How to Protect Yourself From a Mechanics Lien

Every homeowner who’s considering hiring a contractor to do some work in or around their house should make sure they’re familiar with their state’s mechanics lien laws before making a decision. Never heard of a mechanics lien? You’re not alone. Let’s uncover what it is and why you should protect yourself from it.

Think Twice About Not Paying

If you wind up having a beef with the contractor you employ for builds or repairs – poor workmanship, perhaps, or maybe they walked off the job before it was completed or failed to finish the work in a timely manner as promised – and you decide not to pay, that contractor can respond by attaching your house to a legal claim for unpaid work until some kind of settlement is reached.
That could turn into a waiting game if you are not considering selling your home. But, if you intend to put your home on the market in the near future, that lien could stop you in your tracks.
mechanics lienmechanics lien

What EXACTLY is a Mechanics Lien?

Sometimes known as a materialmans lien, every state has a a mechanics lien law granting tradespeople a way to protect themselves from those who fail to pay them for services and time rendered.
Here’s how Rusty Adams, a research attorney for the Texas Real Estate Research Center at Texas A&M University, described it in a recent edition of Terra Grande, the Center’s monthly magazine:
“It is an equitable interest that gives its holder the right to have satisfaction out of the property to secure payment on a debt. It is not title to the property, and a lien holder does not have ownership rights. Rather, it is an equitable interest that gives the lien holder the right to have satisfaction out of the property to secure the payment of a debt.”
In other words, it is an encumbrance the property owner must deal with, one way or another. Otherwise, it could result in a foreclosure and forced sale of your house.

How Mechanics Liens Work

None of what follows should be considered legal advice. Rather, it is intended only as a brief, mile-high overview.
A mechanics lien can be filed by anyone with a claim against the property. This concept isn’t new; for example, Uncle Sam can place a lien if you fail to pay your taxes, as can your state. Your homeowners association can do the same if you don’t pay your dues or a special assessment.
In the case of work done to your house, the contractor can file if you fail to pay, even if you feel you’re justified in withholding. The company from which he or she gets their supplies – roof shingles, for instance – can also file against your house if the contractor doesn’t pay them. And if the contractor uses subcontractors, they, too, can go against the house if the contractor doesn’t pay them.
The “very broad” law in Maryland “covers almost everything,” attorney Harvey Jacobs says. For example, if the developer doesn’t pay the paving company hired to cover your cul-de-sac, the company can file a mechanics lien against every house that touches that street. Ditto for the outfit hired to landscape, sod and plant shrubs.
mechanics liensmechanics liens

How to Protect Against Mechanics Liens

Fortunately, lien laws afford owners some protections. In some places, the amount owed must be of at least a certain amount. They also must be filed within a certain number of days from when the work was completed, and may require the property owner to be notified within a specified time that a lien has been filed.
The rules, which also apply to subs and suppliers, can be somewhat tricky for an owner to decipher. But the absolute best way to protect yourself is to require the contractor to provide lien releases before you pay anything more than your down payment. In other words, no draws or final payment until he or she certifies that everyone in the chain has been paid.
Often, says Texas attorney Adams, a notice of intent to file or the actual filing is enough to resolve the debt attached to the property without going through the process itself.
Once payment has been received, a contractor has a duty to remove the notice or the lien itself from public records. Failure to do so allows the property owner to file a lawsuit against the contractor to compel the lien’s removal. But to avoid that, Adams suggests making sure the release has been recorded.

(READ MORE: The Difference Between a Handyman and a Contractor)

Some Important Distinctions

A lien release is not the same as a lien waiver. Nor is it the same as a lis pendens. While a release removes an existing lien, a waiver is an agreement that prohibits a contractor or supplier from placing a lien on the property. But some states don’t permit waivers at all.
A lis pendens, which is Latin for “suit pending,” is a written notice that a lawsuit has been filed in the county land records office involving either the title to the property or a claimed ownership interest in it. The notice alerts a potential purchaser or lender that the property’s title is in question, making it less attractive, if only because the buyer or lender is subject to the suit’s ultimate outcome.
Beyond this, it is crucial for a homeowner to ensure the contractor, subcontractor or supplier has followed the rules of the road.  In Texas, said Adams, the claimant must give the appropriate preliminary notices, make the proper filing and give filing notice to the property owner.
mechanics lienmechanics lien
In Maryland, the unpaid amount must be at least 15% of the property’s assessed value. So if the house is assessed at $100,000, the lien must be for $15,000 or more. “Small jobs don’t count,” Jacobs said. Contractors must also file a lien within 180 days of performing the work in Maryland, but subs must file within 120 days.
In neighboring D.C., though, there is no minimum to file, and the contractor, supplier or sub has only 90 days to file.
(Note: In the case of mechanics liens, property value is an evidentiary question. Courts often use assessed value in deciding whether a lien can be brought.)
In Texas, though, contractors aren’t required to provide a preliminary notice, but they are required to present a list of all subs and suppliers before starting work. But subs and suppliers who have a contract with the original contractor must send notices to both the contractor and the homeowner by the 15th day of the second month.
As you can see, once you get into the tall grass with mechanics liens, it becomes fairly complicated. It’s at this point that it may be time to consult legal counsel.

Lew Sichelman

Syndicated newspaper columnist, Lew Sichelman has been covering the housing market and all it entails for more than 50 years. He is an award-winning journalist who worked at two major Washington, D.C. newspapers and is a past president of the National Association of Real Estate Editors.


What Every Homeowner Needs to Know About Contractors

When you’re building or renovating a home, having the right team on your side makes all the difference.

Building or renovating a home is a complex project with plenty of moving parts. Even if you’re planning to take a DIY approach, it’s likely you’ll need some help from contractors along the way. Here’s a guide to the types of contractors you might enlist to help you complete your dream home.

General contractors

If you think of a general contractor like a general in the military, you have the basic idea of what a general contractor does. Like a general leading a military campaign, a general contractor organizes the strategy of a building or remodeling project. The general contractor decides when to bring in the plumbers, electricians, and roofers; makes sure they do their jobs correctly; and checks details, like ensuring that the carpenters install the porch handrails according to code.

Especially if there is no architect involved, the general contractor ensures that the building permits are in order and that the project is legal — meaning that it is being done to city or country building codes. (If it isn’t, your city’s building inspectors will make you redo it. Ouch!) Like a military general who is ultimately responsible for the success of a campaign, the general contractor is responsible for the outcome of remodeling project.


Subcontractors are specialists who work under the direction of the general contractor. Subcontractors include plumbers, electricians, tile setters, carpenters, framers, roofers, painters and cabinetmakers, among others.

Ideally, they show up at your construction or remodeling project when they are needed. If the subcontractors are reliable and efficient, the pace of your project continues to move steadily along, and it is finished when it is supposed to be. If all that happens, it is usually because a good general contractor has been overseeing their work.

Owner as general contractor

Homeowners who are skilled at organizing multimillion-dollar sales campaigns at their office or at running three local volunteer organizations in their spare time sometimes like to act as their own general contractors. There is no law that says you can’t. As a rule of thumb, general contractors charge about 15 to 20 percent of the total cost of the job, so acting as your own general contractor can save money.

But before you leap into the general contractor role, consider whether you really have the time, expertise, and patience to run a remodeling project, especially a complicated one. How much time can you spend on site? Can you take phone calls at unexpected times of the day?

The one thing you can count on with any remodel is that something will go wrong at some point. It may not be a big deal, but it will mean making new arrangements, often on short notice, and rearranging schedules for subcontractors and suppliers.

This could mean dozens of phone calls in a single afternoon. It could mean running around hunting down some piece of hardware or building material that is needed on site right now. If this sounds like fun, you may have what it takes to act as your own general contractor.

Design/build firms

An alternative to hiring a general contractor or acting as your own is to hire a design/build firm. Design/build firms are companies that offer start-to-finish building and remodeling services. They employ architects or designers as well as the skilled builders.

A design/build firm essentially offers the services of architect, general contractor, and subcontractors. The obvious advantage to using these firms is that the entire project should be a fairly smooth operation, since the firm takes responsibility for everything.

While general contractors, subs, and independent architects can, in the worst scenarios, blame each other for mishaps and toss the responsibility for correcting the mishaps back and forth, design/build firms know the buck stops with them. They have to make it right.


If your home improvement project really is as straightforward as installing a wall of built-in bookshelves in your living room, your best bet is probably to find a good carpenter or cabinetmaker.

People who bill themselves as handymen may be fine at installing new light switches or doing minor carpentry, but, as always, ask to see some of their work. If you want your new bookshelves to look like elegant additions to your living room, find an expert in cabinetry.



Keeping Pets Safe Around Plants

Many plants represent a threat to Fido and Fluffy. Protect them with these tips from our gardening expert.

Gardens are wonderful places for pets. They provide entertainment, room to exercise and cool shade in the afternoon. However, many of the most common and seemingly innocuous garden plants are also poisonous to your furry friends.

The apples and oranges we humans enjoy, almost all flowering bulbs and some of the most popular houseplants all share one thing in common: They are dangerously toxic to cats and dogs.

toxic combo
Irises, bottlebrush and daylilies all pose a threat to pets.

Plants ranked ninth on the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals’ (ASPCA’s) list of top pet toxins in 2017. Roughly 5 percent of calls made to the organization’s Animal Poison Control Center involved landscaping plants, houseplants and bouquets.

Before we even cover the poisonous plants, let’s focus on the biggest dangers. Insecticides ranked seventh on the ASPCA list, and lawn and garden products came in 10th. Keep all chemicals out of reach, and if you’re getting your lawn sprayed, allow at least a day before letting your pet on the grass.

Problem plants for pets

Many plants are poisonous or otherwise dangerous to pets, but luckily there are many more that are completely safe. Here are some toxic plants to avoid, followed by safe alternatives. This list is just an introduction and is by no means exhaustive, so refer to the ASPCA website to search for the plant in question.

Plant type Toxic Nontoxic
Bulbs Caladium, calla lily, tulip, daffodil, iris, narcissus, crinum, amaryllis,  dahlia, lily of  the valley, crocus Canna, muscari, Scarborough lily, ginger
 Annuals and
Arum, elephant ear, begonia, sweet pea, coleus, bird of paradise, cyclamen,  hellebore, hosta, lantana, chrysanthemum, morning glory, asparagus fern, geranium. Lilies and daylilies are toxic to cats but nontoxic to dogs. Aster, fern, marigold, gerber daisy, snapdragon, hollyhock, ornamental grasses, nasturtium, nerve plant, petunia, sunflower
and shrubs
Holly, rhododendron, azalea, oleander, sago palm, citrus (lemons, oranges, etc.), apple, apricot, peach, cherry, yucca, black walnut, yew, gardenia, nandina, wisteria Crepe myrtle, bottlebrush, aralia, hawthorn, pittosporum, mulberry, magnolia, mahonia, rose, hickory, bamboo, banana
 Vegetables Tomato, garlic, leek, onion, shallot, grape Cucumber, squash, melon, okra, zucchini
 Houseplants Dieffenbachia, Swiss cheese plant, Chinese evergreen, dracaena, pothos, ficus, anthurium, aloe, desert rose, kalanchoe, snake plant, euphorbia, asparagus fern, schefflera Calathea, areca palm, cast iron plant, Christmas cactus, spider plant, episcia, false aralia, orchid, bromeliad, peperomia, echeveria, haworthia, sempervivum, gynura, plectranthus

If you’re unsure of the toxicity of a certain plant in your garden, refer to the ASPCA website to find out.

Bromeliads and echeveria are safe plants to have around your four-legged friends.
Bromeliads and echeveria are safe plants to have around your four-legged friends.

Safety steps

While you needn’t tear apart your garden to keep poisonous plants off your dog’s menu, you should definitely educate yourself so you can make your own informed decisions.

Remove risky plants, transplant them to pet-free areas of the garden or, if the plant is too big (or special) to easily remove, make it inaccessible to your pet with fencing.

Just remember that even fallen leaves or seedpods are also often poisonous, so acquaint yourself with the symptoms your pet might experience following ingestion so you know what to tell the vet.

You might not need to go out and remove a foundation planting of azaleas tomorrow, but it isn’t that big of a deal to replace your toxic aloe plant with a nontoxic (and more attractive) haworthia.

If your pet shows any worrying symptoms, don’t waste time looking at lists like these. Call your vet or visit the ASPCA poison control hotline website immediately.

Top photo from Offset.

Note: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or position of Zillow.


Originally published June 25, 2015.


5 Ways to Show Your Home Some Love

Don’t leave your home out of the Valentine’s Day fun — send it a love note or two with these quick tips.

When February rolls around, we’re often thinking of little ways to show our loved ones how special they are to us. Why not take the opportunity to do the same for your home?

While you can’t send your home a box of chocolates or a card, there are plenty of things you can do to show it a little love this Valentine’s Day.

Make easy DIY updates

Even if you’re not planning on selling your home anytime soon, it’s always good to make small improvements to increase your home’s value. Plan a quick weekend project, like one of the following:

  • Install a no-touch faucet on the kitchen sink
  • Swap those brass drawer pulls from the ’90s with a more modern design
  • Replace the old fluorescent light fixtures in the bathroom
  • Upgrade the frameless builder-grade mirror to a more stylish one
  • Paint the front door and shutters a vibrant color you love

These simple changes can make a huge difference in how you see and enjoy your home — and make it easier to sell when the time comes.

Buy it something pretty

Just like buying a new ensemble usually lifts your spirits, purchasing something you love for your home will instantly put you in a great mood.

Buy that gorgeous vintage door you’ve been eyeing online (after carefully measuring, of course). Upgrade the curtains the previous owner left behind, buy something colorful and cheery to change the room’s look, or take the plunge and finally purchase that department store rug.

Cultivating great style in your home doesn’t usually happen overnight, but occasionally purchasing items that that make you happy will eventually result in a space you love.

Make happy memories in it

When you first looked at your home, you might have said something like, “This would be a great space for entertaining.” Since moving in, however, have you actually entertained in your home?

If you haven’t (or if it’s been awhile), consider hosting a potluck or a casual dinner with friends and family.

But don’t think you have to scrub the floors for three days and prepare a feast. There’s no need to get too fancy when you host — all you really need is great friends, lively conversation, and good food. Make a menu, choose the music, and hang some string lights or light some candles to create a festive atmosphere.

Save money on it

If mortgage rates are down and you’re interested in lowering your monthly payments, you might want to consider refinancing your home.

Though saving money on your mortgage is the most obvious reason to refinance, many homeowners choose to refinance so they can change from an adjustable rate mortgage (ARM) to a fixed-rate mortgage. This can make payments more predictable and less dependent on how the market is doing.

Knowing that you are making the best financial decisions when it comes to your home will ultimately make you happier to be there.

Make sure it’s protected

Reviewing your home insurance policy may not be the most exciting way to spend an evening, but it’s a good way to make sure there aren’t any obvious gaps in your coverage.

Read your policy carefully. Are you overly insured? Or are you overpaying for the amount of coverage you’re getting? Remember that standard coverage often doesn’t often pay for flood or earthquake damage, so check your policy and understand what’s covered in the rare case of a disaster.

If you find areas for improvement, shop around for a new insurance company or work with your existing provider to create a plan that makes you feel more prepared and secure. Understanding the ins and outs of your insurance policy is the best way to look after your pocketbook — and it will likely help you sleep better at night, too.

A home is more than just a roof over your head — it’s a place that’s meant to be loved and enjoyed. Try some of these quick tips this weekend, and you’re sure to fall in love with your home even more.


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Leanne Ford Infuses a Pittsburgh Home With Parisian Flair—Take a Look

Steve and Leanne Ford love renovating homes in their hometown of Pittsburgh, yet in the latest episode of “Home Again With the Fords,” this brother-and-sister team is thinking about a whole different city: Paris.

In “Paris in Pittsburgh,” Steve and Leanne meet Bridgette and Dan, high school sweethearts who’ve been around the world. But now, with two young kids, they’re ready to return home to Pittsburgh and settle in the neighborhood of Franklin Park.

However, it seems they’ve brought back a love of European style, because they ask Leanne to bring some Parisian flair into their home, hoping the space could feel like a chic “Pittsburgh pied-à-terre.”

But Leanne and Steve have a lot on their to-do list as it is. With four different types of flooring and a stuffy style, this house needs lots of work. And with only $80,000 to work with, Leanne will need to be smart with her budget.

Read on to see how Leanne adds some Parisian style to this home, which might inspire you to copy her moves for a mental mini vacation.

Give your living room a dark fireplace feature

Leanne Ford thought this white fireplace wasn't working.
Leanne Ford thought this white fireplace wasn’t working.


Bridgette and Dan love their new house, but they hate the wallpaper in the living room. So Steve and Leanne remove the wallpaper and replace it with clean, white walls. However, once the room is painted, it looks a little stark.

Leanne decides to put some color back into the room by making the fireplace darker. She starts with a black marble hearth and realizes that painting the mantel to match could add even more style to the space.

This black fireplace serves as a statement piece.
This black fireplace serves as a statement piece.


“We’re making the mantel high-gloss black to tie into the marble around the hearth, and it’s going to feel really, very cool and modern,” Leanne says.

When the fireplace is finished, it stands out as a bold feature in this minimalist living room. Now, this room feels a little more exciting, a little more European, and way more chic.

Love wainscoting? Install cabinets with the same look

These cabinets are inspired by the paneling in the living room.
These cabinets are inspired by the paneling in the living room.


While Bridgette and Dan say that they hate the wallpaper in the living room, they make a point to mention how much they love the wainscoting.

Leanne agrees that the beautiful paneling is too nice to take out. In fact, she loves the look so much that she’s inspired to bring a similar look to the kitchen cabinets.

“The cabinets are all custom-built, and the style is a rip-off of the molding that Dan and Bridgette already had in their living room,” Leanne explains once the cabinets are installed. “I love playing with molding, which is in every gorgeous French pied-à-terre.”

The stylish cabinets elevate the kitchen, giving the whole room a hint of old-world French elegance.

Use a two-tone countertop for an edgy, modern style

These kitchen counters are a mix of light and dark.
These kitchen counters are a mix of light and dark.


When Leanne is designing the kitchen, she runs into a big problem. While she loves a particular type of marble, she can’t get enough of it to cover the entire island. So she gets an idea to use the marble she loves, paired with a dark marble with complementary veining.

“My idea is to split the island at a diagonal, using white marble with gray veins at one side and black marble with some gray veining on the other,” Leanne says. “It’s going to look super cool.”

This countertop is the best of both worlds.
This countertop is the best of both worlds.


When the marble is finished, the two colors look great. It’s a unique, modern look, and Steve especially likes it.

“Honestly, if it was all black, I feel like it would be too dark,” he says, “but because it has that white and the black, it’s like the perfect countertop now.”

In keeping with the French theme, Leanne declares, “The marble is the pièce de résistance in this home.”

Use transitions between flooring styles

With so many different types of flooring, Leanne and Steve Ford knew they needed a way to transition between styles.
With so many different types of flooring, Leanne and Steve Ford knew they needed a way to transition between styles.


One of the biggest problems with this house is the flooring. When Steve and Leanne first tour the house, they’re surprised to see not one, not two, but four different parquet patterns in various rooms. They know something needs to be done.

While they replace the kitchen floor, they don’t want to replace all of the original parquet, so they come up with a way to make the different patterns work together.

Now, the different flooring styles can flow together.
Now, the different flooring styles can flow together.


Leanne tells Bridgette and Dan that they’ll install wider, heavier transitions between the floors.

“It feels more purposeful and turns it into a beautiful thing as opposed to an afterthought,” Leanne explains.

They end up installing planks of wood in a diagonal to make the transition seem more intentional, and in the end, Bridgette and Dan get to keep the beautiful parquets in a way that works.

Paint everything white to pull it together

Too many tones can be distracting.
Too many tones can be distracting.


While Leanne and Steve notice a lot of different floors, they also take note of the busy walls.

“Visually, there’s a lot going on in this house still with the trim, with the crown molding. I mean, there’s so many different tones of wood,” Leanne says.

Luckily, she has an easy fix and decides to have the interior painted a clean, crisp white.

“By giving it all the same coat of white paint, it’s going to simplify,” Leanne says.

With a monochromatic tone, it’ll be easier to appreciate the textured details of this house, like the vertical wood paneling and the brick accents, all while leaving the home with a clean, European style.

With a coat of white paint, Leanne is able to make the different materials work together.
With a coat of white paint, Leanne is able to make the different materials work together.



Top 5 Fall Home Maintenance and Safety Tips

As summer begins to wind down, it’s time to start thinking about the fall. Not just football season and haunted houses, but getting our homes ready for the transition to the cooler months and possibility for inclement weather ahead. Not only will these tips help keep your home more energy-efficient, but they can also actually keep your home safe and secure. 

Lawn and Garden Tool Maintenance

After you’ve given your lawn its last mow of the season, it’s a good time to drain any remaining fuel and give it a good wash. This applies to any other gas-powered lawn equipment you may have used over the summer, too. Leaving gas inside of these machines could break down the mechanics especially after months of not being used. You should also be mindful of your sprinkler systems, drain them if necessary, and any garden hoses, which should be kept indoors during colder months. Hose bibs that are still connected have the potential to burst when the temperatures dip. 

Gardening and landscaping concept - worker, gardener working with lawnmower and cutting grass in gardenGardening and landscaping concept - worker, gardener working with lawnmower and cutting grass in garden

Trim Branches, Bushes, and Other Foliage

Spring and summer help the trees and bushes around our homes thrive and grow but during fall and winter it’s important to look for any overhanging tree branches that may pose a threat. If they hang over roof lines they could cause potential damage, not only from inclement weather should they fall, but it creates a foliage bridge for the critters in the trees. As the weather gets colder those critters are going to look for places to keep them warm, like your chimney or attic, so be sure to trim back any overhanging branches near your home. Take a look at your shrubbery and give them a trim if they intrude on walkways or exterior doors. When the seasons change, so does the amount of daylight we have and you want to make sure nothing could potentially be hiding after dark.

Exterior Maintenance and Repairs

Check your weather stripping around doors and windows and replace or repair where necessary. These little open areas can allow cold air in and warm air out which will increase your heating bills. This applies to caulk around windows and doors as well. While you’re checking the seals, also make sure your windows are free of cracks. 

Hands of worker using a silicone tube for repairing of window indoorHands of worker using a silicone tube for repairing of window indoor

Heating System, Fireplace, and Chimney inspection

Did you know that you should have your HVAC system inspected twice a year? Right before you turn your air conditioner on and again right before you turn your heat on. You can also check with your local electric/gas company as some offer programs to check how energy efficient your system is working. This would also be a great time to have your chimney and fireplace checked. Making sure that your flue is opening properly and your chimney is clear of soot can help prevent a potential fire. Another place that should be cleared out periodically is your dryer vent. Get into the habit of clearing out your dryer vent every couple of months to also prevent a fire in your dryer from the built-up lint.

Smoke Alarms

Typically it’s recommended to change out the batteries in our smoke alarms when we adjust our clocks for the time change. The other thing that may need to be swapped out is the smoke alarm itself. According to the U.S. Fire Administration, we should replace our actual smoke alarm every 10 years. The manufacture date can be found on the underside of the smoke alarm. If it is time to replace, you may want to consider some of the newer smart home smoke alarms that work with your Alexa. 

Home maintenance is essential to keep your investment looking gorgeous. By taking the time each season to do these necessary steps, you can keep also ensure to keep your home safe and cozy for your family for years to come. 

If you’re looking to buy, rent or sell, visit to find step-by-step guides that will walk you through the entire journey from beginning to end.

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Brooke has a lifestyle blog called Cribbs Style and currently lives in Charleston, SC. This wife, mom of two almost tweens, and mom of three fur children enjoys all things DIY and organizing. When she’s not helping others tackle the chaos of life, she’s either working out, at the beach, or just enjoying time with family and friends.


How to Turn Your Bathroom into a Spa-Inspired Escape

Your home should feel like a calm and comfortable space where you can unwind, relax, and recharge. Here are tangible ways to let the soothing qualities of a day at the spa inspire your bathroom decor.

1. Aromatherapy: Choose scents that match your desired mood and intention. If you are stressed, nervous, or can’t sleep use scents like bergamot, chamomile, cinnamon, lavender, clove, rose, sandalwood, or vanilla. If you are feeling a bit melancholy, use scents like clary sage, cypress, or marjoram. Tired and fatigued? Try cinnamon, cypress, eucalyptus, fennel, lemon, peppermint, sage, or spiced apple. Learn more at Underground Health, then set up a collection that makes scents for you!

2. Vanity: You’ll feel like a celebrity when you do your makeup at your vanity. As an extra perk, you can keep all of your beauty products and jewelry organized and accessible.

3. Mood Lighting: Skip the florescent bulbs. Your lighting affects your mood. Take some cues from the New York Times article, LEDs Change Thinking About the Light Bulb.

4. Calm Colors: Use the principles of color psychology when you choose your paint colors. In an interview with WebMD the color consultant Leslie Harrington recommends painting the bathroom in shades of blue, green, or turquoise. These colors, “give a sense of being clean and fresh — and calm.”

5. Little Luxuries: Incorporate little luxuries like, fresh flowers, a heated towel rack, pretty soaps and storage containers, a bath pillow, bath salts, fluffy bathrobes, and an additional shower head.

6. Storage Space: Keep your bathroom clean, open, and clutter-free. Recent studies have shown that clutter causes stress. Don’t let a mess ruin your at-home oasis.

Now the only thing left to do is to draw a bath, pick up a good book, and relax.


10 Best Bathroom Improvement Projects, Based on How Much Time You Have

Of all the high-traffic rooms in a house, the bathroom is one of the most popular targets for homeowners hoping to make renovations that they will enjoy and that will impress potential buyers.

A recent study from HomeAdvisor showed that Americans spent an average of $13,138 on home improvements in 2020, up 45% year over year. About one-third of those renovations went into bathroom revamps, making them the second most popular upgrade. (Painting interior walls came out on top.)

Whether you’re putting your house on the market or planning to stay put, making your bathroom more user-friendly and stylish should be at the top of your to-do list.

Luckily, updating your loo doesn’t mean you have to spend a small fortune or undertake a multiweek renovation. You can make an impact in just five minutes!

We spoke with design and home-selling experts to assess which bathroom tweaks you should tackle, based on how much time you have to dedicate to the project. Here are some of their suggestions.

If you have 5 minutes

With just a few minutes, homeowners can transform their bathroom’s aesthetic.

Replacing ratty or plain towels with nice hand towels is fast and easy, and adds a touch of luxury for buyers, says Sydney Brisco, a home improvement specialist and founder of Just a Homeowner in Springfield, OR.

Older shower-heads can also quickly be replaced with something sleek and modern, she adds.

Cost: Each fix is $15 and up.


One of the biggest issues in this high-traffic zone is odor. Nip that issue in the bud—and improve the look of the space—with fresh flowers, says Marina Vaamonde, a commercial real estate investor and founder of PropertyCashin in Bellaire, TX.

“Fresh, aromatic flowers add a natural floral scent and provide an elegant visual welcome,” she says. “I tell clients to arrange jasmine, lavender, or ylang-ylang in a classic vase that complements the bathroom’s colors and overall design.”

Cost: $4 and up


If you have 30 minutes

Spending just a half-hour on a few tweaks will seriously rev up your bathroom’s cachet.

Simple framed photos or a few classic art prints can instantly add sophistication and appeal, says Kelly Marohl of Baltimore, a home design expert at The Greenspring Home blog.

Order high-resolution prints of your photos or works of art from CVS, Walmart, Shutterfly, or other online sources. Purchase matching frames, assemble your new artwork, and hang it in the bathroom.

Cost: Prints start at around 20 cents per print. Simple picture frames start at around $10.


If you have 1 hour

Most homes come with generic hardware that tends to age quickly. If you have an hour, it’s feasible to replace cabinet knobs, drawer pulls, or a sink faucet, even for the DIY-challenged.

It will take about an hour for non-pros to do, says Jenna Shaughnessy, an interior designer at Jenna Kate at Home in Boston.

“Get rid of the old satin nickel, and upgrade to matte black, polished chrome, or satin brass,” she recommends.

Cost: $40 and up


This one isn’t fun, but it can make a world of difference. It’s human nature to notice other people’s messes more than our own, so put yourself in the place of a potential home buyer, and prepare to do a deep and thorough cleaning of your bathroom.

“Use a mixture of equal parts hydrogen peroxide, baking soda, and blue toilet cleaner on bathroom tile grout,” says Sarah Renard, a real estate broker with Windermere Realty Trust in Portland, OR. “Just mix it up, let it sit for 10 minutes, and scrub out the gunk with a toothbrush. It can also be used on problem stains in the tub and toilet.”

Cost: About $10


If you have 3 hours

An afternoon’s worth of time will deliver a serious bathroom upgrade.

Shaughnessy recommends starting with the walls and adding texture by applying wainscoting panels.

“Wainscoting is a beautiful choice for any style of bathroom, and will instantly add elegance and brightness to a space,” she says.

It’s prefabricated, easy to mount, and disguises signs of wear and tear.

Cost: Wainscoting ranges from $1 to $40 per square foot, depending on the material (whether medium-density fiberboard, plywood, or luxury solid wood).


If you’re looking to go all out with a new wall treatment, try some chic peel-and-stick wallpaper.

“It can really add a punch, and the paper isn’t permanent like traditional wallpaper, making it an easy tweak,” says Renard.

Cost: More expensive peel-and-stick wallpaper goes for $175-plus per roll. Less expensive options cost around $10 to $30.


If you have a weekend

When was your bathroom last updated? If the answer is 10 years ago or more, it probably looks outdated compared with other homes on the market.

“Often, homeowners don’t want to do a lot of work before they put their home on the market. But if you have an outdated bathroom, replacing the vanity and flooring will be the best thing you can do to sell your home,” says Jennifer Petreccia, an associate at Re/Max Advantage Group in Warwick, RI.

New flooring can also do wonders to modernize your bathroom, so look into installing new waterproof-vinyl plank flooring (to provide the appearance of hardwood) or tile.

Cost: $500 and up for a new vanity and flooring (based on the size of your bathroom and the materials you choose). Unless you are handy and can do it yourself, you’ll also have to factor in the cost of labor.


Renovating Right: How to Get the Best Return on Your Investment

Whether you’re buying a home, living in your current home, or have an investment property, most likely there are areas of the home you want to update or, depending on the condition of the home when it was purchased, areas that need to be updated. Unless you have an unlimited supply of money, it will be important to ensure that you’ll get the best return on your renovation investment by choosing the which ones to complete wisely. 

man renovating a kitchenman renovating a kitchen

The top two spaces that homeowners naturally want to update first are the kitchen and the bathroom. Bathroom and kitchen remodels average about $20,000 to $90,000 out of pocket cost, but on average have a return on investment (ROI) of about 60-80%. Overall, that ROI percentage seems pretty good, but there are other less costly renovations that will bring back more bang for your buck.

According to Remodeling, the majority of the top 10 renovation projects in 2019 with the highest ROI involved the exterior of the home. A garage door replacement brings back 97.5% ROI while a deck addition, siding replacement, and a steel entry door replacement will bring back 75%. 

Curb appeal is what will get buyers attention before they’ll be interested to see what’s on the inside and while potential buyers care about the exterior of their homes being updated and aesthetically pleasing, they would rather someone else foot the bill. Updating the exterior as a seller will also allow buyers to feel more comfortable since they’ll have the option to use their money to update the kitchen and bathroom to their own taste and needs.

Remodeling’s Top 10 List of Renovations in 2019

Doing updates are great, but it’s important to know what’s expected in your area. Head over to to check out homes currently on the market and see what features and finishes are on trend, you can also check the value of your home as it is right now with their Home Values tool. Doing the bare minimum or going overboard on finishes could ultimately put your home at a disadvantage in an already competitive market according to Investopedia. Something else to consider is to do the renovations that make the most sense. Carpets that are heavily soiled, walls that need to be patched and painted all take precedence over adding a pool. If the home has any structural issues or leaks, spend money to solve those problems as opposed to updating the kitchen cabinets. Knowing that the roof is newer or the HVAC has a lot of life left, brings buyers peace of mind. Buyers want to know that they made a sound investment purchasing the home in the first place.

Man doing wood work renovation on homeMan doing wood work renovation on home

If you’re not planning on selling your home, it’s okay to update based on your own current wants and needs. For example, we recently updated our bathroom by removing the whirlpool tub and in its place, created a water closet for the toilet. It could potentially be a risky move down the road since it was the only tub in the home, but no one in our family takes baths. Removing the tub and moving the toilet actually opened up more space for storage, which will better serve our family. There’s nothing wrong with updating your home with the expectation that you’re going to get your money’s worth of enjoyment, there’s just no guarantee that the next person down the road is going to be as excited. 

Investment properties for rentals add an extra point of interest when talking about renovations. Keeping the property updated, while knowing there may be more frequent repairs, and keeping rental fees competitive, will all play a major part in deciding which renovations take priority. 

The key, is to do your homework before you sign your first renovation contract or spend that first dime on any home renovations. Think about your overall goals for your home, what you hope to achieve, and understand your area and the current market to see where your home stacks up against the competition.

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Brooke has a lifestyle blog called Cribbs Style and currently lives in Charleston, SC. This wife, mom of two almost tweens, and mom of three fur children enjoys all things DIY and organizing. When she’s not helping others tackle the chaos of life, she’s either working out, at the beach, or just enjoying time with family and friends.


Tips for Growing Fruits and Vegetables at Home

There may be many benefits to growing your own garden, including better quality of produce, saving money, and having a healthy hobby. If you’re just getting started, use the guide below.

Here are our tips for growing fruits and vegetables at home!

● Gather your tools: Before you get down in the dirt, gather your gear. If you aren’t properly equipped already, head to your local home improvement or gardening supply stores to stock up on the essentials. To get started, you will need: a trowel (weeding, digging small holes), gardening gloves, a watering can and/or hose, a wheelbarrow, a shovel (digging large holes), a rake, shears (pruning), and sun protection.

● Decide how your garden will grow: Once you’ve planned the spot for your garden, you’ll need to decide which type you will grow. The traditional route is an in-ground garden, which uses natural soil and should ideally receive at least six hours of natural, direct light. If you have poor soil, you can choose a container garden instead by using store-bought potting soil (just make sure the container you use has proper drainage and enough space for deep-rooted plants). If you’re looking for something between the two, consider a raised-bed garden or the square-foot gardening method to get better control over the soil.

● Prepare your soil: Set your garden up for success by using high-quality soil. It should be well-aerated, free of stones and sand, and rich in compost for plenty of nutrients. Test the pH as well to make sure that your soil is only slightly acidic (unless you’re growing something like blueberries which prefer acidic soil).

● Pick your plants: Deciding what fruits and vegetables to grow is entirely up to you (and your growing conditions, of course). Plants like tomatoes, squash, beans, eggplant, corn, and peppers all love lots of sunlight, while leafy vegetables, potatoes, carrots, and turnips can do with less (which means they can be planted in early spring or late summer). If you’re a beginner, consider starting with seedlings from your local nursery.

● Tend to your garden: After the seeds are in the soil, keep a close eye on them. You may want to add more compost to help control weeds or cool roots during the summer. Depending on the weather, you may need to supplement the rain with additional water. Be careful not to water too much, though (watch out for leaves and stems that start to lighten in color or turn yellow).

Impress your friends and family with great, fresh meals all season long.