The Ultimate Gift Guide for Home Improvement Addicts

There are HGTV fans, and then there are HGTV superfans. If you know someone with the devotion of self-proclaimed Fixer Upper fan Jenna Bush Hager, then you’re going to need something a little bit more unique than a few gift certificates to Home Depot! Luckily, there are plenty of presents here to choose from! From decorative planters to art subscription boxes, decor gifts are the ultimate in taste—and show that you’ve been paying attention to your friends’ aesthetics. Here are a few items that should be on every decor addict’s list.

stylish white living room

An Artisan Subscription Box

These days, there’s a subscription box for every interest, so why not have one for the home decor-obsessed? GlobeIn’s Artisan Box is a box for people who can’t get enough of handmade homegoods. Each themed box contains handmade goods from artisans and entrepreneurs around the world. From woven boxes to hand-thrown pottery, there’s enough here to keep any Anthropologie devotee busy for months upon months.

A Must-Have Picture-Hanging Tool

Art is a fast way to get a decor makeover. But hanging pictures all the time—at least, with any degree of precision—is annoying, to say the least. The hang-o-matic picture hanging tool can help with that. It has a ruler and a level, and includes a small anchor that you can use to mark your place. The only thing you have to provide is the pictures!

#Shiplap Tee Shirt

Anyone who’s watched a few episodes of Fixer Upper (or looked around on Pinterest for a hot minute) knows that decor addicts are in a love affair with shiplap. And even though everyone’s favorite couple-based DIY show has ended (tears!), their obsession with shiplap can live on and on with this emblazoned Shiplap shirt that will keep their aesthetic front and center—even when they’re away from home!

Living Wall Starter Set

The botanical trend isn’t likely to end anytime soon, which is exactly why we’re so in love with this hanging plant starter kit. Even black thumbs will enjoy hanging and planting with this modular vertical system. It comes complete with a drip tray to avoid any messes—which means their home can always looks like the pages of an interior design magazine.

Floating Nightstand

Speaking of things that hang on the wall, this floating bedside table is an absolute joy, especially in tiny spaces. Made from solid white oak and finished with Danish oil, this will definitely get your off your friend’s naughty list for life!

Find Art for Your Home Without Blowing Your Budget

Whether you’ve just moved into a new home or are just looking to change up your pad’s decor, art can have a huge impact. Nothing makes a home feel cozier or communicates that “lived-in” feeling quite like a wall full of carefully selected and curated pieces.

But unless you have an artist in the family, finding art to hang on the walls can be challenging—and pretty tough on the wallet too. Large pieces regularly go for hundreds or even thousands of dollars. And that’s just not affordable when you need to fill up a lot of blank wall space in your home. Here are a couple of ideas you can use to score super-cheap wall art with tons of personality to spare.

Gallery Wall
Via DIY Joy

Make Your Own

Sure, not everyone has a budding Picasso in the house. But everyone can make something worthy of hanging on the wall. DIYing your own art doesn’t mean you have to spend years learning how to paint. It can be as straightforward as this easy wall stencil art or as simple as these do-it-yourself leaf silhouettes. Or try making one of these artistic world maps or these beautiful abstract pieces made with ink, alcohol and fire—yep, fire. It’s as much fun to make as it is to look at afterwards.

Dress Up a Thrift Store Painting

Thrift stores and garage sales can be a great source of cheap art—if you can find that diamond in the rough, that is. But more often than not, you’re left sorting through tacky knockoffs that look more like low-rent hotel decor than something you’d want to hang in your home. Dress up a less-than-stellar find with this DIY paint-by-numbers project or transform it into a background to display your favorite song lyrics. Now that looks good!

Turn Found Objects into a Wall Collage

Speaking of thrift stores, they’re the best spot to pick up a few unique finds—unusual kitchenware, instruments, antique machinery parts or vintage household items all make great ensembles for a wall collage. You can even pair them with framed pictures or photos for an eye-catching way to cover blank walls. Learn the basics of hanging collage gallery walls here.

Frame Pieces of Fabric or Wallpaper Scraps

You don’t necessarily need something flashy on the walls, though. Patterned fabrics or wallpaper can be lovely in their own right—especially when you pair contrasting styles of designs. Placed in a frame or stapled to a board, these can quickly fill a statement wall with cheap, budget-friendly hangings. They look super cute framed with embroidery hoops, too!

Hang One of These Free Printables

If you’ve got access to a home printer or print shop, you’ve got a free or next-to-free source of art in your home. Thanks to the generous folks in the online printables community, you can score tons of printable patterns and art—almost all of it for free. To start, check out these 35 printables, which cover everything from abstracts to typography and anything in between.

Get a Subscription

Let’s face it: sometimes you don’t have time for an elaborate DIY or a long shopping trip. But even busy people deserve to have some art in their homes! Art in a Box is a subscription service for your walls, offering monthly deliveries of decor from artists working in the Oakland, California area. Subscriptions start at $40 a month and run for three to twelve months. That’s a lot of art for a pretty small asking price! And you’ll be helping artists in the process—all while finally getting some color on your walls.

Everything You Need for a Picture-Perfect Home Bar

Love to get a few drinks out but hate the noise at your local sports bar? You’re not alone. Not every town is blessed with a genuine cocktail bar, but serious mixologists can get the experience all on their own with a custom home bar. Whether you want a classic cocktail experience, or just a nice place to sip a few drinks with some friends, we’ve got you covered. Below, we’ll run through the basics of designing and stocking an at-home bar—because nothing tastes as good as a hand-mixed nightcap!

Colorful drinks sitting on a bar

Decide on Your Layout

Most people prefer a bar-rail setup—This Old House has helpfully provided some building plans and details if you want to DIY your own. This plan is a take on the classic bar layout, with a rail, paneling, shelf and stiles. To elevate the plan, the bar is finished with an oak facade, moulding and foot rail.

However, if you’re pressed for space, there are other designs, like a wall-mounted murphy bar, standing bar cabinets and portable rolling bar carts. Whatever your constraints, there’s a plan that fits your needs!

You’ll also need to make a few decisions about how functional you want your bar. Many people will advise you to start small, but if you’re going to go to all the trouble of building a home bar, you might as well make sure it has all the features you’d like.

  • Wet Bar Versus Dry Bar: A “wet bar” just means that your bar has water—preferably in the form of a sink. Of course, adding plumbing to your bar is a serious undertaking, so at that point you’ll probably need to hire a professional remodeler to help you do some of the work.
  • To Refrigerate or Not? On the other hand, if you like the occasional chilled drink, you can get it fairly easily by installing a mini fridge under the bar. This plan, for instance, includes extra cabinet space specifically designed for a refrigerator or wine cooler.

A dog lying on the floor near a bar

Must-Have Tools of the Trade

It’s not just about the plans, of course. You’ll also need the right equipment and glassware to get your mixology on. Here’s what you need to get started.

  • A Good Cocktail Book. Some great back-to-basics beginners guides include the Mr. Boston: Official Bartender’s Guide, The 12 Bottle Bar and The PDT Cocktail Book.
  • The Right Barware. You’ll also want to get the right barware. At a minimum, that includes a jigger, a shaker (preferably a cobbler-style shaker with a built-in strainer), a separate strainer, a muddler, a bar spoon, a citrus peeler and a hand held citrus press.
  • Ample Glassware. You can’t serve a highball in a pint glass! For a well-rounded bar, you’ll want a set of martini glasses, rocks glasses, red and white wine glasses, highball glasses, and either beer mugs or pint glasses.

Colorful drinks sitting on a bar A satisfied bartender

Buying Your Basic Spirits

Of course, when push comes to shove, it all about the drinks! A well-stocked bar needs a selection of basic liquors, liqueurs—and the mixers and garnishes to complete the whole thing.

  • Liquor. Everybody has their favorites, of course, but if you plan on serving guests, you should have at least one of the following: vodka, gin, tequila, light and dark rum, bourbon, scotch, cognac.
  • Liqueurs. As for liqueurs, it all depends on what you like to drink. Dry and sweet vermouth, Cointreau, Disaronno and Campari will help you make some of the more classic cocktails, but who’s to stop you if you want a good White Russian either (in which case, you’ll need a coffee liqueur)?
  • Mixers. Ah, mixers: the refuge for drinkers like myself, who hate the taste of straight liquor. Simple syrup, bitters, club soda, tonic water, cola and ginger ale will help you make most cocktails, although you may want to include cranberry and orange juice as well.
  • Garnishes. If you want a great drink, you’ve got to top it all off with the right garnish! Limes, lemons, maraschino cherries, as well as cocktail olives, sugar, salt and Tabasco will all give your drinks a dash of something extra.

Learning to bartend is a lifelong hobby, so your bar will probably grow as you develop your skills and dry more exotic drinks. So don’t limit yourself—go wherever your tastes lead you. Cheers to that!

5 Wall Coverings that Aren’t Wallpaper

Wallpaper has come a long way, but it still has its drawbacks. It goes out of style quickly, is hard to hang by yourself and difficult to repair when damaged. On the other hand, it can be a useful way to hide imperfections in your walls. After all, there are some blemishes that paint will only exaggerate.

But some of us are just not wallpaper people. Just thinking about that sticky paper makes you feel frustrated. If you identify with that last statement, you’ll be happy to hear that you have plenty of options. Enough alternative wall coverings exist to suit any taste. From cork tiles to DIY map wallpaper, there’s something for everyone, so read on to find your next look!

a map as wallpaper
Via dustymars.net

Bamboo Paneling

It’s not just for the tiki bar anymore! When done right, bamboo paneling can make for a chic and sophisticated statement wall—or any kind of wall, really. And bamboo is especially forgiving on uneven walls and damaged surfaces. You can also use engineered bamboo planks (read: bamboo flooring) for walls as well, which allows for any number of stains, dyes and patterns. And because bamboo grows quickly, it’s a lot more eco-friendly than wood!

Cork Tiles

Of course, when you decide not to use conventional wall coverings, you’re probably looking for something just a little bit quirky. Cork wall tiles have beautiful, warm geometric patterns that allow you to appreciate the beauty of natural wood. And like bamboo, they’re much gentler on the world’s forests than wood planks. Try them in a room that could use some soundproofing—the soft texture of cork gives it great insulating qualities.

Maps

A space shouldn’t just feel comfortable—ideally, it should be an expression of who you are as a person. And there’s nothing more personal than your travel memories—whether they’re ones from past trips or ones you hope to make in the future! This tutorial from Yankee Magazine teaches you everything you need to know to DIY your own.

Book Pages

If you’re more into armchair traveling than anything that requires actually leaving your home, you might appreciate this next idea. Buy an extra copy of your favorite book, and use the pages to paper your walls. It works just like the map idea—except you’ll get read an excerpt of your favorite novel every night before drifting off to bed. Try with an older book for that extra vintage look.

Starched Fabric

Every browsed through a fabric store and thought, “gee, I really wish I could have that on my walls”? Well, now you can. Liquid starch and fabric is a great solution for getting any lightweight cotton fabric on the walls—Apartment Therapy walks you through the full technique here. Best of all, it’s a lot less permanent than wallpaper. In fact, you can remove it just by wetting the wall and peeling the fabric off. It’s basically commitment-free! Decorating won’t have you climbing the walls anymore!

Everything You Need to Know About Storm Windows

All across the US, it’s starting to get cold for real. And not thin-crust-of-frost-on-your-car-windshield cold. We’re talking serious, bone chilling frigidity. But if your home’s windows are starting to fail, you’ll be hard pressed to find comfort in the warmth of the indoors. But modern replacement windows can cost thousands of dollars when all is said and done, which just may not be in the budget, especially this time of year.

Storm windows offer a middle ground between freezing all winter long and purchasing brand new windows. A sort of “window for your windows,” storm windows can provide protection, better energy efficiency and improved comfort for older windows—at a fraction of the cost of replacements. Here’s what you need to know about them.

snowy home in the woods

What Are Storm Windows Anyhow?

The term “storm windows” actually covers a broad range of window coverings—from reusable low emissivity glass to temporary plastic films. But all of these options have the same basic goals: protecting your home from bad weather and improving the insulation of your existing windows.

Interior Vs. Exterior Windows

One of the biggest decisions you’ll need to make when you install your storm windows is whether you need interior or exterior storm windows. The difference between them is fairly self-explanatory: one is hung on the outside of your home, while the other sits inside. Most homeowners prefer interior windows to exterior—they’re easier to put on and remove. And they sit just inside the primary window, so they’re typically a little bit more energy efficient, as well. However, if you’re looking to protect your home from extreme weather, you may find that exterior is the way to go, since these units are often much sturdier than interior storm windows. Keep in mind that exterior storm windows are a lot more expensive, however. It may be worth your time to compare the costs to the price of new windows at this point.

What Types of Windows Are There?

Just like regular windows, storm windows consist of an outer frame that holds a sheet of insulating material. Frames may be made out of:

  • Vinyl
  • Aluminum
  • Wood

There are benefits—and drawbacks—to each material. Wood, for example, offers better insulation, but may warp over time. Aluminum is extremely durable, but won’t do a lot for your home’s insulation. Vinyl is fairly sturdy and more insulating than aluminum, but may fade or otherwise deteriorate in appearance after a while. Essentially, it all comes down to what you consider important in a window.

Likewise, storm window panes can be made out of plastic or glass. Glass, as you’d guess, is much more durable, but is also heavy and difficult to manage. Glass offers better visibility, but it’s fragile, too, meaning it can shatter in extreme weather. Again, it’s about your situation and what’s best for your home.

What Other Special Features Do They Have?

Storm window manufacturers produce specialized units that can be used to protect against a number of hazards. These inc:

  • Polycarbonate plastic or laminated glass. Both of these are resist shattering, making them a good option for security or for extra protection and during extreme weather.
  • Energy efficient coatings. Low-emissivity glass can improve your home’s energy profile and are often less expensive than new windows with the same energy ratings.

Other Things to Look For

To get your money’s worth, you’ll also want to make sure you windows have the following features:

  • Multiple positioning stops. This way you can control the amount of air you let into your home.
  • Quality weatherstripping. Weatherstripping around the windows reduces heat loss, which can lower your energy bills.
  • Predrilled holes. These make installation easier and protect the glass during the process.
  • Removable half-pane glass and half-screens. These are significantly easier to clean than non-removable counterparts.

Have more questions about storm windows? Connect with us on Facebook or Twitter and let us know!

8 Easy Eyesore Disguises for a Picture Perfect Home

No matter how much you love your house, there are probably one or two blemishes on your otherwise impeccable decor: ugly spots like tangled cords, trash bins and cat boxes and the like. While you can exactly live without them, you can hide unsightly devices, appliances and other areas, especially if you use one of the clever disguises described below!

beautiful, blemish-free home

Hang Cafe Curtains to Hide a Window AC Unit

Your window unit may feel like a godsend on a hot day. But with its big, boxy frame, it’s certainly not going to win any design awards any time soon. We’ve got the perfect solution: hang a short, quaint cafe curtain over the window. Curtains made with sheer material won’t block the cool air, so you’ll get maximum chill with minimal cringe. Learn how to DIY a set here.

Install a Drawer Pullout for Your Trash and Recycling Bins

Ugh, trash bins. No matter how careful you are with your garbage, they’re not exactly what you want to see when you walk in the kitchen. Give your eyes a break with one of these pull-out trash cans. They fit right in the cabinet for easy refuse concealment.

Create a Popcorn Ceiling Disguise

One thing’s for sure: whoever decided that popcorn-textured ceilings looked good was definitely not thinking too far into future. This ubiquitous surface definitely had its heyday back in the 50s, but now it’s pretty much synonymous with outdated decor. Luckily, you’re not stuck with a ceiling you hate. You can remove or cover the surfaces for a whole new take on decor. Before you do anything, though, have the walls tested for asbestos—older popcorn ceilings were often made with this toxic substance. Once you get a clean bill of health, you can either have the ceiling scraped and resurfaced, or cover it with stylish wood planks or new drywall!

DIY a Charging Station in a Desk Drawer

Empty desk drawer or discrete charging station? Why not both! This handy hidey-hole keeps your devices powered without the clutter of fifteen different cords. And you can build one in any existing drawer—this helpful tutorial teaches you how!

Mask Unsightly Concrete Foundation with a Stone Veneer

No matter how great the outside of your home looks, dingy, grubby concrete foundation will cast a serious pallor on the whole motif. Concrete is a lightning rod for water stains, rust, moss and dirt, and often comes in a dull gray color, giving homes a rough, unfinished look. Instead, we love the idea of building a more attractive stone covering around your home’s exterior. Stone panels are easy to install by yourself and will provide an elegant finish from top to bottom!

Make a Custom Cover to Camouflage Cords and Routers

As much as we appreciate the marvels of modern technology, routers, cords and other internet paraphernalia are definitely built with efficiency in mind, not design. Thankfully, there are some clever ways to hide routers from sight, however. Turn them into a pleasing stack of books or pop them into a customized decorative box for a much more polished living room!

Build a Crafty Litter Box Cabinet from Scratch

We wouldn’t trade our cats for anything, but their litter? Well, that we could do without. If you’re tired of unsightly litter boxes in your bathroom, try this convenient kitty litter cabinet project. The tutorial teaches you how to build a handmade box from MDF board and glue, which you can then use to give the cat some privacy for his or her business. It even masks some of the odor, as well, a feature that’s more than welcome in any cat-dominated household.

Design a Discrete Storage Box to Hide Just About Anything You Want!

Whatever needs hiding, this box has got your back! It’s essentially the same concept as the router box above, except it stands upright so no one will have any idea that you have anything to hide. And that means you can cover up any number of household eyesores. And that’s just about as perfect as home decor is going to get!

3 Projects to Modernize Your Historical Home

Historical homes are a whole different animal when it comes to home maintenance. On one hand, if your older home has been properly cared for, many antique materials and fixtures may last much longer than those in modern homes. On the other hand, they may be in desperate need of repair, replacement or updating in order to meet modern standards of living. Here are three areas that will bring your older home up-to-date fast.

Attic Insulation and Air Sealing

Older homes are definitely prone to phantom drafts. Whereas many homes today contain tight seals, many historical homes do not. In some cases, this was purposeful: the gaps allowed for better ventilation. But as often as not, it was because building and insulation technology just wasn’t as advanced then as it is today.

One of the best things you can do to improve the energy efficiency of your older home is to inspect the insulation and floor sealing of your attic. Attics should ideally have blown-in fiberglass insulation or cut batts between the floor joists. The boards below should be sealed to keep heating and cooling from leaking into unconditioned attics.

Some aging homes may even have older insulation materials, like slag mineral wools or cellulose—as known as newspaper. Or they may contain harmful insulation materials, such as asbestos and urea-formaldehyde. Of particular concern are homes with Zonolite vermiculite insulation [LINK TO: https://www.thespruce.com/how-to-identify-dangerous-asbestos-insulation-4119906] installed in attic floors. This brand of vermiculite insulation was sometimes contaminated with asbestos, making it a health hazard. Zonolite can often be identified by the naked eye—it lies flat, unlike mineral, cellulose or fiberglass loose fill insulation. It also has a distinct color—gray-brown or silver-gold—which makes it easy to identify.

If you’re not certain, you can purchase a DIY asbestos testing kit or have a professional tester out to visit. Professionals can also give you advice on asbestos removal, which is helpful, since asbestos in the wall cavities may be difficult or impossible to remove.

If your attic has no insulation at all, there’s no time like the present! Installation typically costs around $1,500 for a standard attic space, but it’s well worth it. In fact, it’s one of the most effective ways to improve your home’s energy efficiency—it may save you as much as $600 a year on your energy bills. Not bad for a little insulation!

old stone house

Chimney Updates

An antique fireplace and chimney is a thing of beauty. These splendid masonry works exemplify everything you want in a historical home: quality craftsmanship, unique decorative elements and coziness galore! But for all that atmosphere, they often lack some of the construction that makes modern fireplaces safer and more energy efficient.

At the most basic level, it may have been a while since your chimney was swept and the structure inspected. Gaps and cracks in the masonry and flashing can contribute to drafts, making it pretty darn uncomfortable in your home. A professional chimney sweeping and inspection can address these kinds of potential issues, and create a plan for repairing and restoring your chimney.

Frequently, historical chimneys lack liners and dampers. They may also smoke when you use them. The mortar around the chimney may be cracked or the flashing rusted. In worst case scenarios, this can make the fireplace quite dangerous to use—cracks in the mortar can leak deadly carbon monoxide into the living room.

Luckily, many of these repairs can be made without a total chimney replacement—allowing you to keep the feel and ambiance of the original chimney. For particularly damaged chimneys, restoration professionals are often able to make them usable again with a technique called a “cast in place liner.” This involves pouring and setting a cement chimney flue without disturbing the original brick. Then your expert can make external repairs to the masonry and flashing without too much fuss at all. Pretty soon, you’ll be gathered round a crackling fire, reading the paper and warming your toes—just like in the golden days!

old log cabin

Restore Your Windows

Most windows in older homes are made from wood frames, which can warp over time if not treated. That, in turn, creates gaps and cracks that contribute to air infiltration and heat loss—and a high heating bill to go along with it!

Meanwhile, the glass in your windows may not be all that insulating, as well. Older windows were often single-pane affairs. Modern dual pane windows are typically insulated with gas that protects your interiors and keeps out drafts and moisture.

But windows contribute vastly to the original character of your home, so you don’t necessarily want to go pulling them out willy nilly. Instead, consult with a restoration professional who can replace warped or rotting frames and improve the glass performance. That may mean installing new insulated panes in the frames. Or it may mean you install storm windows with Low-E glass over the existing windows—ones that complement your home’s historical flair, naturally!

Maintaining a historical home may take a little bit more effort—but you’re more than up to the challenge. After all, you’re basically preserving history here!

3 Plumbing Projects You Can Do By Yourself

Plumbing can make you feel like a very accomplished DIYer indeed. After all, there’s nothing more satisfying that finally fixing that running toilet. That said, with plumbing projects, it’s easy to get in over your head. A few wrong turns of the wrench and you may need a raft to get out of the house.

But plumbers are expensive—and of course, notoriously bad at arriving when they say they will. So if you can avoid the hassle of finding a reliable plumber and waiting around all day for them to show, it’s usually worth it. Here are three projects you can comfortably manage on your own, without calling in the pros.

black kitchen faucet

Replacing a Shower Head

A brand-new shower head can be a bathroom game changer—so long, weak water pressure! And making a direct replacement is no big thing, really. To do this project yourself, you don’t really want to mess around too much with the shower head style. That is, if you want a rain-style shower head, you’ll probably need a pro’s help. But if you’re just putting in a new single-head sprayer, it’s easy enough to do.

Start by shutting off the water to your bathroom. Then grab a pair of adjustable channel-locking pliers and affix them around the shower head. Gently turn the shower head counter clockwise until it’s loose enough to pull off.

Apply Teflon tape counter clockwise around the base of the shower arm. Thread the new shower head onto the base by turning it clockwise with your hands. Once it becomes too difficult to turn with your bare hands, use your pliers to tighten it into place. Turn the water back on and check for leaks—nothing to it!

Replacing a Kitchen Faucet

Nothing adds more swank to your home than a shiny new faucet. Changing it out lets you to stay on top of interior design trends and is a simple fix for a leaky, aging faucet. Swapping out faucets is a little more complicated than changing the shower head, though, particularly if you come across problems like corroded pipes or hard-to-reach nuts. But it’s still well within the reach of novice home repairers.

First, you want to locate the hot and cold water shutoff valves on your kitchen faucet. Typically, these are located in the cabinet directly beneath the kitchen sink. Turn them to the off position, and then reach up to you faucet and push the handle up to relieve pressure. Move back down below the sink and use an adjustable wrench and channel-locking pliers to disconnect both the hot and cold water lines from the faucet.

Next, switch to a basin wrench or a socket wrench and use it to unscrew the nut holding the faucet tailpiece in place. Now you’re ready to pull the old faucet out and put the new one in—at which point, it’s merely a matter of following the instructions that came with it.

Fixing a Running Toilet

Nothing is more annoying than a running toilet—not to mention the extra money tacked onto your water bill each month! Luckily, this is a pretty swift repair that even moderately handy homeowners can tackle on their own.

Most running toilets are due to a flapper that doesn’t seal properly, which means you need a new one. To replace it, shut off the valve to your toilet’s water supply. Then flush the toilet to drain the water out of the basin. Unhook the flapper, clean it off, and take it with you to the hardware store to buy a replacement piece—that way, you know you’ll get one that fits.

Install the flapper by carefully following the instructions on the package. Altogether, it should take you less than an hour or two, depending on how close you are to the nearest home improvement store. Running toilets: 0, you: 1

There you go! All you need to go from homeowner naif to pro in no time. Looking for more DIY projects? Check out our latest articles for more improvement ideas!

5 Furniture Purchases You Won’t Regret Later

Here at HomeBit, we’re not exactly furniture snobs. We’re no strangers to IKEA, after all. We’ve combed our fair share of estate sales, garage sales and flea markets. We’ve even picked up furniture off the curb. Hey, when the right piece calls to you, a homeowner’s gotta do what a homeowner’s gotta do!

But sadly, a lot of furniture is just not made to last. After a few years of wear-and-tear—and a couple of moves, to boot—it starts looking like the kind of stuff you’d find in a frat house or a dorm. Not fit for a grownup sophisticated home like yours!

Particle board, glued joints and other furniture shortcuts significantly reduce its lifespan. In fact, it’s downright hard to buy good quality furniture at reasonable prices. When can you get by with a cheaper option, and when should you spring for something a little ritzier? What are the best furniture brands for the money?

In truth, it’s all a matter of learning about furniture construction—and being able to tell the difference between a quality piece and a slapdash factory ensemble. Here are five things to look for, for pieces you won’t have to toss in the trash a few years from now.

a dog sitting on a chair

Cabinets and Drawers That Don’t Make Your Life Miserable

Drawers should be easy to open. That may sound overly simple, but the alignment of drawers is one of the surest tip offs that a piece of furniture is made well. When buying bureaus, cabinets or dressers, test the drawers and doors first. Drawers should open smoothly and shouldn’t slide off the rails. Doors should stay open, not snap shut after you let go of the handle. After all, you don’t have time for these kinds of little nuisances in your life!

Anything with Wood Joinery

Modern furniture manufacturers love to use staples and glue to join pieces together. Sure, this might drive down costs, but it also means those kitchen chairs aren’t destined to seat your family for years to come. Always look at the corners, especially where two pieces of wood come together. Known as joinery, this classic woodworking technique makes for a much sturdier piece—one that will survive babies, board games and Thanksgiving dinners with aplomb.

Pieces with Timeless Styles and Profiles

Remember what you thought was cool 20 years ago? (Here’s a little refresher from Vogue in case you’ve forgotten.) Amazon was just launching. Windows ’95 was the hottest computer OS around. Needless to say, things have changed—not least of all your furniture. Home decor is subject to trends just like fashion, so if you want to buy something you can keep around for a while, go for timeless, understated colors and shapes. Minimalist mid-century modern living room ensembles, classic shaker pieces—anything that’s stood the test of time for a while. And skip the bold color schemes. You can always add a few trendy pillows and throws later to give it a dash of personality!

Upholstery That Won’t Sag

We’ve all had that sinking feeling: you sit down and suddenly realize your knees are way up around your nose! Cheap upholstered furniture goes flat over time, leaving you with a serious case of sagging sofa. To fight it, look for furniture with at least a 1.8 foam density. And don’t be afraid to take it for a little test drive first. Sit down and test the spring. Feel the arms and back with your hands. You’re looking for something with a good bounce, where you don’t feel the frame when you squeeze the arms. Something that will give you a little padding for the years in front of you!

Items from Brands with Great Guarantees

Let’s face it: when it comes to furniture, some brands are just a better buy. If you really want to eschew regret, make sure to research product reviews before buying—and even catch up with the company’s reputation on Consumer Reports. And don’t feel pressured by sales or clearance events. Experts reveal that the prices in big box furniture stores aren’t fixed, meaning that you can usually negotiate a deal if you’re willing to hash it out with the sales team. Additionally, if longevity is truly your endgame, the website Buy Me Once lists brands that are known for their long lifespan or lifetime guarantees. Not having to buy all new furniture for your home every five years? Now that’s worth every minute spent researching!

Spot the Fraud: Signs You Need to Fire Your Contractor ASAP

Contractors don’t exactly have the best reputation. Search “contractor scams” and you’ll turn up loads of articles enumerating the latest contractor ploys. Nightmare contractor stories are about as numerous as the stars. For a business that deals with something so important—your home—home repairs sure do attract some shady characters.

There are plenty of reasons why a relationship with a contractor goes south. Some of it you can probably chalk up to unrealistic expectations—some homeowners want their builder to bring them the world on a platter. And sometimes it’s just a matter of juggling too much. Very few contractors are able to hire administrative employees, and so they end up doing most of the scheduling and paperwork themselves while trying to get your kitchen remodel done.

And then there are the people who see a trusting and vulnerable homeowner with little-to-no knowledge about their home’s inner workings, and think, cha-ching! It’s this last category we’re here to discuss today, specifically how to sniff one out and boot them from your life before they turn your dream home into a nightmare. Here are six surefire signs that you need to cut ties with your contractor—and cut your losses while you still can.

lit lighter

They Can’t Show You Any Credentials

Here’s where it pays to do a little detective work right off the bat. In many states, skilled work, like the jobs performed by electricians and plumbers, must be completed by a licensed contractor. So don’t be afraid to ask to see a copy of your contractor’s license—a pro won’t be offended. Also ask to review their proof of insurance and a list of references, too. If your contractor gets cagey or can’t produce credentials like these, set them loose. They may not be as much of a “pro” as they say they are.

They Want You to Pay for the Whole Project Up Front

If your contractor hands you a bill before they get started, don’t panic! It’s customary for pros to ask for a portion of their initial quote up front—but typically, it’s no more than 30 to 50% of the quote. However, what they should not do is ask you to fork up the entire estimate right on the spot. It makes it way too easy for crooked contractors to cut and run, and anyone worth their salt knows better than to ask for 100%. That’s a definite red flag right there.

You Can Never Get Them on the Phone

Having trouble reaching your contractor to get a project started? It may be time to say sayonara. No one can answer the phone every time it rings, of course, but your contractor should make an effort to get back to you promptly. If you feel like your contractor is ghosting you, it’s time to start looking for new candidates. After all, there are plenty of workers who will make you a top priority—or at least call you back!

They Break Your Contract

This one is tricky, since you don’t want to go around accusing contractors willy nilly. A breached contract is a serious offense that often gets settled in court, so you’ll want to have your facts straight before you approach your contractor. You’ll want to have documented proof—photos, receipts and other records—showing that your contractor has broken your agreement. And first, you should have an open—but firm—conversation with your builder and air your issues. If your contractor makes no effort to remedy the problem, you may just need to get a lawyer involved.

Their Quote Comes In Way Below Other Bidders

A deal is a deal, except when it comes at the cost of quality, materials, or skill. You should always collect at least three separate bids for a home remodeling project. For one thing, it’s a great way to get a feel for the average price of this kind of work. But it will also give you a sense of your contractors’ trustworthiness, as well. If one of those bids seems way too low, it’s not necessarily a reason to bite. You get what you pay for, and with contractors, as often as not, a low bid is a sign that something is wrong. Maybe the contractor is using recalled materials, hiring less-than-skilled subcontractors or maybe they’re planning to do the work as quickly—and shoddily!—as possible, and then cut and run. Whatever the reason, you’ll probably wind up paying for it later, so it’s best to avoid these kinds of cutthroat quotes.

They Can’t Stick to a Schedule

Delays happen in the construction business. Estimates are off, materials need to be reordered, unpredictable weather pops up—it’s not uncommon for a job to take longer than expected. However, a contractor who keeps missing their deadlines—or doesn’t show up to work some days—is no one you want working on your home. Do yourself a favor and give them the boot. In the long run, your wallet will thank you!