Home Improvement

Seven Hacks for Home Maintenance | Summer

After the harsh Vermont winter, summer is finally here, and we’re all eager to lay back and relax. Unfortunately, there are a few chores to be taken care of before the fun and relaxation can begin. But don’t worry; We’ve compiled a list of summer chores to remember as soon as the weather turns warmer.

Inspect and Repair Patios and Walkways

Our first instinct upon the first sign of the summer months is to kick back and relax, but if your deck or patio is in need of repairs, you’re more likely to find yourself with an injury disrupting your summer plans. Avoid this by inspecting your patios and walkways as soon as possible. If you have a deck, be sure that all wooden slats are stable and secure, as well as any railings. Bring old, splintered wood back to life with a fresh coat of varnish. If you have a stone patio or walkway, adjust uneven portions or cracks to avoid tripping and causing injury. You can do this by prying up your displaced pavers and smoothing and evening out the bed with playground sand. Just replace the stone, and you’re all set. Good as new!

Take Care of Landscaping and Gardening

A good landscaping job can add so much more to a home. All eyes will land on your beautiful home when you take the extra time to tend to your lawn and garden. Be sure to trim and water your lawn as often as it requires, cut hedges and bushes, and remove any dead plant life from gardens. Keeping up with these tasks often, on a weekly or bi-weekly basis, can keep your lawn looking fresh and tidy!

Mulch Your Flower Beds

Another important part of landscaping and gardening...be sure to mulch your garden! Mulch can help to keep weeds and other unwanted plant life in check by insulating your plant beds. You can do this by adding 2 to 4 inches of mulch to your garden.

Tend to Smaller Repairs

Remember when you swore you’d fix that creaky door hinge or loose board in the fence once winter was over? Well, winter is over, and now is as good a time as any to tend to those smaller repairs and tasks you’ve been putting off due to the snow.

Wash Your Windows

As you tend to all your smaller repairs, add a note to your list of chores to wash your windows! All the hard work you put into your landscaping will be for not if you can’t see it past the dirt and grime left by winter’s harsh conditions.

Give Your Grill a Spa Day

Before you throw your next big neighborhood barbeque, be sure to properly inspect your grill for any issues that may have come from last summer’s shindigs. Make sure any gas hoses and connections are secured and be sure to clean your grill! No one wants to eat the leftovers from last summer.

Make Sure Your AC is Running Smoothly

Be sure to have your AC inspected by a professional to be sure your AC is in perfect order this year! It’s much better to be safe than sorry, especially in the summer heat!

Renovation Mistakes to Avoid

It seems like there is always something that needs to be changed or improved upon in your home, am I right? The kitchen is too small, the bathroom is falling apart, and don't even get me started on the living room carpet. Wanting to go crazy with renovations is a natural conclusion, but you want to make sure you do it right so you don't have to do it again. Putting in a new window to have a view of the Green Mountains won't be worth it if it's drafty during a Vermont winter. We've put together a list of things to avoid when you're starting on your renovation journey.
Overestimating Your Skill - If you're a DIY fanatic you might have a hard time swallowing this little bit of knowledge: you can't do it all yourself. You can get away with painting and some smaller projects, but you'll want to leave the bigger jobs to the pros. A blog from Carlisle Wide Plank Floors & Rugs explains; "Large items like structural changes, electrical, plumbing, or roofing, is an exacting job and potentially dangerous. If it is not done properly it can lead to larger, and more costly issues, in your home. You are better off spending the money now, to work with a professional." 
Minimizing the Timeline - Anyone who has ever had a renovation done can tell you they almost never get done by the intended date. Maybe some item doesn’t get ordered in time or you put off making a decision that halts the contractor's progress. This isn’t always the case but you should be prepared if it is.
Budget - Oh, the budget. There are many aspects that come into play when dealing with the cost of a renovation. First things first, you need to know how much you can realistically spend and what materials you are looking to use in the renovation. While it might be tempting to go for the cheapest option, that's usually the option that will fall apart not so far down the road. You'll also want to avoid spending too much on certain things while neglecting others. Getting a pricy light fixture won't be worth it if you downgraded on something important, like cabinets or flooring.
The budget also applies to who you want working on your project. The most common advice, because it is good advice, is to get multiple quotes on your project before you choose your contractor and not go straight for the lowest bid. An article on MarthaStewart.com explains; "The low bid is tempting, but it's often not realistic. The low bid is misleading -- usually, the contractor simply hasn't accounted for costs that are bound to emerge during renovation. If you take a low bid, Soria says, you may end up just paying the same as the highest bid. Soria suggests interviewing at least 4 or 5 contractors and taking the middle ground. You don't have to take the highest bid, but the lowest bid is a red herring."

Tip and Tricks for Hanging A Gallery Wall

Ah, the gallery wall. It’s a classic design choice that can really show off your personality and values. The best part? This can be a completely DIY project if you want, which means keeping costs down. We break down what you'll need to keep in mind as you get started.


Plan
You may think winging it is the way to go, but you want all the pieces to fit together in a cohesive setting. This doesn't mean you need to shoot for symmetry or keep a pattern, but it can look messy or off if it’s just thrown together.
You also want to plan where this gallery is going to go. Big, blank walls are the target here and even better if you can put it where nothing else can fit, like next to a stairway or door. You’ll also need to take into account how big you’re looking to go. An 8x11 photo isn’t big on its own, but a dozen will eat up space quickly.
Once you have a space chosen you'll need to map it. You can do this on the floor, use paper cutouts to map it out on the wall, or buy a fancy wall gallery kit which will give you a template. It all depends on how DIY you want to be!


Have Fun
Realize that you don’t just have to hang photos. If you’d like an eclectic collection you can choose to hang photos, paintings, and objects like wooden letters and album covers. Honestly, you don’t have to hang any photos at all.


How to Hang
You have a couple options for getting those items on the wall. These include:
Nails
Shelves
Adhesive Strips
If you’re feeling extra fancy you can try out a hanging system, like what they use in museums where cables hand down from a rod along the edge of the wall and ceiling. Make sure whatever you use is sturdy enough to handle what will be holding it, especially if it has sentimental value, like a vase.

Simple Kitchen Updates this Spring

If you’re planning a lot of spring and summer barbecues, you’re going to be spending a lot of time in the kitchen doing meal prep and cooking. If your kitchen is feeling a little bleh lately we have some tips for you.
Looking for something totally new but not too much commitment? Check out these ideas:
New Lighting
A kitchen can look incredibly different depending on the lighting and the options are endless. Adding or changing the hanging lights above your counter can really balance out the room. We personally love dimmable lights, so you can easily control the mood. 
New Faucet
If your faucet is less than ideal it can make something as simple as doing the dishes seem like the worst possible chore. Try an upgrade and add features like a sprayer to make your job easier.
Paint
We’re not talking the whole kitchen...unless you want to! Just painting the cabinets will completely change the look that you’ve grown bored of. Make sure to do your research though; painting cabinets can be tricky.
Open Shelving
If you have space, try some open shelves for a more modern look. It’s perfect for easy accessibility and you now have more storage space!

If something even simpler is more up your alley, check out these ideas:
New Curtains
Throw some fabric up! It softens the look of the kitchen and the possibilities with color and patterns are infinite. A valance might be perfect for you if you want an accent to the room but don’t want to hinder the natural light coming through the window.
Bring in the Green
It’s spring people, take advantage! Placing potted plants and flowers on your counters can add just the right amount of fun, and color, that you’re looking for. Make it herbs, and it can be functional when you’re cooking too.
Create a Focal Point/Counter Decor
If you don’t have a green thumb, there are other options. Buying or placing a bowl or pedestal and putting fruit on it can look really nice. Or if you have a nice vessel that can hold all your spoons and spatulas, it can be functional as well.
Add a Rug 
If your floors are less than perfect, or you simply want to add some “more” a rug can be the perfect solution. Chances are you might even have one hanging around that you can repurpose. Make sure to add some rug grippers to the bottom if you have kids or pets running around.

Jump Start Spring Cleaning

April is just around the corner and that means you need to get your act together. We know you've been ignoring the steadily growing checklist of things you need to do; declutter, wash the windows, sweep, etc. The truth is you just have to do it. 

One of the biggest things people seem to struggle with is an overabundance of STUFF. Do you really need so much STUFF? Probably not. Getting rid of unwanted or unusable items will make your job much easier. We've made a list of some things that need to be chucked.

Wire hangers - They're bent, they're awkward and every piece of clothing you own falls off of them. Chuck 'em.

Dish sponge - If you can't distinguish what color the sponge was when you got it, it's got to go!

Old shoes - We all tend to stock up on shoes since they're generally not cheap but if they've seen better days then you need to let go. Maybe donate them if they're still usable but not your style.

Clothes you’ve never worn - Along the same lines; you know you have clothes that you have never and probably will never wear. Bag or box them up and give them to someone who WILL use them.

Solo socks - If your sock has lost its companion give up all hope. You will never find it again.

Expired makeup/medicine - This is important for space and for health. Old makeup can build up bacteria and irritate your skin and old medicine becomes ineffective. 

Toothbrush - Our rule of thumb? If you can't remember when you bought the brush, chuck it.

Calendars - We know it's March but I still have a 2017 calendar up so I figured I wasn't alone. 

Unidentifiable frozen objects - If you want to risk it, that's your prerogative. 

Old glasses - If you've upgraded prescriptions you're never going to be able to use those glasses anyway. Donate them.

Old chargers - People today get new phones every other year or so but it can seem like a waste to throw perfectly good chargers away. Too bad. Ask if anyone can use it and then toss it. Older model phone chargers won't work with today's newer models anyway. 

Remotes - You know how you have 5 remotes on your coffee table? Chances are you don't need them. At the very least, pack away the ones you never use or have forgotten the use for.

Manuals - Most manuals can be found online these days and you don't need to keep a textbook-sized packet on your new blender.   

Games with missing pieces - If you're missing an integral part of your game, like the wheel in LIFE, it might be time to get a new set. 

Old maps - They made GPS for a reason.

We hope these help you on your quest to conquer spring cleaning!

Winter Storm Prep - Before & During

As Northeastern Quinn barrels up the east coast, we figured it would be a good time to discuss prepping for a storm and best practices for during. Snow can build up fast in New England and Vermont especially where winters can be unpredictable. Most of the time, life moves as usual, if at a slower pace, but you want to be prepared. Heavy snow can lead to home damage and power outages and this can become very dangerous if you're not ready for it.

Emergency supplies: First things first you'll want to hit the grocery store and make sure you're stocked up on water & food that doesn't require a microwave or oven. Depending on your heating situation you'll want to bring in more wood, make sure your propane tank is full, or check on your generator.

Simple supplies like blankets, pillows, and warm clothes are very important if you rely on electric heat. Power lines going down are not uncommon with big snowstorms and depending on how bad the forecast is, it could take a while to get your power restored. 

Shovels are a must-have for any homeowner and we suggest owning a couple. Heavy snow has broken more than a few shovels, so it's best to invest in quality ones. In this case, finding the best deal is not advised if it's a cheap piece of plastic.

A couple of other items to make sure you have handy would be flashlights, batteries, and matches.  

Snow removal: During a storm, it's important to keep up with things like shoveling. Roofs and decks can collapse under the weight of snow if it accumulates too much. It's best to shovel before too much builds up, so you don't overexert yourself trying to remove too much at once. If you are living in Vermont, or other New England states that can see a lot of snow, you will want to invest in a roof rake as well. You might not be able to remove all the snow from your roof but even shoveling off half will reduce the stress being put on your structure.

If you know of a place in your house, maybe a window or door, that is generally drafty, make sure you cover it up. There are actual draft guards but rolling up a towel and placing it appropriately can be just as effective. This will keep you warmer and save energy costs.

Storm prep BEFORE winter: It's too late to do some of these now, but they can save you a lot of trouble in the future.

Clear gutters – build up in your gutters can lead to ice dams in the winter where water can sit for long periods on your roof. If this happens and the water sinks under your roofline you can be looking at thousands of dollars worth of water damage. 

Trim branches - tree branches can get extremely heavy under the weight of snow and power lines aren't the only thing they can take out. Trim back any large branches that extend close to your home and you won't have a rude awakening when a branch decides to break a window or take out part of your roof.

Insulate exposed pipes - the cold weather from a few weeks ago caused major damage to businesses and homes around the state when pipes burst. Simply using foam can help and be done relatively easily, depending on how accessible your pipes are. Some people also suggest leaving warm and cold water dripping, so there's movement through the pipes. 

Small Kitchen? We Have Some Ideas For You

kitchenetteThe kitchen is one of the, if not THE, most important rooms in your home. It's where family meals come together and memories are made. You want to make the most of this space even if it's not as big as you'd like. Luckily for you, we know some ways to make a small kitchen look and feel bigger.

Hang your pots

Save space on your counters and in your cabinets by hanging your most-used pots, pans, and utensils. You can also install a magnetic knife strip so you don't need to have a huge knife block sitting on your counter and taking up space you don't have.

Bye bye cabinets

One way to really make your kitchen feel open and airy is to replace or install open vertical shelves. Boxy cabinets can make a space seem smaller when simply opening a cabinet door is likely to close-line someone. A mix of classic cabinets and open shelves might be an option you want to look at.

Box it up

If there are items you don't use as much in your kitchen, box them up and put them somewhere out of the way. Cabinets that have room above them can be a perfect place to store a box that you might need but don't want to be in the way.

Scale down the appliances

You can save a lot of space in your kitchen by cutting down on the total inches that your appliances take over. Do you really need a double sink or would it be better to have more counter space? Dishwashers usually come with a standard 24-inch width, but you can get them in 18th-inch as well and use that extra space for a larger cabinet or more drawer space. Even fridges can be downsized if need be.

Built-in appliances

While you can scale down appliances, there are also ways to arrange them that will take up less of your valuable space. For instance, a built-in microwave that sits above your countertop will save a lot more space than having a free standing one. Same goes for refrigerators that can be installed at cabinet-depth and not stick out into your precious space.

Decluttering Your Home

Decluttering your home is necessary for anyone but especially if you’re moving. It can make the process much simpler and faster when you’re boxing things up. While it seems like a daunting task you can break it down to make it easier to swallow. Here are some tips from us:

10-15 minutes

This is a super popular way to declutter for those who are way too busy to actually do it. Set aside 10 to 15 minutes dedicated to decluttering a certain room or organizing a space. If you do feel like spending more time, don’t allocate more than 2 or 3 hours to one space or project. Spending too much time can drain all your energy and make you less efficient.   

Bags/baskets

Before you begin, you want to know where all of your stuff is going to go. Get at least three bags out and label them trash, donate, and relocate. This way you can easily take care of everything that is hanging around without moving it somewhere else where it doesn’t belong either.

Organize first

Many people go through an organizational supply crisis when they realize all the stuff they have to find a place for. This usually translates to going to Bed, Bath, and Beyond and returning home with countless bins, crates, and other storage options. Before you go crazy, organize first! You don’t want to buy more than you need and only contribute to the clutter problem. Plus, you might find all the storage space you need once you start looking around.

Don’t do it half way

If you start working on a task, finish it! Many people don’t like decluttering or organizing and stopping before you’re finished might mean you never finish. This also means taking out trash or recycling that you’ve accumulated through the process, and not letting it sit in the garage; you’d just be creating more clutter elsewhere.

Reduce Your Home Heating Costs

Winters in Vermont can be brutal and your heating bill can add insult to injury. We've put together a couple of ways you can reduce your heating costs in simple and cost effective ways.

Keep the shades closed

During the night or when you're not home, there is no reason to keep the curtains open since it only adds to any drafts coming from the windows. On days that aren't brutally cold, it can help to leave curtains open in rooms where the sun will shine in. This will add some natural heat for no extra cost.

Programmable thermostat

While these aren't free, the money you could save will be worth it. Programmable thermostats allow you to preset times to turn the heat down or up when you're not home or sleeping. It's perfect if you're more forgetful or too busy to be changing it manually multiple times a day.

Socks

Have you ever noticed that you feel considerably warmer or cooler depending on whether you're wearing socks? Simply putting on some winter socks can make your home feel warmer. 

Fans

Use ceiling and standing fans to your advantage by using them to circulate warm air to different areas of the house. Just place them strategically to filter the air from heating vents or wood/gas stoves.

Only heat what you need

You might find that you don't need all the rooms in your home to be heated all the time. If the study or laundry room don't see as much traffic, then you might consider closing those doors (or vents) and saving more heat for other rooms. 

Deck the Halls

Holiday decorations can be the ultimate hassle on top of an already stressful season. Lucky for you we have some fun ideas that don't have to take too much time or effort to employ.

Solar Lights - There's a solution to the headache that is always putting up lights in and around your yard...solar lights. Wrap these around trees and bushes and they'll turn on automatically when the sun goes down. No extension cord needed!

Mailbox - If your home is less visible but you still want to show your neighbors the holiday spirit decorated your mailbox. You can wrap garland around the post or simply attach a bow.

Wreaths - You can't go wrong with a holiday wreath. If a fancy pre-made wreath is not something you're willing to pay for, there are plenty of other options. You can buy a simple, bare, fake wreath for a few bucks and decorate it with wrapping ribbon and other products from around your house. This is a great way to save money, as you won't have to buy a new one next year either.

Garland - Hanging garland is a holiday staple. You can utilize this kind of decoration anywhere that you want. Wrap it around your porch railing, hang it from the window panes, or string it along your fence posts. 

Candles - We know candles can be tricky due to the risk of fire, so we are promoting the use of electric automatic candles. In our house, we use individual electric candles that automatically turn on when the light starts to fade. Put them in your windows facing the road for a warm look for all to see.

Paper Snowflakes - If you live somewhere where your windows get a lot of notice, this is a perfect idea for you. Simply make or buy some paper snowflakes (very easy to make) and attach them to the inside of your windows. It adds a nice little touch to your home. 

We hope everyone has a safe and very merry holiday season!