9 Stunning Trees with Colorful Curb Appeal

Japanese Maple

Acer palmatum

Image: andykazie/Getty

Height: 15-25 feet
Spread: 20 feet
Zones: 5-8
Fall color: Maroon to orange
Care: Plant in dappled shade so delicate leaves won’t burn in summer; not particular about its soil; keep moisture consistent, especially during dry spells.
Value add: Slow-growing (it won’t outgrow its home); great planted alone or in groups; songbirds, squirrels, and chipmunks love the seeds.

Vine Maple

bright red orange yellow and green leaves of a Vine Maple tree in fall in a garden edge along the grass
Acer circinatum

Image: Design Pics / Craig Tuttle/Getty

Height: 15 feet
Spread: 20 feet
Zones: 6-9
Fall color: Yellow, orange, red
Care: Plant in shade (though it will take full sun); keep soil moist; prune often to prevent branches from running wild.
Value add: Unusual arching and twisting branches that provide year-round interest and curb appeal; good for urban gardens and large containers; usually pest- and disease-free.


colorful pink and purple berries with red and orange edges of waxy green leaves on a Viburnum Nudum shrug
Viburnum nudum

Image: Diane Labombarbe/Getty

Height: 6-10 feet
Spread: 6-10 feet
Zones: 5-9
Fall color: Maroon to red-purple
Care: Likes partial shade to full sun; prefers moist loam but grows in a wide range of soil types.
Value add: Versatile tree; good as an accent, foundation, border, or street-side planting; edible (but acidic) blue-purple berries.

Paper Birch

the low contrast light of an overcast day brings out the vivid red gold and yellow autumn colors of Paper Birch trees
Betula papyrifera

Image: Robert C Nunnington/Getty

Height: 50-70 feet
Spread: 35 feet
Zones: 2-7
Fall color: Bright yellow
Care: Keep moist and mulched, especially in high heat and low-water conditions.
Value add: Year-round interest from dark red bark on young stems that turns creamy white on mature trunks; tap the trunk in spring for sap you can make into beer, syrup, and vinegar.

Sugar Maple

bright leaves of gold orange yellow red and green of a Sugar Maple autumn foliage on the branches and across the green grass along a white picket fence
Acer saccharum

Image: Adria Photography/Getty

Height: 60-75 feet
Spread: 40-50 feet
Zones: 3-8
Fall color: Red, orange, gold
Care: Likes fertile, moist, well-draining soil; avoid planting near streets, because it’s salt-sensitive.
Value add: Long-living, up to 500 years; lots of shade from its dense crown; syrup from sap in spring.


closeup of vivid orange and golden leaves of a Smoketree in autumn
Cotinus coggygria

Image: apugach/Getty

Height: 10-15 feet
Spread: 12 feet
Zones: 5-8
Fall color: Magenta and purple
Care: Thrives in diverse, well-draining soil; likes a sunny home best.
Value add: Deer resistant; stunning accent tree or colorful shrub border; unusual wispy pink blooms in spring.

Katsura Tree

a Katsura tree has bright reddish orange and golden leaves changing in fall
Cercidiphyllum japonicium

Image: Arco Images / Huetter Christian/Getty

Height: 40-60 feet
Spread: 25-60 feet
Zones: 4-8
Fall color: Orange, gold, red
Care: OK, this one needs some special care — protection from wind and hot afternoon rays. But its unusual, open spread of up to 60 feet makes it worth the effort.
Value add: Fallen leaves can smell like cinnamon or burnt sugar — yummy!


vibrant red foliage of a Sourwood tree leaves in autumn with blurred background of trees that have already lost their leaves and other trees still changing color
Oxydendrum arboreum

Image: krblokhin/Getty

Height: 25-30 feet
Spread: 20 feet
Zones: 5-9
Fall color: Scarlet, purple foliage; silvery capsules
Care: Likes acidic and rich soil; keep moist.
Value add: Capsules provide winter interest, too; tree attracts bees that produce prized sourwood honey.

Scarlet Oak

close up of orange and green leaves of a Scarlet Oak tree in autumn
Quercus coccinea

Image: DianaLynne/Getty

Height: 50-70 feet
Spread: 40-50 feet
Zones: 4-9
Fall color: Bright scarlet
Care: Plant in dry-to-average, well-draining soil; even tolerates sandy conditions. Give it plenty of room to grow.
Value add: Fast growing; grind its acorns to thicken stews; large songbirds and wild turkeys love it.


How to Find the Right Hardwood Flooring

For years, homeowners have preferred hardwood flooring. These floors are an investment because they’re timeless and durable. On top of that, you can choose from different colors, stains, and grains to get the look you want. 

Because hardwood floors are popular, they can help homes sell faster and increase your home’s value. Installing new wood flooring can recoup 118% of their cost, according to the National Association of REALTORS® “2022 Remodeling Impact Report.” That made it one of the survey’s top two interior remodeling projects for cost recovery, behind hardwood floor refinishing.

Another benefit of wood flooring is you don’t need to replace it, unlike carpet or tile flooring. Instead, you an simply resand or refurbish it, saving money over time. 

Even though wood floors have so many benefits, they have a few downsides. For example, wear and tear can easily dent and scratch them, and mold, detergents, water, and termites can damage them.  

If you’re considering replacing or updating your floors, follow these basics to help you find the right hardwood flooring.  

Refinishing vs. New Floor Installation

Image: simazoran/getty

A new hardwood floor has a lot of selling points, but it may not be in your budget. In that case, you can refinish your existing floors to make them look brand new without the high price tag.  

If you’re unsure which way to go, have a professional look at your floors. With an objective opinion, you can more easily decide if refinishing is right for you.  

Of course, if you refinish your existing floors, you’ll spend less than you would on installation. Refinishing can cost $1.50 to $5 per square foot without staining and $2 to $7 per square foot with it. But new hardwood floors run $9 to $12 per square foot. 

Considerations for Choosing the Right Hardwood Flooring

In choosing the type of hardwood you want, you’ll select from engineered or hardwood flooring, and prefinished or finished on-site. You can also pick from different wood types and plank widths. 

Engineered vs. Solid Hardwood Flooring

Solid hardwood planks are single pieces of wood, while engineered hardwood combines multiple layers of hardwood. Interlocking options make installing engineered hardwood easier. 

Another plus for engineered hardwood floors: They reduce moisture problems you’d usually find in standard hardwood flooring.  

Both types typically cost $5 to $15 per square foot. 

Prefinished vs. Finished On-site

almost finished dark stain application with handheld pole and pad on new oak hardwood floor

Image: BanksPhotos/getty

Prefinished hardwood floors are finished at a factory, and a coat of polyurethane tops each board. Site-finished hardwood is shipped to your home unfinished, and the process of sanding, staining, and sealing is done after the floor is installed. 

Prefinished boards have more uniform color and staining, and some come with anti-scratch coating. But with site-finished planks, you can test and select stains and finishes that work with your interior. Many flooring experts can provide on-site guidance to help you find the best match for your home

Unfinished boards cost less per square foot, but prefinished boards cost a bit less overall because of installation. 

Wood Types: Grain and Color

Wood flooring comes in different styles and shades, including grains and light and dark colors. 


The way the wood flooring is cut and sliced determines the grain. Your floor’s wood grain is like its own unique fingerprint. Because no two look alike, this feature adds character to your home. The three common types of wood grain are flat, straight, and curly.


Wood flooring is available in a wide range of colors. Trending colors include beige and gray tones, natural-looking wood, and dark charcoal or black stains.   

Look for wood colors that complement your home’s overall design and your lifestyle. Darker wood floors will show scuffs and scratches more easily, while wear and tear will be less visible on lighter floors.  

Keep in mind that applying stains on-site will alter the natural colors of the wood. Most floor teams will help you select stains that hit your goal hues.   

Plank Width

The plank width of your hardwood floors can make a world of difference in your finished floor design. You can make a room look bigger or smaller depending on the width.  

If you choose wider wood planks, you’ll get a rustic or modern upscale look to your home. The wider the planks, the fewer the seams you’ll have. Wide plank flooring ranges from five inches to 12 inches.  

More narrow plank flooring boards can work well in smaller spaces and add a clean, contemporary look. Standard plank widths are between three inches and 4.75 inches.  

Alternatives to Hardwood Flooring

samples of laminate flooring with different pattern and wood texture and colors for hardwood floor alternative

Image: Uladzimir Zuyeu/Getty

Despite wood floor advantages, they aren’t in everyone’s budget. Here are some alternatives for a great look minus the hefty price tag.  


Bamboo flooring is a budget-friendly option that comes from the bamboo plant. The bamboo is sliced, shredded, and pressed with heat to form wood-like boards.  


Bamboo floors resist pests and are durable, easy to maintain, sustainable, and environmentally friendly. They also cost much less per square foot than most solid hardwoods. 


These floors react to moisture, so they’re not a good choice in a humid climate. They also may show scratches more easily, and the range of tones and finishes is more limited. 


Laminate flooring is made of multiple layers of products combined through lamination, and it resembles wood flooring.


These floors come in planks or tiles that snap together, making them easy for DIYers.  

They aren’t made from trees and are extremely durable (great for high-traffic areas). Maintenance is easy, too.   


Once laminate floors start to lose their sparkle, they can’t be refinished. You’ll have to replace them.  

Because laminate is made with plastic and sometimes formaldehyde, it isn’t environmentally friendly.   

People with chemical sensitivities should make sure that any laminates conform to health regulations.  

Moisture may damage some laminate flooring, so it shouldn’t be used in bathrooms or laundry rooms.  

Questions to Ask Your Flooring Contractor

When it comes to your home, you want information. Here are some critical questions to ask your flooring contractor so that you’re well informed before and during the installation process.  

  • Are you licensed and insured to install and/or finish hardwood floors? 
  • Can you provide references, pictures, and online reviews to support the quality of your work? 
  • What’s included in your flooring warranty? 
  • Is my subfloor suited to this installation? 
  • What’s the best hardwood flooring for my home? 
  • How long will it take to install my floor? 
  • What could happen to increase the installation price? 
  • How will you contain the dust and debris and handle the cleanup? 

You can also contact a REALTOR® to get references to area contractors who have installed wood flooring. REALTORS® have information from satisfied homeowners and feedback from open house guests that will offer you a solid foundation.  


13 Small (and Affordable) Home Upgrades for Big Impact

Home improvement pros and DIYers tout a fresh coat of paint as a favorite among low-cost home upgrades that can make a huge impact. But what else can you do to accessorize and decorate? Sometimes the little things can make a bigger difference than you’d think. 

Professionals share the following easy and low-cost home upgrades to add a designer’s touch all around the house. These projects may even help increase your home’s perceived value. 

For the Bathroom

Image: LaperladiLabuan/Getty

1. Frame It

Estimated cost: starting around $100

That edgeless, builder-grade mirror hanging above the bathroom vanity may be prime for an update. Jessica Love, an interior designer with Urbane Design in Austin, Texas, suggests using DIY frame kits, like the ones from MirrorMate. Measure the mirror and choose from numerous frame styles and materials, like wooden walnut or shiny brass. The frame kit includes clips and metal strips to attach to the existing mirror. A once-forgettable mirror instantly looks customized and styled to the space, Love says.

2. Infuse Some Green

Estimated cost: $5 and up

Simply adding greenery can liven up bathroom spaces and soften harsh lines from all the heavy fixtures, designers say. Try a statement plant on the floor, like the vertical sword-shaped leaves of a snake plant or the feathery foliage from a bird’s nest fern. Or you could incorporate smaller plants, like a mini aloe in a white ceramic planter or an iron fern in a rounded marble vase.

Many renovators say they’re incorporating greenery to update their bathrooms for aesthetics, air purification, and odor-fighting abilities, according to the 2022 U.S. Houzz Bathroom Trends Study, a survey of 2,500-plus remodeling homeowners. Tight on space? Love suggests topping a shelf or vanity counter with an air-purifying indoor plant on a natural tray (for texture) along with a favorite candle.

3. Modernize Hardware

Estimated cost: hardware starting at about $2 apiece, faucets for $200 or less

Just swapping out the faucets and drawer pulls is a small home upgrade that can refresh an outdated bathroom. Try trendy gold or black cabinet pulls or a modern boxy-style faucet. “Mixed metals are trending right now,” Love says. “We’re seeing black with brass and brass with chrome.” Love’s favorite resource for inspiration is, which features a variety of manufacturers and styles.

4. Soften the Lights

Estimated cost: about $100 or less apiece ($40 to $120 per fixture for installation by an electrician)

Wall sconces can warm up the bathroom lighting, says interior designer Jessica Nelson of Jessica Nelson Design in Seattle. She suggests wall sconces hung on each side of the vanity mirror in a black, brass, or chrome finish. The bulb color’s temperature is important, Nelson adds. “My sweet spot is between 2700K [Kelvin] and 3000K. I do not recommend going any cooler than that,” she says. “2700K is a crisp but warm white, and 3000K is my personal favorite. It’s a really soft warm light.”

For the Bedroom

gray blanket on gray bed with yellow pillow in updated bedroom interior with large wood framed mirror

Image: KatarzynaBialasiewicz/Getty

5. Add Molding to the Walls

Estimated cost: about $200, including a designer’s input

Installing molding on the walls behind the bed is an impressive home upgrade. Krisztina Bell, founder of No Vacancy Home Staging and Virtually Staging Properties in the Atlanta area, recently used black molding zigzagged across a wall to dress up a white, blank slate behind the bed frame. She says designers and woodworking artists are readily available on sites like (search under “professionally designed custom dimensional accent wall”). They will custom design a 3D digital model of the molding to fit your wall and provide an instruction packet, shopping list, and cutting and installation instructions so you can DIY.

6. Decorate With Mirrors

Estimated cost: $150 to $250

“I love adding a statement wall mirror to a bedroom,” says Channa Alvarez, interior designer and production designer at Living Spaces, a national furniture retailer in La Mirada, Calif. She suggests hanging a new mirror above a nightstand, dresser, chest, or bed. Try a mirror in an unusual shape, like a diamond, hexagon, or square silhouette. “If you’re itching for a redesign but don’t want to spend so much, a mirror is the perfect buy. It’s simple, affordable, and light-enhancing.”

For the Living Room

vintage black poufs in trendy living room with copper brown velvet couch has colorful pillows eclectic decor

Image: KatarzynaBialasiewicz/Getty

7. Texturize and Accessorize

Estimated cost: $50 to $150 to update a few accessories

“A room can appear one-dimensional when it’s missing texture,” says interior designer Lance Thomas of Thomas Guy Interiors in Lake Charles, La. Designers may add texture by incorporating dressers with fluted designs, chunky knit throws, velvet ottomans, or leather accent chairs. You can adapt that idea by scoping out items from other rooms in your house that you can mix in to the living room to add texture and depth. Or shop secondhand stores for small items you can refinish, repurpose, or re-cover. For example, re-covered accent pillows are an affordable way to add texture to your furniture.

“Perhaps the best thing about accent pillows is they’re an easy seasonal item, making your living room feel different without costing as much as a new furniture buy,” Alvarez adds. “Throw pillows are a great and inexpensive way to incorporate new trends or add color to your living room.” Also, functional accents — like a set of three seagrass baskets — can be great for a corner or near a fireplace, Alvarez says. Then, “place throw blankets in them to give the room a cozy, inviting feel.”

8. Wallpaper the Shelves

Estimated cost: about $50 for a small roll

For homeowners who may be too timid to jump on the wallpaper comeback trend, try it in small doses and with less commitment (especially when using a removable peel-and-stick type). Interior designer Mel Bean of Mel Bean Interiors in Tulsa, Okla., suggests adding wallpaper to the inside back of a bookcase or other shelving unit to dress it up. Recently, she used a jagged, striped gray-and-cream-colored wallpaper behind each shelf on an all-white built-in to add texture, color, and a more custom look.

For the Kitchen

organized kitchen pantry with food items in a variety of glass containers and storage bins

Image: onurdongel/Getty

9. Bring in Some Bling

Don’t let an all-white kitchen become boring, Bell says. “Add industrial or contemporary black hardware and lighting to make a kitchen look more chic. Gold is trendy; or chrome, nickel, brushed silver, and stainless steel hardware and lighting are always safe bets,” she adds. Bell likes sites such as,, or for affordable, stylish mid-century mod, industrial, or futuristic pendant lighting options. 

For example, she used shiny gold canned pendants in an otherwise all-white kitchen to highlight the island. “Even just changing out one main fixture or series of pendants above a kitchen island can change the whole look of a room instantly without having to renovate the entire kitchen,” she says. 

10. Dress Up the Pantry

Estimated cost: starting at $1 each for baskets and glass jars

Pantries have emerged as a kitchen favorite, so they’re a good choice for a home upgrade. They’re rated as essential or desirable by at least 80% of home shoppers, according to the National Association of Home Builders “What Home Buyers Really Want” consumer survey. Retailers such as the Container Store, Ikea, and Dollar General offer baskets and glass jars in all shapes and sizes. 

“Invest in a label maker and go to town organizing your pantry so everything matches and looks almost decorative or too pretty to take snacks from,” Bell says. “This helps create visual order in the space too.” For example, stow pasta in a glass container, put the packaged bread and other products in shelf-sized baskets, and color coordinate the canned goods.

For Outdoors

front exterior trendy home with brick and white siding has large red house numbers painted on black garage door

Image: grandriver/Getty

11. Accentuate With Flower Boxes

Estimated cost: $150

Boxes filled with flowers along the bottom ledge of your outside windows can enhance your home’s architecture and colors. “Flower boxes have this cozy and charming feel,” says Jackie Mosher, co-founder of Dzinly, a company in Royal Oak, Mich., that helps homeowners and real estate professionals digitally design exteriors. “They can add interest, dimension, and some personality.” Fill them all year-round. Mosher suggests using three different types of flowers (for example, greenery, a taller plant in the center, and a colorful accent flower). 

The size, proportion, and positioning of flower boxes are important; don’t overdo it, she adds. Not every window needs one. Maybe it’s just the large picture window or the windows on a second story. To test placement, Mosher suggests duct taping cardboard cutouts to the windows to view the possibilities before drilling any holes.

12. Swap Out Lighting Fixtures

Estimated cost: $200 to $250

Bring in a statement light above the front door for a functional and dramatic home upgrade. A hanging pendant or chandelier on the front porch isn’t just for extra illumination. It can enhance curb appeal, Mosher says. She suggests a fixture that’s about one-third or one-fourth the size of the front door (including the trim) and having it hang about 66 inches from the ground. “So many times, we hang them too high,” she says. “Let your front porch light be the loudest. The lights on the exterior should be your jewelry — your ‘wow.’” 

If there’s no place for a pendant, upgrade the lights to the side of the door, such as with boxed lanterns in a black or antique bronze, she suggests. Her favorite site for inspiration:, which recommends fixtures based on house style (modern, traditional, coastal, etc.).

13. Oversize the House Numbers

Estimated cost: $150 to $200

The home’s address numbers may seem insignificant for the outside design, but Mosher calls them one of her favorite inexpensive home upgrades. Large format, sleek black address numbers can add a modern vibe to a home, she says. “House numbers are like adding a statement watch to your outfit. It pulls it all together.”  

The numbers can be in all-black or in colors, like even pink or teal, depending on the home’s style, she says. The placement varies too, from the side of the front door to above the garage or anywhere along the front. “These can become a focal point and add some flair,” she says. Mosher’s favorite site for inspiration for house numbers:


5 Home Improvement Projects That Payoff

How can myths sound so right yet still be wrong? Take the one that says homeowners need to do a big remodeling project (think HGTV gut rehab) to get a worthwhile return on investment or happiness. Not necessarily, according to the most recent National Association of REALTORS® “Remodeling Impact Report.” The survey found that homeowners can get payback and joy from several smaller, lower-dollar-value home improvement projects. 

That’s good news for the one in five millennials and Gen Xers who had to compromise on the house they bought in 2021. Ditto for potential buyers whose offers were rejected and who are staying put for now. If you’re coping with inflation but eyeing a home improvement, a smaller remodel is worth considering.

Small projects are suited to DIY, which can save you cash. NAR research showed that 10% of young millennials, between 23 and 31, want a fixer-upper home where they can work on DIY projects. The supply chain is also cooperating, as some products used in renovation are coming back into the market. 

Of course, kitchen and bathroom makeovers will always have a place in our hearts — if not our wallets. The following five high-performing projects listed in the NAR report are less expensive — though admittedly less exciting — options. But then again, there’s nothing woo-hoo about your scratched and dinged hardwood floors or having your utility bills outpace your grocery bills. 

#1 Hardwood Flooring Refinish or Replacement

“Interest in hardwood floors was definitely the headline from this year’s report,” says Jessica Lautz, vice president of NAR Demographics and Behavioral Insights. In fact, refinishing hardwood floors grabbed the top spot for interior remodeling projects that bring the highest return. Remodelers estimated the cost at $3,400, and REALTORS® estimated the value recovered at $5,000, a whopping 147% return. Consumers gave the project a joy score of 10 out of 10. On top of that, 100% of consumers surveyed said they want to be at home more after finishing the project. For 64% of consumers, the most important benefits were durable and lost-lasting results and materials.

“With hardwood floors, you get a lot of bang for your buck, and they’re not that expensive,” Lautz says. “And people really like them.” Postpandemic, homeowners are still concerned about cleanliness, and hardwood floors are relatively easy to clean. Plus, with increased pet adoption, homeowners prefer surfaces that are less likely to stain or retain odors. 

Refinishing makes sense when everyday life has left scuffs, dents, dullness, and scratches — all unwanted reminders of spills, accidents, dragged furniture, and ground-in dirt from foot traffic. Your options for refinishing will depend on whether the coating or the wood itself is damaged. The deeper the damage, the higher the refinishing cost.

New wood flooring snagged the second-highest score for interior projects, with a $5,500 cost and a $6,500 cost recovery, netting 118% in value recovered. Although it’s a bigger investment than refinishing, new flooring will let you opt for the hardwood and finish you prefer. And that will affect the floor’s durability and appearance.

#2 Insulation Upgrade

Image: elenabs/Getty; Modified from source

Buyers want to cut their energy costs where they can, Lautz says. “We see consumers who want a home that’s energy efficient. They want their utility costs cut and efficient heating and cooling. But the typical home they’re purchasing is 29 years old and quite dated. So, it may not have good insulation.”

Making this home improvement could factor into more than comfort level and energy prices by appealing to buyers when you’re ready to sell. In a survey of REALTORS®, 63% said promoting energy efficiency in listings was very or somewhat valuable. That’s in line with preferences of home buyers, who ranked the importance of heating/cooling and insulation at seven out of 10.

If you’re still on the fence, consider that an insulation upgrade, at an average cost of $2,500, is relatively inexpensive. And it recovers $2,500 for a break even. The joy score of 10 is worth shouting about. 

You can tackle an insulation upgrade as a DIY project; some can be done in a short 15 minutes. Installing certain types of insulation materials, like fiberglass and mineral wool, are especially DIY-able, according to the North American Insulation Manufacturers Association. But spray foam and some other insulation types require a professional. The Department of Energy offers advice too: The maximum thermal performance, or R-value, of insulation greatly depends on how well it’s installed. So, it pays to stick within your skill level. 

#3 Closet Renovation

Consumers surveyed took on a closet upgrade for two main reasons: to add features and improve livability, and to improve organization and storage. This update averaged $6,000, costing more than some of the other smaller projects. But the cost recovery was substantial, at $5,000, or 83%.   

On the satisfaction side, more than three-fourths of consumers (79%) said that now that they’ve remodeled, they want to be at home more. Almost half said the most important result for them was greater functionality and livability. And the joy score? Another perfect 10.

Closets are using something like a Legos approach when remodeled, according to the pros. “You take the basic building blocks — like drawers, hangers, hampers, shelves — but you use them differently and add to them,” says David Cutler, president of The Closet Works in Montgomeryville, Pa. “People want storage for their particular needs. If you have 100 pairs of shoes, you need creative ways to deal with shoe storage: shoeboxes, slanted shoe shelves, straight shoe shelves, shoe cubbies.”

#4 Add or Upgrade Laundry Area

Laundry wrangling is more of a chore if you don’t have enough work space or you’re missing certain features, like a countertop or a sink. Consumers in the survey said they focused on laundry room improvements to add features and improve livability or because they had just moved into their home and wanted to customize it. Sixty percent said the most important result was better functionality and livability, so they met their goal. The overall joy score was 9.5.

Laundry room remodeling costs $4,000 to $12,000, according to FixR. Why the broad range? Laundry rooms can be located in different parts of the home and vary in size and shape. Most people pay around $7,000 for a 35-square-foot laundry room that includes mid-range upper and lower cabinets, a laminate countertop, and front-loading appliances, FixR says.

Of course, you can upgrade an existing laundry room or space by adding à la carte features. Popular add-ons include stock or custom cabinets, a sink, countertops for work space, good lighting, and durable flooring. Some of the fancier options include units for hanging wet items like T-shirts so they can drip into the sink and racks that pull out of drawers for drying fine woolens, Cutler says. 

Don’t forget about small DIY improvements — like painting walls or cabinets and adding lighting. They’ll help you customize the space so you might almost enjoy doing laundry.    

#5 Paint One Interior Room

Infographic interior home green living room white couch and TV easy paint remodeling upgrade get big return

Image: elenabs/Getty; Modified from source

Painting an interior room is one of the most DIY-friendly small home improvement projects. There’s nothing like it to freshen a room or fix a quirk or two. More than half of the consumers in the survey chose it because they wanted a change. And more than a quarter wanted to upgrade worn-out surfaces, finishes, and materials. Most of us fit into one or both of those groups, right? Beauty and aesthetics were the most important results consumers mentioned. And the joy score? 10. 

Hiring a professional to paint a room costs $990 to $1,320, according to FixR. The variation stems from the type of room and its square footage, plus the type of finish. 

With practice and a little advice, even a novice DIYer can get great results. If you’re stuck on what colors to pick, there’s more advice out there than you can shake a paintbrush at. Most major paint manufacturers have released a color or palette of the year for 2023. If you want to follow your own preferences but would like a little guidance, you can get tips about how to choose complementary colors you’ll like over the long term. 

The NAR remodeling survey also includes info for the big projects, like bathroom and kitchen renos, and basement and attic conversions to living areas. But depending on your priorities and budget, a smaller upgrade may make you happy and bring a healthy return. 


Home Improvement ROI: A Room-by-Room Tour

There are so many good reasons for home improvement — even in a tough economy. You may want to boost your home’s future sales value, add livable space, refresh an aging room or feature. Or you may just want to enjoy your home more, especially if you wanted to move but the market didn’t cooperate.

The National Association of REALTORS®, along with the National Association of the Remodeling Industry, conducted a survey in 2022 to find out the project’s estimated average cost and return on investment, and the joy score, or satisfaction with the completed upgrade on a scale of 1 to 10.

Wander through the rooms and view research highlights to see what might fit your budget and needs. C’mon in!

Image: elenabs/Getty; Modified from source

View the full Remodeling and Impact Report.


Winter Prep Now or (Maybe) Regret it Later

It’s easy to get so wrapped up in leaf peeping and other outdoorsy fun that you cut back on pre-winter home maintenance. But doing basic tasks now could lead to an easier winter — and a greener spring. Plus, you might save on costly repairs. Here’s a roundup of things you’ll be glad you did.

Head Off Winter Woes

Image: skhoward/Getty Images

A Fall Checklist of Things You Gotta Do Before Winter Sets In

Getting ready for winter doesn’t have to be a big deal — no matter where you live. The trick? Know what things are most likely to cause problems and keep them from happening to your home and yard. With a fall checklist, you won’t forget to detach your garden hoses from outdoor faucets.

Jumpstart a Lush Lawn

Dog hanging out during fall lawn cleanup

4 Simple Tasks to Do in Fall for an Awesome Lawn in Spring

Not ready to replace your lawn with native plants or groundcover? No worries. But don’t settle for sad patches of grass in the spring. If you do some work in the fall, you’ll protect your lawn from winter damage and enjoy better results later.

Avoid Weather Fallout

red frozen pipe with icicles in a home

Image: igorwheeler/Getty

7 Quick and Easy Weather Preparations to Do Right Now

Every homeowner wants to prevent winter weather from causing dangerous or pricey problems. That’s why it’s super important to do things like seal up leaks and clean gutters before trouble hits home. A few pluses: These preps are often inexpensive, can be done by a pro, and/or don’t take much time. 


How to Update Your Garage Floor

You can make your garage look a lot better by updating just the floors. Yes, garages deserve love, too. And new garage flooring is a relatively simple improvement that can make a big difference in how the space looks and functions. Sure, concrete slab floors are functional, but other garage flooring ideas are more stylish and can boost your home’s overall value. 

Choosing the right garage flooring depends on how you intend to use your garage and how it’s built.  So, whether you plan to turn your garage into a workspace, a man cave, or an art studio, there’s a garage floor covering designed for that use. 

Here are some considerations when you’re choosing garage flooring. We’ll also help you pick the best flooring for your garage makeover by weighing the benefits and costs of popular options like garage floor epoxy, interlocking tiles, paint, and vinyl sheets. Let’s go! 

Factors to Consider When Selecting Garage Flooring

Before you choose garage flooring, think about how you intend to use the space, the climate where you live, and your budget. 

How You Use Your Garage

What you’re going to do in your garage is the biggest consideration when you’re sifting through garage flooring ideas. If you plan to park your vehicles or repair them in there — you know, use your garage for cars — you’ll want garage flooring tough enough to withstand tire skid marks and oil spills. If you plan on leaving your cars in the driveway and using your garage as an extension of your home — a place to watch movies, shoot pool, or let the kids have sleepovers — you can choose flooring meant for human use. Think carpet or tile. 

Or maybe you’re going for an in-between option, where you turn your garage into an art studio or workshop. Define your goals before you start shopping for garage flooring. 

Weather Conditions

If your garage isn’t climate controlled and will experience major temperature changes or exposure to moisture, choose tough flooring. Pick a surface that can resist mold, mildew, and cracking caused by extreme temperature swings. 

Keep the climate in mind when installing garage flooring, too. Most garage floor installs go better when the materials are warm. So, if you’re installing your flooring in fall or spring, bring the materials inside to warm up overnight before laying the floor. 

Floor Conditions

Take a look at the condition of your garage floor right now. If the concrete floor has cracks, stains, or moisture issues, you’ll need to clean and repair it before putting in a new floor. Existing oil and grease stains almost always bleed through a new coat of paint. And no floor material will get rid of moisture coming in through the doors or up through the floor.  

The condition of your existing floor will determine the scope of the project and impact your garage flooring options. 

Installation and Maintenance Costs

You’re not made of money, so keep your budget in mind as you shop materials and contractors. Get quotes from at least three companies so you can price shop and make the best decision when choosing one to do the work. 

Be aware of what the maintenance costs will be on your new garage flooring, too. Flooring that’s cheap to install initially (hello, standard latex floor paint) may cost you more in the long run if it doesn’t last or requires a lot of upkeep.  

Best Garage Flooring Options

You can choose between coatings and coverings, paints, stains, carpets, floor mats, or tiles. Here are some pros and cons of popular garage flooring options.  

Garage Floor Concrete Sealer

Concrete sealers can protect your garage floor from weather, oil spills, moisture, and water. The types of floor sealers are penetrating sealers, acrylics, polyurethanes, and epoxies.   


These sealers repel moisture and extend the life of concrete garage flooring. They also help your floor resist stains so cleanup is easy when your 14-year-old spills lawnmower oil on the garage floor. 

The price of a concrete sealer depends on the type. A basic sealer can cost 15 cents to 25 cents per square foot, while a high-end sealer can run up to $2.50 per square foot. 

Garage Floor Epoxy Coating

An epoxy coating is a two-part treatment applied to the top of your garage floor, much like paint. But epoxy coating is tougher than paint because it contains a resin and hardener that combine to form a durable shield for your garage flooring.  

Epoxy coating comes in several designs and color options. Some contractors add mica or quartz to give the coating a speckled look or metallic sheen.  


Since epoxy coating can go on top of your existing garage flooring — assuming the floor’s in good repair — it’s more affordable than tile or vinyl.  

Epoxy can cover minor defects and imperfections in the floor. It also protects your floor from cracking, staining, and moisture damage. 

Epoxy flooring ranges from $3 to $12 per square foot.

Garage Floor Concrete Stain

Concrete stain gives your garage flooring an aesthetically pleasing marble effect. It makes the floor look like natural stone instead of poured concrete. It’s a good choice if you plan to use the garage as a living area or a studio. The application process is straightforward, but concrete stain needs to be refreshed regularly to protect your floors and maintain their looks over time.  

Concrete stain is either water-based or acid-based.  


Water-based concrete stain comes in more colors and dries quickly. It contains fewer toxic chemicals, so it’s better for you and the planet. You need to use a concrete sealer with a water-based stain to increase its longevity.  


Acid-based concrete stains create a chemical reaction that will alter the look of your concrete. So, the final appearance can be a bit hard to control. For this reason, applying acid stain to a garage floor isn’t a job for a first-time DIYer.  However, acid stain lasts longer than a water-based stain and doesn’t need a sealant. So, while you’ll need to pay a pro to install acid stain, you’ll have less long-term maintenance. 


Concrete stains are fire resistant and low maintenance. Stained garage floors are durable and long-lasting because the stain penetrates the concrete surface rather than sitting on top of it. 

The cost of concrete stain is around $2,000 for a 200-square-foot space — about $10 a square foot. 

Garage Floor Paint Coatings

Paint can give your garage floors a protective, attractive finish. It’s a good choice because you can DIY. You don’t need to pay a pro to roll a few coats of paint on your floors. 

You can use latex or acrylic paint.  


Latex paint is water-based and contains a small amount of acrylic resin. It costs less than epoxy or acrylic paint, dries quickly, and doesn’t have harsh fumes. Latex paint won’t offer your floors much protection from weather or stand up to parked cars. So, it’s a good choice for a garage that will be used as a converted living space and won’t be exposed to the elements.  


Acrylic paint is easy to apply and has a higher acrylic resin content, so it’s less likely to crack and chip over time.  It’s more durable than latex paint, but it costs more. Acrylic paint also doesn’t fade in sunlight, so colors stay brighter longer.  

Garage Floor Interlocking Flexible Tiles

Interlocking flexible tiles are another flooring option to give a garage a facelift. They’re a good choice for a garage with a concrete slab that’s badly stained or cracked. Tiles are available in hard plastic or polyvinyl chloride, also known as PVC, and are easy to install. A reasonably handy person could DIY.  

Rubber PVC Garage Tiles

These tiles are watertight (not waterproof) and resist mold and mildew.

Plastic Garage Tiles

Plastic garage tiles are made of high-impact polypropylene and come in a range of styles and colors. They allow for air and water drainage underneath, so they’re a good pick for a humid climate. They can withstand the wear and tear of vehicles pulling in and out of your garage.  


Installing interlocking is simple. They lock in place, and the job requires minimal tools. If you decide to DIY, you can save money. You can also customize the design for your garage floors with tiles. For example, you can pick different color schemes — like a checkerboard pattern — that will protect your garage floor and give the space some design chops.  

Interlocking garage tiles cost $2 per square foot to $20 per square foot, depending on the material’s thickness. 

Garage Flooring Mats

One of the easiest and most affordable ways to upgrade a garage is to roll out mats made from rubber or PVC. Like garage tiles, garage floor mats come in different styles and colors, and they can be installed over concrete floors that have minor stains or damage with no prep work. Some mats are like rugs while others are like padded gym mats.  


Garage floor mats are super easy to install, easy to clean, and durable. You can totally DIY. They also resist oil, chemicals, and stains, so they’ll protect your garage floors.  

Flooring mats warm up a garage a bit by insulating those cold concrete floors, so they’re a good choice if you use your garage as a yoga studio, a workshop or something other than parking space. Garage floor mats can also absorb sound.  

Most garage mats cost $3 to $10 per square foot.

Garage Flooring Vinyl Sheet

Vinyl sheet flooring is an economical, durable option for your garage. It resists stains, scuffs, and scratches,k and you can install it easily and quickly.  


Vinyl sheet flooring resists water, oil, salt, antifreeze, grease, and chemicals. To install it, you just cut it to size with scissors or a knife and roll it out. There’s no need to hire a pro. To clean it, just hose it off. 

The square foot cost of sheet vinyl for your garage ranges from $1 to $5.  

Other Garage Remodel Ideas When Your Floor Is Finished

Once your new garage floor covering is in place, you’ll have a solid foundation for making other improvements. How about converting your garage into a living space or home gym? Or  creating a simple garage workshop  where you can do woodworking and art projects?  

A finished garage — one that’s been cleaned, glammed up, and organized — makes your home a nicer place to live. And while a finished garage may not add much to an appraisal outright — you have to do a full conversion and hook the garage up to a climate control system to directly impact the appraisal — it does add a wow factor that could impress buyers.  

So, whether you opt for a finished garage that’s an attractive and functional indoor-outdoor space, or a fully converted garage that extends your home’s indoor living area, a new garage floor is a good first step. 


What Is an Egress Window?

An egress window looks like a regular window but opens fully to allow a person to escape a building in an emergency — for example, a house fire. In fact, these windows are essentially escape hatches. Most local building codes require them to be installed in finished basements, especially if the upgraded space will include a bedroom.   

In addition to providing an escape, egress windows can increase natural light and ventilation in your basement. And the ones with attractive interior trim can make your basement living space look more appealing. 

What Is a Window Well?

Image: Melissa Kopka/Getty

A window well is a hole dug into the ground outside a basement egress window to give a person room to crawl out. Without a window well, these windows can’t work. The term “window well” also refers to a shield typically made of galvanized steel or polyurethane that lines the hole in the ground outside the egress window. It attaches to your home’s foundation to protect the basement from rocks, dirt, and moisture, and keep the hole from collapsing.

Types of Egress Window

Different types of windows can serve as egress windows as long as they meet requirements for size and clearance dictated by local building codes and by the International Residential Code. Note: Costs are for windows only, not installation. 


Casement egress windows are the most common type. They are hinged and swing in and out or like a door, sometimes using a hand crank. They have one pane of glass. These windows can improve ventilation and airflow in a basement and provide a small but effective escape outlet.  

  • Cost per window: $200 to $500
  • Best for: Smaller areas in a basement or basements that don’t have much wall space


Single-hung egress windows have two panes of glass, and the bottom sash moves up and down while the top sash is immobile. They can be the most affordable option. 

  • Cost per window: $100 to $500
  • Best for: Basements with a lot of wall space and homeowners on a budget


Double-hung egress windows have two panes of glass, and both the top and bottom sashes move up and down. This lets more air into a basement for circulation. They need to be relatively large – nearly 5 feet tall and 5 feet wide – to meet code requirements.   

  • Cost per window: $250 to $500
  • Best for: Larger spaces and warmer climates where you want to throw the windows up and let the mild air into the basement 

Horizontal sliding

Horizontal or sliding egress windows open like a sliding glass door but are typically smaller than a door, around 4 feet by 4 feet.  

  • Cost per window: $150 to $700
  • Best for: Basements with a lot of wall space or narrow window wells


In-swing egress windows open inward and are a good choice for older basements or those with small window openings. You can use a smaller window well with them because the glass panel swings inward. 

  • Cost per window: $350 to $700
  • Best for: Older basement spaces with small openings

Image: Andrea Rugg/Getty

Building Code Requirements for Egress Windows

Check your local building code office to get specific requirements for basement egress windows. The windows must adhere to code for you to legally use your basement as a bedroom.  

If you finish your basement and don’t install proper egress windows, not only will your living space be unsafe, but you also won’t recoup the cost of your remodel when you sell your house.    

Generally, these windows need to meet requirements regarding: 

  • Minimum clearance: The height of the open window should be large enough for an outfitted firefighter to climb through. 
  • Window well size: The recessed area outside the window should be large enough for a person to climb out of so they can move away from the building. 
  • Maximum height above the floor: The bottom of the window must be no more than 44 inches above the finished floor.  
  • Window barriers and opening ability: The windows must allow for easy and intuitive opening. A person should be able to exit the window without tools, keys, or unnecessary barriers. 

Egress Window Installation Costs

Installing these windows takes skill and experience — and may also require a permit. You can expect to pay around $40 to $50 an hour for labor to install them. For egress windows above ground, expect to pay $500 to $1,000 per window. For windows below ground, you’ll need to excavate the area, which will require a lot more time and labor costs. Expect to pay $2,400 to $4,000 for a subfloor egress window installation.  


Image: photovs/Getty

How to Calculate Egress Window Cost

To calculate the cost of egress windows, answer these questions: 

  1. What kind of windows do I want? 
  2. Do I need to change the existing wall to accommodate the window?
  3. Should I make adjustments to the window well?
  4. Do I need to dig a window well? 
  5. Will I need additional materials (paint, insulation, etc.) for this project?

Also, consider the value that windows add to your home and possible savings from replacing old ones with new, more energy-efficient versions.  

Egress Window Installation: DIY or Contractor?

Installing new egress windows isn’t a simple job. It may involve cutting a large opening into a masonry wall in your basement and adding a window that meets building code requirements. In many places, you’ll need a building permit to add a new egress window. 

If you do it wrong, you’ll have a leaky window below ground level and possible structural damage to your house. It’s best to call a contractor to install new egress windows or replace existing ones. 

The smartest, safest way to save money on your basement remodel is to DIY another part of the project, like painting walls, laying flooring, or demo-ing old cabinets or non-load-bearing walls. Leave the installation of egress windows to the pros. 


How to Choose the Right Laminate Flooring

If you have pets or kids or are generally accident-prone, you may need some heavy-duty floors. And you may be exploring laminate flooring, thanks to its durability. Laminate flooring balances that resistance to wear and tear with an attractive style and easy DIY installation.

That’s why some homeowners are choosing laminate instead of hardwood or tile. But which option is best for you? You can make an informed choice for your home by learning the pros and cons, types of laminate flooring, and the average cost.

When Does Laminate Flooring Make Sense?

Modern laminate flooring can be as appealing as some hardwoods but more durable, especially in high-traffic areas. While laminate was once confined to kitchens and game rooms, its fresh looks can work in dining rooms, living rooms, or even bedrooms.

Older laminates carry the risk of contaminants like formaldehyde or volatile organic chemicals (VOCs), but the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency now regulates modern laminate construction. To avoid harmful chemicals, look for products with a Toxic Substances Control Act Title VI compliance label. And ask a health care professional how laminates may affect some household members who have chemical sensitivities.

Here’s a look at some of the pros and cons of laminate flooring:

Pros of Laminate Flooring

  • Durable: Laminate floors are easy to clean and maintain. They have a wear layer that protects the flooring from dents or scratches from everyday occurrences like dropped toys and contact with untrimmed pet claws.
  • Sustainable: Because laminate flooring is made from wood, it’s recyclable and sustainable.
  • Easy to install: Laminate floors are designed with interlocking boards, making them simple to install. They can also “float” over existing hardwood floors, so you don’t need to replace your existing floors to install them.

Cons of Laminate Flooring

  • Difficult to repair: Laminate flooring can’t be refinished or resanded. So, if you have a permanent scratch, dent, or stain, you’ll have to replace that section of your flooring.
  • Susceptible to water damage: Standing water will cause lasting swelling and damage. This means laminate floors may not be the best idea for your kitchen or laundry room.
  • Sensitive to humidity: When indoor humidity is higher than 60%, laminate boards can expand and push against one another. This may cause ridges along the seams or bulges in the middle of the boards. But when the humidity drops below 30%, boards can shrink and the joints may separate. Proper installation can avoid these issues.
  • Slippery: Laminate floors have been known to be extremely slippery when wet. If you have pets or children, factor this into your decision about laminate. Anti-slip sprays and finishes are available, though, to counteract the problem.

How Much Does Laminate Flooring Cost?

Image: F.J. Jimenez/Getty

Laminate flooring prices vary depending on the style and design, but the average cost per square foot will be between 68 cents for styles like acacia and cherry and $1.60 for options like elm and hickory. Some laminate flooring includes features that add to the cost, such as water and noise resistance, and attached underlayment.

You’ll also pay installation fees if you use a contractor. They can vary depending on your region, your home’s size, and your project needs.

How Long Will Laminate Flooring Last?

Most manufacturers will provide a 10-year warranty for laminate floors. With proper care, the floors may last even longer than that.

Watch for signs that your laminate floor needs replacing. For example, swelling from water damage or buckling from excessive pressure signals the need to call a professional.

Types of Laminate Flooring Options

The types of laminate flooring mainly relate to the installation process, such as:

Glueless or Click Laminate Flooring

This laminate flooring uses interlocking pieces, so you don’t need glue to install.

Pre-glued Laminate Flooring

The glue is already applied to the planks, so installation is simpler.

Glued Laminate Flooring

The oldest form of laminate flooring, this option requires gluing and doesn’t have a locking system.

Alternatives to Laminate Flooring

modern kitchen interior with wood upper cabinets and white lower cabinets the floor has large white tiles and wood planks under a wooden dining table next to a gray couch

Image: Jacek Kadaj/Getty

If any of your household members have chemical sensitivities, consider alternatives to laminate flooring. Several flooring options have similar features to laminate floors, including:

  • Vinyl planks: They offer minimal maintenance with some added quality and design. However, vinyl can have a higher VOC content, meaning it could cause irritation for chemically sensitive people.
  • Porcelain tile: For rooms with heavy moisture, porcelain tile is a strong alternative. But while the prices of tile and laminate are comparable, tile installation is typically more expensive.
  • Engineered wood: Although engineered wood is more expensive than laminate flooring, it can be a good choice for homeowners who want the durability of laminate with a more realistic hardwood look.

Questions to Ask Your Laminate Flooring Contractor

Laminate floor installation can be an easy or intermediate task for DIYers. However, if your home has oddly shaped rooms, needs carpet removed, or calls for a lot of labor for a flooring job, look for a reputable contractor.

Ask your contractor:

  • Whether laminate flooring is the best choice for each room where you’re considering new flooring
  • To provide the costs for contractor installation
  • If there’s a warranty on flooring and installation

Ready to jump in on your remodel? Get some inspiration, in addition to the info on pros, cons, and costs.


How to Clean Some Surprising Things in Your Washing Machine

Sometimes we learn from trial and error. But when it comes to a pricey appliance you use a lot, like a washing machine, you don’t want to take chances with the laundry you put in it. If you do, you risk damaging the machine (hello, expensive repair visit) and ruining the item you’re washing. On the other hand, why wash items by hand or throw them out if they can safely go in the washing machine? Here are 11 surprising items you can machine wash — and a few things you should never wash — or wash with caution.

Things You Can Put in a Washing Machine

#1 Kitchen Sponges

They get grungy, and nasty, and can become a breeding ground for germs. Toss that sponge into the washing machine and run it through a sanitize cycle or use the hot water setting. You’ll destroy the germs. Throw in some dirty towels, too, so you’re getting your money’s worth from the power and water you’re using.

#2 Sneakers

Yes! You can clean canvas, pleather, and fabric sneakers. Wash them with a load of towels to muffle the noise they make thumping around in the drum. Use a gentle cycle and warm water and run an extra rinse cycle to remove soap residue. Use a drying rack for front loader dryers to dry sneakers. Whirlpool recommends removing the laces and insoles and then putting the sneakers in a closed mesh bag before washing.

#3 Dog Collars and Leashes

Fabric and canvas collars and leashes can get super dirty. Toss yours into the washer to get them clean and fresh. Be sure to put them into a mesh laundry bag made for lingerie so that the metal buckles and clips on the leashes and collars don’t break the glass on a front loading washer or ding the drum walls of a top loader. Run them on a short cycle and air dry them. Be sure to remove all metal tags or you could break the glass on the machine. I know this from experience.

#4 Stuffed Animals

Image: Marie Cristabern Joyce Villamor / EyeEm/Getty

Your kids’ lovies can get dirty and germy from all the hugging and cuddling. Put them in washbags and use a gentle cycle. Check their label to make sure they can be washed. You can wash your dog’s fuzzy squeaky toys this way, too.

#5 Dog and Kid Toys

You can put small plastic and rubber toys that belong to your kids or your fur kids in the wash. Use the handy dandy washbag we keep telling you about, and you can wash everything from your child’s plastic dinosaur set to your dog’s Kong. Run them on a sanitize cycle or use the hot water setting to blast the germs.

#6 Car Floor Mats

Vacuum them for pet hair and dust, spot treat stains, and toss them in the washer. Wash them in warm water on a gentle cycle, then put them in the sun to dry. A couple of tips: This advice is for rubber and upholstered mats. Make sure your machine is large enough to accommodate the mats. (If you have a tiny, cute machine, it’s a no-go), and wash the mats in small batches if necessary rather than overstuffing the machine.

#7 Dog Beds (but Proceed With Caution)

wash just about anything washing machine tips image of a jack russell terrier sleeping with a yellow blanket on a plush gray dog bed

Image: Evrymmnt/Getty

You can throw the entire bed into the washer if it’s for a small dog or you have a big washer. For larger dog beds, take the cover off and wash it alone. Be sure there are no small tears in the bed before you wash it or you’ll end up with a ripped up dog bed and a washer full of stuffing.

#8 Comforters

You can wash both down and down-alternative comforters in your washer, but just make sure your machine is large enough to handle the heft. Front-load washers work best. Spot clean stains, use a mild detergent, and wash on the delicate cycle. Run through two rinse cycles to get all the soap out. 

#9 Shower Curtains and Liners

They get slimy and mildewy, and your washer can make them clean again. Use warm water and a gentle cycle. And don’t put them in the dryer. Air dry liners and shower curtains.

#10 Backpacks and Fabric Lunchboxes

wash just about anything washing machine tips image of a pair of dirty gray sneakers along side a dirty brown backpack lying on the floor

Image: Brainsil/Getty

Good grief, the stuff kids spill in and on their backpacks and lunchboxes. You can wash the items easily and let them air dry. 

#11 Yoga Mats

If your yoga mat is getting a little too grungy for your liking, wash it in warm water on a gentle cycle so it won’t tear. Use a regular detergent, skip the spin cycle, and air dry the mat.

Things You Should Never Put in a Washing Machine

#1 Coins and Metal

You didn’t intend to wash that handful of quarters, the house key, or a pocket tool. But these metal objects can damage the inner drum and outer tub of your washer. They can also shatter the glass of a front-loading machine or even block the drainpipe. The solution: Empty every pocket before throwing clothes into the washer. Metal stuff includes zippers. They can go in the machine, but they should be zipped up first. Otherwise, they can break or damage the drum.

Your washer may not be able to accommodate your king-size, extra fluffy down comforter or your Great Dane’s bed. We told you to be adventurous with what you wash, but make sure an item can move freely in the machine. If you jam a big item in the washer, it can get tangled and cause a broken agitator or misaligned rotating drum. 

Make Your Washing Machine Last Longer

#1 Clean Your Washing Machine

Yep, your washing machine needs to be washed, too. Over time, laundry detergent can build up on pipes and tubes in the machine. To blast the scum, run your machine empty, with no laundry, on the hottest setting once every three months. Add a cup of vinegar or bleach to deodorize and clean the machine. 

#2 Don’t Overstuff It

Yes, you hate doing laundry, and you want to do it fast. Resist the urge to stuff gigantic loads of clothes into your washer. Your clothes won’t get as clean, and you might even break the machine. Overstuffing the washer can damage the bearings that turn the drum and burn out the motor. Here’s a rule of thumb: High efficiency front loaders can hold around 20 pounds of clothes, and top loaders can hold 16 pounds. Yeah, we don’t weigh our laundry either, so just be sure you don’t fill your washer any higher than three-fourths of the way to the top of the drum. 

#3 Balance Loads

When you’re washing bulky items, like bedding or towels, pay attention to the balance. Towels or bedspreads that clump on one side of the drum can make your machine shake till it breaks. If the shaking starts, stop the machine, redistribute the items, and restart it. Don’t wash just one bulky item, either. If you’re washing a comforter, add some towels to balance the load. Wash two pillows, not just one.

Using your washing machine to launder as much as possible makes sense and can be cost effective. Just follow the basic do’s and don’ts, and add in a little maintenance, and you’ll both stay out of trouble.