wash-anything-clean-washing-machine-tips-stuffed-animals.jpg

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.

og-primary-logo.png

How to Move Past Student Debt — and Into a Home

You want to buy a house. But you’re worried you won’t qualify for a mortgage because of your student loan debt. You’re not alone. More than 60% of millennials say student debt is keeping them from buying their first home, according to a poll from the National Association of REALTORS®.

The numbers tell an ugly story of a generation paying for its education long after graduation.  As a result, they’re having to make hard life choices for decades. The average public university student borrows $30,000 in student loans to get a bachelor’s degree, according to the Education Data Initiative. The average student loan payment is $460 a month. More than 70% of people with law and medical degrees owe an average of nearly $200,000. And nearly 48 million people have student loans. 

Student debt is no longer just a first-time home buyer problem, says Cale Iorg, a loan officer at Supreme Lending in Alpharetta, Ga. “We get people in their 40s and 50s who are still paying off student loans. They went back for a master’s degree, or they are parents who cosigned their children’s student loans.”

President Biden provided some relief (not reflected in the previous numbers) when he announced in late August 2022 that he would cancel $10,000 in student loan debt for those earning less than $125,000 per year. The relief includes an additional $10,000 for those who received Pell grants for low-income students. Legal challenges to the plan are likely, making timing uncertain, according to the “New York Times.”

Before the pandemic, more than 8 million people — one in five borrowers with a payment due — had defaulted on their loans, the NYT reported. But because many of them carried relatively small balances, they’ll now be eligible for loan cancellation.

Student loan payments have been paused since March 2020, but are scheduled to resume in January 2023.

Despite some uncertainty about debt cancellation timing and impact, you can get a mortgage while you have student debt. Here are eight tips for making it happen.

#1 Lower Your Debt-to-Income Ratio.

Your debt-to-income ratio, or score, is one of the most impactful numbers on your life since your ACT score. It measures the percentage of your monthly income that goes to pay your debts. You calculate it by adding all your monthly debts – credit card minimums, rent or mortgage, car payments, and, yes, student loan payments. Then, you divide the total by your monthly gross income (take-home pay before taxes and other monthly deductions).

Your debt-to-income ratio should be no more than 45% of your gross monthly income, Iorg says. Many lenders consider the ideal debt-to-income ratio, including a mortgage payment, to be 36% or less. Depending on your credit score, savings, assets, and down payment, lenders may accept higher ratios, according to Bankrate. It depends on the type of loan you’re applying for.

You can improve your debt-to-income ratio three ways: Make more money, spend less money, and pay down your debt, Iorg says. “Not everybody can wake up tomorrow and say, ‘Oh, well, I’m going to get a job that pays $4,000 more a month,’” he adds. Sure, there are always side hustles to bring in extra bucks to help you pay down bills. “But the surest way to improve your debt-to-income ratio is to live within your means.”  

And pay down those student loans.

#2 Increase Your Credit Score.

Your credit score is the other number that profoundly affects your financial fortune. It’s basically a grade for what kind of a job you do paying your bills. The simplest ways to boost your credit score include paying your bills on time, using less than 30% of the credit limit on your credit cards, and paying off debts. There’s a lot of help out there, including free webinars, to guide you on improving your score. Generally, these tips involve paying off bills and spending less money. Yes, frugality.

#3 Look for Down Payment Assistance.

When you’re paying off student loans, saving for a down payment can be tough. The down payment can range from 3.5% to 20% of the home purchase price. If you don’t have a relative who can dump a chunk of cash on you – known in the mortgage biz as gift money – there’s other help.  Down payment assistance programs offer loans or grants that pay the down payment on a house. Some DPA funds can be used toward closing costs, too.

Most DPAs require you to be a first-time home buyer with a credit score of 640 or higher and a moderate source of income. DPAs are usually offered at the local level, and their eligibility rules vary by state, city, or even ZIP code. In Seattle, for instance, you can get up to $55,000 in down payment assistance in the form of a low interest loan, depending on your household size and income. The buyer must pay just 1% down out of pocket, and the DPA pays the rest. In Georgia, a DPA offers loans of $7,500 for most buyers. Teachers, health care providers, active duty service members, and public employees are eligible for $10,000.

#4 Get a Co-Borrower.

Want to instantly improve your chances of getting a mortgage? Put a co-borrower on your mortgage. Their income counts toward the debt-to-income ratio, and their credit history bolsters yours. You’re combining forces to strengthen your financial qualifications, and that can offset the dead weight of your student loan debt.

“Co-borrowers are not uncommon,” Iorg says. “It’s a good way to go for a buyer who just doesn’t have enough money from their monthly income to qualify for a mortgage.” Iorg says the co-borrowers he sees are usually parents, siblings, or grandparents. Most co-borrowers are family members or someone with whom the homeowner has a personal relationship. But lenders don’t require a co-borrower to produce proof they know you or are related to you. They just want proof the co-borrower can pay your mortgage if you don’t.

Remember, a co-borrower will share title on the home. If that’s not your cup of joint ownership, consider a co-signer. Their income will boost your financial profile, but they won’t be a co-owner of the house.

#5 Look into Student Loan Protection Programs.

You could be eligible for loan forgiveness if you’re a teacher, attended a for-profit school that went out of business, or have a total and permanent disability. Here are the programs erasing student debt:

  • Public Service Loan Forgiveness: This program has been around since 2007 to grant debt relief to teachers, social workers, firefighters, employees of nonprofits, and other public servants. But the Biden administration loosened the rules to make more people eligible. According to the U.S. Department of Education, the PSLF has forgiven $2 billion in student loans and is still going.
  • Borrower Defense and Closed School Discharge: You may also be eligible for debt relief if you attended a school that turned out to be scamming you. Hello, ITT Tech, DeVry University, and Corinthian Colleges. Thanks to rules under the Biden administration, defrauded students who got only partial debt relief under the Trump administration can now get the rest of their student loans wiped out.
  • Total and Permanent Disability Discharge: Borrowers with permanent disabilities that prevent them from working can shed their student debts, thanks to changes to an existing program that the Education Department says will help at least 370,000 borrowers drop more than $6.5 billion in student debt.

#6 Get Help from Your Employer to Repay Student Debt.

Some companies are offering student loan repayment assistance as a benefit. Google matches employee payments up to $2,500 a year; Aetna matches up to $2,000 a year with a lifetime cap of $10,000; and Fidelity Investments pays up to $10,000 of an employee’s student loans. Other companies that offer payment assistance include Carvana, Chegg, Hulu, Lockheed Martin, New York Life, and PwC (PricewaterhouseCoopers).

Employer-sponsored student loan repayment may become more common. The Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act of 2021 gives a tax break to companies that offer student loan repayment assistance. From now till Dec. 31, 2025, employers can contribute up to $5,250 a year tax-free to an employee for repayment of student loans. So, if your boss gets on board this year, you could get as much as $15,000 of your loans paid off before the program ends.

#7 Lower Your Student Loan Payments.

You can do this in one of two ways:

  • Opt for an income-based repayment plan for federal student loans. You can apply for loan repayment plans that will lower your monthly payment on a federal student loan based on your income and family size. The basic income-based repayment plan caps your payments at 10% of your discretionary income. It also forgives your remaining loan balance after 20 years of payments. That can go a long way toward lowering monthly debt payments and your debt-to-income ratio.
  • Refinance your private student loans. This is a good idea if you have private student loans that aren’t eligible for federal loan forgiveness or have variable rates. If you can get a lower interest rate, you can change your life. For example, if you have $30,000 in private student loans with an 8% interest rate, you’ll pay $364 for 10 years. Refinance that to a 15-year loan at 4% interest, and your payment drops by $142 a month. You’ll also save around $3,735 in interest over the life of the loan.

#8 Get a Mortgage Broker Who Will Coach You.

Look for someone who is experienced at working with borrowers who have more student debt than they’d like. Get a broker who will work with you to find DPA programs; steer you through the ins and outs of FHA, conventional, and VA loans; and help you get your finances in order so you become a better mortgage candidate. Iorg says his office has a credit analyst whose job is to help clients improve their credit scores and debt-to-income ratios.

The Bottom Line

There’s no quick fix to buying a house when you have student loans.

The good news is there’s more public support for student debt forgiveness. Many economists say forgiving student loans, such as the Biden plan for debt cancellation, would put money back into Americans’ pockets. That would boost the economy and encourage the formation of more businesses and households. More businesses means more jobs, and more households means more spending. And spending fuels the U.S. economy.

Changes to the PSLF program have made more people and more types of federal loans eligible for forgiveness. Add to that the raft of assistance programs that help renters become first-time home buyers, and you may be able to afford it all: a college education, a mortgage, and a 401(k) contribution. You just may not be able to do it all at once. It will take planning and time.

Back-to-school-home-organization-kids-bedroom-drawers-messy-closet.jpg

How to Get Your House Ready for Back to School

It’s a given. When your kids go back to school, your schedule and family life get more hectic. But you can prep for the school year crush by fine-tuning how you organize your home, including storage and space use. Here are some ingenious but simple storage hacks for getting an organized home that will make going back to school easier. 

#1 Organize Your Kids’ Bedroom Closets and Drawers

Image: Digital Vision/Getty

Help your kids get dressed in the morning by organizing their clothes. Arrange the clothes in see-through bins and on hangers so they can find what they want to wear and get dressed in a hurry. That way, your child won’t waste valuable time rummaging around for matching socks or their favorite shirt. 

Pro tip: Label the drawers, bins, and closet organizers with the type of clothing that goes in them. If your child knows which drawer is for socks and which bin is for T-shirts, they can stash their clothes in the right places so an organized closet will stay that way.

#2 Add Places to Store Books

back to school home organization mother and daughter with curly brown hair and a purple tutu picking books from shelf

Image: Inti St Clair/Getty

Make sure your child has a place to store textbooks, library books, and their own books. Install shelves that are low enough for them to reach. If they already have shelves in their rooms, organize them just like you did their closet so they can find the books they need, fast. You don’t want them to miss the bus because they’re looking for their math book.

Pro tip: Put library books in a separate bin on a low shelf so your child remembers to return them on time.

#3 Create a Dedicated Space for Homework

back to school home organization teenager room with a sleek white desk and chair with a tablet and flowers on the wall

Image: Liudmila Chernetska/Getty

Create a homework station where your children can study and work on their book reports. For younger kids who need parental supervision, set up a space in the kitchen or living area so you can make sure they stay on task. For older ones who can manage homework without mom and dad, set up a study space in their rooms. Make sure they have a table or desk, a comfy chair, bins to organize school supplies, good lighting, and no distractions. 

Pro tip: Keep phones and video games away from the study space (easier said than done).

#4 Set Up an Organized Drop Zone in Your Entryway

back to school home organization drop zone two backpacks and jackets hanging on a wall rack by the entry door

Image: DonNichols/Getty

You know the drill. Your kids come home from school and throw everything from backpacks to sneakers on the floor when they step in the door. To keep your entryway from looking like a tornado went through, turn it into an organized drop zone. Create storage space for backpacks, shoes, sports equipment, hats, coats, and other gear. Put up cubbies for shoes, shelves for books, and hooks for jackets, backpacks, and tote bags. You’ll declutter the space and ramp up efficiency.

Pro tip: Put baskets or bins on the floor or on low shelves by the entrance to catch the socks, toys, papers, and other paraphernalia that doesn’t make it onto a hanger or into a cubby.

#5 Create a Back-to-School Communications Command Center

That’s a fancy way of saying you need a space where you can coordinate class and work schedules, homework assignments, school activities, and reading lists. The center can be as simple as a calendar and whiteboard on a kitchen wall. Or you can make it more functional by adding hanging bins for folders, a message board, or a small table or desk where you can put an inbox, a bill holder, and a supply of envelopes and pens.

Pro tip: Get a large whiteboard with a calendar template that lets you customize each month and write down all your school-related appointments in one place. 

#6 Get the Kids’ Bathrooms in Order

back to school organization kids bathroom your girl with backpack standing on a stool while brushing her teeth at the sink

Image: MoMo Productions/Getty

Make it easier for your kids to get out the door in the morning by arranging their bathroom for maximum efficiency. Sort their bathroom essentials by category — toothbrushes, hairbrushes, towels, shampoos, and soaps. Organize them in cabinets, drawers, or bins. You want to make items easy to find so your kids can brush their teeth and hair and wash their face fast.

Pro tip: Help younger children stay organized by labeling storage areas with the type of grooming supplies they hold, like “Hair,” “Teeth,” and “Bath.”

#7 Set Up a Back-to-School Breakfast Station

back to school home organization 7 year old girl sets the table for breakfast

Image: vgajic/Getty

Feeding children as they rush out the door to school is tough. Make it simpler by setting up a spot in the kitchen with easy-to-prepare food so your kids can eat on the run. Put out airtight containers of cereal, bowls, packets of instant oatmeal, and fruit in a basket. Make sure milk, yogurt, and other healthy breakfast foods are in easy reach in the fridge.

Pro tip: Use hotel breakfast bars as your inspo. Kids love picking their own meal from an array of food, so copy that look on the kitchen counter.

#8 Make a Snack Drawer

back to school organization young female student in a uniform making a sandwich for lunch box part of morning routine for school

Image: ake1150sb/Getty

Kids are hungry when they come home from school. Set up an area where they can get their own snacks. Put bins in the fridge that have healthy snacks just for them. Think fruit, yogurt, string cheese, nuts, hummus and celery sticks, and cherry tomatoes. If you make healthy food as accessible and ready to eat as junk food, your kids might choose an apple instead of a bag of chips.

Pro tip: Use clear bins so the kids can see what’s in them and so you know when you’re running low on snacks.

A few back-to-school hiccups are probably inevitable. But with some simple hacks for an organized home, the transition can be a whole lot easier.  

Outdoor-patio-lights-overhead-string-lighting.jpg

5 Outdoor Patio Lighting Ideas

Outdoor patios are an extension of your home, perfect for gathering with guests, getting lost in a good book, or even working out. But the fun shouldn’t stop when the sun goes down. You can spend more time doing what matters most by adding the perfect patio lights to your space (dinner under the stars, anyone?). 

If you’re ready to shine some light on your outdoor space, we’ll dive into five great options for outdoor patio lights. Then, we’ll explore different approaches to setting up your patio lighting for all you DIYers. Let’s jump in!

Patio Lighting Ideas

Image: mtreasure/Getty

How you illuminate your patio can depend on the overall design you’re going for, your patio’s purpose, and the amount of lighting you need. Some of the most popular outdoor patio lighting ideas include outdoor pendants, string lights, and floor lights.

1. String Lights and Rope Lighting

String and rope lights are small electric lights placed along a cable and used indoors and outdoors. They’re ideal for stringing along your patio and deck railing, in your tree branches, or along the walls of your home. You can purchase string or rope lighting with heavy-duty wiring and sockets for outdoor use.

2. Outdoor Pendants

Outdoor pendant lights, also called drop or suspender lights, are hanging pendants suspended by a cord or chain. They can instantly enhance your outdoor patio with little effort. Outdoor pendant lights are available in many sizes, including full-length, large, mini, and lantern.

3. Outdoor Table and Floor Lights

Outdoor table lights and floor lights are decorative and functional ways to illuminate an outdoor living space. These lamps provide the perfect ambience for a family get-together or an intimate dinner — without blinding you.

4. Pathway Lighting

Outdoor-patio-lights-pathway-nighttime-stair-lighting

Image: volgariver/Getty

Pathway lighting is best for illuminating a walkway that leads to your patio (safety first!). You can also use pathway lights to brighten driveways and footpaths or as a simple and affordable way to accent your patio steps or highlight shrubbery and flowerbeds.

5. Uplighting

Uplighting is the effect when you place light fixtures on the ground and point them up to enhance specific landscape or architectural features. It’s a great way to emphasize your manicured landscape and garden in your backyard and shine a light on your patio area, too.

Consider This: DIY Patio Light Techniques

There are almost limitless creative techniques for setting up your patio lights, from DIY projects to energy-efficient lighting. Today’s top trends include high-level lighting with prestrung and pendant lights, tabletop lighting with candles, DIY lanterns, and tabletop fireplaces.

DIY Patio Lights

Outdoor-patio-lights-diy-mason-jar-string

Image: Image Credit: Nuno Valadas/Getty

Lighting your patio doesn’t have to be expensive or time-consuming. There are plenty of DIY patio lighting ideas to help you get the same aesthetically pleasing outcome you see on Pinterest.

Ideas include wire basket lighting, mason jar lanterns, recycled wine bottles, and even tin cans. Since the size and shape of lighting will vary, these creative touches can make the space your own.

Use Solar

Solar lighting is energy efficient and uses sunlight to recharge during the day, so there’s no fuss with unsightly cords or wiring, or need for outlets. You can incorporate solar with a solar path light, solar LED deck post caps, solar LED floodlights, or solar string lights.

Illuminate Your Garden and Shrubbery

Outdoor-patio-lights-plant-garden-globe-dusk-lighting

Image: AHatmaker/Getty

There’s no reason you can’t enjoy your garden and shrubbery when the sun goes down. Consider decorating your garden and shrubbery with small touches of lighting. You can weave soft lighting within your bushes, shrubs, and tree branches to create a warm look in your outdoor living space.

Consider Candles

Candles are a simple yet decorative patio lighting option that can add romantic ambiance to any occasion. You can place them on your outdoor tables or alongside the steps and walkways. Candles come in so many different sizes, shapes, colors, and scents that the possibilities are almost endless.

Outdoor Patio Lights: Simple Upgrades to Improve Your Comfort and Safety

Outdoor-patio-lights-pathway-safety-solar-stakes

Image: Image Credit: bruev/Getty

Although the purpose behind patio lights is mostly to create a more pleasing environment, you’ll want to stay safe while enhancing and using the space. That means you’ll need to:

  • Consider all safety measures before you start screwing in your light bulbs.
  • Check your power cords and inspect the lights before installing them.
  • Choose only lights rated for outdoor use to weather the elements.
  • Avoid placing your patio lighting next to flammable materials.
  • Turn off your lights when you’re not using them.

Use your creativity to make your patio shine with outdoor patio lighting ideas like pathway lighting, string lights, and solar lighting. In no time, you’ll transform your simple outdoor patio space into something extraordinary that reflects your personal style.

pet-amenity-house-upgrades-dog-bathing-station.jpg

10 Home Design Features for Pets

For most of us, our pets are family. We let them sleep in our beds, ladle nutritional supplements on their organic kibble, and throw birthday parties for them. In fact, we love our animal companions so much that we even choose a home and a home design for pets.

These numbers tell the story. Forty-three percent of pet owners say they’d move to accommodate their pet, according to a 2021 study from the National Association of REALTORS®. What’s more, 68% of pet owners surveyed by realtor.com® say they’d pass on an otherwise perfect home that didn’t meet their pet’s needs. According to the same survey, nearly 95% of pet-owning respondents say their furry companion plays a role in selecting a home.

Real estate agents are seeing the numbers play out IRL. “Our pets are pampered and adored. That’s really translating into how people are buying real estate and what amenities they are looking for,” says Nicole Prince, an agent with the Figueroa Team in Orlando. “I get clients who bring me a list of features they want in a home or neighborhood that are for their pets — from dog parks nearby to no carpet in the house.”

Here are some pet-friendly features that will make a home more welcoming for animals. Whether you’re shopping for a new home or upgrading your space to suit your fur baby’s needs, they’ll make the place a pet paradise.

#1 Pet Bathing Station

Image: ArtistGNDphotography/Getty

Washing a dog in a normal bathtub can be miserable. Even if your pup is groomed regularly, you still need to clean them up after they romp at the dog park or roll in mud in the yard. One solution is to build a grooming station in your home for quick cleanups.

“I’ve shown homes lately that have grooming stations built in,” Prince says. “It’s super cool — a utility sink that doubles as a place for you to wash your dog.” For larger dogs, you can install a commercial grooming tub with a hand sprayer or a walk-in shower that will accommodate your pet. The location is flexible: A grooming station can go in a laundry room, mudroom, or garage.

#2 Chicken Coops

pet-amenity-chicken-coop-backyard-hidden

Image: Cavan Images/Getty

Backyard chickens are chic. Driven by the pandemic, ownership of backyard chickens increased from 8% in 2018 to 13% in 2020, according to the American Pet Product Association. Why? Fresh eggs, says Amanda Terbrock of Manna Pro Products, quoted in Pet Business. More chickens means more fancy chicken coops, because we would never put our beloved backyard hens in shabby digs. You can build your own or buy a chicken coop that looks like a luxe she-shed or child’s playhouse. A nice coop can set you back thousands, but hey, it’s for our darling animals. Also, fresh eggs!

#3 Pet-Proof Flooring

pet-amenity-pet-proof-durable-flooring-tile-dog

Image: dageldog/Getty

Accidents happen, even with the best-behaved pets. That’s why floors with a hard, impermeable surface make your life easier. Think tile, hardwood, terrazzo, cement, or laminate, Prince says. Stay away from wall-to-wall carpet. “Carpets soak up pet stains, so they’re a bad idea,” Prince explains. Adding wood floors to your home increases monetary value, too. The National Association of REALTORS® “2022 Remodeling Impact Report” says new wood floors bring a 118% return when it’s time to sell the house.

#4 Build-in Pet Beds

pet-amenity-indoor-cat-bed-built-in

Image: © copyright 2011 Sharleen Chao/Getty

Pet beds tossed about your house are unattractive and consume valuable floor space. The alternative is building pet beds into cabinets, shelves, and other pieces of furniture. You can build a pet bed into the bottom shelves of a bookcase or into a kitchen or mudroom cabinet. Or tuck it under the stairs. If hiring a cabinetmaker or carpenter to build a seamless pet bed isn’t in your budget, you can also buy pet beds that look like furniture. You’ll be happier with the way your pet bed looks, and your pet will have a permanent space.

#5 Built-in Pet Gates

pet-amenity-built-in-gate-pet-dog

Image: Maggie Stuart for HouseLogic

You don’t want your pets to go into certain places in your home, and most of us keep them out with baby gates. Plastic baby gates are flimsy and unattractive. A better option is a built-in gate. You can hire a cabinetmaker to build a custom pet gate for a door that’s mounted to a door jamb on hinges. Or you could make a pocket door-style pet gate that slides into the walls. Can’t afford custom work? Consider premade upscale pet gates that you can mount to a door jamb or staircase.

#6 Outdoor Ramp

pet-amenity-ramp-outdoor-deck-dog

Image: marcoventuriniautieri/Getty

Just like humans, dogs and cats can get too old to easily navigate stairs. If stairs are separating your pet from the outdoors, build a ramp from the door to the yard to make your house accessible as they age. You can hire a carpenter to construct the outdoor ramp for dogs. Be sure you design it at an angle they can navigate. Small or short-legged dogs — like basset hounds and corgis — may need a ramp to navigate stairs even when they’re young.

#7 Enclosed Cat Patio

pet-amenity-cat-patio-catio-outdoor

Image: Simona Weber/Getty

Also called a catio (cat + patio,) these outdoor enclosures provide a safe place for your cat to play outside. The structure, with a roof and four walls, keeps your cat safe and unable to harm wildlife. Catios can range from window-box sized ones to lanai-sized ones large enough to enclose a patio with human seating.

#8 Built-in Pet Doors

pet-amenity-house-upgrades-built-in-pet-dog-cat-door-blue-tabby-cat-passing-through-door

Image: Nils Jacobi/Getty

Those pet doors with the rubber flaps and plastic frames that you hack into a door can be flimsy and straight-up ugly. Fortunately, sturdier and more aesthetically pleasing alternatives are available. You can get exterior doors with built-in pet doors. Or, consider glass inserts with built-in pet doors that replace sidelights on an exterior door. If you want to spend more, you can get heavy duty pet door inserts that fit into your home’s exterior wall. Integrating a pet door into your home’s design is better for you and your pup because it’s more permanent, secure, and lovely.

#9 Built-in Pet Feeding Station

pet-amenity-house-upgrades-built-in-food-bowl-feeding-station-under-stairs-dog-bed-food-water-bowl

Image: ArchiViz/Getty

Food and water bowls are messy, so upgrade your setup with a built-in pet feeding station. You can build a dedicated space for pet bowls into the cabinets in your kitchen or laundry room. That means no more tripping over bowls. A built-in station organizes the space, turning pet bowls from clutter to part of the furniture. Consider installing a faucet near the feeding station so you can easily refill or rinse bowls.

#10 Fenced-in Yard

pet-amenity-house-upgrades-dog-fence-yard-two-shetland-sheepdogs-playing-with-stick

Image: Deb Perry/Getty

A meadow-like grassy yard enclosed by a secure fence is the holy grail for pet owners. An outdoor area for their beloved animals to play safely is why pet owners leave lofts in the city for single-family homes in the suburbs. “A fenced-in yard is near the top of my clients’ list when they’re looking for dog-friendly features,” Prince says. “There’s no substitute for a safe place for your animals to spend time outdoors.”

retaining-wall-building-materials.png

How to Build a Retaining Wall

If your backyard or garden is having a problem with erosion or unstable soil, your solution could be a retaining wall. It can play a key role in yard and garden function, design, and safety.

Learn some tips and tricks for installing a retaining wall and deciding whether to DIY or hire a pro.

Tips Before You Build Your Retaining Wall

Before you get started on your retaining wall, consider these tips: 

  • Carefully select your materials: You can construct retaining walls from several different materials, such as wood, stone, or concrete. Select the one that works best with your garden design. Also, check if you’ll need an adhesive for your material. Some wall bricks are interlocking; others need masonry cement. 
  • Add drainage to your wall: Fill the back of your retaining wall with gravel or sand. This will prevent wet soil from building up when it rains. You may need to add a drainage pipe if rainfall is heavy and frequent enough. 
  • Wait for dry soil: You don’t want to build your wall on wet soil because the soil can expand and give you inappropriate dimensions. 

Once you’ve carefully planned your wall, you’re ready to get the materials. 

The list of materials for your wall is (relatively) short, but should include: 

  • Concrete, stone, or wood blocks: One of these block material types will be the primary one you use to build your wall. Make sure you measure the blocks and buy enough of them. 
  • Adhesive: In case the block material you’ve chosen requires an adhesive, have one ready before you lay your tiles. 
  • A shovel: You’ll need to dig the trench for the first course of your wall. 
  • A tape measure: This will help you properly mark the length and width of your wall. 
  • Gravel: Gravel will lay at the base of your retaining wall. It can also be added as a drainable material to the back of the wall. 
  • A circular saw with a masonry blade: Have a saw on hand to cut blocks as needed. 
  • Capstone blocks: Buy some of these to add the final touch to your wall. 
  • A drainpipe: To prevent the soil from expanding and damaging your wall, a drainpipe will route water and avoid wall collapse during rainy seasons. 

You may need more tools or different materials depending on the details of your project. If you’re lost, don’t be afraid to hire a contractor or ask an expert. 

Image: HouseLogic

Estimating Cost for Building a Retaining Wall

Several factors will affect the cost of building a retaining wall, including: 

  • Materials: You might pay up to $75 per foot of your wall if you’re using a material like stacked stone. Materials matter. 
  • The dimensions of the wall: The size of your wall will of course factor into how much building and drainage material you’ll need. 
  • The type of retaining wall: There are a few ways to build a retaining wall, such as with anchoring, cantilevering, or rammed earth. The cost of each type varies. 
  • Drainage materials: If you’re using a drainpipe, drainage material can cost up to $75 per linear foot.  

The total of all these materials will cost $25 to $75 per square foot for your DIY retaining wall. Hiring a contractor to build the wall can add $50 to $75 per hour depending on the scale of the project.

Measure and Mark the Location for the Retaining Wall Blocks

When you’re measuring the size and location of your wall, use a tape measure and mark the proper length and width. Next, place garden stakes at the four corners of your wall and tie them together with mason’s string. Remember to mark any place where the wall might bend or curve. 

Taking these measurements properly and precisely is essential to buying the correct amount of materials and digging the proper foundation. 

Retaining Wall Repair and Installation: DIY vs. Contractors

Your decision about whether to build your retaining wall yourself or hire a contractor should consider factors such as: 

  • Experience: Have you attempted any DIY exterior home projects before? Retaining wall installation isn’t the easiest project for beginners. Some situations may even require professional engineering to ensure the wall keeps its shape. Generally, if you’re planning a retaining wall taller than four feet, it’s time to call in a pro. 
  • Permits: Due to drainage concerns, building some retaining walls requires a permit. If you need one, a contractor can help you more easily manage the paperwork. Contractors can also assume some liability for the final project. 
  • Scale: The bigger and more complicated your retaining wall, the more time and effort you’ll save by outsourcing the labor to a contractor. 

If you’re having trouble finding a contractor, your local REALTOR® can provide you with a list of references for well-qualified installers. 

rethink-grass-yard-work-hardscaping-ground-cover-succulent-garden.jpg

9 Ways to Rethink Your Landscaping for Severe Weather

Maintaining a yard isn’t for the faint of heart anymore. Severe weather means rains are heavier and more intense. Droughts last a long time and can be dangerous. Then there’s the trickle-down effect. Rising temps are causing more aggressive weeds, and longer frost seasons are giving insect pests more time to reproduce (shudder). But some homeowners have figured out how to change their landscaping to sync with area weather patterns and their desire to do other things than manage their yard and lawn. Here are nine tips from varied sources to help you win over weather – and go low maintenance at the same time. 

#1 Pick Several Species of Plants.

Gardens and landscapes with several different species of plants can better resist pests, diseases, and just plain prolonged bad weather. Native plants are an excellent choice because they’re hardy and can support native wildlife. – Environmental horticulturist Kim Eierman, founder of EcoBeneficial!, from HGTV’s “Climate Change in Your Own Backyard” 

#2 Replace or Reduce Your Lawn.

Some pros call exotic turf grasses “green deserts,” because the grasses have shallow roots and require a lot of work. Consider replacing them with native grasses that have deep roots. Little bluestem holds a lot of moisture but also tolerates periods of drought. – Kim Eierman

#3 Nix the Lawn, Opt for Ground Cover.

Step away from that lawnmower. Use ground cover instead of lawn and say goodbye to mowing. Ground cover retains carbon in the soil, tolerates drought, and prevents both erosion and invasives. More important, it renourishes the soil so you don’t have to continually fertilize it. – Susan Nugent, climate reality project leader, from “South Florida Sun-Sentinel”

#4 Create Rain Gardens.

Plants that need more water can be used in a rain garden, a wet area in your landscaping. Water-loving plants can bloom near a downspout with a rain barrel attached. During droughts, you can add stored water. – Susan Nugent

#5 Plant Pollinators.

They support about 35% of our food supply. When selecting plantings, use biodiversity – differing types of plants to benefit birds, butterflies, and bees. – Susan Nugent

#6 Choose Natural Mulch.

Like cedar, natural mulch keeps insects away. Pine bark mulch is often sold as nuggets, but the shredded form covers better and looks great throughout the season. It decays fairly quickly, enriching soil over time. – Tata & Howard, specialized water, wastewater, and storm water consulting engineering firm

#7 See the Pluses of (Some) Weeds.

Creeping Charlie is one weed hated by lawn-lovers because it can “spoil” a nice lawn and spread like crazy in part shade. But it’s a native plant with attractive flowers, and bees love it. – Henry Homeyer, blogger at gardening-guy.com, “Gardening: Give ‘Rewilding’ Your Lawn a Try,” from “Providence Journal”

#8 Add Stone or Gravel Pathways.

They work as firebreaks and reduce rain runoff. – Bob Vila, from “The 12 Biggest Landscaping Trends for 2022”

#9 Use Boulders and Large Stones.

It doesn’t get much lower maintenance than boulders and large stones. Plus, they conserve water. And they’re versatile and can be arranged in clusters, stacked as a retaining wall, or used to accent changes in elevation. – Ryan Plank, “How to Landscape with Boulders,” from “Lawn Starter”

Landscaping-climate-change-hardscaping-groundcover-dead-grass-overgrown-fence.jpg

5 Ways to Keep Severe Weather from Doing a Number on Your Yard

Contrary to what many may believe, severe weather doesn’t just beat up on the other guy. Mother Nature can wallop anyone’s home and yard.

That doesn’t mean you’ll have to watch your house reduced to briquettes by a wildfire or flooding test your home’s capacity for flotation. But your yard may lose some of its curb appeal if you let nature take its course and you experience events like drought, flooding, hail, high winds, or other uninvited elements. If severe weather is persistent or paired with deficient maintenance, it can set your yard back years. 

It may be time to rethink your ideas about traditional yards and landscaping. Consider new ideas that will stand up to new challenges but still leave you enough time to enjoy your yard – and your life. Here are five tips to get you started.

1. Counteract Drought Devastation

Continuous lack of water is a serious threat to cultivated plants, says Bryan McKenzie, landscape designer and co-founder of the blog Bumpercroptimes.com. Drought slows plant growth, affects the structures of plants, makes them more susceptible to disease, and can even deep-six entire root systems.  

Unless you want to relive the Dust Bowl, understand that drought can have a negative impact on soil. “If you’re in a drought situation, you’re exposing the soil to the sun,” says Joe Raboine, director of residential hardscapes for Belgard in Atlanta. “[Soil] will bake, dry up, and turn to dust. Pesticides in the dust will be dispersed through the air.” 

To thrive, grass lawns need to quaff at least one inch of water weekly, says Luke Lee, a London-based real estate professional who helps homeowners with landscaping design choices. If your home is in an area gripped by frequent drought, consider installing artificial turf (AstroTurf is one type). It will help conserve water and put a damper on grass fires, Lee says.

Another option: Use drought-resistant plants or mulch on the land to protect the soil and allow the soil biome to thrive, Raboine says. One other possibility is edible landscapes, including blueberry bushes. “Blueberries can be planted from the South to far North and thrive in many different and even fairly harsh conditions,” he says. “There’s receptivity to new ideas about how to cover your land, which are really old ways that predate the arrival of lawn mowers to cut your grass.”

2. Prevent Damage from Excessive Precipitation

Too much precipitation from rain and snowfall can damage both plants and soil, says  the marketing director of Manchester, Conn.-based Green Building Elements. Monsoon-like downpours can unleash a torrent of stormwater pollution, which can kill plant roots.

Flooding can rob landscapes of large volumes of nutrients and also choke them from lack of air. If plants remain in standing water too long, growth can be slowed, or they may die, McKenzie says.

Many homeowners grade the soil on their properties rather than accentuating the natural landscape, says Tom Monson, owner of Monson Lawn & Landscaping in Mendota Heights, Minn. When combined with extreme weather like heavy rains, this grading can lead to erosion.

Homeowners in areas with severe weather need to consider where water drains, Monson says. “Many homeowners have installed customized draining systems to protect against flooding. But many have not installed drainage systems, and [their yards] are at risk.”

Water running off a yard can carry oil and debris, which end up in waterways. To avoid getting the evil eye from the Environmental Protection Agency, consider installing permeable pavements in your yard. Two such coverings are interlocking concrete pavers or amended soils. 

Permeable pavements can prevent both pollutant runoff and flooding, says Raboine. They capture the water in the substrate. There, microbes break down pollutants before they can enter the aquifer. 

“The storm water from a driveway can be collected in a tank in the same way water was once collected in a cistern, and later used for irrigation purposes,” he says. 

3. Secure Your Yard from High Winds

Gusts strong enough to propel Dorothy back to the Emerald City seem more common these days. As threatening as they may be to houses and cars, those gusts are also no friend of your landscaping. Strong sustained winds can rip smaller plants from the ground. After a windstorm, distribution of leaves, pine needles, and small branches, as well as large fallen trees, can make your yard look like a disaster zone. Even milder winds can accelerate soil erosion. That’s destructive to landscaping and brings slower growth.

Landscape experts urge several steps. Prune trees and bushes of loose or dead branches. Before an impending storm, tie down any other loose foliage, and secure furniture or decorations, which can be blown around your lot as well. Think about planting fewer ornamental shrubs or trees, and avoid trees that are easily uprooted by heavy winds. Even ponder cutting down a few trees and foliage vulnerable to high winds.

4. Prepare Your Yard for Extreme Heat

Statistics suggest the weather pattern most deadly for humans is extreme heat. It can be just as lethal to the yards of humans. This weather pattern can cause loss of foliage, dormant lawns, stressed shrubs and trees, and insect and disease infestations. So says Owen Mosser, Maine-based garden expert at online publication The Golden.

To keep your lawn green in spite of the summer heat, replacing some areas with water-wise plantings will make your yard more tolerant. Possibilities include Spanish lavender, African daisy, aloes, pride of Madeira, rockrose, and Juniper.

“Pruning dead or infected limbs will keep plant diseases from spreading to the healthy parts of your yard,” he adds. Detect infected plants by spotting abnormal growth or appearance of disease-causing organisms such as insect larvae or bacterial slime. Leaves are also visibly yellow leaves with white blotches, and the stems may become a bit mushy.

5. Protect Your Landscaping From Harsh Winters

Long cold stretches, when combined with the kind of gusts that send wind chills plummeting to minus zero territory, can leave your yard’s future on thin ice.

Prevent this by overseeding your lawn to generate stronger, healthier grass and keep your lawn safe during the winter months, Mosser says. Incorporating mulch also provides insulation, regulates root and soil warmth, and keeps your plants healthy.

“Don’t forget to remove dead leaves and debris,” he adds. “Doing this will prevent your plants from suffocating and infesting fungus and diseases. Mother Nature can be unforgiving sometimes . . . preventive landscaping is key.” 

Bottom line? Make the time and money you spend on your yard a strong investment against severe weather. Preventive landscaping can help ensure your yard stays green. That could also save you some green by fixing problems that could have been avoided.

Remodeling-kitchen-personality-traditional-green-farmhouse-1.jpg

4 Ways to Give Your Kitchen Personality

Kitchens are showing more personality these days. As they’ve become a hub, they’re not just for cooking and eating. We’ve been using them for all kinds of activities. We want our kitchens to reveal our interests and taste but still blend with the rest of our home. Here are four ways — little and big — to do that by designing a creative kitchen. 

#1 Aim for a Creative Kitchen

Image: MarioGuti/Getty

You love looking at posts on Pinterest or Instagram for inspiration and saving them for mood boards or focused aesthetic. But because of your urge for individuality, you want to incorporate choices in ways nobody else does. As long as you don’t make drastic changes that would take big bucks to reverse if you sold in the next few years, you can get creative. Feel free to fix up your kitchen just the way you love. 

“Do what feels good for you and nobody else,” urges designer Sharon McCormick of Sharon McCormick Design in Hartford, Conn. This may involve a quick, affordable fix. So, you could move a rug from another room to add a spark of color or pattern. Or hang favorite artwork, or display collectibles on floating shelves or in glass-fronted cabinets. 

If you need to focus on investment-grade changes with lasting value, you still have options. Think about hand-scraped floors, wire-brushed and high-gloss lacquered cabinets, or hardware in new elegant shapes and finishes, says Chicago kitchen expert Mick de Giulio of de Giulio Kitchen Design.  

#2 Express Yourself With Kitchen Color

Remodeling-kitchen-personality-color-block-tile-blue-mediterranean-open-floorplan

Image: FollowTheFlow/Getty

Kitchen color is the great game changer for a creative kitchen. It’s a quick and easy way to update your kitchen’s look and feel. White, gray, and beige are still popular palettes for kitchens, but livelier hues are showing up, according to a 2021 Houzz survey. If you’re timid about the new shades — lots of blues and greens — consider small doses in a few perimeter cabinets. Or for an island, you could add some backsplash tiles on one wall; one color appliance, like a turquoise range (yep, it’s available!); or a smaller standing mixer or countertop oven. They’re now available in almost any color of the rainbow. 

Paint manufacturer Sherwin-Williams says green kitchens are gaining ground. People want to bring the feeling of plants and trees inside, whether in dark, jewel tones or more muted, soothing hues. Green also pairs well with wood in floors, furniture, or butcher block countertops. 

If you’re not ready to commit to color, consider sophisticated black accents. They’ve become popular for architectural features like window frames, doors, cabinets, faucets, and appliance fronts. “Black is the Sharpie that outlines the kitchen,” says JT Norman, design specialist at Kitchen Magic in Nazareth, Pa.

#3 Blend Your Spaces for Seamlessness

remodeling-kitchen-personality-open-blend-spaces-modern-wood

Image: Andrea Rugg/Getty

The kitchen has become more of a room to live in. Even if you already have an open floor plan with adjoining spaces, you may want your furnishings, color palette, and accessories to blend more seamlessly. That way, there’s no jarring change from one room to another. McCormick says this is a shift from years past, when each room was a different color and sometimes a slightly different style. “With this new way, you can bring chairs from one room to another if you need more seating,” she says. “They look right, and it’s also easier on the eye.”

If your kitchen has separate dining and comfy hangout areas, you can still get a cohesive look by coordinating colors and styles. One way to blend spaces is to use the same style of cabinetry. Simple shaker cabinets are still a classic choice. Some homeowners also want panel fronts similar to their cabinets to camouflage kitchen appliances. And even if the color scheme isn’t exactly the same throughout, you might introduce one common denominator of a few similarly colored accessories in each room. 

#4 Go for Convenience With Smart Appliances

remodeling-kitchen-personality-smart-fridge-man-groceries

Image: visualspace/Getty

Your tech-savvy side wants to find ways to use the latest developments in kitchen equipment to save time and effort. Why not get a jump on preheating the oven for the chicken you plan to roast after a hard day at work — or reheating the one you bought at the supermarket? Most major manufacturers offer models with Wi-Fi capability. You download an app onto your phone or tablet and program the unit. Voila! The range is warm when you arrive home, so you get to eat sooner. 

Faucets like Delta’s Touch2O Technology let you touch anywhere on the spout or faucet handle with your wrist or forearm to activate water flow if your hands are covered. So, no worries if you’re kneading pizzas for your gang.

You may or may not be ready for a fridge that knows if you’re low on butter or eggs and need to order. “Some buy this technology if they can afford it, even though they may not use it often,” says Chicago designer Susan Brunstrum of Studio Brunstrum.

But here’s something you can easily add and will want — more outlets and USB ports. You’ll be ready to charge everyone’s phone and other tech devices at one convenient charging station.

A creative kitchen can be a more livable space that displays your family’s interests and blends with your other rooms. And best of all, changes don’t have to be big, pricey, or time consuming. They can still make a major difference in ramping up your happiness quotient.

quartz-kitchen-countertops-cost-types-multiple-sample-colors.jpg

Are Quartz Countertops Right for Your Kitchen?

The kitchen tends to be the home’s gathering place, so it’s only natural you want it to look and feel welcoming. But as the hub of your home, your kitchen needs durable countertops, especially if you have little ones helping with the cooking. Quartz countertops are a trendy choice for kitchens, but before you get in touch with your contractor, it’s important to assess the pros and cons and review some alternatives. 

What Are the Pros and Cons of Quartz Countertops?

Pros of Quartz Kitchen Countertops

  • Durable: Quartz countertops are highly durable, made from a mix of stones and stone-like materials bound together with resins. Makers of quartz countertops press the materials and resin into slabs that are solid and nonporous. That means the counters won’t chip or crack with everyday use (like when your little ones are helping you cook). 
  • Stain-resistant: Quartz is highly stain-resistant, thanks to its nonporous surface. But it can be stained by certain substances — like red wine, coffee, tea, tomato sauce, and juice — if the spill isn’t cleaned up immediately. The staining happens when the liquid interacts with the resin. You’ll also want to use gentle cleaners instead of harsh chemicals. Another positive: Quartz is relatively low maintenance and doesn’t require sealing. 
  • Highly customizable: Thanks to advances in engineered quartz, you can choose from a variety of patterns that can be custom-made or mirror the look of granite or marble. 

Cons of Quartz Countertops

  • Pricey: The price of quartz is high compared to the price of materials like marble and limestone. On average, quartz kitchen countertops cost $40 to $100 per square foot installed. 
  • Prone to heat damage: While quartz is heat-resistant, the binders used in about 10% of a quartz countertop slab are not. So, leaving hot cookware directly on a quartz counter could cause unsightly stains.  
  • Requires professional installation: Installing quartz countertops is probably not a DIY task. The material is incredibly heavy and needs professional attention to ensure the kitchen can support the counters.   

What Should You Look for in a Quartz Countertop?

Look for these quality markers when buying a quartz countertop:  

  • Cohesive coloring: Compare separate slabs from the quartz you plan to buy. Are they the same color? 
  • Coloring through the surface: Make sure the veins and colorations you see on the surface of the quartz continue throughout the slab. 
  • Consistent aggregates: Aggregates are the pebbles  you find along the edges of your countertops. No matter the size of these pebbles, they should be consistent throughout the countertop. 

Alternatives to Quartz Countertops

Your kitchen countertops should fit your lifestyle and the look of your space. So, before you choose them, explore several options to see what works best. Some alternatives to quartz kitchen countertops include:  

Marble

Marble is often comparable in price to quartz, but it has a unique and elegant look that may make the price worth it for some. While neither quartz nor marble requires resealing, marble has a porous surface, so it may be susceptible to stains, especially from acidic liquids, like tomato sauce or lemon juice. Quartz isn’t porous like marble but can still stain too. 

Slate

Slate is just as durable as quartz, but its designs and aggregates are more uniform. Slate costs more than quartz on average and requires a decent amount of maintenance, including regular sealing.  

Granite

Granite countertops are naturally made versus the man-made designs of quartz. While prices may be similar, granite requires more maintenance because of the need for regular resealing.  

How Much Do Quartz Counters Cost?

Several factors affect the cost of quartz countertops, including the brand, design, thickness, size of the project, and installation cost. On average, quartz countertops cost $40 to $100 per square foot installed. So, in an average kitchen with 30 square feet of countertop space, you’ll need to budget between $1,750 and $3,000 for quartz counters, with $2,300 being an average price. 

Compare that to other popular countertop options like granite, which costs between $2,500 and $5,000 for 30 square feet installed, or marble which may run you between $2,000 and $7,000. 

What Should You Ask Your Contractor About Installing Quartz Countertops?

Before you hire a pro to install new counters, be sure to ask a few questions, including:  

  • Is your team experienced with installing quartz countertops?  
  • Will replacing my kitchen countertops require a permit?  
  • How much do you charge for countertop installation, including removing my old countertops?  
  • Will you move my appliances and fixtures during installation, or am I responsible for that?  
  • Do you have insurance that covers any damage to my home or countertops during installation?  
  • Do you offer a warranty if something happens to the counters after installation? 

The answers to these questions and the information above can guide you as you decide whether quartz countertops are the best option for your kitchen.