Natural, Thrifty Cleaning Tips

We have lost touch with some of the less chemically-based, more natural methods of cleaning. From old books – such as Mrs Beeton’s Household Management, and programmes like the BBC’s Victorian Farm, we can pick up some useful tips from the past, though obviously most of us would not want to revive some of more extreme uses of natural products, like cleaning our teeth with soot!


General Cleaning Tips

It is a good idea to tackle a room at a time, and to start at the top of the house and work down; similarly it is good practice to start at the top of each room and work down to ground level. A good clean out is better carried out on a fine day, where windows may be opened and rooms aired. When thoroughly cleaning bedrooms, try and have some help to turn mattresses.


Old fashioned feather dusters reach out of the way corners. Natural cotton white vests and t-shirts can be washed and cut up for dusters. Save old shaving brushes for dusting delicate objects. Old toothbrushes can be used to clean awkward crevices.


Lemons have a multitude of uses. Make a paste with lemon juice and salt and use to clean stained brass. Heavily stained (but not plate) taps can be cleaned with a lemon juice and salt mix also. Rinse well and buff with a soft cloth. Half a cut lemon placed in the fridge helps to neutralise strong odours.

White Distilled Vinegar

This can be diluted well and used to wash mirrors and windows. Finish by polishing the glass with crumpled up newspaper.

Bicarbonate of Soda

Put half a teaspoon in the bottom of a stained teapot and fill with boiling water. Leave to stand. Bicarbonate of soda solution can also be used to clean cups and mugs. You can wipe down the inside of the fridge with a little bicarb. in warm water

Sugar Soap

Generally, paint work can be cleaned with washing-up liquid and warm water. More stubborn stains can be removed with the use of sugar soap

Denture-cleaning Tablets

Dissolved in warm water these are really good for cleaning stained cups and teapots. They can be left to soak overnight.

Soda Crystals

Again, soda crystals dissolved in hot water provide a traditional, less commercial answer to cleaning your sinks, drains and tiles

Natural Beeswax Polish

Good wood furniture needs to be dusted regularly, but can be polished using a soft cloth and a good Beeswax polish less frequently. This keeps the furniture in good condition and helps to protect it.

Fall Yard Clean-Up

Fall can be a great time to get some yard cleanup done to help protect your landscape from insects and disease and prepare your lawn and garden for a healthy start next spring. Watch the video for some tips.

The Most Common Home Repairs You Can Easily Do Yourself

Your home is one of the most expensive things you’ll ever pay for, so whether you’re renting or buying, you should take good care of it. While you’ll probably be tempted to call a professional when something breaks, you can take care of a lot of problems yourself.

Most of these home repairs can be done with little to no experience. However, always be sure to do research on anything you don’t understand, particularly if you’re dealing with electricity, which can be extremely hazardous. Also, if you don’t already have a tool kit of your own, this wouldn’t be a bad time to start building your essential toolbox. Some of the repairs listed here will require special tools you may not have laying around, but we’ll list those where applicable.


Fix or Replace a Broken Toilet Lever

A broken toilet lever is pretty easy to fix. In most cases, if pressing the lever doesn’t flush the toilet, you can just pop the tank open and re-attach the chain. However, in some cases, the handle itself can become corroded or any one of the pieces that connect the handle to the flapper (including the handle, nut, metal rod, or chain) can break. All of these parts can be replaced on the cheap, though.


Tools/materials you’ll need:

  • Adjustable wrench
  • Replacement toilet lever kit (if broken)


Unclog a Toilet Drain

Before you call a plumber to unclog a toilet, there are two things you should try. The first is a plunger, though you’ll want to make sure you’re using the right one. This image shows a sink plunger (left, brown) next to a toilet plunger (right, black). Be sure you’re using the right tool for the job.

If there’s not much water in the bowl, pour enough water in to submerge the head of the plunger. Give it 8-10 good downward thrusts. Most minor clogs should clear up at this point and water should flow freely. If not, it’s auger time. Toilet augers typically cost a little more than plungers, but they can deal with tougher clogs than a simple plunger can. Run the end of the auger into the toilet until the end reaches the clog and start turning the crank. If you get a good grip on it, you should be able to pull the clog out.

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Tools/materials you’ll need:

  • Toilet plunger
  • Toilet auger


Fix a Leaky Kitchen/Bathroom Pipe

The most common types of pipe leaks occur under kitchen or bathroom sinks. These tend to involve either a worn out washer or a loose or broken compression nut that’s sealing it. To fix these, first you’ll need to turn the water off to the sink. Some sinks have a shut off valve right near the sink itself, but others may be as far away as the basement. You’ll have to follow the pipes depending on your house.

 Once the water’s off, place a bucket underneath the pipe, and twist off the compression nuts (the big, white pieces you can unscrew). You can take this opportunity to rinse out the curved pipe (called a P-trap), which can get pretty grody by design. Once you’ve replaced the washer (or the entire P-trap if necessary), you can screw it back in and turn the water back on.

Tools/materials you’ll need:

  • Bucket
  • Replacement P-trap or washer


Clear a Jammed Garbage Disposal

The garbage disposal is a big scary machine made of hidden blades and bad noises. However, primal fears of ominous pits aside, it’s actually fairly easy to clear up a clog. You’ll need to cut the power to the unit to prevent any accidents. Some units are plugged into an outlet in your cabinet, but others may be wired directly to the wall. Once the disposal is disabled, you can use an allen wrench to adjust the flywheel inside the disposal. Do this by placing the allen wrench in the hole in the center of the bottom of the unit (you won’t actually see the flywheel, but rotating it can help loosen any jammed food inside).

Once you’ve done this, you can then use either a wooden dowel or some pliers to reach into the top of the disposal and try to remove anything clogging the unit that may be near the top. Once you’ve cleared the obstruction, you can reconnect the power, run water through the disposal and turn it on to ensure the clog is gone.


Tools/materials you’ll need:

  • Wooden dowel
  • Pliers
  • Allen wrench


Replace a Light Switch

Most electrical work in your home should probably be done by a professional if, for no other reason, than the risk of serious injury or death is much higher when dealing with electricity than a toilet or drywall. However, light switches are among the easiest to replace. If you have a switch that’s not working properly  you can do it pretty simply. Be sure to turn off the circuit breaker before beginning. Electricity can be dangerous, so take all the necessary precautions.

You can use a flathead screwdriver to remove the faceplate covering the switch. Then use a phillips head screwdriver to remove the switch from the wall. You’ll see two wires connected to screws on the switch. You’ll want to test the wires to ensure there’s no electricity running through them. Disconnect the wires and attach them to the new switch, and you’re ready to put everything back together.


Tools/materials you’ll need:

  • Flathead screwdriver
  • Phillips head screwdriver
  • Replacement light switch


Patch a Hole In Drywall

Holes in walls are nearly unavoidable, even if you’re only renting. However, unless you’ve done plowed a car through it, you can fix most holes pretty cheaply. The simplest holes to fix are going to be screw or nail holes from hanging everything from pictures to TVs. For holes like these, you’ll want to clean the area of any debris and wipe down the wall. Use a putty knife to press some spackle into the wall and let it dry. Once it’s done, use some fine grain sandpaper to sand it down until it’s nice and flat. Depending on how seamless you need it to be and what color you your walls are, you may need to apply a coat of paint.

Larger holes can be a bit trickier. If a doorknob or fist went through the wall, you’ll need to cut out a rectangular section of the drywall surrounding the hole. Then, cut a piece of drywall from some scraps (or whole pieces you can buy at a hardware store). You can also use a small piece of wood to brace the scrap drywall in the hole by placing it inside the wall and drilling screws into it above and below the hole, then add a third screw into the drywall patch, and add some drywall tape around the seams. Finish it off by slathering on some joint compound and using a large putty knife to scrape it down until it’s mostly flat. Just like with the small holes, you’ll finish it off by sanding it down once the compound has dried, and painting if necessary.

Tools/materials you’ll need:

  • Putty knife
  • Spackle/joint compound
  • Drywall
  • Drywall tape
  • 1×1 wood board.
  • Electric drill
  • Wood screws


Loosen Up a Stuck Window

f you go too long without opening a window, it can get so mucked up with dirt and crap that it’s difficult to open it. This isn’t a terribly complex problem to solve, but it can require some elbow grease (or a more proper lubricating agent like WD-40—though be sure to research when you should and shouldn’t use it). The video above shows you how to pry the window sash away from the frame with a pizza cutter, though if you’re concerned with preserving the paint, you can use a somewhat less sharp putty knife to wiggle the edges open. Once you’ve got the window moving again, be sure to clean it thoroughly.

Tools/materials you’ll need:

  • Putty knife/pizza cutter
  • WD-40 or other lubricant
  • Cleaning supplies
  • Rag

Of course, there’s no shortage of things in your house that can break, but you’ll find that a good deal of things can be fixed with just a little bit of Google-fu and a few bucks worth of supplies from a hardware store. Some things should obviously be taken care of by a professional, particularly where safety’s concerned, but if something’s broken at your home and it’s not on this list, check online before you call the repairman. It could save you a bundle.


Basic Toolbox for every DIY



A well-equipped toolbox is essential for completing jobs around the home—everything from hanging a picture frame to putting together furniture or doing major home improvements. Here are the tools everyone should own, from the most minimalist toolbox to a kit for the experienced DIYer.

How to Stock Your Toolbox

First, let’s talk about how you’re going to amass all these handy tools. Racking them all up at once could run you hundreds or even thousands of dollars. The smartest course is to buy the basic tools you need to have on hand just in case (screwdrivers and a wrench, for example—see the basic tools section below) and any additional ones you need for the project you’re doing; then pick up others along the way with each new project. This will also help you buy the best quality tools you can buy—a necessity if you don’t care for tools that snap or break after a few uses.

Wondering if you should rent or buy? If you’re only going to use it once (like a floor sander), definitely rent. If you’re likely to use it at least once a year, buy.

Look for sales (hello, Father’s Day!) and refurbished tools; you can even buy power tools and more for cheap at government auctions. The suggestions for the basic toolbox below also make for great graduation or housewarming gifts.

Finally, remember to put your tools back in the same place, whether you store them in a simple drawer, an actual toolbox, or a full-fledged workshop. (Trust me, it’s really no fun walking around your house wondering where your wrench is when a pipe is leaking.)

Here’s what you should pick up, from the most basic to more advanced kits.

According to Clint Eastwood’s character Walt Kowalski in the movie Gran Torino, you can do half of your household chores with just three things: WD-40, a vise grip (adjustable pliers), and a roll of duct tape. As the Art of Manliness points out, the vise grips can stand in for pliers, a pipe wrench, wire cutters, a clamp, a ratchet, and, in a pinch, a hammer. Meanwhile, WD-40 has over 2,000 handy uses, and you know duct tape is an essential tool for every would-be MacGyver.

These three things will cost you only about $15. For good measure, add in a quality multi-tool like one from Leatherman or a couple of screwdrivers and you’ve got a minimalist toolkit for most kinds of fixes.

Still, for the other half of your household jobs, most people will probably want to supplement with additional basic tools.

The Basic Toolbox

A universal toolbox should include these 10 essential tools:

  • Screwdriver set: From prying the lids off of paint cans to opening child-proof battery compartments, screwdrivers are must-have tools. Aim for flat- and Phillips-head screwdrivers in various sizes; you can often buy these in kits. Look for magnetic tips and comfortable grips to make screwing or unscrewing easier. See Art of Manliness’ how to use a screwdriver for more about screwdrivers than you might care to know.
  • Claw Hammer: No toolbox would be complete without a solid hammer. One end is used to drive nails in, the other side to pull (usually bent) nails out of wood or a wall. Bob Vila recommends, in general, a hammer with a 16-inch handle weighing about one pound. Rubber, plastic, or vinyl handles offer shock absorption and a better grip.
  • Pliers: Locking, adjustable pliers also known as plier wrenches, lever-wrench pliers, and vise grips are very versatile. Because they lock in place, they can be used as a clamp, or, as mentioned above, in lieu of a wrench, wire cutter, or more. The Art of Manliness recommends a standard 5-10W size for this plier.
  • Adjustable Wrench: An adjustable, crescent wrench is like having multiple wrenches in one. You’ll need one to tighten nuts and bolts and loosen plumbing fixtures.
  • Tape Measure: You might have heard the saying “measure twice, cut once.” Well, you need a tape measure for that and to do other things like make sure furniture will fit in a room and measuring windows for blinds. Tape measures come in varying widths (from ½ inch to 1-inch), with the wider widths easier to support with one hand when extended. According to Vila, a ¾-inch wide, 16-foot long tape measure is a good size for most jobs.
  • Level: No more crookedly-hung photos! A level ensures you don’t hang or install anything (including your flat-screen TV and shelves) less than horizontally perfect. In a pinch you could use one of many mobile apps that serve as a virtual level, but a longer 3- to 4-foot metal level (which can double as a straight edge) will go a long way. For hands-free leveling, a laser level is your friend.
  • Utility Knife: For opening boxes, sharpening pencils, and more, the utility knife is a toolbox workhorse. This Old House recommends buying one with built-in blade storage and rubber-covered handles for comfort.
  • Work Light or Flashlight: You’ll need a flashlight for your emergency kit anyway, but you could get a dedicated LED light, head lamp, or work lamp to make sure you’re sawing/screwing/nailing or otherwise DIYing correctly in low or no light.
  • Electric Drill: Although you can go without a drill for a while or resort to borrowing one when needed, sooner or later, most handypeople will need a drill—and after getting one, find it indispensable. Cordless drills are convenient for working anywhere, but the corded kinds cost less and don’t require expensive battery replacements. Whichever type you get, an electric drill not only drills holes and drives screws, but, with different bits, also sands and grinds materials, stirs paint, and even super-powers your pepper production. Recently launched home shopping advice site Thesweethome recommends the 12-volt Porter-Cable Drill/Driver (about $86).
  • Hacksaw: A hacksaw cuts through wood and even metal and plastic pipes. Look for the kind you can easily replace with new blades.

Other: Though not your standard tools, a well-outfit toolbox should also include: safety goggles, work gloves, rags, pencil, superglue, and, of course, duct tape and WD-40.

Simple Ideas for Front Yard Landscaping

When it comes to landscaping, every space will be unique and will thus be a little bit different from the next. Get tips on landscaping for beauty and functionality with help from a horticulturist and landscape designer in this free video series.

Spring Cleaning, Yesterday and Today: Purging the House of a Winters Worth of Grit and Grime


During the nineteenth century, a long winter of burning, coal oil lamps and wood or coal fires often left walls stained and carpets and drapery sooty.

Spring Cleaning In the Nineteenth Century

In those days, spring-cleaning consisted mainly of throwing windows and doors open and dragging rugs outside to be beaten on the clothesline. In fact, the whole house was given a good dusting and sweeping.

Heavy, broadcloth bedding and drapes were also taken out for a thorough pounding and airing. And not to be forgotten, the outhouse was washed down with a strong solution of chlorine or lye.

Woods floors, mainly in the kitchen, were either washed in a lye solution or repainted. Even in Victorian times, some cleaning products such as Gillett’s lye were considered toxic and needed an open window to release the fumes.

Often walls in the kitchen and parlor were either repainted or walls stripped and new wall paper applied. Wainscotting which covered about one-third of the walls was also repainted to match the new wall covering.



Modern Methods of Spring House Cleaning

Spring-cleaning in today’s households, if it is done at all, is usually done by a residential cleaning service. But there are still those who either can’t afford a cleaning service or prefer to do it themselves.

It’s best to start at the top (ceilings) and work downward toward walls and floors. As Grandma did, upholstery cushions should be aired outside and the house given a thorough dusting. Today’s high powered, vacuum cleaners certainly do a much more efficient job of ridding the house of dust and airborne fibres.

Removing all window coverings usually reveals a myriad of places where grit and grime have accumulated. Ceiling fans, wall recesses, tops or door casings and baseboards all need vacuuming or washing with a mild soap solution.

Most modern curtains and draperies can be easily washed in a washing machine or by hand. Wipe wooden, window blinds down with a mild, dish washing solution. Plastic blinds can be laid flat and washed in the bathtub. Simply give them a rinse under the shower and they are ready to hang.


Make House Cleaning Less Overwhelming By Breaking Tasks Down

If cleaning the whole house seems too daunting a task, try tackling the job one room at a time. The kitchen and bathroom may be the most in need of a good scrubbing. But to avoid house-cleaning burn out, it may be better to start with the living room or a bedroom.

In the kitchen, day-to-day maintenance such as cleaning up spills and splashes from stoves; fridges and counter tops can greatly ease the spring-cleaning burden. Make a spring-cleaning check off list and try each day to reach that goal. Also, lay in a good supply of cleaning cloths, mops and environmentally, friendly cleaning products.

Whether the work is done by professionals or by the home owner, both family and friends will enjoy sitting back and savoring the satisfaction of having a sparkling clean, sweet smelling home.


insect exterminator

3 Amazing Ways Insect Exterminators Help you

As homeowners, we are tempted to try and deal with pest problems by ourselves. This may initially seem like a good idea, but you cannot beat the expertise of an expert. Remember you do not know the threat you are dealing with, so you end up making the situation worse. Exterminators play a major role in making sure that the pest is dealt with effectively. Here are three ways exterminators help you:

  1. Time savers

If you have ever tried dealing with pest as a DIY project, then you will understand what I am talking about. Pests are tricky and know where to stay out of site. You have to look for the place they are hiding before you start the extermination process. A good example is ants. They build nests outside your home, and you have to follow them to determine where it is. An exterminator will spare you from all this, and you can spend your time doing something else.


  1. Save costs

This may sound like it doesn’t make sense, but it is true. Buying pesticides in a trial and error frenzy as you try to get rid of those insects that are troubling you will make you lose lots of money. The many products you buy are not guaranteed to work on the bugs. Even if you choose a more natural way to exterminate the insects, you will end up wasting money on products that are probably a scam. An exterminator will save you from spending extra on ineffective pesticides as they are more experienced in the field of extermination.

  1. You are assured of success

Exterminators have years of experience and will make sure that the insect is exterminated from your home or premises. This is something you cannot assure yourself as you do not know what to the different insects that may have intruded into your home. Insects require different treatment and not all of them need to be killed or sprayed with lots of pesticides some just need to be moved to ensure total extermination. A qualified and experienced exterminator will know this.

These are but some of the major ways we benefit from exterminators. The list is endless so to say just as long as you choose an exterminator who is qualified to handle the situation you are facing. Do you research and pick from the best?

indoor lighting

Home Improvement Ideas On Indoor Lighting

Home improvement has been a craze among homeowners today. There are a lot of houses which are built with the best materials and the most stunning interior designs but one thing is missing – the use of ambient lighting.

Lighting can truly add a different sense of glam and elegance into a home. When you want to improve your home with indoor lighting, you need to make sure what you want and how you want it to look like. The best thing to do before your indoor lighting project, create and brainstorm a plan. This will save you time and energy as well as money!

indoor lighting

Here are some salient tips to ponder on if you want to install indoor lighting fixtures in any room within your humble abode:

Tip #1: Do not just settle with the use of overhead lights. You can add lighting in various areas in your home. Consider entryways and even powder room where having another light source will be a perfect idea. Ambient lighting can make your room elegant and cozy at the same.

Tip #2:  Dimmers are a perfect option to add to your lighting project. If you have the resources, you should add one dimmer to every light within various rooms in your own home. You can easily adjust the light to make it more ambient and cozy which can accentuate the room with just a switch of a button.

Tip #3: Always make sure you only seek the help of skilled electricians in installing these fixtures for lighting purposes in your home. Safety is always essential for any type of home improvement project.

These are just some of the tips to reckon about if you want to add some indoor lighting gadgets and fixtures at your home. Keep these in mind and you are on the right track!



child-friendly gardening

Create a Child-Friendly Garden & Teach Children Garden Safety

Small children (4 to 10 year olds) want to know ‘the whys’ and ‘how comes’ of everything. Their minds are like little sponges that absorb everything they can take in and process. This is an ideal age for adult gardeners to start teaching children everything there is to know about gardening. Planting a seed of gardening knowledge and respect in a child’s small mind hopefully will, help them bloom into an expert master gardener.

Safety Issues

gardening tools

The first and most important thing an adult gardener can do to have a child-friendly garden is to teach a child about gardening is safety. There are many dangers associated with gardening and this should be the number one priority of an adult when passing on gardening knowledge to a child. Gardening tools, with their sharp edges need to be locked up. Just placing them out of reach is not a good option, as children will find things to stand on in order to reach them, such as using that plastic bucket you use in the garden. Adult gardeners need to teach children that these tools are not toys. A good way to introduce small children (under 6 years of age) to gardening tools is by getting them their own set of toy gardening tools, and demonstrating how to use them the proper way in an area of the garden where they can do no damage.

Another safety concern is fertilizers and pesticides, which should also be locked up, even organic brands. Under no circumstances should young children be around or allowed to handle any gardening chemicals. Age 12 or older (depends on the maturity and gardening knowledge of the child) is about the right time to instruct them on the proper use of chemicals, stressing caution, and proper handling techniques.

Small children demonstrate what they see, in that if they see you pick up a tomato from the garden, wipe it off, and take a bite (do not do this), they will too. Small children may not know the difference between an eatable vegetable and plant, and place the wrong thing in their mouths. Instruct children that under no circumstances are they to eat anything from the garden, unless they show it to you first. I somewhat avoid this issue by never planting anything in my garden that might be considered dangerous if touched or swallowed.

With small children around, plants need to be kid-friendly. If possible, avoid adding plants that have thorns or prickly leaves to your garden and make sure children wear adequate footwear in the garden at all times.

What can Children do in the Garden?

child-friendly garden

Many things. I have mixed feelings about giving a small child their own area for a garden in that if it does not do well, the child will be disappointed. On the opposite side, if the child helps you in your garden, there is a chance that your garden will not do well. I have found the best solution is to give them an end of a row near the edge of a garden that has been made child-friendly. Example – you have three rows of beans. Mark off one to two feet of one row with fabric strips tied to paint sticks, and tell the child this is their area. If the area appears to be not doing well, you can always dig up the plants and move the sticks, and more than likely the small child will not know the sticks have been moved. This may be deceitful, but it does not really hurt anyone.

Small children can also, with the help of an adult, plant seeds, water the garden, and pull weeds. They can pick ripe vegetables, wash them, and even help prepare them for eating.



7 Cheap Home Maintenance Upgrades You’ll Love

Being a homeowner implies that you should enjoy the comfort of your home. Of course, you have invested to have a happy life. However, a few things in your home might need to be changed for you to have better comfort. Here are some of the cheap home maintenance upgrades for the best home change materials that can offer you more pleasure and prestige.

1. Fiber-Cement Siding


Fiber-bond siding is the check offer champ that appears never to age like wood does. It comes in various forms and shapes, including shingles, horizontal lap boards, vertical board-and-batt style, and more. You should always remember that stimulated wood graining is rarely distinguished from the fiber-cement sliding though it costs less. But if you are looking for high-quality stuff, you will not pick the stimulated wood graining instead of the fiber-cement sliding.

2. Metal Roofing


The metal material is one of the hardest, most upkeep free roofing materials made. Notwithstanding the current standing crease boards — the ones with edges running from the crest to the leave — today’s metal material incorporates items that copy slate, dirt tiles, and wood shakes.

In most cases, metal roofing comes with a warranty and it lasts longer than the three-tab asphalt shingles. When buying metal roofing, consider one that has baked-enamel finishes and rustproof coating.

3. Overlay Plank Flooring


Overlay board flooring gets approval here for its simplicity of establishment (it’s a decent DIY extend), generally unassuming expense, and simple peasy upkeep. It can emulate natural stone and intriguing hardwoods like koa and rosewood for a small amount of the cost.

Note that laminate plank flooring features a tough and clear plastic cover that is resistant to stains, moisture, and scratches. You will never need to refine it.

4. Quartz Countertops


Nearly 80% of fashioners reacting to a late study from the National Kitchen and Bath Association said quartz ledges are their top decision. Notwithstanding being dependable, quartz counters come in many hues and interesting examples to run with any theme.

5. Fiberglass Windows


Moderately new to the commercial center, fiberglass windows are picking up footing as property holders, manufacturers, and contractual workers figure out how vigorous and low-support they are.

6. Composite Decking


Not all that numerous years prior, composite decking looked about as common as a utilized tire. No more extended — today’s assortments make a fantastic showing with regards to of mirroring the shading and grain examples of genuine wood, for example, redwood, cedar, and even outlandish woods like Brazilian walnut and teak.

7. PVC-Capped Railing Systems


Like a ton of impersonation things made for outside, PVC railing frameworks, for decks and yards have progressed significantly, since the clearly fake frameworks, of in the not so distant past. Concealed attaching strategies get rid of a portion of the tackier connectors horrendously obvious on more established frameworks.


A home needs upgrades regularly to make it maintain its aesthetic value. These cheap but stunning upgrades discussed in this article will help you to enhance the value of your home.