There’s a lot written out there about your best return on investment (ROI) when it comes to home remodeling. As most of us know, a kitchen or bathroom remodel and updated flooring earns you the most bang for your buck.  Kitchens generally fetch you about 80-90% ROI, depending on whether you go with new or refinished cabinets, type of counter tops (slab granite or other hard, natural surface vs. tile or laminate) and appliances. For the bathrooms you can earn about the same (80-90%) if you go with higher end finishes which include cabinetry, countertops,fixtures and floors.

After bathroom and kitchen remodels, the numbers begin to drop off precipitously. Room additions (which you don’t see a lot of here in Ahwatukee given our overall lot sizes) only return about 50% on your investment unless you add general living space like a family room, that will get you closer to 70-80% ROI. If you repaint your exterior then put your house on the market immediately, that can earn you about 60% ROI.  Swimming pool additions are very low on the list. That’s why I always encourage buyers who say a pool is a must-have to purchase a home that already has one. A basic pool will cost you $30,000 at a minimum and you’ll never get it all back.

Smaller items on the remodeling list include closet organization (i.e. Classy Closets), epoxy garage floors and outdoor landscaping. All of these certainly add quality of life to our living in the home but won’t get you much of a return on your money.  However, in a market that’s slow (as we are now) these special touches may set your home apart when it comes to that buyer choosing between your home to purchase and another one.

Contact us if you have questions about your remodeling plans. We’re always happy to help and lend our suggestions!

This morning I discovered a black widow folded up in the garden hose which immediately prompted a call to my bug man, Kevin. He’s the best. I only call him out when I see a critter I don’t want and he always cures the problem not only quickly but quite affordably.

When I asked if I should squish it while waiting for him to come spray he says sure, you can, but they do jump and if she jumps she will bite you. Apparently It’s rare to happen but they are capable of jumping up to 5 feet.

What? Needless to say I waited for Kevin. 

While he was here he taught me a trick to keeping scorpions out, too. He used window screening to cover the inside of my vent fans because that’s how many scorpions access our homes. They end up in bathtubs and sinks because they move across the walls and ceiling looking for water. 

The vent fan seen here is located in the laundry room, you typically have them in bathrooms, too. Just remove it, cut a piece of windows screen to fit and pop it back into place. Obviously they can’t get thorough the tight mesh so you can very easily (and inexpensively) cut off one of the main access points for a scorpion. 


As far as treating for pests, Kevin suggests you only spray when you see something. He sprayed the inside of my home about three months ago and he said it won’t need it again for quite some time. I like the idea of not having the expense of a monthly service.


Sometimes it’s the simple things in life that can bring great joy.  When my last garden hose sprayer broke I swore I’d find a better design that wouldn’t douse me in water the first time I dropped it then tried to use it.  Now that I’ve done some researching online this design comes up as one of the best, but I happened upon this one at our local Lowe’s.

There’s no handle so there’s nothing to break off when you drop it (and you will!) and the grip makes it easy to hold.  You twist the nozzle to turn it on and off and control the spray. It also tucks away nicely when folding up your hose, it blends in with the hose vs. a handle sticking out.

I’ve been using it for a couple of months now and so far, so good!

 Garden sprayer

Here’s the before and the after (again) of the built up counter idea for bathrooms.  This is in response to a reader request who asked how they are framed.  It’s a simple 2×4 frame construction that the contractor secured to the existing cabinets then put on the greenboard and then the granite.  I don’t have a photo of the work in progress though!


This link will take you to Porter Barn Wood to see the steps taken to make a custom door for one of my clients. When they bought their dream home last year there was originally a solid wall in the foyer and you could only access the den from the master bedroom.  Their first step once they moved in was to create a doorway off the foyer and close off the den from the master bedroom, all done pretty easily with drywall, texture and paint.

From there it became a decision of what type of door to put on the den (now his office) because it’s one of the first things you see as you enter their home.  After much research they found Porter Barn Wood, a local company that makes custom doors made from reclaimed barn wood.  Their work is outstanding!  You can choose finishes that are more rustic or modern and lots of choices in between.

Check out this link to see the steps taken to make the door and the final installation in my clients’ home.  I’m trying to figure out a place in my home to put one of these, it’s truly a piece of (functional) art!



Slab granite has become so affordable and it’s still a stylish choice for our Phoenix kitchens & baths. The secret however to making your investment work in the bathroom is this: you can’t put a pretty granite over short, old cabinets and expect it to pop. If the cabinets are in good shape but just need to be painted or stained, it’s well worth that nominal investment (of painting/refinishing them) and raising the height of them before investing in a new countertop.  This is also true if you’re looking to spruce up your house before you list it, you’ll get the money out of this investment if you do it the right way.

I’ve done this before with old cabinets, painted them and added tumbled tile to the top and sides to build up the height, but this time I tried it with slab granite in a rental property I recently purchased. Because my granite fabricator was so affordable I was able to not only re-do the kitchen but both bathrooms as well.  After one contractor sanded & painted the cabinets I asked the granite fabricator to build a frame around the top of each set of bathroom cabinets before installing the granite. Then he wrapped the frame in what would have otherwise been scraps of granite destined for the boneyard.  This raised the cabinet height by over 4 inches and the total cost to do the kitchen and bathroom counters (which also included the stainless kitchen sink and all four bathroom sinks) was $3,075.  And I LOVE the big stainless sink he got for the kitchen!  There are several levels of granite to choose from so prices may vary based on what you choose but this gives you a good frame of reference on cost.

Four of my clients have gone on to use William (granite contact) since seeing this project and all are very pleased with him.  I’ve also included photos from one of those clients who had two of their bathrooms re-done.  In their case the cabinets were in great condition so they merely added the granite and under mount sinks. I really like the edge they chose for their granite, much dressier than the edge I chose for my investment property.

Here are a few pics. If you’re a local and want my guys number let me know, he’s great.

IMG_7906 IMG_7890 IMG_7883 IMG_7843 Granite example, Davenport Granite example, Davenport2

Window shutters save energy

Here in the valley we’re always looking for ways to cut our utility bills.  I’ve often wondered how much window coverings really help to conserve energy and have to admit up front, I always doubted there was much of a tangible savings based on what you put over your windows, black out style treatments included. But this past summer I saw proof-positive that you can save greenbacks with the right window coverings.  In our home it was a progression over the past year, adding one thing at a time as the budget permitted but this summer we finally saw some tangible savings.

When we bought our home it had few window treatments and what did exist were the little metal 1″ blinds.  Nice.  I tore most of them out post-haste as I’d rather have nothing on the windows vs. those things. It was winter and the fact there were no window coverings didn’t matter much. Then came June.  Because there are so many windows the house heated up quickly as soon as the summer months were upon us.  It wasn’t in the budget to get the window treatments we wanted so we started with a film over the windows to prevent the fading of furnishings, wall hangings and the carpet.  At the same time we opted for sunscreens on the NW side of the home where it was MEGA hot (happened to be the master bedroom & bath) because it took the late afternoon/evening sun. The window film has made a huge difference in preserving the color of furnishings and wall hangings but it did little to cut the cost of the utility bills.  It was a fight to keep the utility bills under $300, resorting to tactics not fit to print. While we never topped that $300 number, we did lose water weight (literally) sweating it out.

So, I swore the next project would be to get something over the windows to help with this problem come the following summer.  But, in the back of my mind I still had little faith that alone would help and started mentally budgeting to add another full a/c unit to the house as it only has one now.

At the start of the year we finally got estimates and while I’d said all along I didn’t want shutters, I learned they were the most efficient at keeping out heat than most other options. There were other treatments I liked better but they wouldn’t have worked as well with the heat factor.  So we opted for 5″ wood shutters with hidden hinges in an alabaster for the bedrooms and a rich dark wood for the family and living rooms that are adjacent to the kitchen and have the same color cabinets. They were installed by May and ever since then the a/c has been set at a much lower setting and we’ve yet to pass a high of $270 on the electric bill.

The downside to shutters (for me) is they really can darken a room, which is why they’re effective at keeping out the light/heat. I prefer bright but with pretty much 365 sun here in the valley a reprieve in July and August is NOT a bad thing. They really do dress up a room as well and the natural wood tones are exceptionally pretty. One corner of our family room is a little darker than I like with the shutters but again, they serve an important function and they are very “handsome”.

Here are some before and after photos.  Two sources to get estimates from are Wes McLaughlin at Arizona Blinds (480-234-7209) and Larry Black with All About Blinds (480-507-3333).  I’ve used both and they’re competitive, professional and all-around good guys.

Bedroom after.

Bedroom before.

Family room after.

Family room before.

Dining room after

Dining room before.

Fireplace Face-Lift

The surround of my fireplace is a faux pink brick that needs to go but there are lots of other projects ahead of it.  So, in the meantime, I elected to paint it.

The first go-round didn’t go so well. I tried for a natural stone look and it just washed it out. Then I went the route of painting it the same color as the walls around it and it disappeared into the wall – as one should expect.  Having little patience when it comes to painting I was about done with this ‘little’ project by now.  Then I came across some of the dark glaze left from the Rustoleum refinishing kit that was used on the dresser and armoire re-do so I applied that over the paint.

While it’s not the fireplace or the neatest project I’ve done, it makes the room more bearable till I can get to it. Who knows, once I find the right mantle it may end up looking ok just as it is.  In the meantime it’s an improvement and all it took was some extra wall paint and a glaze. Here’s before, in-between and the after shot.  It actually came out better than the after shot indicates.


Here’s an easy recipe you can put together at home to remove the odor and stains related to dog urine.  Unfortunately I’ve had to use this recently thanks to my senior girl – and it worked! She christened my new area rug that was only two days old.  Grrrrr. Still love my old girl of course but I was thankful to come across this concoction. All you need is white vinegar, baking soda, liquid dishwashing detergent and hydrogen peroxide: http://www.dogchatforum.com/dog_urine_odor.htm

Last spring I purchase an armoire and dresser at an estate sale for $50.  While I hated the color it had potential in the style, quality and capacity, not to mention the smokin’ price.  So the pieces have been patiently sitting in my bedroom, awaiting their face-lift for nearly a year now as the rest of the home was remodeled.  Not long after I purchased the pieces I also picked up a Rust-Oleum Cabinet Transformations kit which I finally cracked open about a week ago.

The product I used is designed for kitchen and bathroom cabinets but my experiment on wood furniture worked out well. After I bought the kit I noticed they sell one just for refinishing furniture but I have to believe they are quite similar, if not the same. It’s a four step process: First you “degloss” your cabinets.  Then you paint two coats of the primer/base color.  After that you can glaze it (basically brush it on and then wipe it off) to give it a more depth.  Finally, you paint on a sealer which is water based so there are no fumes and it’s easy to clean-up. The whole process took a few days because you have to let the different products properly cure but because there are no real fumes I actually did the work in my bedroom with some cardboard to protect the carpets.  It was pretty hassle-free.

Below are before and after pictures. I highly recommend the glaze and don’t wipe too much of it off.  I had to do a second coat because after the first one I wiped too much of it off and the look was definitely lacking in depth and shine.

Now it’s time to tackle the armoire and figure out accessories like lamps & wall hangings and wall color. I highly recommend this product, it’s super easy to use and the final product is better than expected.


This is the finished product.


The Before shot