Improve your for-sale ad or just make beautiful memories with these simple strategies anyone can use

Take Great Home Photos the Easy Way — 5 Tips From a Pro

As a professional interior photographer for magazines and books, I’ve learned a few simple tips that can make a huge difference in helping you take better photographs of your home’s interior or design project. Little things like using a tripod, shooting from straight on and avoiding wide-angle lenses can take you a long way toward standard practices that many professional photographers use every day.

Along with the tips, you’ll find examples that offer inspiration for your own home photos.

Safety, less cost and better aesthetics on a home improvement project may rest in the hands of an expert.

Contractor Tips: 10 Home Areas That Likely Need a Pro

If you are working on a DIY remodel, deciding whether to call in a specialty contractor to perform a specific task comes down to several areas you’ll need to consider:

  • Skill. Do you have the necessary skills to build a sound structure, and do it safely?
  • Scale. Is the size of the project one that you can handle in a reasonable amount of time?
  • Cost. When factoring in the value of your own time, can the project be completed for less cost by a professional? Do you have the tools you need?
  • Aesthetics. Can you finish the project attractively enough that you’re not sacrificing resale value? Would a rough grout joint or wallpaper seam bother you?

Learn more about the specific problem areas that often require professional help below.

Expand your home’s entertaining area without adding on by boosting connections between inside and out

Wouldn’t you love to double the size of your house for the holidays, or when you’re entertaining a large groups of friends? And when the party is over and all the guests have gone home, have your nice, cozy house back just like that?

It doesn’t make sense to maintain a large entertaining space that gets used only a couple of times a year. That’s why it’s so practical to have a functional and efficient indoor-outdoor space.

Land the right new rental home the smart way, with this insight to help you focus, organize and avoid surprises

11 Apartment Hunting Tips for Renters

I distinctly remember one apartment hunt that brought me to tears. After sifting through dozens of not-right rentals, and with our moving-out date looming, we thought we finallyhad the perfect place in the bag — only to have it given to another applicant at the last moment. If you’ve ever had to look for an apartment, you know the process can be nerve-racking; even more so if you are new to a city or are looking in a competitive market where hoards of people show up to every open house.

There may not be a way out of doing the legwork, but these 11 tips can help you get organized, set your priorities, search smart and stay focused every step of the way.

How to Paint a Ceiling

Always paint the ceiling before walls or woodwork.

As long as you don’t have a lot of furniture to clamber over, painting a ceiling is fairly straightforward.
Firstly sheet up everything which is in danger of getting paint on it. No matter how careful you are, paint splashes have a way of finding exposed surfaces.
Use a stepladder, preferably one with a platform to hold tools or a paint container. If you haven’t got steps, strong plastic milk or beer crate or a wooden chair should be adequate.

The golden rule, whether using proper or improvised scaffold, is NEVER to over-stretch.

If you are right-handed work from right too left and vice-versa.
Painting a ceiling is easier if you use a roller, unless the ceiling is very small in a cupboard or toilet, especially with artexed or wood-chipped ceilings any ceiling with a rough patterned surface).
When painting with a brush, use a large flat brush 6 to 8 inches wide.
You can also use a small brush 1 to 2 inches wide to get into corners,
Cut along the edge of the ceiling and for cutting round the light rose and any other awkward bits.
Starting in one corner on the window side of the room, paint in sections about 2ft square.
Work across the ceiling doing a strip at a time.
When using a roller it is a good idea to use one with an extension handle. Most roller handles have an open end into which you can push an old broom handle, which will do the job.
Using a small brush (about 2″ size will do) cut in all round the edge of the ceiling and round the ceiling.
Starting in one corner roll about a Metro Square and work across the room in strips the same as with a brush.
If you are using a long handle on your roller it means your paint tray or scuttle “a square bucket wide enough for your roller size” can be kept conveniently on the floor at all times.

Oven Thermostat Faulty

Problem: Oven thermostat set ting is off and needs adjustment.

Background: If, when using the time given in recipes, foods consistently brown too little or too much, the oven thermostat may be out of adjustment. Over time oven thermo stats may drift from the factory setting; 5-to 10-minute differences in liming between an old and a new oven are not uncommon. To correct the situation, on many ovens you can make a simple adjustment in the thermostat (oven temperature) knob. Small adjustments can be made a little at a lime, or a precise temperature tester (available at an appliance parts store) can be used to determine temperature inside the oven so you can adjust the thermo stat knob accordingly.

What to do: Pull the oven temperature knob off of its shaft and look at the back of the knob and note the setting of the pointer before making any adjustment. To increase the temperature, move the pointer toward “high” or “raise”; to decrease, turn toward “low” or “lower.” Each notch should change the temperature 100. On some knobs you have to hold the skirt of the knob firmly in one hand and turn the knob with the other hand to move the pointer. The pointer is designed to be difficult to move but you can loosen it by slightly lifting up the end of the pointer with a thin screwdriver, knife blade, or similar instrument. On other knobs you may have to loosen 2 screws on the back to move the pointer I notch in the desired direction. Replace the knob to the shaft, and recheck the oven’s performance before making additional adjustments.

Special advice: If you are using a temperature tester to calibrate the oven, allow the oven element to cycle on at least twice. Then, with the oven set at a specific tempera- tine, take 4 readings to get an aver age temperature. Take 2 readings when the element cycles on, and 2 readings when it cycles off. Add up the readings and divide the sum by 4 to get the average temperature. The average should be within 25° of the knob setting. If it isn’t, recalibrate the setting.

Helpful hint: When testing the oven temperature, do not rely on the inexpensive thermometers you can buy at discount stores. Their readings will not provide the accuracy needed.

How to heat strip wood

1. Hold the heat gun about 4 inches away from the wood, using slight back-and-forth motions.

2. The paint should start to soften and begin to blister. Be careful not to overheat the paint since it will turn into a paste that is hard to remove. Remember, too, that wood is a flammable material and can be scorched or catch fire.

3. Remove the heat and start scraping the paint from wood with a metal scraper.

4. Repeat steps until the paint is mostly removed.

5. Use the rough sandpaper to sand down any sections that still have paint.

6. Use the fine sandpaper over the entire surface to create a clean, smooth surface for painting.

7. Wipe down the wood with a damp cloth.

Handy Person Tips

1. Rub petroleum jelly on the hinges and door knobs before you start to paint a door. If you get paint on them, they will wipe off easy.
2.To keep white paint from yellowing, add 10 drops of black paint to each quart of white.
3. When painting ceilings, cut a child’s rubber ball in half and put your paint brush in one of the halves to catch the drips.
4. An old pair of swimming goggles will protect your eyes from paint splatters and drips when painting ceilings.
5. When painting, protect your hands and face with moisturizer. Cleanup will be easier and the moisturizer will prevent paint from seeping into the pores.
6. Before starting to paint with enamel paint, lightly coat your hands and underneath your fingernails with any name brand hand cleaner. After the painting is finished, your hands will be easy to clean.
7. Line your paint tray with aluminum foil. When its time to clean up, just roll up the foil and throw away.
8. To stop paint from dripping, punch a few holes in the rim of the paint can. When the brush is wiped against the edge, the paint flows back into the can. The lid covers the holes so the paint won’t dry out.
9. To remove lumps from paint: Cut a piece of screen to fit the inside of the paint can. Set it on top of the paint and let it float down to the bottom of the can. It will take all the lumps with it, trapping them at the bottom of the can.
10. When painting trim around windows, doorways , etc., try using stiff paper to cover the area you don’t want painted. (An old phone book cover works well.) Slide paper along as you paint. It’s much faster and more economical than using masking tape. Works well with either a roller or brush.
11. When painting a room, dip a small card into the paint so that you have the exact color with you and can match accessories in stores.
12. When painting inside corners, trim the paint brush bristles to a V to save strokes and spread paint more evenly.
13. Before pouring paint from a can, cover the rim with masking tape. After pouring, remove the tape — the rim will be clean and the cover will fit tightly.
14. When you poke a paint brush into corners or allow it to rest on the bottom of the paint can, the bristles curl and stray. To straighten natural bristles (not synthetics), try wrapping the brush in a couple of thicknesses of damp cloth and press gently with an iron. The steam and cloth binding do the job. Only light pressure is needed. Let the bristles cool before you unwrap the brush.
15. When painting old woodwork, fill in the holes or cracks with a mixture of flour and some of the paint you are using. It hardens like cement and matches perfectly.

Stay organized and focused on your quest for a new home, to make the search easier and avoid surprises later

12 House-Hunting Tips to Help You Make the Right Choice

In the hunt for the perfect house, it’s easy to get swept away by a home’s most charming details (a gracious front porch) and play down the important stuff you’ll be kicking yourself for later (the price is over budget). And if you are touring multiple open houses each weekend, keeping everything straight can get complicated.

Set your priorities and streamline the house-hunting process early on, and you can breathe easier knowing you have a handle on things. It’s probably the most important purchase you will ever make, so take a few deep breaths and make a plan before diving in — you’ll be glad you did.

These 12 tips can help you stay organized and focused on the important things during your house hunt.

Make your home the talk of the neighborhood — in a good way — with an exterior paint scheme that pops

5 Easy Tips for Choosing Your Exterior Paint Palette

Because I live in an older neighborhood with no homeowners association or bylaws, there are no rules and regulations that dictate exterior paint colors. Most of the time, that’s a very good thing. Recently, however, our neighbors painted their home a shade of green that … well, let’s just say it’s gotten a lot of stares, and not the flattering kind.

Unlike interior colors, exterior hues can affect the entire street — and that puts a lot of pressure on homeowners when it comes to choosing a palette. In addition, a number of factors come into play that you don’t have to deal with on the inside of a house: landscaping, hardscaping, roofing and more.

Follow these tips to choose a color scheme that works both for your style and for your home’s surroundings.

Find out how to get more usable space by going custom, hanging your cabinets higher and more

If you think your kitchen can’t be roomier, take another look. At first glance it might seem maxed out, but with a little thoughtful planning, you can uncover priceless inches that will give you an airier, more efficient space. Here are eight remodeling ideas from kitchens that hover around 100 square feet. (Click the links to see more of each transformation and to get additional information about cost and scope of work.)