"In the days of an uncertain stock market and job insecurity, there's no place like home sweet home. Even though the housing bubble burst over the course of 2007 and 2008, according to MSN Money, homeowners in many areas of the United States can still recoup 80 to 90 percent of the money spent on home improvements. The key is to know where to spend. Just because you put $20,000 into renovations, it won't necessarily add that much value. If your house needs a new roof, you won't see a return on it for a while because people expect the roof in a house they're buying to be in good shape. The same can be said for your plumbing and electrical systems. Bad plumbing will detract from the value, but new plumbing won't necessarily drive up the price tag. The key to adding value is to focus on the things that are important to buyers, and to not over-improve. You don't want to have the most expensive house on the block. So if the houses in your neighborhood have concrete driveways, investing in expensive brick pavers may not be in your best interest financially.
Tips for how to get the best bang for your buck on your home renovations, even in a tight real estate market.
If your house doesn't look appealing from the outside, chances are a potential buyer will never make it inside. According to Bankrate.com, a good first impression can add five to 10 percent to the value of your home. If the exterior color of your house is dated or fading, painting is a good place to start your improvements. Choose colors and exterior details that match the period of your house. Shutters add charm and depth, but not if they're hanging crooked or flaking paint. Paving a driveway or walkway that is in disrepair is a must, because this is what leads people to your home -- you want it to be welcoming. Attractive, manicured front-yard landscaping will also add value to your home. Drought-tolerant plants and easy-to-care-for perennials are a good option if you don't have a green thumb. And don't forget about your backyard either. Outdoor living is very popular as more people wish to commune with nature in the comfort of their own home. Sprucing up a deck or patio with attractive furniture, raised garden beds and maybe even a water feature will give you years of enjoyment and appeal to future buyers.
Many homeowners don't give much thought to their landscaping, but a good design can add significantly to your home's value -- sometimes as much as a new kitchen or bath. Have a landscape architect out to your house to assess what you've got and offer suggestions. Perhaps creating a more formal look will better match your home's style (think geometrical shapes and straight lines), or, if your lot backs up to lots of trees, a woodland look full of natural paths, native plants and lots of groundcover. There's often no fee for an architect's design if you buy at least a few items, which is well worth it. Keep in mind, too, that landscaping is more than greenery -- it includes lighting, fences, rock features, paths, ponds, fountains and more. So even if your current trees and plants are attractively laid out, they may still be greatly enhanced by, say, a curving pathway, bench and a few well-placed lights. Landscaping is especially important (and more valuable to your bottom line) in temperate climates, where your plantings are visible year-round and you're able to be outside enjoying features like ponds all 12 months of the year".
Sennebogen, Emilie, and Melanie Radzicki McManus. "Top 10 Ways to Add Value to Your Home." HowStuffWorks. Howstuffworks.com, n.d. Web. 03 Apr. 2014. <http://home.howstuffworks.com/home-improvement/remodeling/5-ways-to-add-value-to-home.htm#page=0>.
"When redecorating your home, it’s important to remember the outside as well as the inside. Upgrading your outdoor space can make your home a more enjoyable space for both you and potential buyers—especially during summer months.
“It’s useless to have a beautiful home inside and a mess outside,” says Jessica Yonker, editor of HGTVGardens.com and a contributor to HGTV.com’s blog Design Happens.
“Pools, fire pits, and patios are always popular upgrades and additions, especially in summer,” Yonker says. “Not only do these upgrades make your home pretty, but beautifying your outdoors can also increase the value of your home.”
Of course, cost is a huge factor, so budget carefully and have a solid plan in place.
It’s safer to overestimate your budget than to plan an exact amount with no wiggle room, Yonker cautions. “When budgeting, make sure to factor in any taxes, service, and labor fees your project may incur, in addition to the materials,” she says. “Before you start a large outdoor project, you’ll want to think about how long you’ll be living in the home. You wouldn’t want to spend $20,000 on an outdoor kitchen if you’re not going to have a few years to enjoy it.”
Popular outdoor upgrades include:
Fire pits. Transform your back yard with a fire pit and make your yard the perfect place to relax on a lazy summer evening or chilly fall night. You can buy a portable fire pit in home improvement stores or install a custom-built, permanent pit.
Outdoor kitchen. “For those who love to entertain, an outdoor kitchen is a must,” Yonker says. An outdoor kitchen can simply have a grilling area, or you can go all out with a gourmet grill, pizza oven, sink, stocked bar, and outdoor flat-screen television.
Patios. To upgrade a poured concrete patio, consider replacing it with concrete pavers, which come in a variety of sizes, shapes, and colors. Also, consider adding a focal point like a paved walkway or fountain.
Landscaping. “Adding a garden or planting trees are quick, inexpensive upgrades that can add beauty to your home,” Yonker says. Consider adding curb appeal and eye appeal with a splash of color and decorative planters on the front porch, patio, and decks.
Paint. “You can also give your outdoors a new look by painting your house a new color or touching up the existing paint,” Yonker advises. A fresh coat of paint can inexpensively transform the look of your home and protect it from sun, rain, and wind, preserving your investment for years to come.
Keep in mind that if you belong to a homeowners association, you’ll need check with it before you start any outdoor projects. The association may have restrictions on allowable paint colors, fence heights, and even types of trees you are allowed to plant. If you’re doing any digging, know where your utility lines are before you pick up the shovel. Call 811, a free, nationwide service that will connect you to a local center to arrange for someone to come out and mark your utility lines".
Becker, Eve. "Finance Blog." Equifax Finance Blog Increase Your Homes Value With These Five Outdoor Upgrades Comments. Http://blog.equifax.com, 8 July 2013. Web. 31 Mar. 2014. <http://blog.equifax.com/real-estate/increase-your-homes-value-with-these-five-outdoor-upgrades/>.
"For all birds, water is essential to life. They need it daily for drinking as well as bathing. When you have the opportunity to observe wild birds in water, it is immediately evident how much they enjoy it. A simple bath looks like play, and it always appears to be a joy.
In the wild, birds get their water from wherever they can find it… ponds, puddles, and even the cupped leaves of plants after a rain. You can bring the beauty of local and transient birds into your life when you offer them access to water near your home or apartment. If you are able to accommodate a man-made stream or pond on your property, they will soon seek it out and return frequently. But for many individuals, space considerations rule these out. Fortunately, a birdbath can be installed virtually anywhere.
The Style of Your Birdbath Makes A Difference
The most popular birdbaths are shallow basins. They require little maintenance, and birds are comfortable in them. A shallow birdbath, or one with a gentle slope to the middle, enables them to wade in. The deepest level should not be more than three inches. Because birds like to have secure footing, the bottom of the basin-style birdbath should not be too smooth – textured surfaces are the most desirable. If you can add a dripper to the birdbath, it may attract even more birds, since they love moving water.
A birdbath will not be popular if it is placed in the middle of an open yard where birds will feel vulnerable. A wet bird cannot fly fast, and needs close cover from predators. Instead, place your birdbath near an "escape route" – a tree, shrub, or fence where birds can take cover if startled.
Placed atop a pedestal, a birdbath offers a sense of security and stabililty. Also popular are birdbaths designed to hang from a tree.
When positioning your birdbath, think also of yourself. Place the birdbath where you can see it from indoors… from your desk, dining room, or kitchen. To make your birdbath easy to clean and refill make sure it is within easy reach of your garden hose.
Change the water every few days, or even every day in hot weather. Dump it out or rinse it out with a strong stream from your hose. Use a bird-safe birdbath cleaner weekly to remove any debris and built-on residue".
Dr. Foster & Smith Educational Staff. "Birdbaths Overview." Backyard Birdbaths: Attracting Wild Birds with Bird Baths & Bird Bath Fountains. Drfosterandsmith.com, n.d. Web. 28 Mar. 2014. <http://www.drsfostersmith.com/pic/article.cfm?aid=1301>.
"A wonderful way to enhance the beauty of your garden is to install a solar powered garden fountain. Compared to traditional electric fountains, solar powered garden fountains allow you to be gentle on the environment and to reduce your running costs to practically nothing. Maintenance is simple, too, with no wiring to look after. And yet a broad range of prices and styles are available.Setting up a solar powered garden fountain is easy and care of these fountains is minimal once installed. Want to use your solar powered garden fountain at an evening party? One option is to install a battery backup for working when the sun is not shining. Weekly maintenance is simple. Panels may accumulate dust or dirt, which can easily be wiped off.
Once installed, if you find the pumps' power is not to your satisfaction, you may need to reposition the solar panels somewhat to increase maximum solar energy. It's also possible to add extra solar panels if you want to increase power to the pumps. Just note that water jet intensity will fluctuate according to the presence of sun throughout the day, and of course be lower on cloudy days.
You can buy solar powered garden fountains with panels and fountain all in one unit, or purchase a model that allows you to place the panels at a distance, connected by a cord. Either way the panels' position needs to be where they can get maximum sunlight. If setup is separate, this allows you to place the fountain in any location, sunny or not.
The best benefit, once the solar powered garden fountain is installed, is sunlight is free and summer time use has no limits. Since there is no need to place the fountain close to an electric supply, installation can be at any distance. This is especially ideal for large gardens.
The only disadvantage is total dependence on sun; solar powered garden fountains work best on bright sunny days. Performance will slow down on cloudy days. Once the freezing chills of winter arrive, it's best to move the unit indoors to prevent damage from snow and frost. Extremely low temperatures could crack the bowls of the foundation.
Solar powered garden fountains are designed for sunny locales with mild winters. They come in a variety of styles; some float, others are placed on solid surfaces, but are the most cost-effective way to enhance your garden, harnessing one of the planets most renewable energy source, sunlight. Make your garden truly green, go solar".
Hessman, Scott. "New Gardening Trends: Solar Powered Garden Fountains." Yahoo Contributor Network. Voices.yahoo.com, 16 Nov. 2011. Web. 25 Mar. 2014. <http://voices.yahoo.com/new-gardening-trends-solar-powered-garden-fountains-10428209.html?cat=32>.
LaLiberte, Kathy. "How to Create Sensational Pots and Planters." Gardeners Supply. Gardeners.com, n.d. Web. 20 Mar. 2014. <http://www.gardeners.com/Planters-That-Stand-Out/5325%2Cdefault%2Cpg.html>.
"Adding a bird bath to a garden area creates a decorative feature while promoting conservation of wild birds and other wild creatures. Bird baths create a water source for birds and other wild visitors to a garden. Knowing how to landscape around a bird bath can help you safely provide for visiting birds while creating a beautiful display in your garden.
Proper Location for a Bird Bath
A spot near trees and bushes is ideal for your bird bath. This location will make it more accessible to the wild birds that will visit and make use of the feature. Placing the bird bath in a sunny location gives you a large variety of plant possibilities around the bird bath but an area that receives a combination of sun and partial shade throughout the day would be an ideal choice.
A Foundation for Your Bird Bath
A paving stone is a good choice to set the bird bath on. Placing your bird bath on a paving stone will provide stability and a flat surface as well as block out some of the weeds directly against the base of the bird bath.
Create a Pathway Around the Bird Bath
By creating a pathway around your bird bath, you will be able to get close for cleaning and regular maintenance. Arrange paving stones around the bird bath and if you prefer the stones to be level with the ground, dig out a shallow indention in the shape of each stone. Level the dirt and place the paver in the spot. Add more dirt to make the stone level.
Planting Around the Bird Bath
In order to deter predators that will be looking at your visiting birds as tasty snacks (domestic cats are the biggest predator in my yard), keep a clear area of about 10 feet in diameter around the bird bath. This open area allows birds to make use of the water without predators being able to sneak up on them.
Add some of your favorite plants to provide food and shelter for the wild birds. Some of my favorites are sunflowers and lilac bushes. Sunflowers will provide seeds and lilac bushes will provide shelter. Choose appropriate plants for the sun exposure near your bird bath.
Provide Feeding Stations Around the Bird Bath
Tall shepherd hooks can be placed to hang bird feeders in the area but still position them away from the bird bath. Do not place bird feeders close enough for dropped seeds to fall into your bird bath or you will be spending extra time cleaning it out. It is best to create a combination of feeding stations at various heights for the many birds that may visit - hummingbirds, goldfinches, cardinals, and more.
Hang suet feeders, platform feeders, hummingbird feeders and other types of feeding stations to attract wild bird to the area of your bird bath.
Create a Spot for You to Watch the Birds that Visit Your Bird Bath
A bench or seat of some type should be placed at least 10 to 20 feet away from your bird bath. This distance will allow you to watch the birds visiting your bird bath without scaring them away. I have a garden swing that I sit in to watch the critters that visit my wildlife garden. Listening to the birds is a favorite summer pastime and I look forward to it daily.
Miscellaneous Needs for a Bird Bath
A rock placed in the center of your bird bath will give the birds something to perch on while they drink or bathe. Be sure the water level in your bird bath is never more than two inches deep and never add any chemicals to the water".
Morris, Tammy Lee. "Tips for Landscaping and Setting Up Your Bird Bath." Yahoo Contributor Network. Voice.yahoo.com, 19 June 2010. Web. 18 Mar. 2014. <http://voices.yahoo.com/tips-landscaping-setting-bird-bath-6424658.html?cat=6>.
"Garden fountains range in size and style from palatial to small, quirky units made from flower pots. The landscaping style around your fountain should remain consistent with the fountain style. Regardless of size and style, fountains are meant to be focal points in the garden, so the landscaping design should highlight rather than upstage the fountain. As a general rule, the fountain should always be taller than the surrounding plants, so you must pay attention to mature plant sizes when choosing the plants for your fountain landscape design.
1.) Measure the total fountain height, including any pedestals, then mark a circle with landscaping spray paint with a diameter two to three times the fountain height. Remove the sod layer with a sod cutter and spade, spray the soil with a pre-emergent herbicide, then fill in the circle with pea gravel. Plant a low hedge around the perimeter of the circle, using a short evergreen species, such as elegans boxwood (Buxus sempervirens "Elegantissima").
2.) Fill in a circle that has a diameter two to three times the fountain height with pea gravel. Place four curved, concrete benches in the circle spaced evenly around the fountain and halfway between the fountain and edge of the circle; this landscaping design enhances a formal fountain and requires very little maintenance.
3.) Install a small garden pond beside the fountain to carry the water theme from the fountain to ground level. Surround the fountain and pond with your choice of plants, arranging them in order of descending height so you can clearly see all the plants.
4.) Excavate the soil to a depth of 6 inches around the fountain, pack down 2 inches of gravel and top with 2 inches of level sand. Lay brick pavers over the sand foundation and fill in the cracks with sand to create a patio that highlights the fountain. Substitute used bricks or cobblestones to take the patio from formal to rustic.
5.) Place the fountain in the middle of your lawn and add four separate walkways leading to the path from different directions in your garden. You can simply place flagstones or stepping stones for a casual walkway, remove the sod layer and fill in the path with gravel or install formal brick paver walkways.
6.) Plant a hedge around the fountain that is 2 to 4 feet tall and about 5 feet out from the fountain. Plant a ring of small flowers another 2 feet out from the hedge plants; plant the same species around the hedge, but alternate colors, if desired. Fill in the empty space with a 2- to- 3-inch layer of shredded bark mulch to conceal the soil, prevent erosion and aid in moisture retention.
7.) Build a raised planter about 3 feet tall from concrete pavers, fill the planter with soil and place the fountain in the center. Use the soil around the fountain to plant seasonal annuals; simply pull out the old flowers at the end of the blooming period and replace with new seasonal annuals.
8.) Plant sweet alyssum (Lobularia maritima) or "Blue Cascade" lobelia (Lobelia erinus "Blue Cascade") densely around the base of a fountain that is set inside a raised bed planter. The sweet alyssum resembles churning water or bubbles around the fountain, while "Blue Cascade" gently cascades down the raised planter and looks like a living extension of the water fountain.
9.) Place large and medium rocks in the ground around the fountain; bury the lower one-third of each rock so they appear as natural features in your garden. Plant small flowers in the open spaces around the rocks or use the large boulders as the backdrop for group plantings. Fill in the empty space with shredded bark mulch or pea gravel mulch.
10.) Plant two or three medium shrubs, such as gardenia (Gardenia spp.), in an arc on opposite sides of the fountain, with each shrub arc covering approximately one-fourth of circumference around the fountain. Plant small flowers on the outside of the medium shrubs. Place three or four flagstones to create a path to the fountain on the two sides between the shrub arcs.
Plant wildflowers such as California poppies in a flower bed around the fountain; this simple landscaping design is low-maintenance and coordinates well with rustic fountains, such as a simple fountain made from a watering can or flower pot.
Mahoney, Jessica, and Demand Media. "Home Guides." Home Guides. Http://homeguides.sfgate.com, n.d. Web. 13 Mar. 2014. <http://homeguides.sfgate.com/landscape-around-garden-fountain-49580.html>.