Simple Tricks for Getting Organized


A thoughtful approach to garage storage makes the most of this valuable space and keeps every necessity at your fingertips.

If your house is bursting at the seams, or simply short on storage options, the solution may be as close as your garage. To make the best use of this space, however, you first need to corral its current chaos.

This is, fortunately, a relatively simple task if you incorporate a few good storage ideas. With careful planning and a little effort, you can transform your garage from a messy catchall to an efficient, well-organized household annex.

Divide and conquer

First things first: Get rid of anything you no longer use. After you’ve winnowed down the contents of your garage, sort everything into groups. Keep garden tools with garden tools, and sports equipment with sports equipment. Items used together ought to be stored together.

Where possible, place like items into clear plastic containers with lids. It’s fine to use opaque bins, just be sure to label each one. Stackable containers are especially handy. They keep your belongings clean, protect against insects and rodents, increase the amount of usable floor space, and cut down on visual clutter.

What goes where?

The efficient use of space partly depends on positioning stored items in a thoughtful, strategic way. Are there certain items you’re likely to need on a regular basis, such as cleaning supplies? If so, store them near the door so you can access them quickly and easily. Stash rarely used or seasonal items, like sleds and skis, in harder-to-reach spots.

Off the wall

The key to garage storage and organization is getting things off the floor. Capitalizing on wall space enables you to fit the most into your garage, while keeping it all visible and easy to access. The type of wall storage you choose depends on your storage needs, project budget and personal preferences. Many homeowners opt for one or a combination of the following storage standbys:

  • Pegboard. A favorite for generations, pegboard is inexpensive and easy to install. Because it can be outfitted with an array of compatible hooks, clamps, bins and shelves, pegboard can be used to store and organize just about anything, as long as the item to be stored isn’t especially heavy.
  • Open shelving. Whether a wall-mounted track system or a set of stand-alone units, open shelves are affordable, versatile and user-friendly, and they keep everything in plain sight. Plus, depending on their construction, 12- or 16-inch-deep shelves are typically capable of holding heavier items.
  • Closed cabinetry. If you plan to park your car in the garage, cabinets with doors may be the most desirable option, because closed storage means not having to come face-to-face with paint cans and garbage bags every time you leave or arrive home. Cabinets are available in countless materials and styles, but generally speaking, they are more expensive than other solutions. And because they are unable to accommodate very large items, cabinets are most effective when used in conjunction with another storage system.
  • Panelized systems. Here, entire walls are covered with specially designed panels that hold any number of companion add-ons, such as hooks and shelves. Unlike pegboard, panelized systems can handle heavier items. But that strength and utility comes at a cost, especially since some proprietary products must be installed by licensed professionals.

Look up

For certain infrequently used belongings, the ceiling provides ideal, out-of-the-way storage space. Ladders and seasonal gear can be kept here, hung by clips or straps fastened to the ceiling joists. Or you can take advantage of hoist pulley systems, which cleverly operate like the cords on window blinds. Bear in mind, however, that ceiling storage must be oriented so that it doesn’t interfere with the operation of the garage door.

Safety steps

As you’re organizing your garage, it’s important to keep safety in mind. It’s unsafe to store gasoline and propane in the garage; a single spark could lead to tragedy.

Likewise, if you have children or pets, you should store hazardous materials like fertilizer and pesticides far out of reach. Locked cabinets are a good solution for these toxic materials, and they’re also a smart place to store power tools and sharp implements.

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Originally published January 2015.



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How to Plan the Perfect Patio


Starting to daydream about dining under the stars? Make that dream a beautiful patio reality.

For many homeowners, the patio borders on magical: a place to relax, entertain, cook out and take a break from the day-to-day. It’s surrounded by vibrant hues, and a meal prepared in an outdoor kitchen somehow tastes better than anything that comes from its indoor counterpart.

Creating that perfect outdoor space for you and your family all starts with the literal foundation of this alfresco living room: the patio materials. Your selection can have a huge effect on the appearance, durability and functionality of your favorite home addition.

Getting started

Before you commit to a type of patio, first envision the finished space. You probably have a good idea of the location and approximate size, so go grab a chair, take it outside, and position it in the intended spot. Then sit, and picture each material in your mind’s eye.

Your patio should not only complement your home and landscape, it should also enhance your lifestyle. If you have a large space to work with, consider incorporating a combination of paving materials; some of the best patio designs include two or more. Using multiple materials lets you integrate inlaid borders that can visually separate an area for lounging from the outdoor kitchen.

When you’ve dreamed up your ideal design, consider which materials would best bring it to life, in terms of both aesthetics and practical issues, such as maintenance requirements and cost.

Concrete

Poured concrete is the patio material of choice for many homeowners because it’s structurally sound, inexpensive, and can even be stamped or dyed to mimic higher-end paving materials. It’s best suited for moderate to warm climates where frost heave is not a concern.

Planning tip: A standard concrete patio is four inches thick, but if you intend to construct something very heavy, such as a built-in fireplace, ask the contractor to reinforce that particular area before you pour.

Bricks

Available in a variety of colors, bricks create a warm and attractive patio. This classic patio style typically costs more than one constructed from concrete, not just for the materials themselves, but also for labor — a significant consideration when every brick must be set by hand, leveled and grouted.

Should you decide to invest, you can design the space with any number of patterns, from a traditional running bond to something with added textural appeal like a boxed basket-weave or herringbone.

Planning tip: For patios, solid 1- or 2-inch-thick paving bricks are the best choice, either dry-laid or mortared in place. Be wary about extending your brick patio into deep shade, or else you’ll need to watch out for a slick surface after every rainfall.

Pavers

Often manufactured from cement, cinder or stone, pavers top the DIY patio wish list for their low price and super simple installation — they’ll have you out there grilling in record time.

If you’re planning to lay your own patio, you’ll need a suitable substrate consisting of at least three inches of sand, and a permanent border, such as a poured concrete curb, to keep the pavers from shifting.

Planning tip: Pavers may be dry-laid by butting them tightly, or installed with uniform mortar joints. If the patio lies over utility lines, know that dry-laid pavers will be simpler to remove and replace if (or when) you need to access the utilities below.

Stone

The highly desirable look of stone comes with a steeper price tag — particularly if your pick isn’t locally sourced — but you can’t beat it for natural appeal. Flat, irregularly shaped stones offer a calm and meandering effect, while uniform-cut slabs of granite, travertine, slate, or bluestone can produce a formal patio that’s fitting for any backyard.

Planning tip: Natural stone is extremely durable for any patio, but if you happen to be planning one poolside, opt for a nonslip variety, such as coral stone.

Tile

Available in ceramic, glass, porcelain, terra cotta and natural stone, tile creates beautiful mosaic patio designs that are refreshingly cool underfoot in hot climates. Because tile is thin, it requires the installation of a concrete slab.

Planning tip: Even if you plan to lay the tile yourself, it’s a good idea to have a professional pour an even slab. Also note that not all tile is suitable for patio construction. To withstand weather, all your materials — tile, thinset, grout and sealer — must be labeled for exterior use.

Crushed stone, pea gravel and sand

If you’re not a fan of rock-solid patios, crushed stone, pea gravel or sand could be more your style. Both crushed stone and gravel offer a variety of colors and textures at low prices, and even sandy Zen gardens can double as patio areas.

You will, however, need to install a solid perimeter to keep the loose material from spreading outside its intended border.

Planning tip: It can be difficult to remove snow and fallen leaves when the seasons change, so consider your climate and environment carefully. To maintain a manicured look, count on refreshing the surface every few years.

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Originally published April 2016.



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Getting Your Home Ready for Trick-or-Treaters


Consider these tips to ensure a fun and safe Halloween night.

As we settle into fall, many of us start looking forward to Halloween. It’s a holiday adults can enjoy as much as kids. But, homeowners do have one serious obligation on this fun night: If you expect trick-or-treaters, you must make sure the path to your door is a safe one.

Take no trips

Inevitably, some giddy ghosts and ghouls will race excitedly to your door. Be prepared.

In the full light of day, inspect your lawn, driveway and front path for trip hazards like exposed tree roots, cracks in concrete or missing pavers. Make repairs where possible, or, at the very least, cut off access to unsafe areas.

Meanwhile, if you’ve decorated the front yard with decorations like light-up pumpkins and animated figures, keep electrical cords away from your walkways.

Light the way

Make sure the path to your house is bright enough for trick-or-treaters to approach safely.

You don’t need to install a full suite of year-round landscape lighting simply to accommodate visitors on Halloween night. There are plenty of temporary and affordable options for illumination, from glow sticks to tea lights.

And although it may seem more in keeping with the mood of this spooky night to switch off your porch light, it’s much safer — not to mention more inviting — to keep it on.

Resist flammable decor

Whether vandals or accidents are to blame, there are many more fires on Halloween than a typical October night, according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). Holiday decorations are often quite flammable, involving materials such as paper, hay and dried cornstalks.

If you can’t resist adorning your home and yard with such potentially dangerous items, then be sure to keep them away from candles and other heat sources. If jack-o’-lanterns or luminaries figure into your celebrations, illuminate them using LED tea lights, not open flames.

Curb your dog

Chances are yours is a friendly dog. But if some Halloween costumes are convincing enough to frighten small children, those same get-ups could be equally disturbing to your pooch — particularly on such a high-energy night.

It’s good sense to contain your dog in an indoor space that’s comfortable and secure.

A festive parade of goblins and ghouls, princesses and superheroes will soon be marching to your house. Do your part by clearing the path and lighting the way. Be safe out there, and have a happy Halloween!

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Note: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or position of Zillow.

Originally published October 2014.



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