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Know These Backyard Privacy Ideas

fences# Fences

Fences will always be the ideal way to block unwanted sights and wandering eyes. The traditional privacy fence is 6ft+ tall. Be sure to check with your city’s current ordinances as many have maximum height requirements. These privacy barriers are made of solid wood fitted together with few gaps in between for optimal blockage of sight and sound.

Wood fences are the popular choice for privacy in many neighborhoods. When built well and with taste, they provide required privacy without being intrusive or obtrusive to the homeowner or neighbor. Styles, wood types and finishes are plentiful and can include a gate if need be.  Major styles include trellis, slat, stockade and basket weave. The most used wood types include cedar, cypress, redwood and treated pine. While other exotic woods are increasingly being used for modern fence designs such as the x-frame, louvered and horizontal board styles.

Vinyl and PVC are terrific materials for fencing as they are long wearing, durable and easily maintained. As with wooden fences, many styles are available from white Victorian with ornate finials to simple faux wood slats.

Willow in vertical strips bound by wire attach nicely to an existing fence, such as chain link, provides a terrific solution and a more organic, natural alternative to traditional fences. These fences can be made ornate with a wrought iron decorative frame.

Eclipse™ Privacy Fencing from Ultra Fencing & Railing is another option to consider. It features 3/4″ x 5″ x .080 Tongue and Groove boards as well as PowercoatTM technology for a more durable and private fencing solution.

# Plantings

There are many types of plantings that when fully grown provide an excellent natural backyard privacy option. If privacy is imperative immediately, many shrubs, trees and greenery can be purchased in more mature states of growth.

Bamboo gives the backyard a beautiful look while providing dense covering for privacy as well as shading. It can grow prolifically and quite tall dependent on the variety. It can also be used as thick coverage of the whole property line or grouped for single areas of the yard. Note, it grows quite vigorously and needs to be planted with careful planning.

Trees, shrubs and hedges are a traditional planting approach to backyard privacy with varieties such as Japanese/Texas privet, red tip photinia, podocarpus, junipers, evergreens, viburnum, myrtle, rhododendron and boxwood. When considering plantings for privacy go for greenery that is fast growing, evergreen, dense leafed, and tolerates trimming well.

# Walls

Walls can be another essential way to add privacy although they are not as easily accomplished as fences and some other privacy options. Wall materials include concrete, plaster, plastic and wood panels and come in custom styles and heights.

# Garden Structures

The backyard can be enhanced, activities accommodated and privacy provided by substantial outbuildings in desired areas. These include the modern pergola draped with growing vines or ivy. A latticework enclosed outdoor living structure such as an elegant sitting area will provide a terrific outdoor activity area along with much needed privacy. Gazebos are highly popular and built in many styles and materials to match your home’s exterior and interior decoration. Garden arbors abloom in flowering vines, made from wood or wrought iron, provide privacy while looking beautiful doing it. Simple or elaborate greenhouses also obstruct the neighbor’s view while giving the gift of gardening pleasure.

# Screens

Privacy screens can be used to create a room-like feel on patios, decks and other outdoor spaces as well as camouflaging necessary appliance units such as the AC and the neighbor’s unattractive tree or roof line.

Wrought iron skeleton structures, chain link and lattice in basic square or rectangular shapes or more ornate ones work well as framing for growing lovely climbing vines such as trumpet, wisteria and other perennial climbers. When fully fledged, the vines provide dense privacy and cool shade.

Other screen types include bamboo, wood and vinyl or PVC and can be bought in panels or in sections ready for installation.

No matter the privacy option you choose for your backyard, you’ll have peace of mind knowing you can enjoy the outdoors directly from the comfort of your own property without having the whole world or the next door neighbors having the experience along with you.

Roofing?, Here Its Tips

roofing# Homebuyer’s beware. A great time to start with any roof assessment is before your closing date. Getting a professional roof inspection before that future home is officially yours will save you a lot of time and costly repairs down the road, which can also be a plus if and when you decide to sell your new home.

# Ensure the roof is built to breathe.Without proper ventilation, heat and moisture can cause sheathing and rafting to rot, roof materials to buckle and insulation to lose effectiveness. This will cause your overall roofing system to be ineffective.

# Include insulation. The best way to achieve appropriate ventilation and good airflow is through proper insulation. To protect a house from heat gain or loss, it’s ideal to include a gap-free layer of insulation on the attic floor and a vapor retarder under the insulation next to the ceiling to stop moisture from rising into the attic. Having open, vented spaces that allow air to pass freely with at least one inch between the insulation and roof sheathing is also ideal.

# Check for attic aftermath. In addition to having a well insulated attic, it’s a good idea to check for water stains and weak shingles after a heavy storm.

# Safeguard against streaking. Make sure to pay close attention to the color of your roof. Roof areas, generally the northern part, exposed to shade during long periods of time in humidity will eventually become streaked with mold, algae or even fungus. And if left unchecked, will eventually deteriorate the roofing material shortening the life of the roof, which could lead to leaks and other signs of trouble.

# Trim troublesome trees. When admiring your home and surrounding landscape, it’s important not to overlook leaning branches seeking companionship with your roof as they can scratch and gouge your roof materials. To prevent damaging or puncturing your shingles, simply trim back and remove any branches getting too close to your roof.

# Clean the leaves and other debris. In addition to bothersome branches, leaves and other elements can clog your gutter system and cause water to backup into the attic, living areas or behind the fascia boards. To ensure your drainage system is free flowing, it’s recommended that you clean your roof at least twice per year. Also, be on the lookout for sagging gutters or damaged drain components and repair or replace as needed.

# Check for signs of shingle damage. Being exposed to everyday wear and tear from various elements can cause shingles to become dilapidated and get torn off, making a roof structure and interior space vulnerable to water seepage and rot. Thus, it’s highly advisable for homeowners to examine roof coverings each year to ensure their integrity.

# DIY roof repairers. Those bold enough to attempt roof repairs themselves need to bear in mind that it’s dangerous up there. It’s advisable to stay on a firmly braced ladder equipped with rubber safety feet when possible. If you do decide to walk on the roof, it’s best to wear rubber-soled shoes to prevent slipping.

# Quality roofing quotes. When repairs go beyond a DIY project, you should make sure to do some homework before calling in the cavalry. It’s advisable to get at least two quotes so you can determine the best combination of quality and price. Think long-term and not cheap when choosing a roofing company and it’ll save you a lot of repair costs down the road.

Bottom line: It’s important to remember the roofline. Taking a top-down approach with yearly inspections and utilizing these quick tips and tricks will help preserve and protect your interior living space for many years to come.

Make Windows Look Great using This Tips

make-windows-look-great-at-homeWhatever style of window you choose, the right plant in the right place adds the perfect finishing touch, says TV gardener David Domoney

New windows in a home really go a long way to upgrading the property. A window isn’t just about security and guarding against the elements, it’s also about lending beauty and attractiveness to the building.

There are a series of things you can do horticulturally to enhance new windows and doors by getting the right plants to coordinate with the style of the property and windows.

# Timber window

Window boxes would work well, again as big as you can get, as they hold more soil and therefore can hold more water, with a self-watering device on the outside.

I’d pick low-maintenance plants so that you don’t have to be opening the window to care for them all of the time, especially for any that you might put under upstairs windows. Then I’d use buxus balls on the inside with trailing ivy between them to give it that classical look.

The front of a property can look great with gorgeous timber windows. Adding climbing plants to the outside of a home like that would work really well. I’d plant a wisteria to grow up to the right side of the door and the left of the downstairs window and then across the house.

You can get a variety of different colours such as whites and pinks, but I would go with the classic purple, the Wisteria sinensis, which would look a treat and give a stunningly cosy feel.

# Sliding sash window

The thing with quite neutral windows such as these is to embellish both the inside and outside.

With windows like this I’d look to frame the exterior on the left and right using bay trees with a single clear stem and a topiary ball top. These would give it a real classical feel.

Underneath the window in front I’d also put a large window box. I wouldn’t mess about with lots of colours, I’d use vibrant vermillion-red geraniums.

On the inside windowsill I would put beautiful white phalaenopsis orchids, the moth orchid, to the left and the right. The contrast of the white with the red geranium would make the window look really classy.

# Modern grey window

Windows situated where there’s working space for a desk or home office work really well to brighten a functional space and open it to nature. However, it’s always nice to add some horticultural embellishment inside the building too, giving an element of foreground to the greenery and enticing you to look out and see a wider world of garden.

I would place on the right hand of the windowsill a low, not more than 25cm tall, chamaedorea palm in a nice white container.

Then suspended from the top right of the alcove I’d put a hanging container, either a macramé or a suspended pot. In it I would have tradescantia, a beautiful variegated-leaf plant that will hang down.

So you’ve got the palm going up and the plant trailing down, which would soften the corner and set off the framework of the window.

# Casement uPVC window

These windows (main picture) often look lovely, but to stop them looking clinical a splash of colour and greenery can really make a difference.

In the right-hand corner I would put a yucca. A three-stemmed yucca with clear stems and groups of sword-like foliage coming from the top of it would really add a touch of softness and warmth to the room.

I’d definitely put a window box on the outside too, and plant it with pink and white flowers to complement the frame and to be an interesting contrast to the green yucca.

About Fiberglass

Fiberglass insulation is by far the most common type of insulation and is known by the fluffy pink or yellow material seen in attics, crawlspaces/basements, and stores across the country. As the name suggests fiberglass insulation is made from glass. The glass, which is made up of at least some recycled glass, is melted and then cooled, dyed and spun to create strands of glass fibers or fiberglass. The fiberglass is sprayed with an adhesive and layered upon itself to create the thick cotton candy like battings that are commonly seen. Most battings have a paper/plastic backing that acts as a moisture barrier preventing moisture buildup in the walls.

# How is it installed?

Fiberglass insulation typically comes in long battings (although there is also loose fiberglass insulation available). The battings typically need to be cut to fit in whatever cavity they are being installed in and, are, in the case of walls and crawlspaces, stapled or held in with thin metal rods. When installing them in the attic the insulation is cut to proper length and laid out. Fiberglass insulation can be a little more labor-intensive then blown-in cellulose since you need to move around and cut the insulation. But, fiberglass batting needs no special equipment or tools to install and can be done fairly quickly. Fiberglass battings are not nearly as messy as cellulose insulation.

# What is fiberglass’s value?

Fiberglass batting insulation has an R-value of approximately 3.14. The cost of fiberglass will vary depending on R-value, length, vapor backing and manufacturing. But for an example, Lowe’s sells R-38 precut in 48” length for approximately $45 and will cover approximately 43 sq. ft.  To cover a 1000 sq. ft. area would cost you approximately just over $1000 USD.

# Cons of fiberglass

Fiberglass is not nearly as messy as cellulose insulation and doesn’t require special tools to install but there are still cons. Fiberglass is more expensive per sq. ft. compared to cellulose. Also because it is made of small strands of glass it can be an irritant. If you have ever handled it before you know that your arms and hands feel scratched and raw afterwards. To avoid this you should wear long sleeves and gloves as well as eye and respiratory protection when working with it.

Cleaning Windows Tips

Vinegar is a miracle from nature. Completely non-toxic and anti-bacterial, vinegar is actually beneficial to any surface it touches. It safely kills germs and is much more economical than chemical cleaning solutions. It’s not even harmful when accidentally inhaled or ingested. (If you’ve got kids, you’ll love that part).

The acidic composition of vinegar acts quickly to break down the kind of film that frequently accumulates on glass surfaces. When you wash a window using a solution that contains vinegar, the results will almost always be free from streaks and sparkling clean.

Recipes for Vinegar Window Washing Solution

Martha Stewart included a section with detailed recommendations for window washing in her series, “20 More Things Everyone Should Know”. Below are a few choice tips, along with her vinegar window-washing recipe.

  1. Mix one part hot water to one part distilled vinegar.
  2. Sponge cleaning: Moisten the window, using the solution, then clean.
  3. Squeegee cleaning: Always dampen the squeegee first and clean from the top down, wiping the edge of the squeegee after every stroke.
  4. Clean only when there is no direct sun on the windows.
  5. Rinse and dry the window frames immediately to avoid any damage.

Green Living, from National Geographic, recommends this simple recipe, plus a few extra tips for the best window cleaning outcome.

  1. In a spray bottle, mix 50% distilled vinegar (white) and 50% tap water.
  2. For extremely grimy glass, prewash with very soapy water, then go to the vinegar spray.
  3. Got highly resistent spots? Try rubbing hard with a cloth dipped in undiluted vinegar.

Are the Streaks Still Blurring Your View?

Don’t blame the vinegar. Streaks are caused by residue left on the glass by commercial products. The answer? See the information below :

First Vinegar Wash

  • 2 c. water
  • 1/4 c. white vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp. dishwashing detergent or liquid
  • Combine these ingredients in a spray bottle, then just spray and clean.

Forever After Vinegar Wash

  • 1 c. water
  • 1 c. white vinegar
  • Combine these ingredients in a spray bottle, spray and clean. This is for normal windows.

Vinegar Wash For Horribly Grimy Windows

  • 1 c. full strength white vinegar
  • Warm up the solution and use directly on glass to clean.

What’s the Best Wipe?

You can ensure a streak-free, squeaky clean window by using one of the above tips and wiping with paper towels, microfiber cloths or newspaper. Whatever you use, make sure its lint-free.

HINT : Squeegees are harder to get the hang of, but they almost always do a better job.

Homage to Vinegar in the Home

Psst! Reader’s Digest recently published a collection of over 150 uses around the home for common vinegar. Here are just a few to give you a glimpse of tricks you are probably missing out on:

  1. Clean window blinds- A cool idea is to don a pair of white cotton gloves, dip your gloved hands in a 50/50 solution of hot water and white vinegar, then clean the blinds by simply sliding your gloved fingers down each side simultaneously.
  2. Unclog drains- Did you know you could use 1/2 cup of baking soda and 1 cup vinegar to foam clean a stubborn drain? Put the baking soda in first, followed by vinegar and watch the chemical magic. The combo kills bacteria too and is easier on pipes and drains than harsh commercial preparations as well.
  3. Spiff up your silver- Combine 1/4 cup of white vinegar with 1 tablespoon of baking soda and soak your silverware in the solution. Rinse, then dry and voila!

Not just a cooking phenomenon, vinegar is truly the homemaker’s panacea!

Know More about Patio Covers Types

Many homeowners spend a lot of time planning the perfect sun room, carport or porch but give less thought to what goes on top. Choosing the perfect patio covering should be an important part of every addition project, as it will offer protection from the outside elements, including strong winds and heavy snowfalls, while enhancing the look of the space. From pergolas to awnings to patio covers, which roof will work best for your space?

# Pergolas

If your vision of an outdoor space is reminiscent of an Italian garden, a pergola might be the perfect covering for your project. Constructed of wood beams that are oftentimes made of beautiful cedar, pergolas are most often used in garden areas or for outdoor gathering spaces, such as a barbecue area around a pool. The ceiling of a pergola may be flat, curved, or criss-crossed in a lattice type pattern, and the sides can be open, created with a variety of boards cut in the same size, or constructed of one solid piece of board.

Pergolas are not as strong as patio covers or awnings, and they are rarely used on outdoor spaces that need protection from high winds, heavy rains or extreme sunlight. Though a pergola may not be an option for those in need of a stronger, more permanent covering, it is a great addition to an outdoor garden space set up for casual entertaining or simply relaxing among the flowers and shrubs.

# Awnings

Cruise the neighborhoods of Florida and chances are you’ll find beautiful awnings in various shapes and sizes protecting porches and outside patios from the elements. Homeowners across the country enjoy the versatility of awnings, and for good reason. Want to create a bold look? Choose a striped pattern in bright colors. Feeling more subdued? Go neutral or one shade.  From scalloped edges to straight valances, awnings can really decorate your outdoor living space.

Retractable awnings offer homeowners the ability to pull in the covering in the event of a strong storm, heavy winds or strong snowfalls, and they can be either manually or electrically controlled. Though some awnings are able to withstand hurricane-forced winds, it’s always best to retract the awning when it is not in use or in the event of a heavy storm to protect your investment.

# Patio Covers

Great Day Improvements manufactures Patio Enclosures brand stationary aluminum patio covers that feature insulated foam cores. The foam core roof offers protection from the sun’s harsh rays and other outside elements, along with structural I-Beams, which are strong enough to hold up under high winds and blizzard conditions.

To prove their strength we even parked a 5100 pound Hummer on top of a 3” panel using no other support than the existing I-Beams. The roof panel held, proving the dependability of patio coverings. This same roof is used in Patio Enclosures sunrooms as well.

These structural support beams offer:

  • Enough strength to withstand snow loads of 30 lbs. per square foot, and
  • A thermal barrier to reduce the transfer of heat or cold from the outside of the roof to the inside of the panel

Patio covers are manufactured in three neutral colors- white, sandstone and bronze to coordinate with your home’s exterior. In addition, gutters and downspouts can be added to patio covers, to transport the flow of rainwater away from your home.

Add glass roof panels to open your patio to the sky, allowing natural light to filter in throughout the day and stars to fill your view in the evening hours. Special glass roof panel shades can be added to block out direct sunlight and easily removed for star gazing at night. To create the ultimate outdoor space, add a ceiling fan to your patio cover to maximize airflow during the hot summer months.

Whatever your needs, we can create the perfect patio cover for your outdoor space. Everything we build is custom designed specifically for you and your home.

Decorating Mistakes

# Your Wall Art Looks Disorganized

Decorating your home with artwork can be difficult. Marissa Sauer, interior designer and founder of Design MACS, recommends that each piece of artwork connect spatially to something else in the room. So, if you have a five-foot sofa, choose a four-foot painting.

“It’s important to pick pieces that are to scale with the wall that you’re putting them on. A piece that is too small could look a bit random, and a piece that’s too big can make the room look small and cluttered,” she says. “The art has got to connect to something.”

# You Decorated Your Home with High-Maintenance Furniture

Steer clear of high-maintenance furniture if cleaning every surface in your home is the last thing on your list of chores. Dust will be more noticeable on dark-stained woods and fingerprints will show up quicker on mirrors and glass. If you want your home to look less messy, be mindful of furniture that gets dirtier faster, and clean them first

# Your Walls Look Dated

With current colour trends leaning toward lighter and airier looks, duller colours with brown undertones could make your home seem dated and dirty. “It’s not that they’re bad,” says Sauer. “It just feels a bit dated, and people often connect things that are older with things that are messier.”

# Your Picture Frames Aren’t Arranged Properly

If you want to organize multiple pieces of art, roll a large sheet of paper to the size of the space you’d like to fill. Place the sheet on the floor and shift around your picture frames until you finds a setup you like. Traces each frame and mark where each nail needs to go to hang them. Finally, tape the paper to the wall, put all the nails in where the dots are, and tear the paper down.

# You Have Exposed Cords Everywhere

Nothing says clutter — and danger — like a bunch of exposed cords and power strips around your home. Identify each room’s problem spots and look into creative ways to conceal. For example, your computer’s power strip can be hung in a basket underneath the desk.

# You Over-Decorated

When organizing objects on tables and shelves, keep everything in groups of three, five or seven. Also make sure there’s a clear focal point and lots of white space, advises Sauer. To keep things interesting, put objects of different heights together, and if you have a square table, position them on a 45-degree angle.

# Your Rug is Not the Right Size

To pull your living room together and make it look like one unit (as opposed to randomly placed furniture), make sure the front feet of each piece of furniture in your seating area is on top of the rug.

# Your Sofa and Pillows Look Flat

Fluff everything up and make sure your upholstery is in top shape — a wrinkled slipcover can make your living room look messy, while deformed pillows can make yourbedroom less inviting.

Hang a Mirror Tips

Hanging a mirror doesn’t present any particular difficulties, apart from the fragility and weight of the object. Make it an easy job with these tips.

  • Most large mirrors have fixing brackets as an integral part of the frame. Drill and screw – rather than nail – the fixings and match the size of the screws to take the weight of the mirror.
  • You can forget about all the double-sided adhesive attachment options unless you’re fixing a very small, lightweight mirror. Mirrors are generally very quick to put up, but if they don’t hold firm you’ll have a catastrophe on your hands!
  • Use traditional mirror clamps. They come in different sizes to suit the thickness of the mirror. For a decorative mirror, four should be sufficient: two on the bottom and two on the sides – these should be placed closer to the top. However, if you’re installing a full-length mirror, don’t skimp – double the number: two on the bottom, two on each side and two on the top. These clamps are made up of a support that has to be attached to the wall by a screw and a cover that springs back on top.
  • Be careful not to force too much when you screw on clamp covers, because the pressure on the mirror could result in a crack. A clever trick is to insert a thin piece of card behind each screw as a tightening gauge.

Make Wood Paneling look Cool, Here Its Tips

After it fell out of home-design favor a few decades ago, wood paneling is making a gorgeous comeback as it adds warmth and character to your abode. Instead of the oh-so-old 1970s rec-room look, wood paneling is becoming hip again with updated colors, new directions and enviable types of wood. We found some uber-groovy ways to give wood paneling a cool style update.

# A beautiful marriage of modern style and retro wood paneling

Take one look at this inviting combination of old and new home-decor elements and you instantly feel a sense of peace soothe you. Wood is a natural element that lends a cozy, connected feel to this living room. If you have existing wood paneling that looks less than desirable, update it with new stain. The shag rug here looks right at home with the more modern accessories and beckons you to lie down and relax.

# Keep the wood paneling and paint it anew

When you live in an older home, you don’t have to settle for an outdated style. The interior of this 1950s beach house was reinvented by replacing every surface except the wood paneling on the wall. A smart alternative to ripping it out was to paint it a color that coordinates with the new design elements of the living room.

# Redwood gets an update

The wood paneling in this midcentury home is a combination of stained redwood and whitewashed redwood panels, giving the usual wood-panel look a stylish update. Restoring wood allows you to work with the materials you have instead of opting for a drastic and more expensive makeover.

# Take it to the ceiling

In another midcentury home update, the wood paneling in this loft bedroom was extended up the ceiling to give the cozy space a textural change and to make the paneling look like a desired design element. Painting the paneling and the plain walls a light color opens up the room and gives it a clean look.

# A new direction for wood panels

Do you really dig wood paneling? If wood or the look of wood is your heart’s home-design desire, consider an updated approach with rectangular-shape wood panels stained in your favorite hue. This contemporary wood paneling is an inventive way to bring a welcome warmth to the clean lines and tidy appeal of this living room.

#  Make your wood paneling a work of art

Stay ahead of the wood-paneling comeback by transforming your walls into an eye-catching display of wood and lighting. This walnut wood paneling, which is made up of wood boxes, was designed to mimic a 3-D city skyline and give the living room intrigue and warmth. The lighting further updates the wood-panel style and highlights the beauty of the walnut.

Finish Basement Tips

Make the most of existing, underutilized space with a basement remodel. With solid planning, an understanding of potential challenges and some help from the experts, you’ll soon have more square footage that the entire family will enjoy.

First, prepare to face typical basement challenges head-on:

  • Plumbing. Putting a bathroom in the basement can be challenging. Installing plumbing and drain lines, however, typically involves the expense of jack-hammering through concrete, so consult with a professional.
  • Lighting. Since they’re partially or fully underground, basements suffer from poor lighting. Nancy Dalton, owner of Baywolf Dalton, Inc., a design and construction company in Seattle, recommends a mix of can lights and lamps to compensate for the lack of natural light.
  • Walls. Dalton recommends hiring a professional contractor to assess the addition or removal of walls. “There may be load-bearing walls you don’t want to touch or the opportunity to add a beam to make the space more open,” says Dalton.
  • Head room. “When you’re planning your basement renovation, make sure you consult local construction codes to determine the required floor-to-ceiling height,” says Hoarders expert professional organizer John Patrick ofTaskRabbit. “A basement with a short ceiling is best utilized for storage of things like seasonal decorations, paperwork archives and family relics,” says Patrick.
  • Staircase. As your basement is reconfigured, you may find that the staircase, too, does not have adequate head room. If that’s the case, you may have to replace or reorient it. (Pricey!)
  • Mechanical storage. “Leave space to accommodate mechanical equipment,” says Dalton. We’re talking about hot water heaters, furnaces and other boring, behind-the-scenes necessities. And make sure that space is easy-access so you and your repairmen can get to it when you need it.
  • Moisture. “It is crucial to ensure that you have a dry, mold-free environment,” says Patrick. “Ask your home improvement professional for the best ways to seal up any moisture or leaks coming in from outside.”

Make a plan. Think about the different areas you may want to include for your family (and guests). “Dream big and create a design vision board,” says Patrick. On a poster board, display your favorite ideas from home design magazine along with paint chips in exciting colors. (“A bright, cheery color will add lots of personality to your basement,” says Patrick.)

Family room. You’ll want lots of cozy seating and storage for your family’s favorite things. “Multi-functional furniture is the way to go,” says Patrick. “Look for benches with storage, cubicles with baskets and tall bookshelves.”

Entertaining. When guests visit or spend the night, they need a place to sleep as well as a full bathroom. A kitchenette (with a microwave drawer, under-counter refrigerator and sink with disposal) is a great addition for adult and adolescent guests alike.

Office. A basement office provides privacy you might not get anywhere else the house. Consider walling off one area away from the rest of the basement’s functional areas. (Make sure your Wi-Fi reaches or you’re otherwise connected.)

Laundry room. Many families opt to keep this task in the basement and out of the main living areas. Make it an appealing space that will make the chore less dreadful.

Media room. Gamers and movie lovers will appreciate space with a large screen, comfortable seats and exciting surround sound.

Workout room. Putting a home gym in the basement is a great way to free-up the main living area (and it’s a great way to “get away from it all”).

Playroom. Finally! A place to put all of those toys!

Storage. Consider building in closets for seasonal decorations, winter coats, sports equipment and other stuff that’s taking up too much space in the house. And make it easy-to-use so you’ll be more likely to use it!

Make it your own. Work with professionals who take into account your family’s needs, interests and personal style. “Create a livable, well-functioning space that tells a story about the people that live here,” says Erin Davis of Mosaik Design in Portland, Oregon.

Avoid Painting Pitfalls

So in the spirit of saving you some of the time (and frustration) that were a byproduct of our home-painting journey, here are some of the things you should never do when painting your home.

# Skip the tape or leave it on too long

I realize that lining all your trim, windows, knobs and the like with painter’s tape will feel like it is literally eating years off your life. But while it may take a decent chunk of time to do, it’s worth it. No matter how steady you think your hand is, you will never get the kind of clean lines and edges that come from using painter’s tape. I also didn’t realize that many brands recommend you leave the tape on for only around 15 minutes, and I definitely stretched those limits. The result of leaving it on too long? When I peeled it off, it took some of my freshly layered paint with it.

# Abuse your floors

It’s no biggie if I get a few drops on the floor, you’ll say. I’ll just spot clean later, you’ll say. I’m here to tell you that you’re going to want to ignore that voice in your head telling you to throw caution to the wind when it comes to protecting your floor during the painting process. I have old hardwoods, was not vigilant with the drop cloth, and I actually damaged certain areas of the floor trying to remove dried paint from its surface. Drop cloths are cheap — buy a bunch, and use them.

# Jump the gun

If you’re anything like me, you have very little patience when it comes to waiting the recommended drying time and would much rather skip ahead. But while shaving 15 minutes off the drying time of a first coat of paint or a layer of patching compound may not seem like much, it can make all the difference in the quality of the end result. If you rush it too much, you may even have to go back and start over again. And really, who has time for that?

# Forget to prime

Here’s the bad news (well, not necessarily bad, but potentially more expensive and time-consuming news): You’re going to need to prime pretty much any surface you paint. Can you paint without primer? Sure. You can do whatever you want. However, you’re much more likely to get a nice, even coat and a more saturated color if you prime first. So here’s the good news: There are many, many paints on the market now that have primer actually within the formula.

# Underestimate the importance of the right or wrong tools

I got very caught up in newfangled painting tools for a while, only to find a lot of them didn’t live up to the hype and weren’t worth the extra money I shelled out. Later down the road, I realized my money would have been much better spent on the right tools. This means paying a little more for better-quality tools, like brushes that won’t leave visible stroke marks when the paint dries or rollers that soak up so much paint they lead to a million drip marks.

# Neglect proper prepping

Obviously this includes using the aforementioned painter’s tape. There’s more to it than that, though — if you want the paint job you do to last and look decent, you’re going to want to put in some legwork. That means cleaning the walls (paint adheres better to a clean surface), filling in any nail holes and sanding down any particularly rough spots. And always, always remember to buy a simple lead paint testing kit before you get started on any major paint project.

# Pick the wrong finish and/or amount of paint

Once you’ve finally nailed down the color of paint you want, it’s easy to think your paint-picking job is done. That’s not entirely the case, though, since you still need to pick the right finish or sheen. This is important because certain finishes are much harder to clean and highlight imperfections. As a general rule of thumb, high-gloss paint is easier to clean and holds up well, but it will show flaws in your walls. Flat or matte finishes hide flaws but are much harder to clean. Eggshell and satin finishes fall in the middle of that spectrum. After you determine which is best for the space you’re painting, make sure you get enough paint for the job — sometimes differences in batches are perceptible.

# Let anyone scare you away from a color you really love

As long as you understand you may one day have to put in some more blood, sweat and tears to cover up that paint color you love so much, don’t be bullied out of picking a paint color you had your heart set on. We had several people question whether the dark greige we used on our bedroom wall would be too stark in contrast to our coastal-hued home, but we forged ahead and haven’t regretted the decision since. The best part about paint is that it isn’t permanent if you don’t want it to be.