We don't have all the answers. But we know where to find them.
Browse our Tips Library for ideas, information and inspiration. We update regularly, so visit often.
Kitchen Cleaning Checklist
• Clean as you cook - Fill the sink with hot, sudsy water; scrub and rinse while food cooks
• Wipe down countertops, stovetop and backsplash immediately after use
• Sweep and empty trash
• Mop floor
• Clean small appliances (microwave, toaster, coffeemaker)
• Wash out garbage cans
• Wipe down cabinet doors
• Clean oven
• Clean out refrigerator and freezer
• Dispose of questionable food
Decorating Tips for Small Spaces
• Use cool, pale paint colors like blue, green and lavender to make walls recede.
• Remove clutter and keep furniture at a minimum.
• Make your furniture multitask: use a storage trunk for a coffee table, a futon or sofa sleeper in a guest room.
• Use larger (yes!) scale furniture and large accessories instead of small collections.
• Keep window treatments simple and consistent throughout the room.
• Use carpet or bare floors, not area rugs.
• Hang mirrors slightly higher than eye level.
Home Systems Life Expectancy
How long will it last? Here's the expected life span of some common household systems and components. Plan ahead for repairs or replacement!
Air conditioning compressor - 15-20 years
Heat pump - 15 years
Carpet - 11 years
Vinyl floors - 20-30 years
Fiberglass tub/shower - 10-15 years
Granite countertops - 20+ years
Laminate countertops - 10-15 years
Garage door opener - 10 years
Garage door - 20-50 years
Exterior deck - 15 years
Composition roof - 15-30 years
Paint (interior and exterior) - 7-10 years
• Are your home and personal belongings insured for full replacement value?
• Are your home and all personal vehicles insured through the same company?
• Do you operate an office, run a business or baby-sit in your home?
• Do you have a pet, such as a large dog, that might pose a risk?
• Do you own a recreational vehicle, such as a four-wheeler, motorcycle or golf cart?
• Do you have an umbrella liability policy of $1 million?
• Have you met with your agent in this year to review your policies and coverage?
Garage Safety Checklist
- Leave your garage door closed, even when you are at home. An open door is temptation to thieves.
- Put toxic materials on a high shelf or cabinet, out of reach of children and pets.
- Beware of carbon monoxide. Do not run your car in the garage for an extended period.
- Keep your garage floor clean and dry to avoid slips and falls.
- Install a smoke detector in your garage.
- Store sharp tools and garden implements where kids and pets cannot reach them.
Home Emergency Checklist
• Assemble a basic disaster supply kit. (www.ready.gov/build-a-kit). Don’t forget supplies for pets.
• Make a family emergency plan, including an out-of-town contact and a designated meeting place. Make sure everyone understands it and practices it.
• During an emergency, stay tuned to a local radio or television station. Keep batteries on hand and a portable or weather alert radio in the event of a power outage.
• In the event of a severe storm, stay indoors and away from windows. Avoid using appliances or taking a bath or shower.
Working with Architects and Designers
If you're ready to tackle that major remodeling project, then it’s time to do your homework – and consider hiring professionals.
A licensed architect:
• Required if you are tearing down or moving walls
• Can recommend a general contractor and designer
• Can provide front-end, cost-effective solutions
• Familiar with permits and code requirements
• Can add up to 20 percent more to the cost of a project
• Resource: American Institute of Architects (www.aia.org)
• Can help you visualize the completed project
• Has access to “trade” products and resources
• Helps you select finishes and materials
• Can recommend installers
• May charge an hourly or project rate
• Resource: National Kitchen & Bath Association (www.nkba.org)
A general contractor:
• Can oversee design and building of minor projects
• Will provide specs that allow you to select your own products if desired
• Provides a written project bid, including labor and materials
• Resource: National Association of the Remodeling Industry (www.nari.org)
Low-Cost Kitchen Upgrades
Upgrading a kitchen is a great way to enhance the value of the most-used room in your house. Consider these low-cost improvements:
• Replace track lighting with pendant lamps.
• Cover a kitchen island with butcher block.
• Paint dark or white cabinets a fresh color.
• Swap out old knobs, handles and hinges for something contemporary.
• Upgrade appliances to new energy-efficient models.
• Remove doors from upper cabinets or add open shelving.
• Use multi-colored tiles to create a border or backsplash.
• Add graphic wall art.
Things to ask your contractor
If home repairs or remodeling projects are in your future, consider this list of questions to ask your contractor to ensure success of your project – and less stress for you.
• Is a building permit required for this work? Will you obtain this for me?
• Have you detailed the scope of the project and all anticipated costs as part of my written bid?
• Have you included written specifics about the type of lumber and materials that will be used in my project?
• Will my project impact any underground utilities, i.e. telephone, cable or gas? If so, will you take care of locating these lines?
• Where will my construction materials, i.e. lumber, be stored during the project?
• Who is responsible for clean-up during and after the project is completed?
• What deposit is expected prior to the start of the project?
• Will you provide me with written information about your contractor’s license, general liability insurance and worker’s compensation insurance?
• Will you provide me with business references (suppliers, code officials, etc.) and current, recent and past (2 years+) customer references for projects similar to mine?
Tips for Buying a Freezer
• Buy a large enough freezer to accommodate your needs, but not so large that you waste space – and energy.
• A chest freezer is usually less expensive and more energy efficient, but an upright freezer is more easily accessible.
• Choose a freezer that is EnergyStar® rated.
• Determine where you plan to put the freezer – and measure before you buy.
• Look for a freezer with a textured exterior and seamless interior for cleaning ease.
• Be aware that most freezers are manual defrost.
Appliance Life Expectancy
Washer on the fritz? Water heater not heating? Losing your cool over the not-so-cool refrigerator?
It seems like appliances last forever - and then they break unexpectedly. The reality is that all appliances have an average life span. Proper cleaning and maintenance will extend that average, and abuse or neglect will shorten it. Knowing when your appliances will need to be replaced will help you plan and budget for those expenses.
Appliance Life Span
Dishwasher 10 years
Dryer 13 years
Garbage disposal 10-12 years
Microwave oven 10 years
Range (electric) 17 years
Range (gas) 19 years
Refrigerator (side by side) 14 years
Refrigerator (top mount) 14 years
Refrigerator (bottom mount) 17 years
Refrigerator (single door) 19 years
Washing machine (top load) 14 years
Washing machine (front load) 11 years
Water heater (gas) 11-13 years
Water heater (electric) 13-14 years
Water heater (tankless) 20+ years
Maintain a Home Maintenance Budget
• Every home, regardless of age, needs maintenance. A neglected home can lose 10 percent of its appraised value, while a well-maintained home usually increases in value by 1 percent each year.
• The average homeowner spends $3,300 annually on home maintenance and repairs, according to the U.S. Census.
• A homeowner should earmark 1 to 3 percent of the price of the home for annual maintenance. For a $200,000 home, this means $2,000 to $6,000 annually.
• Create a “reserve for replacements” – a cash fund to be used strictly for home repairs and maintenance. Contribute a set amount to the fund each month as if you were paying a household bill.
• If funds are limited, commit to tackling one or two rooms of your home each year.
• Keep a notebook of all repairs and upgrades. You’ll appreciate the resource later, and so will potential buyers when it’s time to sell.
• Consider investing in a HomeTrust Warranty to help with those untimely repairs. For more information, email email@example.com.
Home Organizing Checklist
• Conquer these common “bandits” that steal your space: clothes you never wear, unused kitchen appliances, magazines, mementos and extra furniture.
• Let your child help you sort through old toys and donate them. Reward your child with a new toy for helping.
• Store extra blankets and extra leaves for your dining room table under your bed.
• Skip the grocery store for a week and use up food in your pantry and freezer. When they are nearly empty, clean shelves and cabinets and dispose of any outdated food.
• Store tools in two locations – a pegboard for frequently used hand tools and a toolbox for specialty tools used less often. Store larger tools like electric drills next to the toolbox.
• Tame the paper tiger. Sort through mail and newspapers daily. Put bills in one place, action items in a folder and everything else in trash or recycling bin. Clean out your filing cabinet by sorting through 10 folders a day until you are done.
• Store holiday decorations using color-coded plastic storage bins.