8 DIY Fire Pits to Get Your Yard Ready for Summer

It might not be exactly tropical in your neighborhood yet. But for many of us, it’s finally warm enough to start daydreaming about summer. And that means thinking about getting the yard ready for cookouts, ball games, and gatherings under the stars.

If you’re thinking about the changing seasons, think about making your own fire pit. This popular backyard feature is surprisingly easy to construct, and will bring your outdoor living to the next level. Make a quick trip to the hardware store, grab the kids to help out, and you can have one of these gorgeous backyard features by this weekend!

1. Stone-Topped Fire Pit

DIY Network - firepit

DIY Network

 

2. Upcycled Lantern Fire Pit

House & Fig - diy fire pit

House & Fig

3. Concrete Bowl Fire Pit

ManMade DIY - fire pits

ManMade DIY

4. In-Ground Organic Fire Pit

Laura Catherine - firepit

Laura Catherine

5. Glass and Metal Mini Fire Pit

The Art of Doing Stuff - DIY mini fire pit

The Art of Doing Stuff

6. Raised Brick Paver Fire Pit

Bridgman - firepit

Bridgman

7. Mini No-Wood Fire Bowl

ehow - firepit

ehow

8. Fire Pit Patio (With Bench!)

Instructables - firepit and bench

Instructables

Are you thinking of adding a fire pit to your yard this year? Is it warm enough in your town yet to even think about spending the evening making s’mores?

This article originally appeared on the Windermere.com blog. Reposted with permission from Porch.com.

Written by Jacqui Adams

  Porch.com is the free home network that connects homeowners and renters with the right home service professionals.

Play Chess… Not Checkers

Checkers is a simple game with a simple objective; eliminate the other player’s pieces. Even the process of doing so is simple, jump the other player’s pieces and start a collection. There is very little thought as to a defensive strategy and it is often more reactive than strategic.

Even though the objective of chess is simply laid out — obtain the other player’s King — the process in which to obtain this goal is much more strategic. Chess requires a greater understanding of the ability of each of the 9 different pieces on the board and a risk assessment that takes longer than a simple scan of the board.

“It’s a game in which the winning strategy is dynamic and requires complex thought across many turns, both for the player and their opponent’s turns. Chess requires a player to understand the context behind the moves on the board rather than just the risks offered by each individual turn.” – Play Chess Not Checkers by Zach West

You may have heard the saying, “Play Chess, Not Checkers” before, but how does this apply to real estate?

Read more from the full article on Keeping Current Matters.

How Long Should They Last?

Nothing in life lasts forever – and the same can be said for your home. From the roof to the furnace, every component of your home has a life span, so it’s a good idea to know approximately how many years of service you can expect from them. This information can help when buying or selling your home, budgeting for improvements, and deciding between repairing or replacing when problems arise.

According to a National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) study, the average life expectancy of some home components has decreased over the past few decades. (This might explain why you’re on your third washing machine while Grandma still has the same indestructible model you remember from childhood.) But the good news is the life span of many other items has actually increased in recent years.

Here’s a look at the average life spans of some common home components (courtesy of NAHB).

Appliances. Of all home components, appliances have the widest variation in life spans. These are averages for all brands and models, and may represent the point which replacing is more cost-effective than repairing. Among major appliances, gas ranges have the longest life expectancy, at about 15 years. Electric ranges, standard-size refrigerators, and clothes dryers last about 13 years, while garbage disposals grind away for about 10 years. Dishwashers, microwave ovens, and mini-refrigerators can all be expected to last about nine years. For furnaces, expect a life span of about 15 years for electric, 18 for gas, and 20 for oil-burning models. Central air-conditioning systems generally beat the heat for 10 to 15 years.

Kitchen & Bath. Countertops of wood, tile, and natural stone will last a lifetime, while cultured marble will last about 20 years. The life span of laminate countertops depends greatly on use and can be 20 years or longer. Kitchen faucets generally last about 15 years. An enamel-coated steel sink will last five to 10 years; stainless will last at least 30 years; and slate, granite, soapstone, and copper should endure 100 years or longer. Toilets, on average, can serve at least 50 years (parts such as the flush assembly and seat will likely need replacing), and bathroom faucets tend to last about 20 years.

Flooring. Natural flooring materials provide longevity as well as beauty: Wood, marble, slate, and granite should all last 100 years or longer, and tile, 74 to 100 years. Laminate products will survive 15 to 25 years, linoleum about 25 years, and vinyl should endure for about 50 years. Carpet will last eight to 10 years on average, depending on use and maintenance.

Siding, Roofing, Windows. Brick siding normally lasts 100 years or longer, aluminum siding about 80 years, and stucco about 25 years. The life span of wood siding varies dramatically – anywhere from 10 to 100 years – depending on the climate and level of maintenance. For roofs, slate or tile will last about 50 years, wood shingles can endure 25 to 30 years, metal will last about 25 years, and asphalts got you covered for about 20 years. Unclad wood windows will last 30 years or longer, aluminum will last 15 to 20 years, and vinyl windows should keep their seals for 15 to 20 years.

Of course, none of these averages matter if you have a roof that was improperly installed or a dishwasher that was a lemon right off the assembly line. In these cases, early replacement may be the best choice. Conversely, many household components will last longer than you need them to, as we often replace fully functional items for cosmetic reasons, out of a desire for more modern features, or as a part of a quest to be more energy efficient.

Are extended warranties warranted?

Extended warranties, also known as service contracts or service agreements, are sold for all types of household items, from appliances to electronics. They cover service calls and repairs for a specified time beyond the manufacturer’s standard warranty. Essentially, warranty providers (manufacturers, retailers, and outside companies) are betting that a product will be problem-free in the first years of operation, while the consumer who purchases a warranty is betting against reliability.

Warranty providers make a lot of money on extended warranties, and Consumers Union, which publishes Consumer Reports, advises against purchasing them. You will have to consider whether the cost is worth it to you; for some, it brings a much needed peace of mind when making such a large purchase. Also, consider if it the cost outweighs the value of the item; in some cases it may be less expensive to just replace a broken appliance than pay for insurance or a warranty.

View the original article on Windermere’s blog.

The Wealth of Homeownership

We’re all inundated with the news about why now is the right time to buy a home and why it’s better than renting. But aside from the savings on your monthly income (especially if you’re renting), owning your own home is an investment that creates family wealth. By purchasing a home, you are creating value and wealth for you and your family. It is one of the most important decisions you can make, and by today’s standards, it plays a pivotal role in income distribution.

In a recently released study from Matthew Rognlie of MIT Department of Economics, Deciphering the Fall and Rise in the Net Capital Share, Rognlie discusses the importance of homeownership and how it develops family wealth.

Read the full article on Keeping Current Matters.

Pro or Faux?

pole-e1426451247886-150x150Sure, we can all take some amazing photos with our smart phones, fancy cameras with non-fancy lenses or probably the new Apple watch. Here are great places to use those photos: posted on Facebook or Instagram, texted to a friend or relative, or left on your camera roll forever and ever. At least that’s what I do.

Here is where you should not use those photos: on a real estate listing. Never. Those photos look terrible, and the 97% of buyers who search online won’t make the effort to visit the house if the photos aren’t great.

I have seen some pretty bad photos lately (general niceness prevents me from posting them here). But picture this (no pun intended): living rooms with little else in the photo except a giant TV and about 500 inches of various cords, a kitchen with a cat on the counter, a bedroom with clothes all over, a shot of the driveway with three cars parked haphazardly, and a dining room with a pole coming out of the ceiling – OK, I had to post that picture!

So please, in the name of Yen Lui, use a professional photographer. If you are a professional photographer or at least have a sweet lens then you might be ok. Check out these photos to see the same house shot with a good DSLR camera by an amateur and by a pro with great lenses. See what I mean?

One of the things I do for my sellers is pay for professional photos. They make all the difference in the world and everyone is happy. Bonus: you can still post them on Facebook and Instagram if you want!

By the way, if you want to see some terrifically terrible real estate photos, check out the aptly named Facebook page Terrible Real Estate Agent Photographs out of the U.K.!

Head Shots July 2014-9Cara in the HouseCara Erdman is owner of Cara in the House Real Estate and a Windermere broker. Contact her at 206-919-2505 or cara at carainthehouse dot com with any questions. Make sure you read this original blog on her website.