Top 6 Home Improvements That Pay Off

Are you ready to upgrade your home but are worried about sinking money into investments that may never see a return? Here are a few home improvements that experts say will pay off now and in the future:

1. Kitchen & Bath Remodeling
Kitchen and bathroom remodeling is a sure-fire investment that often returns more than 100 percent of the cost. People spend a significant amount of time in kitchens and baths, so you want to make them inviting and tranquil for yourself and future buyers. Buyers are beginning to expect upgraded kitchens and baths now more than ever before. Upgrades to consider include: tile or hardwood flooring, granite countertops, new or resurfaced cabinets, and stainless steel appliances. For the master bath, floor-to-ceiling, walk-in showers are a hot commodity (literally). Sleek, walk-in showers have actually replaced whirlpool tubs on buyers’ wish lists, so if you have to pick one or the other, go with the shower. Keep in mind, if your home only has one bath, the upgrade you’ll want to make is adding an extra bathroom. While buyers are still charmed by older homes that may only have one bath, functionality and practically may be a concern. If you have a three or four bedroom home with one bath, it will certainly pay to add a second bathroom. For more budget-friendly upgrades, try adding a tile backsplash, updating light fixtures, or replacing cabinet hardware and faucets.

2. Home Maintenance
While not the most glamorous of home improvements, this is one of the most important. Buyers won’t be enamored by your beautiful new kitchen if there is a musty smell coming from the basement or the siding is rotting. A top priority should be making sure your home is structurally sound on the inside and out. Essential home maintenance projects include repairing the roof, replacing the siding, and correcting water leaking from the foundation, just to name a few.

3. Curb Appeal
Before you can get buyers inside to see your interior improvements, your home has to be appealing on the outside. Upgrades can range from simple, such as pulling weeds, to more complex, like building a front porch to add interest and charm. You may also consider planting shrubs and flowers, pressure washing your driveway, painting the exterior, or adding walkways and extra parking space. If you have outdoor living space (deck, patio, or porch), stage the area with comfortable seating and dining furniture. In a nutshell, your exterior should convey a sense of welcome.

4. Paint
Painting is an affordable home improvement that can give any home a facelift. Paint makes a home look and feel younger and better taken care of. When selecting paint colors, go towards the warmer, more neutral tones in order to appeal to a wider range of buyers. Try textured or faux paint in a focal space like the dining room for a distinctive, unique touch.

5. Adding Extra Living Space
According to a study by the National Association of Realtors, every 1,000 square feet added to a home can increase the sale price by 30 percent. This can include adding a sunroom, bathroom, attic bedroom, or even a deck for outdoor living and entertaining space. Or if your home has a basement, you may be able to take advantage of a whole extra level of living. Basements are great for game rooms, guest suites, bars, or play areas. For some of the more trendy, high-end housing markets, there is a demand for the luxury of home theaters, wine cellars, and yoga rooms, but be sure to consider your housing market and neighborhood before embarking on one of these upgrades.

6. Flooring
Flooring is one of the first things that will be seen (and felt underfoot) by a potential homebuyer. The most in-demand flooring choice is hardwood floors, which is a proven resale value booster. A classic like red oak is always a good choice, while trends are also moving towards exotic woods like bamboo and wider-planked boards. If you already have hardwood, refinishing your floors is a great way to bring back their luster and brilliance. Tile is also a popular flooring solution for bathrooms, kitchens, foyers, and laundry rooms, and should replace any existing vinyl flooring. Lastly, the softness and comfort of carpet or areas rugs is perfect for bedrooms and play areas. If new flooring is not in the budget, be sure to have your carpets cleaned before putting your house on the market.

When considering all home improvements, be sure to keep in mind a few key factors. What you’ll get back on your investment is dependent on how soon you sell after making improvements, the value of your house, the value of houses in your neighborhood, the housing market in which you live, and the quality of the project itself.

Kitchen Remodeling – 3 Things to Keep in Mind

If you are readying your house to put it on the market, it is important to consider how investing in kitchen remodeling could yield you a higher profit. While there are a variety of areas in the home that could be improved to increase your chances of obtaining offers that are close to your asking price, many potential homebuyers gravitate towards the kitchen.

Since so much time is spent preparing food and eating meals, it makes sense that this is one of the most important rooms in the entire house. Nowadays, potential homebuyers are looking for modern kitchens with advanced technology, which should be kept in mind.

While some projects can be done yourself, if you decide that you want to re-do the entire room, it’s best to work with a professional kitchen remodeling contractor. There are a number of things to consider, and they can help you achieve the vision you have for the room.


When it comes to real estate, it is definitely a buyer’s market, and that means that new or newer appliances are expected. If your refrigerator and stove are older models, consider upgrading to new, modern appliances. In addition, if you do not have a dishwasher, you should talk to your contractor about having one installed. While appliances can be costly, it’s important to remember that you stand to gain a big return on this investment.


Putting a fresh coat of paint on the walls can make a big visual impact. While you may be drawn to a bold color, it is best to keep it as neutral as possible. You want potential homebuyers to be able to visualize the room and the home as being their own, and that is easiest to accomplish if the color does not reflect your own strong taste.


Over the years, cabinetry tends to become dingy due to grease and dust build-up. Since some cabinets make up a large portion of the room, think about upgrading. If replacing the cabinetry completely is not in your kitchen remodeling budget, consider having them professionally painted or refinished. Even adding new hardware to the cabinets can change the entire look of the room. While you want the room to look fresh and clean, it is still best to keep things as neutral as possible for your potential homebuyers.

By keeping these three areas in mind when it comes to your kitchen remodeling, you can increase your chances of securing a favorable offer when you put your home on the market.

Virtual Kitchen Layout Tools

Trying to visualize how your kitchen will look with all the cabinets, hardware, appliances and countertops in place used to be difficult, but now with the advent of the virtual kitchen layout tool, you can design your kitchen on your computer and know exactly how everything will look before you decide. These virtual tools allow you the chance to try out new looks with the click of a button. No more guessing if those granite countertops will look okay. You can see them in your virtual kitchen and take the guess work out of kitchen design.

But What Can it Do?

Virtual kitchen designers allow you to design your space as you want, and try out new looks without the prior commitment. Now, you can see exactly what works and what doesn’t, without the aggravation of removing or replacing it in the home. With the designer, you can replace and remove any of the features in your kitchen, until you find the precise design you like. You can drag and drop in features like doors and rooms, to get an accurate representation of your kitchen space. You can add name brand appliances to your kitchen to see how they will fit. You can choose your countertops and experiment with different textures and colors to create a cohesive design. Essentially, you can build your kitchen on your computer just as you like it, and forget about the design mishaps that can occur during installation.

Designing the Kitchen

The tools are fairly simple to use, with many utilizing a drag and drop style designer. You can choose from different shapes to mimic your kitchen, and even change the dimensions to ensure that the design has the right measurements. Other virtual kitchen designers will offer a photograph of a kitchen, and allow you to change flooring, cabinets, appliances and countertops within that one photograph, so you can see how they will match.

The best thing about the virtual kitchen designers is the fact that you can finally see how everything will look before you have it installed. With these tools, you can determine what features, like granite countertops, can work within your space. If you are considering a certain style, texture and color of stone, like granite, for your countertops, these tools allow you to try different ones in your virtual kitchen to see how they look. This will give you an idea as to which granite or stone countertops will work in your kitchen, before it is installed, so you can be certain that your choices will make the most of your kitchen design and not detract from it.

If you are considering a kitchen remodel or are currently building a new home, try out some looks on a virtual kitchen designer to see what choices will work best for you. You can save a lot of money in the long run by testing your design ideas virtually, and seeing what colors will work best for you.

How to Stencil Instructions – Add Old World Charm to Your New Home – Walls, Ceilings, Cabinets

In the beginning, gather your Supplies in one place

Gather Tools, Materials & Paints

Features of Unique Designs stencils:

Tools, Materials, Paints and How to Demonstration

1. Pre-cut stencil design – Many companies sell ready-made stencils through mail order including our company based out of Atlanta, Georgia.

Because our stencils are made of 7 Mylar a very thick and durable material, if you treat your stencil with care, your stencil will last many projects over the years.

2. Measuring tool or tape measure (for general measuring and measuring repeats) – Whether wall, ceiling, floor, or fabric, measuring tools are important to determine placement of the design on the substrate to be stenciled. For marking very large spaces such as a floor, you may need a chalk line or painters paper tape (found in most hardware stores or painter’s stores, half gummed and half plain), to help keep lines straight (or big strong brother, Troy). (Figure C)

3. Level – A level is useful for creating horizontal stripes or vertical stripes on a wall. Also, keep in mind; you may need to use a level on a wall that is not quite square.

4. Painter’s blue tape – Use to adhere stencil in place, check your work and reposition stencil several times as needed.

5. Spray adhesive – Many painters use spray adhesive when stenciling the larger intricate ceiling and border stencils that measure 3 feet wide. These stencils are now available for making larger projects quicker and easier to complete. Make sure you spray adhesive in a well-protected space with proper ventilation. While laying stencil flat on a sheet of craft paper (back-side facing up) and holding spray can several inches away, lightly spray stencil and allow adhesive to set up for a couple of minutes this will insure repositioning and a minimum of glue will rub on your wall. Also, please remember do not spray around pets (especially birds). Mineral spirits will completely remove adhesive from stencil once you are finished for the day.

6. Paper towels (prefer viva or strong thick paper towels) – Use paper towels to offload or rub excess paint from the brush. When using a dry brush technique, make sure you offload most of the paint until you can run your brush across your hand and the brush feels dry.

7. Small containers, plastic plate or paint tray – Used to add water, extender and to mix custom colors. Also, plate or tray is used to hold paint and load stencil brush.

8. Acrylic paint – Paints that are water-soluble, flow well and are sold by a wide range of manufacturers ranging from small craft bottles to artist’s acrylic colors. Also, a wide variety of colors ranging from primary colors to an unlimited array of earth colors. As they dry very quickly it can sometimes help to mix in a small amount of acrylic retardant to delay the drying time. Keep in mind there are a wide variety of paints to choose from, I promote water-base paints, because they are easy to clean up with water, they can be thinned to various degrees with extender or water and they are fast drying. Whatever you choose, make sure you thin to consistency of ink and not too watery or it will bleed under the stencil.

9. Extender or acrylic medium

Acrylic retardant

10. Marking pen (for marking repeats on blue tape)

11. Poster board – It is important to use poster board to make samples for yourself or client. Not only will you be able to work out several color schemes and techniques, but you will also be able to practice with the new stencils.

12. Additional Tools

Painter’s Stir Stick to add water and extender to paint and also to mix custom colors
Water and water container for cleaning brushes and mistakes
Clean Rags (for cleaning up and for drying brush)

Cleaning Instructions:

Because our stencils are made of 7 Mylar a very thick and durable material, if you treat your stencil with care, your stencil will last many projects over the years.

Even when using a very dry brush for stenciling, you will still occasionally need to clean spots on the back of the stencil. Make sure after each print you check the back of the stencil, because any spots will certainly rub off on the wall. When using thick acrylic paints, you will need to clean your stencils after 4 or 5 imprints.

You will know when it is time to clean your stencil because your stencil will become sticky, and it is time to clean your stencil in order to get clean edges and professional results. At the cleaning stage, it is best to clean your stencil on a flat hard surface (in the bottom of your utility sink or outside on a flat table. Using warm soapy water (or solvent cleaner) gently rub paint off the stencil. You can remove paint by using a kitchen sponge, a scotch-brite pad, 220 grit sanding block or nail brush.

Be careful when cleaning your stencils, because some designs are very intricate with narrow bridges and these areas can tear or bend. Allow the stencil to dry, or dry with absorbent paper towels (Viva paper towels) before making any more prints on your substrate. When finished for the day, store stencils flat or hang stencil on a coat hanger.

If stencil paint was allowed to completely dry on your stencil, put your stencil in a plastic garbage bag, spray stencil with a household kitchen cleaner (409), let set up for 20 minutes and gently scrub with kitchen sponge. Rinse any residue left from cleaner.

Brush care

Be sure to clean your brushes thoroughly before drying and storing them. Rinse them in solvent needed for your paint (water for acrylics). Also, you can use a brush scrubber and many specialty products from your local arts and craft store to clean your brushes until the warm water runs clean over the bristles. Then allow brush to dry thoroughly before storing them.

If you take a break from your stenciling project, be sure to rinse brushes with water. Brushes should be washed in warm water immediately after use, as the paint is very difficult to remove if paint is allowed to harden on the brush.

Make sure before you begin stenciling again, dry brush on a rag, paper towel or use a hair dryer. Wet brushes are likely to result in blurred or different colored prints. Save time on your projects by using a different brush for each color.

Brushes (are available in a variety of sizes, experiment with your stencil on a poster board) Use soft to firm, short-bristled stencil Brushes (with stiff straight bristles) available in a wide variety of sizes (soft or firm brushes depends on the technique of the project. And brush size depends on the size of the openings in the pre-cut stencil).

Large Brushes (1 inch) are used for larger openings while detailed work or tiny openings require a small brush, ½ of an inch and smaller.

Choose your Color Palette and Make a sample board.

Paint your sample board the same background color of your wall or ceiling surface. With the transparent technique, your background color will show through and be the undertone to all colors in your scheme.

Choose the appropriate sized brush for each color. At this time you may experiment with different color schemes.

Spray the stencil lightly on the back and allow to dry for 2 to 3 minutes to ensure the stencil will be repositionable. You may want to spray over paper and in a well-ventilated area. (Figure I.)

Layout Stencil Design

Measure the room.

Use a level to mark a guideline for stencil alignment. For borders, you may use the crown molding as your guide. Or if the ceiling and walls are level, you may use the top of the wall as your guide. (Figure P.)

Decide where you want to start the first repeat

In the center of the focal point wall

In the corner of the back wall and then wrap the room

Registration Marks

In the stencil industry, the triangle registration system is the standard. Registration marks are to help you repeat the design as well as align the design.

Wall Borders will have four triangles (2 marks on the left edge and 2 marks on the right edge) as shown in (Figure Q.)

Ceiling Medallions are one half of design and will have three triangles (one center mark on the outside edge of the design and two marks on the inside edge) as shown in (Figure R.)

Allover repeat patterns will have 6 triangles as shown in (Figure S.)
Now We’re Ready To Stencil

Place your first repeat securely down with repositionable stencil adhesive and/or blue painter’s tape.

Notice all four triangles, two on the left of the design and two on the right of the design. Under each of the four triangles, place a piece of blue painters tape under each of the four triangles. With a marking pen, completely trace inside the triangles to form a smaller inside triangle on the blue tape, not the wall.

If you are afraid the blue tape will pull off the base color on the wall, and then remove some of the tacky feeling by sticking it to your arm first to remove some of the adhesive on the tape.

As you move from left to right, place additional stencil repeats over the previous two triangles on the left and continue placing blue tape under the next two triangles to the right as you mark each of the triangles as you go. When you are finished marking the entire room, you may proceed to the stenciling stage of the project.
Loading and offloading your stencil brush

While always holding the brush straight up and down, dip the brush into the paint. This will allow for even loading of the paint. In a very firm and circular motion, blot off excess paint by rubbing the tip of the brush evenly on Viva paper towels.

You must have a very dry brush in order to achieve translucent paint effects. After repeating this step 2 or 3 times, you will notice most of the paint is rubbed onto the paper towels. If you pass your brush quickly over your hand, it will feel dry. You may begin to stencil with your first color.
Stenciling Technique

To get a translucent paint effect, you may begin stenciling by first concentrating paint around the outer edges of the cutout areas, constantly moving the brush in small firm circles as you continue around each cut out of the design. If you would like the effect to be as translucent as possible, the majority of the stencil brush should be on the Mylar. (Shown in

As you move toward the center of the cut out area, use a lighter pressure and a dryer brush. By fading out the color from the edge to the center, you will give shape to the design.

Practice this technique on a sample board first. You will learn to adjust your pressure and placement of the brush to achieve the depth of color you are after.

Each time you reload the brush you must go through the same process of loading and off-loading the paint onto the Viva paper towels. As you move along, make sure you check under the stencil in order to see accurately and also to maintain a consistent print.

As you lift one edge of the stencil you will check to see the color is strongest at the outer edges and more transparent toward the center. No paint should bleed under the stencil.

Older posts »