DIY painting is a (relatively) quick and cheap way to freshen up a room. Here's how you can save even more cash.

Painting projects are a fantastic and easy way to update and refresh the look of your home.

If you’re hoping to economize on your upcoming painting projects, here are some easy and painless ways to do it.

Use mistints

Every store that sells paint has mistints — paints that the store mixed to a specific color for a customer, and then the customer either never picked them up, or returned them.

These paints are marked down significantly so that the store can sell them quickly, sometimes at a discount of 50 to 75 percent — or even more.

You might be wondering what the chances are of getting the color you want when you shop for mistints. Well, it really depends on how specific you are about the color you want. If you’re looking for a very specific shade, then mistints may not be the right choice.

But if you have a general color scheme in mind and aren’t terribly invested in a specific color, mistints are the way to go.  They can literally save you hundreds of dollars.

Pro tip:  Shop for your mistints at high-end and specialty paint stores, rather than big-box home improvement stores. You are likely to find a better selection of colors, and some unbelievable discounts on ultra-high-quality paint

Pick the right paint the first time

Perhaps you’re wondering if you really need to prime your surface? The general guideline is that you don’t need to prime if the existing paint on your walls is in good shape, and the new color is similar in shade to the old color.

In all other cases, you should prime the surface first. You will be much happier with the quality of your finished paint job if you do so.

Then there are all the different types of paint to choose from. Do you want flat, satin, eggshell, semi-gloss, or gloss?  Consider the following advantages and disadvantages of the different paint textures.

Flat

  • Works best for: Interior walls and ceilings, and, in particular, walls that have many imperfections
  • Advantages: Covers imperfections very well, and is easy to touch up later on
  • Disadvantages: Does not wash well, so wouldn’t be a good choice for kitchens or high-traffic areas

Eggshell

  • Works best for: Living room, bedroom, and dining room walls
  • Advantages: Easy to maintain, as it’s generally both washable and easy to touch up
  • Disadvantages: Not a good choice for high-moisture areas

Satin

  • Works best for: High-traffic areas of the home, such as kitchens, bathrooms, hallways, and family room
  • Advantages: Easy to keep clean, as it’s washable
  • Disadvantages: Not so easy to touch up, as is the case with most gloss paints

Semi-gloss & gloss

  • Works best for: Trim work, molding, cabinets, kitchens, and bathrooms; also a good choice for exterior paint
  • Advantages: Provides great coverage for smooth surfaces such as finished wood surfaces; very washable and durable
  • Disadvantages: Not a good choice for textured surfaces or those with many imperfections

Once you’ve decided on the type of paint, be sure to pick the right color. Have you ever had to re-paint an entire room because the color just didn’t look like the color on the tiny little swatch you got from the store? Maybe it was a lot brighter, or darker, or just not the perfect shade.

To avoid this scenario, you can always buy a sample can of paint, and paint a swatch on the wall to see what it will look like.

Or, try this pro tip …

Pro tip: Make your own giant paint swatch with a sample can of the color you have in mind, and a big sheet of paper. You can move it around as much as you like to see the color in different parts of the room, and at different times of day.

To touch up or not to touch up?

Sometimes it makes sense to touch up your walls or ceilings, rather than incurring the expense and labor of re-painting the entire room. But it isn’t as easy as you might think to get a perfect match, even if you have some of the original paint leftover.

The color or sheen of the paint can change over time, whether it’s the painted wall changing from sun exposure, or the paint in the can losing some of its original color over time.

Here are some tips to make sure your touch-up job matches the original as closely as possible:

  • Try to use the same applicator for the touch-up that you used for the original paint job. If you painted with a roller, then touch up with a roller. Likewise, if you painted with a brush, you’ll want to touch up with a brush.
  • Use a light hand with the touch-up. Apply the touch-up paint very sparingly, and feather it into the existing wall.
  • If you have a lot of areas to touch up on one wall, consider just re-painting the one wall. It will be quicker and cheaper than re-painting the entire room, and if the color is slightly different, it won’t be as noticeable on such a large scale.

Pro tip: If you don’t have enough of the original paint on hand to complete your touch-up, you can bring a sample of the paint to the paint store, and they will do a color match for you, usually at no extra cost.

These tips should help you to not only save money on your paint jobs, but also give you the satisfaction of getting the great results you’re hoping for.

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About the author

See Jane Drill

See Jane Drill has been teaching and empowering homeowners to take care of their own homes since 2013. With easy-to-follow tutorials and detailed explanations on a wide variety of home repairs, they encourage everyone, including beginners, to become a DIY-er and save money! They produce a new DIY video every week. Follow See Jane Drill on YouTube and Facebook.
 
 

An older home can have loads of charm, and loads of expensive repairs in store. Here's what to watch for.

Craftsman homes are the jewel boxes of old neighborhoods. Most of them were built at the beginning of the 20th century, and offer loads of charm and character — inside and out.

Boasting double-hung windows, large front porches, wood siding, and vibrant exterior paint colors, these turn-of-the-century homes continue to charm home buyers today.

If you’re thinking about purchasing a craftsman charmer, keep the following considerations in mind before you sign on the dotted line.

Toxic relationships

Bob Hatch of Bob Hatch Builds in Pasadena, CA has nearly 40 years of experience working with craftsman homes in the city’s historic “Bungalow Heaven” neighborhood. He says one of the main things to look out for in any historic home is old asbestos piping.

Asbestos was commonly used in houses built in the early 20th century, but is now known to cause cancer if the fibers are inhaled.

Discovering asbestos is a very common occurrence with an older home. You definitely want to have it removed by an expert to ensure that your home has clean air quality.

Another common toxic material you may find in a craftsman home is lead paint. The government banned the use of lead paint in 1978, but it’s likely that it’s still present on that vintage craftsman you’re thinking about purchasing.

Though lead paint isn’t dangerous if it’s in good condition, it can potentially cause lead poisoning if it’s chipped or damaged.

Call in an expert who can remove the paint safely per EPA standards. If the lead paint isn’t fixed properly, the homeowner could face up to a $32,000 fine. You definitely want to make sure you’re up to code.

What hides behind the walls

As we’ve all seen on renovation TV shows, older homes are often in need of an upgrade to the plumbing and/or electrical systems.

Old pipes can rust and cause a range of issues, from low water pressure to lead in drinking water, so it’s crucial that you modernize any old plumbing prior to moving into the home.

Replacing old electrical wiring is also critical because faulty, antiquated wiring can cause electrical fires.

Additionally, many craftsman homes may require insulation installation, chimney repairs, and making sure that the double-hung windows are in good working order, as they tend to stick.

Safe and sound — structurally speaking

As time goes by and the earth shifts underneath a house, it’s only natural that there would need to be some structural updating, and it’s no different for an old craftsman home.

“A lot of the craftsman homes [in Southern California] are on river rock foundations, which are not the best foundations, because you can’t bolt down to a river rock foundation,” Hatch warns. “A lot of insurance companies won’t insurewith river rock.”

Also be sure that the large front porches (a common feature of craftsman homes) are secured in the ground. Check that the posts are bolted to the columns, and bury the posts so that the porch has structural integrity, Hatch recommends.

Photo from Zillow listing.

Don’t fall into a money pit

The competition for craftsman homes in some areas can be fierce, with prices ranging from $700,000 to over $1 million. However, even if you’re in a bidding war, it’s still important to make sure you’re not buying into a money pit.

“Get a thorough home inspection so a professional can call out any problems that maybe weren’t disclosed, and go from that point,” advises Hatch. “Ask yourself if you want to fix it, or do you want to deduct it from the price? The original owner has to fix it for safety’s sake or write it off the back end of the price.”

Once you determine that the house is a fair price, care for your craftsman home properly with regular maintenance and upgrades so that you can love it for many years to come.

After all of the renovations are done, call an inspection company after the first 20 years to ensure that everything is still in good working order.

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About the author

Jamie Birdwell-Branson

Jamie Birdwell-Branson is a freelance writer based in the Midwest. Her work has appeared on Elle Decor, BobVila.com, InStyle and The Billfold, among others. She lives in a 1940s Colonial-style home with her spouse and her dog named Pizza. You can connect with Jamie on Twitter at @jbirdwell or her website.

Choosing a front door is an important decision — after all, it can make a great first impression.

Your home’s front door can say a lot about you and your style. It’s the entryway to your home, a major part of curb appeal, and — believe it or not — a symbol of your hospitality.

The options for a new front door are nearly endless, which can make shopping overwhelming. Use this guide to help you choose the right door for your needs, no matter your style.

Materials

There are several front door materials to choose from, making this decision a good starting point.

Steel: Steel doors are insulated with a foam core and fully weatherstripped. They are sometimes coated to look like wood. Resistant to damage and offering additional safety given their heaviness, steel doors provide an extra layer of security.

Fiberglass: Fiberglass doors are generally molded to mimic the texture of wood. They are highly weather and scratch-resistant, making them perfect for exposed doorways. Fiberglass is a good option for people with dogs or kids who are likely to rough up the door.

Wood: Wood doors offer timeless beauty and character. They can be made from inexpensive composites or solid wood. Because wood is a natural material, these doors need maintenance to stay in top condition.

country wooden door with small window
Wooden doors add warmth to a home’s exterior. Photo from Offset.

There is no wrong choice between these three options. Pick the one that works for you, your lifestyle and your budget.

A simple front door should cost around $250-$500 with installation. More ornate doors, or those made out of a higher-end material, can cost $500 up to several thousand dollars, with installation.

Types

While a simple mechanism, doors come in a variety of types and functionalities.

In-swing: In-swing doors open inward. They’re welcoming and ideal for front doors.

Out-swing: Out-swing doors open outward. They can make greeting guests awkward.

French: French doors are composed of two doors. Both doors may be in-swing or out-swing, or only one may open. French doors are an ideal choice for large entryways and traditional houses.

Glass-paned: Glass-paned doors are popular for their aesthetics and because they allow for natural light. They also allow you to see who is at the door. The amount of “lites” or panes in the doors can vary from just a few at the top to covering the entire door. Glass can be clear, frosted or stained.

simple porch with door at twilight
Glass panes in a door let light in and provide visibility. Photo from Shutterstock.

Side lites: Not technically a type of door, but part of the door casing. Side lites are the panes on the sides of a front door. They let in light, open up the entryway and allow you to see who is at the door.

fancy door with sidelites
Sidelites add interest to a door’s casing. Photo from Shutterstock.

Transoms: Another add-on to a door, a transom is a section of glass above the door.

Styles

Now comes the fun part — choosing the style of your front door. Doors in all of these materials and types come in varying styles. From simple to intricate, modern to rustic, you can find (or create!) a front door to match your home.

Shaker paneled door
Customize the look of your home by choosing a door with paneling, a mail slot, or glass panes. Photo from Shutterstock.

Door styles range from an ornate arched iron-and-glass doorway to a clean-lined, modern mahogany look. Hardware comes in modern styles, like the long metal pull on the mahogany door above, or traditional brass or bronze door handles.

When it comes to color, don’t be afraid to experiment. Wood doors are easily repainted. Use red or hunter green for a traditional look. For a modern, bright style, choose turquoise or yellow.

A brightly colored door livens up any home’s exterior. Photo from Shutterstock.

In addition to material, type and style, don’t forget weatherproofing. If you live in the Southwestern desert, pick a paint color that won’t fade in the sun or show dust. If you live in a region with cold, snowy winters, be sure to have extra insulation and weatherproofing around the door frame.

When choosing all of your door features, it’s important to keep in mind both the weather in your region and your lifestyle.

Once your new door is installed, don’t forget to complete the entryway with a doorbell, lights, flowers and a welcome mat.

Top image from Shutterstock.

Related:

About the author

Natalie Wise

Natalie Wise, M.A., covers real estate and celebrity real estate for Zillo

The First Amendment protects freedom of speech, but may not extend to your front-lawn endorsement.

By Stephanie Reid

Whether you’re a die-hard Trump fan, proudly tout #ImWithHer, or are taking the third-party approach, chances are you haven’t kept your presidential preference a secret.

While some folks limit the political discourse to the dinner table, others are a bit more outspoken. But what are the private homeowners’ rights when it comes to yard signs and political affiliation?

There’s a delicate balance between free speech and front yard aesthetics, and some recent, well-publicized clashes between homeowners and homeowners’ associations (HOAs) tasked with maintaining neighborhood uniformity have threatened to upset that balance.

First Amendment rights

Political speech, of course, is protected as a fundamental right under the First Amendment.

In fact, the U.S. Supreme Court has specifically taken up the issue of political signage on more than one occasion, emphatically describing political signage as a “decidedly unique and historical medium” that may have “no practical substitute.”

However, those Court rulings have involved private homeowners versus towns, municipalities, villages, and cities. In other words, private citizen versus the government.

Can the same political speech protections be applied in cases involving a private homeowner versus a private HOA or condominium association, since the Constitution and Bill of Rights are designed to protect citizens from the government, and not necessarily from private actors?

The best way for a homeowner to defeat an HOA’s attempt to limit or prohibit political speech is to argue that the association is a “state actor;” that is, a quasi-governmental body. In a series of cases in different jurisdictions, this argument has been somewhat successful, although there remains little precedent on the issue.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit, for instance, has repeatedly held that HOAs are not state actors for purposes of determining whether a constitutional infringement has taken place.

By contrast, the U.S. Supreme Court concluded that an association can be a state actor if its activities are pervasively intertwined with the local government.

In any event, the ability to use First Amendment free speech protections would hinge on this idea of whether or not a particular jurisdiction considers the association to be a state actor (sometimes referred to as a “quasi-municipality”).

Factors that may play into that are:

  • Extent to which the neighborhood or subdivision is open to the public
  • Whether the association is engaged with the local municipality
  • Influence of the association on municipal and local ordinances and regulations
  • Interrelation between the association as a private entity and the surrounding town or city

Lawful limitations on election signs

If a planned community manages to meet the necessary criteria, the community leadership may restrict political signage, provided the restrictions are implemented fairly and evenly.

Since freedom of speech is a fundamental right, any restrictions are subject to the “strict scrutiny” test of constitutionality. The restrictions must (1) be for a compelling, important interest and (2) advance that interest in the least restrictive way.

Also, any restriction on political speech must be content neutral, meaning the restriction must be for some reason other than “we just don’t like that candidate.”

There are a number of compelling interests that would pass constitutional muster, with the most important being traveler safety. An HOA would likely be within the law to implement any of the following restrictions:

  • Keeping signs away from the edge of the road
  • Regulating the size and dimensions of signs
  • Prohibiting signs from obstructing the view of motorists, pedestrians, and cyclists
  • Disallowing any signs that have blinking lights, mimic traffic signals, or could cause confusion for motorists.

Assuming it implements content-neutral restrictions for legitimate safety reasons like those described above, the HOA should be in the clear from a constitutional standpoint.

Furthermore, if the community serves as a polling location, the HOA could prohibit political signage within a certain radius of the polling place.

On the other hand, any political signage regulations that single out a certain political party, restrict certain candidates, or prohibit political speech altogether may be an unconstitutional restraint on the freedom of speech — and should be discussed with the HOA board as soon as possible.

If that doesn’t work, it may be time to consult an attorney.

What happens November 9?

For one thing, we’ll have elected a new president — so anything is possible, really.

When it comes to political yard signs, however, residents will likely be required to remove the signage as quickly as possible, often within a few days.

For HOAs and municipalities, lingering and stale political signs are an unsightly and unnecessary distraction. Residents should be prepared to remove their political signs swiftly after the election, or pesky fines could follow.

Related:

Note: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or position of Zillow.

Stephanie Reid obtained her J.D. from Regent University School of Law and her Bachelor of Arts degree from Florida State University. After two years in private practice, Stephanie opened her own law firm, Stephanie Reid Law. Her practice offers innovative web-based legal services for estate planning, family law and business clients. Stephanie also writes for AvvoStories.

About the author

Avvo

Avvo helps people find and connect with the right lawyer through industry leading content, tools and services. A free Q&A forum with more than 9 million questions and answers, along with on-demand legal services that provide professional counsel for a fixed cost, make legal faster and easier.

Whatever you do, don't skip a payment and think no one will notice.

By Elizabeth Weiss

Living paycheck to paycheck is not uncommon for many homeowners.

And sometimes, when you find yourself in a bind and you’re struggling to make the next mortgage payment, you may be tempted to try to skip a payment, thinking you can repay it later once you get back on track.

But a passive approach to a financial issue — particularly one involving something as impactful as your mortgage — is not advisable. Being proactive and straightforward with your creditors is far more prudent in a personal financial crisis.

The power of honesty

“The first and most important thing I always tell clients concerning delinquent mortgage payments is to contact their lender/servicer, in writing, to advise them of the hardship and inability to make payments,” says Cydney Bulger, attorney with The Bulger Firm in Jacksonville, Florida.

Openly admitting your inability to pay your mortgage is probably one of the last things you want to do, but being forthright about your situation will serve you far better in the long run.

Don’t wait too long

The longer you wait to make your financial struggle known and the harder you attempt to work the system, the less favorably your personal financial crisis is likely to work out.

“The farther the issues go, the less affordable a modified loan can be,” warns Bryant H. Dunivan, Jr., a real estate and consumer protection attorney in Florida. Don’t assume that you have no options — you won’t know if your bank or servicer will work with you unless you ask.

Educate yourself

For homeowners who have already missed a mortgage payment, Dunivan recommends making the most of rules restricting dual tracking, by seeking loan assistance as soon as possible.

Dual tracking is when a mortgage servicer forecloses on a property while simultaneously considering a loan modification. Created by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) in 2013, the rule restricting dual tracking prohibits the practice in the 120-day period after a default.

Dunivan explains that this rule has “… allowed for a lot more protecting for homeowners going into, or already in, foreclosure.” Violations of this rule, “… may subject the servicer to damages, and may give a borrower leverage in a foreclosure lawsuit,” he adds.

Pursue all possible options

“There may be some state programs that make mortgage payments for people,” says Dunivan.

The Hardest Hit Fund (HHF) was developed in 2010 for homeowners who struggle to make their monthly mortgage payments in an effort to prevent foreclosure and stabilize neighborhoods.

Not all states participate in the HHF, but those that do focus on helping two groups of people stay in their homes: unemployed homeowners who are looking for new work, and homeowners who owe more on their mortgage than their home is worth.

But don’t expect miracles

“Calling your bank gets the ball rolling on any potential loan modification option,” says Dunivan. But banks may or may not offer leniency, even if you’re honest about your situation.

And if your situation is more serious and your ability to pay back the loan is truly compromised, “it’s a typical handoff system where once you meet certain criteria, you are put into foreclosure and then a series of automated messages are sent out by mail.”

Be proactive

Failure to act can lead lenders to believe that you don’t care about your financial obligations.

“Now, more than ever [post-2007 housing crash], lenders are willing to work with delinquent homeowners, but if the homeowners fail to advise them of the problem, [lenders] don’t know that they need help, and assume the worst,” says Bulger.

If you wait too long to ask for help, you could eventually discover that it’s too late. If foreclosure is inevitable, consider reaching out to an attorney who specializes in helping people through — or, if you have a good case, fighting — the foreclosure process.

A version of this story was originally published on AvvoStories.

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Note: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or position of Zillow.

About the author

Avvo

Avvo helps people find and connect with the right lawyer through industry leading content, tools and services. A free Q&A forum with more than 9 million questions and answers, along with on-demand legal services that provide professional counsel for a fixed cost, make legal faster and easier.