10 Popular Home Renovation Trends in 2020

by Kelly R. Smith

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Home floor and walls renovations.
Home floor and walls renovations

Remodeling, whether done for contemporary style, preparation for sale, or just general repairs continues as usual. The most popular home renovation trends vary from year to year depending on a number of factors. Renovation budgets are always high on the list. Going green not only lowers your bills but helps the environment. Other factors can influence decisions but let’s look at how 2020 is shaping up thus far.

  • Floors, ceilings, and walls. Traditionally, these surfaces get a lot of attention and 2020 is no exception. The Joint Center for Housing For Housing Studies says homeowners average $3,282 per year on these surfaces.
  • Prioritizing on saving money. This trend is not specifically tied to aesthetics. Rather, it is focused on frugality. Migrating to lower operating-cost lighting like LED bulbs, for one. Beefing up attic insulation and adding radiant barrier foil may not boost curb appeal, but oh, what a difference when the power bills come due each and every month.
  • Slapping on another coat of paint. This is always one of the most popular weekend DIY projects. The cost of paint is reasonable and the outlay of cash for tools is minimal. You can even employ paint illusions to make a room look larger.
  • Be a DIY weekend warrior. This is the best way to stretch your budget. Plus, who doesn’t love that sense of pride? DIY varies in the level of difficulty but with the help of sites like this one, I Can Fix Up My Home, you might be surprised at what you can accomplish. The Senior Director of Customer Insights at Lowe’s, Amy Anthony, says, “Seventy-four percent [of consumers] do research to get as much information as possible before making a purchase.”
  • Preparing for climate change. Whether you are an ardent believer in global warming (now called climate change) or believe Al Gore is just out to make a buck preaching about it, there’s no doubt that the preparation steps saves money. So, weatherstrip, caulk, upgrade your windows; all changes are cumulative.
  • Home sanitation and wellness is moving up. This is understandable and goes hand in hand with many other home improvements because the topic of off-gassing is more well-known that ever. Forbes.com puts it this way, “Wellness-focused changes can include paint, flooring or cabinetry with non-toxic materials, touchless faucets that reduce germ spread, circadian lighting that improves sleep, water and air purification systems, bidet style toilets for enhanced hygiene, and many others.”
  • Focus on lower budgets, bigger consequences. Smaller projects encompassing a big wow factor are becoming more popular and are expected to continue. For example, instead of gutting the bathroom and re-doing it, why not have your tub re-finished, update all faucets, put in a new recessed medicine cabinet, and re-paint?
  • Smaller brand names are becoming more competitive by adding luxury features. Kitchen cabinets are a good example of this. After Hurricane Harvey, when our home flooded, one of the things we needed to replace were our cabinets and countertops. Home Depot gave us a lot of modular options with freebies like self-closing doors and stainless steel sinks thrown in.
  • Home automation is going mainline. Once the purview of science fiction novels, it’s coming at us fast and furious now. I recently installed a Ring Doorbell. It not only responds when someone rings it, but also when someone just approaches it.
  • More services are becoming negotiable. When emergency repairs are called for instead of long thought out projects, it would seem that the repair person has you over the barrel. Not always the case. Since our economy has shifted to being service-based (some hands-on crafts still can’t be outsourced to China), the competition for your business has become fiercer. Good news for the homeowner.

These 10 popular home renovation trends for 2020 are likely to continue as the COVID-19 lock-down continues. It’s just the new-new. Many employers are not only accepting work-from-home staff, but embracing it. It saves on the overhead. And I might say, as a writer I am used to working from home but it has been really nice having my wife working from home rather than in her downtown high-rise office.

References:

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About the Author:

Photo of Kelly R. SmithKelly R. Smith is an Air Force veteran and was a commercial carpenter for 20 years before returning to night school at the University of Houston where he earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science. After working at NASA for a few years, he went on to develop software for the transportation, financial, and energy-trading industries. He has been writing, in one capacity or another, since he could hold a pencil. As a freelance writer now, he specializes in producing articles and blog content for a variety of clients. His personal blog is at I Can Fix Up My Home Blog where he muses on many different topics.

Ring Video Doorbell and Chime Review

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Ring doorbell from Amazon.com
Ring doorbell from Amazon.com

The Ring Video Doorbell and Chime (sold separately) are riding the wave of home automation and all things connected. As such, this is one more component of your home security. DIY setup is fast and easy. The doorbell has a rechargeable battery that’s connected via the included USB wire. The chime simply plugs into an outlet. Everything is controlled by an app on your phone.

Ring Doorbell Features

  • It senses when there is movement at the door and the chime rings.
  • When mounted 4 feet off the ground it provides 155 degree field of view.
  • 1080p HD view.
  • Pleasant chime sound.
  • Adjustable motion zones (5 feet – 30 feet)
  • Standard video capture. Don’t you want to know when Antifa comes calling?
  • Customizable motion zones.
  • 2.4 GHz Wifi connectivity.
  • Powered by rechargeable battery or can be hardwired.

Although setup is straightforward, the documentation leaves a little to be desired (isn’t that typical nowadays?). For example it references a green and red light on the battery to display charging status. I couldn’t find either. I had to call Ring HQ and was informed, “Oh, that’s for a model with a removable battery.” Welllllll, why didn’t it say so in the first place?

My chime setup was easy as well but it didn’t make any sound at first. It was turned off by default and I fixed it by going into the settings on my iPhone app. All in all I give the Ring Video Doorbell and Chime a rating of 9 out of 10. It would have been a 10 but for the documentation issues.

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About the Author:

Photo of Kelly R. SmithKelly R. Smith is an Air Force veteran and was a commercial carpenter for 20 years before returning to night school at the University of Houston where he earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science. After working at NASA for a few years, he went on to develop software for the transportation, financial, and energy-trading industries. He has been writing, in one capacity or another, since he could hold a pencil. As a freelance writer now, he specializes in producing articles and blog content for a variety of clients. His personal blog is at I Can Fix Up My Home Blog where he muses on many different topics.

Hurricane Preparedness Checklist

Residential hurricane devastation
Residential devastation in the aftermath of a hurricane

It’s that time of year once again. Hurricane season runs from May 15 to November 30. Hurricanes can happen along any U.S. coast or in any territory in the Atlantic or Pacific oceans. Although meteorologists make an impressive list of names and do their best to make predictions, it’s really just a crap shoot as to when and where one will hit.

The bottom line here is that if you live in an area that has even the slightest possibility of being hit by one of these God-awful monstrosities you owe it to yourself, your family, and your pets to follow this hurricane preparedness checklist.

Hurricane preparedness is something most homeowners don’t think about until the last minute. Does this sound like you? Do you have an emergency kit? Got the hurricane evacuation route plotted out? Let’s look at a few things you should do to get prepared now.

Shutter Your Windows

You don’t want glass blasting into your home. Do you remember the trip to Home Depot the last time a hurricane threatened to visit? Plywood, batteries, and generators – all gone. So why not buy your plywood to cover your windows now while you can make it easy on yourself?

It’s not so bad. Just measure all your windows to figure out how many sheets of half-inch plywood to buy. While you’re there, pick up some PLYLOX hurricane window clips. These make securing the plywood a snap.

Some storm shutters are designed specifically with hurricanes in mind. Some of them are even motorized which is a great benefit since hiring someone to help with a storm at hand can be problematic.

Call for Tree Trimming Services Now

How often do you hire a tree trimming company. If you reply “never,” you’re in good company! Truth be told though, one of the main reasons trees fall down in high winds is branch density; you need to open up the canopy. The price you pay for annual tree pruning is a bargain compared to the price of a new roof.

For example, I just had a tree service take out three Queen Palms in my front yard and one Maple tree in the back yard. The Palms just never recovered from the hard freeze last winter and the Maple was just old, big, and as brittle as an old woman with osteoporosis. High winds would probably have resulted in mad roof damage.

Put Together Disaster Kits

Hurricane emergency kits are easy to assemble. And mandatory. You’ll need to put back enough non-perishable food and bottled water to last your family and pets a week. This is like the plywood; do it now!

Every time you go to the grocery store, just pick up a can of Spam and a can of vegetables. Start putting them in a storage container in the garage or in the back of your pantry. There’s a lot of high quality emergency preparedness kits on the market.

You’ve seen them; they’re chock full of emergency medical supplies? Buy one. Or two. Or three; you might want to take care of neighbors.

Buy a NOAA Weather Alert Radio

Public notification of weather conditions is the key to knowing what’s coming. Get a weather alert radio to stay in the know. The best models not only work under battery power, but have a crank handle.

While you are at it, get ahold of a small solar charger for things like your cell phone

Arm Yourself

It really doesn’t matter which side of the 2nd amendment rights you fall on. The reality of a post-disaster situation is that there are bad guys wanting to take what you have and possibly even cause bodily harm. At that point the gun rights thing becomes a stupid argument. It doesn’t matter if you have to bug out or choose to hunker down and shelter in place.

Glock pistol and Savage shotgun for home defense
Glock pistol and Savage shotgun for home defense

You can’t go wrong with a tactical shotgun. Even a complete novice can nail a target. Besides, it looks badass.

My go-to sidearms are a .40 cal Glock and a Beretta U22 Neos. The Glock is almost impossible to jam and has incredible stopping power. The Beretta is also adequate for self-defense and small game if that ever became necessary.

The bottom line is this: don’t wait for the weather to be on top of you. Prepare now. You’ll thank me later. You’re welcome.


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How to Find and Adopt a Rescue Dog

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Dogs playing tug-o-war
Eddie and Maggie playing tug-o-war

This article was updated on 02/20/20.

There’s no doubt about it—people love their pets. The most common pets are dogs and cats. How they go about selecting and acquiring their pets varies. Usually, one of the following methods are used.

  • Taking ownership from a friend or acquaintance. This happens when the current owner moves, loses interest, or simply can’t care for the animal properly any longer.
  • Buying one from a pet store. The problem with this method is that the buyer always runs the risk of getting an animal from a puppy mill. Not only does this often come with potential inherited health issues but the puppy mill industry is usually just a legal form of animal abuse.
  • Buying from a local breeder. This is a good solution if you want a pure-bred animal but it can be quite expensive.
  • Adopting an animal from a shelter. These are often referred to as “rescue animals” and in my mind this is the preferred method. It may be my imagination but these animals seem to appreciate being saved from life in a caged setting or often euthanasia. This blog post focuses on this method, with dog adoption in particular since that is my experience.
Dachshund and rat terrier on guard duty
Dachshund and rat terrier on guard duty

Adopting a Rescue Dog—the Process

Rescue dogs find themselves in the “system” in a number of ways. They might be strays, drop-offs, or victims of animal abuse. Once they enter the system they are relegated to municipal dog pounds, shelters, or foster homes.

Today the process of selecting your future pet is easier than ever, right from the comfort of your own home. This is because most shelters and rescue organizations have websites complete with photos and descriptions. You can narrow down your selection before making a physical trip.

Actually, this works out well for people like me. When I walk by the kennels and they are all barking for attention I’m the kind of guy that “wants to take them all home.”

There is likely to be an adoption fee; $50 dollars or so is not unusual. This fee covers things like shelter upkeep, heartworm treatment, and neutering or spaying. Still, this is a small price to pay considering that most of shelter workers are volunteers. And what can you say about foster homes? Those folks are downright saintly.

Will Your New Pet Fit in?

It is extremely important that your new dog (or cat) fit in. If you already have a pet and you are just adding to your menagerie, you should arrange a “meet and greet” where the animals can do the sniffing ritual; be sure they get along.

Another consideration is whether you have small children. The shelter workers can sometimes tell you if the dog is child-compatible. However this is not always possible if the dog was a stray and its history is non-existent.

Finally, it is important to have a backyard fence. This will ensure that your dog can run around and get exercise without escaping. This serves as a great addition to your home security as it provides a burglar disincentive. Some shelters insist on it when they screen your adoption request.

My household has four rescue dogs, a Rat Terrier (Eddie), a Dachshund mix (Sammie),  a Southern Black Mouth Cur (Frankie), and a border collie (Maggie). They all get along famously.

Frankie, Southern Black Mouth Cur
Frankie, Southern Black Mouth Cur

Eddie was a no-history dog. When this happens the shelter workers simply assign the dog a name. Eddie got the moniker “Spencer.” Well, that wasn’t going to work. So, when we got him home my wife just started calling out names. When she said, “Eddie”, his ears perked up. And that’s how he got his original name back.

The bottom line is this: when considering getting a dog, a rescue dog is often the most frugal and compassionate choice. Plus it has the added advantage that the dog is often house-trained.

 


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About the Author:

Photo of Kelly R. SmithKelly R. Smith is an Air Force veteran and was a commercial carpenter for 20 years before returning to night school at the University of Houston where he earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science. After working at NASA for a few years, he went on to develop software for the transportation, financial, and energy-trading industries. He has been writing, in one capacity or another, since he could hold a pencil. As a freelance writer now, he specializes in producing articles and blog content for a variety of clients. His personal blog is at I Can Fix Up My Home Blog where he muses on many different topics.

Should You Do Your Own Electrical Repairs or Upgrades?

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This can be a tricky issue. Usually it boils down to:

  • Are you competent to complete the task?
  • Does the local electrical building code specify a licensed electrician and building permits?
  • What is the scope of the remodeling project?

Regular Maintenance or Full-Blown Remodeling Project?

We all have situations where we are simply fixing small issues. These usually involve tasks such as replacing GFCI receptacles in the bathroom or kitchen, replacing ceiling fans, and hard-wiring a new oven. These are likely considered regular maintenance.

These are all things that the average homeowner can handle. A project that goes beyond that may involve having to pull building permits and having the job inspected and signed off on. In this case you will likely have to hire a licensed electrician. Always check you local code to be sure.

For example, if you are doing a kitchen remodel, there is likely to be some electrical work. Kitchens are very electric-intensive because of all the appliances. Plus, there is the issue of water and electricity. They don’t usually play well together.

Bathroom remodels face similar issues. There might not be so many appliances but the water issue is at least, if not more, critical. With kitchen and bathroom issues you will likely have to hire a licensed electrician.

Preventative Maintenance for Electrical Repairs

We never know when electrical problems will arise. Who among us has had a circuit breaker or fuse trip in the middle of the night? (It’s always at the worst possible time, right?)

Anyway, now is the time to cover your backside, before fate slaps you upside the head. The most basic thing you can do is to map electrical circuits. This way, when you do have an issue in the wee hours or you are wiring an appliance, you will know just which breaker is involved. The builder made these decisions and they don’t always follow logic.


Speaking of the circuit breaker box, I always keep a padlock on mine. Why? Well, it just happens that one of the things that would-be burglars will do is to flip the main switch to cut power to your house.

Does this qualify me as a bona fide paranoia whacko? Perhaps, but at least I’ve got my (imaginary) ducks in a row (or mallards in a queue if you are reading this across the pond).

The bottom line of this post is that you should know which electrical projects you can and should tackle from both a legal and frugal standpoint. Stay safe and enjoy your kilowatts.


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Choosing and Maintaining Residential Fences

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A partially-completed privacy picket fence.
A partially-completed privacy picket fence.

This article was updated on 07/29/20.

Almost all homes will benefit from a backyard fence. They offer privacy, they let your children and pets romp without running off, and they serve as a deterrent to would-be thieves and vagrants (the fence is security for the back, the Ring Doorbell works for the front). If the home contractor did not install a fence during construction, it is up to you as the homeowner to take care of it.

Even if you already have a fence, it may be old and in extreme disrepair. Or perhaps you just don’t like the look of it and want a different style. Either way a new fence is a great home improvement project.

Types of Fences

But that is not a bad thing. There are many types to choose from. In fact, there are at least 10 types of popular residential fences. Just choose the one that fits your style and budget. Consider these:

  • Chain link. Not the most attractive but affordable, durable, and porous in those high wind areas.
  • Vinyl-coated chain link. This is a bit of an upgrade that allows for a wide range of durable colors.
  • Fence slat. A modification of chain link where plastic slats are inserted through the openings in the fence, offering privacy, security, and protection from the wind.
  • Aluminum fencing. Its benefits include low-maintenance and weather-resistance.
  • Wooden pickets. Very popular because they are easy to install and are attractive.
  • Post and rail. This will give your property a more country look, similar to the split rail type fence.
  • Decorative lattice. If you are going for an attractive style that you can train climbing roses on this might be the one for you.

Maintaining Your Fence

Seeing as how your fence lives outdoors in the elements, it will require some maintenance from time to time. Some types require painting, some require pressure washing and some require picket replacement periodically. Picket life can be extended by spraying a water-repellent or sealing coat on them.

If you have to repair or replace a section that intersects at a corner, you might wonder how to do it right. Not to worry; here is a detailed explanation on how to construct the section and tie a picket fence in at a 90° angle.

Fence gates can also be an issue. Not only are they subjected to the elements but they also get a lot or wear and tear from opening and closing. I found an easy solution to replacing my own gate recently using an Adjust-A-Gate Steel Frame No Sag Gate Building Kit.

In short, when it comes to residential fence choice and maintenance, you have decisions to make!


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Visit Kelly’s profile on Pinterest.


About the Author:

Photo of Kelly R. SmithKelly R. Smith is an Air Force veteran and was a commercial carpenter for 20 years before returning to night school at the University of Houston where he earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science. After working at NASA for a few years, he went on to develop software for the transportation, financial, and energy-trading industries. He has been writing, in one capacity or another, since he could hold a pencil. As a freelance writer now, he specializes in producing articles and blog content for a variety of clients. His personal blog is at I Can Fix Up My Home Blog where he muses on many different topics.



8 Tips to Improve Your Home Security

This post was updated on 07/10/20.

Home security is more important than ever. Gone are the days when we could leave the front door unlocked or the garage door open. This is precisely the reason why selling alarm systems and surveillance cameras is such a lucrative business.

There are other methods to foil the bad guys both before and during a break-in or home invasion. Rather that complacently thinking, “It will never happen to me,” consider the following tips. Forewarned is forearmed.

  1. Protect your home from burglars by securing the garage. This is a prime spot for not only grabbing your stored stuff, but there is usually a door leading into the home that is not as secure as the front door.
  2. Ensure that you have defensive “tools” for easy access in all areas of your home. You might keep your pistol by your bedside and that’s great. But keep in mind that you won’t always be able to get to it in an emergency when Billy Badass is blocking your way. Place cans of wasp spray in various locations. They shoot a fine stream for about 20 feet. A shot in the eyeballs will stop the most unruly crackhead. A stun gun or taser in a bathroom or kitchen drawer might save the day.
  3. Have plenty of exterior lighting. Whether you opt for always-on or motion sensor lights one thing is for sure—no crook likes to be seen. They would rather move on to darker environs.
  4. Got a back porch but no guard dog? Put out a big water bowl and chain-on-a-stake anyhow. The very idea of a dog being present is enough to make many crooks move on.
  5. Make it look like your home is always occupied. If you are going to be away, have your neighbor pick up your mail and newspaper daily. Put your interior lights on a timer.
  6. If your circuit breaker box is outside, put a padlock on it. This will prevent crooks from putting you in the dark before they invade.
  7. Don’t stash a door key under the mat, over the door trim, or in one of those obviously “fake rocks.” Crooks are hip to all these amateur tricks. If you must stash a spare key, be more imaginative. Why not put it in a medicine bottle and actually bury it? It’s not like you will need it very often.
  8. Install a Ring Doorbell to alert you to movement at your front door.

 


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