Most home DIY-ers know that if you want to turn your ivory walls red, you’d be best served priming the walls first. Paint primer has other uses in your home, too — things you should consider the next time you get an itch to change up the colors in your home.

1. Mildew

It’s true. The very paint on your walls can help you reduce bacteria and the chances of mildew and mold in bathrooms and kitchens, where moisture, steam and evaporation are common. Because paint is porous, moisture can seep through to the walls beneath and not only cause the paint to peel and bubble, which is unattractive, it can lead to mold and mildew.

Vapor-barrier primers are formulated specifically to minimize moisture seeping through the paint to the walls — and to prevent mold and mildew before it grows with a combination of mildewcide and anti-microbial additives.

Bonus hint: if mold and mildew are already a concern, make sure you eliminate it at its source before painting over it.

2. Stains

If you’ve ever had a leak, you’ve seen that cloudy rust-colored ring that water damage can leave on your walls. Stain-blocking primers will not only cover the stain, they will seal it and prevent it from bleeding through to your brand new paint. Smoke and grease can also create stains that may ghost themselves through your new paint job if not properly sealed.

3. Shiny Surfaces

Special primers called “bonding primers” mean that you can paint just about anything, even surfaces on which, in the past, paint was unlikely to stick or stay. Glass, formica and tile are just some of the surfaces you can paint if you first use bonding primer. Generally speaking, bonding primer is not well suited for exterior surfaces, as they are particularly vulnerable to the elements.

Keep your eye out for “self-priming” paints, which have come a long way since their introduction. Dutch Boy, Ace’s Royal, Benjamin Moore’s Aura and PPG’s Pure Performance have all received good reviews for coverage and quality — as well as being low VOC paints. For reviews on more paint brands, check out Interior Paints That Perform from Good Housekeeping.

For more on priming and painting, check out these resources:

Reviews and Product Guides

Tips and Tricks


1. What’s in your house?

Knowing what you have in your house can be invaluable when disaster strikes — with modern technology, it’s easy to do.

Both MyHome Scr.app.book, a smartphone app available for iPhone and Android, and WYO Home Inventory, a free program (Windows) help you inventory the contents of your home.

2. How’s your project going?

Whether you’re re-painting a room, building a new patio or upgrading your kitchen, chances are you are not near your computer — but you might have your phone handy. If you’re an iPhone user, NestPix is for you. This app lets you track, photograph, organize and share all your home DIY, renovation and craft projects.

3. Where are you going to live?

If you’re thinking of moving, check out Realtor and PadMapper for your phone. Realtor (Android, iPhone, Windows Phone) brings you more than 4 million listings and lets you rate and annotate listings that catch your eye. PadMapper (Android, iPhone) brings together apartment listings from multiple free resources, including CraigsList and Apartments.com, and lets you see them on a map of the area you select.

4. Did you remember to…?

Check out HomeSmarts (from the contractor review site ServiceMagic), an app for iPhone and Android that will remind what you need to do and when. You tell the app about your home and it will alert you about round-the-house tasks you might otherwise forget, like changing your HVAC filters or winterizing your sprinklers.

5. What couch should you get?

The site that CNN has called the “Wikipedia of interior and exterior design” has come to your phone: Houzz Interior Design Ideas is now available for the iPhone and iPad. There are more than half a million photos of rooms, products, landscapes, and styles, along with extensive tips, resources and ideas to inspire you.

1. Take the Kiplinger quiz

Kiplinger surveyed industry experts, trade associations and retailers to find out just how long you should expect home appliances to last — take their quiz and see how well you do when judging the lifespan of the things in your home. Check out their slideshow “Save $50 A Day: Utilities + Home Improvement” for more ideas.

2. Watch the video

iVillage posted a video from The Green Guide earlier this year to walk you through evaluating whether you should repair or replace your appliances.

3. CARE: Compare, Ask, Read, Evaluate

Lowes.com offers a ton of tips on how to get the most from your appliances including a series of articles on extending the lifespan of your dishwasher, your range, your refrigerator and more. The very first step is to CARE:

  • compare the cost of repair to the cost of a new appliance — take into consideration energy savings a more modern appliance might offer
  • ask an expert about the problem you’re having to make sure you know the extent of the issue and the repairs entailed
  • read the manual to see if the issue is a common one, and also to check what is covered by the warranty and for how long
  • evaluate the problem to see how much time and money a repair would cost you.

For more on whether to replace or repair, check out Consumer Reports’ repair-or-replace timelines.

Tips & Tricks to Save Space and Make Small Spaces Look Bigger

1. Light it up

Dark rooms feel small. Add lights at different heights — on tables, the floor, the walls — to brighten your room and make it seem larger.

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Photo from Ijoos

2. Add shelves

Look over your doorways and windows, is there space for a shelf? For added impact, add a strip of tube lighting at the back of the shelf, either above or below.

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Photo from Little House Well Done

3. Remove bulk

Clear furniture takes up less visual space in a room — try replacing your coffee or dining table with one with a glass top, or your dining chairs with acrylic ones.

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Photo from Elle Decor

4. Stack the beds

Bunk beds can be fun, stylish and space saving — from rustic to space age, you can find bunk beds to suit any décor.


Photo from Freshome

5. Mirror, mirror

Use mirrors to expand small spaces — if your kitchen is small, install a mirrored backsplash.

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Photo from House Beautiful

6. Build in

Adding built-in cabinetry can add tons of storage without intruding on limited space.

Photo from Better Homes & Gardens

7. Go armless

Chairs without arms — whether in your living room, bedroom or dining room — offer seating while taking up far less real and visual space than arm chairs.

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Photo from Decorpad

8. Discover opportunities

Awkward or unused spaces — such as dormers or under stairs — can be turned into useful task or storage areas.

Photo from Better Homes & Gardens


Photo from Better Homes & Gardens

9. Divide and conquer

A room divider can be visually useful to define separate spaces and functionally useful by providing additional storage and display space.

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Photo from Sunset

10. Contain, contain, contain

Nothing makes spaces look smaller than clutter — beat clutter with trays, containers and boxes and your rooms will feel more spacious.

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Photo from Martha Stewart




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“Sweetie Vines” from WallsNeedLove.com

Color is one of the easiest and most noticeable ways you can change the look of your home. Paint just one wall in your formerly all-cream bedroom a deep sea blue or the bottom half of your soothing sage green dining room a rich chocolate brown and all of a sudden it feels like you have a brand new room.

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“Circle Burst” from WallNutz.com

But sometimes painting is both not enough — just one color? no pattern? — and too much — the tools, the prep, the mess! Enter wall decals.

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“Damask Too!” from WallSlicks

When wall decals first came out, it seems everyone was quoting, inspiring or pointing out the obvious in stylish ways on their walls — a bold “bath time” over the tub, a curvy “life takes you unexpected places/love brings you home” in the family room, or a pithy reminder from Dr. Seuss, “Today you are you, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is Youer than You,” in the kids’ room.

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“If You… Branches and Butterflies” by ChinStudio on Etsy

Wall decals have branched out since then — in addition to words and quotes, there is an endless variety of patterns, designs, and images available for you to affix to your wall. The best thing of all? When you’re tired of the look, all you have to do is peel it off and it’s gone. No fuss, no mess.

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“Lovely Uma” from E-Glue.com

For more wall decals and ideas, check out these resources:

  •  E-glue — “The giant stickers for kids”
  • WallWords — “Decorate with words and graphics anywhere you like”
  • Etsy — “A global handmade and vintage marketplace”
  • Walls Need Love — “Your room. Your canvas.”
  • Dezign with a Z — “Home & office wall décor”
  • WallSlicks — “Where style is born”
  • Right On The Walls — “Your one-stop-shop for creative wall decals”





10 Tips To Help You Maximize Coverage and Minimize Your Cost

In 2011, natural disasters accounted for nearly $380 billion around the world in direct property losses — the costliest year ever (according to research and report by the global reinsurance firm Munich Re). This year in the U.S.A. already, wild fires, floods and hurricanes have destroyed homes across the country — more than 30 homes gone in wild fires in Nevada in January, more than 100 homes damaged and 13 destroyed by a tornado in Michigan in March, 650 homes damaged and about 200 destroyed in Texas by tornadoes in April, and 345 homes destroyed by wild fire in Colorado in June.

It doesn’t require a natural disaster to strike for homeowner’s insurance to come to your rescue — a burst pipe, a burglary, an unhappy pet can all lead to damage that may or may not be covered by your policy. To make sure you have the right policy and the best price, check out these tips:

1. Being safe is cheaper

Insurance companies like paranoid customers — your premium should go down if you install smoke alarms, security systems, and shatter-proof windows.

2. Shop around

Things change. If you haven’t done so recently, spend a couple of hours pricing home insurance with at least three different carriers.

3. Bundle up

You may have heard it on TV, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t true — insurance companies reward customers who hold multiple policies with them. Consider placing your car and home insurance, and any other insurance such as boat, motorhome, etc., with the same carrier.

4. It never hurts to ask

Ask your insurance agent if your carrier offers any discounts — for being more than 55 years old, for having been a long-term policy holder, for having a smoke-free home, etc.

5. Burned to the ground — but the ground’s still there

Many home insurance policies cover the land as well as the house — for most homeowners, it’s unnecessary to insure the ground beneath their home — even after fire or rain, the land will still be there. Find out if your policy includes the land and if you can remove it from your policy.

6. Raise the deductible, raise your savings

It’s a good idea to review your deductible every few years, as your financial status changes over time. If you’re in a position to cover a higher deductible, compare your annual savings if your premium is lowered (call your agent to determine the premium on a higher deductible policy) against the possibility of dipping into that money should an accident happen.

7. You’re covered as well as your home

Most insurance policies include $100,000 to $300,000 in liability coverage that covers claims against you — and your pets — so if your neighbor sues because your dog bit her or because you knocked her down with your bike, your homeowner’s policy may cover that claim. If your home is damaged to the extent that it’s unlivable, your policy may provide coverage for alternative food and lodging costs.

8. Don’t rely on your memory

It’s a good idea to keep an inventory of the contents of your home, including model, cost and date of purchase for larger or more expensive items. Once or twice a year, grab your smart phone and record a video tour of your home — narrate with model numbers or other details. Type up a list of notable belongings with their details. Store the video and document with a friend — or online in “the cloud” — so that it doesn’t go up in smoke with the rest of your things.

9. How covered are you?

Make sure you know what your policy covers and doesn’t cover, and for how much. Most policies include limits for various categories of belongings such as artwork and jewelry. Know your limits and insure anything particularly valuable with a rider or separate policy.

10. What it’s worth vs. what it costs

Check your policy to see if your home and its contents are insured for “replacement cost” or “actual cash value” (ACV). The home itself will almost always be insured for replacement cost — literally the amount it will take to replace the home. Often times, however, personal belongings are covered at ACV (which is replacement cost minus depreciation) — the older your belongings, the less money you will receive to cover their loss.

Most insurance companies offer replacement cost coverage as an option. Take a stroll through your home and consider what it would cost to replace everything in your living room, bedroom or kitchen and the age of the items in your home. Find out how much a replacement cost option would add to your premium and decide whether or not it’s worth it.





Smart gets certified

Rain Bird, an 80-year-old irrigation products and services company based in California, recently launched its latest innovation: the “Simple-to-Set” (SST) Smart Controller, which sets watering schedules zone-by-zone and adjusts watering based on the changing weather.

The SST Smart Controller was just awarded the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) WaterSense label — which recognizes products that are at least 20 percent more water efficient while performing just as well as the average product in that category. Rain Bird is only one of two manufacturers with WaterSense labeled irrigation systems.

Manual? What manual?

Designed along the same principles as the Lockheed plane that inspired the phrase “keep it simple stupid” — the lead engineer challenged the team to design an aircraft that could be repaired by your average mechanic with a handful of ordinary tools, “simple stupid” — the SST Smart Controller system is intended to be usable immediately without instructions.

It comes with its own database

Using a built-in weather sensor to monitor temperature and rainfall combined with an internal database of weather information, the controller adjusts the watering schedule according to the local geography (helped by the homeowner inputting the zip code of the lawn).

This area needs more water than that area? No problem

The system arrives with a CD offering an extensive resource of watering needs information — from geography to soil type to plant type. The controller allows the homeowner to program different zones with different watering schedules to accommodate different sprinkler types and different plant needs.

The Rain Bird SST Smart Controller is available in six zone (SST-600s) and 12 zone (SST-1200s) models, which start at $60 (at Amazon) and $100 (also at Amazon), respectively.

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