Must Haves for Basement Finishing

Finishing Basement Tips

Finishing Basement Tips

If you’re planning on finishing your basement to raise your resale value, read these tips to make smart improvements that attract buyers.

  1. Keep it Dry

Protect your improvements from water. Before you start any basement renovations, make sure potential leaks are stopped. You don’t want your time, money and effort to be wasted due to water damage.

  1. Add a Vapor Barrier

Even after patching up any leaks, your basement can still feel or smell damp, which is a turn off to potential buyers. Adding a vapor barrier to the walls and floors before finishing will help your basement show well. You can check the barriers after a day or two to see if moisture is gathering. If there is significant moisture, you may need to add additional barriers.

  1. Add the Proper Insulation

Insulation doesn’t only help control the temperature, it can also add another layer of moisture protection. Choose an insulation that has a vapor barrier on both sides for added protection.

  1. Finish with Drop Ceilings

Drop ceilings are an easy way to conceal any plumbing or electrical lines without any major construction. If something does go wrong while renovating the basement, it’s easy to remove tiles to access the pipes and wiring. Keep in mind drop ceilings reduce the amount of overhead space.

  1. Install Recessed Lighting

Recessed lighting is a fabulous idea for any basement. It fits perfectly into drop ceilings while providing minimal and easily concealable wiring. It also provides invaluable amounts of space that hanging light fixtures would otherwise take up.

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Avoid these Mistakes When Buying a Home

Are you making these mistakes?

Are you making these mistakes?

Buying a home isn’t always easy, especially for first time buyers. Knowing the more common mistakes will cut down on stress during the process.

  1. Not Seeking Professional Guidance

Starting the home buying process alone isn’t a good idea, especially if it’s your first time buying. Hiring an agent is a smart choice to help with the home search, negotiations, finances and closing. Agents are an incredibly valuable asset for any home buying situation.

  1. Missing Hidden Costs

Property insurance, taxes, maintenance and utilities are costs often forgotten during the excitement of buying a new home. Keep in mind these costs generally increase every year. Even if you can afford it now, ask yourself if you can afford it in the future.

  1. Skipping the Loan Preapproval Process

Being preapproved for a mortgage helps narrow your home search by directing you to homes within your budget. Talking to someone in advance will help set realistic expectations, and offer peace of mind knowing what homes will fit your budget appropriately.

  1. Depleting your Savings

It may seem as though you have the perfect amount of money in your savings to buy your home and move in, but if you’re emptying that account to buy a home, it means the home is too expensive. Ideally you’ll have saved enough money to buy your home, move and cover expenses for six months without pay. This is a safety net if you lose your job, so don’t blow all of your money on a home you can’t afford.

  1. Making Large Purchases after Closing

Celebrate buying a home with major purchases before closing may seem exciting, but lenders check credit scores to be sure your financial situation hasn’t changed. Putting new furniture or appliances on a credit card before your closing date may negatively affect your credit score. And adding new loans may jeopardize the original mortgage you were hoping to receive. Don’t learn this lesson the hard way and have this mistake cost you the home you were counting on.

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Update Your Kitchen under Budget

Remodel Under Budget

Remodel Under Budget

Updating parts of your kitchen while staying under budget will be a breeze as long as you follow Mel Foster Co.’s simple guide.

  1. Update the Hardware

If your kitchen seems to be a little dated, consider updating the hardware. Drawer knobs, handles and towel racks are inexpensive changes to make your kitchen feel fresh. It’s a great way to have a new looking kitchen without the new kitchen price.

  1. Replace the Faucet

Add a more modern faucet to the sink as a way to create a focal point in your kitchen. Try to have it match your hardware in color, but be different enough to stand out and be interesting. There are a multitude of modern faucets available, so you’re sure to find one you love.

  1. Install a Ceiling Fan

Ceiling fans add a soothing constant motion in the kitchen. If you have high ceilings, a ceiling fan is the perfect way to make the kitchen a more relaxing room. As an added bonus, it will help keep the room cool and in some cases cut your summer cooling costs.

  1. Get Creative

Not every change needs to be dramatic. Sometimes something as easy as new towels can give your kitchen a fresh look. Consider replacing worn out items like chairs, dishes or even the paint on your cabinets. Small changes will add up quickly and make your kitchen look brand new.

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Outdoor Trends to Attract Buyers.

Outdoor Trends

Outdoor Trends

When your home is on the market, curb appeal is extremely important to attract buyers. Mel Foster Co. has a list of five outdoor trends to increase interest in your home.

  1. Low Maintenance Landscaping

Everyone loves seeing beautiful gardens, but not everyone loves taking care of them. Keep your bushes, flowers and trees low maintenance to attract a wider audience. If a buyer has a green thumb, they’ll most likely add their own personal favorites after moving in.

  1. Permanent Structures

Covered patios, screened in porches and fire pits increase the value of your home. Also consider year round seating such as benches attached to your home or deck. These options may be expensive to install, but make your home more appealing.

  1. Privacy

Everyone loves privacy and outdoor spaces are an extension of the home. Canopies, fences and tree lines provide more privacy for the yard. When selling your home, you can’t afford avoiding such an essential and attractive feature.

  1. Lighting

Lighting in your seating area is extremely important. It adds additional function to your yard extending the amount of time it can be used. Good outdoor lighting showcases your property more during the nighttime. Adjustable lighting is even better, that way you can control the amount of light to your preferred level.

  1. Natural Wood and Stone

Natural wood and stone are timeless additions. They are classic options that give your yard a natural look with modern comfort. Pick colors of stone and wood to compliment the other colors in your yard. Finding the right combination will help your home stand out amongst the crowd.

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Create Curb Appeal with a Good Exterior Cleaning.

MF Curb Appeal BlogIf you’re preparing to put your home up for sale, don’t forget about a good cleaning of your home’s exterior. You may not need to hire a professional to pressure wash your siding, deck or fence. It’s a pretty easy DIY project and you may find a neighbor with a pressure washer who is happy to lend you the equipment. 

Here’s what to know before you connect the hose and fire up the air compressor.

What Surfaces Can Handle Being Pressure Washed?

Aluminum, steel, vinyl or wood can be pressure washed. Be certain your house doesn’t have lead paint. The runoff may contain lead and contaminate the soil, or even go into a storm drain polluting local bodies of water. Most houses painted after 1978 no longer used lead based paint.

Preparing to Use a Pressure Washer

When preparing to use the pressure washer, make sure you follow some simple safety steps. Before you start washing, make sure there are no cracks or holes in your siding or deck. The pressure washer may cause additional damage to these areas.

You want to be sure you never point the pressure washer at yourself or anyone else. It can easily cut through skin due to the force of the water. It is recommended to wear eye protection and avoid using a pressure washer if you are on a ladder.

Starting to Clean with the Pressure Washer

Cleaning is very simple. Apply a base layer of water using a standard garden hose to get the siding or deck ready for cleaning. After the siding or deck is wet, make sure the cleaning solution is in the pressure washer, and hook it up to the hose. Most pressure washers activate using a trigger.

If you’re cleaning house siding, you want to begin at the base of the house so there are no streaks running onto a dry part of the siding. Keep the pressure washer about one foot away from the siding and slowly swipe back and forth on each panel. You want to start at the base of the house.

Cleaning a deck or patio follows the same rules, but you start at the inside of the deck so you can push the water and debris off of the deck. You should be able to see the coloring difference as you clean. Keep washing every part of your deck or patio, especially inside cracks so every part looks fresh and clean.

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Avoiding Do It Yourself Disasters.

MF DIY BlogYou might be the handyman of the house, but common mistakes can take down even veterans of DIY projects. Follow these four steps to avoid pitfalls on your projects.

  1. Plan. Plan. Plan.

You want to make sure you have a step-by-step plan to avoid future headaches. If you attempt to follow an online guide, make sure to read the entirety of the plans so you don’t end up making multiple trips to the hardware store. Think 10 steps ahead so you’re prepared for the end product. Small mistakes can add up and create more problems. Triple check plans, measurements and supplies before starting to avoid mistakes.

  1. Beware the Cheapest Option

It may seem like a deal if an appliance or materials are inexpensive, but most of the time you get what you pay for. Don’t throw good money after bad. Find a reliable product so you only have to do the job once. You’ll end up saving more time and money by avoiding subpar materials for your projects. If it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing right.

  1. Specialty Work May Require a Professional

It might be hard to admit you need help doing jobs around the house, but electric and plumbing work may end up costing you more if you don’t seek advice. You may not need someone to come to your house, but it is beneficial to consult a specialist about your project. They can warn you about potential risks, what won’t work and whether or not you need professional help. Most of the time specialists at local hardware stores will be able to tell you about the difficulty of your task. It helps to bounce ideas off of someone with experience.

  1. Acquire all Necessary Permits

DIY enthusiasts usually tackle larger projects based on success completing less complex projects. Be sure the work you’re doing can be certified because if you plan on selling your home, this will be a concern of potential buyers. Major projects like additions, heating, fencing, electrical, plumbing and window installation usually require permits. Check with a professional to find out if your project requires permits from your city.


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Is Now the Time to Use Your Home’s Equity?

Home Equity blogThe best way to describe home equity is the amount you have paid toward your mortgage. Every month you pay, you begin to build more equity in your home. It’s possible to then use this equity to acquire a loan from your bank. But how do you know what to use the money for, or even if you should take out the loan?

The number one rule is to use a home equity loan for things you suspect will appreciate in value or generate revenue. For example, training or education makes you more effective in the workplace, and may increase your salary in the long run. Buying rental real estate to become a landlord may increase your income. Smart home improvements can increase the value of your home. These long term investments could potentially make you more money than you spent.

Unwise purchases include clothing, most vehicles, or any frivolous purchases. These aren’t investments which will help your financial situation in the long run. If you use equity for purchases that do not increase in value, you may put yourself in a tight spot. It might be best to hold off on a loan against your equity if you don’t have breathing room to take a potential loss.

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Planning Ahead for Flooding.

Are you protected?

Are you protected?

Dealing with the aftermath of a flood is difficult. Follow these helpful tips to make sure your family and home are protected.

If you have any concerns about living in an area prone to flooding, first make sure you are covered by your homeowners insurance. Often flood damages aren’t covered in standard homeowner policies and require separate insurance. Your Mel Foster Insurance associate can verify your coverage and make a recommendation. Be sure you have an insurance policy for floods that covers structural damage.

Your coverage can give you peace of mind, but would you know what to do if you suddenly found yourself in a flood situation? The first step is avoiding any harm to you or your family. If there is standing water, make sure no electricity is running through it. Try to avoid being in the water, unless you’re certain it is safe. Next, document the damages with photographs for your insurance company. It’s important your agent sees the damage caused by the flood, to help you with your claim.

Contact your Mel Foster Insurance associate and inform him or her of the damages. They may ask for the photographs or other documentation. They may then give you the go ahead to clear out the water to prevent further damage. Once everything is dried out, inspect the foundation of the home for warping, cracks and holes. If there is any further damage, document it with photos and contact your insurance associate about additional damages.

If you have any questions about flooding or insurance, contact Mel Foster Insurance at or call 563-359-5446.

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3 Spring Cleaning Tips for Every Room in your Home.

Spring Cleaning Tips

Spring Cleaning Tips

By the start of spring, most of us are ready to clean out our homes in anticipation of the warm and fun summer months. Follow this room-by-room list to get started right away.


  • Any junk mail, expired food or general messiness should be removed. Then wipe down the countertops and backsplashes to get everything sparkling clean. Vinegar and baking soda can help get rid of tough stains.
  • Deep clean the sink. Plug the sink and fill it all the way up with water and dish soap. Let it sit for about 15 minutes and then drain it. This should help remove any unpleasant odors coming from the drain. Be sure to run the garbage disposal if you have one while the water drains. If there is still an odor, try using water and lemon juice.
  • Clean appliances. Wipe down the refrigerator and oven, and vacuum behind them if possible. No one sees these areas regularly, but they gather dust, debris and fallen food, requiring a deep cleaning.


  • Scrub the toilet. Use household cleaning items to help restore your toilet back to the way it looked when you bought your home. Hydrogen peroxide will even add a nice shine.
  • Wipe down all surfaces. Make sure to wipe everything down, getting rid of dust, hair and buildup from hair spray. If there is any rust or grime in your shower, be sure to try baking soda and vinegar. Also check to see if your shower curtain has gathered mold. If it has, most curtains can be put through the laundry, but be sure to check the tags first.
  • Clean the mirrors. Do this last so nothing will splash on the mirrors while you’re cleaning the rest of the bathroom. Using streakless window cleaner will make you look even better in your mirror.


  • Manage closet space. Now is the time to get rid of any clothes you no longer wear, or won’t be wearing during the summer. Pack away winter clothes until next fall. If you haven’t worn clothing in over a year, you probably don’t need it anymore. Be sure to donate clothing, or have a yard sale so usable clothes aren’t wasted.
  • Flip the mattress. You should flip your mattresses at least once per year. It prevents uncomfortable body imprints from forming and causing you body damage. But don’t flip the box spring, it could cause damage. You can rotate the box spring 180 degrees to have roughly the same effect.
  • Vacuum hidden places. While you’re flipping the mattress, vacuum underneath the bed. Get behind the headboard and anywhere you wouldn’t normally vacuum. Any bedroom furniture should be moved or tipped so it can be vacuumed underneath.

Living Room

  • Dust everything. Over the year, dust gathers in places you normally don’t clean. Ceiling fans, bookshelves, picture frames, televisions and windowsills all should be dusted. If you apply an anti-dust spray to your cloth, it will help keep everything clean.
  • Vacuum furniture and below. Take off the cushions to vacuum the upholstery and get in all the cracks of your furniture. If you eat on the couch, there are may be crumbs between the cushions requiring a quick once over with the vacuum. Lift up any chairs and vacuum underneath those as well.
  • Clean area rugs and windows. You can take your rugs outside to dust them off or vacuum them then toss them in the wash. Wash your windows while the rugs are up off the floor.
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Do I Need To Clean My Air Ducts?

Family Allergies?

Family Allergies?

If you’re wondering if you need to clean your ducts, the answer is often left to personal preference. Here are some facts to consider when determining if duct cleaning is something your home needs.

If your family is allergic to dust, or suffers from asthma, consider cleaning your ducts. Or if you see your ducts are filled with dust, dead bugs or mold, it might be worth having them cleaned. This will prevent large amounts of dust and debris being spread throughout your house. Often this may increase the efficiency of your home’s air system, up to 40%. Some people have ducts cleaned when first moving into a home to make sure everything is clean and functioning properly.

The argument for not cleaning is the health benefits aren’t proven through scientific testing. If you’re currently feeling fine and not experiencing allergies, you may not need a cleaning. There are also times where the furnace filter needs to be changed instead of having your ducts cleaned, so be sure to double check the filter.

If you have decided to have your ducts cleaned, it is usually done in one of three ways. Hand-held vacuuming is when a large portable vacuum is fed through the vents and sucks up any debris. Mechanical brushes rotate through the ducts scrubbing them clean while a vacuum gathers the particles left behind. Air sweeps use compressed air forced through the ducts toward a large vacuum. Air sweeps are usually the most effective form of cleaning ducts.

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