Author Archives: Jennifer Noonan

About Jennifer Noonan

Jennifer Noonan is a writer (and home improvement lover!) living in Delaware. Check her out on Google +!

5 Things to Do with… Coffee Grounds

Once you've had your daily cup (or three or four), save those coffee grounds for one of these smart uses.

If you drink coffee, chances are that you drink it every day. Sure, sometimes you get it on the go, but if you’re anything like me, there are plenty of occasions when you brew the stuff at home. Now, think back over the years to all the coffee grounds you’ve chucked into the garbage. If that strikes you as a waste, then you may be interested to know there are many different practical uses for coffee grounds both in and around the home—and a few might even surprise you!

 

1. FERTILIZE YOUR GARDEN

Uses for Coffee Grounds - Fertilizer

Photo: unh.edu

Coffee grounds contain calcium, potassium, nitrogen, and phosphorus, all of which are highly beneficial to plant growth. Aware of these qualities, experienced gardeners have long known that one of the best uses for coffee grounds is adding it as a fertilizer near acid-loving varieties like azaleas and rosebushes.

 

2. FIX UP FURNITURE

Uses for Coffee Grounds - Furniture

Photo: onegoodthingbyjillee.com

Some uses for coffee grounds may seem odd, but believe it or not this trick really works: Yes, coffee grounds can effectively conceal a scratch in dark wood furniture. With a cotton swab, rub the grounds into the scratch (or scratches), let them sit for 5 or 10 minutes, then clean them off with a dry cloth.

 

3. DETER SNAILS

Uses for Coffee Grounds - Snails

Photo: wikimedia.org

You learn something new every day: Snails hate caffeine. In fact, if the dosage is a high enough, caffeine can be lethal to gastropods. So, if snails have been sabotaging your flower beds and vegetable patches, try sprinkling coffee grounds at the base of affected plants. Many people say that tea leaves work, too.

 

4. DEODORIZE YOUR FRIDGE

Photo: wehatecleaning.co.uk

Is your refrigerator or freezer getting a little funky? Let a bowl of coffee grounds sit for several hours or overnight. The granules not only absorb foul odors, but also impart their own refreshing scent. If you love the effects of coffee but not its smell, try mixing in a few drops of vanilla or cinnamon extract.

 

5. ENRICH COMPOST

Uses for Coffee Grounds - Compost

Photo: groundtoground.com

Coffee grounds make an excellent addition to the backyard compost heap, because they contain nitrogen, which compost can’t do without. Also, coffee grounds attract the earthworms that further aid decomposition. Just remember to balance the nitrogenous grounds with carbon-rich materials such as leaves.


Weekend Projects: 5 Simple Ways to Set Up a Compost Bin

Composting is a win-win enterprise: You cut down on waste and also help keep your garden healthy and growing. Set up one of these easy, do-it-yourself compost bins, and in time you'll have nutrient-rich, home-grown compost.

Compost: It’s what eventually becomes of all decomposing organic material. Essentially, it’s dirt—but it’s not just any dirt. No, this stuff is super rich in the nutrients that are beneficial to plant growth. Gardeners like to call it “black gold.” And while some people pay good money for cubic yards of such high-quality soil, others choose to make it themselves. They do so by composting kitchen waste and yard debris like grass clippings, dead leaves, and small twigs.

Related: Compost Bins—10 Smart Options

You, too, can make your own compost. In fact, if there’s an out-of-the-way spot on your property, you could simply heap compostables into a big, messy pile. But in more compact backyards, homeowners often rely on a compost bin, either store-bought or homemade. If you’d rather not spend money on a premade product—or if you’re looking for a good reason to get outdoors this spring and summer—you can complete a DIY compost bin in a matter of hours, using only a few materials that are easy to find.

 

1. WORK WITH WIRE

DIY Compost Bin - Chicken Wire

Photo: motherearthnews.com

Built of recycled deck boards and simple chicken wire, this DIY compost bin features three compartments to accommodate compost at different stages of decomposition. The chicken wire allows air to circulate among the piles, and the slatted front provides easy access for inspection or removal of compost.

 

2. TACKLE A TUMBLER

DIY Compost Bin - Tumbler

Photo: vegetablegardener.com

A DIY compost tumbler offers one great advantage over other designs. Can you guess what that is? You’re right: The tumbler makes easy work of turning the pile. (If you’ve composted before, you know how that can become a chore.) The project pictured centers on a rain barrel that’s been ingeniously repurposed for the task.

 

3. BUILD WITH BLOCKS

DIY Compost Bin - Cinder Blocks

Photo: blueplanetgreenliving.com

Are raccoons and other critters likely to cause problems? Not to worry. You can build a fortress-like DIY compost bin with square cinder blocks. It’s a flexible system: If you need a bigger bin, simply add on a row of blocks; if there’s too little air, change the orientation of a few blocks so their hollow centers face out.

 

4. REPURPOSE PALLETS

DIY Compost Bin - Shipping Pallets

Photo: bobvila.com

Plywood shipping pallets lend themselves very well to the construction of a DIY compost bin. Here, one side of the bin has been outfitted with hinges to provide easy access. Burlap planter pockets added along the top perimeter help the bin blend into the surrounding garden.

 

5. WELCOME SOME WORMS

DIY Compost Bin - Worms

Photo: klickitatcounty.org

Composting takes time. To speed up the process, consider hosting a worm bin in your backyard. You can DIY one cheaply and easily with a plastic recycling container. What the worms produce inside is politely called “castings”—you might think it’s pretty gross, but your plants are going to love, love, love it.


How To: Decoupage

Using this time-honored technique of adorning objects with paper, you can transform furnishings and home accents into beautiful, one-of-a-kind pieces. Follow our simple step-by-step instructions to get spectacular results. It's not too difficult, so try it out today!

How to Decoupage

Photo: hudsonvalleyhandymom.com

The fancy French word decoupage refers to the simple act of gluing paper or fabric cutouts onto an object. The results can be magical; once varnished, the glued-on design looks as if it were inlaid. For hundreds of years, people have been experimenting with decoupage, and in expert hands it’s truly an art form. But armed with only a few inexpensive, easy-to-find materials—and a willingness to be patient—even a beginner can create a masterpiece.

MATERIALS
- Decoupage medium (such as Mod Podge)
- Paintbrush
- Sharp scissors (or matte knife)
- Maps, magazines, wallpaper, wrapping paper, tissue paper—any kind of paper!

STEP 1
The first step of any decoupage project is to prepare the object you plan to transform. Repair any surface imperfections—whether scratches, gouges, or bona fide holes—and if applicable to the material with which you are working, sand the object to a smooth finish. Then clean it thoroughly and let it dry completely.

How to Decoupage - Side Table

Photo: gearjunkie.com

STEP 2
Assemble the paper or fabric you are going to apply in your decoupage. Choose anything so long as it’s flat and flexible: maps of places you love, theater tickets with sentimental value, or even sections of a beloved old dress. You don’t need to use scissors or a matte knife—ripping is fine—but to achieve a seamless look, cutting is recommended. So too is dry-fitting the cutouts to determine where they work best on the object’s surface.

STEP 3
With a paintbrush, apply a thin layer of decoupage medium (for example, Mod Podge) to the object you are covering. Next, lay the initial piece of paper onto the object, smoothing it gently with your fingers to remove any wrinkles or air bubbles. Once you’re finished, apply another thin layer of decoupage medium on top of the paper, then allow both layers to dry completely, undisturbed.

STEP 4
To preserve the job, particularly if you expect the object to get wet, it’s wise to seal it using either varnish or polyurethane. Before you do so, gently buff the decoupaged surface with steel wool, then clean it with a damp cloth. Once it has dried, proceed to apply the sealer. If you want your design to look as if it were painted on, repeat the process of buffing, cleaning, and sealing as many times as needed to achieve the desired appearance.

Almost any furniture or home accent can be updated through decoupage. A glass vase decoupaged with tissue paper suddenly shimmers ethereally, while clay pots covered in Sunday’s funny papers become wonderfully playful. Fair warning: Master this technique and you may love it so much that you’ll want to decoupage EVERYTHING!


5 Things to Do with… Old Sweaters

Beloved sweaters that have become too small or worn are the stars of some great DIY decorating projects. So don't just toss that cardigan into the trash bin, transform it into something useful and wonderful.

If your tastes have changed or you’ve outgrown a favorite old sweater, you have options aside from donating the garment or throwing it away. Recycled sweaters are excellent for a range of home decor DIY projects. In fact, the things you can make with recycled sweaters are so cozy and charming, you might start trolling thrift stores especially to buy knitwear not to put on, but to repurpose. Scroll down to see five wonderfully creative uses of recycled sweaters.

 

1. COVER A PILLOW

Recycled Sweaters - Throw Pillow

Photo: dishfunctionaldesigns.blogspot.com

Recycled sweaters are natural throw pillow covers: Simply remove the sleeves from an old cardigan and cut the body into two squares, serging the edges so they don’t fray. Once you’ve sewn those squares together, you’ll have a cushion cover with a button front that makes slotting in a comfortable pillow hassle-free.

 

2. CREATE A COZY

Recycled Sweater - Wine Bottle Cozy

Photo: recreateit.etsy.com

It’s thoughtful and gracious to bring a little something for your dinner host. If your gift of choice is wine, decorating the bottle makes the gesture more special—and a bottle “bag” of your own creation is a particularly lovely touch. To make one, cut the arm off a sweater, then fit the sleeve over the wine bottle. Sew the bottom of the sleeve closed and, for a final flourish, tie a decorative ribbon around the covered neck of the bottle.

 

3. PRODUCE A PET BED

Recycled Sweaters - Pet Bed

Photo: diycozyhome.com

Recycled sweaters are great for any pet owners who want to go the extra mile for their cat or dog. With surprisingly little modification—a bit of sewing here, a bit of padding added there—a sweater can become a bed for Fluffy or Fido. Best of all, you can choose a sweater that coordinates perfectly with your existing room decor.

 

4. SEW A BAG

Recycled Sweaters - Reusable Bag

Photo: knittingisawesome.com

It’s increasingly common to carry reusable grocery bags on errands and shopping trips. We love their benefit to the environment, that’s for sure, but we don’t always care for their looks. Luckily, you don’t need to be a master of the sewing machine to make an attractive bag from a sweater: With basic hemming, you can transform yesterday’s sweaters into today’s totes.

 

5. INVIGORATE A VASE

Recycled Sweaters - Vase Cover

Photo: homeandawaywithlisa.com

Instantly customize any cylindrical vase or candlestick with the turtleneck or sleeve of a sweater that has a color or pattern you love. So little time and effort is involved, you might even choose to create different sets of these cozies, one for each season, along with special one-off creations for birthdays and holidays.


7 Things to Do in Spring for a Healthy, Gorgeous Lawn Year-Round

To create a thriving, beautiful lawn, you need to hit the ground running in the spring. Add these 7 important tasks to your spring to-do list, and you'll have a lush, thick carpet of green come summer.

Spring Lawn Care

Photo: shutterstock.com

At the tail end of the winter season, homeowners face the sometimes daunting but always exciting prospect of readying the lawn for the warmer months ahead. From cleaning to mowing to seeding, proper spring lawn care encompasses a range of responsibilities. All are important. Remember that cutting corners now could mean that at the peak of summer, you’ll be spending your weekends making up for spring lawn care oversights. In other words, it’s in your best interest to act now. Stay on top of the game to ensure healthy and beautiful grass that demands no more of your time than is strictly necessary.

 

1. DETHATCHING

Spring Lawn Care - Dethatching

Photo: homedepot.com

Dead grass and lawn clippings accumulate and get matted down into thatch, which not only prevents the germination of new grass seed, but also promotes fungus growth and pest infestation. Dethatch the lawn by giving it a good once-over, using either a lawn rake with stiff tines or a special dethatching rake.

 

2. TESTING

Spring Lawn Care - Soil Testing

Photo: shutterstock.com

To grow grass successfully, you need the right soil. Most varieties thrive in conditions that are neither acidic nor alkaline. Methods exist to raise or lower soil pH, but you’ve got to know what you’re dealing with. Purchase a soil test kit for around $10 from your neighborhood garden store, or send a soil sample to your local extension office.

 

3. CLEANUP

Spring Lawn Care - Cleanup

Photo: amazon.com

Part of spring lawn care involves clearing away the ravages of winter. Equipped with your rake and pruning shears, take an exploratory stroll around the property. Look closely for any plants that didn’t survive. Prune damaged or dead branches from trees and bushes, and remove twigs or leaves you find lingering on the grass.

 

4. AERATION

Spring Lawn Care - Aeration

Photo: kitchenfoodgarden.com

In high-traffic areas, the soil beneath grass gradually becomes compacted and inhospitable to grass roots. Manual or mechanical aeration reverses the damage done. Here, wine cork-size plugs are drawn out of the lawn surface, giving roots room to spread and allowing air, nutrients, and moisture to penetrate the soil.

 

5. WEED TREATMENT

Spring Lawn Care - Preemergent

Photo: shutterstock.com

Weed control ranks high among spring lawn-care priorities: If you don’t act against weeds now, before they emerge, you’ll spend the summer battling them—and it’s not a fight you’re liable to win. Prevent weeds from even sprouting by applying a pre-emergent herbicide. For an alternative treatment free of harmful chemicals, try cornmeal.

 

6. SEEDING

Spring Lawn Care - Seeding

Photo: gardenclub.com

On any bare patches of ground, skip the herbicide and opt instead for grass seed. Be aware, however, that if you’re planting grass in the spring, it’s going to need lots of TLC during the hot summer months—that is, consistent watering and regular weeding—and you’ll most likely have to seed again in the fall.

 

7. EQUIPMENT MAINTENANCE

Spring Lawn Care - Equipment

Photo: shutterstock.com

Before the lawn season gets into full swing, inspect all your outdoor tools, including the mower. If necessary, take the machine in for service or give it a tune-up yourself: change the oil, install new spark plugs, and replace the air filter. Also, make sure to have fuel on hand in preparation for the first grass-cutting of the year.

 

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure: The old adage applies as directly to spring lawn care as it does to so many other pursuits. Indeed, setting off on the right course in spring can help ensure that your grass thrives right through to fall, bolstering that curb appeal you count on it to provide.


Weekend Projects: 5 DIY Nightstand Project Ideas

A nightstand is a bedroom must-have. Where else can we put our books, glasses, and a cup of water? If your room currently lacks this vital piece of furniture, how about making one out of things you might already have lying around? Here are 5 takes on accessible DIY nightstands.

You don’t know what you’ve got ’til it’s gone. Only when I tried living without a nightstand did I realize how important this modest member of the furniture pantheon really is. Bedside tables perform only one function, but it’s a vital one—keeping the accouterments of a good night’s sleep within easy arm’s reach. But while I would argue that owning one is a must, buying one isn’t. There are countless ways to create a DIY nightstand cheaply and easily. Here are five favorites.

 

1. CONVERT A TOOL CHEST

DIY Nightstand - Tool Chest

Photo: theglamourai.com

Besides its chic industrial styling and wonderful metallic blue, what I love about this DIY nightstand is its set of integral drawers that allow for storage of personal items aplenty. Mounted on a swivel base, the tool chest pictured reaches the desired height (in relation to the bed) and offers convenient portability.

 

2. STACK A SOLUTION

DIY Nightstand - Suitcases

Photo: wheremyheartresides.com

Thrift stores (and Grandma’s attic) are chockablock with vintage suitcases. Stacked on top of one another, two or three can serve as an offbeat, eye-catching, yet perfectly functional DIY nightstand. If you want, lay a cut-to-size pane of glass—or even a mirror—on top of the uppermost case for a smooth, easily cleaned surface.

 

3. HANG A SHELF

DIY Nightstand - Shelving

Photo: masmeansmore.com

Limited floor space in the bedroom? Install a floating shelf adjacent to the bed. No heavy-duty materials are required. You need only a couple of L-brackets, a handful of screws, and your screwdriver. For the shelf, use reclaimed wood for a natural look or paint a plywood board to match the existing decor in the room.

 

4. USE A STEP STOOL

DIY Nightstand - Step Stool

Photo: revistacasaejardim.globo.com/‎

Here’s another DIY nightstand project that requires virtually zero effort. If you have a step stool whose shape and patina appeal to your sense of style—or if you can find the perfect piece at a flea market or yard sale—simply place it next to the bed. Each step offers additional surface area upon which to place your things.

 

5. MAKE A PET BED

DIY Nightstand - Pet Bed

Photo: diynetwork.com

A dresser becomes a DIY nightstand-cum-pet bed, when you remove the bottom drawers (and their supports). Dress up the interior with beadboard or painted plywood, then add a comfy cushion. The remaining drawer gives you the storage you need, and the space created beneath gives Fido cozy sleeping quarters!


5 Things to Do with… Fireplace Ashes

Next time you sweep out your fireplace, don't just dump those ashes! You can use them in the garden and around—and even inside—the house.

Cozying up to a roaring fire is a winter evening pastime that no one would reject. Disposing of fireplace ashes? Well, that’s a chore that many would prefer to do without. But the fact is, there are many productive uses for wood ash. Rather than emptying your ash can into the garbage, put those heaps of soot to work for you. Here’s how.

 

1. ADD TRACTION

Uses for Wood Ash - Deicing

Photo: shutterstock.com

Did you know that wood ash gives traction to icy or snow-covered walkways? That’s welcome information, particularly for gardeners, who know too well how commercial de-icing products damage lawns and plantings. Also, if the car gets stuck, sprinkling ash in front of and behind tires can help them get a grip.

 

2. POLISH SILVER

Uses for Wood Ash - Clean Silver

Photo: shutterstock.com

Many store-bought silver polishes are toxic; wood ash offers an all-natural alternative, free of cost. Mix one cup of the stuff with a small amount of water. A thick paste should form. Spread that evenly over your silverware and let it sit for a few minutes. Then wipe off the paste with a clean cloth and buff your silver to a shine.

 

3. AMEND SOIL

Uses for Wood Ash - Amend Soil

Photo: shutterstock

Because it contains about 25 percent calcium carbonate, wood ash works well as a liming agent for acidic soil. Steer clear of applying it near certain acid-loving plants like rhododendrons, but generally, if the pH reading of your soil is 5.5 or less, ash can provide a benefit when dug about six inches down into the soil.

 

4. CLEAN FIREPLACE DOORS

Uses for Wood Ash - Clean Fireplace Doors

Photo: shutterstock.com

This may seem counterintuitive, but wood ash—being abrasive and alkaline—actually cleans sooty fireplace doors quite effectively. What you do is dampen some old newspapers, dip them into ashes, then vigorously scrub the glass. Employ the same technique with any windows in your home that show a buildup of limescale.

 

5. DETER PESTS

Uses for Wood Ash - Repel Slugs

Photo: shutterstock.com

Are slugs and snails a nuisance in your garden? If so, try sprinkling wood ash around the plants most frequently affected. Acting as a desiccant, the ash dries up these slimy garden pests. Be careful, though: Ash can do the same thing to your plants if you don’t take care to place it a safe distance from stems and roots.


5 Things to Do with… Wooden Dowels

The humble, practical dowel takes center stage in 5 projects that celebrate the versatility of this wooden workshop staple.

Though they’re nothing more than long, cylindrical pegs, wooden dowels can be used to make furniture and home accents of surprising complexity and disarming beauty. Sold at any hardware store—in widths from 1/4 inch to 2-1/2 inches and lengths from 12 inches to 72 inches—these staples are dirt cheap, considering how valuable they can be in all types of DIY projects. So buy a bundle, then get to work this weekend. Pursue your own idea or adapt a design from one of the five highlighted dowel projects below!

 

1. CREATE A COAT RACK

Uses for Dowels - Coat Rack

Photo: lumberjac.com

We love the approach Danish furniture makers We Do Wood took with their coat rack, pictured here. With nothing more than some boards and a set of dowels, you can make something similar: Drill a series of holes into a reclaimed wood board, then slot pegs into some of the holes. This flexible storage solution is clearly influenced by—but a lot more attractive than—pegboard.

 

2. RIG UP A WREATH

Uses for Dowels - Wreath

Photo: lowes.com

Here’s a way to craft a wreath that will last much longer than evergreen boughs. Cut dowels of varying diameters into 2-inch-long pieces. Glue them together in a circle. Stain or paint the assembly, or leave it unfinished for a more natural look. No matter what finish you end up choosing, the wreath is sure to look most welcoming.

 

3. HACK A WINE RACK

Uses for Dowels - Wine Rack

Photo: hgtv.com

To make a wine rack like this one, you need only a salvaged wood board and a handful of dowels. First, drill holes in the board to accept the dowels, making sure that their spacing leaves room for wine bottles of different sizes. Then mount the unit or stand it up with an A-frame support structure of scrap wood and twine.

 

4. STORE DISHES

Uses for Dowels - Dish Storage

Photo: bertch.com

Install pegboard on the bottom of a deep kitchen drawer, then fit dowels into its perforations. Now you can stack bowls and plates in the drawer, and the dowels will keep your dishware securely in place. When and if your storage needs change, you can easily modify the arrangement to host a different set of items.

 

5. CAMP STOOL

Uses for Dowels - Camp Chair

Photo: woodandfaulk.com

The advantage of a camp chair is that once folded up, it can go anywhere with you. And for no more than $25, you can use a few hardwood dowels to make a stool that looks better than any design you could buy in a typical store. Join the dowels with simple hardware, and make the seat with leather or heavy canvas. Wow!


5 Things to Do with… Denim

As rugged as they are, your denim jeans eventually wear out or, even worse, get too small. Don't throw them out! Instead, grab your scissors and give your old denim new life with one of these useful, accessible projects.

Decades ago, denim may have seemed uniquely American, but today this sturdy fabric belongs to the world: A whopping 450 million pairs of jeans are sold annually! It’s a little scary, then, to contemplate how much denim there must be in landfills—and how quickly we must be adding to that quantity. Environmental concerns aside, there are many reasons to reuse the jeans you no longer wear. Denim stands out among fabrics for its remarkable durability, for one thing. Also, if it looked good on your butt, it’ll look good on home accents, right? Scroll down for five DIY denim projects that prove beyond doubt that jeans deserve their radical popularity.

 

1. WEAVE A RUG

DIY Denim Projects - Rug

Photo: lieslmade.com

Here’s a DIY denim project that lets you “wear your way” to a new throw rug. After cutting your old jeans into one-inch strips, weave them together in a crosshatch pattern. As you work, pin the strips to a fabric backing and then—once the rug has taken shape—sew, trim, and bind the edges to finish the job.

 

2. SEW A BIN

DIY Denim Projects - Bin

Photo: makezine.com

Keep whatever you want (for example, favorite magazines or extra yarn) in various-size bins fashioned from the legs of old jeans. To achieve more heft than a single layer of denim can provide, simply sew in some batting. If you want to add decorative appeal, incorporate a liner of complementary or boldly contrasting fabric.

 

3. SEW A SLIPCOVER

DIY Denim Projects - Slipcover

Photo: oquelatem.blogspot.com

Do you have a comfortable old sofa whose upholstery has become faded, stained, or torn? Slipcover it! With this DIY denim project, you can make your own slipcover for next to no money. Personalize the project with buttons or a stencil, or leave the jeans as they are—after all, their pockets provide plenty of visual interest.

 

4. CREATE AN ORGANIZER

DIY Denim Projects - Organizer

Photo: howtoconsign.org

Whereas your jeans once carried coins and keys, they can now hold and organize your office supplies, children’s toys, or bedroom bits and baubles. Any item that fits in the pocket is fair game: The material is so rugged that you could even use this DIY denim project in your tool shed, potting bench, or woodworking shop!

 

5. MAKE A PLACEMAT

DIY Denim Projects - Placemat

Photo: todaysnest.com

Get out your scissors and cut your old jeans (or a few pair you bought at the thrift store) into placemat-size rectangles. Attach a backing and then, using no-sew fabric adhesive tape, secure a small pocket from a pair of kid’s jeans—it will be the perfect size for utensils to slide into. Now your summer picnic table is ready to rumble!


The New Homeowner’s Survival Guide

If you've recently taken the home-buying plunge, our survival guide is a must-read that will help you avoid common pitfalls, budget your time and money, and glide smoothly into the joys of owning your own home.

New Homeowner Tips

Photo: shutterstock.com

So you’ve bought your first house—congratulations! You’ve searched for and found a place that you love. You’ve secured a mortgage and successfully dealt with real estate brokers, lawyers, home inspectors, and insurance agents. You’ve learned about closing costs and the volumes of paperwork that must be signed, in triplicate, with a notary public as witness. No doubt, this has been an exciting time for you, and a very busy one. Believe it or not, there’s still more to do! So to help you through it all, we’ve prepared this handy guide.

We hope you’ll take away two essential things from this guide: an awareness of what you can expect in the first year of living in your new home, and some sound advice on being prepared for the most important aspects of being a new homeowner.

MORTGAGE AND INSURANCE LOGISTICS

Homeowner’s Insurance
If you have a mortgage, homeowner’s insurance was probably required for the loan. But it’s smart to reassess your insurance needs within the first six months of owning your home. You may discover you have too much (or too little) coverage. Once the dust has settled, take a critical look at your policy and solicit a second round of quotes from insurers.

Escrow
Most mortgage companies require your taxes and homeowner’s insurance to be escrowed, which means that the mortgage company totals those expenses, then charges you one-twelfth of the sum each month. (Some mortgage companies allow you to opt out of escrow, for a fee.) If you don’t have escrow, remember to budget for your tax and insurance expenses! If you do have escrow, take pains to make sure that the mortgage company is making all payments on your behalf in a timely manner; after all, it’s your house and your credit that are on the line. Also, double-check the accuracy of the estimate made by your lender’s escrow department. If there’s a shortfall, you can expect a bill for the difference at the end of the year. And if that estimate was way off, the bill you receive could be a real whopper.

SET UP YOUR UTILITIES
You’ll need to get all utilities into your name, so make a list and work through it. Call the electric, phone, and gas companies. Contact the county for your sewer and water, if it supplies both. Does the town pick up garbage/recycling, or do you need to contract for that yourself? If you want Internet and broader TV service than an antenna will get you, research your options and start calling for the best bargain. With all the digital entertainment options available, you may decide to cut the cord on cable.

Triple-Check Your Billing Address
Make extra sure each service provider has your contact information recorded correctly—down to the last digit of your zip code. If you don’t receive bills due to some administrative error, you may come home to find your water turned off.

Get on Utility Provider Budget Plans
With so many new variables, the first year in a new house is usually challenging financially. Get on budget plans where you can. Many utility providers will estimate your use for the year, and then break your bills into 12 equal payments. This reduces fluctuations in your charges throughout the year, which can be helpful. Money can feel extra tight after the big move.

New Homeowner Tips - Bills

Photo: shutterstock.com

PREPPING THE HOUSE… OR NOT
Some work is more easily done before you get all your stuff in the house. If timing and budget allow, consider doing painting or floor refinishing before your move-in date. Do you need help with cleaning? If you want professional help with anything, bundle that into your move-in budget.

Don’t fret if there’s no money left for these things right away. Sometimes it’s better to live in a house awhile before deciding on paint colors, carpeting, or a new kitchen backsplash. A home is a work in progress, and it takes time to get the feel for a new place. Doing too much at once can be overwhelming and can kill the joy of the experience. Feel free to take a slow approach and live in your house as is for six months to a year or more. Who knows—you might just grow to love that vintage 1950s tile in the bathroom and use it as the inspiration for your interior design.

New Homeowner Tips - Moving

Photo: shutterstock.com

MOVING IN!

Change the Locks
You can throw out the keys got at the closing—right after you change the locks! You have no idea who has copies of those keys, and it’s better to be safe than sorry. So, before you do anything else, call a locksmith or do it yourself—just do it.

Set Up the Move
Will you hire someone or do it yourself? If you’re hiring movers, get as many references as you can and at least three quotes. Make sure anyone you consider has insurance. If you’re doing it yourself, reserve your truck. Get one that’s slightly bigger—and reserve it for slightly longer—than you think you’ll need. That’s one place you can reduce stress.

Related:  Moving 101—10 Ways to Make the Best of Any Move

Pack
If you’re packing your own boxes, pack them room by room, and label them very clearly, so they can be taken immediately to the right place after being unloaded. Make some quick signs for each room that correspond to the box labels. If you organize your move effectively, with any luck, you’ll be able to park in the garage by the end of the week.

Unpack
Set manageable goals for yourself. You probably have several wonderful years, if not decades, to enjoy your new home, so you don’t need to finish unpacking in one day. Decide how many boxes you’ll unpack each day—one or two is completely acceptable—and stick to that number. If you’ve unpacked them and still have energy, turn your focus to another task, like hanging window treatments or shopping for drawer organizers.

GET ACQUAINTED WITH YOUR SYSTEMS

Service Checks
Plan to have a service check on your HVAC, hot water heater, fireplace, and/or chimney, and any major appliances that require it. Check any filters, and replace if necessary. In short, evaluate all of your home systems.

Labeling
Go through all the breakers in your electrical box and label them. Label the incoming and outgoing pipes, as well as the shut-off valves, for your water and sewer service. Taking a little bit of time now will make it much easier to diagnose and fix any problems that may arise in the future.

New Homeowner Tips - Gardening

Photo: shutterstock.com

GET THE LAY OF THE LAND

Equipment
If you have a lawn, you’ll need to purchase some lawn-care equipment or hire a landscaping service. Start researching lawn mowers and learn how to use a string trimmer. If you don’t have them already, acquire a rake, shovel, and some pruning tools, at the very least. If you decide to fertilize your lawn, you’ll want to purchase a spreader or hire someone for the job. Your new neighbors should have good references.

Related: Ultimate Lawn Care Guide—12 Steps to a Prize-Winning Yard

Utility Location
Before you start any new landscaping, call a utility location service to come mark where all your services are in the yard. You do NOT want to break a water main or cut off your electricity while you’re planting a tree or installing a fence. It’s worth making yourself a map to keep on file for reference in the future.

Yes, moving into your first home is a lot of work. But you’ll reap so many rewards—you’re building equity, lightening your tax load, and establishing roots in a community. With any luck, some of those new neighbors will become lifelong friends. Congrats, again, on your new home!