Profitable Home Improvements and Renovations

blppf5sbxpo-benjamin-combs (1)Are you ready to renovate your home?

First, decide why you are renovating your home?

Is your HVAC system more than 15 years old? If the answer is yes, you may not have a choice but to install a new energy-efficient air conditioning and heating unit. You will not want to live in your home in August when the sun is pushing the mercury past 100 with a broken AC unit.

Or are you trying to make the house more livable, more beautiful and, of course, more valuable.

Two of the most popular renovations a homeowner can make to add value to their homestead is a kitchen or bathroom upgrade.

U.S. News & World Report investigated “which home remodeling projects are worth your money?”

Interestingly, the biggest ROI is installing the right front door which “on average adds 96.6 percent of the amount you spent to the value to your home.” U.S. News attributes the ROI stats from Remodeling magazine’s annual Cost vs. Value Report for 2014.

“But “it has to be the right front door,” says Steven Aaron, owner of the Steve Aaron Realtor Group at Keller Williams Beverly Hills and one of the protagonists of the HGTV series “Selling LA.” Keep in mind that sometimes painting the existing front door provides the same payoff.”

One mantra that is repeated is to make sure you do the right renovation for your home. If you are looking at your ROI when you eventually retire and downsize, then adding a $50,000 kitchen to a $100,000 home is not the right decision to make.

“As a general rule, look to spend about 25 percent of the home’s value for a new kitchen and 12 percent to 15 percent for an updated bathroom,” says David Pekel, president and CEO of a construction company and master certified remodeler in the U.S. News article.

Renovations with the best ROI include:
Entry door replacement
Deck addition
Attic bedroom
New garage door
Minor kitchen makeover

Renovations you want to avoid because of their ROI include:
New home office
Sunroom addition
Bathroom addition
Backup power generation
Master suite addition

Remember, you are living in your home. If you want a new master bedroom suite or an up-to-date home office, that is a good reason to move forward with these renovations.

Throughout the years bathroom and kitchen remodels are very popular amongst homeowners. But take note that a minor kitchen renovation has an 82.7 percent ROI. Similarly, instead of a complete bathroom remodeling project that could cost $15,000-$30,000 or more, check out bathtub refinishers and look for articles on how to update your restroom on a budget. You may find yourself very pleasantly surprise.

Let’s take a look at DIY Network’s “10 Investments to Boost Your Home’s Value” which differs from Remodeling magazine’s cost versus value analysis.
Matt Blashaw, host of DIY Network’s Money Hunters, and Nicole Curtis, host of Rehab Addict, offer top 10 renovation projects:

Basement or attic
Removing the paneling and popcorn
Engineered or real-wood floors
Attic insulation
Furnace/HVAC replacement
Front yard makeover

Both Matt and Nicole offer common sense suggestions to their top 10 list.

For the bathroom, Matt writes: “You don’t have to go crazy: Install new fixtures, re-grout the shower, add crown molding and brighten up the room with some paint. I really like the new textures they have for wallpaper nowadays. Yes, you heard me: wallpaper. A little texture can make a bathroom go from a plain Jane to a beauty queen. Just a few little improvements in a bathroom can be a really smart way to spend your money.”

If you have an old bathtub you might consider hiring a professional bathtub refinishing company instead of spending thousands of dollars on an extreme bathroom remodeling projects that includes installing a new one.

You can renovations plans for the top 10 that run from the ostentatious makeover to shame your neighbors into spending more to cost effective projects that will give you the right balance between “I’m living in this home and I want to enjoy it” to “How can I add value to this investment that will help me when I ready to sell.”

It is your home, your choice, your money.

You might want to hire a licensed home inspector to give your house a thorough inspection to help you decide which renovations are necessary and can’t be put off and which ones are personal choices and, to the extent you choose, will add value to your home when you decide to sell.

How to Update Your Bathroom

2-bruno-marinhoThe summer is over.
All the outdoor home renovations have been done:

  • Painted the outside of the house. Check!
  • New landscape. Check!
  • New roof. Check!

You’ve been busy this summer, but now as the fall has arrived you are looking for new projects to begin inside the comfort and the central heating and ac of your home.

But your budget has been strained by the summer undertakings. No problem.

There are many ways to spruce up your home without sacrificing your retirement, and a lot of bathroom remodeling ideas that you can pull off on a shoestring budget.

Real Simple website offers “20 Ways to Upgrade Your Bathroom.” Here are a few of the suggestions:

  • Use “old wooden crates [to] make smart holders for extra toilet paper and rolled bath towels.
  • A “sink skirt hides a multitude of sins. YOu can easily make a new-sew one from a pretty bedsheet.
  • Raid your kitchen to find an “unused sugar bowl as a decorative container, perfect for cotton balls and Q-tips.”
  • Try a “calming color on the walls” like a “rich blue-green” to give your bathroom serenity.
  • Check out “faux-wooden blinds” as an elegant new look for your bathroom window.
  • Use a “tall cylindrical vase” to hold your extra rolls of toilet paper.

Now , if you are determined to have your dream bathrooms Oprah’s site offers the following suggestions which will not cause your checks to bounce:

  • White subway tile is not plain or boring, but a “sleek, clean and inexpensive option”, especially if you add an “interesting, eye-catching piece, like a vintage mirror or medicine cabinet.”
  • Instead of keeping your towels in a hall closet, place them on a chair in your bathroom to give you the feel of a “luxurious spa.”

If you have a little budget, say $2,000, you could try out what John and Sherry of a very popular DIY website called Young House Love did a few years ago. They  decided to give their bathroom an eclectic look, reminiscent of a trip to New York City, and “mimicked the look of old NYC subway signs.”

“Of course we adapted ours to be a bit less dark to complement all the white in our bathroom (and in our house for that matter). We also picked two subway stops with the most meaning to us (we met working together near Grand Central and both lived in Astoria Queens at different times),” Sherry wrote on her blog. adding that they designed “two “signs” in Photoshop (we printed them out ourselves for free). Then we roughed up our prints for a weathered, creased, and vintage look and Mod Podge came in handy when it came to attaching them to the wood planks (the waterproof protection it added was also a plus since they live in a bathroom).”

John and Sherry, who you could say are poster-children for successful bloggers, chronicled their work in renovating three homes in close to 3,000 blogs.

For this renovation project, however, instead of buying a new bathtub which would have added thousands of dollars to the cost, as well as several weeks of dust-up in their home, they decided to reglaze their old bathtub.

“The tub was actually already reglazed when we inherited it with the house and that treatment lasted over 12 years (we received the original paperwork from the first time the job was done years ago from the last owners). And this new reglazing job should last just as long even with everyday use,” Sherry wrote, adding that the “key is finding the best professionals who use the best equipment and the best formulas for a long lasting finish that looks amazing.”

Sherry added: “As for why we opted to get ours reglazed instead of replacing it, we love the large, deep, original cast-iron tub. It was too great to send off to a landfill (and too heavy and expensive to try to remove & replace).

“We’re all about working with what we have, so because we couldn’t salvage the bathroom’s old tile, the least we could do was salvage the tub by refinishing it,” she said.

Now, if you noticed John and Sherry did not choose to reglaze the tub themselves. They hired a family-owned local company where they lived and checked the firm out at the Better Business Bureau and got references.

An Angie’s List article points out that their are many jobs you can do yourself, but bathtub refinishing is not one of them. Angie’s List recommends, just like John and Sherry did, to find a professional bathtub refinishing company to do the work.

You now have some great ideas to spruce up your bathroom instead of undertaking a major bathroom remodeling project. You will save a lot of money and, if done properly, have the look and feel of an expensive bathroom renovation.

Fighting Weight Gain at Restaurants, Movies

Weight loss is not something skinny people understand.

How many times have I been told by a anorexic friend (I’m being mean) that all I need is some self-control?

Thousands of times. Thin people don’t get it. They don’t know the struggle heavy people confront when trying to lose weight. You can’t just turn on a switch that says, “Self-Control.” If we had self-control, we’d be thin and would never have to listen to another thin person telling us how easy it is to be thin.

Is it really easy? Not in today’s society.

Have you tried getting out of a fast-food restaurant or any restaurant without eating 1,000 to 2,000 calories? You can if you order a salad without dressing or grilled fish or chicken without the potatoes and dessert.

If you don’t, you are in trouble. You basically need 10 calories per pound to maintain your weight. For example, a 200-pound man needs about 2,000 calories to stay 200 pounds. A 150-pound man needs 1,500 just to maintain his weight.

Are you beginning to see the problem?

Next time you are in an Italian restaurant, ask how many calories are in the eggplant parmigiana, soda (or wine or beer), side dish of pasta and the dessert you order. Oh, also ask about the garlic bread you gobbled up.

That is just eating out.

Let’s say you have a social life. Mine consists of going to the movies. This is one of my undoings since I can go to 3-4 movies in a given week.

Let’s take a look at the movie food that I will eat at the movies. A small popcorn, which I eat without butter, has 225+ calories and 11 grams of fat. A medium popcorn, 430 calories. A large, which I rarely buy, is more than 1,000 calories. Now, these numbers vary from theater to theater, depending on the size of the popcorn bag.

If you look to buy a combo special for a medium popcorn and medium non-diet soda, your calorie count will total more than 1,600.

I often go for the mini-cheese pizza but that comes in at 420 calories while a hot dog — which isn’t known for its health benefits — at least comes in at 284 calories. My preferred candy at the movies are Twizzlers, M&Ms or Kit Kats.

Imagine the movie goer who buys a large popcorn, large non-diet soda and a bag of candy. That’s enough calories, fat and sugar for several days.

On a good day, I will buy a mini-pizza and bottle of water. On a great day, I will smuggle in mixed nuts and water, but at the risk of being escorted out if someone rats me out.

You can understand why I have trouble keeping my weight down, as well as my blood-sugar levels.

If that was all I ate for the DAY, I might be able to control weight. My health, not so much. But often I go a meal with my friends before or after the movie. You are talking 2,500 to 4,000 calories a day, easily.

On my tombstone, it will probably read “He Ate at the Movies.”

At least the movies sometimes are good.

The Trials & Tribulations of Losing Weight

omkduq9r3zo-olu-eletuI ‘ve been trying to lose weight since kindergarten.

But my dark period began when I was in my 30s and 40s. That is when I ballooned up to 230 pounds, and later to 260 to 280 pounds.

Of course, I stayed 5’5”.

God certainly has a sense of humor.

At one point I was wearing pants with a 52- or 54-inch waist. Not pretty, although I always maintained my adorable good looks. Added fat never changed the color of my beautiful green eyes. They were always green and thin!

My weight got so bad that my Aunt Bea offered to send me to Duke Diet & Fitness Center in North Carolina. This is not to be mistaken for the Duke Rice Diet. She was rightfully afraid that I would soon start having health problems.

I went to the Duke program for a month. I stayed at a nice Sheraton Hotel and every day I would go to the diet center where I took classes on nutrition and exercised daily. Since it was a medically-supervised program, I basically got a physical and they tracked my progress.

It was here that I met people with obesity issues. Of course, I knew heavy people, but at Duke we were fighting the same challenge and we gained insight from one another. Interestingly, although I was heavy, I never thought of myself as fat nor do I ever remember feeling at a disadvantaged. At Duke, I found out that I was lucky.

There, I met Carlos who had a career in banking and was currently looking for a position. He weighed about 330 pounds when he arrived at Duke.

Thirty-plus years later I remember Carlos telling me that one of the first things he looked at when he went for a job interview was the chair. Would he be embarrassed because he would not be able to fit into the office chair? Would the chair break?

It’s tough enough going for a job interview without having this extra pressure because you are obese. Although I never faced this issue in the workplace, I do remember the first time I had to ask for a belt extender for my airplane seat. It was embarrassing.

Both Carlos and I lost a lot of weight in 30 days. He lost more than 30 pounds. Me, 20 pounds. I don’t know how Carlos did afterwards. It was harder to stay in touch with people back then. Long distance calls were expensive. You didn’t have email, cell phones or Facebook.

I hope he kept the weight off and continued losing. When I went home, I lost another 10-20 pounds before I started gaining it all back.

Do you want to know what I learned at Duke and the other weight loss “spas” that I would visit the next several years: I learned you can lose weight easily if you have a professional chef prepare all your meals. I learned that healthy food can be very tasty and filling, especially when you decrease the fat content and remove empty calories from your eating plan. I also learned that it is easy to lose weight when you are living in a stress-free environment.

That last one was probably the key to my weight undoing. Once I would return to work, I would fall back into my old routines, and the fat would come back with even more fatty friends.

Why Are We Looking for the Right Weight-Loss Program?

IMG_1709Americans are constantly looking for the right weight-loss program.

The do it to get ready for bikini season. They do it right after Thanksgiving and Christmas when they gained an extra 10 pounds from the festive meals.

There are many reasons why people look for the right weight-loss program. All very good, unless they are anorexic or bulemic.

But a real good reason to choose the right diet is to learn how to live healthy lifestyle.

Obesity, which is at epidemic levels in the United States, is the cause for many debilitating illnesses.

I know. I’ve been heavy and overweight all my life. That last time I was thin I was about 4 years old. Then one winter I gained weight and it’s been a steady waistline battle ever since.

But I learned early on that if I lost 20 pounds or ate healthy my doctor visits would be less upsetting. My lab tests would see a dramatic plunge to normalcy after losing a few pounds. My blood pressure medications would be cut in half if I kept my weight closer to 200 than 240.

According to the National Heart Lung, and Blood Institute here some health problems that excessive poundage affects:

  • Coronary Heart Disease: The higher your Body Mass Index the higher your risk for coronary heart disease.
  • High Blood Pressure: The more you weigh, the greater likelihood you will have high blood pressure.
  • Stroke: “Being overweight or obese can lead to a buildup of plaque in your arteries. Eventually, an area of plaque can rupture, causing a blood clot to form. If the clot is close to your brain, it can block the flow of blood and oxygen to your brain and cause a stroke. The risk of having a stroke rises as BMI increases.”
  • Type 2 Diabetes: “Diabetes is a leading cause of early death, CHD, stroke, kidney disease, and blindness. Most people who have type 2 diabetes are overweight.”
  • Abnormal Blood Fats: “If you’re overweight or obese, you’re at increased risk of having abnormal levels of blood fats. These include high levels of triglycerides and LDL (“bad”) cholesterol and low levels of HDL (“good”) cholesterol. Abnormal levels of these blood fats are a risk factor for CHD.”
  • Cancer: If you are overweight or obese you have a greater risk for colon, breast, endometrial and gallbladder cancers.
  • Sleep Apnea: “Sleep apnea is a common disorder in which you have one or more pauses in breathing or shallow breaths while you sleep. A person who has sleep apnea may have more fat stored around the neck. This can narrow the airway, making it hard to breathe.”
  • Gallstones: If you are overweight you have a greater chance of having gallstones which can cause stomach or back pain, not to mention the agonizing pain that occurs if you pass a gallstone.

Obesity, which WebMd defines as weighing more than 20 percent of your normal weight for your height, can be deadly, although not everyone who is obese will have all these problems. WebMD points out that the “ risk rises if you have a family history of one of those conditions”.

The list of obesity-weight-related health problems could continue. The problem is that several of the diseases listed above can cause or increase your chances of other diseases. For example, untreated high blood pressure can cause kidney damage and increase your risk for heart attacks and strokes. Type 2 diabetes is a “leading cause of early death, CHD, stroke, kidney disease, and blindness.”

If this doesn’t make you rush to your computer to look up weight-loss programs, I don’t know what will.

There are many different weight-loss programs from which to choose. You need to be careful, however. There are a lot of fad diets out there. Yes, they will work, but some are not healthy and and, once you get off the diet, you will gain all the weight back and then some.

You want a weight-loss program that will be effective and that offers a modified version once you have lost the weight.

There are weight-loss programs that will help you lose weight fast — 20 to 40 pounds in 40 days. The amount of weight you initially lose will also depend on how much you weigh at the start.

A man who weighs 350 pounds who goes on a calorie-restricted program will lose more weight in 30 days than a man who weighs 200 pounds and is on the same calorie-restricted program. It is just a matter of math.

If you consider it takes about 10 calories a pound to maintain your weight, you can see how a heavier person will lose faster than a lighter person. A 350-pound man needs 3,500 calories a day to maintain that weight. If that person goes on a 1,000 calorie-a-day diet they will lose almost a pound a day. A man weighing 200 pounds on the same meal plan would lose about ? of a pound per day.

Whichever weight-loss program you choose, don’t wait until tomorrow. The stroke or heart attack could occur tonight.

For additional resources, check our

Bathroom makeover ideas on a budget

Some rights reserved by Erica NicolNot ready to spend $15,000-$30,000 on a bathroom remodeling makeover?

You don’t have to.

Today, there are many resources online to help you makeover your bathroom makeover on a budget; as well as many way to do it.

Remodeling Magazine offers its cost versus value analysis of an average bathroom makeover which runs about $10,500. Going all in will increase it to about $26,000.

However, with a little ingenuity and hard work, you can get the look of luxury for the price of a cheap movie. OK, not quite.

Heather Levin at Moneycrashers websie offers eight inexpensive bathroom design and remodeling ideas:

  1. Limit Your Tile
  2. Save on Counter Tops
  3. Paint
  4. Update Fixtures
  5. Freshen Caulk and Grout
  6. Redo, Don’t Buy New
  7. Buy Used
  8. Go Green with Upgrades

Briefly, Levin explains how to save money in each area. For example, place tile in “high-impact areas like the floor (instead of the floor and inside the show stall walls).

Another area to save is on the counter tops and Levin offers ways to cut corners if you choose to use granite, but people are being very creative in their approaches to countertops.

“Right now, one of the biggest trends in bathrooms is also one that budget DIYers can pull off with style,” Levin writes. “The trend is using old dressers as sink pedestals. You simply cut out the top of the dresser to accommodate a sink insert, cut into or remove interior drawers as necessary, and cut holes in the back for plumbing. These “dresser sinks” can sell for thousands of dollars in retail stores, but you can easily make your own with a budget dresser, some patience, and the right tools.”

If you choose to paint, which will save you a lot of money, Levin suggests investing “in high quality paint with a satin finish. You may also want to go over the ceiling with a special bathroom paint that helps resist the growth of mold.”

The other areas are more self-explanatory.

WikiHow offers an article about how to remodel your bathroom on a budget:

  • Check the tiles. Fix old, cracked or broken tiles and you will be amazed at the improvement.
  • Repaint the walls. WikiHow also warns about mildew and suggests, if you have a problem, add mildew inhibitor to your paint.
  • Refurbish wood cabinets.  Sand and stain the cabinets and you may think you just bought brand-new cabinets.
  • Refinish the wood trim around the windows and floor. Don’t buy new wood to replace the old. Instead, “Remove the paint with a heat gun, sand the pieces and repaint or apply a varnish. The trim will look new at a fraction of the cost.”
  • Replace your hardware fixtures. Go buy or used or new cabinets, door knobs, towel racks and light fixtures. Check out flea markets, thrift stores and sites online.
  • Buy a do-it-yourself plumbing kit. You can really add a new luxury look by upgrading your shower and tub fixtures. “Changing the taps/faucets, shower head and soap holders can really lift a bathroom.”
  • Use your existing flooring. According to WikiHow, it depends on the type of floor you have. If you have a wooden floor, sand and refurbish in a weekend. “After sanding, apply 2 or 3 thin coats of varnish; your floor will look brand new.” If you have an old linoleum floor, remove it and replace it with vinyl tiles.
  • Accessorize. “Replace all your towels, curtains and rugs. “An assortment of new accessories can uplift the look of your bathroom even if you don’t touch the walls and floor.”

Both articles really don’t mention what to do with your old sink or bathtub other than clean and fix the grout and buy new or used faucet handles or shower heads.

Buying a new bathtub can really cost you thousands of dollars even if you try to replace it yourself. Yes, the tub may cost only $300 at the hardware store, but removing it is a big headache and may add a lot of dollar signs to your remodeling project.

One way to adapt the DIY approach mentioned to certain realities is to hire a bathroom refinishing company. You could try to reglaze the bathtub and sink yourself, but Angie’s List suggests that it would be prudent to hire a professional refinishing company. You won’t want to deal with the noxious fumes and you probably won’t get the tub and sink to look like new.

Total Koatings, a Sarasota-based bathroom refinishing company, can make your tub, sink and tile look brand new at a fraction of the cost of an extreme makeover. And you won’t have your household disrupted for days like you would if you hired a plumbing contractor to do a total renovation project.

“When you refinish your bathtub, sink or tiles, you get a true porcelain finish,” said Jerry Smith, owner of Total Koatings which is celebrating its 10th year serving Sarasota and Bradenton homeowners.

Plus, Smith said Total Koatings uses non-toxic chemicals, offers a 5-year warranty against cracking and peeling and at a fraction of the cost and downtime.”

You have a lot of options to spruce up your bathrooms. Which road will you take?