How I Extended My Driveway – Reader Story

Did you update your bathroom? Revamp your kitchen? Install new flooring? We would love to share your project, big or small! Send us what you did and our editorial team will consider it for our “My Fresh Home” series, which will be published every Thursday. Check out our submission instructions at the bottom of the page.

Today we want to share a story from Freshome reader Nathan, who extended his driveway to better fit two cars:

This is my house on Google images. Look at how the cars are squeezed together… and on the grass. It’s not pretty.

Single driveways can be a real pain when there are multiple drivers in a household. We had this kind of driveway for over three years, and in order to park side-by-side, we had to squeeze our cars in together at the end, on top of grass and tree roots. I tried laying down some gravel, but it wasn’t the solution we needed. All we wanted was to be able to park two cars side by side and keep the street clear of our vehicles – we decided to pull the trigger and extend our driveway.

Step 1: Find Company

The first thing I had to do was figure out what types of companies would do this work. I called a contractor buddy of mine, and he told me that anyone who does cement would likely be able to help with my driveway (and for once, he was right). Then, I did what most people do these days – I went online. I filled out a few leads on sites like HomeAdvisor, but I was never contacted. I was only ever contacted by local businesses, which I found on Google.

Step 2: Get Quotes

The next step was to have the companies come to my house and give me an estimate. Because I work full time, the guys called me during the process, instead of having me physically be there. I explained what I wanted, and they were able to provide quotes. 

I received two quotes – one for $4,500, and one for $5,375. Both were higher than I was looking to pay. Then, while driving home from work soon after, I ended up being behind a truck with a big sign that said “Torres Cement – Driveways, etc., etc.” with a phone number. I thought, “what the heck”, and gave the guy a call. Long story short, they gave me an estimate for $2,500, and we had a deal. 

Step 3: Finalize Plans

These companies are typically booked out pretty far in advance, however, it was the holidays and we weren’t in a rush, so we decided to start the first week of January. But before anything could begin, I had to talk to my neighbor, because he had a tree with roots growing into my yard and under my driveway. In order to extend the driveway, those roots were going to have to go. Thankfully, he wasn’t worried about it, so we had the green light to get started. The grading and other prep work for the driveway extension only took one day.

Roots that came up

After Day 1

When I got home from work that first day, my neighbor, who used to work in grading, was worried that because of how his yard is sloped, we were going to have to put in a retaining wall. The contractor and I tried to convince him that the issue could be resolved with another foot or so of slope, but he was convinced otherwise. 


I made the call (after consulting the boss – my wife) to put in the wall, which cost another $1,000. You can see in the next image what I’m talking about. While I wish I would have known about this before we started, neither of the other quotes had mentioned a wall either, and Cruz, the cement guy, was helpful in figuring out a solution.

We chose grey bricks for the wall. The cement was poured, the wall was constructed, and the project was completed by the end of day two. The only downside was that we couldn’t drive on the new pavement for three days.

All things considered, we’re really happy with how the project turned out. My wife and I can park side by side, and no one has to park in the grass (which often turned to mud) and roots. 

Cars parked easily!

How to Submit User Stories

1: Include “My Fresh Home Project” in the subject line. Then, in the body of the email, please provide an explanation of why you chose to do the project, an outline of steps you took to get it done, and any advice for readers considering similar projects. Make sure to include your name and any before/after images you have! 

2: Email your story to [email protected].

And that’s it! Easy, right? If selected, your story will be shared as an article on Freshome!

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Bathroom Window Buying Guide

clogged toilet

Image: Astronaut Images/Getty Images

Bathroom window buying guide

Changing your bathroom window can help you maximize available light while maintaining privacy. When choosing a bathroom window, you should consider lighting, privacy, and ventilation. A window with the perfect mix of these features can help you create the bathroom of your dreams.

What is a bathroom window?

A bathroom window protects your home from the elements while offering natural light. You should be able to open at least one window in your bathroom to allow for proper ventilation. Opening the window for 15 minutes after showering can decrease the likelihood of your bathroom developing mold or mildew. A good bathroom window also offers privacy.

How to buy the best bathroom windows

Bathroom windows are available in various types, sizes, and prices. Additionally, consider whether you plan to use a window covering, like curtains, or if you prefer the window itself to provide privacy. This guide includes bathroom window privacy ideas to help you choose the best option for your needs.

Types of bathroom windows

There are many types of bathroom windows available. Below are several common choices for homeowners.

Crank windows

This type of window opens and closes using a hand crank. Crank windows come in two styles: casement and awning. Casement windows open to the outside, like a shutter, which can allow rain and snow to get inside. Awning windows open from the bottom and keep out rain and snow, even when open.

Crank windows can accommodate window treatments, including any of your bathroom window curtain ideas.

Hopper windows

Hopper windows open downward. They provide excellent ventilation but allow rain and snow inside the bathroom. These windows are typically placed higher on the wall, so they do not require window treatments.

Textured glass or glass block windows

Textured glass windows provide privacy without any window treatments. Textured glass is available in various textures and patterns, which each offering a unique level of transparency and light filtration. The more difficult the glass is to see through, the less light it allows inside the bathroom. Homeowners who do not like the appearance of window treatments often choose textured glass windows.

Glass block windows comprise stacked bricks made of opaque glass.

Transom windows

A transom window is a single long, skinny window placed high on the wall, often above the shower. This type of accent window provides ample sunlight, and its location encourages privacy.

These decorative windows do not open and provide no ventilation.

Choose the right size

The ideal size of your bathroom window depends on your budget and how much light you want. For example, a wall of windows would cost more than a small transom window above the shower. You may also want to consider your desired level of privacy and whether you plan to use a bathroom window covering.

Compare bathroom window costs

Any simple bathroom window generally costs less than a window with complicated mechanisms. Transom windows are typically the most affordable, followed by sliding windows and hopper windows. Crank windows are usually the most expensive. However, crank windows let out less air than other options and may reduce heating costs.

Read bathroom window reviews

When shopping for a new bathroom window, reading customer reviews can help you make an informed decision. Visit for advice and insights on installing a new bathroom window.


The price of installation is one of the most significant costs of a new bathroom window. Installation costs include labor and supplies, as well as necessary changes to the structure of your home. Installation costs are lowest when replacing a window with one of the same size. However, any necessary adjustments to the window frame or the siding of your house increase the installation cost.

bathroom remodel

Image: ImageFlow/Shutterstock

Bathroom window brands

When choosing a bathroom window, consider various brands and manufacturers. Researching options can help you select a window that seals tightly and is energy efficient. To discover the best replacement window brands of 2019, read reviews at

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Projects You Should Be Completing WHILE You’re Renovating

When you’re renovating your home, you already have a checklist of items to complete. And if you bought a fixer-upper, it’s probably an extensive list. However, there are other tasks that you may not be thinking of right now, but incorporating them during your renovation may save you time, money and heartache down the road.

Here’s a list of tasks worth taking on during your renovation.

Don't give termites a fighting change.

Don’t give termites a fighting chance. Image: Marina Pousheva/Shutterstock

Schedule your termite treatment

If you’re knocking down walls, treat for termites before new drywall goes up, advises Glen Ramsey, Entomologist for Orkin. “Termites can hide within the walls, so once those walls are covered in fresh paint and art, termites are often out of sight and out of mind.”

He also says that choosing the right materials can help to prevent pests. “It’s best to use lumber that is pressure treated or composite, making it resistant to insects and decay.” When selecting siding materials, you should also make sure that what you choose will be durable against pests long-term. “While more expensive upfront, vinyl, stucco or other non-wood materials are the best selections. You should also ensure siding materials don’t extend below grade at installation.”

Reduce the chances of an electrical fire.

Reduce the chances of an electrical fire. Image: Francesmoufotografo/Shutterstock

Upgrade your electrical

If you have an older home, 60 to 100 amp service won’t be sufficient with today’s technology. “Since you are hiring an electrician and pulling permits on your home, now is the best time to upgrade the main service and that old panel,” advises Mark Luongo, Owner and Project Manager at Luongo Electric.

Breakers and panels have a lifespan of approximately 30 years. If your panel is older than that, you should, at the very least, have it assessed by a professional. “Not only will a new panel ensure your home remains safe, but it will give you the extra space you need for all the new circuits you will be required to run for the renovation,” Luongo says.

And while the walls are open, he also recommends replacing as much wiring as possible. “By upgrading the wiring, you ensure there are no nicks or potential short circuits hiding in the walls after you finish the renovation.”

Plan for your electrical needs.

Plan for your electrical needs. Image: Andrew Angelow/Shutterstock

Plan your furniture layout

It might seem like you’re putting the cart before the horse to plan your furniture layout before you even finish your renovation, but it can actually save you some heartache in the future. “You’re setting yourself up for using extension cords by not planning furniture layouts,” warns Josh McCormick, VP of Operations at Mr. Electric.

“Failing to do so may leave you with all your receptacles blocked by bookshelves, sofas or beds,” McCormick says. “In addition, you may end up putting too great a load on one receptacle by using extension cords to get around poorly placed or too few receptacles.” And improper extension cord use can result in both fire and tripping hazards.

Insulation can help you save money on energy costs.

Insulation can help you save money on energy costs. Image: C12/Shutterstock

Check your insulation

“While the home, or parts of it, are opened up, I would highly suggest checking the insulation and adding new insulation as needed,” advises Nathan Outlaw, President of Onvico, a construction company in Thomasville, GA. “Many older homes don’t have adequate insulation and upgrading can help save on future energy costs.”

Luongo agrees and explains that many older homes were framed with 2 x 4 exterior walls – and either were not insulated at all or were insulated poorly. “We recommend, at a minimum, building out your walls to a 6″ depth and replacing the old insulation with new insulation.” Plus, he says new insulation can also absorb sounds and help to stop fire from spreading.

Don't let water damage ruin your new bathroom.

Don’t let water damage ruin your new bathroom. Image: vistastudio/Shutterstock

Upgrade your plumbing pipes and drains

If you’re adding a new bathroom or renovating an existing one, you may be thinking of ways to incorporate the latest trends in bathroom technology.  That’s because your bathroom needs have probably changed. “We want hotter showers for longer, and a bathroom in every bedroom,” Luongo says. “Gone are the days of one toilet and bath for the entire family.”

He recommends upgrading your plumbing to reduce the chances of leaks behind your brand new walls. “Old copper pipes and fittings slowly corrode over the years and become weaker. So it only makes sense to remove all the old piping that you can get to and upgrade it with new water lines.”

In fact, if you see grey plastic piping, Luongo says that’s definitely a sign to redo your plumbing. “This older grey piping is called Polybutylene Pipe (Poly B) and is notorious for causing floods,” he says. “It only has a lifespan of 12 years and starts rapidly deteriorating after that.”

“The Poly B pipe reacts and oxidizes with the chlorine in our water supply, which makes the pipe brittle,” he explains. “Eventually, the pipe fails. At this point, many cracks in the pipe cause large amounts of damage in short periods of time,” Luongo says.

Make sure your subfloor is up to par.

Make sure your subfloor is up to par. Image: VanoVasaio/Shutterstock

Examine your subfloor

If you’re renovating your bathroom, it makes no sense to build on a faulty foundation. “Check the bathroom’s subfloor and, if it’s damaged, go ahead and replace it with a new one,” Outlaw says. “I have seen individuals try to save money by skipping this step. It can often come back to haunt them as they deal with future problems.”

Take advantage of unfinished areas.

Take advantage of unfinished areas. Image: Zakhar Mar/Shutterstock

Add security cameras

If you’re thinking about getting a security system, this may be the time to add it. Outlaw recommends adding cameras and a security system to the outside of the home while the walls are open. “Even a cheap system running on your home wifi can give peace of mind while on vacations or sleeping at night,” he says.

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Don’t Waste Your Money on These Renovation Projects

When you’re thinking of renovating a home, it’s easy to go overboard and perhaps waste your money on projects that don’t have a significant return on investment. Aside from the ROI factor, some partial renovations may actually leave your home in worse shape. This is a particular concern when you buy an older home. Knowing where to draw the line with a fixer-upper can be a battle between your budget and your heartstrings.

Whether you have an older home or a relatively new house that you want to change, sometimes you need to reconsider some of your reno ideas. Below are a few examples that could waste your money.

<img width="550" class="wp-image-319479 size-full" src="" alt=""

Knocking down walls to create open floor plans

Open floor plans are all the rage and they can make an area look a lot larger. “However, there are consequences to knocking down walls that homeowners don’t always realize,” says Eamon Lynch, Director of Warranty Services at Power Home Remodeling in Philadelphia, PA.

Obviously, taking down a load-bearing wall is problematic. But even if the wall isn’t load bearing, Lynch believes that you should leave it alone. “The structure of the house was designed with that wall in place for a reason,” he explains. “Over time, the absent wall will have an effect on the structural integrity of your home, and this includes sagging external walls.”

Layer clothes - but not your roof.

Layer clothes — but not your roofing materials. Image: karamysh/Shutterstock

Installing a new roof without removing the existing layer

Because a new roof is so expensive, you may be tempted to do the bare minimum. But this strategy might come back to haunt you. “If you’re dealing with mold-like growth or a leaking roof, this means it’s time to replace the roof,” Lynch says. His company replaces thousands of roofs across the country each year and often finds that customers make the same mistake. “They tried to save time on roof renovations by installing new layers over an existing layer of shingles,” Lynch says. In the short term, this seems like a time-efficient and cost-effective choice. But when you layer your roof, it can lead to major problems in the future.

“If you don’t remove the original layer of shingles on your roof, you can’t see what problems may exist underneath, like soft spots on wood or separation,” he explains. Also, when you don’t remove the entire roof, he says you can’t replace or install flashing, pipe collars and drip edges. “These components are essential for keeping out rain and snow by serving as transitions at roof-wall intersections, chimneys and around pipes and vents.”

Another problem with layering: you can’t install proper ventilation. If you add new layers on top of old layers, you’re restricting airflow and your attic can’t breathe. “You’re trapping moisture and adding weight to the top of your house, which was designed to only support one roof, not multiple roofs.”

Don't go overboard renovating your kitchen.

Don’t go overboard renovating your kitchen. Image: Artazum/Shutterstock

Major kitchen renovations

Any type of kitchen renovation is likely to be expensive, complicated and long. A major kitchen renovation multiplies all of these factors. But what’s your rationale for a major reno? “Think about the intention of the kitchen,” Lynch says. “For example, is cooking a big hobby of yours? Will the kitchen be primarily used for entertaining?”

Stop to objectively evaluate how the kitchen will be used. Then, Lynch says you can plan the most effective reno that will deliver a suitable ROI. “And if your main purpose for the renovation is to increase resale value, remember that a major kitchen renovation doesn’t increase curb appeal, which is the first factor that home buyers consider when they’re beginning the process,” he says. “Keep in mind that what you think will be ideal won’t necessarily be ideal to a potential buyer.”

A skylight could lead to problems.

A skylight could lead to problems. Image:

Adding windows to your home

Natural light is a very appealing quality in a home. However, Lynch advises against adding skylights to your exterior. “If your home doesn’t have a window or other type of opening, don’t put one in,” he says. “Creating a fenestration, an opening like a window or door, that wasn’t originally built into the building’s exterior can cause a range of new issues,” he says. These problems include loss of energy efficiency and increasing your chances of developing leaks.

Personal taste varies by buyer.

Personal taste varies by buyer. Image: Studiovin/Shutterstock

Prioritizing vanity over value

It’s natural for homeowners to want to feel a sense of pride regarding their homes. “But oftentimes, homeowners fall into the trap of renovating for aesthetics. They neglect to address the less sexy renovation projects that are essential to the structure and quality of the building,” Lynch says. It may be more fun to renovate the master bedroom or add a sunroom. But Lynch says the greater ROI lies in fundamental renovations like siding replacement and roof repair. Especially now that savvy buyers don’t focus on cosmetic features.

And even though curb appeal is important to buyers, it’s also possible to go overboard in this area. “If your front yard is dead, water and fertilize it until it’s green,” advises Robert Taylor, Owner of The Real Estate Solutions Guy.  He warns against spending thousands of dollars on sod and fresh plants. “The more expensive your renovation, the more likely you’re doing it to please your own personal tastes, instead of potential buyers.”

In fact, years ago, when Taylor first started rehabbing houses, he drove by an old property that he spent a considerable amount of money on, trying to restore the destroyed lawn. “I was shocked to see that the new buyers had torn out the lawn and poured a concrete slab over it,” he says. Since then, he’s seen others yards in which buyers have ripped up the existing landscape to create something to suit their own tastes. “It just goes to show that you have to leave what you personally like out of the decision process,” Taylor says.

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Should You Rebuild After a Tornado?

The U.S. has more tornadoes than any other country in the world. According to the NOAA’s Storm Prediction Center, there were 555 preliminary tornado reports just in the month of May. (Note: it takes several months to confirm preliminary tornadoes.) These storms have the potential to rip off roofs and doors, shatter windows, fell trees, and cause significant structural damage – including flattening a building. If a tornado damages your home, should you rebuild or move to another area?

There are several factors that could affect your decision.

You can also make upgrades while making repairs.

You can also make upgrades while making repairs. Image: Franck Boston/Shutterstock

Level of damage

Sometimes, homes are completely destroyed and must be rebuilt from the ground up. “However, in many cases, the entire structure does not need to be rebuilt,” says Andy Lindus, COO at Lindus Construction in Baldwin WI. “Depending on the quality of the home build and the material used, it is frequent to find that homes are primarily in need of the replacement of exterior features.”

Lindus defines these as repairs to the roof, gutters, windows, and decks. “At times, interior drywall repair may be necessary due to impact from large debris hitting a home during a tornado.”

His company has been in western Wisconsin and Minneapolis/St Paul for 40 years, and Lindus says most homeowners who experience tornado damage opt to make home repairs and continue living in the same space.  “In many cases, homeowners use a severe storm as an opportunity to make additional upgrades to their home that they had been contemplating, but had not yet opted to do.”

To accurately determine how much damage the house as sustained, Robert Himmaugh, manager at Acadian Windows and Siding, in Kenner, LA,  recommends having a registered design engineer assess the damage to see whether it can be rebuilt or if it’s better to move on.

If it can be rebuilt, the next step involves your insurance.

Your home may be uninhabitable.

Your home may be uninhabitable for a while. Image: J Bicking/Shutterstock


Your insurance coverage may play a significant role in whether you rebuild or move on. Heather Sims at Ebby Halliday Realtors in Dallas TX, helps buyers purchase fixer-uppers, and she says there are 2 essential insurance questions that need to be answered. “Do you have enough insurance to rebuild your home to the standard that you would want? If this answer is yes, then you have the financial freedom to make decisions without too much financial concern.” In this scenario, Sims agrees with Himmaugh that you could rebuild the home and make it even better than before.

However, if you don’t have enough insurance to rebuild to the pre-tornado level, Sims has another question. “Do you have enough insurance to sell the remainder of the property, take the insurance money, and then rebuild or buy a home elsewhere with those combined funds?” Again, if the answer if ‘yes,’ she says you have more freedom to decide. But if the answer is ‘no,’ Sims says rebuilding is probably your best choice. Keep in mind that unlike buying a fixer-upper, you won’t be fixing the home at your own pace. You’ll need to get it to a livable status in a short period of time.

Not all storms are covered by insurance.

Not all storms are covered by insurance. Image: Terry Alexander/Shutterstock

Coverage and cash settlements

According to Stefan Tirschler, Product + Underwriting Manager at Square One Insurance Services, in Vancouver BC, which specializes in home and renters insurance in Canada and the U.S., you should always select a limit of coverage that will be sufficient to cover the cost of rebuilding your home after a total loss.

“Most homeowner’s insurance policies cover damage caused by wind. However, most home insurance policies don’t include coverage for inland or coastal flooding,” Tirschler explains. “If you live in a region where flooding may occur, it’s important to purchase a flood insurance policy.”

Your mortgage payments are still due after a tornado.

Your mortgage payments are still due after a tornado. Image: Brian A Jackson/Shutterstock

Also, if you’re considering accepting a cash settlement from your insurance provider, Tirschler says it’s important to carefully consider how much you’ll receive. “If you choose to ‘cash out’ instead of rebuilding the home, many home insurance providers will offer a settlement equivalent to the value of your home less depreciation, which can vary significantly depending on the age and condition of your home.” As a result, he says you might receive far less in a cash settlement than you would if you rebuilt the home instead.

And here’s something else to consider: “The mortgage company doesn’t absolve you from the debt because the home is destroyed,” warns Christi Houser, agency manager with Country Financial in Clackamas, OR. “You will need to continue to pay your mortgage even if your home is uninhabitable.” Fortunately most policies include a benefit for additional living expenses, and Houser says this will cover the cost of a place to live while your home is being repaired or rebuilt.

“This coverage generally includes the extra cost of other living expenses -such as eating out at restaurants or having laundry done – that you would not have incurred had you not had the covered loss. Insurance is designed to make you whole again,” Houser says.

Don’t make rash decisions.

Don’t make rash decisions. Image: Vizual Studio/Shutterstock

Emotional considerations

But level of damage and insurance aren’t the only factors that Sims believes you should consider. There are also emotional considerations. “Do you have time to avoid making a quick decision? This would be the case if you have insurance that provides money for you to rent a living space somewhere while you decide what to do.” Your house is a safe haven, and when it’s been damaged in a storm, you need time to absorb that emotional impact. Sims says this is an important step before making a final decision regarding rebuilding or walking away.

“What do you want in your core?” Sims says this is what she also asks buyers when they walk into a home.  “If it’s ‘the one’ for you, there will be an immediate gut feeling and sense of belonging.  “Will you be able to feel safe, secure, and ultimately happy in the same location and home, or is it best for your emotional health to walk away and make your home in another space that doesn’t have any sort of negative feelings attached to it?”

Understand all of the costs. Image: Vizual Studio/Shutterstock

Understand all of the costs. Image: Vizual Studio/Shutterstock

Next steps

If you decide to rebuild, and you’ve received estimates from your insurance company, Himmaugh says there are other steps you also need to take. For example, building code upgrades should be reviewed. “Don’t go into a project blindly and expect to stay in your budget. Talk with your local building department, and contractors so you can properly plan before you consider rebuilding.”

The right contractor makes all the difference.

The right contractor makes all the difference. Image: Pu kibin/Shutterstock

Choosing a contractor

“It’s important that you choose a contractor you trust because when rebuilding your home, you, the contractor, and the insurance company will all have to work together,” Himmaugh says.

“The cost of building materials can become expensive, so you’ll want to talk with both your contractor and insurance company to see what will be covered in your policy.” For example, if your roof has completely caved in, he says the amount of money you’ll need to fix it often isn’t worth the amount you’ll get in coverage.  “Talk to your contractor and assess the damages to see if you can save more money by moving on to a new home.”

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Which DIY Projects are Most Likely to Go Over Budget and Why?

While homeowners typically take on DIY projects to save money, it turns out that many of them are breaking their fixer-upper budgets and spending much more than they planned, according to a recent survey by Porch. While 5% of homeowners finished their fixer-upper projects under budget, and 52% finished on budget, 44% went over budget.  And the homeowners who went over budget, spent, on average, 38% more than planned.

“One of the most common issues that can affect all of these projects is not understanding what your budget really is before you begin,” says Mick Lynch, Senior Vice President of Installations at Power Home Remodeling in Chester, PA. “It’s so important to set a proper budget and identify what you really need and how much those items actually cost before you start your work.”

In addition to having an unrealistic budget, sometimes, unexpected problems occur. The highest percentage of survey respondents named these as the projects in which they went over budget.

New HVAC: 54%

There’s no one-size-fits-all HVAC. Image: John Royal/Shutterstock

There’s no one-size-fits-all HVAC. Image: John Royal/Shutterstock

The size of your house plays a role in the cost of installing a new HVAC. Homeowners often underestimate how many BTUs they’ll need to cool the house. Ductwork is another area that can increase costs. Yet another factor is the type of HVAC that’s installed. Some brands are (relatively) inexpensive, while other brands cost significantly more. In addition, installation costs vary by company. That’s why your HVAC budget shouldn’t be based on how much a co-worker or family friend paid for their system.

However, Nathan Outlaw, President of Onvico, a construction company in Thomasville, GA, says it’s quite possible to stay under budget. “You need to find a good company, get a firm proposal, and use a contract,” Outlaw advises.

Plumbing: 52%

Plumbing components often need to be replaced. Image:

Plumbing components often need to be replaced. Image: OlegDoroshin Shutterstock

 “Plumbing can go over budget during repairs or remodels when issues with existing lines are found.  Sometimes old pipes start falling apart or can’t be used anymore and need to be replaced,” says Outlaw.

Homeowners might encounter another problem when they decide to move plumbing components around. For example, Audrey Monell, President of Forrest Anderson Plumbing and AC in Phoenix, AZ, believes that you should think carefully before moving your shower. “While it will improve the overall appearance and layout of the bathroom, it will create more work and expense,” she warns. “That is because you have to move the shower drain as well, which can become a major plumbing project. If the drain is incorrectly installed or sealed, you run the risk of allowing sewer gases into your home – a serious health hazard.” Even if you’re only moving it a short distance, Monell says you will probably need to have new pipes installed or you might have serious water damage down the road.

Basement: 52%

Basements are often dark and cold.

Basements are often dark and cold. Image: David Papa/Shutterstock

If you’re thinking about transforming your basement, you need to be clear on the goal of the space “If you’re remodeling it to be a fun space to hang out, that’s one project. But if you’re trying to create a entertainment lounge with a home theatre, that’s a completely different project which will require a different scope of work, and drastically increase your budget,” Lynch says.

Also, sometimes, homeowners don’t consider that the basement will need to be heated. “Physically heating a cool basement is a bigger task, as it usually requires infrastructure improvements to be made to the space, including the addition of ductwork or a heat source,” according to Marla Mock, VP of Operations at Air Serv Heating & Air Conditioning. She says you may need additional heat vents, a heated floor, or a basement-specific heating option. “But be advised that an electric space heater is not an ideal everyday solution.” Mock explains.

Bathrooms: 51%

Trendy bathrooms can bust your budget.

Trendy bathrooms can bust your budget. Image Flow/Shutterstock

“Bathrooms can frequently be affected by the ‘Pinterest Diet,’ in which homeowners begin shopping around and decide they must have what they see on imageboards,” Outlaw says. “This can turn stock vanities into custom built pieces, simple tile into intricate designs, and solid walls into glass.”

Lynch agrees, and says his customers get really excited when picking out items for the bathroom. “It’s fun for them to do a brief walkthrough in a home improvement store and establish their budgets based on the products they see in the store.” But then, he says they go home, do more research, and decide to start swapping out light fixtures, sinks, etc.  “Now, they find their overall total has skyrocketed, but at this point they’ve become attached to those new features and are now committed to them.”

New Appliances: 51%

High-end appliances have end-end prices.

High-end appliances have end-end prices. Image: Breadmaker/Shutterstock

The 2019 kitchen design trends can can provide inspiration – but sometimes, they also temp homeowners to spend more than they should. “Appliances generally go over budget when a homeowner goes shopping and decides they need the latest and greatest features – like maybe sending a tweet from the fridge,” Outlaw explains.

Another problem can occur when homeowners try to save money by shopping online for their own appliances. “If the appliances end up not working in the space, that’s wasted money,” warns Larry Greene, President of Case Design/Remodeling in Carmel, IN.  “It could be helpful to clue in a remodeling firm for this step, as they’ll have helpful connections with local suppliers, saving you money on shipping and time if returns or exchanges need to be made.” In addition, Greene says a professional would be aware of common sizing mistakes and able to assist homeowners in comparing materials. 

Roof: 50%

Your roof could be hiding numerous problems.

Your roof could be hiding numerous problems. Image: Karamysh/Shutterstock

It’s hard to guess what’s hiding under your roof, and Outlaw says that’s why roofing projects tend to go over budget. “If water has been leaking through, there could be a lot of plywood to replace. Improperly installed crickets can lead to water getting behind chimneys. Roofs become expensive when they become framing jobs,” he says.

Also, this is another case in which DIY efforts may be counterproductive. “Last year, we completed nearly 18,000 roofing installations, and I found time after time that homeowners first tried to complete the job themselves,” Lynch says. “But they quickly realized that they didn’t have the knowledge — or the proper tools — to finish the job, and needed to bring in professional reinforcement.”

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Contractor Fraud Expert Warns of 7 Home Improvement Scams to Avoid

When you’re planning a home improvement project, it’s wise to comparison shop for materials and labor. However, the zeal to save money can also lead you to work with unscrupulous contractors eager to take your money and run. How do you avoid home improvement scams?

Most homeowners believe that they are too savvy to be ripped off by con artists. However, Jody Costello, home renovation planning and contractor fraud expert and the founder of the Contractors From Hell website, tells Freshome that she hears horror stories on a routine basis.

Costello shares seven of these home improvement scams — and tips for avoiding them.

Legit contractors don't have time to go door to door. I

Legit contractors don’t have time to go door to door. Image: Alexander Ruiz-Avevedo/Shutterstock.

#1: Door-to-door solicitors

In door-to-door solicitations, a contractor (who may or may not be licensed) tells the homeowner he’s doing work in the neighborhood. “This individual says that he can see they need work on their deck, roof, siding or whatever they claim to see. He happens to have materials left over from another job and can do it for substantially less,” Costello says. She adds that these individuals are likely to happily take your money. Then, they’ll either perform substandard work or, worse, you might never see them again.

Unfortunately, these scams are most commonly perpetrated against the elderly. That’s because they’re more likely to be trusting and in need of help with home repairs. These scams are also popular after major storms, as people are deciding if they should rebuild after a hurricane or tornado. Also, if you’ve decided to buy a fixer-upper, it may be obvious that your house needs work.

Tip: “Don’t do business with solicitors looking to make a fast buck with their stories of working in the ‘hood,” Costello warns.

Don't pay more than 30% in advance.

Don’t pay more than 30% in advance. Image: Jakkapant Turasen/Shutterstock

#2: Front loading contracts

In front-loading, the contractor requires a large amount of money upfront before starting on your project. “Every state has different laws regarding down payments, but it is usually between 10% and 30%,” Costello says. And she advises that you never want to turn over more than 30% to start a project. “You put yourself at a disadvantage when handing over large amounts as you have no work performed to show for it. The contractor drags his feet getting started on your project or, worse, never shows up.”

And here’s something else to think about. “When they ask for a large deposit up front, they’re likely behind on another project where part of your money will be used,” Costello says. Obviously, that’s illegal, but she warns that it happens a lot more than you might imagine.

Tip: “Research your state’s contractor laws and down payment requirements,” Costello advises.

Rushing to save can backfire. Image: ADragan/Shutterstock

#3: Sign now and you’ll get a discount

Be wary of limited-time offers. “The contractor pressures you into signing a contract today, and you’ll get a discount for doing so — but only if you sign today,” Costello says.

Tip: “Never allow yourself to be pressured into signing any contract, period,” she warns. “No good ever comes from it.”

Your contract is legal and binding, so read it carefully.

Your contract is legal and binding, so read it carefully. Image: Serthayos sansuwansri/Shutterstock

#4: Low bids and written agreements with vague language and little detail

You should also be wary of low bids and quick assessments. In some scenarios, the contractor bidding on your project will leave off some of the details, knowing that many homeowners focus on the end cost. Pay attention to materials, supplies, construction equipment and subcontractors. “Once the project begins, you realize that some things are not being performed. You confront the contractor, who points to the written agreement you signed which doesn’t include those items. But, of course, it can be added for additional monies,” Costello explains.

“In another scenario, the contractor visits your potential renovation project, quickly assesses it and writes down the bid on the back of a business card or a sheet of paper,” Costello adds. However, your project is too important to let someone set a price based on some scribbled notes. “And you can bet that the costs to do your project will escalate quickly.”

Tip: “Make sure the bids are detailed and include everything that is included in your plans and scope of work,” Costello says. “To this same point, the final written agreement must be detailed and include everything that is in your plans and specs.”

It's not your job to pull permits.

It’s not your job to pull permits. Image: iConcept/Shutterstock

#5:  The homeowner needs to pull the permits

If you’re asked to pull the permits, consider this a red flag. Contractors may tell homeowners that they can save money by pulling the permits, but Costello says that’s not true. “It’s usually because they’re unlicensed or their license is revoked,” she explains.

And there are several reasons why you should not pull the permits. “You want the contractor to pull permits because whoever does is fully responsible for the project and any failures and inspections,” Costello says. And this includes a laundry list of associated responsibilities. “They include obtaining insurance, workers’ comp, employee wages and potentially having to register as an employer with state and federal agencies and pay additional taxes.”

Tip: “Don’t pull the permits yourself,” Costello warns. “Always place that responsibility on the contractor, since ethical contractors will not ask the client to do this.”

A contractor without a license is a giant red flag.

A contractor without a license is a giant red flag. Image dimdimphoto/Shutterstock

#6: The contractor uses someone else’s license

If the contractor doesn’t have a license, that’s another red flag. “It could be that his license has been revoked and he can’t get another license. So he uses a buddy’s license or gets a family member to apply for one and operates under that license.”

In a second scenario, the contractor uses a license number he got from the state Contractors Board. The trouble is that it’s no longer active. He’s counting on homeowners failing to check the license. “If they do, the guy comes up with a crazy story as to why his name isn’t on it,” Costello says. “I have heard this many times from consumers when troubles begin. They start doing some research on the guy and the truth is revealed.”

Tip: “Check the license number to ensure that it is valid and belongs to the contractor you’re working with,” Costello says.

Don't be a cash cow for your contractor.

Don’t be a cash cow for your contractor. Image: Nadya Lukic/Shutterstock

#7: The contractor asks for more money to continue the project

It’s not uncommon for projects to go over budget. But pay close attention to contractors asking for more money than is agreed to in the contract part way through the project. “It’s possible that the contractor has mismanaged the money given for your project or is behind on paying his subs or purchasing materials,” Costello says. “The contractor then comes up with some excuse for needing more.”

She warns against falling for this ploy. Costello says the contractor will continue to come back for more if you take the bait.“Many consumers share stories of handing over money repeatedly. Some of them want to get the project done and want to get the guy out of their hair,” Costello says. “Others are simply intimidated and some have been threatened with liens filed against their property.”

Tip: “Stipulate in your written agreements that any ‘extra money’ for extra work will only be considered in the form of a Change Order. In a Change Order, both parties agree to the work and sign the agreement. Then, it’s added to the overall cost of the project before anything is done.”

If this stipulation is in your agreement, Costello says the contractors cannot legally put a lien on your property. Plus, this clause will scare off unethical contractors.

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5 Ways to Fix Temperature Variations In Your Home and Save Energy

Is there a spot in your home that’s always hotter or colder than the rest? It’s more common than you think. Fix temperature variations right away and you’ll extend the life of your HVAC system and save on your home energy bills.

When a room’s temperature varies, your HVAC system has to adjust to regulate for the change in temperature. This means your HVAC system may be working harder than needed.

Why are some rooms warmer or colder than others?

Before you can fix temperature variations, it’s a good idea to understand why they happen. There are lots of factors that can contribute to a hot spot or cold, drafty room in your house, but the most common are the following:

  • Poor insulation can let more outside air in, causing the room to feel colder or warmer
  • The orientation of the room may mean more hot sun comes in or a lack of sunshine
  • If the room is furthest out on the HVAC air duct’s line, it may not cool or heat efficiently

Fixing the temperature variations in your house allows your HVAC to work less, which will save you money on your cooling and heating bills. Here’s how you can fix temperature variations in your home so your HVAC system works more efficiently.

how to fix temperature variations in a room

Caulk gaps and drafty spots around windows and doors. Image: veryulissa/Shutterstock

1. Seal Windows and Doors

The weatherstripping on windows and doors deteriorates over time, letting cold or hot air in. Caulk all gaps and replace worn out weatherstripping to better balance the temperature in your home.

HVAC drafts

Layers of fabrics and textiles can warm up a cold, drafty space. Image:

2. Add Window Drapes, Shutters Or Blinds

Sunny rooms tend to feel warmer than rooms that are dark. If you have a room where the window receives a lot of sun in the summer or feels very cold to the touch in the winter, invest in a heavy black-out or insulating set of curtains or drapes. Window shutters or blinds are also a good insulating option to keep the ambient temperature of the room comfortable.

Open the shades or blinds during the winter so the sun’s warmth enters. And in the summer, keep blinds closed to maintain a cooler room.

HVAC thermostats to fix temperature variations and drafty rooms

A programmable thermostat can keep the room at a comfortable level automatically. Image courtesy of Trane.

3. Add A Programmable Thermostat Strategically

Once you address insulation and manage to balance the temperature extremes, install a programmable thermostat. The key is the location of the thermostat. Place it in or near the room you use most so the temperature level is most comfortable where you spend the most time.

Smart thermostats like Trane’s ComfortLink II XL850 can be programmed remotely from your smartphone so your home’s temperature is perfect before you arrive.

cold drafty rooms and how to fix them

A zoning system means each room can have its own temperature setting. Image courtesy of Trane.

4. Install An HVAC Zoning System

If one temperature for the entire home isn’t realistic, consider adding an HVAC zoning system. A zoning system allows you to set unique temperatures in different rooms or zones in your home.

how to fix drafty rooms

A ceiling fan can circulate air to keep the room’s temperature more comfortable. Image: JR-stock/Shutterstock

5. Add a Ceiling Fan

A ceiling fan is a low-energy way to circulate the air in a room. Most fans have a small button at the base of the motor that allows you to switch the direction the fan spins. This little trick can make a huge difference in the temperature of your room.

In the winter, set your fan to rotate clockwise on low to pull cold air up and away. Doing so pushes the warm air that has risen to the ceiling back down, warming the room. Do the opposite in the summer, setting the fan to spin counter-clockwise, to cool your room.

Still have questions? Talk to an expert

Making your home comfortable and energy-efficient is the smart way to live. Plus, think of all the design projects you can take on with the monthly savings. Talk to a local HVAC professional to see what you can do for your home.

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Hidden Fire Dangers in Your Home

In the U.S., fire departments respond to one fire every 88 seconds, according to the National Fire Protection Association. Cooking is the most common cause of home fires and smoking is the leading cause of home fire deaths. But there are many other ways that you could inadvertently start a fire. These are some of the hidden fire sources in your home.


Don’t store batteries near metal. Image: Mariva2017/Shutterstock


All batteries pose a fire risk, even those with a weak charge, according to Craig Gjelsten, VP of Operations at Rainbow International, which restores damage caused by fire, water and mold. Gjelsten says that 9-volt batteries are the biggest fire culprit. Since their terminals are in close proximity, they can easily short. “I recommend a battery storage case or just leave batteries in their original packaging instead of lying around loose.”

Gjelsten also recommends storing batteries standing upright and placing electrical tape over the ends of each battery — regardless of the battery type. Other tips include not storing batteries in metal containers or placing them near keys, steel wool or other metal objects. “Also, be sure to store 9-volt batteries separately,” Gjelsten says.


Check for dust bunnies around sockets. Image: NothingisEverything/Shutterstock

Damaged electrical equipment and dust bunnies

If your electrical equipment is damaged, it can easily overheat and result in a fire, according to Tom Wallace, a Certified Master Inspector at Home Check Inspections in Riverview, FL. “It is important to regularly inspect the electrical equipment in your home for damaged or frayed cords and plugs,” Wallace advises.

You may be thinking that you’d know if you had damaged or frayed cords and plugs. But that’s not necessarily the case. “Power or extension cords hidden behind a bed or table that are repeatedly knocked against can become worn out,” explains Bill Timmons, Marketing Manager of Residential Products at Legrand. He also warns against walking over cords — for example, under carpets or on your hardwood floors — since this can also result in damage.

And don’t forget the dreaded dust bunnies. When they form around electronics, sockets and heaters, Gjelsten says they can ignite and start a fire. “Regularly vacuum dust near outlets, wires and appliances, including crevices and areas behind furniture,” he says.

coffee maker

Turn off your coffee maker when it’s not being used. Image: John Kasawa/Shutterstock

Coffee makers

“Your coffee pot could overheat and start a fire,” says Battalion Chief Raymond Williams of the Birmingham Fire and Rescue Service Department in Birmingham, AL. He says coffee pots with plastic components can get too hot if you forget to turn them off. Although most coffee pots with digital clocks have an automatic two-hour shut off, that’s still plenty of time for them to overheat. Also, several years ago, Kenmore recalled 145,000 coffee makers due to faulty wiring. So, to be on the safe side, don’t leave your coffee maker unattended and manually turn it off when you’re not using it.

flammable liquids

Use care with flammable liquids. Image: Elder von Rabenstein/Shutterstock

Flammable liquids

It’s probably no surprise that gasoline or kerosene can inadvertently start a fire. “These flammable items should be stored away from heat sources in appropriate containers,“ says Wallace. “The containers should be labeled and easily identifiable.”

However, there are other flammable liquids that can also start a fire. For example, a woman in Texas opened a bottle of nail polish remover and left it near a candle in an unventilated room. The bottle ignited and she suffered third-degree burns.

soft surface

Keep laptops off of soft surfaces. Image: Twin Design/Shutterstock


If you’ve ever held your laptop in your lap for an extended period of time, you know it can get very hot. However, you might not have known that it can actually catch on fire. “Laptops can get pretty hot during normal operation. When placed on a blanket or similar surface, the batteries can overheat and cause a house fire,” Gjelsten says. He warns against leaving your laptop on any type of soft surface. If you don’t have a home office or desk, consider using a laptop stand.

lilght fixture

Use the proper wattage for your light fixture. Image: Darin Echelberger/Shutterstock

Light bulbs

Are you familiar with the term “overlamping”? It occurs when the light bulb wattage is too high for the lamp, and Gjelsten warns that overlamping can start a home fire. For example, if you use a 75-watt bulb in a 40-watt lamp, you’re overlamping.

“If the fixture is unmarked, stay under 60 watts to be safe,” Gjelsten says. He also advises caution with compact fluorescent lights (CFLs). “Avoid using CFLs when the base of the bulb is enclosed by the fixture, such as with track and recessed lighting,” he says. “If your CFLs are burning out early and they’re brown at the base when removed, the bulbs are overheating.” Gjelsten recommends a cooler option, like LED.

dryer maintenance

Perform preventive maintenance on your dryer. Image: Good moments/Shutterstock

Dryer vents

While you’re sprucing up your laundry room, don’t forget to clean your dryer vent on a regular basis. You should empty the dryer lint screen before every load, according to Dave Lavalle, Founder of Dryer Vent Wizard. “While the dryer vent and duct system carries the air and lint outdoors, some of it gets trapped in the lint screen,” he explains. And since lint is very combustible, he says the screen should be emptied before every load. “Also, on a quarterly basis, clean the lint screen in soapy water,” he adds. That’s because detergent, fabric softener and other materials can build up and create a transparent film.

In addition, you need to check the vent cover on the home’s exterior to ensure that there’s no mulch or bird/rodent nesting materials. “Lastly, check the flexible tube-shaped transition duct that connects the dryer and the duct,” Lavelle says. Every other month, he recommends checking behind the dryer to ensure the transition duct hasn’t been crushed or broken.

paper pile

Don’t let paper pile up. Image: Nongnuch L/Shutterstock

Other hidden fire sources

Gjelsten also warns that if you leave stacks of newspapers and magazines too close to a heat source, they can ignite. “And if you use heating blankets and pads, do not place the cord between the mattress and box spring,” he adds. Gjelsten also advises against using these heating items on anything but the lowest setting.

“Also, throwing that unused bag of charcoal in the closest storage closet is never a good idea.” He says that damp coal can ignite and start a serious fire. Instead, Gjelsten recommends storing the bag in a metal pail or garbage can with a tightly closed lid.

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HomeAdvisor’s 2019 Report Reveals Popular Spending Trends

The new State of Home Spending report by HomeAdvisor provides a treasure trove of information regarding the habits and behaviors of homeowners relating to home improvement spending, home maintenance spending, and home emergency spending.

Misha Fisher, Chief Economist for ANGI Homeservices (which owns HomeAdvisor), provides insight on the report.

Improving and remodeling are more popular than upkeep projects for homeowners.

Improving and remodeling are more popular than upkeep projects. Image: Breadmaker/Shutterstock

Homeowners spend more on home improvement than home maintenance

When taking out their wallets, homeowners are more likely to spend money to improve their space, rather than tackle a maintenance project. “For every dollar they spend on home maintenance, homeowners spend an average of five dollars on home improvement projects,” Fisher says.

In 2018, homeowners spent an average of $7,560 on home improvement projects. “They spent an average of $1,105 on home maintenance projects, and $416 on home emergency projects,” according to Fisher.

Some states spend significantly more on projects.

Some states spend significantly more on projects. Image: Breadmaker/Shutterstock

States spending the most and least on home improvement

Residents in Massachusetts, Hawaii, Rhode Island and Maryland are among the states that spend the most on home improvement projects. “On the other hand, West Virginia, Wyoming, New Mexico, South Dakota, and Maine are some of the states that spend the least amount on home improvement,” Fisher says.

Home improvement spending is up by 17.5% from 2018. Fisher attributes some of this to an increase in consumer wages, and a cultural focus on design aesthetics. “Also, the cost of skilled tradespeople is rising, and there are better (but more expensive) home improvement tools,” he says.

Everyone wants a renovated bathroom.

Everyone wants a renovated bathroom. Image: plusONE/Shutterstock

What are homeowners improving?

Rooms are the most popular home improvement choice. “Among these remodeling projects, bathrooms remain the overwhelmingly popular choice across all generations, likely in part because of their comparatively cheaper cost relative to kitchens,” according to Fisher.  Many homeowners are incorporating 2019 bathroom technology trends. “A bathroom renovation usually costs $10,352, and most homeowners spend between $5,957 and $14,832.” While a small or medium-sized bathroom ranges between $3,500 and $7,000, he says that a master or large bathroom could cost more than $13,000 to remodel.

Besides remodeling rooms, other popular projects include installing new appliances, replacing the roof, and refinishing hardwood floors.

Replacing windows can increase energy efficiency. Image: onzon/Shutterstock

Replacing windows can increase energy efficiency. Image: onzon/Shutterstock

Motivation to complete projects

Among generations, millennials are more likely to complete a home project to increase the home’s resale value. “Also, while baby boomers and Gen X are more likely to want to ‘modernize” their homes, millennials and the Silent Generation say they want to improve aesthetics and design,” Fisher explains.

When homeowners turn their attention to fixing parts of the home, they’re replacing or repairing areas that are damaged, decaying, or defective. Fisher says they’re most likely to focus on the following projects: a new roof, a new HVAC, new fencing, building a deck, new gutters, replacing windows, and new siding.

Roof repair is one common emergency home project.

Roof repair is one common emergency home project. Image: Radovan1/Shutterstock

Emergency home projects

One out of every five homeowners reported the need to complete an emergency home project. Examples of home emergency projects include fixing hail damage to the roof or replacing a failing hot water heater. “Homeowners who live in areas prone to extreme weather events spend the most money on emergency projects,” Fisher says. Texas, Alabama, Georgia, and Louisiana lead in this area, as a result of tropical storms, thunderstorms, flooding and hail.

However, you might be surprised to find out that an older home doesn’t necessary mean you’ll spend more in the event of an emergency. “The owners of a 100-year-old home spend an average of $370 less on emergency home repairs than the owner of a brand-new home,” Fisher says.

Millennials and more likely to conduct research via the internet.

Millennials and more likely to conduct research via the internet. Image: one photo/Shutterstock

How homeowners research costs

When researching home improvement costs, there are stark generational differences. For example:

  • Millennials: 77% use the internet, 64% check big box stores, 30% ask a previously used contractor
  • GenX: 74% check big box stores, 70% use the internet, 23% ask a previously used contractor
  • Baby Boomers: 60% check big box store, 58% use the internet, 35% ask a previously used contractor
  • The Silent Generation: 50% check big box stores, 32% ask a previously used contractor, and 25% use the internet

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