7 home building and remodeling tips

We may joke about spring cleaning, but once everything is organized and clean, summer is a great time to start home improvement projects.

Here are 7 useful, common-sense tips for building and remodeling your home. Some of them, I stumbled upon by accident; others are things I wish I had done.

1. Bins, bins, bins: Remember to set aside an area for three trash and recycling bins. Whether it’s an out-of-the-way corner, along the wall of your garage, or a separate enclosure, make sure there’s enough room to maneuver. It will make your yard look nicer – and you’ll always know where your bins are. If you live in an apartment or condo, a wheeled laundry sorter is a great way to sort your recyclables.

2. Reduce your electricity bill: Even if you can’t afford it now, plan your home with an eye to installing ceiling fans instead of air conditioners, solar panels and solar water heaters, and window film/tinting (to reduce glare, keep the house cool, and for added shatter resistance). Don’t skimp on windows – go for the low-e and double-paned windows; it’s worth it.

3. Give yourself elbow-room in the shower: If you’re planning a tub/shower combo, move the tub a few inches away from the wall, and add a ledge. Not only does it give you more room in the shower, it’s a great place to keep soap, shampoo, and other bath accessories. An incorrectly-placed wall led to this great tip, since it was cheaper to build a ledge than to move the wall.

4. Stairway safety: Consider putting in ankle-high lights along the stairs – you won’t have to turn on all the lights to see each step, and it’s easier to replace bulbs near the floor than on the ceiling.

5. Think kid-friendly and pet-friendly: Even if you’re not a parent, grandparent, or pet owner, you may be surprised. Design rooms and stairways so that you could easily add a safety gate. Consider installing ceiling-mounted and wall-mounted fixtures and appliances (like fans and televisions), so that you don’t have as many trailing electrical cords. If you have a yard, think about whether it can be fenced in for safety.

6. Plan for getting older: Age happens. It would be great to have a bedroom and bathroom on the first floor. Consider installing a walk-in shower and hand-rails – as well as electrical outlets higher up along the walls, so you won’t have to bend over.

7. You can never have enough storage: Organize the garage with racks and shelves, and consider a built-in storage closet for large items like lawn mowers, weed-wackers, and power tools. It will be safer and keep the garage more organized. Don’t try to put your hobby room in an out-of-the-way place, because things will migrate to your most-used rooms anyway. If you live in a condo and have covered parking, ask if you can install a hanging storage rack for extra space.

What useful tips can you share with other home builders and remodelers? What tips do you wish you had known?

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