The Art of the Tweak: Small Change but Big Home Improvement

by Chris Bjorklund
Chris enlisted her 10-year-old neighbor, Alice Doyle Taylor, to help her make new bathroom curtains. Photo: Chris Bjorklund, 2016

Chris enlisted her 10-year-old neighbor, Alice Doyle Taylor, to help her make new bathroom curtains. Photo: Chris Bjorklund, 2016

As I mentioned in last month’s newsletter, I’ve been busy having three bedrooms and a bathroom painted, which forced me to clean out my closets. The project was time-consuming, but I’m happy to say I didn’t spend a lot of money. It made our home more aesthetically pleasing and I’m looking forward to having houseguests again.

That got me thinking about other little things my husband and I could do to spruce things up that wouldn’t cost an arm and a leg. The first thing we purchased was a new corner desk so my husband could work at home more comfortably. It was deeply discounted after Christmas. Then, I had a couple of pictures reframed so they would complement the colors of our newly painted walls. I replaced the wastebasket in my home office and the beat-up dish rack in my kitchen. A friend gave me some silk-covered pillows for my old couch, which perked up our living room more than I expected. I just picked out fabric for a new bathroom curtain, and I’ve hired a neighbor’s 10-year-old daughter to do the sewing. Instead of a major bathroom remodel, I decided to have a new, more contemporary semi-frameless shower door installed.

You might already have small home improvement projects of your own in the works, but in case you don’t, here are some great suggestions from five Diamond Certified Expert Contributors:

Radu Binzari, Strong Builders Construction, Inc.
If you want your ceramic or porcelain tile to look amazing, just apply a sealant to the gaps between the tiles once a year. If you have granite or marble tile, apply sealant to the entire thing (including the grout) every eight months.

Dan Pitcock, Roberts Electric Company, Inc.
One way to update the lighting in your home is to add light switch dimmers, which can significantly reduce your energy usage. Additionally, if you have a room in your home where you’ve always wanted an additional light switch but don’t want to pay for the cost of wiring, wireless switching is a recent innovation that enables you to control lighting from the other side of a room with a battery-operated radio receiver.

Uri Rosenberg, Closet Factory
If your closet is so full that you’re putting hangers on hangers, it might be time to add some accessories to improve its functionality. One popular accessory is known as a valet rod. This retractable post provides a convenient place to hang clothes when you’re in a hurry, deciding what to wear or packing for a trip. Rather than re-hanging a piece of clothing in its original spot on the closet rod (or worse, hanging it on a chair or door jamb), you can temporarily hang it on the valet rod. In addition, a valet rod provides an easy way to compare clothing items side by side or assemble your wardrobe for an upcoming trip. It’s also a great catch-all if you’re in a hurry or you’ve just brought clothes home from the dry cleaner.

John Grivas, Bay Area Deck
While some contractors will agree to replace a deck regardless of whether it’s warranted, a good contractor will offer the option of refurbishing your existing deck to save you the expense of a full replacement. Getting your old deck refurbished doesn’t mean it has to look refurbished; rather, a skilled contractor can utilize numerous measures to bring your deck back to like-new condition. For example, simple steps like refinishing and resealing can instill new life into old deck boards. Another economic alternative is to replace only the most dilapidated boards and leave those that are still in good condition. Also, a contractor can give your existing deck a new look by adding a modern style of railing.

Jeremy Carlock, Got Watts Electric, Solar & HVAC
During the summer, it’s common for people to run their air conditioners until late at night, not realizing that it’s actually cooler outside their homes than it is inside. A whole house fan is designed to bring in this cool outdoor air while simultaneously cycling out the warm indoor air. This cools and refreshes the home naturally, rather than artificially as an air conditioning system does. Additionally, a whole house fan is a far more energy-efficient option: on average, it consumes 65 watts on the low setting and 250 watts on the high setting, which is considerably less than a 10,000-watt air conditioning system. By installing a whole house fan, you’ll breathe easier in more ways than one: not only will your air be fresher, but you’ll also decrease your carbon footprint and save money on your energy bills.