Month: June 2018

How to Enjoy The End Of Summer

It’s always sad when summer ends. After all, the end of summer means weather starts to get cool and days at the beach quickly dwindle. Let’s not let Mother Nature get in our way of enjoying the what’s left of summer.

There are easy ways to make the most of the final weeks of summer. Whether it’s taking advantage of a nice day in your pool, lounging in a hot tub, reading a good book or even hosting a Sunday morning tailgate, there are dozens of ways to enjoy what’s left of summer.

Host A Pool Party

The weather may be getting cooler, but there is still time to take a dip in that luxurious pool you added years ago. In fact, in September of 2013, the average temperature in the U.S. was 67.3°F, 2.5°F above the 20th century average. That was the sixth warmest September on record and the warmest September since 2005.

I understand that 67°F may not be the best of pool weather, but given all the advantages a day at the pool brings, why not enjoy it? In fact, as you can see at the Benefits of A Swimming Pool, there’s much more to it then taking in the last warm days of the year. Swimming pools:

  • Give you the chance to host get-togethers, tailgates or a family birthday
  • Let you enjoy the outdoors before it gets really cold
  • Give you an excuse to exercise (in the pool)
  • Help encourage you to finish your summer book
  • Have fun in comfortable weather

And if 67°F is a bit too cold, I highly recommend adding a pool heater. Believe it or not, there are numerous pool heaters on the market designed to match the size of your pool and the climate of your city. As you can imagine, both have a large effect on the overall price, but according to our pool heater cost estimator, the average price to install a pool heater is just under $2,400.

Bonus Tip: It’s important that you don’t select an oversized unit because you could waste energy and impact the pool chemistry if the water is too hot.

Relax in A Hot Tub

If you’re stressed with the daily struggles of life, a hot tub could be the answer. In fact, studies show that warm water allows your blood vessels to dilate, allowing more blood and oxygen to flow to your muscles. All this, in return, helps you relax. Furthermore, a National Sleep Foundation study found that a 15-minute soak in hot water can actually help you fall asleep faster. All in all, sounds like a good deal to me.

As we indicated in Hot Tub and Spa Benefits, 56% of hot tub/spa owners cite relaxation as the primary reason for purchasing a hot tub or spa. Nonetheless, such relaxation does not come without a price. In addition to electric increases, the average price to install or repair a hot tub can creep into the thousands.

Stay Cool with an Awning

Despite the cooler weather, some homeowners want that extra shade even if they are relaxing outside. Your best solution would be to install an awning.

Designed to provide shade, as well as protection from rain, awnings can be an attractive addition to any yard or patio. Because awnings are available in a number of materials, styles and colors, choosing a single option can feel overwhelming.

Metal awnings are very popular and according to our metal awnings material estimator, they cost between $5 and $11 per square foot. Fortunately, if placed on the right window, awnings can greatly reduce the need for air conditioning in the home. In fact, many awnings even retract, which is great for areas of the country with inconsistent weather.

Close Up Your Patio & Enjoy It All Year

Sadly, there are some areas of the country where a pool and outdoor patio is just not worth it. Living in Chicago, it’s hard to imagine more than two weeks without snow, rain or freezing temperatures. For all cities alike, a patio enclosure is your answer.

An easy way to make the most of your patio is to build an enclosure and cover up the patio entirely. Otherwise, you could also add screens to protect against heavy rain and wind. Both have their own advantages and disadvantages, one being the total cost. Patio enclosures are more expensive, coming in at $13,735.

It’s a big expense, but on the bright side, a patio enclosure is much cheaper than a home addition

The Hidden Costs of Buying & Maintaining A Swimming Pool

A bright swimming pool on a sunny summer afternoon is always filled with smiles, laughs and all around fun. Swimming pools are great for the family and increasing your home’s value, but they also come with many maintenance items that will lighten your pockets.

Before installing a new outdoor swimming pool, be sure to see the most common costs of buying and maintain a swimming pool.

Costs of Inground vs. Above Ground Pools

Off the bat, all homeowners should know that inground swimming pools are more expensive to install than above ground. You will have to dig a very large hole to place the pool and this can only be done by a swimming pool professional. On average, the cost of installing a new inground swimming pool runs between $14,961 and $21,649. Choosing a pool installed at the ground level won’t require excavation (save $$$). In fact, the cost of an above ground pool is typically a third of that price. They rarely cost more than $4,500 to purchase and professionally install. To see the price in your area, check out our swimming pool installation cost estimator.

Costs of Pool Materials

Like any other home remodeling project, the materials you put into it have a great effect on the durability and price. Swimming pools are no different. Solid concrete pools are at the highest end of the spectrum and are designed to last the longest. Vinyl and fiberglass pool shells, which can be simply installed rather than crafted on site, are slightly cheaper than concrete. Customized tiled pools are also expensive because of their higher labor costs.

Costs of Pool Accessories

Many families want more than your average circular swimming pool. We want action. We want more fun. We want jaw-dropping designs. We want extra pool accessories.

Swimming pool slides generally cost around $1,674 for purchase and professional installation. Diving boards, while still providing just as much fun for the kids, are far less at an average of $384.

Other common accessories like pool lighting and tile mosaics have a wide range in prices. A professional pool contractor can help you narrow it down and determine the best ones for your new pool.

Costs of Pool Maintenance

Below are the costs many homeowners don’t consider before buying a brand new swimming pool. Since the pool is exposed to the outdoors 24/7, it will require regular maintenance throughout the year. Understanding some of the most common maintenance items will help you determine the true cost of owning a swimming pool.

Maintenance Costs of Natural Pools

Natural pools are often chosen because they use fewer chemicals and create a peaceful look on your property. While they do require less maintenance overall, they are not cost-free additions to the home. Expect to pay a minimum of $78 monthly for the maintenance of any plants in the pool, keeping the filtration system operating efficiently and cleaning debris from the surface.

Maintenance Costs of Standard Pools

Most likely, you will be installing a standard swimming pool that will require you to maintain the water’s pH balance with chemicals. Sodium hypochlorite will raise the pool’s pH while granular acid will lower it. It’s important to test the water’s balance once a week. You should also provide additional treatment for your pool following a storm, intense heat or growing algae.

There are additional chemicals you must add to kill algae and bacteria. Chlorine is the most popular chemical. It comes in the form of liquid, tablets and a powdery substance. The tablets are often a better choice because they dissolve slowly over time and do not require much maintenance.

On average, expect maintenance to cost $178, but know that the costs will be heavily dependent on the size and quality of your pool.

Costs of Pool Covers

You will not be using the pool 24/7 and therefore, need to protect it from snow, leaves and other harmful items. Every pool owner needs to have a pool cover.

One of the most affordable types are mesh pool nets that cover the tops of both inground and above ground swimming pools. While these won’t necessarily warm the water or stop it from freezing, they do prevent leaves and debris from falling in and blocking the filtration system. Expect to pay anywhere from $40 to $200 for a mesh pool net cover.

Some pool covers are designed to heat the water of the pool, which makes it a viable swimming option for much of the year. These covers can be made for inground or above ground pools and they are often a thick blue insulated material. The low-end price for these covers is $139, but professional installation and high-quality solar warmth may cost as much as $1,305.

Finally, winter pool covers are designed to stay in place for several months at a time, and it secures the pool from leaves, debris or snow. Expect to pay upwards of $59 for a winter pool cover.

Cost of Resurfacing A Fiberglass Pool

Gouges, chips or cracked fiberglass pools are unsightly and not safe for children. Rather than replacing the pool entirely, bringing in professionals to resurface the material can give the pool a fresh new look. On average, resurfacing costs between $655 and $744.

Cost of Liner Replacement for Above Ground Pools

Despite its lower cost for installation, above ground pools may eventually need substantial repair. The biggest problem is a ripped liner, which will have to be replaced entirely. Expect to pay $700 for this replacement, with $500 going to the costs of labor and $200 going to the replacement liner itself.

Preventing Mold In Your Home

Mold is sneaky. It hides in dark places and has a ravenous appetite. It can be harmful to your health and property and can be difficult to remove. While you may be focused on preventing mold in your basement, it’s important to recognize that it can grow in just about any other place in your home.

There are over 100,000 different species of this living organism called fungus. Each has different characterizing features and varying toxicity. All, however, require moisture to grow and organic matter to derive energy. If your skin is crawling thinking about what might be lurking behind your walls or under your carpeting, you should do an inspection. Obviously, prevention is preferred, but you’ll want to be sure your home is spore-free first

Professionals are available to perform a comprehensive mold inspection and identification process, but unless you have already discovered a major mold problem, you can perform the initial investigation yourself. Be sure to protect your eyes, nose and skin from spore exposure by using goggles, a mask/respirator and gloves.

Before you begin, think about any past water leaks or floods your home has experienced. As mold thrives in dark, damp places, it’s important to recall where leaks originated. This is where you should start. Look for visible signs of mold growth or damp, musty odors. Remember what moldy bread smells like, and let your nose guide you.

Next, search rooms where family allergies seem worse. A whopping 10-20% of people worldwide have a sensitivity to mold spores, so it’s possible someone in your family may be experiencing symptoms. Congestion, wheezing, asthma, eye irritation or skin rashes could be exacerbated by exposure.

Carefully check near pipes, sinks and other typical water sources. Kitchens, bathrooms and laundry rooms, where moisture accumulates with condensation and humidity, can breed mold. While you may not see a big, furry black spot on your wall, look for water damaged materials that are warping or bulging. Cracked or peeling paint, stains, discoloration and even small dots of mold growth can signal a larger colony nearby.

Don’t forget to check air ducts as well. Remove register covers and inspect with a flashlight to be sure they are also mold-free.


 Basement & Crawlspace

Your unfinished basement may smell musty, or if you have a leak, you may notice mold growing on the walls or ceiling joists. If you have a finished basement, mold may not be as obvious. It can attach itself to the front and back sides of wallboard, carpeting, ceiling tile and even upholstery.

Crawlspaces are generally dark, moist and hot, so if you have one, be aware that conditions are very conducive to mold growth. Take care to wear protective clothing and a respirator as it’s possible you may find mold in your basement crawlspace.

Exterior Deck

Wood decks are also susceptible to mold and mildew growth. It’s not uncommon for excess moisture, poor ventilation and lack of regular cleaning to encourage this problem outside. Unfortunately, if you’ve found mold on your deck, you may have larger problems such as splintering, cracked boards, graying and rotting.


Finding & Fixing Water Problems

As you’ve probably figured out by now, water infiltration anywhere in your home can be a major problem. If you’ve discovered mold, you must have excess moisture or a water leak. Before you begin the mold removal process, it’s important to fix the cause. Upper levels of your home will primarily be due to plumbing leaks in the kitchen, bathroom or laundry room. If you’ve discovered mold on the first floor that’s not near a water source, look up. Water leaks may have originated from a second floor bathroom.

Basement and crawlspace leaks can be traced to condensation, windows and window wells, foundation wall and floor cracks, sump pump, gutters and downspouts, exterior grading slope, weeping tile or sewer backup. Once these issues have been addressed, you can move onto the next steps.

Mold Removal, Treatment & Prevention


Start by throwing out anything that has become wet. Remember, safety first. Don’t try to salvage items to save money or mold will regrow. Run a dehumidifier to remove excess moisture from the air. A wet vacuum will help in removing standing water.

Use natural products like a sodium carbonate mold control product or hydrogen peroxide for a safe, effective and inexpensive method of mold removal. These products can be used for preventing mold in your basement and upper floors. Hydrogen peroxide is a bleaching agent, so it will remove dark stains. The sodium carbonate will leave an invisible layer or protection to prevent mold from growing back.

Deck mold requires a different process. You’ll need to pressure wash the affected areas, then apply a wood deck treatment of water, ammonia-free liquid dish detergent and bleach or vinegar. Leave on for 15 minutes, then scrub and rinse. This will kill mold spores and lift stains. Apply wood deck sealant with a fungicide to prevent re-growth.



If you suspect you’ve got mold in your home, don’t ignore it. Early detection and treatment will protect your family’s health and your property’s value. Remember, if you’re unsure of anything, seek professional assistance or test your indoor air quality for added peace of mind

5 Décor Tricks That Will Make Your Kitchen Appear Larger

Hummer homes are a thing of the past, but shrinking square footage need not spell the death of the dream kitchen. In fact, intuitively designed compact kitchens are actually a pleasure to work in. And when decorated correctly, you can create an illusion of space so the hub of the home feels as airy as it is efficient.

Let There Be Light

‘Let there be light’ is the first commandment of any small space, particularly kitchens. Inadequate lighting constricts the room resulting in a dark, dingy and depressing workplace – not exactly what you envision for the heartbeat of the home. So, be it natural or artificial, bring on the light!

If your small space is graced with a window, maximize the natural light by minimizing window treatments and keeping the sill clean. Something as simple as unobstructed sunbeams can open up a room in a way one would think only a full on renovation can

If, however, your kitchen does not have significant sources of natural light, make sure your other lighting sources are ample and on point. A relatively small fixture may technically light up the room, but spreading the wealth with under the counter and concentrated task lighting in key areas will make the kitchen seem more spacious.

To get further bang from your lighting buck, harness the power of reflection. With a mirrored or iridescent glass tile backsplash, stainless steel and high gloss appliances, you will effectively double the lighting impact.

Go Large & Diagonal

Small tiles create too many visual borders on the floor, which can make a small room seem even smaller. When choosing the flooring for your wee-sized kitchen, opt for something bigger than the traditional 12-inch square. Larger tiles mean less grout giving the illusion of a greater floor area and a bigger kitchen.

To trick the eye and expand the room even further, lay those big tiles on end and create corner-to-corner diagonal rows. A diamond pattern, as opposed to a checkerboard, draws the eye to the wide angles of the tile borders, and away from the narrowness of the room. The space will not only look larger, but will be more visually interesting as well.

Change the Focus

Less is really more when it comes to cramped quarters, so if you are short on space, embrace minimalism. Keep the décor clean and simple with the exception of one prominent area that will serve as the room’s natural focal point.

A focal point by definition is the place the eyes rest first. By accentuating the one spot where the room’s lines converge, you will draw all the attention to that area and away from the room’s size, making it seem larger than it really is.

For a fun focal point, consider implementing one of these ideas into your décor plans:

  • An elaborate, interesting or modern range hood
  • One vintage appliance
  • A mosaic with a premium tile above the stovetop or sink area
  • An apron/farmhouse sink
  • Pendant lighting

Play With Color


When dealing with a small area, color plays an important role. Dark décor might be daring and dramatic, but because lighter colors reflect light, you are best off sticking with a cohesive blend of whites, pastels and neutrals to keep the room open and airy. That said, you can stretch a room, making it appear taller and wider, with a bit of smart contrasting.

To add height and depth, play with the paint and keep the molding and ceiling a lighter shade of the same color as the wall. This creates an optical illusion, tricking the eyes into thinking the walls are further off then they actually are – viola (seemingly) more space!

Similarly, pairing stark white cabinets with a slighter darker white or pastel colored makes the room amplify the area, and keeps the walls from closing in on you.

Bust the Clutter

If your kitchen is not as roomy as you would like, resist the impulse to try and cram everything in. There is nothing that kills a space faster than clutter. So, for an overall larger-feeling kitchen, keep the surface areas as clear as possible.

First and foremost, never allow your counters to become a catch-all. Knick-knacks, small appliances, paper and dirty dishes have a way of making a small room feel smaller. Consider building a hidden alcove to house the smaller appliances you use daily. As for the rest of the stuff, clean up regularly. The same goes for the refrigerator; keep the door clear and move the family art gallery to another room.

Additionally, although open shelving is touted as a tool for enlarging a room, too often, the shelves become cluttered and have the opposite effect. If your kitchen does boast open shelves, intentionally leave spaces and gaps in the content for a bright and spacious impression

Hot Tub Costs

Whether it’s for relaxation, health or entertainment, hot tubs provide a home getaway like no other. Surprising to many, hot tub costs are not as high as many assume. While it certainly depends on your location, as well as model, type and accessories, you can oftentimes buy a new tub for less than $500.

Below, I will explain all the costs that come with hot tub installation, hot tub repairs, as well as the costs surrounding the various types and features.

Note: The terms hot tub and spa are used interchangeably, though spas are usually considered to be in-ground, permanent units, often installed in conjunction with a swimming pool. Spas will not be addressed below

Hot Tub Installation

Hot tubs are not expensive to install? According to our hot tub cost estimator, it costs $298 to install a new hot tub. Keep in mind, this price takes all hot tubs into consideration, including very inexpensive portable versions.

Nonetheless, many would agree that $298 is a small price to pay for a spa-like retreat, a romantic destination or a therapeutic tool to help you unwind at the end of the day. On top of all that, high-quality hot tubs can even increase the overall value of your home.

Hot Tub Types

There are certain hot tubs that provide a more luxurious feel than others. The general rule of thumb is the larger or more complicated the model, the more it costs to install. As our friends at HomeAdvisor have iterated, there are the standard two-person models with a couple of jets at the lower end of the price spectrum. In the mid-range, there are models with jets and built-in seats that hold five to seven people. The luxury models can have up to 160 jets and other amenities like underwater lighting and drink holders.

Dialing it down a bit, there are two main types of hot tubs; wood fired hot tubs and portable/inflatable hot tubs.

Note: While we are only reviewing hot tubs, many consumers spend more and go with an outdoor Jacuzzi.

Wood Fired Hot Tubs

Back in the day, wooden tubs were all we had. They are typically built using redwood, cedar or teak with a simple design. While seating is limited compared to newer models, they do offer a permanent, rustic touch not many hot tubs present.

Rather than using electricity or gas (saving money on utilities), these tubs operate by burning traditional logs of wood to heat the water. Because they hold a greater volume of water, they’re very heavy and must sit on a base of solid concrete or a specially engineered and reinforced deck.

While they may be heavy, they don’t require any electric wiring or plumbing since they are standalone items that can be placed anywhere. Plus, wood fired hot tubs typically cost less than traditional versions

Portable Hot Tubs

Certain locations, such as Chicago, don’t allow for year-round hot tubs (even though we need them in the winter). As such, many opt for a portable or inflatable hot tub that can be taken out in the spring or summer or removed before winter. These versions are very cheap and you can install without a pro in under an hour.

Hot Tub Repair Costs

There are few aspects of the home that allow you to set it and forget it and sadly, your new hot tub is not one of them. Just like mowing your lawn or cleaning out the filter in your furnace, your hot tub requires regular maintenance throughout the year. As you can see with our hot tub repair cost guide, this includes periodic draining of the tub, scrubbing the surface and shocking the water with chemicals. On average, it costs $185 per year to maintain the tub.

Wood Fired Hot Tub Repairs

It takes a lot to damage a wood fired hot tub, but nonetheless, certain repairs do come up. The most common wood hot tub repair is resurfacing the wood, a project that can take as little as four hours and cost anywhere from $325 to $1,300, depending on the quality. As you can assume, whenever the issue is on the outside of the tub, the repairs will never exceed exorbitant amounts.

Portable Hot Tub Repairs

Portable hot tubs are not nearly as sturdy as their wooden friends. They can be damaged quite easily, but thanks to their inexpensive nature, repairs are not very expensive, rarely exceeding $300. In fact, given the repair price, many just opt for a new portable or inflatable hot tub.

Reasons to Get A Hot Tub

On top of relaxation, there are certain benefits to owning a hot tub that we outlined below. To see more, please see Hot Tub and Spa Benefits.

  • A recent study shows that 70% of employed Americans suffer stress-related conditions, such as depression, ulcers, high blood pressure, anxiety and insomnia.
  • A National Sleep Foundation study found that a 15-minute soak in hot water can actually help you fall asleep faster.
  • Studies show that warm water allows your blood vessels to dilate, allowing more blood and oxygen to flow to your muscles – and you relax

How To Clean Kitchen Cabinets

There are few areas of your home more exposed to dirt, grease and bacteria than your kitchen cabinets. Children closing and opening kitchen cabinets, grease from cooking or condensation from outside temperatures all affect your cabinets, requiring you to clean them on a weekly, if not daily, basis.

The best way to clean kitchen cabinets, or any cabinet for that matter, is good old fashion TLC. Oftentimes, warm water, a diluted all-purpose cleaner and tough scrubbing will do the trick. However, this process can drastically change based on your cabinet surface. Below, you will find the best ways to clean wood, painted and metal kitchen cabinets.

How to Clean Wood Cabinets

The best way to clean wood cabinets is by purchasing an oil-soap wood cleaner. Many can be purchased relatively cheap from your local hardware store. On the other hand, you could clean your wooden cabinets using everyday materials you probably already own.

  • Detergent: Homeowners can use any oil/grease cutting dish or laundry detergent and water to clean their wood cabinets. As a general rule, you should mix two cups of water with every cup of detergent. Don’t overwet the cabinets as it could ruin the finish. After applying cleaning solution, clean it down with a damp cloth and then wipe down with a separate dry cloth.
  • Vinegar: If you don’t have liquid-based detergents, vinegar and water is a valuable substitution. Vinegar is good for removing sticky films most likely caused by dirty hands.
  • Baking Soda: The hardest stains should be confronted with baking soda. Create a paste by mixing with water and then wipe it clean with a wet cloth.

As with all our methods discussed, homeowners should test the chosen supplies on small areas that are not easily noticeable. Wait a few hours before tackling more visible cabinets to make sure you are not ruining the finish or color.

How to Clean Painted Cabinets


Oil-based painted cabinets, much more durable than wood, can always take a good scrubbing. You may use the same products discussed above or any all-purpose cleaner. Since you don’t have to worry about the finish, you should be able to scrub hard enough to remove the dirt or food-borne bacteria with all-purpose cleaners. Just like wooden cabinets, the best way to clean stubborn stains on painted kitchen cabinets is with baking soda and water.

If your cabinets used a water-based latex style of paint, use caution when scrubbing. Especially with baking soda, you may scratch the surface. Better to stick with warm water and a nonabrasive all-purpose cleaner. Remembe to rub the surface gently.

If you are thinking about repainting, be sure to see our DIY Tips for How to Paint Kitchen and Bathroom Cabinets.

How to Clean Metal Cabinets

Metal cabinets are perhaps the easiest surface to clean. All the above tactics will work with metal, with the exception of baking soda. However, just like wood, be sure to not overwet. The prolonged dampness could lead to rust.


Kitchen cabinets are exposed to more dirt, bacteria and grease than any other area of your home. Frequent cleanings using the above tactics will not only save you a buck or two on cleaning services, but also ensure your family’s health throughout the year.