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Getting into your front or side entrances can be frustrating if there's a small landing. If you find trouble getting inside with groceries because the screen door pushes you off the stoop when opening, then there's a simple solution and it only takes about 45 minutes to complete. Consider a retractable screen door. In addition to simple to install they are incredibly functional.
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Cleaning gutters happens to be one of the things that many people try to avoid. It's understandable with the height and the thought of grabbing a hand full of foreign debris but, it is so very important.

For those who have experienced water damage I don't really need to explain much. For everyone else, do yourself a favor by trying to avoid it. Simply explained; water will always find a way to an opening and has no mercy. If the opening is your home and has no alternative (Gutter blockage) then it will take advantage. What's more is wash out at the foundation of a structure. Overflowing gutters will fall like a waterfall and quickly destroy the ground beneath.

Fortunately, there's an easy solution. Grab the ladder in the garage and spend 30 minutes blindly reaching in the gutters over head. Gloves optional. You'll be glad you did.
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Rewards are huge when it comes to landscaping, aesthetically. Putting down mulch, rock, or planting shrubs are great for almost any home. Unfortunately, there are some hidden costs that don't get much attention and often are overlooked or skipped all together.

The underlayment or weed barrier falls into this overlooked category. Underlayment can increase the cost of mulch by 30 to 40%, but will reduce your long term headache by 100%. There's always the temptation to skip the underlayment and hope that the 3" of mulch will suffocate any weeds so they won't appear on the surface; this thought process will not benefit you past 4 weeks if you live where there is any sun or moisture. Somewhat related is an inexpensive barrier that doesn't last past 1 year. You will certainly be happy with the results initially, but those pesky weeds always defeat a cheap weed barrier. It's as if weeds know how much you paid to keep them away and they act accordingly.

Asking someone at whatever department store you go to is a great start. I suggest smaller chains or an ACE Hardware; a great place to start. Most people overlook ACE as a resource, but in my experience ACE is where all the handymen who have hung up their tool belts work. 

Looking and comparing prices is a good second step that will serve you well. My parents told me, "that if it's too good to be true, it probably is..." Look at the guarantees for protection and expected results on the label. If a label says, "5 year protection" then expect about half before weeds creep through and the same for 10-15.

For the ultimate results contact: a local landscaper, contractor or handyman for the best results. Each should know the fabric or barrier to use. They have a wealth of information and a reputation to uphold.
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Have you ever seen a handyman with lipstick. If you have then it's likely for good reason. Lipstick is the ultimate tool when it comes to alignment of doors. Trying to align a door latch can be greatly simplified when your installing by putting a little on the locking mechanism and then shutting partially. The lipstick allows a mark to be made and for you to see if any adjustments need to be made.

Somewhat related is for sticky doors. Usually you can determine within about 18" where a door is sticking so put a little lipstick on the edge of the door to determine exactly where it's rubbing and sticking on the frame. This will cut your sanding or planning down to a fraction of the time/effort.
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There are a few things that can have a great return on investment (ROI) that you may not have thought of for your home. The biggest return in my opinion is lighting. To upgrade the look of a room or even a house it is always best to start with nice fixtures. It's amazing what a $100 ceiling fan will do for a room.

The second thing that I recommend is to freshen up the paint. One lesson learned is to be prepared to recoat the whole house with paint. Once one room is painted it will look so great you'll want to continue throughout

Third is crown molding. I've seen houses go from a 3 to an 8 just by adding crown molding. Additionally a baseboard that fits your taste is good as well.

Doors are the final unexpected improvement. I know that it's hard to imagine throwing away or donating your perfectly functional doors but upgrading them will surprise you. Going from a flat panel to a 6 panel interior door will amaze you. Even if you have a hollow six panel and go to a solid door you will be so happy with the results.

A couple items that are often considered are flooring, cabinets and countertops. All three are good choices, but for ROI they just fell short of the above.
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To avoid replacing your water heater it is important to maintain it.

In a few steps you can easily add 3 to 5 years to the life of the water heater. 

Step 1: Turn off the gas or electricity to the water heater

Step 2: Shut off the water going into the tank

Step 3: Connect a garden hose to the drain valve

Step 4: Open the pressure relief valve (near the top)

Step 5: Open the drain valve and direct the water to a safe place like a drain outside

Step 6: Once it's completely drained, reverse steps 5 thru 1

Now the next time you hear one of your friends had to replace their water heater you'll be happy your's was taken care of.
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There are a few places in our home where we spend a captive amount of time staring at eyesores. One of many is in the shower. Have you ever noticed (if not you will now), the water spots that form on the shower handles, head and spout? There's a very simple solution to the problem and it can be found in the kitchen. Slice open one of those lemons that will likely go bad before you find a recipe for. Use that lemon as if it were a sponge and clean the tarnished fixtures. You will be surprised how well it works and hopefully will save you the cost of replacement... at least for a little while longer.

An alternate is my all time favorite "Magic Eraser" If you haven't purchased one from the supermarket then you have missed out.
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Over the next few weeks I will be sharing tips and tricks gathered over the years that can be used on your home projects. Posts in the series will fall into one of several categories: Time saving, money saving or better results. I look forward to reading comments and tips of your own.
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