Home Improvement

Lumber Takes a Fall

Builders and home buyers paid the price as supplies dropped, but the outlook for new construction is improving.

Key takeaways:

  • COVID-19 dramatically disrupted the lumber supply chain affecting home building.

  • Lumber prices have been highly volatile since the spring.

  • An uptick in home remodeling has further squeezed the lumber market and contributed to rising prices.

 

By Daniel Bortz

Last spring, the coronavirus pandemic ground several large lumber mills in the U.S. to a halt—and homebuilders suffered the consequences.

Take Jesse Fowler, for example. Fowler, the president of Tellus Design + Build, a full-service general contractor based in Southern California, said in an interview with REALTOR® Magazine in November that lumber prices for his company had “gone through the roof.” “It’s tough on our business because we have to play the middleman and negotiate lumber prices for our clients,” Fowler said. In one instance, he said, a framer charged one of his clients who was building a new home $90,000 over what was originally estimated to compensate for rising lumber costs.

The COVID-19 crisis and the constraints it has put on the nation’s lumber production aren’t the only factors that have jacked up lumber prices. “Our lumber tariffs with Canada are high, and our domestic lumber industry can’t supply everything that we need,” says Robert Dietz, chief economist at the National Association of Home Builders.

In addition, “the wildfires in the West certainly haven’t helped [lumber production],” says Mike Theunissen, co-owner of Howling Hammer Builders, a custom home builder and remodeler based in Mt. Pleasant, Mich., and chairman of the building materials subcommittee at the NAHB.

Dietz says small homebuilders have had a harder time coping with the price hikes. “Larger builders are feeling less of an impact,” he says.

And optimism is on the rise more broadly. After reaching their peak last September, lumber prices began to fall, according to Monthly Composite Prices reports from industry tracker Random Lengths. “What we had was a shock to the supply system at the start of the pandemic, but now that lumber production has ramped back up, lumber prices have gone back down,” says Mark Rasmussen, a forest economist at Mason, Bruce & Girard, a natural-resources consulting firm, during an interview in early November. Yet just a few weeks later, prices were on the rise again, in response to both favorable building conditions in the fall and suppliers stockpiling materials for an expected busy construction year ahead.

Another bright spot for general contractors: “The remodeling business is busy right now, and you don’t need as many materials when remodeling” as you need to build a new home, Theunissen says.

However, with Americans spending a lot more time at home, many people are taking on home improvement projects themselves. As of mid-August, 61% of U.S. homeowners said they’d taken on a home improvement project since March 1, a NerdWallet survey found. Shawn Church, editor of Random Lengths, says the do-it-yourself remodeling boom contributed to rising lumber prices. “The strong DIY activity generated a demand for wood products that left supply and demand in an acute imbalance,” he says. “Wood products prices surged as a result.”

When lumber costs surged, Theunissen says, his company was forced to make some changes. “We started putting escalation clauses into our contracts for lumber,” he says. “For example, a contract might say that if lumber costs rise by more than 10% before our work is performed, then the customer must pay the difference... We hate to invoke escalation clauses, but there’s only so much we can absorb,” he adds. Howling Hammer’s contracts also started allowing for delays in materials delivery. “If it takes an extra four weeks to do a project because materials arrive later than we expected, then that’s just the way it is,” Theunissen says.

The Impact on New-Home Buyers

Of course, rising lumber prices also affect buyers purchasing new homes. Sales prices of new homes have risen sharply over the past year. As of mid-October, higher lumber prices had added $15,800 on average to the price of a new single-family home, Dietz says. According to Census Bureau data, the average sales price of new single-family houses sold in September 2020 was $403,900, up from $384,000 in January.

Homebuilders are grappling with a number of other challenges, Dietz says, most notably labor shortages and tighter mortgage lending requirements for home buyers and homeowners seeking home equity loans or lines of credit.

There’s little evidence that higher prices have kept large numbers of buyers away. Among affluent buyers, the demand for new construction remains high. Hans Wydler, an associate broker at Compass who works with buyers and builders of custom homes in the greater Washington, D.C., area, says, “Buyers [here] don’t care about lumber prices... That’s just not on their radar.”

Some buyers are being priced out, though. “I have a build job going on right now where the cost went up $50K due to the sudden increases in lumber and other building materials,” says Sheila Smith, an agent with RE/MAX Capital City in Boise, Idaho. “Boise is still being flooded with newcomers from bigger metropolitan areas, mostly California. They can afford the higher-priced homes, and our inventory is down 80% from 2019 overall.”

On a national level, housing starts hit a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1.53 million last October, up 14.2% from October 2019, according to the Census Bureau. Moreover, homebuilder optimism in November hit its third straight record high, according to the NAHB/Wells Fargo Housing Market Index, which has been tracking homebuilder sentiment for 35 years.

Possible Solutions

Although future lumber prices can be difficult to predict, experts say a couple of actions may be able to curb lumber costs in the U.S. For one, “we need to find ways for the domestic lumber industry to produce more, perhaps through recruiting more workers or through new forest policy,” Dietz says.

Second, the U.S. government must negotiate a better lumber agreement with Canada to address the high lumber tariffs that are currently in place. “That’s been a longstanding issue,” says Dietz, “but I think it can happen sometime in the next two years.”

Lawrence Yun, NAR’s chief economist, sees reason for optimism. “Lumber prices should moderate and decline somewhat in 2021 as a result of more harvesting and a possible reduction in tariffs to foreign products,” he says. “That will help home building and generate local economic growth.”

 

By Daniel Bortz: Daniel is a freelance writer who specializes in writing about personal finance but also covers real estate, home improvement, travel, careers, small business, and even weddings.

5 Ways to Put Fall Leaves to Work for You!

After the leaves fall, it's time to rake them up or collect them with a lawnmower attachment then dispose of them, right? No! Instead of removing them entirely from your lawn, use these tips on how they can actually benefit your lawn and your flower beds too. The money homeowners will spend next Spring on lawn and garden fertilizers, mulch and bagged compost... they might have saved if they’d simply used those leaves now.

 

Why Are Leaves Valuable to the Gardener? 

It’s simple. When incorporated into soil, fall leaves:

  • Add nutrients, including phosphorous and potassium

  • Increase the soil’s microbial life 

  • Boost its water-holding capacity 

  • Improve its structure, known as tilth 

Not to mention that leaves are free! It takes little effort on your part to get them working for you. Here are five ways to use them:

1. Mow Them Into the Lawn

Together, shredded leaves and grass clippings add carbon (leaves) and nitrogen (grass) to the soil, reducing your need to add store-bought fertilizers later.

Here’s how: Use a mulching mower. If there’s a bag, take it off and mow with the discharge chute facing toward the lawn, so the clippings blow on the grass instead of on the street or driveway. Set the mower height at about 3 inches. Make another pass if the leaves are still in big pieces. The shredded leaves should sit no more than ¾ inch deep on the grass. Over the winter they will break down into the soil and be gone by spring.

2. Add Them to Vegetable Beds

You can incorporate whole or chopped leaves into any cleared-out vegetable beds. They will mostly decompose over the winter, then in spring you can mix in whatever is left. If you don’t want to see leftover leaves in your beds, shred them first. 

Don’t have a shredder? A garbage can and a string trimmer will work. Use a 55-gallon garbage can. Fill it three-quarters of the way with leaves. Put the string trimmer in, turn it on and move it through the layers of leaves. Be sure to wear eye and ear protection.

3. Make Leaf Mold

Leaf mold is simply wet leaves that have decomposed into a rich, black, soil-like substance that makes a perfect mulch for plants. Pile the leaves in a spot where they’re out of the way and won’t blow away. Or make large (3- or 4-foot) circles of chicken wire, 3 feet high, and pile the leaves in them. Wet the leaves as you go so they’ll rot. Turning the pile a few times during the winter will accelerate the process.

4. Mix Leaves — Shredded or Not — Into a Compost Pile Now, Where They’ll Break Down Over Winter

Even better: Stockpile dried leaves, in garbage bags or piled in that out-of-the-way place, for summer. In warm weather there’s an abundance of succulent green material (nitrogen) for your compost pile. But to keep the composting process aerobically working, and not rotting, it needs lots of “browns” (carbon), in the form of dried material. 

5. Protect Outdoor Potted Plants

When the weather turns cold and potted plants (the hardy ones, not houseplants or tropicals, which must be brought indoors) go dormant, pick a sheltered place on the north, west or east side of your house. Cluster the pots together against the house, ideally beneath an overhang. Pile dried leaves over, under and between the entire grouping of pots.

If the area is windy, corral the pots with chicken wire so the leaves won’t blow away. Pile the leaves inches deep, covering the pot and as much of the plant as possible. Under this insulating blanket, both plants and pots should come through the winter just fine. With this method, even terra-cotta pots can stay outdoors, as long as water can’t get into them and freeze.

Ultimate Fall Indoor Cleaning Checklist

As the days grow shorter, the weather becomes colder and snow is on its way, it's time to begin focusing on the indoor task that you may have been putting off.

 

1. Sweep and Inspect Chimneys and Fireplaces

Tzogia Kappatou/ iStock/ Getty Images Plus

A chimney should be cleaned and inspected yearly. A chimney sweep will help protect your home from accidental fires caused by creosote build-up. If you didn't give your interior fireplace surround a good cleaning at the end of last winter, do it now. Waiting another season will just add to the build-up of soot and make cleaning even more difficult.

Gas logs and fireplaces should also be inspected and cleaned so that they are safe and ready for use.

2. Change Smoke Detector Batteries

Jul Nichols/ E+/ Getty Images

A change of seasons also signals a time to change batteries in smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. This is one chore that can mean the difference in life and death and thousands of dollars in repair costs.

3. Clean or Replace HVAC Filters

firemanYU/ E+/ Getty Images

In addition to having an HVAC technician check your heating system, it is important to regularly change the filters in your heating and air conditioning system. Changing or cleaning filters will improve the air quality of your home and reduce the wear and tear on your furnace.

4. Clean and Reverse Ceiling Fans

powershot/ iStock/ Getty Images Plus

If the ceiling fans in your home have been running all summer, it's time to turn them off and clean the fan. Then, look for a small switch to reverse the blades so that the heated air will be redirected in a downward flow to keep you warmer during chilly days.

5. Deep Clean Throughout the House

gilaxia/ iStock/ Getty Images

If you've taken it easy during the summer and only gotten rid of the most visible grime, it's time to do a deeper cleaning including those places that you have been forgetting to clean including your cleaning tools. As you move through the rooms in your home, follow a checklist to make sure everything gets the attention it needs.

6. In the Bedroom

Oktay Ortakcioglu/ E+/ Getty Images

7. Store Summer Clothes and Inspect Winter Wardrobes

I_rinka/ iStock/ Getty Images Plus

While you're cleaning the bedrooms, don't forget your closet and summer clothes. Empty each clothes closet and sort summer clothes before storing them away. Choose clothes that you want to store until next year to be laundered or dry cleaned. The rest should be sold, donated or discarded. 

While the closet is empty, check that no harmful pests that can ruin clothes are lurking by vacuuming it out well.

8. In the Bathroom

Remove Soap Scum in Bathroom. hesh photo / Getty Images

9. In the Living Room

South_agency/ E+/ Getty Images

10. In the Kitchen

Jul Nicholes/ E+/ Getty Images

  • Empty and clean the pantry. Make a list of holiday baking supplies that you will need.

  • Clean the oven and vent hood.

  • Clean the refrigerator and freezer and discard unusable items. Dust and clean the refrigerator coils.

  • Inspect and clean small appliances.

8 Ways to Make a Space Feel Larger

Feeling cramped at home? These tips can help open up a room without knocking down a wall.

  • Accentuate the vertical. Draw the eye upward so a room looks more spacious. Add a bookshelf that reaches to the ceiling. Install vertical shiplap or wallpaper with vertical stripes. Hang a pendant light fixture.

  • Consider “see-through” furniture. Choose chairs and sofas with visible legs instead of furniture with skirts that reach the floor. This allows you to see under and around pieces so they appear to float in the room rather than dominate it. Glass coffee tables are a good choice, too.

  • Lighten up surroundings. We all know white walls reflect light and makes a room look bigger. But why stop there? HouseLogic recommends painting walls, ceilings, and trim the same shade of white to present a soaring, bright space.

  • Go big with accents. Many people think small when designing a small room. Instead, add a couple of oversized accessories, like a big piece of art or a single large chair. A lot of little objects make a room appear cluttered while one or two big ones make it feel more spacious.

  • Get away from the wall. Create a central layout instead of pushing a sofa up against the wall. When there’s a wall right next to a piece of furniture, your eyes are drawn to the wall, which can make the room seem more cramped.

  • Simplify the color scheme. Use a monochromatic color scheme for walls, furniture, and accessories. When objects are a similar color, your eye doesn’t dwell on each one but rather sees them in a unified, uncomplicated form.

  • Skip the curtains. Curtains block natural light and the view to the outdoors, making a room feel smaller and darker.

  • Bring nature indoors. Add plants and use natural textures in furniture to tie indoor decor to the outdoor view that’s visible through the windows that aren’t blocked by curtains.

 

Sources: Denise Balassi, Spaces Of Distinction; Laura Britt, Britt Design Group; Melissa Grove, Laura U Interior Design; HouseLogic.com

 

9 Ways To Make Your Outdoor Space Usable Year-Round

As the coronavirus hangs on into the fall season, having outdoor space is proving more valuable than ever. But now that cooler weather is on the way, stretching out the life of your porch, backyard, or balcony is the next smart step.

By 

To warm up your outside rooms, try these 9 ideas to retrofit your yard or patio for the cooler fall season.

1. Fire pit

If you don't have an outdoor fireplace or fire pit already, now would be a great time to add this to your outdoor living space! Choose the best option for your space based on your budget and the square footage in your yard. 

2. Heat lamps

  

Photo by Christian Rice Architects, Inc.

Make like a European sidewalk cafe and set up standing propane or electric heat lamps. Or consider installing an infrared heating device in your porch ceiling. These are a step up from traditional gas options and much sleeker and safer—and streamlined models can be inserted so that they heat a person directly, not the elements around them.

Consider a patio heat lamp that takes just a screwdriver to assemble, has a no-tip base, and heats up in mere seconds.

For maximum coziness, you can even find heated furniture.

There are outdoor selections that can be plugged in to keep you warm as you stargaze from your backyard.

3. Plush cushions and blankets

Photo by Eden Clark of VEDA Design Group

No one wants to sit on cold, wrought-iron or plastic deck chairs when the weather turns chilly, so be sure seat cushions and outdoor pillows are thick enough for the season. And a basket full of warm throws is another cozy touch if your guests (due to COVID-19) don't bring their own with them.

4. Privacy screen

Blocking the wind in cooler weather is easy enough with the addition of a wooden wall or screen. Or consider latticework, a cheaper pick that can also surround or partly enclose a patio or one side of a balcony.

5. Curtained pergola

Photo by Baker Patios

A pergola or gazebo is another upgrade that can take your outdoor space from summer to fall, especially if you add curtains that can be drawn when the temperatures dip.

6. Small cooktop

While a full outdoor kitchen may not be in the budget, setting up a grill or small cooktop may be doable. Also, there are free-standing countertop and sink combos available for under $500.

You might also redo an outdoor bar cart to signal fall and cooler temps (think mugs for tea, a jar of cinnamon sticks for warm cider, and brown spirits for Manhattans and hot toddies).

7. All-weather rugs

To keep your feet toasty, add a layer underfoot to warm an outdoor space. All-weather rugs can stand up to the elements, particularly those made from polypropylene. Just keep in mind that carpet with a thick pile won't work on a deck or patio.

The Moroccan pattern on this all-weather rug is the exact pop of color you need on a typical all-brown patio or deck. Be sure to use a nonslip rug pad underneath to prevent shifting, and rotate this carpet so any color loss over time is evenly distributed.

8. Extra lighting

Candles and outdoor lamps won't add warmth per se, but the ambiance they offer is enough to keep the chill away. You can't really overdo outdoor lighting, so go a little nuts with twinkling lights wrapped around pillars, glowing lanterns that act as side tables, Mason jars with tea lights suspended from above, and Tiki torches placed strategically in the yard.

For vintage flair on your deck, perhaps use Edison bulbs. And the setup's a breeze since each light has an individual hook attached so you can quickly hang the lights with nails or hooks.

9. Small shed

Photo by Equity Northwest Real Estate Meridian

Want to splurge on a real structure? Studio sheds have become all the rage of late, and they're very versatile. Warm up in a she shed for some me time or use it as an office, homework space, crafting spot, or meditation area.

 

 

5 Projects to Increase Your Home's Resale Value

Small improvements can make a big impression on potential buyers.

Sep 15 2020

Courtesy of Zillow

Not surprisingly, a recent Zillow survey¹ found that most people — 81% — reported spending more time at home this year compared to the same time last year. Some of us might be feeling a little stir-crazy, but others are taking the opportunity to tackle home improvement projects. You may decide to change up your space for your personal enjoyment or comfort, but if you’re a homeowner looking to sell, it’s worth considering which projects will not only look good but offer the best return for your time and effort.

Zillow partnered with Thumbtack to determine the average costs of a few common improvements sellers make before listing their home for sale. By better understanding the costs, you can decide whether it’s worthwhile to DIY or call in a pro. 

Whatever route you take, a few well-chosen updates could improve your home’s appeal and value. Zillow data finds homeowners who make at least one improvement are more likely to sell their home above their list price than those who don’t make any improvements: 23% vs. 17%, respectively.² With sale prices climbing and homes selling at their fastest pace in more than two years, this may be a good time for would-be sellers to start prepping their homes for listing.  

“There are small things anyone can do to present their home in a better light,” said Sue Cohn Darmon, a Zillow Premier Agent in Connecticut with William Pitt Sotheby’s International Realty. “First impressions go a long way, especially since buyers are now spending more time searching online for homes. Listing photos are going to look better if the home appears well-maintained. If the small things are taken care of, the assumption is that the bigger things that aren’t visible have been taken care of too.”

Here are five DIY projects recommended by agents that could help increase your home’s value.

Upgrade your lights

Good lighting can bring out the best in your home. Updating old fixtures and adding dimmer switches are fairly simple upgrades. You could also consider replacing your fixtures with smart lights controlled by an app, which can help you save on your energy bill and sell your home faster. Zillow research finds homes mentioning smart lights in their listing description sold seven days faster than expected.

Here’s a DIY guide to changing a light fixture, or if you want a professional installer to do the job, Thumbtack finds the average cost is $380.

Replace your faucets

Whether your look is modern or traditional, a new faucet can enhance the style of your bathroom or kitchen. Make it a touchless faucet for added appeal, as COVID-era buyers increasingly look for smart features that will keep their homes germ-free.

With attention to detail and a tolerance for tight spaces, you can handle this job yourself, but if you’d rather leave the under-sink contortions to a pro, Thumbtack finds, on average, you can expect to pay $205 to replace bathroom fixtures.

Landscape smartly

A desire for more outdoor space is the top reason people say they would consider moving as a result of social distancing recommendations, according to a Harris Poll survey conducted for Zillow.³ There’s no better time to spruce up your yard and create the functional, beautiful outdoor space buyers want.

If you don’t like getting your hands dirty (literally), expect to pay $2,600 on average, according to Thumbtack, for a professional landscaping business to clean up your yard, which typically covers mowing, pruning, weeding, planting new flowers or shrubs, and adding new soil, mulch or bark dust. Zillow research found homes mentioning landscaping in their listing description can sell for 2.7 percent more than expected, so depending on the value of your home, it could be a worthwhile investment.

Add a fire pit

Now that you have a nicely landscaped yard, go one step further and install a fire pit to create a family-friendly backyard hangout. Listings mentioning a fire pit can sell for 2.8 percent more than similar homes, according to Zillow research. Interestingly, that sale premium is higher than homes mentioning an outdoor fireplace or a chimenea. An added bonus: This is a DIY the whole family can help with

Paint your front door (and more)

A freshly painted front door can boost your curb appeal, and if you’re thinking about selling, you may be surprised by the winning color when it comes to ROI: Homes with black front doors can sell for up to $6,000 more than similar homes, according to Zillow research.

If it’s in your budget, consider painting the whole exterior (probably not black, though!) to create a great first impression. In a survey of Zillow Premier Agents, 77% recommended sellers paint their home.4 Thumbtack finds the average cost of exterior painting is $2,535.

 

1. Zillow Group Population Science Survey on Time Spent at Home, conducted 7/16/2020 – 7/21/2020
2. Zillow Group Consumer Housing Trends Report 2019
3. This survey was conducted online within the United States by The Harris Poll on behalf of Zillow from May 4-6, 2020 among 2,065 U.S. adults ages 18 and older. This online survey is not based on a probability sample and therefore no estimate of theoretical sampling error can be calculated. For complete survey methodology, including weighting variables and subgroup sample sizes, please contact press@zillow.com.
4. Zillow Group partnered with independent market research and data analytics firm YouGov® to conduct a nationally representative, online quantitative survey that gathered information from 1000 sellers that sold a home in the past 6 months and 500 residential real estate agents. For more information visit zillow.com/report

 

4 Easy Ways to Save Energy and Money in Your Home

You have the necessary appliances like a refrigerator, stove, or microwave, and now you’re wondering what you can do to make your house more energy efficient. Here are some great pieces of technology that can make your house eco-friendly and even save you a few hundred dollars each year. Let’s take a look at a few of them!

By Jeremy Atkins, Rocket Homes Real Estate LLC

 

1. Smart Power Outlets

There are two main types of power outlets out there. One is a “connected” outlet and the other is an energy saving outlet. Connected outlets sync to your Wi-Fi network allowing you to control the power output to appliances remotely. Leave a fan on while at work? No need to let it run all day – just hop on your phone and turn it off. These are usually in the $25-$60 range depending on the unit.

Energy saving outlets go a step further by turning the outlet off completely. Kind of like flipping a switch on a circuit breaker. This saves you from the dreaded “vampire power” which is when a plugged-in device uses electricity, even when it’s turned off. These are a great way to keep your energy usage down and even save upwards of a $150-$400 per year. Energy saving outlets, like these, can be found for around $6-$25.

Energy saving outlets, like these, can be found for around $6-25.

2. Smart Thermostats

For someone like me who loves tech, smart thermostats are amazing. They connect to your Wi-Fi network and your furnace. Over the course of a week or two, they learn your schedule and heat up or cool your house down automatically right before you get home. They also adjust for when you leave. This is another boon for us forgetful folks. I can hear Ron Popeil now “Set it…and forget it!”

Most smart thermostats can be controlled remotely and allow for scheduling via an app or on the device. They’re easy to use and will help you save an average of $145 a year. The main players in this market are Ecobee, Nest, and Honeywell and they range from $170-$250.

3. LED & Smart Lights

Not as rare or expensive as they used to be, LED lights are a pretty amazing way to reduce your carbon footprint. A basic, 60-watt equivalent LED light bulb will use 10-15% of the energy needed of an incandescent bulb. They even give off less heat, which will help with your air conditioning bill in the summer too. You can find them for as little as $3 and they go up from there.

This wouldn’t be a “tech” article if I just talked about regular old LED lights. Good thing there are smart lights! I bought some Philips Hue lights a few months ago and they are awesome. I have them set to turn on at sunset because my wife is usually home then. Today, she has a meeting and isn’t home yet so I just went into to the app on my phone and turned them off. I even have them programmed to turn off at 8 am every morning just in case my wife or I forget to turn them off. Some versions can even allow you to adjust the color and sync them to music! Unfortunately, these can be pretty expensive at around $50 per bulb but could save you around $2-$4 per year.

4. Dual-Flush Toilet

Traditional toilets use more water than we usually need when we flush. That’s where dual-flush toilets come in. These unique thrones have a light flush option which, depending on the toilet/kit, uses a half-gallon less water per flush than a full-flush version. If you need more…ahem…flushing power, use the full flush mode and it’s business as usual. There are multiple manufacturers that sell toilets with this capability and you can even find kits online to convert your regular toilet to a dual flush. With these upgrades, you can save around $200 per year in water savings depending on the size of your household.

I’m always on the lookout for ways to help me save money and green tech has certainly helped. I’m thrilled to have made some of these energy efficient upgrades and I can’t wait to add more. Whether it’s a simple replacement LED light, new smart thermostat, or a dual flush toilet, you too can make your home more energy efficient and even save some cash.

 

Jeremy Atkins: Writer, Rocket Homes

Top Eco-Friendly Home Features Most Homeowners Want

With climate risks rising, an increasing number of homeowners are trying to do their part to improve the environment by investing in green and sustainable products and systems. Following are the top eco-friendly features most homeowners want in their homes.

Content sponsor Quicken Loans for REALTOR Magazine reveals the energy-saving products most in demand right now.

 

By Rachel Burris

What Are Eco Homes?

Eco homes are designed to promote greener lifestyles by minimizing the greenhouse gases they emit into the atmosphere. These homes reduce their environmental impact by including sustainable materials and technologies that reduce homeowners' energy and water needs.

Each of the following eco-friendly home features helps limit the waste produced by households. 

  • Energy Star-rated appliances. Homes with high-efficiency appliances are in demand because they offer enhanced performance with reduced energy usage. Not only do Energy Star-rated appliances lower homeowners’ carbon footprint, but they also look good and reduce utility costs.

              

  • Programmable thermostats. Homes with older HVAC systems are wasteful and costly because they pump hot and cold air throughout the home without regard to when and where it’s needed. Conversely, programmable thermostats provide homeowners with increased control over their climates.

           

  • Radiant floor heating. With heat directly transferring from the ground to the individuals standing on it, radiant heating uses much less energy than traditional heating methods. Commonly found in luxury bathrooms, radiant heating requires electric coils or water tubing to be installed under the floors. It’s pricey to install, but this technology ultimately contributes to lower energy expenses.

           

  • Solar panels. Instead of relying on the utility company to provide electricity, homeowners' are interested in generating clean energy themselves. Now that capturing the sun’s power is far more affordable, everyone's looking to deck their homes out with solar panels.

             

  • Recycled materials. Building and finishing homes with recycled materials is a trend that’s on the rise. Producing new materials depletes many natural resources, so reusing them eliminates waste and diminishes the environmental impact. Reclaimed materials, like barn wood and recycled quartz, also are more affordable and can furnish homes with striking textures.

             

  • Geothermal systems. “Geothermal systems use the ground’s relatively cool temperature to cool a home in the summer and relatively warmer temperature to heat homes in the winter,” says Chris Fisher, manager of solar product development and marketing at CertainTeed. “They’re eco-friendly because they can displace heating loads, which currently rely on the burning of fossil fuels to produce heat.” While this method is more efficient than traditional HVAC systems, it’s also more expensive to install. Since it regulates temperatures by transferring heat from the earth into your home, installation requires extensive drilling.

The Benefits Of Eco Homes

With their environmental and financial advantages, it’s no wonder everyone's seeking eco homes. The benefit of homes with eco-friendly features are they're highly coveted, so they’re likely to sell faster and possess a higher resale value in the future.

 

Rachel Burris is a writer for Quicken Loans’ Publishing House, covering topics of interest to present and future homeowners, as well as industry insiders.

 

5 Best Trees For Privacy That Grow Fast

A sprawling backyard can be a great place to spend quality time with your family, or quietly relax alone away from the distractions of gadgets in the house like TV’s blaring and radios. Spending time outside can do wonders and you get to enjoy the natural scenery outside.

 

By Kevin Piol, Gardeners' Guide

Some homeowners rarely use their yards because it can feel too open, especially for neighborhoods with large multistorey houses. Fences can be expensive to construct and to maintain especially when it is getting old. The cost of repairing fences regularly can be costly, that’s why most homes opt for planting trees to save money while also getting one of its benefits.

How Trees Help Protect Your Privacy

Planting trees in your yard provides many benefits to your house. Trees also greatly improve the look and feel as well as the atmosphere of the surroundings. They can also help to block off the noise and replace them with a natural sound of rustling leaves. It can also help to regulate the temperature of your house by blocking the searing heat of the sun during hot summer or act as windbreakers to protect your house from strong winds.

Most importantly, trees are great for the environment and can help to stabilize the soil. The trees can also prevent soil erosion as well as provide nesting grounds for birds and other animals. Apart from the long list of benefits that trees provide to your house, it can also help to improve the privacy of your property by covering your yard with their branches and leaves. Trees also provide shade and make your yard beautiful and cozy.

Things to Consider When Planting Privacy Trees

Planting trees may be as straight forward as digging a hole in the ground. To avoid inadvertently damaging your own house, you need to consider several factors like how big a tree can grow, and how the seasons can affect the tree.

The Amount of Privacy You Need

Trees grow differently and when they fully mature, it will have a different height and width so it is important to know in advance the degree of privacy you need to find the perfect tree that fits your requirement. You also need to consider your privacy screen height relative to your house to avoid crowding your backyard.

The Size of Your Yard

Another important consideration before choosing a type of tree is the size of your yard. Trees need space to grow and if there is not enough space, their growth could be skewed and they won’t be able to screen your house properly. You also need to consider how the tree’s roots can affect parts of your property like pavement.

The Amount of Time You Have for Maintenance

Trees and shrubs may be easier to maintain compared to fences, but they still require love and care to grow properly and to fully mature. Trees require trimming so they won’t grow the wrong way and shrubs need pruning to keep them neat and orderly appearance.

Below is a list of the best trees for privacy that you can plant with minimal care and maintenance. These trees also minimize the disruption of your existing landscape. They are very popular in suburban homes and even in the middle of bustling cities.

Green Giant Thuja (Arborvitae)

source: flickr.com/photos/lorenkerns/7230624714

This type of tree is perfect for medium-sized yards. It can also be used to substitute or complement existing fence lines. This type of tree can grow relatively fast compared to other privacy trees. This tree can grow up to 30 or 40 feet.

 

Emerald Green Thuja (Arborvitae)

source: plantingtree.com

The second candidate of our best trees for privacy is the Emerald Green Thuja. This tree is a slightly smaller variant of the popular Green Giant Thuja and is perfect for small yards. They grow at a modest rate of 6 to 9 inches per year which makes them easy to maintain and trim. The Emerald Green Thuja can reach a height of 12 to 14 feet perfect for blocking off street noise and to make them as your fence.

 

Leyland Cypress

source: revolutionary gardens.com

Another one is the Leyland Cypress. This tree is perfect to substitute traditional fences or complement existing fence lines. The Leyland Cypress acts as a perfect wall to block street noise and prevent neighbors from invading the privacy of your yard. This tree can grow 3 to 5 feet a year and reach a height of 40 to 60 feet.

 

Wax Myrtle

source: pinterest.com/pin/323062973251694329

The Wax Myrtle is the best option for homeowners who have small yards yet want a hedge as a fence line. This tree has very dense foliage and can definitely act as a fence to protect your home’s privacy. It can grow up to 6-12 feet and grows at a rate of 12 to 18 inches a year which makes it easy to prune and to maintain.

 

Eastern Red Cedar

source: mysanantonio.com

The Eastern Red Cedar is a great choice for homeowners who wants a tree that provides a full-coverage of privacy because of its thick and wide foliage. This tree is a coniferous evergreen that can grow from 16 to 66 feet with a growth rate of 1 to 2 feet a year.

Conclusion

Planting Privacy Trees is an eco-friendly solution for protecting your home’s privacy and property. 

5 Budget-Friendly Ideas to Transform a Home's Style

It can be an extremely expensive endeavor to redesign a home. If resources are limited, don’t be discouraged. Consider ways you can use what is already in the home to enhance the look and cut down on costs. Bringing in just a few essential items can change the tone of a space and have a big impact. Here are some ideas.

 Architect, Monica Gibson offers up tips to create a more inviting space.

1. Add indoor plants

Adding plants in your living space is one of the easiest and best ways to transform your home. Plants usher in natural beauty and color to any room in the most affordable way. Regardless of the space you have, growing indoor plants is ideal for any room.

Try different ways of placing them to change the look of rooms. If you have less space, hang plants or place them on floating shelves. You also can use plants on the floor where space is available.

Do not let lack of natural light keep you from transforming your home with indoor plants. Invest in reliable grow lights to provide lighting to your plants. You now have a solution for brightening that boring corner in your living room.

2. Repaint the walls

Photo credit: Dunn-Edwards (paint color: Minty Fresh)

Another way to instantly transform your home on a budget is by adding a fresh coat of paint to the walls. You can decide to use the existing hue, or you can change it to a different shade for a fresher look. The latter, however, would mean changing a few accessories in the home to create a balanced feeling. Need some color inspiration? Take a look at 2020’s hottest paint colors

3. Swap Out window treatments

Many people underestimate the effect window treatments can have on a room. The color, texture, and fabric—and even how treatments are placed—can have a huge impact on the overall look of any room. Therefore, changing window treatments can transform a space without having to spend a fortune.

Consider creating an illusion of a high ceiling by raising the window panels to the top of walls. Opt for materials such as cotton, linen, and silk to add greater elegance to the windows. If you prefer having blinds, wood and woven bamboo always make for a great choice.

4. Replace the pillows

Another underestimated way to greatly make your home more elegant: pillows—lots of them. Pillows can bring life to your living space. They also offer extra support on the sofa.

Consider replacing your old pillows and throw pillows for fuller ones. When it comes to throw pillows, experiment with colors and textures. If they are not worn out, just replace the covers with ones that have different colors and textures. Get more tips on using pillows in your staging.

5. Use wall hangings

A budget-friendly alternative to repainting the walls is to use wall hangings. Invest in unique art pieces, or have some customized. You can even add a painting that you made yourself to create a more personalized feel. Family portraits also make a great choice when it comes to wall hangings. But keep in mind that home stagers will often advise removing any personal photos prior to selling a home.

6. Get rid of old furniture

That old, ugly chair that you are holding on to for sentimental value is the undoing in your living room. You don’t want furniture that looks worn. Don’t worry about the cost of replacing it. Instead, take advantage of the empty space to rearrange the rest of the furniture for a fresh look.

Alternatively, find an affordable replacement in second-hand shops. You can always change the upholstery to have it match the rest of your furniture.

Take heart: There’s an endless list of design ideas to achieve a luxurious effect without breaking the bank. Keep in mind that labor costs are usually the biggest expense. If you eliminate that cost by doing more work yourself, you can find more savings. Also, be strategic by just replacing a few key items.

Avoid a complete redesign. Instead, change little pieces; it can go a long way.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Monica Gibson is an architect, with a degree in architecture. She has eight-plus years of experience in interior and exterior design. Her mission is to inspire others to live their dreams and create their perfect sweet home. Lena puts a big effort into working with her clients and tries to help them in the best way she can.