Paint Your Front Door and Change the Look of Your Home for $30!

A red georgian door on an ivy covered house

Summer’s getting closer!  And with it, comes a natural desire for many of us to get outside and do some work on our homes.  There’s just something about nice weather, sunny days, warm breezes, and all the beauty of Spring that makes us want to “spruce” up our homes a little bit.

Unfortunately, money is a little tight for a lot of us right now and the thought of dropping a few hundred dollars on a big paint job can be daunting to say the least.

Well, if that sums up you (as it sums up me!), then consider this:  what about a smaller paint project that will still have a huge impact?

I’m talking about your front doors.  Doors can be painted, typically, in a matter of just a few hours.  The cost?  Typically under $30.  The results?  (To use the over-used formula):  Priceless.

A new color on a front door can bring your home from “boring” to hip in just a matter of minutes.  A new color on a front door can give your siding–what you may think of as tired and old–a new look.  A new color on your door will interact differently with your shutters, your roof, your landscaping, everything.

In short, a new color on a front door can give your entire home a subtle new look.  All for under $30 (tools included) and a couple hours worth of work!

So, if you’re looking for a project , but aren’t quite ready to repaint your entire home, give this a try!

Tips for Selling Your Home, Part 2

bigstock-Home-For-Sale-Real-Estate-Sign-11943983_smallerOK, last time, I mentioned something I called The Great Disassociation and how it’s such an important concept when it comes to selling a home.  See, when we live in our homes for any length of time, what typically happens is that we become blinded to the condition of the home.  They’re our homes.  We see them everyday.  And as a result, little things kind of slip by us.

For example, I have a wall in my bedroom–and this is embarrassing to admit–that had a nail hole in it.  I had tried to hang a picture and I put it in a spot I didn’t like.  So, I pulled the nail out, moved the picture and then spackled the nail hole.  Impressive, right?  Well, not so much.  See, that’s as far as I got.

In fact, while that happened over 2 years ago, I just noticed the other day that there’s still a big white spackled spot in the center of the wall that has NEVER BEEN PAINTED!  I’ve left that undone for over two years and I never really even noticed it.  It became the new normal and it never jumped out at me as something to think about doing.  (I told you it was embarrassing).

Another example is this:  my basement has a musty odor in the Spring and Fall.  If I run a dehumidifier, it goes away and smells fine.  However, what usually happens is that we get used to the smell.  We walk into our back entry after a day out and it smells like our back entry.  I don’t even think about it.  But every now and then my mom will stop over.  She’ll walk in and say something like “I should get you our dehumidifier–that way you could clear out that musty smell.”  She doesn’t mean anything negative–she’s just offering her help.  Problem is, she’s offering her help with a problem I didn’t even realize existed.  And it’s because I live there.  I get used to it.  I don’t see it as an area of concern.

That’s what I’m getting at–how we live with certain aspects of our home for so long that we don’t even see them as trouble-zones.  And while we’re living in our homes, that’s not such a big issue.  But when we’re trying to sell our homes, it becomes enormous.  After all, I may not notice the spackle spot on the bedroom wall . . . but new buyers will.  I may not notice the musty basement stink . . . but new potential buyers will.  And who knows . . . those things might be enough of a turnoff to steer those folks away from my home.

So that’s why the Great Disassociation is so important.  It’s all about disassociating yourself from your own home–about forgetting that it’s yours–about looking at it with new eyes–with the eyes of potential new buyers.  Doing this is going to help you spotlight some of the areas that are going to need your attention–areas that should be repaired or attended to before you put your home on the market.

So, to do your best to eliminate these little turnoffs, you first need to find them.  And to find them, you need to look at your house as if it was somebody elses.

Now, that’s not easy to do . . . so here’s what I recommend.  Drive away some night and go out for dinner with your family.  Maybe, if you’re brave, invite an honest and good friend of yours along.  After dinner . . . and here comes the hard part . . . drive up to your home and do your best to pretend that it’s not yours.

That’s right.  Don’t pull into the driveway–because it’s not your house.  Don’t pull into the garage–it’s not yours.  Don’t get the mail out of the mailbox, don’t pick up the newspaper off the sidewalk . . . treat this house as if it’s one you just drove by, saw the “For Sale” sign, and stopped for a look.

Park on the road–where everybody else would park–and get out of your car.  Look at everything–what’s the mailbox look like?  Is it rusting away on the post?  Will you have to replace it if you buy the home?  Will you need to stain the post?

Check out the roof–that’s always one of the first things I look at–what condition are the shingles in?  Does it look like you’ll be replacing it in the next couple years should you make the purchase?

What about the trees in the yard?  Do they look healthy or are they full of dead branches?  And what about the yard?  Is it green and growing or brown and dead?  Is the grass cut or completely growing out of control?

As you walk up the driveway, pay attention to the cracks or the weeds that are growing there.    What about the landscaping in the front?  Is that out of control?  Are the bushes growing like mad or have they been trimmed nicely?  Are there weeds choking out everything else?

Check out the front steps–are they covered with newspapers?  Are they littered with flower pots full of dead plants?  Are they full of cracks?  Is the welcome mat a mess?

What about the front door?  What shape is it in?  Is it rusting?  Is it peeling?  Is it faded and boring?  Could it use a new color, a new paint job?  Are there spiderwebs everywhere?  Dead leaves?

You get the idea.  Do that . . . analyze your home that way . . . and take notes.  Look at it as if you might be purchasing it.  What jumps out as you as a neat feature?  Would it be better if you did x, y or z to enhance it?  What jumps out at you as a big turnoff?  Is there anything that you instantly would have to fix if you bought the home?

After you’ve gone around the outside of the home, it’s time to head inside and do the same thing.  Analyze everything and keep yourself in the mindset that this isn’t your house.  Keep telling yourself that everything you see that’s not perfect is going to have to be repaired by YOU (the new buyer).

Do this walkaround (and through) your home separate from your spouse–and then meet up later and compare notes.  What did he or she see that you missed?

And if you’ve got the guts and a thick enough skin . . . ask an honest friend or two to do the same.  And don’t chew them out when they let you know what they see either.  Ask them to give you their honest opinion of your home as viewed from the road by potential buyers.  Ask them not to sugar-coat anything.  You want the straight scoop–you want to know what they see.

After you’ve done this, take all this information and analyze it.  Some of the things are going to be too big to tackle when you’re trying to sell your home.  As nice as a loft in the garage would be, you don’t need to build one to sell the home.  But, if the front door looks dirty and old and the mat is worn out and the mailbox is rusting . . . well, those are all little fixes that will go a long way towards your goal:  getting people in your house so they can see what’s inside and hopefully fall in love with it.  Think about it.  And give it a try.

What’s Your Home Saying to Potential Buyers?

There’s a house down the road from me that’s for sale (the one in the photo is not it!).  Has been for a long time now.  We walk past it 2 or 3 times a week on our way to a baseball field where we play epic games that usually end in gloating (on the winner’s side) and crying (on the loser’s).

Anyway, we do that 2 or 3 times a week and every time I walk past that house–whether I’m on the way to the field with 2 happy boys, or on the way home with one really happy boy and one really sad one–I take a look.  And every time I look at it, I think the same thought:  “that house sure has a lot of potential.”

And it does.  It’s a big stone house–looks like something out of a fairy tale.  It’s got a lot of character.  It’s near the baseball field (so we could go have our battles EVERY night–hooray!).  It looks to be a 4 bedroom, 2.5 bath home.  (Which is enticing because my home is currently a 3 bedroom, 1 bath home.  And with 5 kids, a wife and myself . . . well, that’s easily 2 bathrooms too few).

So every time I walk past the house, I stop and think about the potential.  But every time I stop . . . I start back up and continue on my way home, pushing any thought of buying that house out of my mind.

Oh, it’s not the price.  In fact, the price started at the top of our price range (still within it, but at the very top) and it’s dropped $30,000 or $40,000 in price since the beginning of the year.  No, it’s not the price.  We could afford it if we wanted it.  And it’s not really the location.  It’s right down the road from our other home and it’s right next to our major evening entertainment–the ball field.  It’s definitely not the size of the home:  all that extra space and the extra bath and a half would be almost perceived as a gift from heaven.

No.  It’s none of those things that keep us away.  None of those things that get our legs moving again after we’ve stopped to “window shop.”

No, what gets us moving again is what’s probably kept everybody else moving as well:  the house gives a bad first impression.

I’ve never seen much of the inside–not up close anyway–but I’ve got a feeling I know what I’m going to find.  See, the outside of a home is a window to the interior.  A poorly maintained exterior is a warning many home buyers heed.

We walk up to this house and look at the beautiful aspects:  the stone walls, the 4 bedrooms . . . the 2.5 baths.  But despite all that, I can’t get past the poorly maintained front door.  The overgrown landscaping.  The rotting and flaking fences.  The windows that are filthy.  The blinds that hang crooked and bent.

The one room you can see from the driveway shows that either there was water damage or the family before had a dog.  A vicious, baseboard-attacking dog who took out his puppyhood rage on the floor trim of that poor little room.

All in all, despite the nice aspects of the house, the obviously visible negative stuff just turns me off.  I’m afraid that something that looks that bad on the outside is only going to be worse inside.  And so, every night that we stop . . . we look for a few minutes and continue walking, shaking our heads . . . unable to muster up the interest to call the number on the sign.

Now, I know this house is owned by the bank (or something).  It’s empty and has been for a while–so I understand some of the reason for the dilapidated, unkempt look of the exterior.  I understand that whoever currently owns it doesn’t want to spend the money or time to keep up on the exterior work.  They probably figure it’s too expensive.

However, I can’t help but think that when we started looking, the house was about $179,000.  If I’m not mistaken, the current price is either $149,000 or $139,000.  It’s dropped anywhere from $30,000 to $40,000 in price and still hasn’t moved.

I’ve written about first impressions here on this blog before.  First impressions can make all the difference in the world when it comes to relationships and new jobs.  They also play a huge role when it comes to selling a house.  Create a great first impression with your home . . . and chances are, even in a down economy, you won’t be sitting on it for too long.  Let the importance of that first impression slip down on your list of “things to do” and you’re going to have a situation like the folks who own that house I walk by a couple times a week:  you’re going to be lowering your price as you try to make people see past the obvious faults.

When you get to that point:  trying to make people see past the faults and focus on the price, you’ve lost your bargaining ground.  You want people to want the house because they HAVE to have it–they see themselves living there and can’t picture themselves living somewhere else.  When that happens, price becomes a secondary determiner.  It’s still important, but it’s not the first thing we check.

When we see a house that shows well, the first thing we do is get out of our car and look around.  We imagine our kids playing on the yard.  We see ourselves snowblowing the driveway in the winter.  We picture cookouts on the grill and all the other fun things that go with life.  After that, we cautiously and nervously approach the little info box, hoping against hope that the house is within our range.

On the other hand, when people see the house I walk past every other night, I’d put money on the fact that the only thing they see or imagine is exactly what I imagine:  a lot of work.  They then probably do what we do and walk straight up to the info box and look at the price.

The big difference between the two scenarios is what happens at the info box:  in the first case, we’re looking at the price, hoping it’s within our range.  Our heart’s beating a little harder . . . were nervous, excited, hopeful. In the second scenario, none of that’s happening.  We’re simply looking to see if the price is low enough to justify any thought whatsoever into purchasing the home.

In the first scenario, if the price is even within $20,000 of your range, chances are you call the realtor–you want to look into it, to dig, to discover if there’s some way you could swing it.  You love the house, you want it.  Or at least you want to look into it further.  In the second scenario . . . if the price isn’t low enough to generate a little interest, you’re walking.  You probably stuff that little info slip back into the box with a laugh, or you bring it home and throw it out.

In the first case, the house sells itself–price is of secondary (though still important) consideration.  In the second situation, the price is everything:  if it’s not low, low, low . . . the first impression of the house doesn’t leave a potential buyer with enough interest to warrant any further consideration.

So all that to say:  if you’re trying to sell your home . . . don’t make that mistake.  First impressions matter.  In the next few posts, we’ll flesh this idea out and I’ll throw out a number of easy, low-cost fixes you can accomplish in a weekend that will help you make sure your house gets people stopping and talking.

Steel Doors Revisited: Surface Prep on a New Door

bigstock-Blue-Doors-7834138

Yep. It’s probably a wooden door. But use your imagination…

In an earlier article, we talked about painting your old steel doors.  And while all that information was absolutely flawless (!) in it’s delivery, it’s probably important that we take a second here and attach an addendum.

See, we often talk to people in the store at RepcoLite about their new doors and we usually discover there’s a misconception as to what needs to be done.  Most people tend to think that since their steel or fiberglass door is NEW, they need to do no prep work.  It’s one of the perks of buying a new door, right?

Unfortunately . . . wrong.  New doors, even if they’re pre-primed, need to be prepped correctly.  Even if they’re new, they can be covered with surface contaminants that can affect the adherance of your finish coat.  So, even though your door may be new, it still will need to be prepped correctly before you move on to the paint.

Here are the steps:

  • SCUFF SAND:  Do a light scuff sanding of the door with some 120 – 150 grit paper.  Even though the door is pre-primed, it never hurts to dust over it lightly with some sandpaper to level out any bumps in the primer coat.
  • WASH THE DOOR:  After you’ve sanded the door, be sure to wash over it with TSP (TriSodium Phosphate).  This will remove the dust you created while sanding AND it will remove any contaminants that could be on the surface (body oils from installation, airborne dirt and grime, etc.)

Doing those simple prep steps will help ensure that the paint job on your new door will look great for years to come!

Painting a Steel Door

bigstock-Blue-Doors-7834138

Yes. This is probably a wooden door. But we bought the picture, so we’re going to use it! Just use your imagination…

Painting a steel door is one of those projects that can make a big impact on the exterior appearance of your home.  And if you do the project the right way, you’ll be enjoying that color for years to come.

If you’re thinking about sprucing up your front door any time soon, follow these tips and steps to make sure the project goes as easily as possible:

  • REMOVE THE DOOR and THE WEATHER STRIPPING:  If possible, you’ll have your best success if you can completely remove the door from the frame and set it in your garage or your basement on saw horses.  If you can’t remove the door, don’t sweat it–you can still do a good job, though you’ll need to be a little more cautious with paint runs, etc.  Also, many doors allow you to remove the weather stripping.  This is ideal.  Remove it (paying attention to how it will go back on) and store it somewhere safe.
  • REMOVE THE HARDWARE:  Whether or not you can remove the door from the frame, the next step is to remove the hardware.  Remove the hinges, the door knobs, and the kick plates.  You can paint around them or tape them off, but leaving them on makes all the subsequent steps more complicated and more time consuming.  So, remove them if at all possible!
  • SURFACE PREP:  As with any painting project, failure or success is usually determined before you even open a can of paint.  If you’re painting over a previously painted door, you need to make sure that you sand and scrape at all the paint to ensure that what remains on the door is stuck down well.  Sand the door with 120 grit paper (you’re lightly sanding it–not trying to leave visible grooves).  And then, after sanding and scraping, wash the door down well with a solution of TSP (TriSodium Phosphate).  Quick Tip:  When using the TSP, scrub the door down with a 3M Scotchbrite pad (a little green scrubby pad you might use on dishes).  This will serve to dull and etch your previously painted surface and will aid with the bonding of the new paint!
  • PRIME (if necessary):  After you’ve sanded and washed the surface, you should prime any bare metal spots with RepcoLite’s 449 Grey Metal Primer.  This is an oil-based, rust-inhibitive primer, that’s perfectly suited for these situations.
  • BRUSH or ROLL YOUR DOOR:  Either using a high-quality brush or a small, quality 4″ or 7″ roller, apply your paint to the door.  We recommend applying RepcoLite’s Endura Acrylic Latex Paint for the most durable, longest lasting finish.  Work evenly and quickly, starting with the inserts and then finishing up with the remaining flat surfaces of the door.  Apply coats as needed.
  • LET IT DRY and RE-INSTALL:  Let the door dry at least 8 – 12 hours (longer if possible) and carefully re-install it.  UNDERSTAND:  Latex paint will dry to the touch in a matter of hours, but it doesn’t reach it’s full hardness for about 30 days.  You don’t need to leave the door off the hinges for 30 days, but keep in mind that just because it’s “dry” that doesn’t mean it’s as strong or durable as it’s going to be . . . so go easy!
  • RE-INSTALL WEATHER STRIPPING LATER:  If you can leave the weather stripping off for 10 – 30 days, that’d be in your best interests!  As mentioned earlier, the latex paints will dry quickly, but if you close the door and press it against the weather stripping too soon, it’s entirely possible that the paint will peel around the edges when you next open the door!  If you can leave that stripping off for a couple weeks or so before re-installing it, you’ll minimize your risks.

FINAL TIPS and PARTING THOUGHTS

  • COLOR MATTERS:  Dark colors fade quickly.  Red can be especially bad.  Also, reds can cover poorly.
  • NO SHORTCUTS:  One of the worst things you could do when painting a door is try to make a coat of paint cover in 1 coat when it probably needs 2 or 3.  The best advice we can give you on this one is to apply EVEN coats.  If you’re color needs 2 – 3 coats of paint, then resign yourself to applying 2 – 3 coats of paint.  If you try to make it cover by applying it too heavily, you will have all sorts of problems on your hands.  The paint will run and sag; it won’t cure or dry well and you’ll find it sticking to your weather stripping and causing all sorts of other problems!  So, don’t rush it.
  • GIVE IT TIME TO DRY:  Latex paints dry to the touch very quickly, but don’t let that fool you into applying too many coats too soon.  Apply a coat and let it dry for an hour or two before trying the second one.  Sometimes you could apply those coats as quickly as 15 – 20 minutes after each other (it dries that fast), but in the end, you’ll only run into problems.  So give it the dry time the can recommends.
  • LATEX IS BETTER THAN OIL:  Latex Acrylics (like RepcoLite’s Endura) will outperform oil based products.  They’ll hold their color better and they’ll endure the constant expansion and contraction a steel door experiences much better as well.
  • PAINT IN THE SHADE:  Paint when the sun isn’t directly on the door.  And ideally, paint before or long after the door’s been exposed to the sun.  Steel doors will heat up significantly on a summer day and if you get on it and start painting too soon, or when it’s too hot, you’ll have trouble with your latex paint.  It will dry much too quickly and you’ll end up with streaks and roller marks.

I could go on and on, but you get the idea.  This is a project that usually can be accomplished in just a few hours.  It’s not complicated–and if you take the steps we’ve outlined (and check with any RepcoLite store for more information if you have questions) you’ll be fine!