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Category Archives: Home Improvement

Steps to an Organized Garage

A garage is a natural place to hide away anything you don’t want cluttering up the inside of your home, whether it’s a box of holiday ornaments or outgrown clothes. The problem is that over time, the space can start to look like a dumping ground. “If you can’t fit a car or two in the garage, you need to reassess what you’re keeping in it and how it’s organized,” says Amelia Meena, owner of Appleshine, a New York–based organizing service. She recommends doing a thorough garage reorg twice a year, as your storage needs will change seasonally. Here’s her five-step plan for getting the job done.

Put it on the calendar
While you can probably chip away at cleaning up your closet, tackling an organizing project like a garage is better handled all at once, says Meena. For most people, she recommends setting aside a weekend for the project. “If you commit to overhauling the space and setting up a system, any future changes become much more manageable.”

Consider your ideal layout
Before you start organizing, set your priorities for the garage, says Meena. “This will help you figure out how to best divide up the space.” For some people, the main goal may be to clear it out enough to park two cars inside; others may be looking to set up a dedicated area for tools or garden gear. Determine whether you need everything to be easily accessible or are okay with a stacking system that may leave less frequently used items difficult to reach.

Home in on a strategy
To kick off the project, Meena works with clients to determine how they work best: Some people prefer to start with the hardest organizing tasks, to get them out of the way; some people like beginning with the easiest job; and some choose to focus on the spot where change will make the biggest impact. “Figure out what would be most motivating for you and keep you going,” she says.

Sort, purge, repeat
Now comes the hard part: figuring out what to keep and what to let go of. “You have to differentiate between what really belongs in a garage and what’s just taking up space,” says Meena. For most people, tools, outdoor gear, bikes, and seasonal decorations all make sense in a garage. What doesn’t? Anything you put out there because you didn’t know what to do with it. “Often people decide they have too much stuff, box it up, and just put it in the garage,” she says. “Those items—books, old clothes, decor items—are typically ready to be put out to pasture”—i.e., donated or recycled.

Create a long-term system
Only after you’ve sifted through your stuff are you ready to buy any shelves, hooks, or bins. “Your approach to any organizing project should be to deconstruct and then reconstruct the space,” says Meena. While everyone’s needs are different, of course, Meena has a few favorite tools. To get things off the floor and onto the walls, she likes theContainer Store’s Elfa utility rack, which allows you to hang everything from gardening tools to bikes. She also recommends sturdy metal shelving (Rubbermaid and the Container Store both offer good options, she says). Before you buy anything, “make sure the product is really the right solution,” she says. “The last thing you want is to bring more stuff into the garage that’s not purposeful.”

Ideas Window Tailored to Your Space

When it comes to designing a room, we tend to think about larger elements like the sofa or the rug before turning our attention to window treatments, but they shouldn’t be overlooked. In fact, “they’re often the most complicated decision in a space,” says Ashley Gensler, founder of Loom Decor, a company that designs custom window treatments. To determine the perfect curtain or shade for your room, start by thinking about your practical needs, such as light and privacy, then consider the architecture. “If the focal point of a room is the window, you want to play it up as much as possible,” says Abby Rodriguez, vice president of Chelsea Workroom, a New York atelier specializing in made-to-order drapery. Here, the experts talk about what types of window treatments work best for various spaces and needs—and common mistakes to avoid.

For rooms that need darkness (or a dose of elegance):
Heavy drapes are a smart choice for bedrooms because of their light-blocking ability, says Gensler, and they also provide a luxurious feel in formal spaces, such as living and dining rooms. “If the molding around a window is beautiful, mount the treatment inside so as not to block this detail,” notes Rodriguez. “If it’s an ill-proportioned or small window, you may want to mount the treatment outside it to create the illusion of a larger window.” She also recommends hanging drapes as high as possible “to create a sense of grandeur.”

For showing off a spectacular view:
Opt for gauzy, dreamy sheers. If you want the best of two worlds—light pouring in but also the option for privacy—consider layering a simple roller shade underneath.

For high-traffic rooms:
Roman shades have structure, making them more substantial than other options. They are “almost like another element of the window itself, without being too fussy,” says Gensler. She likes to use the style in powder rooms, bedrooms, and offices, but they’re also a good bet for rooms with pets, kids, or radiators, where you don’t want window coverings that reach the floor.

For a minimalist look:
Prefer a window treatment that recedes into the background? Go for roller shades. “The clean lines don’t distract from the view or other decor,” says Gensler. “They tend to work well in spaces where function may come before form, like bathrooms or playrooms.”

For a tailored-to-you experience:
If it’s in your budget, choose custom window treatments rather than ready-made ones, which come in standard sizes that may not fit just right. When install time arrives, a pro will ensure they are hung properly. “To really make them lay nicely and hold their shape, you have to ‘train’ window treatments,” explains Gensler. Think steaming out wrinkles and hand-pressing the fabric into shape.

Ways Create a Color Palette

If you’ve been searching high and low for the perfect palette for your house, chances are red is the answer. Or should we say, Miles Redd, the Manhattan-based interior designer who is known for wildly stylish color combinations that give rooms an elegant charisma homeowners can only dream of creating on their own. Until now. AD caught up with Redd to find out the secrets to creating color schemes that stir the senses—and found his advice to be every bit as nuanced and witty as his designs.

Look outside for inspiration

Take a tip from Redd and let the outdoors guide you. “Leopard always works, a bit of blue always works, things that you find in nature always work,” says Redd. “Our creator knew what worked, which is why he made the sky blue and white!”

Expand on the classics

Before you try for adventurous, start with what you know: Pick a classic color combination and add in some Redd-style flair. “Blue and white works with everything,” the designer says. “So toss in an accent color, like butter-yellow or shocking pink, to throw it off a bit.”

Incorporate some yellow

Though many people are nervous to bring this controversial color into their homes, Redd wields it like a powerful talisman, as seen here in a stunning Houston residence. If you’re not ready to commit at a macro level, try his advice for starting small. “Paint a door yellow or a chest,” he says. “A yellow pillow can also do the trick—sometimes small bursts of color can be better.”

Try non-neutral furniture

Eye-catching furnishings are a hallmark of Redd’s work. But, as one might expect, there’s an art to choosing what you go bright with. “Furniture with rococo lines in fanciful colors looks forced,” he says. “You can get away with a bright color on something simple with severe lines, because it has room in its severity. But if something is already bold, you probably should go the other direction, and opt to tone it down. We don’t want to gild the lily.”

Take a page from Redd’s book

The hue-master’s tome, The Big Book of Chic, is filled with extravagantly beautiful rooms featuring some of his favorite unexpected color pairings. Want to try some in your own home? Redd recommends the following: pale brownish pink and daffodil-yellow; mossy green and peacock-blue; pale lilac with cobalt and feather-gray. Start with one of these combinations, and you’ll be on your way to Redd levels of chic.

When choosing wall colors, think big

Big as in entire-house big. “Look at the whole picture first: Is a red room going to feel good coming off your ecru hallway?” he says. “Color can be exhilarating and transporting, but it helps to have a road map of the house and make sure the colors work well off each other.” Which means thinking small as well. “Don’t be afraid to paint your trim the same color as your walls. Red rooms with cream trim don’t always work.”

Design for the Best Night’s Sleep

As if you needed another excuse to make over your bedroom: It can be good for your health. Every decor choice you make, whether it’s the lighting, the window treatments, orthe bed itself, has an impact on the quality of your sleep. “When I evaluate sleep environments, I think of four of the five senses and how each one has an effect on sleep,” says Michael Breus, a sleep expert and the author of the forthcoming book on optimizing your inner clock, The Power of When. Here are six ways to upgrade your bedroom for the best night’s sleep—and make the space look better in the process.

Splurge on blackout curtains
“Melatonin, the sleep hormone, is called the Vampire Hormone, since it only comes out in darkness,” says Breus. “So whatever a person can do to make their bedroom dark will help with sleep.” Replace any flimsy window treatments with elegant heavy drapes to help you rest easy.

Kick electronics out of the room
A television and a tangle of cords by your bed aren’t doing your decor—or your sleep—any good. Studies have shown that viewing electronics before bed, whether it’s watching TV or checking email, has a detrimental effect on sleep, according to the National Sleep Foundation. Keep these devices out of the bedroom, replacing them with attractive objets and an old-school clock.

Buy a pretty fan
“When a room gets too quiet, your hearing gets more acute,” says Breus. “So having a little noise to drown out sounds can be very helpful.” Buy a small fan (which also helps keep the room at the optimum 65 to 75 degrees) or a sound machine.

Swap out your lightbulbs
Changing the type of light that’s on as you get ready for bed can help induce snoozing, too. “I personally have special bulbs in my bedroom that filter out the frequency of light that prevents melatonin production,” says Breus. Plus, he says their brightness isn’t vastly different from that of a regular bulb.

Make your bed more luxurious
Your bed deserves a lot of attention, from both a design and a health standpoint. “If you wake up sore more than three days in a row and it was not from working out, it may be time for a new bed,” says Breus, who recommends replacing mattresses every eight years and pillows every 18 to 24 months to make sure you’re getting the support you need. “Sheets are a personal preference, but I like whatever is the most breathable, such as cotton.”

Create a spalike space
Spritz a natural lavender room freshener to transform your bedroom into a soothing retreat. “There are clinical studies to show that aromatherapy can help a person fall asleep,” says Breus. The scent of lavender or ylang-ylang “can cause a relaxation response in the large muscle groups, and then the body, once relaxed, can go to sleep.”

Ways Clean Copper Pots and Pans

Copper cookware has a long association with world-class cooking (think Julia Child). And as copper experiences a renaissance in design right now, people are snapping up copper pots and pans to bring warmth and a gorgeous sheen to the kitchen. But while copper, which is considered a soft metal, is prized for its ability to conduct heat, it requires a little more TLC than other materials. “Depending on the lining of one’s copper cookware, it’s possible to make mistakes when cleaning,” says Mac Kohler, of Brooklyn Copper Cookware. But when your pots are well cared for, they pay off in decades of use and beauty in the kitchen. Here, Kohler and Tara Steffen, marketing manager at French copper-cookware manufacturer Mauviel, share their best practices.

Handle with care.
Copper pots are generally lined with stainless steel or tin. Either way, use a soft sponge to wash them with a gentle dish soap and warm water. Steffen warns against putting copper in the dishwasher or picking up a stronger cleaner that contains bleach. In fact, avoid abrasive products altogether—even if they advertise themselves as safe, they can score stainless steel and tin, says Kohler. Notice some damage? “In the case of a tinned pan, the solution is to re-tin the pan,” he says. Stainless-steel pans, however, cannot be brought back to life.

Never heat a dry pan.
This rings true for almost every type of pot: When heated empty, without food or a fat like olive oil, the lining can degrade. “Generally speaking, one uses copper cookware low and slow, meaning it’s the metal of choice for delicate preparations,” says Kohler.

Keep them gleaming . . .
Left alone, copper naturally tarnishes over time. To polish it, Steffen recommends regularly applying either a specialty copper cleaner or a homemade mix of lemon juice and baking soda (or vinegar and salt). Buff the surface with a soft cloth, rinse, and dry. While Kohler says the salt trick works well, he warns against scouring pans with it. “In the case of stainless-steel-lined copper, the most frequent mistake is scrubbing cooked-on residues with salt. If rinsed thoroughly, this can be harmless, but often salt is ground micro-finely by being worked aggressively,” he says. “These stranded micro-crystals then pit the stainless steel irreparably.”

. . . or embrace patina.
For practical or aesthetic reasons, you may want to skip polishing and let your copper cookware age naturally. “In the case of copper, a patinated surface is becoming harder and more thermally efficient,” says Kohler. “Professional chefs cultivate a good, dark patina as one does bloom on wine grapes; it improves what the thing is supposed to do.”

Big Ideas for Small Baths

A few things all old house lovers are familiar with: Drafty windows, less-than-perfect plumbing, squeaky floors—and small bathrooms. While new home baths have nearly doubled in size over the past 30 years, old home bathrooms average about 5- by 8-feet.

Not to worry, though: You can combat the claustrophobia by scaling down to physically save space. (Pedestal sink, anyone?) And, with the right colors and lighting, you can create the illusion of a roomy bath.

Here, we dig into the National Kitchen & Bath Association (NKBA) Design Competition archives to deliver great ideas from Certified Kitchen Designers that you can use in your next remodel.

Rich, Asian-Inspired Design

This homeowner wanted to bring her home out of the 1980s with contemporary Asian design, so the powder room vanity was inspired by a Japanese kaidantansu(stepped chest), which contributes fluidity of design in the cramped quarters. The use of rich and dark colors makes the walls of the small space recede.

Day at the Beach

These homeowners opened up their space by getting rid of two small closets and adding task and ambient lighting to help create the illusion of a larger room. Little width remained after incorporating the tub and toilet, so a shallow cabinet was incorporated. Our favorite detail? The playful “dry riverbed” of stones in the floor.

His-and-Her Bath

The use of continuing horizontal lines, a large, frameless mirror, and well-placed task lighting helps to create the illusion of a larger space. The marble-clad dividing wall lends modesty to the toilet area, while creating a recessed storage opportunity. A must in every small bath, the shower has a curbless entry to eliminate demarcation of the limited footprint.

Small and Simple

These homeowners wanted to “keep it simple and do it well.” This cherry and limestone bath replaced a tiny, cluttered space meant for guest use. The curved-front vanity maximizes usable space with two deep drawers on double extension drawer slides.

Zen Escape

The size of this room called attention to an eyesore: an off-center, aluminum-framed window. A floor-to-ceiling Shoji screen took care of that by concealing the flaw, while letting light through. A 7-foot framed mirror, hung horizontally, spans the entire length of the room and reflects the ladder towel rack, which adds storage without taking up floor space.

Small Spa Retreat

This bathroom was constrained by bedrooms on either side, so it wasn’t possible to increase square footage. To make the space feel roomier, white marble tile and several mirrored surfaces wrap the room. Floor-to-ceiling cabinets add height, while a glass shower wall eliminates the visual barrier of a shower curtain or doors. Rich wood tones add warmth and create balance.

Hacienda-Style Bath

This guest bath features a custom miniature sideboard topped with a rich red travertine counter and copper vessel sink. Rich shower draperies and handmade tiles add to the charm of this space, showing that patterns used selectively as accents will not overwhelm a small room.

Tone and Texture

It’s not uncommon to create attention-commanding focal points in compact spaces. This powder room vanity is crafted with smooth, flaxen veneer and is topped with a cast bronze basin and patina counter. Recessed lighting around the large mirror illuminates any reflection.

Modern Makeover

This vanity continues the lesson of creating a bold focal point in a small space. The upper walls of this ultra-feminine retreat are upholstered in padded silk, but the stainless steel backsplash adds a rugged accent.

Compact Commode

This teeny, tiny full bath features a wall-hung toilet; the tank is hidden inside the 2×6 stud wall, allowing for 9 inches of extra space in the center of the room. Clear glass shower doors eliminate visual barriers and a skylight floods the space with natural light.

Glass Grandeur

A curved glass countertop provides a sense of spaciousness, while hand-applied 1-inch Bizazza glass tiles mimic the swooping curves of the fixtures. The high ceiling features a deep amethyst color wash to visually lower the height of the room, which felt “like a tunnel” to the homeowners.

Retro Redo

This homeowner wanted a nostalgic style with a contemporary twist. Trumpet-shaped sconces flank an oval mirror that conceals a medicine cabinet. A frameless shower door extends the visual expanse of the space, while allowing unobstructed views of oversized subway and amber glass tilework.

Eastern Oasis

A freestanding vanity with elongated fixtures, a custom bamboo mirror, and ladder towel rack create the illusion of vertical space in this small guest bath. A soft color palette, accented with dark woods, balances the space. Artistic relief panels add visual interest without completely walling off light.

Ideas to Beautify Your Kitchen Backsplash

Just as statement furniture can infuse a pop of color into your living room, an eye-catching backsplash can add intrigue to your kitchen. Details matter in the kitchen: it’s the place where you might share a warm conversation over a glass of wine, pour your heart and soul into a dinner for loved ones or teach your kids how to cook for the first time. So it only makes sense that the most beloved room in the house gets the embellishment it deserves! Whether you’re a foodie who loves spending time with recipes, or you’re someone who embraces creativity in design, take a look at these five gorgeous backsplash ideas for a bit of inspiration.

Go for Natural Materials

Raw, exposed brick is edgy: it can do a great job of balancing out modern cabinets and appliances with more texture and color. When slightly white-washed and weather-worn, a brick backsplash can set the perfect farm-to-table vibe in any kitchen. Bonus? It’ll go with any artwork you choose to complete the dining space.

Choose a Decorative Pattern

A color-blocked kitchen is just begging for a backsplash made with tiles that feature an ornate pattern. For a bohemian feel that’s very au courant, add Moorish-style tiles in a shade that complements your color scheme. Want to up the boho factor? Add in decorative details like a wooden counter top, ceramic dinnerware and a brushed copper vase to complete the look.

Never Doubt Time-Honored Subway Tile

A choice that straddles the line between utilitarian and glamorous, subway tile works if you’re looking to brighten up your kitchen with a touch of tradition. The key to a standout subway tile backsplash is to use darker grout to outline the tiles and make them pop. This luxurious kitchen features shiny tiles, but you can also purchase them in a matte finish that’s more reminiscent of an antique metro setting.

Try a Quick DIY That Makes an Impact

Saturday afternoon DIYers, this one is for you! Pressed tin is a wonderfully inexpensive and easy material to use when you’re looking to make a change that doesn’t includecaulking a backsplash tile by tile. Pick up several of these panels at your local hardware store and revamp your kitchen backsplash with a dramatic, intricate design. Then, subdue the rest of your decor to really make this backsplash shimmer.

Stick With Horizontal Silhouettes

If your kitchen is on the smaller side (hello, urban dwellers!), it’s wise to gravitate toward materials that will give your walls the illusion of width, like these reclaimed wooden boards. A clean white or cream shade like the one below looks effortless and is adaptable to nearly any kitchen aesthetic. Mount them horizontally to give the appearance of an expansive space, and adorn your kitchen with minimalist touches: the black pendant lights, black stool and solitary vase of leaves keeps the overall feel simple and satisfying.

Ways Clean Cast-Iron Cookware

There’s a reason cast-iron pots and pans have remained popular since pioneer times: The material is so tough it’s virtually immortal. Still, caring for and restoring cast-iron pans remains a mystery for many home cooks. So who better to shed light on the subject than the experts at Lodge, which has been making cast-iron cookware for upwards of 100 years? Here, Mark Kelly, PR and advertising manager, shares the company’s best practices for keeping your cast-iron pans going strong for a lifetime.

Take it easy
Cast-iron cookware should be cleaned differently from other pots in your kitchen. Just scrape off residue and hand-wash with a nonabrasive sponge and water, says Kelly—that’s it. Because the pans are sterile at 212º F, soap isn’t necessary (but if you’re still uneasy, you could use a mild soap). No matter what, be sure to dry them immediately to avoid rust spots from forming.

Keep it seasoned
Over time, cast iron becomes naturally nonstick—if you care for it correctly. Kelly recommends applying a light coat of vegetable oil to your pan after you’ve washed and dried it. Wipe on just enough to restore the surface’s sheen, but not so much it feels sticky. “Some people use too much oil when maintaining their cast-iron cookware,” he says. “A little goes a long way.”

Give it a second life
If you’ve inherited a pan that seems beyond repair, don’t worry. Minor rust spots can be removed by scouring the cookware, then washing, drying, and oiling it as usual. If you’ve got a seriously neglected piece—one that’s dull, gray, and has lost its nonstick properties—Kelly advises cleaning it with hot, soapy water (soap is all right in this case) and coating it inside and out with a thin layer of cooking oil. Bake the pan upside down at 350 to 400 degrees for at least an hour (with foil on the bottom rack of the oven to catch drips) and it will come out as good as new.

Steps to Stunning Painted Floors

When decorating a room, we usually get to work overhauling the walls, furnishings, and window treatments, but a key element is right beneath our feet. Renowned interior designer and decorator Miles Redd regularly uses paint to make the floors pop in his plush and playful spaces. “I love it in an entrance hall, where you’re covering a basic, not-so-special wood floor,” says Redd, who likes to bring a similar wow factor to dining rooms, kitchens, and children’s bedrooms. We asked Redd how to incorporate bold colors and striking patterns underfoot, and tapped Chris Pearson, his go-to painter, for technical tips.

Do the proper prep
You don’t need wood floors to benefit from the transformative powers of paint. Pearson, a specialty floor painter who’s worked on several of Redd’s rooms, has brushed up hardwood, linoleum, concrete, tile, and plastic flooring. No matter the material, Pearson stresses that the surface needs to be sanded down, vacuumed, and swept thoroughly before it gets a layer of primer. He suggests using a brush rather than a paint roller. “Rollers produce an orange-peel texture on the floor—the paint doesn’t adhere as well and it can affect the sheen,” he says.

Invest in quality paint
Springing for high-end paint is crucial to the floor’s longevity. Ask an expert at your local home improvement store to advise on the right type (either oil-based or latex) for the surface you’re working with. “Oil-based paint can yellow but is more durable and shiny,” says Redd, who favors richly colored, high-gloss paints from Fine Paints of Europe. Two to three coats should do the job.

Play with solids and patterns
“Black, white, and tan always work,” says Redd, but the designer definitely doesn’t shy away from more daring choices: “A color or faux marble in an interesting pattern is always transformative to a space.” Before you begin laying down painter’s tape, decide on the effect you want to achieve: A dark, sophisticated tone creates drama; a natural finish like faux bois adds subtle detail; and bold patterns, such as tumbling blocks, have immediate impact and can pull a room together.

Make it timeless
When choosing a pattern that will impress for years to come, it’s important to keep scale and continuity in mind. The size of the motif should be based on the size of the room, though Pearson tells us that the current trend is to go large. To help with the flow from room to room, he uses a combination of finishes—say, wood and marble—to coordinate the floor with design elements from around the house. In terms of making your floor last, physically, a final coat of polyurethane sealer is key to finish and protect it. High-traffic areas might require a touch-up coat every three to four years, but painted floors can stand up to plenty of wear and tear.

7 Common House-Maintenance Mistakes you

A house is a lot like a living thing: It’s great when the systems are firing on all cylinders, but when something isn’t right, it lets you know. According to a recent survey commissioned by Liberty Mutual Insurance, one-third of American homeowners (34 percent) have faced an unexpected home repair of $5,000 or more. But the truth is that for each of those all-too-avoidable catastrophes, there was a symptom that likely went ignored. “Most of the biggest mistakes that homeowners make revolve around what they are not doing,” says celebrity designer, HGTV personality, and Liberty Mutual Insurance consultant Chip Wade. “Neglecting routine home maintenance and ignoring signs of deterioration often cause permanent damage that ends up degrading the value of your home.” Learning to properly maintain your home can eliminate a lot of the guesswork involved in its upkeep. Here, Wade outlines seven of the biggest mistakes most homeowners make when it comes to their homes—and how to avoid making them in the first place.

1. Failure to winterize properly. “Often, homeowners overlook their sprinkler systems when the cold months hit and leave water in the lines,” says Wade. “When temperatures drop, sprinkler pipes can freeze and break. You may have a rupture and not even know it, costing you tons of cash as water drains into the soil, not to mention the cost to repair the broken sprinkler.”

2. Failure to address water damage. “This can have major consequences down the road,” Wade says. “When you don’t keep your spaces (like bathrooms) dry and in good repair, water damage and mold can start to occur. Within days and sometimes even hours of a condition like this not being addressed, water can penetrate into building materials to a point that can require complete replacement. If water damage stays for longer periods of time, mold can start to occur, which can lead to more costly removal or remediation.”

3. Ignoring appliance maintenance. “Your icemaker (higher-end models), for example, can start to scale up, especially if you have harder water that causes the mechanisms to stop working correctly. You also want to ensure that ice bins remain clean and sanitary. You can do this by emptying them out every month and cleaning with a bleach solution. Larger refrigerators often have water and sometimes air filters that need to be replaced.”

4. Indiscriminate power washing. “Pressure washing too close to masonry on the home is another mistake that can go unnoticed until it’s too late,” says Wade. “Homeowners often don’t realize that if you wash with too much pressure, it can cause mineral deposits to actually seep out of the brick and stone and cause white streaks that are virtually impossible to get off later. While you might think that you’re cleaning, you’re really ruining the masonry.”

5. Improper temperature control. “Closing a vent to help control room temperature might seem like a good idea, but most don’t know that this can cause the furnace to work harder and even lead to damage,” Wade says. “Furnace replacements can cost a whopping $3,500. I’d suggest calling in an HVAC contractor to take a look.”

6. Taping up the walls. “Avoid allowing kids to put tape and other adhesives on the walls. It may seem harmless, but it can pull the paper off the drywall, which can make repairs more difficult.”

7. Procrastination. “It never seems convenient to tackle a home-maintenance project at the current time. There is always something more urgent or fun to do,” Wade says. His solution? “Come up with a schedule for every maintenance item, put calendar reminders on your phone, and treat it like a meeting request. This way you won’t double-book, and it acts as the perfect reminder when you set it for the right time of year on a repeating schedule.”

See the error of your ways? Here’s how to get your home back on track.

1. Be proactive. According to a recent survey commissioned by Liberty Mutual Insurance, 30 percent of American homeowners are not maintaining systems in their homes on a regular basis. In fact, 24 percent admit that they are often behind schedule when it comes to routine home maintenance. “Proper home maintenance really is a year-round job, but in the fall, before the temperatures drop, it is the perfect time to take care of winterizing the outside of your home,” says Wade. “Keep your gutters clear so you don’t have water blockage issues later on.”

2. Get in a routine. “Every six months, seal your natural stone countertops and tile, especially in your kitchen. Make sure you clean your icemaker and check the service manual for the maintenance schedule on all kitchen appliances (usually refrigerators will need it). And replace the batteries of all of your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors.”

3. In fact, six is the magic number. “Walk around your property (inside and outside) every six months—put a calendar reminder in your phone to help you remember. During the walk, make sure to look at all openings like doors and windows, attic vents, etc., inspecting for signs of decay or intrusion. Look at your electric, gas, and water bills from the previous year and cross-reference them with current bills to see if there may be something draining your resources. Also be sure to check all your plumbing fixtures and under-cabinet locations for slow leaks.”

4. Monitor your home with a smart device. “There are a ton of new smart home devices that can really help you keep tabs on your home from your smartphone, so no matter where you are you can be sure that everything is running smoothly,” Wade says. “Installing these devices can be a quick upgrade to your home that can really help give you peace of mind, especially if you find yourself constantly wondering, Did I lock the doors? Did I turn off the stove? What if someone breaks in?” Some of his favorites include the August SmartLock, which can lock and unlock your doors, create virtual keys for guests, and keep track of who comes and goes; the Nest Protect smoke and carbon monoxide detector, which sends alerts straight to your smartphone if you’re away from home; and the Canary video security system, which allows you to check on your house in real time. “These devices not only keep you safe but can also save you money,” he says. “For example, Liberty Mutual offers a discount on home insurance for having one or more of these smart home devices.”