These life hacks will make your daily to-dos (plus a few random projects) so much easier!
Pasta LighterWe’re sure you’re stocking up on sweet smelling candles to make your home extra cozy for the colder months. But, if your candles are burning too low to reach the wick, there’s no reason to go without your favorite scent. Instead of burning your fingers, light a piece of uncooked spaghetti. It’ll reach into those deep candles and burn long enough to light the candles on grandpa’s birthday cake!
Remove Highlighter StainsEver wish you could remove highlighter marks from a book? Lemon juice fades highlighter enough to make it virtually undetectable. Cut a lemon in half and get some juice on a cotton swab. Run the swab over the highlighted text and watch the color fade. Lemon juice from a container also seems to do the trick. Though not quite as well on the pieces we tested, and the older the mark, the more stubborn it is to remove.
Puppy Slow FeederMy puppy was eating his food too fast, resulting in him vomiting it back up. Instead of buying a slow-feed bowl, I drilled holes into a 12 in. length of 2 in. PVC pipe and capped the ends. I fill the tube with puppy food, and he has to roll it around to get the food to fall out of the holes. My puppy gets all the food he needs without the mess that comes from eating too fast. Be sure the holes are large enough for the food to come out! – Charlie May 4 / 49
Identify Your Keys at a Glance“It seems the older I get, the more keys I carry around. Between the car, house, shed and garage, I have a whole pocket full of keys. To make it easier to quickly find my most used keys, I paint both sides of the key head with brightly colored nail polish. I use a different color for each key. The nail polish is extremely durable and you’ll be surprised how much longer it lasts than spray paint.” —Joseph Grayson Check out these other. 5 / 49
Pool Noodle Water HoseIf you need to fill up a bucket that won’t fit under your sink’s faucet, bust out a pool noodle. Set the bucket on the floor, slip the pool noodle over the faucet and run it down to the bucket.
Keep Seeds FreshIf you don’t use up all of your seed packets, store them in an airtight container with silica packets to keep them fresh for next year. The silica packets prevent the seeds from germinating or getting moldy. Plus, check out these 10 seriously useful gardening tips every beginner needs to know. 7 / 49
Fog-Free MirrorsPrevent your bathroom mirror from fogging up after a hot shower with car wax. Apply a small amount of car wax to the mirror, let it dry, then buff with a soft, dry cloth.
Easy Way to Disinfect LegosChildren’s toys are a breeding ground for germs. A dishwasher makes quick work of disinfecting toys that are washable, like Legos. To quickly clean Legos:
- Drop the Legos in a laundry bag to keep them contained.
- Run your dishwasher as usual.
- But, remove the Legos before the drying cycle, letting them air dry completely on a towel.
Renew Your Furniture in MinutesMy son plastered all of the furniture in his room with stickers from skate shops, arenas and gumball machines. Once he moved out, I wanted to use his furniture in the new guest room, without the stickers. I peeled off all the stickers using a putty knife in combination with hair dryer, to soften the adhesive. Some are harder to remove than others, but I had them all off in a couple hours. – Steve Winter
Tape TemplateTake the guesswork out of hanging picture frames, shelves and other items with “keyhole” hangers. To begin:
- Stick a piece of masking tape over the keyholes, and then trace over the keyholes with a pencil, making a template.
- Making sure it’s level, stick the template on the wall where you want the shelf.
- Drill your anchor holes or screws into the template and remove it.
Get Wrinkles Out of Your Laundry with Zero EffortDitch the time-consuming iron or handheld steamer to get wrinkles out of a shirt or slacks. Throw a few ice cubes or a wet washcloth in the dryer with your wrinkled clothes. As the ice melts and the water turns to steam, it will remove the wrinkles. This trick isn’t as effective with heavier clothing but is a miracle for lighter fabrics. The best part is that you don’t have to set the dryer for longer than 10 minutes for it to work.
Plant-in-a-Pot Landscaping DesignEver wish you could reorganize your garden after seeing how the mature plants look? Here’s a clever way to do it. You’ll need a bunch of pots of the same size, so they’ll nest in each other. Put your plants in doubled pots, and then bury them at ground level. Whenever you want a change, lift out the top pot and put in a different one. This method is also really slick for bringing plants indoors over the winter. This method is great for quickly changing out seasonal plants, and allows for easy experimentation with color and placement of plants and flowers.
Dryer Lint Fire StarterTo properly build a fire, you need to have tinder (easy-lighting material), kindling (finger-size sticks) and fuel (logs). We all have a readily available supply of tinder: dryer lint! To make fire starters, I stuff empty toilet paper tubes with dryer lint. My dryer lint “logs” light quickly and easily burn long enough to light up the kindling. And I don’t have to resort to lighter fluid!
Zip-Tie Phone StandWhen referencing projects plans or a photo for inspiration while working on a DIY project, most of us use our phones to display images or instructional videos. The only problem with this method is that our phones don’t prop themselves up, making it difficult to see at the images while working. You can make a smartphone stand out of just about anything these days, but it doesn’t get much simpler than looping zip ties around your phone (1 on each side). All you have to do is tighten the zip ties until they are snug to the phone with the zip-tie heads facing down and near the edge of your phone. Now you can watch video instructions or look at project drawings without having to hold it in your hands the whole time.
Secret Cash Stash“Sometimes I don’t want to carry my wallet around. At the beach, for example, when I have to leave my belongings unattended while I go for a swim. But I still need cash on hand for food, drinks, etc. So I turned an empty tube of lip balm into a secret cash stash. You could do the same with an empty stick of sunscreen, too. A long nail works great for digging out any remaining bits of lip balm, and a cotton swab wipes away any waxy residue. Not only is the tube small enough to fit in my pocket, but it’ll also fool any potential thieves. I mean, who would steal someone’s used lip balm?” — Jenny Stanley
DIY Drip WatererHere’s an easy way to turn any hose into a drip-watering hose. Drill 1/8 in. holes every 2 in. and screw a cap the end. Weave the hose around your plants and turn on the spigot. You’ll have to do some testing to figure out the right setting. To make watering even easier, I added a programmable faucet timer to the hose. — Matt Boley
The Ultimate Extra HandCarrying a sheet of plywood by yourself is awkward and hard on your back. The best method I’ve found is to make a loop from an 18-ft. length of rope and wrap it around two corners. Now I can use the rope as a handle. – Ken Porter Now that you can carry plywood across your shop,
How to Double Your Resealable BagsThis might be the coolest way to turn sandwich-size bags into snack-size bags! Here’s how to do it: Heat up an old butter knife with a lighter and slice the bag in half. The hot knife cauterizes the edges of the two new bags. The cauterized edges are as strong as the factory sealed edges! – Julia Trenton
No Air Pump? No Problem! Use a Shop VacuumIf you don’t have an air compressor to inflate your air mattresses or pool toys, you can use your shop vacuum instead. Just pop the top off of a plastic squeeze bottle and fit the top to your vacuum’s hose. You may have to use duct tape. Once the top is secured to the hose, attach the hose to your vacuum’s exhaust port. It’ll blow up your inflatables in no time. To deflate, attach the hose to the vacuum port and suck the air out.
Instant Picture Frame BumpersStop wall frames from slipping out of place and scratching the wall paint by putting small dots of hot glue on the back corners of the frame. The hot glue not only prevents movement, but it also holds the picture away from the wall to prevent scratches and nicks.
Clean Up Paint in CarpetI used to think dropping a loaded paintbrush on the carpet meant replacing the carpet, until a former foreman told me this little tip. Pour some denatured alcohol onto a rag and scrub away the paint. Use a rag that is as close in color to the carpet, as the alcohol can transfer some of the rag’s color to the carpet. – Tom Gerdowsky
Picture Frame Message BoardI’m all for dry-erase message boards, but they’re usually pretty unattractive. So I make message boards using nice picture frames. To make these message boards, grab a picture frame and some paper. Cut the paper to fit the frame and set it in behind the glass. The glass makes an excellent dry erase surface! — Jessie Dawson
Easy Mulch SpreadingGetting mulch up close to flowers and bushes is easier if the mulch is in a small container. So I place buckets and pails in my wheelbarrow and fill them up with mulch. It doesn’t matter much if the mulch misses the bucket and lands in the wheelbarrow. Once you’re done dumping the buckets, dump what’s left in the wheelbarrow in an open area and spread it out. — Eric Swartz
Make Any Rug Extra ComfortableWant to make any rug feel extra plush and luxurious? Add a layer of carpet padding underneath your rug—it’s thicker and cheaper than a typical rug pad. The next time you wash that pile of dishes in the sink, your feet will thank you.
Lampshade Lint RollerFabric lampshades are magnets for dust and pet hair. You can’t just throw them in the washing machine, so what do you do? I’ve found that a lint roller works really well. Be careful though, as lampshades are fragile and can even become brittle. A torn lampshade is worse than a dirty one.
Taller Table HackI have a typical 6-ft. folding table that I use to layout certain projects. But the height of the table is meant for someone sitting in a chair. Constantly bending over when using the table was starting to hurt my back, so I came up with a solution. I used a couple of 2-ft. lengths of 1-1/4-in. PVC pipe found at my local home center, and cut four 11-in. stilts for my table. I slipped the pipes onto the legs and it raised the table about 6 in., bringing my work surface to a more comfortable height! The bend in the table legs at about 5 in. from the ground holds the pipes securely in place, so my table is still as sturdy as ever. The stilts can be removed if I ever need to lower the height of the table to use it while sitting in a chair. — Gary Inlow
Remove Gum from CarpetWhen gum freezes, it gets brittle and easily breaks apart. So, if you have gum stuck in your carpet, freeze it to remove it quickly and neatly.
- Place a sandwich bag filled with ice cubes on top of the gum and wait about a half hour.
- When the gum is frozen, break it apart and pull it out of the carpet. No trace left behind.
Simple Lawn EdgingTo edge your lawn, garden, or flowerbed, lay down a 2×6. While holding the board with your foot, drive a flat spade along the board’s edge. Move the board as needed to create a clean, straight line.
DIY Wood Filler“To make a versatile wood filler for free, just grab a paper plate and combine Elmer’s or any other wood glue with sawdust. Like other wood fillers, you can stain or finish it, but the color will likely be a bit different than the surrounding wood. But, it’s sandable, paintable and long-lasting. I haven’t bought any wood filler in over 50 years.” — Dan Gola
Quick Cold DrinksDoes wrapping a wet paper towel around a warm canned or bottled beverage and putting it in the freezer cool it faster than if there were no paper towel around it? Some folks theorize that the can is analogous to your body, and the wet paper towel is analogous to sweat. Since it’s well known that evaporation of sweat pulls heat away from your body, causing a cooling effect, the same should happen with a canned beverage in the freezer, right? There are lots of “expert” opinions about this online supporting both sides of the argument. I’ve had many opportunities to experiment, and to me, it seems to make a difference. Try it out for yourself! — Edward Kral.
Healthy Plant HydrationWater settling at the bottom of pots can lead to root rot. To combat this problem, cut up old sponges and put them in the bottom of the pot. The sponges retain moisture and create necessary air space. They also help prevent water from flushing out the bottom. The sponge acts as a water reserve and keeps soil moist longer.
Your Shoes Will Look NewAll you need is an old toothbrush and a little toothpaste to get your old sneakers looking like new! Non-gel white toothpaste works great for cleaning white-soled sneakers (colored toothpaste may stain rather than clean sneakers). Apply toothpaste to an old toothbrush and then work the paste into the dirty spots. Leave the toothpaste on the shoes for about ten minutes, and then wipe it off with a damp towel. Repeat the process if necessary. Important: The ingredients in toothpaste may vary from brand to brand, so make sure to try this method on a small unnoticeable spot on your sneakers before applying it to the rest of the shoe.
Lawn Mower Grass Chute SaverTo avoid a lot of string trimmer work, I like to mow as close as possible to trees and buildings. But the grass chute on my riding mower prevents it. So I drilled a hole in the chute and tied a rope from the chute to a handle on the side of the tractor. Now I can lift up the chute without missing a beat, and cut way down on string trimmer work. — Travis Larson
How to Make Durable Sandpaper“I do a lot of finish-sanding freehand, without a sandpaper block, so I can smooth edges and get into nooks and crannies. But the finer grits are usually bonded to thinner paper and, at least for me, the paper is too thin and ends up tearing long before the grit wears out. So I apply duct tape to the back of the sandpaper. The sandpaper is still flexible enough to sand a tight radius and it’s far more durable. You can use this super-strong sandpaper like a shoeshine rag.” — Chuck Merchant
Use This Simple Hack to Save Your Phone ChargerTo make your otherwise fragile phone charger last for more than a couple of weeks, try out this simple hack! Start by removing the spring from a pen. Next, stretch one end of the spring out a bit so it can fit around the charger cable. You might need to use pliers for this. Now, wind the spring around the cable until it is completely on the charger cable. Next, take appropriately sized heat shrink tubing and slip it over the phone charger and spring. Use a lighter to warm the heat shrink tubing until it conforms around the charger and spring. This simple hack will keep the cord from breaking any further or from even breaking in the first place!
Effectively and Safely Sweep Up GlassEveryone who has ever swept the floor with a standard broom and dustpan knows about that annoying line of dust. It’s the line that just won’t disappear no matter how many times you try and sweep it up. To get rid of this annoying line, simply tape the front of the dustpan to the floor with blue painters tape, so no residue will be left on the floor. It will seal and cover the gap between the floor and your pan. This handy hint also works great for sweeping up more menacing items like glass. The dustpan and tape combo will ensure that all of those little glass shards will be in the pan and not on the floor.
Make Your Own Ice PackIce packs are a great way to keep your lunch cool, but they’re a bit expensive if you’re in the habit of losing them. This DIY ice pack hack is reusable, so it is good for the environment as well. First, purchase an inexpensive pack of sponges or just find some old ones around the house. Grab a big bowl of water and let the sponges completely soak up as much water as they possibly can. After soaking the sponges, put each sponge in a small sandwich bag with a zip close. These bags serve two purposes. First, as the ice melts, the bag contains the water so it doesn’t make a mess in your lunch bag. Second, keeping the water contained allows the melted sponge to reabsorb the water so it is ready to refreeze for the next day. Now, freeze the wet and bagged sponges overnight. In the morning, all you need to do is toss the ice pack into your lunch container.
DIY Car MatsOne simple way to keep your car clean is to cut scraps of old carpet to fit on the floor as mats. We found our carpet scraps for less than $2 at Home Depot. And when the DIY carpet scraps inevitably get all dirty with mushy winter snow or summer sand, you could either give them a wash or toss them out and make more. A word of caution, do not put these DIY car mats on the driver’s side of the car unless grippers are attached on the bottom side to ensure that the mat does not slip forward while driving.
Get Dents Out of WoodDents in wood surfaces can be annoying. But fret not, they can be fixed! Simply soak a washcloth in water and ring it out a bit so it’s not sopping wet. Put the damp washcloth on the affected area. The water will wick through the wood, and that’s fine. Now, with your iron on its highest setting, place it on the damp washcloth over the affected area, and make small movements back and forth and in circles. Press down firmly and continue until your washcloth is dry. It won’t take long to evaporate. At this point, the wood fibers are absorbing the water and should expand back to where they were originally. Continue this process and repeat by adding more water until the dents rise up to be flush with the rest of the material.
Staple Remover HackA staple remover has perfectly sized thin teeth that make them perfect to easily slide between the rings of a key ring. When you clamp them down, it spreads the key rings apart and makes it easy to slide a new key on. This saves you the hassle of trying to pry open the key ring with your nails.
Support a Tension Rod with Water Bottle Caps“My wife sews kids clothes and uses a curtain tension rod to hang them in a closet. She explained to me one day that the pole was frequently slipping and falling down. So, I searched and found an object that could be screwed into the wall and would fit around the ends of the tension rod: water bottle caps. I used drywall screws to secure two water bottle caps into studs in the closet walls, and then I mounted the tension rod inside the bottle caps. The lip on each cap provides just enough support for the tension rod, so it doesn’t fall down anymore.” — Rodney Sheets
Coat Your Snow Shovel with Car WaxShoveling snow can be frustrating enough, but when heavy snow sticks or freezes in clumps on the shovel, it can make the job even more difficult! You can avoid this issue by first coating your shovel with car wax before heading out to clear your driveway and walking paths. This tip works best with metal shovels: Follow the application instructions on the car wax package. Generally, car wax is applied in a thin layer using a damp cloth, allowed to dry, and then buffed off with a dry cloth. This leaves the shovel clean and lubricated, so the snow and ice won’t stick!
Find Your Lost ItemsEveryone knows how annoying it is when you can’t seem to find a dropped pill or the back of an earring. So how do you find these items quickly and easily? Use your vacuum. Here’s the trick; before you turn the vacuum on, cut off the end of a nylon and secure it on the end of your vacuum hose with a rubber band.
Erase Permanent Marker on a Dry Erase BoardWho hasn’t accidentally written on a white board with a permanent marker? Luckily, it’s easier to remove than you think. Simply draw over your permanent marker artwork with a dry erase marker, and then wipe the marks away with an eraser or dry cloth. Your dry erase board will be good as new!
Fix Wobbly Furniture with a PennyNeed to shim a wobbly bench or table, but don’t have time to run to the home center for furniture feet? No worries, just reach for your pocket change! You can use a coin to shim wobbly furniture in a pinch. Use hot glue to attach the coin to the problem area, adding additional coins as needed. Coins work well as a temporary fix because they come in a variety of thicknesses and cost less than a dollar!
Write Notes on the WasherWhen you put a load of clothes into your washing machine, use a dry-erase marker to note on the lid which items should not go into the dryer. That way, whoever switches the load from the washing machine to the dryer will know which items to leave out for line drying. The enamel finish on most washing machine lids is similar to a whiteboard, and dry-erase markers can be removed easily with a dry paper towel.
Magnetized Drill HackI like to keep screws very close at hand when I’m working on a project. How close? I stick them right to my drill. Some drills are equipped with a magnetized portion for this purpose, but if yours isn’t, here’s an easy fix. Hot glue a rare earth magnet to the back of your drill and slap a few screws on it. For small tasks, I don’t even need a tool belt. – Lucas Kuck
Bring Dead Sharpies Back to LifeWhen it comes to workshop problems, dried-out Sharpies aren’t major. But they are annoying when you can’t find another one to mark your measurements or project notes. To bring your permanent marker back to life, simply remove the back from the maker. This will be different for each brand of permanent marker, for Sharpies simply remove the back nib. Next, deposit a few drops of isopropyl “rubbing” alcohol onto the felt material inside. Shake the marker a bit to ensure the rubbing alcohol is absorbed. It’s the solvent that the ink is mixed with that dries out first, making the pigment unable to flow. Once the felt absorbs the rubbing alcohol for a couple of minutes the marker will be practically good as new!
Use a Ceramic Mug as a Sharpening StoneThe bottom of most ceramic coffee mugs have a flat, unglazed ring that is the perfect surface for giving that dull knife or blade a quick sharpening. And if you find yourself in need of sharpening a utility knife, pocket blade or scissors and don’t have access to a sharpening stone, you can simply flip over a ceramic coffee mug and use the outer edge of the bottom, the non-glazed part, as an emergency sharpening stone. Just run the blade across the bottom of the mug at a 45-degree angle, working from the one end of the blade to the tip. Next, slide the blade downward in one direction, keeping your fingers out of the way as you work. This isn’t a perfect solution for continually sharpening your blades, but if you need to quickly sharpen and clean up the edge of a blade this method will do in a pinch. We do recommend eventually investing in a blade sharpening kit.
Cleaning Your BrickThe brick on your home is exposed to the elements on a 24/7 basis, and the rough surface of most bricks make them ideal for picking up dust and dirt. This can lead to damage over time, so once or twice a year you should take the time to clean your bricks. Most of the time this is as simple as spraying them down with a garden hose to remove any dirt and grime that’s built up on your home, though particularly tough spots and areas may need a scrub brush with soapy water as well. Avoid the temptation to use a power washer as the high water pressure can damage the brick.
Vegetation and Mildew RemovalWhile some plants such as ivy provide what some consider a dignified look, any vegetation that grows on your brick will damage it. Remove any vines, moss or other plants that you notice growing up your brick wall, making sure to wear gloves in case the plant is something that you don’t want to touch like poison ivy. You should also periodically check your brick for signs of mildew or mold, both of which can damage the brick surface as they grow. Scrub the area where you notice these growing, spraying them with a diluted solution of bleach and water to kill off any remaining remnants or spores. It’s a good idea to wet down the brick before you spray it, though, as this will prevent bleach from collecting in deeper contours of the brick and causing discoloration.
Checking for DamageThere are two types of damage you should check for at least once per year when you have a brick home. The first is impact damage, resulting from something hitting the brick and causing cracks, chips or other damage to it. This can come from a variety of sources, including things as ordinary as a lawnmower throwing a rock. The second type of damage to look for is water damage, which occurs when rain or splashing water repeatedly hits an area of the brick and starts to wear it away. Both of these can damage not only the bricks but the surrounding mortar as well. When damage is found, scrub the area to remove any loose material and keep an eye on the area to see if the damage gets worse over time. If the damage is caused by splashing water or other environmental issues, you might also adjust your landscaping or install additional drainage to redirect water and prevent further damage.
Repointing and RepairAs brick and mortar become damaged, you may need to make repairs from time to time. If the damage is just to the mortar, scrape and chisel away any damaged portions and apply new mortar to the entire area where wear and damage is present; this is typically known as repointing. If there are bricks that are damaged to the point that they need to be replaced, chisel away the mortar surrounding those bricks until they can be removed. Apply fresh mortar and new bricks to fill the damaged area.
Getting It Just RightIf the thought of replacing bricks or mortar intimidates you, we can help. Sign up for HomeKeepr today and we’ll help you find the masonry professional that can get the job done exactly the way you want it.
Gauging SeverityOne big determining factor in how problems found in a home inspection are dealt with is how severe the issues are. A major problem with a property can be a deal breaker for many buyers. Depending on where you live, such a problem may even have to be addressed before the property can be sold. State-level restrictions vary, but most are rooted in making sure that sellers can’t avoid fixing potentially dangerous problems or leave them for the buyer to discover on their own. Even if a problem isn’t critical, most states require that any problems found by a home inspection be disclosed to potential buyers. This disclosure is a big deal, as it can significantly affect how much the buyers are willing to pay.
Loan Program RequirementsBeyond repair and disclosure requirements that vary from state to state, different loan programs (such as those offered by the Federal Housing Authority or Department of Housing and Urban Development) may have additional requirements when it comes to problems discovered during a home inspection. Many programs have very specific guidelines regarding the condition of the property that a buyer can purchase using those loans. If a loan program won’t allow a purchase while unsatisfactory conditions exist, the issues must either be repaired or have satisfactory arrangements made to facilitate the repair before the purchase can continue. Keep in mind that not all loan programs will make allowances for future repairs, either; in those cases, the repairs will either have to be made in full or the buyer will have to find a different lender that does not follow the same strict requirements.
Negotiating RepairsIn the event that there aren’t specific regulations at the state level or restrictions in the buyer’s loan program concerning problems with the property, it falls to the buyer and the seller to determine what repairs will be made. This is typically part of the price negotiation, as buyers are willing to pay more for a property that they don’t have to make extensive repairs to. In many cases, sellers may offer to cover the most pressing repairs and address any serious issues while the buyer assumes responsibility for any other issues found in the buyer’s home inspection disclosure. In many cases this will be agreed to in writing, either at the request of one of the parties or as a condition of the mortgage loan that the buyer is using for the purchase. By formalizing the agreement in writing, it ensures that both parties understand their responsibility and protects the seller from potential legal action regarding issues that weren’t addressed (provided that the seller completed all of the repairs that they agreed to.)
Market StrengthThe strength of the housing market can have a big effect on who does the bulk of repairs on a property. If similar properties are plentiful and interest rates are low, it creates what’s referred to as a “buyer’s market”; buyers have a lot of options and can easily walk away from the purchase if they don’t get what they want. In this situation, the buyer has a lot of leverage and can usually get the seller to agree to either a lower price or a higher percentage of the repairs. When the opposite occurs and there are few choices and higher interest rates, a “seller’s market” is created. Buyers can’t walk away as easily and be guaranteed a good deal elsewhere, so sellers can often hold their ground more and get buyers to agree to higher prices or a greater percentage of repairs.
Need Some Help?Regardless of whether you’re buying or selling, having a seasoned pro on your side can make navigating repair negotiations a lot easier. Sign up for HomeKeepr for free to find the help you need to ensure the deal you deserve.
Because civilization is built on neighbors being civilized to each other.
If you have a problem, talk to your neighbors firstDoes your neighbor’s music keep you up at night? Are their kids bothering your dog? Talk to them. Having an in-person confrontation can feel scary, particularly if you need to say something you’re worried your neighbor won’t like, but talking things through face-to-face should be the first thing you try, says Diane Gottsman, national etiquette expert, author of Modern Etiquette for a Better Life, and founder of The Protocol School of Texas. “Go with a polite, non-confrontational attitude and you might be surprised how well most people respond,” she says. “Also, a plate of cookies never hurts.” If talking face-to-face doesn’t work try these 12 steps for dealing with bad neighbors. As a last resort, escalate issues to your HOA or local authorities.
Have a neighborhood safety plan“Wildfires, earthquakes, floods, hurricanes—you never know what will happen these days and if you ever get stuck in an emergency situation your neighbors are going to be the people you turn to first,” says Julie Bowman, MPH, emergency preparedness and public health expert. This is why it’s so important to set up a safety plan with your neighbors, she says. It can be as simple as printing out a map and marking where people are who will need help―like the elderly—to as complex as a neighborhood watch program or more. What you need will vary by community but start with these tips for making your own neighborhood plan from the National Crime Prevention Council. This is what to do if your neighbor’s tree has grown into your yard.
Look for ways to help neighbors instead of seeing them as problemsDoes your elderly neighbor have an unkempt yard? Does the single mom next door always leave her garbage cans out? Are the kids unruly at the bus stop? Instead of gossiping or complaining, reach out and see if you can find a way to help—for instance, mowing your neighbor’s lawn, bringing her trash cans in when you bring in yours, or offering to stand outside with the kids until the bus comes. “Often there are very simple things you can do to solve the problem and not only will you brighten someone’s day but there may come a time when you need help and you’ll want your neighbors to be there for you,” Gottsman says.
Smile and waveThanks to the Internet we’re interacting with people around the world more than ever but that may mean we’re also interacting much less with the people right next door to us. Fortunately, it doesn’t take much to change that, says Bonnie Tsai, founder and director of Beyond Etiquette. “A smile, a wave, a brief exchange of pleasantries, can inspire a lot of goodwill with your neighbors,” she says. It doesn’t take much and makes the neighborhood a much happier place overall.
Learn your neighbors’ namesThis is Good Neighboring 101 but you’d be surprised how many people have lived next to someone for years and don’t know the first thing about them. Good neighbors will make the little extra effort to learn their neighbors’ names and a few things about their lives, like how long they’ve lived in the area, where they work, or if they have kids or pets, Tsai says. The payoff can be great. It will make you feel more connected to those around you but it can also help make your neighborhood safer—neighbors who know each other are more likely to watch out for each other. One of the best defenses against a home break-in is a neighbor who knows your schedule and notices something out of the ordinary. Check out 15 more ways you can be a good neighbor.
Pick up your dog’s poop“It’s just plain rude to leave dog excrement in public neighborhood areas or in other people’s yards,” says Erin Askeland, certified pet behavior expert at Camp Bow Wow. “Not only is it rude, but it’s also gross; dog excrement can transmit diseases, damage plants and grass, and, let’s be honest, doesn’t have the most pleasant smell.” Good neighbors understand that it is their responsibility as pet owners to clean up after their animals, she says.
Give your neighbors the benefit of the doubtDo the teens next door have crazy hair and tattoos? Does the neighbor across the way practice a “weird” religion? Does the guy next door drive a big white van? Instead of assuming your neighbors are hoodlums, terrorists, or serial killers, give them the benefit of the doubt, Gottsman says. This doesn’t mean ignoring when people do bad things or putting yourself in unsafe situations, it simply means seeing people as people first and looking for other possible explanations for their behavior besides negative ones. You don’t have to be their best friend but you should treat them with respect and kindness, no matter what, Tsai says.
Maintain your fences“Good fences make good neighbors” isn’t just a cute Instagram quote, it’s really good advice as having appropriate boundaries—both physical and personal—can head off many of the typical neighbor fights, Tsai says. “It’s totally fine to say no sometimes. In fact, saying yes to everything your neighbors ask of will likely end up negatively impacting your relationship due to resentment and exhaustion,” she explains. Start with these 10 ways to build trust with your neighbors.
Don’t fight with your neighbors on social mediaKeyboard warriors are everywhere these days, using neighborhood apps and social media groups to share their indignation over everything from politics to teenagers trick-or-treating to dog poop. While this might garner you a lot of support, it doesn’t do much, if anything, to solve the problem and just marks you as a complainer, Gottsman says. “Hiding behind a keyboard is a very passive-aggressive way to deal with problems you may have with your neighbors,” she says. If you have a problem with a particular neighbor, talk to them offline and certainly don’t call people out by name on social media, she says. If your issue is more widespread—say a dangerous intersection by a bus stop—you’ll get better results calling the school, the bus company, the HOA, or the police directly. Besides, engaging on social media in a negative way could make you one of these real-life nightmare neighbors.
RSVP promptly to invitationsIf your neighbor is kind enough to invite you to their picnic, birthday party, game night, graduation party, or another event then you should be kind enough to give them a prompt answer, says Emilie Dulles, a protocol expert and founder of Dulles Designs. Unfortunately, it’s become very common today for people to either not RSVP at all or to hold back on responding, waiting to see who else is coming first, but this makes it very hard on hosts, she says.
Mind your mannersWe often reserve our best manners for people we’re trying to impress, like a boss or potential partner, and let them slide when we’re at home. While it’s fine to be more casual with your neighbors than your coworkers, you should always be polite, Tsai says. This means saying “please” and “thank you” or “excuse me” and other niceties. Even if you find them annoying or rude, set a good example. Civilization is built on people being civilized to each other! Do you know these 10 things your neighbors won’t tell you?
Stay positive about your community online
Neighborhood apps, Facebook groups, and community message boards have replaced the backyard fence of older days, becoming the main way neighbors share information. These can be a great tool, as long as you remember your manners online as well. “The whole point of these groups is to build community and camaraderie so keep your posts and comments positive and productive,” Gottsman says. “Before posting something, ask yourself, ‘What is the benefit of this?’ and ‘How would I feel reading this?’” And if someone is mean to you online? “Take the high road and simply reply, ‘Let’s discuss this in person,’” she says. Can you guess the things your neighbor wants you to STOP doing?
Do your best to follow community rulesMany fights between neighbors start over a disagreement about the rules and how someone is or isn’t following them. Most of these can be avoided by simply doing your best to abide by the standards set by your neighborhood, Gottsman says. Whether that’s taking down holiday decorations by the end of January or not playing music outdoors after 10 or keeping your garbage cans out of sight, these were things your neighbors have decided are important so you should make a good faith effort to follow them, even if they seem silly to you. If you live in an area with an HOA, these rules were likely spelled out in your signed contract. Otherwise, you might have to dig a little deeper to figure out what the expected norms are in your neighborhood.
Paint for Neutral AmbianceNeutral colors are the most appealing choice for home buyers. Painting is a big job, and something that many buyers don’t want to tackle right away. Bold colors are entirely a matter of personal preference. You may love that deep teal on the walls, but it will be more difficult to connect with prospective buyers when you’ve chosen such a distinctive hue. Instead, paint your home in shades that are easy to match, such as eggshell, tan, white or pewter.
Upgrade for Energy Efficiency
Smart homebuyers look at more than the up-front cost of the home. They’ll also consider ongoing expenses such as utilities and upkeep. That’s why Energy Star appliances and newer HVAC systems are so appealing. If you don’t have the funds for these major investments, you can improve your home’s energy efficiency on a budget by sealing and insulating. Address cracks or gaps around windows and doors. Replace the seals around doors and windows, repair any damage to the siding, and check your insulation.“Sealing your home everywhere you can makes a big difference, not only in your energy bills, but in the comfort of the home,” said Julie Jacobson, a Redfin real estate agent in California. “Inexpensive weatherstripping available at your local hardware store will do the trick. Your local utility company or county may even offer rebates and incentives for making these upgrades.”
Clean Up for Spacious Impressions
Cluttered homes look smaller and hectic. Clear the odds and ends, and make your home look as much like a showroom as possible. If the idea of organizing all these items is too overwhelming, simply box them up and stash them in unseen areas, such as under the bed. You may even want to rent a small storage space while you’re staging your home so that you can clear out your closets and show off their spacious nature or empty the garage and make it look more appealing.
Landscape Carefully for Curb Appeal
First impressions are critical when you’re selling your home. Many prospective buyers will do a drive-by before scheduling a viewing. If they don’t like what they see from the street, they’ll never step inside the home. Keep your yard well maintained with manicured bushes, carefully tended flower beds, and a clutter-free lawn. Small improvements such as painting the front door, straightening the mailbox, and replacing that missing stone in the walkway will go a long way toward enticing a buyer.
Polish Up the Bathroom for a Like-New Look
You don’t have to remodel your whole bathroom for the same level of appeal. At a minimum, you should recaulk the tub for a fresh, clean look. If you can’t eliminate stains and discoloration completely, reglaze the tub to make it look like new. Keep this room meticulously clean, regularly sweeping up stray hairs, dusting light fixtures, and cleaning the mirror so that it looks pristine.
A well-staged home will draw more buyers and entice the type of bidding war every seller wants. Make the effort to present your home well, and you’ll reap major rewards for your efforts.
PROTECTINGConcentrated solar reflection from nearby energy-efficient glass windows, roofing, pavement, etc. Can cause heat distortion to your vinyl siding. This can be prevented by blocking the path of this reflected sunlight with trees, shrubs, or fences (helpful accessory: window screens). Or in the case of reflections from nearby energy-efficient windows, these windows should have screens or awnings added to them. Vinyl siding has a relatively low melting point, so you will want to be sure to keep heat sources (such as barbecue grills) and combustible materials (such as dry leaves, mulch, and trash) away from your vinyl siding. And when doing home projects that involve stains, sealants, and wet concrete, you should cover your vinyl siding to prevent these products from damaging your siding. Also, certain insecticides or herbicides can potentially stain your vinyl siding, and you should be carefully research and test in a small area before applying any of these products near your vinyl siding (helpful accessory: vinyl siding cleaners). You should trim any shrubbery or trees which are near your house, so they don’t rub against and mar your vinyl siding. You should also inspect your siding to be sure that all areas are firmly attached, otherwise strong winds can use these loose areas to pull entire sections off of your home. Also inspect for areas which are damaged, cracked or punctured and need to be replaced to maintain water and pest protection for your home. And be sure to consult with your vinyl siding manufacturer before painting vinyl siding. Many manufacturers void their warranties if their siding is painted. However, vinyl siding should never be painted a dark, heat-absorbing color, as it will cause your siding to tend to warp and sag when exposed to strong sunlight.
CLEANINGTo keep your vinyl siding looking good, you should wash and clean it using a cleaner that is approved by your manufacturer. Small spots of mold and mildew can be removed with cleaners such as Fantastik or Windex. For larger sections, a solution of vinegar (30%) and water (70%) is usually effective, and is environmentally more friendly than using household cleaners and bleach. Do NOT use cleaners containing organic solvents, undiluted chlorine bleach, liquid grease remover, nail polish remover, or furniture polish or cleaners, as these can affect the surface of your vinyl siding. Power washers should only be used if allowed by your particular manufacturer. If you do use a power washer, be careful not to etch the siding with too strong of a stream. And be sure to spray the water on a downward angle and away from any window edges or corners, so as to keep water from getting under your siding. When washing and cleaning your vinyl siding, use a soft cloth or a long-handled soft-bristle brush (which works well for textured vinyl surfaces), and start at the bottom of your house and work up. If you go top to bottom, the cleaner and dirt that flows downwards can sit on the lower boards for too long and damage them. And be sure to thoroughly rinse the cleaning solution away completely before it dries.
Radon gas in the home is more common than most people think, and it can enter a home through many different openings. We’ll check your:
- Floor Drains
- Sump pump openings
- Pores in the walls and concrete
- Well water
- Wall and floor joints in basements