Updated: Saturday, September 23, 2017
How to Choose Hardwood Flooring That Will Get Your House Noticed
As a house flipper, ensuring my renovated properties look great is very important to me. I love walking into homes with hardwood floors. From bamboo to cork to parquet, oak, pine, and mahogany, wood floors give an immediate feeling of quality and luxury. There are seemingly endless varieties, >
If youre thinking of selling your home in the next few years or simply want to love where your feet fall, hardwood flooring can add value and give your home the design boost it needs.
Solid Wood vs. Engineered Hardwoods
With so many options available nowadays, making the right decision can be difficult. Consider these key differences when evaluating flooring for your home.
Solid Wood Flooring is milled from trees, and each plank is composed of natural wood. Within the realm of solid wood, there are varying degrees of hardness. The Janka Hardness Scale rates the hardness of wood and can help you choose the right flooring for your home.
Engineered Wood is made up of pieces of wood and composite materials that are layered to create each plank.
There are pros and cons to each option. Solid wood flooring can swell and retract based on humidity and climate, requiring proper installation to limit the chances of these occurrences. In most instances, hardwood flooring means paying a premium in the cost. On the other hand, engineered wood flooring doesnt react like solid wood to humidity, but it cant be refinished multiple times if it gets deep scratches.
Visual interest, floor to ceiling.
Photo credit: Jacqueline Falla
Installation and Other Considerations
Engineered floors come prefinished, which saves a step or two in the process of completing your flooring project. They can be installed quickly, in as little as one day, and are ready for immediate move-in. Hardwood requires several additional steps in the process: installation and cleaning, and staining often several times prior to adding a final coat of varnish.
Weather conditions matter as well. High humidity requires a longer drying time between coats, and stepping on floors that have not cured properly is out of the question. Those with sensitivity to strong odors will want to wait until the smell disappears before returning home.
Color and Pattern Choices
Photo credit: Jacqueline Falla
Ready for the beach.
Durable, Practical and Stylish
Installing hardwood flooring is one of those rare instances in life where the practical choice doesnt leave you feeling like youve made a series of compromises to arrive at a responsible decision. Hardwood is beauty and brains wrapped in one tough package. The main choice to be made, really, is whether to install natural or engineered hardwoods.
Because each type has different properties, where you plan to put the flooring could supply you with the quickest answer to the type of hardwood you should select. Due to the expansion and retraction qualities of solid hardwood, its best to keep it out of spaces that have a lot of moisture, like the bathroom or kitchen, or in spaces where the flooring would be laid directly on top of a concrete slab. For this reason, basements and bathrooms are great places to use engineered wood flooring instead.
Rental Property Considerations
If your home is an investment property for rent, you may want to opt for solid hardwood over engineered. Solid hardwood floors can be refinished up to 10 times before they need to be replaced. This will allow you to refinish the floors between tenants. Conversely, engineered hardwood, while very durable, has a useful life that does not extend beyond one or two sandings.
Hardwood is a smart choice for pet owners.
Hardwood flooring is a practical choice for pet owners as its >
If you prefer that the pitter patter of little feet - or big feet, for that matter - be muffled, cork flooring has sound-absorbing properties to keep your home quiet. Its leathery look and comfort underfoot make it an attractive option. Cork is also an eco-friendly product because its derived from the bark of the cork tree and doesnt require constant replanting.
Cork floors help stifle sound transfer.
Whether youre a DIYer or need a little help, there is a flooring selection for every >
As an avid DIYer, Jaquelinenbsp;Fallanbsp; is constantly flipping houses.nbsp;She writes for The Home Depot about the projects that provide the biggest return on investment.nbsp;She loves adding hardwood floors - or refinishing existing ones - for a quick visual lift to get a house ready for sale.Visit The Home Depot to see a selection of hardwood flooring options to update your home.
This article is editorial content that has been contributed to our site at our request, and is published for the benefit of our readers. We have not been compensated for its placement.
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How The Equifax Hack Affects Homebuyers And How You Can Protect Yourself
Half of the country is freaking out. Thats about how many people are potentially affected by the unprecedented Equifax hack. If youre the average person whos afraid of having your data stolen - and by data, we mean your name, Social Security number, birth date, addresses, credit card numbers, and drivers license number that were reportedly involved in this breach - you may have already taken some steps to limit the damage. But what if youre in the process of buying a home or are getting ready to do so? How does this hack affect you, and what can you do to make sure you are protected?
Potential fallout for homebuyers
"Take this scenario: Say your Equifax file was looted but youve done little or nothing to detect fraudulent activity on one or more of your credit accounts. You sign a contract to buy a house, and you apply for a mortgage. The lender pulls your credit and confronts you with shocking news: Your FICO credit score is too low for you to qualify for the loan because youve been running up too much debt on one or more accounts. Your lsquo;utilization ratio on your available credit is too high, and that has depressed your score," said the Washington Post.
"Or theres a newly established account in your files that has put you deep in debt, even though you had nothing to do with it. It turns out that financial thieves have been racking up thousands of dollars in debts at your expense, and now - smack in the middle of a major lifetime investment - youre stuck with having to get the file corrected, which takes time and can be a pain. In the meantime, what happens to your purchase contract? Will the sellers bear with you, essentially putting off the transaction indefinitely and possibly blowing up their own plans to move into another house on a specific date? It could all get really messy."
Those who are already in escrow could also be derailed when the lender runs your credit before the loan closes and discovers fraudulent new accounts or charges that raise the debt-to-income ratio beyond what is allowed. "At the very least, whatever rate locks you had could be blown as you scramble to get your files corrected," they said. "Or your entire loan transaction could be jeopardized if the process takes too long."
Steps to take now
Have you still not checked to see if you were potentially impacted by the hack that affected as many as 143 million people? Not having dealt directly with Equifax doesnt guarantee your safety. "You may have never used Equifax yourself, or even heard of it," said CNN. "Either way, the credit reporting agency could still havenbsp;a lotnbsp;of your personal information. To find out if your data was compromised by the hack, gonbsp;here."
Keep in mind that youll have to enter your last name and the last six numbers of your Social Security number to check. Regardless of whether or not they believe you were impacted, youll be prompted to enroll in their TrustID Premier credit monitoring service, which will be free for a year. Despite earlier concerns, "Equifax has confirmed that signing up for TrustID Premier willnbsp;notnbsp;prevent you from joining a >
Armed with this information, you can go about taking further steps to protect your credit and prevent thieves from stealing your identity. Pull your credit reports for free once a year at www.annualcreditreport.com. Look them over carefully to make sure there are not any fraudulent accounts and/or charges. If you see anything, get on the phone with the creditor right away and start the dispute process. If youre in the process of applying for a home loan or are under contract, youll also want to call your lender immediately to alert them to what you found.
To freeze or not to freeze
There has been quite a bit of discussion about credit freezes since news of the breach broke, with some consumers concerned that "turning off" their credit could potentially damage their score or negatively impact them in some other way, especially during the homebuying process. The fact is that a credit freeze is "the most extreme method, but its also the most effective" at preventing your information from being stolen and used to open new accounts, credit expert Barry Paperno, who blogs at Speaking of Credit, told NerdWallet. And, it can be turned on and off as needed for, say, a mortgage application or credit re-check before a closing.
"There are no downsides to this: You can still use your credit cards with the freezes on," said Realtor.com. "But no one will be able to check credit scores and personal information without yournbsp;permissionmdash;so no bad apples can open up fraudulent new cards or getnbsp;loans under yournbsp;name. And younbsp;can undo the freezes at any time - typically for a smallnbsp;fee."
That fee varies depending on the state, and Equifax has said it will offer free freezes for 30 days, but the need for freezing will extend long after that is over. "Because a freeze can prevent fraud, its better than a credit monitoring service, which only alerts you that fraud might havenbsp;happened," said NerdWallet.nbsp;"Its the difference between using a deadbolt to keep thieves out rather than a security camera to catch them after the fact."
You can easily request a freeze online for the three credit unions: Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion.
"If you dont want to lock out all creditors - perhaps youre in the middle of mortgage shopping or refinancing - you can place a 90-day fraud alert on your credit," they added. "Thisnbsp;tells potential creditors to verify your identity before issuing credit in your name." A fraud alert is a good idea whether or not you freeze your credit. In this day and age, when hacks are more frequent and more damaging to more people, ongoing monitoring just makes sense.
"The biggest fears of identity theft "center around identity theft on an epic scale. It isnt tough to conjure upnbsp;worst-case scenarios," said Realtor.com. "Think about it: Bad guys with all of someones information could, at least theoretically,nbsp;trynbsp;to buy a home under that personsnbsp;name. Its more likely, though, they would use those stolen credit card numbers - or use SSNsnbsp;to open up new credit cards - and rack up lots ofnbsp;debt in that unsuspecting victims name. And that damage could make it much harder for someone to qualify for a mortgage or refinance annbsp;existing mortgage."
Consumers have largely been turning to ID theft protection company LifeLock, who the Los Angeles Times said could be "one of the big winners from the big data breach suffered by Equifax." Not surprisingly, the firm has upped its advertising outreach in the wake of the breach. The result: "An executive of Symantec, LifeLocks parent company, told Bloomberg that since the Equifax breach was reported,nbsp;LifeLocks Web traffic has increased sixfoldnbsp;and enrollments per hour are running 10 times ahead of the pre-Equifax era."
But, theres a rub: "Heres what LifeLock isnt advertising so widely: When you buy its protection, youre signing up for credit reporting and monitoring services provided by, yes,nbsp;Equifax. LifeLock signednbsp;a four-year contract with Equifaxnbsp;in December 2015," and the >
If any or all of that makes you queasy, there are alternatives to LifeLock you may want to consider.
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5 Popular Home Trends by Region
Growth in home renovations and remodels has been steady since 2012, and the Residential Remodeling Index predicts continued growth into the future. Many renovations are trending from coast to coast, such as installations to increase energy efficiency, sustainability and security. There are some, however, which are more popular in specific regions.
Indoor/Outdoor Living on the West Coast
Indoor/outdoor living areas are trending across the nation, but the West Coast carries the torch. The regions climate practically begs you to incorporate the outdoors into your everyday activities.
- An Open Wall - Remove the barrier between your yard and home by replacing an entire wall with glass doors, which can be opened and shut as-needed. You will find glass walls like this off of kitchens, family rooms and even bedrooms
- A Table Outside - Move your kitchen and dining area outside, right outside the home and covered for use in any weather. With an outdoor kitchen, you can enjoy nature and a fresh breeze while you cook, rather than being confined.
Basement Remodels in the Mountains
In the mountain region, more and more people are turning their basements into livable spaces. This is a fantastic way to add useful space, as well as value.
- Family Den - Create a downstairs family area, complete with a bathroom, couches and a television for video gaming and movie nights.
- Home Office - Shut yourself away from dishes in the sink, laundry on the floor and attention-hoarding animals.
- Guest Living - Give your in-laws a space of their own when they visit so that you can all have your privacy, without tripping over air mattresses.
Accessibility in the South
In the south, homeowners are making modifications which will help them to age-in-place. When people think of accessibility renovations, they dont often envision anything glamorous. However, your adaptations dont have to be boring. The changes you make can enhance the aesthetic of your home if you thoughtfully choose materials and design.
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- Easy Navigation - Widen doorways and remove steps between rooms and at entryways, so that access is flat and easily navigated.
- Easy Access - Install a bathroom right by the entryway and retrofit the kitchen and bathrooms for wheelchair or walker access.
- A Touch of Luxury - Build a tiled walk-in shower with recessed shelves, a bench, ambient lighting and spa-like fixtures.
Deck Additions in the Northeast
In the Northeast, deck additions have one of the greatest returns on investment, and the residents have taken note. Having a deck can make your home more competitive in the market. If youre renovating for yourself, its a great way to create an outdoor area for family gatherings and >
- Entertain - Build your deck off the kitchen and outfit it with a table and chairs, to make hosting more seamless.
- Unwind - Put your deck in a shaded corner and furnish it with comfy, weatherproof chairs for lounging. Consider installing an outdoor fireplace and a television.
Bathroom Upgrades in the Midwest
Midwesterners are remodeling their bathrooms, even though the return on investment isnt as high as with many other projects. Bathroom renovations are often homeowners treat to themselves, as they turn their house into their dream home.
- Mirror, Mirror - Choose a theme that reflects your personality. Trending >
- The Works - Install a spa tub or shower jets, and splurge on heated flooring.
These are some of the most popular remodels happening across the nation, as people craft their perfect home or prepare it to sell. Making renovations isnt as simple as picking a project, however. You may be wondering how your neighbors have the resources to pursue such lofty endeavors. HomeAdvisor put out a True Cost Report which outlines several aspects of home improvement in 2017, including financing, which is a great resource on the years trends.