Skills You Need to Survive Home Ownership – Part I

If you’re a first-time home owner, you’ve likely figured out by now that your new home did not, unfortunately, come with an instruction manual. There may be no seminar to teach you the ins and outs of your home, but at some point you’ll need to hang a painting, unclog a sink or change a light


Let us be your do-it-yourself guide for surviving home ownership – Here are some skills that will become invaluable once your buy your first place:

  • Locate a stud: Before you hang something, anything, on your walls, you’ll want to locate a stud to anchor it into. While an electronic stud finder is the easy way to locate a stud, you can still find one without it. Typically studs are placed at 16-inch intervals, so once you locate one, you can usually locate the rest. Start in the corner, where there’s usually a stud, and count 16 inch intervals until you’ve found the spot you’re looking for. Double check your counts by drilling a small hole at the top of your base molding with a thin bit to confirm – You can always fill the hole with a bit of caulk.
  • Unclog a sink: While chemicals, like Drano®, are good for a temporary fix, clearing a drain completely requires a bit more work. Start by removing your sink stopper and blocking drainage holes, then plunge with a flat-faced plunger while running water. If this doesn’t work, you can try removing the trap under the sink to see if the clog is there. If this doesn’t work, you can use a hand snake or a coat hanger to pull the clog out.
  • Avoid stripping screws when using a drill: On your drill, you’ll likely see a sliding ring of numbers – That’s the clutch. Based on the setting, the clutch stops the bit from turning further when the motor feels resistance. As a rule of thumb, keep the numbers on the clutch lower for small screws and higher for larger screws to avoid stripping.
  •  Wire a light fixture: Anything that is powered by electricity requires that the current make a full circuit to and from the main box – As a result, all wiring in a house has two lines, the “hot” wire that brings in electricity and the “neutral” wire that carries it back. The hot wire is typically black and the neutral is typically white, but, to be sure, use a circuit tester to determine which is which. Once you’ve determined hot and neutral wires, turn off the electricity and connect your hot wire to the black wire  or the brass screw in the fixture and your neutral wire to the white wire or silver screw.
  • Clean up stained grout:  Got grimy grout? Clean it up by giving it a deep clean with a steam cleaner! The steam will help loosen dirt and grime and bring it to the surface making it easy to wipe away with a damp cloth or sponge.

Home ownership is a serious undertaking; luckily, there are DIY solutions for almost any problem and we’re here to help you navigate those projects! Stay tuned for more tips and how-tos to help you survive home ownership.

Tips for Cleaning Floors without Harsh Chemicals

Cleaning floors is one of the most tedious of all household chores – It brings to mind visions of Cinderella on hands and knees scrubbing away. It’s the reason that new floor cleaning systems and products are always popping up. Unfortunately, many of these products that promise sparkling Tips for Cleaning Floors without Harsh Chemicalsclean floors with the greatest of ease are also terrible for the environment and our health.

If you use conventional or heavy duty cleaning products on your floors, you’re essentially spreading potentially toxic chemicals across one of the largest surfaces in your home. Ingredient lists on some floor cleaners contain chemicals that can cause eye irritation, dizziness, wheezing, coughing and asthma attacks.

How can you keep your floors clean without compromising your family’s health?


  • Damp-mop floors using a solution that is ¼ cup mild, liquid dishwashing detergent added to a bucket of warm water.
  • Sprinkle baking soda on a soft, damp sponge to remove scuff marks.
  • Wipe up spills immediately with a lightly dampened cloth or sponge and follow with a dry cloth.
  • Sweep, dust mop or vacuum frequently.


  • Use oil soaps, wax cleaners or products that promise shine on hardwood floors – These products create chemical build up on the floor’s surface.
  • Use vinegar. While vinegar is good for removing hard water and mineral deposits on floors, it doesn’t clean up dirt and grime that accumulates.
  • Wax or polish floors or use “mop and shine” products.
  • Use scouring powder, steel wool or abrasive cleaners.

You can also combat dirt without the use of chemical cleaners by placing doormats inside exterior doors where people can wipe their feet and asking visitors to remove their shoes when they enter your home. By maintaining a regular schedule for sweeping, dust mopping and vacuuming, you eliminate the need for harsh cleaners and also eliminate allergens, like dust, frequently.

How do you keep your floors clean without using conventional cleaners? Leave your tips in the comments!

How To: Redesign Your Kitchen

The kitchen is the soul of the home – The gathering place where family and friends meet to share a meal or a story, do homework and celebrate life’s little accomplishments. It only makes sense that your kitchen design be multi-functional enough to accommodate it all.

Whether you’re thinking of renovating your kitchen entirely or just looking to give it a functional update, here are our top tips for redesigning your kitchen space:

  • Focus on layout: Regardless of the shape you’re going for in your kitchen, it’s important to focus on the layout of the space first and foremost – Whether your kitchen is L-shaped, U-shaped or galley, the cooktop, refrigerator and kitchenstove should form a triangle with no more than 6 feet between each within that shape.
  • Consider storage: When planning your kitchen redesign, ensure that you’re paying close attention to allow for plenty of storage. Use every nook and cranny in your space – If you’re going for a full renovation, consider ceiling-height upper cabinets and deep drawers for pots and pans. If you’re looking to maximize storage in your existing kitchen, try one of these ideas from Real Simple magazine.
  • Choose appropriate materials: If you’re replacing countertops or flooring, it’s important that you take into consideration the wear and tear these surfaces face in a kitchen. Countertops with grout lines are more difficult to keep clean. A granite or marble slab may be a better option for many kitchens. For flooring, slip-resistance and easy maintenance should be on the top the list. Hardwoods may be beautiful, but they tend to wear more quickly. Instead, consider a hard, natural stone that’s easy to clean and has some grip underfoot.
  • Make it family friendly: Your kitchen should be as safe and family friendly as possible. If you’re renovating, this means making sure sight lines to other rooms or backyards are clear so you can keep an eye on kids. It also means being conscious of countertop corners, cooktop or oven heights and cabinet and drawer access.
  • Design for comfort: Regardless of how in depth your kitchen redesign is, comfort should always be at the top of your design checklist. Choose warm, welcoming paint colors and lighting and make sure you allow for plenty of seating for family and friends – Cushioned barstools around an island or a farmhouse table with bench seating are great options.

In the end, your kitchen is the heart of your home — Where family, friends and food come together. Whether you’re renovating your kitchen entirely or thinking about design changes to make your space more functional, always think through your plan completely before taking on a home design project.