of children, measuring for drapes, teasing cats, laying out garden rows&hellip;and that&rsquo;s totally ignoring woodworking or home improvements.&nbsp;If you only buy one tape measure, make it a quality, wide, heavy-duty one, at least &frac34;&rdquo; wide and 25 feet long. There are many inexpensive, narrow, wimpy pretenders, but a Stanley FatMax or a Lufkin tape measure, treated properly, could last a lifetime.</p> <h3>Duct Tape</h3> <p><a href="">Entire articles</a> have been written on the uses of duct tape alone. Granted, it&rsquo;s more of a supply than a tool, but no toolbox is complete without it.</p> <h3>Adjustable Wrench</h3> <p>Alias: Crescent wrench (after the original manufacturer).</p> <p>An adjustable wrench is not just a poor man&rsquo;s wrench set. There are times when a Crescent wrench is actually superior to an entire set of fixed-dimension wrenches. For example, when you&rsquo;re going somewhere to turn a nut or bolt, but you don&rsquo;t know the size before you get there. Sure, there are annoyances with an adjustable wrench, but there are many times when I have been very happy to deal with the inconvenience of that for the convenience of carrying a single wrench.</p> <p><strong>Tip: </strong>Don&rsquo;t bother with the battery powered wrench that adjusts at the touch of a button.&nbsp;It&rsquo;s an unnecessary gimmick. Just get a good quality 8-inch and 10-inch basic adjustable wrench, so you can hold a nut and a bolt while tightening.</p> <h3>Slip-Joint Pliers</h3> <p>Alias: Channellocks (after the original manufacturer).</p> <p>These will do most things that a regular pair of pliers will do, plus a lot more. The longer handles offer additional leverage for much more jaw pressure (another great nutcracker), and the slip joints allow the jaws to open far wider. In a pinch, the large throat of slip joint pliers works great for under-sink plumbing, like tightening a slip nut on your sink&rsquo;s tailpiece to stop a leak.</p> <h3>Pruning Shears</h3> <p>If you live in a home with a garden, or even a patio with potted plants, a good set of hand pruning shears can help you keep shrubs in shape and trim the stems of flower arrangements to keep them fresh longer. If you have trees, you should also have a set of lopping shears. Make sure you regularly clean and oil them.&nbsp;</p> <h3>Diagonal Side Cutters</h3> <p>Alias: Dikes.<strong> </strong></p> <p>If you do any wiring, dikes are a necessity. They also come in handy for cutting wire to make jewelry, as my crafty daughter has learned.</p> <h3>Square</h3> <p>If you are cutting large pieces of wood, like plywood, or even fabric for a rectangular sewing project like curtains, having a basic framing square makes your project more accurate. If you aren&rsquo;t too rough on it, a $12 aluminum one will hold up well. It also has the added benefit of being rust-proof, if you ever do use it for fabric, which you won&rsquo;t want to stain with rust. For smaller projects, you can go with an even less expensive 7&rdquo; speed square.</p> <h3>Hacksaw</h3> <p>Cutting metal is sometimes a very useful capability. (Those of you who have been in jail know just what I mean.) Seriously, being able to cut off rusted-on nuts, cut a new groove into a stripped screw head, or cut off an overly long bolt after you&rsquo;ve threaded the nut on can sometimes save a lot of time, trouble, and money. A hacksaw is also useful for cutting PVC pipes for plumbing repairs.</p> <h3>Hand Saw</h3> <p>Even if you get to the point where you have various forms of power saws, you will run into situations where you need a hand saw. In the attic, under the house, or in the yard, when you don&rsquo;t want to have to run an extension cord to make a single cut, or when a hand saw is just the more convenient tool, you will be happy you have one. A Stanley Sharp Tooth is an amazingly economical tool that gets the job done beautifully. A 15-inch saw with 9 TPI (teeth per inch) fits in most toolboxes and cuts like crazy. $12 on <a href="">Amazon</a>.</p> <h3>Ear Protection</h3> <p>Most people can get away with just some good quality earplugs for this purpose, rather than the bulky earmuffs you see on airport employees. I favor the fluorescent foam disposable earplugs because they are comfortable, and they work. You can wear them while using power saws, running garden equipment, or even sleeping when the neighbors are partying.</p> <h3>Dust Mask</h3> <p>Sawdust, silica dust, gypsum dust, paint vapors, etc., have been determined to adversely affect your health. Go figure. 3M makes some of the more comfortable, economical masks to protect you from these hazards. The packaging describes which hazards each of their masks protects against. Have some on hand to protect your long-term health. They can even cut down on hay fever when you mow your lawn.</p> <h3>Multimeter</h3> <p>Alias: Multi-tester.</p> <p>This one may seem a little esoteric for the basic household crowd, but hang in there with me. Of the houses we&rsquo;ve lived in over 30 years, only one did NOT have at least one mis-wired electrical outlet somewhere in the house. With an inexpensive (under $15) multi-tester and the most basic electricity knowledge, you can test every outlet in your home in a few minutes, saving yourself untold potential problems in the future. In addition, you can test batteries, test for electrical shorts&hellip;you can even test light bulbs for continuity, to see whether they&rsquo;re still good. You can do that with tiny fuses from electronics or you auto, too. For those who prefer not to learn fundamentals of wiring to test their outlets, a simple, foolproof receptacle tester can be found at hardware, home improvement, and even some discount stores, for $3 to $7.</p> <h3>Stud Finder</h3> <p>Yeah, yeah, old joke. But if you want to hang anything of significant weight on your walls, such as framed art or a decent clock, you are well-advised to hang it from a nail or screw fastened in a wall stud, rather than just nailed through drywall. With practice, you can learn to find studs in the wall by tapping the wall with something slightly hefty, like the rubber grip on the handle of a hammer, and listening to distinguish between the hollow sound of an empty cavity. Or, for less than ten dollars, you can buy a fancy electronic gizmo called a stud finder that reliably locates both edges of the stud, so you can hit it, dead-center. Of course, you can also use it to find the cavity for running wires through a wall, cutting out for a medicine cabinet or spice rack, etc.</p> <h3>Ladder</h3> <p>This is a tough one, not because the necessity for a ladder is in question, but because there are so many variables involved that selecting the right ladder is not automatic. If you only use it indoors, a four foot ladder will serve most people well. But to get more benefit out of ladder ownership, you need it to serve some outdoor purposes, too. A good compromise, because it serves a lot of useful purposes outdoors but will also fit inside, is a seven foot step ladder. But if you have a vaulted ceiling with a light fixture, that may not be tall enough. Measure the height of your tallest purpose, then look at the maximum safe work height of listed ladders to determine the proper size.</p> <h3>Corded Electric Drill and Bits</h3> <p>Okay, I know you&rsquo;re bombarded by Sears, Lowes, and Home Depot ads for the latest, greatest cordless drill/drivers. But I assume that, if you&rsquo;re reading this, you are not a contractor or an experienced do-it-yourselfer. Cordless tools are great for frequent users, but for the occasional do-it-yourselfer, maintaining batteries can be a real pain. When you have a couple of hours on the weekend to complete a task, it&rsquo;s mighty frustrating to pull out your cordless drill and find out the battery is dead. A plug-in tool is ready to go all the time. Sure, you have to deal with an extension cord, but in the long run, that turns out to be less hassle than keeping batteries charged between infrequent uses. The minimum chuck size I would consider is 3/8&rdquo;, and 1/2&rdquo; is all the better.</p> <h3>Heavy-Duty Extension Cord</h3> <p>You knew that was coming. A recurring theme you may notice throughout this piece is, &ldquo;tools for a lifetime.&rdquo; I believe in that. We still have tools given to us as wedding gifts or passed on from parents. Part of maintaining a corded power tool is using proper extension cords. If your extension cord is too light for the job, you put your tools under strain and wear them out (or even burn them up) more quickly. For most applications, a 25 foot cord will be sufficient. If you are likely to run outdoor tools like weed or hedge trimmers, you may need a 50 foot cord or longer. Just remember, the longer the cord, the heavier the gauge necessary. The heavier the gauge, the smaller the number (so, a 12/3 cord is heavier than a 14/3 cord). Consult the manufacturer&rsquo;s specs for your tool and application.</p> <h3>Circular Saw</h3> <p>Alias: Skilsaw (after the original manufacturer).</p> <p>If you plan on cutting plywood and/or dimensional lumber in straight lines, a circular saw is a versatile tool for your arsenal. With a few tricks and techniques, you can make nice, straight, square cuts without having to own several separate, bulky tools, like a table saw, and a power miter saw.</p> <p><strong>Safety Tip:</strong> As with all power tools, always stay alert and respect the destructive capabilities of your circular saw. Stay clear of the blade during use and after use, when you are setting it in a safe place, especially if it is not equipped with a blade brake to stop rotation after use. Wear your sporty safety glasses, your ear protection, and your dust mask.</p> <h3>Sabre Saw</h3> <p>Aliases: Saber saw, reciprocating saw, jigsaw.</p> <p>This is the saw you go to when you want to cut curved lines, notch out small pieces, or make small cuts in the center of something without starting at an edge. You might want to cut a small notch into a board to accommodate the edge of another board or an obstruction. This is also the saw you would use to cut out intricate shapes to make Christmas ornaments, craft projects, etc.</p> <h3>Bench Grinder</h3> <p>This is another item that might raise eyebrows, but a decent bench grinder is an invaluable tool for a homeowner. As far as I&rsquo;m concerned, its usefulness is as surprising to a new owner as a <a href="">microwave</a> oven turns out to be. Before you own one, you think, &quot;what would I use that for?&quot; After you own one, you wonder how you lived without it. We have a wire wheel mounted on one side and a grinding wheel on the other, and it&rsquo;s hard to say which gets used most often. The wire wheel is used to buff rust and corrosion from metal, and the grinding wheel is used to sharpen lawnmower blades, machetes, hatchets, knives, scissors, etc., as well as remove sharp edges from metal cut with a hacksaw.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p><strong>Safety Tip: </strong>Keep long hair tied back and away from the grinder, and respect its power. Concentrate, maintain a firm grasp on anything you touch to the wheel, and wear your safety glasses, ear protection, and dust mask!</p> <p>These are the tools, among many others, that we have found most useful in our household. Different households may have completely different priorities. I would be very interested to see readers&rsquo; suggestions!</p> <br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">This article is from <a href="">Marla Walters</a> of <a href="">Wise Bread</a>, an award-winning personal finance and <a href="">credit card comparison</a> website. Read more great articles from Wise Bread:</div><div class="view view-similarterms view-id-similarterms view-display-id-block_2 view-dom-id-2"> <div class="view-content"> <div class="item-list"> <ul> <li class="views-row views-row-1 views-row-odd views-row-first"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="">DIY Home Improvement: 10 Free Options for Training and Advice</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-2 views-row-even"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="">14 Ways to Make Your Yard Look Awesome for Under $100</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-3 views-row-odd"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="">How to Create Your Dream Backyard on a Budget</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-4 views-row-even"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="">Like DIY? Avoid These 10 Costly Mistakes</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-5 views-row-odd views-row-last"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="">10 Cool DIY Home Improvements for $20 or Less</a></span> </div> </li> </ul> </div> </div> </div> </div><br/></br> DIY Home fixes home improvement new homes tools Fri, 09 Mar 2012 10:48:24 +0000 Marla Walters 909728 at Home Details I Overlooked the First Time <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/home-details-i-overlooked-the-first-time" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="" alt="home improvement disaster" title="home improvement disaster" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="188" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p>If you&#39;re in the market for a new home (new to you or new period), make sure you aren&#39;t paying premium prices for so-so materials, and don&#39;t underestimate the expenses and headaches associated with making what seem to be minor improvements.</p> <p>I&#39;ve been visiting new homes in my area, just checking out what&#39;s available. The high-end homes feature high-end materials with accompanying price tags and, it seems, the moderate homes feature moderate materials also with high price tags. Just because a home is new and everything looks good now, most materials will not last or look good forever, especially the cheaper ones. Though there is absolutely nothing wrong with buying a house with less-than-luxury materials or less-than-perfect design, you can still do some homework to make sure you are paying a fair price. </p> <p>First, how do you learn about materials? </p> <ul> <li>Visit your favorite home-improvement center and/or specialty store. See and feel countertops (such as granite, solid surface, ceramic tile), kitchen cabinets (oak, cherry, maple, hickory woods and wood veneers in a variety of finishes as well as thermofoil), flooring (ceramic tile, carpeting, engineered wood, solid wood, bamboo, linoleum), and more.</li> </ul> <ul> <li>Mix in some Internet research; you can start with <a href="" target="_blank" title="">Home Tips</a> and vendor websites, then move on to home-improvement forums if you have an interest in learning about project experiences.</li> </ul> <ul> <li>Take a Parade of Homes&#39; tour. </li> </ul> <ul> <li>Ask home-improvement pros a few questions about the best materials and though you won&#39;t get a straight answer, you will most likely get insight into appropriate applications. (That is, if you have young children, get really strong or inexpensive, easily replaceable flooring. And you may discover a ceramic tile that can withstand the pressure of an automobile, explaining the price differential between two tiles I was considering for a kitchen backsplash). </li> </ul> <p>I wished I had paid more attention to materials when my husband and I selected our current home. It was in a neighborhood we liked, had plenty of indoor and outdoor space, and was very affordable. The mortgage payments have been easily made, which is good since we needed money to make functional repairs and fashion improvements. </p> <p>As far as major projects, I learn best from experience so I&#39;ll tell you about some of my adventures. You should know that I am not (typically) a DIYer but have located, hired, and worked with contractors, getting their advice and trying to make sure they did what they were supposed to do. In many cases, there were some underlying problems (either in the original construction or some that arose due to repair needs and/or aging materials) that I could not have diagnosed or fixed myself easily or quickly. </p> <p>Here&#39;s a rundown on the scope and cost of our home-improvement projects: </p> <p><strong>HVAC (heating, ventilation, and air conditioning)</strong></p> <p>Our house had ceiling heat, which, for a time, was promoted as an energy-efficient method of heating, defying basic principles that heat rises and therefore doesn&#39;t warm the people who are paying the electricity bill. (Now you see why I held <a href="/slow-drip-into-investing" target="_blank" title="">Duke Power in my portfolio</a>). On the upside, during the short time that we tolerated the ceiling heat (before our first child was born), the dough that I brought home from my bread-baking class at the community college always rose and the bread baked perfectly. </p> <p>When natural gas became available in our neighborhood, we had a gas heating system installed and expanded the HVAC capabilities to include the master bathroom and sunroom addition. </p> <p>Approximate cost of $6,000 in 1994 dollars.</p> <p><strong>Kitchen</strong></p> <p>Cheap everything was the hallmark of the kitchen: oak-like paperboard for the cabinets, flourescent lighting, laminate countertops, and linoleum flooring that dented every time anyone in the house dropped something (at least a couple times a week). </p> <p>We&#39;ve replaced everything with ceramic tile flooring, maple cabinetry, granite countertops, and stainless steel appliances. I had a huge debate with myself about adding ceramic tile flooring but opted for it because 1) it doesn&#39;t show dirt easily (at least the color I selected doesn&#39;t); 2) it doesn&#39;t dent (though I have to be careful about dropping anything on it, easier now that my kids are older and I have slightly fewer distractions) and 3) I overheard two ladies at the gym discuss how putting tile in their kitchens was one of the best home-improvement decisions they&#39;ve ever made. My biggest regret/didn&#39;t-know item is that magnets do not stick to stainless steel so I had to get a bulletin board to place important notices. </p> <p>Cost of slightly less than $29,000 including ceramic tile in the sunroom attached to the kitchen. </p> <p><strong>Bathrooms</strong></p> <p>I&#39;ll hit the highlights (or rather low points) of my master and guest bathrooms, previously decorated with the least expensive products available on the market right down to wooden towel rods. </p> <p>The tub in the master bathroom had a few holes (I know this is odd) that were unattractive but did not impact the function of the bath. I didn&#39;t realize that replacing the tub meant possibly tearing down walls to make way for a new tub; my contractor recommended, and we agreed to, replacing the tub with a walk-in, ceramic-tiled shower. The guest bathroom had cabinet drawers that sagged and a stark, commercial-like mirror. We&#39;ve replaced the flooring that was rotting due to water damage, brought the sink placement up to current building code, put in exhaust fans, and added decorative lighting and mirrors. </p> <p>Cost for both bathrooms of approximately $15,000.</p> <p><strong>Doors</strong></p> <p>Fixing the main entry door was much more complicated than I imagined. I wanted to replace an oak door that was cracked, which seemed like a pretty simple thing to do. Also, I wanted to replace a storm door, which was easily done. First I learned (through a series of trips to the hardware store and varied conversations with door/millwork pros) that I didn&#39;t want to replace the door but the <em>slab</em>. Replacing the entire door involves replacing the <em>door unit</em>, which can run thousands of dollars with decorative sidelights, etc. I was looking for a less expensive option. </p> <p>I liked solid oak doors and picked one out. Then I read all about the finishing process. Apparently if I did not finish the door to precise specifications and if I let heat trap between the oak door and storm door (by closing the doors during the day, a common practice), then the warranty was void. Imprecise finishing and heat build-up would cause the door to crack, which was the reason I was replacing the door. So, after more interaction with the millwork pros, and consultation with my husband who was familiar with the difficulties of applying finishes, I opted for a fiberglass door. Just in case anyone else is in the door-replacement market, you may not be able to get a fiberglass door to the dimensions of your door frame; it&#39;s easier to cut a wood door than change the fiberglass mold.</p> <p>I&#39;ve also replaced a storm door leading to my deck and put in french doors to replace a not-really-working sliding glass door. </p> <p>Cost of $2,500 (in 2007 and 1997 dollars).</p> <p><strong>Garage</strong></p> <p>There is none. One of the previous owners closed it in to create two bedrooms, where people actually lived, slept, and thrived apparently. The decor is el-cheapo 1970&#39;s do-it-yourself with fake wooden walls and mismatched lighting. I didn&#39;t care about the lack of garage when I moved in (I&#39;m not a car person) but over time, it started to bother me. </p> <p>Now? I have re-purposed one of the rooms ala <a href="" target="_blank" title="">HGTV</a> into a library, consolidating stray bookshelves onto one wall and simultaneously covering some of that fake wood, buying a nice bedspread and pillow shams for my daybed (my first-ever pillow shams), and framing and putting up photos. The room has been a godsend now that my kids are getting big and crowding our upstairs space. </p> <p>I am in the process of creating a storage area with the other room and am happy to report that I can see the carpet now (it&#39;s orange and brown btw). </p> <p>Cost = $0</p> <p>So, don&#39;t do what I did: look closely at the materials and think very seriously about renovation projects before you buy. </p> <br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">This article is from <a href="">Julie Rains</a> of <a href="">Wise Bread</a>, an award-winning personal finance and <a href="">credit card comparison</a> website. Read more great articles from Wise Bread:</div><div class="view view-similarterms view-id-similarterms view-display-id-block_2 view-dom-id-3"> <div class="view-content"> <div class="item-list"> <ul> <li class="views-row views-row-1 views-row-odd views-row-first"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="">6 Tips to Sell Your Condo Fast</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-2 views-row-even"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="">9 Costly Things New Homeowners Don&#039;t Prepare For</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-3 views-row-odd"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="">6 Ways to Improve Your Curb Appeal for Next to Nothing</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-4 views-row-even"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="">20+ Questions to Ask During an Open House</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-5 views-row-odd views-row-last"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="">What to Look for in a Fixer-Upper</a></span> </div> </li> </ul> </div> </div> </div> </div><br/></br> Real Estate and Housing home improvement materials new homes renovations repairs Tue, 10 Jul 2007 21:18:39 +0000 Julie Rains 783 at