How to Hide Cat Litter

There’s nothing more unattractive than walking into a well-styled living room and noticing a smelly cat litter pan in the corner. Especially in smaller living spaces, cat litter can absolutely cramp your style. If you value the aesthetic of your home, but also can’t give up your kitty, here are some tips on how to hide and disguise your litter box.


Luckily, so many companies now make hidden litter boxes. You can find a cat litter planter on Amazon. At a glance, it looks like a potted plant. In actuality, this is a hollowed entry for your kitty with a fake plant on top. If you want to get a little more creative, you can paint the outside of the planter to fit any room’s style and replace the fake plant with anything you like!


Wayfair carries these awesome cabinets that blend in just like furniture. No one will ever know that the cute little cabinet in the corner of your living room is really cat litter. While these are a little pricey, they look so chic. Etsy also has really cute litter box furniture. If you are looking for something more stylish, check these out.


Finally, if your cat is a little tricky and you are a little craftier, you can make your own custom litter cover. Build a wooden box with one open side and one with a hole where your litter box’s entry should be. The perk of making your own is that you can still use a hooded litter box, which wouldn’t fit in the prior options. You can paint this to match your furniture and throw a cute pillow on top. No one has to know your secret!

Where to Save on Home Improvement


Blame it on Fixer Upper (a licensed and experienced contractor, mind you), but just because they make it look easy on TV, doesn’t mean it’s easy in real life. Cutting corners or trying to DIY projects for home improvement you have no experience in can cost you in the long run. But we all want to save money, especially when talking about the significant cost of home improvement. Here’s where you can responsibly save money in a home improvement project.


Purchasing your own materials. Taking the time to research products and go out of your way to purchase them (after speaking with your contractor about these options) can often save you a significant portion of money. This works for things like paint, appliances, cabinetry, fixtures, bathroom tile or other flooring, but not for things like roofing, siding, and HVAC, which are best purchased by your specialized licensed contractor.


Haggle with your contractor. Be open about your budget and discuss ways to work with your contractor about the areas where you can save money. If your contractor’s timeline is flexible, ask about DIY options within your plan. Your contractor could potentially move to a different project while you complete tasks such as painting. Another way to save is to be responsible for cleaning up the site at the end of every day. And make sure to check your contractor’s website for possible coupons or rebates.


The Most Expensive Contractor is Often the Cheapest. Beware of super low bids and get references. Nothing is more expensive than hiring the wrong contractor, who then abandons your project with your money.


Doing it Wrong is also Expensive. Even if it seems right, a poorly done project will just need redone in a few years, causing you twice the expense, at least. Be smart and talk to a contractor before embarking on home improvement.


Photo by Cody Hughes @clhughes21

Choosing the Right Siding for Your Home


Thinking of replacing the siding on your house, but uncertain what material to use? Here’s the pros and cons to consider.  


Vinyl- Vinyl siding is cheap and durable and most commonly chosen for those reasons. It resists hail and denting but can warp in intense heat. Vinyl needs replaced about every twenty years.  


Brick- Durable and classic, brick is still a beautiful choice for a home. Installation can be expensive, depending on how much square footage you have to cover. But brick is sturdy and will last about the lifetime of the home.  


Aluminum- Also cheap and durable, aluminum siding is similar to vinyl with a few key differences. It dents more than vinyl but can be repainted and doesn’t warp. With proper care it can last over thirty years.  


Wood—Wood siding offers endless creativity and natural beauty, especially as it is unique to each house. But wood also requires a lot of maintenance. Every two years it will need scraped, sanded and repainted. Traditional siding looks classic and beautiful. With proper care, wood siding can last over a hundred years.  


Stone veneer- Similar to brick, stone veneer is perfect for a luxury home. While extremely durable, it can be very expensive, both in materials and to install.  


Stucco- Made of cement, sand, lime and water, this is solid and seamless. Stucco exteriors are a great insulator and as such is most commonly chosen in areas of extreme heat. Can last up to fifty years.  


Hardie Board- A cement fiber board that combines the durability of a stucco and the look of shingles or siding.  


Should You Hire Someone? While it’s possible to do it yourself, it might not be worth the hassle if you’ve never done it before. Siding is finnicky, and any mistakes will be noticeable and/or costly. It won’t matter how nice the siding product you’ve chosen will be, if it’s incorrectly installed, it will look cheap and could leak and cause costly repairs. Plus, with a professional contractor, you’re siding product will retain its warranty if anything happens.


Photo by Cody Hughes @clhughes21

Troubleshooting Your Water Heater


Is home ownership easy? Nope. Is it worth it? Absolutely. Here are some common problems that come up with water heaters.


“My water is rusty.” If the water only turns rusty when you are running hot water, your water heater may be rusting inside the tank. If your water is rusty whether you are running hot or cold water, the problem is likely in galvanized pipes that are rusting. Commonly the tank itself hasn’t begun rusting, but the anode rod is going bad and will sacrifice itself before corroding through the tank. You can have a professional replace the anode, screwed into the top of the tank. But for a temporary solution to rusty hot water, you can clean out your water heater. Drain some of the water, add hydrogen peroxide to the tank and allow the water and peroxide to sit. Then flush the water heater until the water runs clear. The peroxide chemically reacts with the rust to loosen the corrosion and allow it to be rinsed out, prolonging the life of your water heater. But I recommend allowing a licensed plumber to do this for you. Feel free to contact me for a recommendation.


“My water heater is making weird noises.” If your water heater is starting to sound like a scary monster in your basement, a la Home Alone, you may rightly begin side-eyeing it. As water heats up the sediment on the bottom is hardened after a long time of heating and reheating. It’s this hard sediment layer expanding from reheating that makes a noise. This may mean leaks are soon to follow as the sediment leads to more brittle metal.  


“There’s no visible leak, but it’s damp around the water heater.” First, double check your fittings and connections. Are they damp or do they show signs of a possible leak? Make sure the pressure overflow pipe isn’t leaking as well. But if those are all dry, it means the water heater is leaking. The leak may be so small as to avoid obvious detection. As the metal heats and expands, it can create tiny holes in brittle metal that are only open when it’s expanded from heat. As it cools, the holes will close.  


“My water heater just looks old, when should I replace it?” Water heaters older than ten years should be watched closely (or you should start saving for the replacement, if your tank is in a place where it won’t cause any damage). You can determine the age of your water heater by looking at the serial number on the manufacturer’s sticker. The first letter indicates the month (A-Jan, B-Feb, C-Mar, D-April, E-May, F-June, H-July, I-August, J-September, K-October, L-November, M- December). The next two digits represent the year. If in doubt, check the manufacturer’s website.


Feel free to reach out if you have any other concerns with your water heater that weren’t mentioned above. I’d love to help!


Photo by Cody Hughes @clhughes21

Road Map to Renovation


Knowing you want to renovate is often the easiest step of the home improvement process. Deciding what to renovate, where to spend your money, and whether or not to do it yourself are more complex parts of the process. Here are other things to consider as you begin to make your home improvement plan.  


Determine your end goal. What do you envision for your end space? What are your long-term plans for your home? Take measurements, collect images and refine your idea so that regardless if you are doing it yourself or hiring someone there is a clear vision to follow. 


What tools will you need? If you are planning to DIY any portion of your project, consider the tools you may need beyond just materials and time. For example, if you are going to lay a tile floor, do you have a wet saw? If you do not, would you buy or can you rent?  


How much plumbing and electricity are involved? Anytime you start moving pipes or wires, things can get dicey. It’s best to leave these parts of a home improvement project to a professional and get a consultation in advance. Contrary to what often happens on television, it can be very expensive or impossible to move some plumbing or wires. Your project may also need a permit, depending on the scale—something a licensed contractor needs to obtain.  


How much time will your project take? Are you looking at a five-year plan, broken down into stages? Or is this something that could be done in a long weekend? Setting a realistic expectation now can help prevent undue stress later on. Generally, everything takes longer than you anticipate.  


Does this make financial sense outside of your budget? A common pitfall of home improvement is putting more money into your home than you are able to get out of it.  If you are spending less than five years in this current home, you should consider smaller projects. Have a real estate agent check comps in your area to make sure your plan doesn’t outpace your home value.  


Do your contractor homework. Ask specific questions and expect specific answers. Check their references. Ask for pictures of previous projects. Ask friends and family for recommendations. Take your time to compile estimates in order to feel comfortable that the person you hire is both reputable and understands what you are trying to achieve.  


Sign a contract. Don’t do work without a contract as it protects both you and your contractor and lays out the expectations. The contract should include a detailed project description, required permits, license and inspections, and insurance or property damage liability. It will state warranties, lien waivers and a clear timeline plus allowances, as well as the ways and circumstances you would receive any money back for unfinished work.  


Will my insurance be affected? Check in with your insurance agent to determine if any changes you’ve made to the house affect your policy. You don’t want to get caught being underinsured.


Photo by Cody Hughes @clhughes21

Healthy Gutters, Healthy Home


Gutters are the teeth of the house. When they start to go, everything else does to. (Or is it the feet?) Whatever the terrible analogy, healthy gutters are key to keeping your home healthy. They are designed to keep your home free from water damage. When they start to fail, the leaks can damage the fascia board, siding and, quickly, the foundation itself. Here’s what to look for to diagnose a vulnerable gutter system.  


Paint is peeling and/or there are signs of rust beginning. Gutter paint is designed to withstand moisture, but not continuous moisture or standing water. When the paint begins to peel or you notice red spots on the paint, it’s a sign the water isn’t flowing away naturally and something is wrong.  


Water marks below your gutters. Look at the grass and flower beds after a heavy rain and see if there are any marks in the earth or flattened grass or plants from where water poured directly over/through the gutter rather than being siphoned away appropriately into a downspout. Seeing signs of water where it shouldn’t be, is another indication of a failing gutter system.  


Gutters are sagging. Anytime your gutters are sagging it indicates sitting water or a clogged gutter pulling the gutter away from the house. It might be something as simple as a pile of leaves weighing it down, but you anytime you see this is an indication you need to keep a closer eye on the gutters.  


Cracks in the gutter or downspoutCracks occur most frequently during the winter, from sitting water melting and refreezing.  


In order to prevent problems, you should clean out your gutters every spring and fall at the least. But checking your gutters before a big rainstorm will make sure that there are no accidental leaks or damage that goes unnoticed.


Photo by Cody Hughes @clhughes21

The Countertop Crossroads


You’re done. Done “decorating” with a carefully positioned pot-holder or vase. Done apologizing for your mauve countertop circa The Golden Girls. You just want your scratched, gouged, burnt, or simply hideous countertop to be new. Unfortunately, your budget has other ideas. Don’t lose hope just yet! There may be an option you haven’t considered. You may be able to repair your old or damaged countertop.  


What Can Be Repaired? Solid surfaces, laminate and tile.  


What Are the Repair Options? Solid surfaces were popular in the eighties and are extremely durable and seamless, they are the easiest to repair because of how durable they are. Laminate, solid surface or tile can also be re-covered with a composite material. The material goes on as a liquid and dries into a hard, new surface.  


Can I Choose Different Colors? It’s all well and good to repair a mauve countertop from 1992, but you’re still left with the same countertop. Don’t worry! If you choose the composite material, you can choose both different colors and finishes—from something resembling granite to something as simple as a different color solid surface.  


Will I have To Remove My Cabinets or Sink? Typically, no.  


How Long Does It Take? Anywhere from one to three days.  


What does it cost? Solid surface repair can run between $200-600, depending on the problems. Composite material will run around $1200.


Photo by Cody Hughes @clhughes21

7 Things To Do Before Listing Your House


As soon as you know you’re moving, it’s hard to look around your current home and want to do anything but future house search with a bag of chips. But paying attention to your current home can pay dividends when it comes to getting the price you want. These are seven suggestions for improving the value of your home.


1. Change the lighting—Each room should be well lit. A good rule of thumb is three points of light per room. For example: an overhead light, a table lamp and a task light. For inexpensive lighting options, try Target and Ikea.
2. Clear Clutter—If there’s only one thing you can do to improve the look of your home, it’s this. Now is the time to clear everything from your surfaces including books, clothes from packed closets, and everything personal from your bathroom.
3. Deep Clean—hire a company or do it yourself, but a deep clean of your home will go a long way for showing it at it’s best.
4. Speaking of the Bathroom—Replace any missing tiles, fix the caulk on the tub and sink, consider swapping out fixtures if they are dated and bringing an otherwise neutral bathroom down. Add new towels and a neutral shower curtain for finishing touches.
5. Address the Floors—No, not refinishing—but a simple clean and buff can do wonders for hardwood. If you have carpet, get them professionally steam cleaned.
6. Paint—Nothing beats the freshness of a fresh coat of soft white paint and it’s an easy way to make a house feel new.
7. Upgrade the Kitchen—Don’t worry, you can make kitchen upgrades without remolding. A fresh coat of paint, new hardware, and peel and stick wall tiles can all transform a space without costing a fortune in time or money. If you’re feeling more ambitious, there are options for resurfacing your countertops or upgrading your appliances.


Whatever you do, start with an honest talk with a real estate agent—who can help you focus your priorities for selling a home in your area.


Photo by Cody Hughes @clhughes21

Weathering Winter Indoors

The long days of winter hibernation can drag on anyone. We spend so much time indoors, from illnesses to snow days, the house you love during the summer is suddenly the thing you stalk around like an insomniac bear. Here are eight ways to make your home feel better and brighter, so you can make it to summer without going full on angry grizzly.

Add plants- even for all you black thumbs, there is a plant for you. Try succulents or cactuses. Buy grocery store flowers, even. In the cool, dry air they can last up to two weeks.

Rearrange your furniture- Try changing up the configuration of your furniture. Look at how far apart each item is. Pleasing proportions is a twenty-four inch separation for people to walk easily through and the room not to feel overcrowded.

Deep clean- get a head start on spring cleaning now. Deep cleaning can improve your mood and satisfaction with a space. Take the chance to rethink the things you own and see if you can get rid of things that might be bothering you.

Ask what you want- it can be helpful to sit about what you want from the space and what you can do to bring it into alignment with your desires.

Light- change out dark curtains, add mirrors to bounce light or rearrange to dark furniture to open up rooms.

Change colors change the hue of your home to something that gives you pleasure, or if you don’t want to repaint, try changing the accent colors with something as subtle as pillows and throws.

Eliminate noise—address all the little irritants it’s easy to ignore—the rug that creeps, the door that doesn’t open all the way, etc.—all the little things add up!

With a few tweaks any grumpy bear can make it through a long winter.


Photo by Cody Hughes @clhughes21

The Must-Need Tool Kit

You. Yes you. You need a home tool kit. Even if you’ve never touched a hammer. Especially if you’ve ever used a shoe as a hammer. Here are eleven items (and their uses) to get you started.

16-ounce hammer: A solid hammer choice that anyone can use. Shoes, in fact, are terrible substitutes.
Multi-bit screwdriver: A multi-bit ratcheting screwdriver that stores all the tips in the handle is the only screwdriver you’ll need.
Level: A two-foot level will do all the jobs you’ll ever need—from hanging pictures to shelves, this size will be the most versatile.
Utility knife: Used for breaking down boxes, cutting drywall or stripping wires. A utility knife is irreplaceable.
Tape measure: Handier than using a shoe (again) as a ruler.
LED Flashlight: If the lights go out, if you need to see under the bed, really this is a no-brainer.
Rubber Mallet: A cheap tool for banging stuff back into place without hurting it.
Wrenches: Used to tighten or loosen a bolt or nut. A compact Channellock can be the perfect solution to most home problems.
Cordless Drill: The most basic of power tools for most DIY needs.
Needle-Nose Pliers: Handy for everything from electrical work to crafts, as well as everything in between, including fishing toys out of the drain.
Safety equipment: Ear protection, eye protection and a good set of deer hide gloves never hurt anyone.

Psstt…this also makes a good birthday or Christmas gift.


Photo by Cody Hughes @clhughes21