In 2016, The Travelers Companies, Inc. released information about the most common and expensive homeowners insurance claims in the United States, based on their claims from 2009 through 2015. Weather-related incidents were associated with over half of all claims. Wind, freezing and bursting pipes, roof and flashing leaks, and ice dams were all specifically listed by the insurance provider.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), no safe blood lead level in children has been identified and at least 4 million households in the United States have children living in them that are being exposed to high levels of lead.
If you don't care about blowing tens of thousands of dollars on upgrades that add little or nothing to your house's value, you might as well stop reading this and go Google "Pokemon Go" for updates on the latest weird mishaps to befall distracted players. But if you do care -- and you'd especially better if you intend to ever sell -- then Remodeling magazine's annual Cost vs. Value Report for 2016 is must reading.
Still there? Thought so.
So let's begin by acknowledging what's perhaps the report's biggest takeaway: All the academics and real-estate pros are right to "tout the value of projects that promote curb appeal." Read on to see why, and where else your money is or isn't well spent.
* Worth it: a new front door.
You're looking at returns on investment of 91.1 percent for a steel one and 82.3 percent for a more upscale (and expensive) fiberglass one. Of course, a fresh coat of paint on your existing door can help spiff things up too.
* Not worth it: upscale bathroom remodeling.
You may think everyone shares your dream of a huge bathroom with a whirlpool tub, heated towel bars, and stone countertops. Not so, warns Patsy O'Neill, a sales associate with Sotheby's in Montclair, New Jersey: "You could spend $60,000 or so on it, and it still might not suit a buyer's taste." Which helps explain why it has one of the worst returns on investment.
* Worth it: fiberglass attic insulation.
A huge win for greenies. The magazine finally agreed to add an energy-efficiency project, and it topped the list by recouping 116.9 percent of its cost.
* Not worth it: composite deck addition.
Another also-ran -- and, no, Alaska didn't skew the results. But be aware that sometimes even the seemingly coolest upgrades may simply be out of whack for a particular neighborhood. "You can turn your house into a palace, but the payoff will be small if it's the only mansion on the block," Craig Webb, Remodeling's editor-in-chief, tells Time.com.
* Worth it: a new roof.
"Buyers pay a premium for one already in place," according to Credit.com. No kidding. A perennial Remodeling magazine A-lister, it's the ultimate curb appeal enhancer when you consider that your roof is the first thing prospective buyers notice even before exiting their cars.
Spring is here, and that means not only getting a jump on your cleaning, but also having a reason to check all areas of your house and garage for signs of pests that might have made themselves at home over the winter.
Take a tour through your house and try these simple steps suggested by Kari Warberg Block, pest prevention expert and founder of EarthKind and Stay Away natural pest-prevention products for a few pest-proofing techniques for each room of your house
* Outside: The best defense is a good offense when it comes to protecting the outside of your home from pests. Inspect the exterior of your house and patch any cracks or other openings that may have developed over the winter.
* Living room: Keep ants from becoming unwanted guests in your living room by vacuuming the entry/living room areas thoroughly to get rid of any crumbs, and clean up any sweet, sugary spills which are the number one culprit for attracting ants in this area. Also, try a non-toxic ant repellant such as Stay Away Ants pouches. All Stay Away products are made in the USA from essential oils and plant fibers, so they are eco-friendly and have no known risks associated with use in the home.
* Kitchen: Use natural ingredients to keep your kitchen clean and repel rodents and other pests. Be sure to clean under refrigerators, stoves, and sinks because these are the areas where rodents frequently make their nests. Dog food is the number one attractant to hungry rodents. Try using a plant-based Stay Away Rodent repellant pouch, and you may avoid becoming one of the 21 million American homes invaded by rodents each winter (according to the National Pest Management Association). After pest-proofing your kitchen, proceed to the pantry, where moths might try to make themselves at home. Prevent problems by storing food in airtight glass, metal, or plastic containers; cleaning and checking packages for signs of holes; and placing a non-toxic Stay Away Moths pouch nearby.
* Bedroom and Closet: Moths also can consider closets a place to call home, but a Stay Away Moths pouch can keep them at bay. In the bedroom, the non-toxic Stay Away Spiders repellant offers a similar strategy. After vacuuming to remove any existing webs, use the repellant to prevent additional infestations.
* Garage and Basement: These areas can harbor a variety of pests. To keep them out, avoid storing items in cardboard boxes, which can attract rodents (they use cardboard to build their nests) as well as cockroaches (they like to feast on the glue ). Also, repair any leaky pipes to prevent the development of mold and moisture.
For many homeowners, the backyard is not at the forefront of their home-design plans. But procrastination can be an advantage when it comes to outdoor living. By the time many people consider the backyard, they have developed a strong sense of their own decor personality.
Most consumers' design styles can be classified as traditionalist, bohemian, modern, eclectic, rustic or industrial.
Fortunately, there are backyard design plans to suit any taste, as well as any budget. Some design elements that might have particular appeal to different decor personalities include:
*For the traditionalist: Classic comfort. What is the primary purpose of a patio? A place for sitting and relaxing. Attractive, sturdy pavers in appealing patterns provide easy walking and an artistic base for conversation nooks of tables, chairs, planters, and picnic tables.
*For the bohemian: Fire pit. Fire pits are an easy way to promote cozy gathering for all ages. And everyone can appreciate freedom from bugs; wood fires can help hold mosquitoes at bay.
*For the modernist: Multiple levels. Homeowners seeking a modern look can consider a range of options for walkways and pavers that might include steps and slopes to wind through a terraced garden.
*For the eclectic: Water features. But not just for swimming. Homeowners can show off an eclectic backyard style with a fountain, fish pond, or other water feature that makes a splash.
*For the rustic: Eating out. Cooking outdoors can reach a new level, as advanced outdoor kitchen units allow guests to help with meal preparation or just chat with the host/chef while enjoying the outdoor setting.
*For the industrial: Unique lighting is a way to make a statement and set a mood in an outdoor setting. Some ways to get creative with light include not only hardscape lighting and illuminated planters, but short-term elements such as lighting fixtures that highlight cool metals and metallics for a more urban, industrial vibe.