Decorating tips for that area between the house and detached garage

The ideal landscape contains a balance of both hardscape elements – rocks, fences, patios, walkways, pavers – and softscape elements – trees, plants, anything living. Achieving this balance, whether with a nod to aesthetics or practicality, can be challenging.

When you have a spot of hardscape, such as a patio, lying between your house and garage, it’s tempting to use it simply as a pass-through from the car to the house, and many people do just that. It’s not difficult, however, to transform that space into an elegant, whimsical or relaxing outdoor retreat.

Whether you want a quiet, private space to enjoy your morning coffee or an area to entertain, here are some patio ideas between the house and detached garage.

Enclose it

Keep prying eyes out of the area and make it cozier by enclosing the patio on the two open sides. Enclosing it also creates an instant courtyard and a blank slate on which to work your creative magic.

The editors of Better Homes and Garden magazine suggest that the enclosure doesn’t have to be a solid fence, but anything that gives the area the feel of being enclosed.

They claim that “A vine-covered trellis or a hedge may close in a small space (perhaps less than 10 feet square) without making it feel claustrophobic.”

If you choose to use a fence, be sure to add something to soften the lines and make it less imposing. Plants are ideal for this situation, especially if you use trees and plants with various heights and textures.

An alternative to using plants to soften the hard lines of a fence or wall is to treat them as you do your indoor walls, by painting them. Stain is another option.

Once the walls are dry, hang waterproof artwork in frames to match your theme, or candle sconces, which will also add a soft glow to dinners on the patio.

Turn it into a courtyard

Courtyards, by definition, are enclosed on the sides and open to the sky. Many people, however, choose to cover the patio so that they can use it year-round.

What to use as a “roof” can be as simple as an umbrella on a small patio, a shade sail or awning or an elaborate pergola, covered in vines.

Keep in mind that when you block out the sky, the space will feel much smaller. If you’re already dealing with a small space you may have to scale back on outdoor furniture and other accessories to maintain an open feeling.

Furnish it

Creating outdoor rooms, that mirror those we find indoors, is becoming quite popular and the sky is the limit when choosing outdoor furniture.

In a large space you can divide the patio into rooms, such as using an outdoor sofa, coffee table and chairs to create a “living room,” or designate a kitchen area complete with a brick oven and outdoor refrigerator and sink.

Small patios benefit from furniture as well, even if you can only fit a small bistro table and two chairs.

Accessorize it

Take a tip from indoor decorators when considering accessories for the patio.

Artwork on the walls or even a mural adds color and character. Wall fountains don’t take up much space and can mask road noise and add ambiance. Hang strings of outdoor lights through the trees.

Other accessories to consider, depending on your space and design, include:

  • A fire pit or chimney to keep you warm on chilly evenings
  • Misters to cool you off on a warm day
  • Sculptures and plaques to add whimsy or texture
  • Decorative birdfeeders for your feathered friends

Give it a theme

If you’re having a difficult time deciding which furniture and accessories to use, it might help if you come up with a theme first. Once you have a theme in mind, you can shop for furniture and accessories and even plants that fit the theme. Here are several themes other gardeners use for their patios:

  • Southwest
  • Tropical
  • Cottage
  • Farmhouse
  • Resort
  • Coastal
  • Asian
  • Modern
  • Mediterranean

Find inspirational themes at

Plant It

The softscape components of your patio are just as important as the hardscape. If the patio is edged with planting beds, consider yourself fortunate.

If you don’t have beds you can still add plants to the patio by growing them in containers. Even certain varieties of trees do well in a suitable sized container so don’t shy away from larger plants.

If you combine more than one type of plant in a hanging planter, choose plants that have the same water, light and nutrient requirements, cautions Randy Drinkard, with the University of Georgia Center for Urban Agriculture.

In your decorating frenzy, don’t forget that this patio is the egress from the house and the detached garage, so leave room for folks to traverse that route.

Another place to find landscaping ideas is in new home developments. The model homes are typically professionally and tastefully landscaped and most patios are staged for potential buyers.

Still stuck for ideas? Check out these ideas for courtyards and these, for patios, at


Don’t-miss spots to tackle during spring cleaning

One year ago, on March 20, 2020, Nevada Governor Steve Sisolak closed the iconic Las Vegas Strip.

Children across the country began going to school online and “Coronavirus,” “Coronavirus Symptoms” and “Coronavirus update” ranked among the top 5 Google searches.

This year isn’t a whole lot different, with the exception that Americans are stay-at-home-weary.

Spring is springing, however, and there is no virus that will stop it. Whether or not you’re still stuck at home, consider getting that spring cleaning started.

The experts claim that if no-one in the home suffered from the virus, your spring-cleaning ritual from years past will suffice.

If someone in the home did suffer from COVID-19, follow the CDC’s instructions for cleaning. You’ll find them at

We’ve rounded up some cleaning tips that homeowners may not consider (but they should) when they’re spring cleaning. This week, we start with the air you breath (and smell).

Filters, filters and more filters

Most homeowners forget that there are more filters in the home than the one for the HVAC system.

The drinking water/ice dispenser in your refrigerator-freezer, for instance, “… should be replaced every six (6) months or after every 200 gallons of dispensed water,” according to the pros at

And before you dismiss this chore, consider this:

The refrigerator water dispenser is one of the “germiest” areas of the kitchen (National Sanitation Foundation).

Follow the instructions in your appliance’s owner’s manual and make changing this filter a part of routine home maintenance.

Other filters to put on the list include:

  • HVAC filter: Replace every 3 months
  • Range hood filter: If you cook a lot, clean the filter every 1 to 2 months. If you own a ductless range hood filter: Clean these “… every one to three months or after 120 hours of cooking,” according to the experts with Proline Range Hoods. “If the unit recirculates air through the hood back into the room, it will likely also have a carbon filter behind the screen. Replace these as needed,” recommend the pros at Meticulous Inspections.
  • Dishwasher filter: Clean every 3 to 6 months, depending on how often you run a load of dishes. For tips, see this information at
  • Dryer lint filter: Clean after every load. This will help you to prevent becoming a victim of one of the county’s 2,900 dryer fires, reported each year, according to the U.S. Fire Administration.
  • 2,900 home clothes dryer fires are reported each year
  • Window screens: Yup, since they filter out dirt and bugs, window screens are considered filters. And, since spring is here, you’ll no doubt want to fling open the windows and let in some fresh air. Check for bends in the screens’ frames, holes and other damage.

Next week, we’ll tackle the kitchen and discuss some of the items that gather the most germs.

The tools every homeowner needs

Last year, dubbed “The Year of the Home” by the editors at, saw a huge leap in the popularity of DIY home improvement projects.

Home maintenance projects, especially of the DIY variety, became even more popular, with homeowners, on average, performing slightly more than 7 maintenance projects, an increase of 25% over the previous year.

If you’ll be joining the DIY revolution, you’ll need proper tools. The basics will help you hang shelves, fix a dripping faucet, install a new doorknob and more.

Larger projects, on the other hand, require additional or specialized tools. Though tool prices have increased, there are ways to buy them on the cheap, which we’ll get into later on.

First, let’s start filling your toolbox.

Start with the basics

When it comes to tools, many homeowners feel like we can never have enough. Others just want the rock-bottom basics necessary to perform small repairs around the home. Let’s start with the must-haves in a very, very basic tool kit:

  • Protective gear (at bare minimum, goggles and a dust mask)
  • Duct tape
  • Screwdrivers (both a #2 Phillips and a square-head)
  • A 16″ all-purpose claw hammer
  • Pliers
  • Adjustable wrench
  • Hacksaw
  • 35’ Measuring tape
  • Stepladder
  • Utility knife
  • Pencil
  • Flashlight or headlamp (and extra batteries)

If you’re new to the world of tools, do yourself a favor and learn tips from the pros. We love this YouTube video from Powernation, “You May Be Using The Wrong Tools For The Job, Here’s The Correct Ones.”

The above list of tools should help you manage basic home repairs. Anything larger or more creative will require additional tools. Round out your toolbox with:

  • Circular saw
  • Cordless drill with screwdriver attachments as well as drill bits
  • Level
  • Stud finder
  • 6-foot ladder

Naturally, the list can be endless. Get additional tips on what to add to your toolbox on, and

Where to buy these tools without breaking your budget

The least expensive tools are used tools and the best place to buy them is at garage/yard sales, estate sales and online marketplaces.

As you can imagine, used tools are in high demand right now. If you choose to shop at garage or estate sales, get there early because most will be gone after the first hour the sale is open.

Then, the used tools for sale in online marketplaces, such as those listed above, are becoming pricier (especially on eBay). Comparison shopping is critical if you hope to save money.

Use these sources primarily for hand tools, unless you are experienced with power tools. The latter should be checked for problems, such as frayed cords, missing chargers for battery operated tools and ensuring that the manufacturer’s safety features remain intact.

Our handyperson recommends that you also look for corrosion in the battery compartment of cordless tools. If you see it, pass on the tool.

Buying new? Prices can vary on items, according to retailer so make sure you price compare. The obvious outlets are, Home Depot and Lowe’s. But don’t neglect smaller retailers such as:

Once you have the right tools, home projects will go a lot smoother and faster. For how-to tips on common home maintenance projects, visit, or

What you need to know about aging in place

There are a lot of misconceptions about the term “aging in place.” The biggest one seems to be that it describes a specific action. Take this definition, for instance, from Lena Katz at

“Aging in place is when people stay in the homes they lived when they were raising children, long after their children have moved away, and continue to fend for themselves rather than downsizing or moving to a senior community.”

She considers this situation “problematic” and decries older Americans’ “fierce individualism and independence,” while suggesting they should move in with extended family to free up their homes for younger generations.

Aside from the issuance of glaring insults against an entire generation of Americans, she also gets the definition of “aging in place” entirely wrong.

Aging in place is, first, a decision, not an action. When it becomes the latter, it may or may not be carried out in the same home in which the older Americans raised their families. They frequently choose to sell the family home and buy a smaller abode in which to live out the rest of their days.

In fact, the National Association of REALTORS statistics bear that out. According to their research, last year baby boomers made up 33% of all homebuyers and 41% of all home sellers.

No other cohort is as active in the housing market as baby boomers.

So, no, these fierce individualists who are perfectly capable of “fending for themselves” are most certainly downsizing, upsizing and everything in between.

The fact is, “aging in place” is a term not specific to a certain place, but to a chosen one. And it’s not a senior living facility.

If you are in the process of choosing yours, or already have, we have some tips from the experts about what is most important to consider.

Insist on a single-level home

Sure, you may be the yoga queen at your gym or you might put Travolta to shame when you’re dancing to the syncopated rhythm on date night with the wife.

But there will most likely come a time when your knees won’t allow all those downward dogs and swiveling hip moves.

This is when “You should be dancing” turns into “You should be living in a home without stairs.”

As we age, we often feel it first in our knees. Even a single flight of stairs can seem like a monumental obstacle.

Do yourself a favor and make a vow to not even look at homes for sale that have an upper level or a flight of stairs to get to the front door.

Don’t ignore future mobility needs

It should come as no surprise that “… among older adults the need for mobility assistance increases as age increases,” according to a study published by Utah State University.

None of us knows if a wheelchair is in our future. The aforementioned study finds that only 10.3% of those under age 55 needed a wheelchair or other aid to move around. By the time we reach 75, however, we may become one of the nearly 43% who require help with mobility.

Understanding this is important if you hope to age in place. Most homes aren’t wheelchair friendly.

Hallways are typically 36 inches wide, which won’t accommodate a wheelchair. Those that are 42 to 48 inches wide will, according to the pros at NARI, the National Association of the Remodeling Industry.

A safe bathroom is a must-have

Falls are the leading cause of injury and death in older adults. According to the National Council on Aging:

“Every 11 seconds, an older adult is treated in the emergency room for a fall; every 19 minutes, an older adult dies from a fall.”

Many of these falls occur in the bathroom. The National Aging in Place Council (NAIPC) and the CDC offer the following tips when remodeling a home to age in place:

  • Add grab bars next to the toilet and to the interior and exterior of your shower or tub.
  • Install a raised toilet.
  • Lower the sink.
  • Remodel the shower so that it’s wheelchair accessible.

Feel free to reach out if you have any questions about purchasing the ideal age-in-place home.

On the cheap: Spruce up your home this spring

Although the pandemic will be the chief reason that 2020 will go down in history as one crazy year, it prompted a surge in other events. One of these was the explosion in home improvement projects.

Lockdown taught us a lot about our homes: what worked and what didn’t. If refurnishing and re-accessorizing the home was last on your to-do list, consider getting to it this spring.

It doesn’t need to cost a fortune, especially if you shop wisely and consider buying used.

Shop online

Still social distancing? Good for you. The safest place you to shop for your bargain-priced home goods is online.


Craigslist is a good place to start. It’s a local sales platform so you won’t need to calculate shipping costs into the price of your purchases.

You’ll find home goodies in the following areas of the For Sale section:

  • Antiques
  • Collectibles
  • Furniture
  • Garage sale
  • Household

Facebook Marketplace

Facebook marketplace offers both local shopping and shipping options. If you want to shop local, navigate to your Facebook home page and click on “Marketplace” in the list on the left side of the page.

On the new page, enter a search term in the box located on the left side of the page. To restrict results to those items for sale locally, click on “Delivery Method,” and then “Local Pickup.”


A newish addition to the online marketplace list, OfferUp was created to compete against Craigslist. The main difference between the two is that, in an effort to keep users safe and feeling more comfortable using the platform, the former offers reviews of buyers and sellers.

Navigate to and at the top of the page you’ll find two search boxes. Enter the item you’re searching for in the first box and, in the second, your location. Click “Go.”

Refine your search by clicking on “Pickup” on the left side of the page. This restricts search results to only those items located near you.


eBay sellers offer just about anything you can think of, as long as it’s legal. If it’s been awhile since you’ve perused eBay merchandise, you may be in for a shock—the prices have skyrocketed.

We rarely use the platform as we find items much less expensive on the aforementioned sites and we don’t have to pay for shipping.

You can find items with free shipping at eBay, but we’ve found that sellers mark up the items’ prices to compensate for absorbing the shipping charges.

It is possible, however, to shop locally on eBay. Enter a search term at the top of the home page. On the results page, scroll down until you find “Item Location” on the left side of the results page. Then, tick the circle next to “Within.”

Choose how many miles away you are willing to drive to pick up an item and then choose your location. Finally, click on the right-pointing arrow.

Shop in person

Several brick-and-mortar stores are ideal for the bargain home goods shopper, especially when they’re running sales. These stores include:

  • Ross Dress for Less
  • Hobby Lobby
  • Walmart
  • Ikea
  • Home Goods
  • Michael’s (great for picture frames)
  • Cost Plus World Market
  • Marshalls

Most of these retailers also offer online shopping.

Garage/yard and estate sales

Typically, you won’t find better on-the-cheap shopping than to buy used home goods. Treasures abound at estate and garage/yard sales.

It’s important to understand the difference between estate sales and garage/yard sales. The former typically take place because of “… divorce, downsizing, debt or death,” according to the experts at

“An estate sale is when someone opens up their estate (usually a home or condo) with the intent to sell all their stuff quickly and for the most money possible,” they continue.

The garage/yard sale, on the other hand, involves the sale of selected items from the home that are no longer wanted or needed. The sale is held either in the home’s garage, yard, driveway or other suitable location.

Prices are typically lower at garage/yard sales.

Thrift and consignment stores

A consignment store holds items that are for-sale-by owner. The operator gets a cut of the sale price. Like homes for sale by owner, these stores rarely offer bargains.

Goodwill, Habitat for Humanity’s ReStore, Salvation Army and Savers are all examples of thrift stores. They are often time consuming to shop but the rewards can be huge.

Tip: Goodwill Industries, in an effort to compete with online resellers, has started holding back the best merchandise to sell at its online auction site. That, in turn, has caused Goodwill’s in-store prices to hike so the bargains are now few and far between.

Flea markets

Flea markets are the ideal place to shop in a pandemic infected world. Typically held outdoors, it’s a far healthier experience than masking up to shop indoors.

And, since haggling is the norm at flea markets, you’ll often get better deals than at any of the aforementioned shopping options.

Spring and a spruced-up home may be just the thing to lift your spirits.

How to hire a roofer

Expensive? Yes. A huge job? Definitely. Applying a new roof is one massive undertaking and, unless you install them for a living, it’s not a DIY project.

It starts with finding the right roofing contractor from what may seem like a sea of them. The key is to take the time required to research carefully.

Get referrals

We’ve always found the best-of-the-best at what they do by asking others for their recommendations. If you know and trust a general contractor, ask him or her. Real estate agents are also excellent sources of information about various trades people.

Then, seek out referrals from family members, friends, neighbors and even colleagues. If you still can’t find at least three to interview, check reviews on and the rosters at the National Roofing Contractors Association (

Get bids

Now that you have a list of referrals, call each roofing contractor and set an appointment for them to come out to the home and provide a written bid. You’ll want the bid in writing so that you have something to compare to other roofers.

The bids should describe the scope of the project, “… including approximate starting and completion dates and payment procedures,” according to the experts at NRCA.

Is the roofer licensed and insured? Don’t be like our trusting friend who recently hired a painter. She did ask him if he was licensed and insured and she believed him when he said he was.

It turns out, he wasn’t.

Ask each roofer to bring along a copy of their license, proof of insurance coverage (especially workers’ compensation and liability). Finally, ask for a list of the names and contact information for his or her last three clients. Then, call each one for a reference.

If any roofer can’t or won’t provide the requested information, consider hiring someone else.

Perform background checks

Go online to your local Better Business Bureau’s website ( and plug in the name of each contractor. Check their record carefully.

Then, find your state licensing board for contractors and ensure that the roofer’s license is valid and not suspended or revoked. You’ll find various directories online, such as the National Association of State Contractors Licensing Agencies website and also at

Finally, head back to and enter the roofing company’s name. Read each review carefully.

Roof warranties

Avoid basing your hiring decision on any warranty offered. In fact, the pros at NRCA suggest that you “Keep a healthy skepticism” when it comes to these warranties. Many of them are merely marketing gimmicks, they explain.

Run the warranty by your attorney or read it carefully if you understand legalese. “Watch for provisions that would void it,” cautions the folks at NRCA. Read more about roof system warranties on the NRCA website.

“Nationally, the average homeowner spends about $7,636 to install a new roof, and most spend within a range of $5,202 and $10,120,” according to the pros at When faced with a job that costs that much, it pays to research carefully before hiring.

When choosing someone to install your new roof, ensure that the contractor is licensed, insured, highly experienced, has few customer complaints and offers a guarantee, in writing, of her or his work.

2021 Floor covering trends

If you read through home listing descriptions, several things stand out: stainless steel appliances, granite countertops and hardwood floors.

Listing agents of homes that feature any of these items highlight them prominently, under the often-mistaken notion that these are the end-all be-all dreams of every potential homebuyer.

We’ll save the countertops and kitchen appliances for later. Today we’d like to share with you what we’ve learned about flooring trends – what is in demand and what isn’t, in 2021.

We start with what isn’t.


Since hardwood floors are so often assumed to be the darling of the flooring world, we thought we’d start here. Ready for some myth busting?

Hardwood floors have been steadily losing their appeal over the past decade. In fact, “… wood continued to lose share to LVT [luxury vinyl tile] and its cousins,” in new home construction, according to Jonathan Trivers at

Floor and Décor, one of the country’s most successful flooring outlets, sells more flooring installation material than it does hardwood flooring.

Armstrong flooring at one time “… owned more than 50 percent of the wood flooring business,” according to Trivers. In 2019 it sold its entire wood flooring line for almost pennies on the dollar.

If consumers aren’t buying something, it’s safe to say that it is no longer popular.


If you’re thinking of selling your home and will be adding updated flooring, avoid carpet. Since we’re using sales as a measure of a product’s popularity, let’s take a look at Home Depot.

Last year the company saw a 7.5% decrease in sales of carpet. Lowe’s also “struggled” in carpet sales, according to Trivers.

In an attempt to raise sales volume, both stores offered free or “kinda free” carpet installation. Sales didn’t improve.

If you like carpet and don’t plan on selling your home soon, by all means, buy it. Now is a great time, with carpet prices at all-time lows.

Laminate flooring

For some time, laminate flooring was among the most popular. It was the ideal way to get the look of real wood at a substantial savings.

With the explosion in the popularity of luxury vinyl floors, laminate has lost its luster among consumers.

One of the chief complaints about the flooring is that it’s high maintenance. Surprised?

Manufacturers and retailers love to tout that the flooring is low maintenance. However, sweeping it is not recommended because the dirt particles may scratch the flooring. Mopping must be done with care for the same reason. Moisture intrudes and can buckle the planks.

Yes, it undoubtedly requires vastly less maintenance than a hardwood floor, but with the introduction of new types of flooring, which give the same look as laminate yet cost less and offer waterproof options, laminate became less popular.

Tile floors

Once the best choice for “wet areas,” such as the laundry room, kitchen and bathroom, tile can now be found in every room in the home. And, because it can be manufactured from a number of different materials, the colors and styles available are almost unlimited.

Tile flooring’s popularity varies by region. Homeowners in warm climates choose it because it remains cool; cold weather homeowners eschew it for the same reason.

Stone is durable, holding up to the abuse from a busy family with pets. But they’re expensive floors and homeowners complain that they’re not only cold, but very slippery when wet.

In 2021, look for stone floors to take a backseat to ceramic tile floors. New methods of manufacturing ceramic tile allow it to mimic natural stone. In fact, some brands offer high-end looks that are impossible to find with real stone, according to Jessica Chevalier at

Luxury vinyl flooring

There was a time when folks would laugh at the thought of using the word “luxury” anywhere near “vinyl.” But not anymore.

Known in the industry at LVT, for “luxury vinyl tile,” the flooring’s popularity grows every year. Expect 2021 to be no different.

In its infancy, homeowners avoided the product because of the VOC emission problem. That’s been cured and several manufacturers’ flooring actually carry the Indoor Air Quality Certification.

Luxury vinyl tiles and planks are easy to install, with a glue-down, self-adhesive or snap-together process, making them popular with the DIY crowd.

Finishes include wood- and stone-look, among others. Other reasons for the flooring’s explosion in popularity include:

  • It’s easier and softer on the feet than stone
  • Many styles are waterproof, making it ideal for families with kids and pets
  • Luxury vinyl floors are easy to maintain

When it comes to trends, designers, home builders and bloggers can only guess what will be popular in the year ahead. A more reliable method to choose trends is to track a product’s sales over several seasons.

In the case of flooring, ceramic tile and vinyl will continue to attract the interest of homeowners and homebuyers in 2021.

Feel like you live in a glass house? There’s a cure for that

Love your home but feel like your neighbors are so close they practically live with you?

When you find yourself feeling like you live in a fishbowl and craving privacy, turn to Mother Nature. She provides a number of landscaping techniques that will help close your home off to prying eyes and give you that feeling of solitude you crave.

Best of all, we picked the solutions that require the least maintenance.

Take the first steps to solitude

If you live in a community that is managed by a HOA, you’ll need to dig out that packet of documents you received when you bought the home. Most HOAs have landscaping rules and it’d be a shame to have to remove your privacy landscaping if you’re found in violation.

Then, decide how much privacy you want. Will you want something dense that completely blocks the view of the home from passers-by or neighbors, or do you prefer a lighter touch?

As you decide which plants to purchase, ensure that they are suited to your climate. Both the USDA and Sunset magazine have determined hardiness zones. The former lists plants based on their cold tolerance.

Consider using native plants. They are generally more tolerant of your region’s soil conditions and microclimates and are less picky in their maintenance requirements. The American Horticultural Society lists native plant societies in each state at

Also, you may want to check which plants your county Cooperative Extension Service suggests. You’ll find a list for each state at

Hiding the full Monty

Although it doesn’t seem to be a concern for most suburban homeowners, if it bothers you that the front of the house is open to the world, consider the following options.

Your first decision is to consider whether you want an evergreen solution or deciduous. The latter defeats both the “low-maintenance” and “privacy” issues, however. Unless you don’t mind losing your privacy when the weather cools and foliage drops.

That said, the extension folks at Colorado State University recommend that you choose a woody plant so that when it loses its foliage, the twigs and branches will still help shield the home from the street.

North privet (Ligustrum x ibolium) is one to consider as it grows rapidly (up to 3 feet per year, according to the Arbor Day Foundation) and Japanese meadowsweet (Spirea japonica), a twiggy shrub with beautiful blooms, grows from 4 to 6-feet in height.

Evergreen shrubs to consider include Emerald arborvitae (Thuja occidentalis ‘Emerald’), Nigra arborvitae (Thuja occidentalis ‘Nigra’), English laurel (Prunus laurocerasus) and, in warmer climates, oleander (Nerium oleander). The latter is toxic, so it may not be a good choice for those with small children and/or pets who like to munch on plants.

Don’t neglect the extremely fast growth and beauty of bamboo. Clumping varieties are attractive and won’t invade the rest of yours and your neighbor’s yards. They do, however, drop litter, so keep them away from spas and swimming pools.

Choose fast-growing plants to get your privacy sooner. Whichever you decide on, however, with strategic placement you’ll be able to block those prying eyes.

Cheap Ways to Revamp Your Kitchen

If you went through the winter holidays cursing your kitchen, maybe it’s time to decide, once and for all, to do something about it. Especially if you don’t plan on selling anytime soon, at least make it more pleasant to work in.

Don’t worry about this costing a fortune, because we’ve tried to stick to changes that will be impressive, yet cost little and you can do them yourself.

What color is your kitchen?

A fresh coat of paint works wonders in every room of the house, but in the kitchen, it can make even the appliances feel newer than they are.

If you think you’ll be selling the home this year or next, use a neutral shade and work with the natural lighting in your home.

For example, light colors with cool tones work best when there isn’t a lot of light coming in through the windows. You can get away with warmer tones when there is more natural light.

To get a better handle on warm and cool paint tones, check out the guide at

Still not sure about the color you want? Take a look at this tool from Sherwin-Williams. This “color visualizer” will make the choice more fun and allow you to visualize your finished work.

Kitchen cabinets

You can easily update the style of your kitchen with new drawer pulls and knobs. The selection of kitchen cabinet hardware you’ll find online and in brick and mortar home improvement stores is amazing. To get you started, check out:

If you have a little more money to spend, consider new cabinet facings. This allows you to transform the appearance of your cabinets without replacing the entire cabinet.

Get kitchen cabinet refacing project tips at This Old House.

Finally, consider repainting your kitchen cabinets. Although it’s a time-consuming project (unless you have help), it’s not difficult and it will freshen up your kitchen.

You’ll find walkthroughs online at:

Prefer a video tutorial? Check out this list at

Kitchen countertops

Hate your Formica (laminate) countertops but not blessed with the money it will cost to install new granite or quartz?

Resurface them. It’s one of the most popular DIY kitchen projects and, yes, it’s time consuming, but an easy job for the DIYer.

Several companies manufacture countertop refinishing kits in a number of finishes, from faux granite to cement to merely painted. Take a look at what’s on offer at:

Kitchen lighting

Light fixtures often don’t get the attention they deserve. But new lights can make an extreme difference in your kitchen.

If you have the budget to replace your fixtures, aim to do all of them at once. If not, a single fixture will work. If the kitchen lacks task lighting, such as over the counters or stove, start there.

Never underestimate the power of your finishing touches. Splurge on new kitchen rugs, curtains and linens. A little imagination is all that’s needed to revamp your kitchen on a budget.

3 Germ-ridden items in the home that few people ever clean

COVID-19 has made most of us hyper-aware of viruses. We have, in fact, received a crash-course on virology, learning how long the critters live on certain surfaces, how they enter and leave our bodies and, most importantly, how to kill them.

A virus is but one of the many germs we interact with on a daily basis. Germs are everywhere–in the air, water, soil and even in food. These include viruses, but also bacteria, fungi and other gross stuff that can infect us.

These critters get into our homes through a number of different routes:

  • Open doors
  • Open windows
  • On our clothing and skin
  • Sneezes, coughs, breathing and speaking

Most researchers of germs in the home agree that the dirtiest room is the kitchen and the dirtiest object in it is the dish sponge.

And, no, the toilet isn’t the most germ-ridden feature of your bathroom, your toothbrush holder is.

Some other items in our homes, however, seem so innocent that we rarely, if ever, clean them. These areas are worthy of extra attention when cleaning.

How did they figure this one out?

The folks at conducted a British study to learn which items in the home collect a lot of germs.

“… we swabbed 30 items in total from three different households. This included a selection from the kitchen, bathroom as well as electronic, family and dog items,” according to Tom Drake, on the company’s website.

They swabbed items from:

  • Retired household with dog
  • Young couple household
  • Family household

The swabs were then left alone for five days so the “icky stuff” could multiply. Finally, they were given to Amanda Jones, PhD, Associate Professor and microbial researcher at Northumbria University for analysis.

Surprisingly germ ridden stuff in the average home

Got a laptop or desktop computer? If so, you may never look at it the same way when you learn what Dr. Jones did.

The keyboard is dirtier than your bathroom

Most contain a veritable cocktail of nasty germs, such as “… staphylococci [aka “staph”], streptococci and some airborne bacteria such as micrococci,” Dr. Jones tells Drake.

The most common staph infection is to the skin but it can also cause infection of the bloodstream, leading to sepsis, bone infections, an infection of the heart, food poisoning, pneumonia and more, according to the experts at

Strep infections include “… pharyngitis, pneumonia, wound and skin infections, sepsis, and endocarditis,” notes Larry M. Bush, MD, FACP, Charles E. Schmidt College of Medicine, Florida Atlantic University at

Which household had the germiest computer? “…the younger couple that were working from home,” according to Drake.

Do yourself a favor and disinfect your keyboard at least once a week. If a number of people are using the keyboard, consider cleaning it more often.

Use a solution that contains at 70% alcohol to wipe it down thoroughly. And, no, a higher percentage of alcohol isn’t better. In fact, they evaporate too quickly to sanitize.

Overall, “Disinfectants don’t harm your keyboard,” notes the experts at

Where’s the clicker?

Be honest: Have you ever cleaned your tv remote? Think of how many family members touch the device on a daily basis.

Which is why this particular study nominated it as the second dirtiest electronic item. Most common germs found on it include staph and strep.

Use alcohol wipes or a microfiber cloth moistened with alcohol to wipe it down every day.

The retired household with a dog had the dirtiest tv remote but the household with a family was very close behind.

This one is really gross

“… the bathroom tap is often the first thing people touch after they go to the toilet,” Drake said. He also notes that it’s the germiest part of the average household bathroom. Dr. Jones adds that the nasties found on bathroom taps include e. coli “… and other fecal types of bacteria.”

Drake adds that we are literally washing our hands “… with poo … .”

Since that’s the last thing we want to do, we are committed to cleaning our taps far more often and leaving disinfecting wipes near them. This way, we can wipe them down after each use.

While Drake cautions against using bleach or other corrosive disinfectants, others recommend using Lysol, Microban 24 Sanitizing Spray, Comet Cleaner with Bleach and even alcohol. See the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s website for a list of disinfectants.

Overall, the study found that homes with dogs and kids are germier.

No surprise there.