How to Plan the Perfect Patio

For many homeowners, the patio borders on magical: a place to relax, entertain, cook out and take a break from the day-to-day. It’s surrounded by vibrant hues, and a meal prepared in an outdoor kitchen somehow tastes better than anything that comes from its indoor counterpart.

Creating that perfect outdoor space for you and your family all starts with the literal foundation of this alfresco living room: the patio materials. Your selection can have a huge effect on the appearance, durability and functionality of your favorite home addition.

Getting started

Before you commit to a type of patio, first envision the finished space. You probably have a good idea of the location and approximate size, so go grab a chair, take it outside, and position it in the intended spot. Then sit, and picture each material in your mind’s eye.

Your patio should not only complement your home and landscape, it should also enhance your lifestyle. If you have a large space to work with, consider incorporating a combination of paving materials; some of the best patio designs include two or more. Using multiple materials lets you integrate inlaid borders that can visually separate an area for lounging from the outdoor kitchen.

When you’ve dreamed up your ideal design, consider which materials would best bring it to life, in terms of both aesthetics and practical issues, such as maintenance requirements and cost.


Poured concrete is the patio material of choice for many homeowners because it’s structurally sound, inexpensive, and can even be stamped or dyed to mimic higher-end paving materials. It’s best suited for moderate to warm climates where frost heave is not a concern.

Planning tip: A standard concrete patio is four inches thick, but if you intend to construct something very heavy, such as a built-in fireplace, ask the contractor to reinforce that particular area before you pour.


Available in a variety of colors, bricks create a warm and attractive patio. This classic patio style typically costs more than one constructed from concrete, not just for the materials themselves, but also for labor – a significant consideration when every brick must be set by hand, leveled and grouted.

Should you decide to invest, you can design the space with any number of patterns, from a traditional running bond to something with added textural appeal like a boxed basket-weave or herringbone.

Planning tip: For patios, solid 1- or 2-inch-thick paving bricks are the best choice, either dry-laid or mortared in place. Be wary about extending your brick patio into deep shade, or else you’ll need to watch out for a slick surface after every rainfall.


Often manufactured from cement, cinder or stone, pavers top the DIY patio wish list for their low price and super simple installation – they’ll have you out there grilling in record time.

If you’re planning to lay your own patio, you’ll need a suitable substrate consisting of at least three inches of sand, and a permanent border, such as a poured concrete curb, to keep the pavers from shifting.

Planning tip: Pavers may be dry-laid by butting them tightly, or installed with uniform mortar joints. If the patio lies over utility lines, know that dry-laid pavers will be simpler to remove and replace if (or when) you need to access the utilities below.


The highly desirable look of stone comes with a steeper price tag – particularly if your pick isn’t locally sourced – but you can’t beat it for natural appeal. Flat, irregularly shaped stones offer a calm and meandering effect, while uniform-cut slabs of granite, travertine, slate, or bluestone can produce a formal patio that’s fitting for any backyard.

Planning tip: Natural stone is extremely durable for any patio, but if you happen to be planning one poolside, opt for a nonslip variety, such as coral stone.


Available in ceramic, glass, porcelain, terra cotta and natural stone, tile creates beautiful mosaic patio designs that are refreshingly cool underfoot in hot climates. Because tile is thin, it requires the installation of a concrete slab.

Planning tip: Even if you plan to lay the tile yourself, it’s a good idea to have a professional pour an even slab. Also note that not all tile is suitable for patio construction. To withstand weather, all your materials – tile, thinset, grout and sealer – must be labeled for exterior use.

Crushed stone, pea gravel and sand

If you’re not a fan of rock-solid patios, crushed stone, pea gravel or sand could be more your style. Both crushed stone and gravel offer a variety of colors and textures at low prices, and even sandy Zen gardens can double as patio areas.

You will, however, need to install a solid perimeter to keep the loose material from spreading outside its intended border.

Planning tip: It can be difficult to remove snow and fallen leaves when the seasons change, so consider your climate and environment carefully. To maintain a manicured look, count on refreshing the surface every few years.


Landscaping Cheat Sheet: 4 Smart Timesavers for Your Yard and GardenHow to Grow a Spectacular Container GardenDeck Out Your Patio for Summer

Originally published April 2016.

Did you miss our previous article…

Selling? Increase Your Home’s “Screen Appeal”

If you were counting on crowded open houses (or any open houses, for that matter) to sell your home, you’ve probably been rethinking your strategy. Nearly the entire country is following public health orders to stay at home through April or May, traditionally the prime selling season. As a result, online for-sale listings have taken on more importance than ever, and it all starts with increasing your home’s screen appeal.  

Stage your space

The first step in staging your home is aggressive decluttering. Put away all the kids’ and pets’ toys, store or recycle loose magazines and box up your picture frames and mementos for now. You don’t want to erase all the personality from your home, but you do want it to feel neutral so potential buyers can imagine themselves living there. Plus, the less random stuff on display, the more spacious your rooms will look. 

Next, consider the layout. You may love how your rooms are arranged, but your furniture placement might not maximize space on screen. Take some test photos to see if the current layout photographs well. If you’re planning on creating a recorded or live video tour, do a video chat walkthrough with a friend and see if you have a clear path between furniture pieces. You definitely want to avoid tripping over an ottoman while doing a live tour.

Finally, clean and dust every surface in sight, and replace all the lightbulbs so that rooms are as bright as they can be – even the most beautiful spaces won’t read well on camera if they’re too dark.

Consider virtual staging

If your current home is empty, you have a few options: 

You can leave it empty. (But staged homes tend to sell faster.) You can purchase furniture, if you’re able to have it safely delivered to your home. You just need a few key pieces to show the scale of a room – a couch, coffee table and rug establish a living room’s size, for instance. You can always resell or donate the pieces to charity later if you don’t want to keep them. You could try virtual staging, which digitally adds furnishings to your space. It’s come a long way and can make a home look very attractive. There are many online services as well as DIY apps to choose from. 

Your home looks great now share it

There are a few ways of showcasing your home online to generate more interest, even when having an agent or professional photographer doing the legwork is not an option or involves creative solutions.

For still photographs, see our comprehensive photography guide for home sellers

For guidance on creating recorded or live video walkthroughscheck out these tips

And finally, consider trying out the free Zillow 3D Home® app, an easy way to create a virtual tour on an iPhone and post it to Zillow, Trulia your social accounts and beyond.


Tips for Staging an Empty HouseDIY Home Staging: How to Stage a Living Room5 Myths (and 5 Truths) About Selling Your Home


‘Where Should I Keep My …?’: Solving the Ultimate Small Space Dilemmas

When you’re in a small space – especially if you’re sharing it with others, and you’re spending a lot more time there than you ever have before – you’ve probably come to realize that square footage is something to be savored, not squandered. If things are feeling a little crowded, this may be a good time to assess your organization methods.

Whatever your hobby or collection, there’s an organizational hack to help you store it. Here are some clever storage tricks for six of the toughest, bulkiest space-takers you may own.

Offseason wardrobe

Tuck those bulky winter sweaters (or shorts and flip-flops) in plastic bins under your bed. If your bed’s too close to the ground, lift it up with sturdy wood blocks. Even a few extra inches create enough space for a sizable storage container.

If elevating the bed isn’t an option, maximize your closet space with a few sets of cascading hangers. Put blouses on one set and T-shirts on another, and you’ll most likely double your closet space.

Extra linens

Extra pillows, comforters, and bedsheets are great for guests, but not so great for your small space. Try vacuum storage bags – stack your items inside, and use your vacuum cleaner to remove the air. Your items will shrink significantly so you can store them under your bed or on a shelf.

Shoe collection

A burgeoning shoe collection can take on a life of its own if not properly corralled. Take it back to dorm-room days with an over-the-door shoe organizer. These college favorites are popular for a reason – they store a dozen pairs of shoes or more, plus scarves, baseball caps, belts and chunky necklaces.


Bikes can be one of the most difficult belongings to stash, especially if you don’t have a deck, garage or basement. Try installing a strong hook in the wall, and hang your bike by the front tire. Pro: It’s a great way to get the bike off the floor. Con: It still protrudes into the room.

For a less invasive option, hang your bike flush against the wall – like you’re hanging a piece of art. The hardware can be as simple as two wooden dowels that support the bike’s horizontal bar. (Just make sure you anchor the supports in the wall’s studs so they can hold the weight.)

Exercise equipment

An inflatable exercise ball is a great workout aid – and a real space suck. You could always deflate it, but the hassle probably isn’t worth it. So, why not get creative and make it a usable piece of furniture?

Repurpose medium or large exercise balls as dining room chairs, and store them under the dining table when you’re done.

No room for a dining table? The bike trick applies here, too. Install a couple of dowels high up on the wall, and set the ball there until you’re ready for a crunch session.

Decorations and keepsakes

Have a collection of things you just can’t get rid of? Maybe old photo albums, holiday decorations or crafting supplies? Strategically placed shelves are your storage lifesaver when seeking space for infrequently used items.

There’s often a wealth of unused space above and behind your hung clothing in bedroom and hallway closets. While shelves in these locations may require a footstool or flashlight to access, it won’t matter if you only need the items a few times a year.

Top photo from Zillow listing.


Creative Ways to Add Color to Your RentalYour Lease Is Up? Here Are 3 Good Reasons to Renew4 Tips for Making Any Room Seem Larger

Originally published August 2017



10 Tips for First-Time Homebuyers

>You’re ready to buy your very first home! Congratulations on making this next step in your life. It comes with a bundle of emotions—you’re excited, anxious, and perhaps a little nervous all at the same time. At Taylor Morrison, we get it. We’re not just a homebuilder, we’re a resource that’s here for you every step of the way. Here’s 10 tips to keep your very first homebuying experience stress-free.

1. Know What You Can Afford

It’s fun to dream big, just don’t go head over heels for something that’s out of your league. Pre-qualify before you start looking. That way you’ll have a realistic idea of what you can borrow and a better grip on your bargaining power. Try this mortgage calculator free.

2. Check Your Credit

Blemishes on your credit can drag down your score and make it more difficult to qualify for today’s low mortgage interest rates. You’re entitled to a free credit report once a year from the three credit bureaus at

3. Read Up On Lending Programs

There’s an alphabet soup of loan options, but most are either fixed rate for the life of the loan or adjustable (moving up or down based on national rates). Other variables include length of the loan. The down payment (cash up front) your need will vary by loan program. Know what you’re getting into before you sign on the dotted line.

4. Make a List

Can’t live without a big backyard or a three-car garage? Mad about a media room? Decide your must-haves and what you can be flexible about ahead of time. Making lists of mandatories and like-to-haves will make it easier for you to evaluate the homes you look at.

5. Study Up

It’s never been easier to find critical information before you buy. You can research neighborhood and community resale values, crime rates, livability ratings, schools and proximity to the things that matter to you. Remember, the cheapest home in a great location will ultimately be of better value than an expensive home in an undesirable area.

6. Keep Score

Use your lists and research to keep score of the homes you tour. Assign numerical values to must-have and like-to-have features. Make notes of the various pros and cons of each home.

7. Weigh Price/Payments Against Interest Rates

Over time, a lower interest rate can end up saving you thousands of dollars – perhaps even enough to offset the initial higher price and monthly payments.

8. Consider the Hidden Costs

Be sure to factor in extra costs such as private mortgage insurance, HOA and other community fees, closing costs, points and property taxes.

9. New or Used?

If you’re buying an older home, you’ll also want to give a great deal of thought to cost of repairs. Replacing the roof, electrical rewiring and new plumbing can quickly turn a bargain into a money pit. With a new home, you’ll have the advantage of a builder’s warranty as well as manufacturers’ warranties on products in your home.

10. Do You Love It?

After all the practical factors and logical aspects have been considered, give some weight to your emotions. Will you wake up happy to live here? Will you look forward to coming home every day? If the answer is yes, then you’re in love!

The post 10 Tips for First-Time Homebuyers appeared first on Second House on the Right.



Naming Your Beneficiaries on Your Life Insurance Policy

A policyholder is a person named in a policy. If you have an insurance agreement or policy, you’re a policyholder and technically known as the policyholder. You might own a policy that names someone else as your insured, but you are still a policyholder. So technically, you’re insured even if the person named on the policy is not you or the person you called on the policy. The only difference is that you should have read the agreement or policy well enough that you understand the difference between being insured and being a policyholder.

life insurance

Some policies have an optional policy rider. A policy rider is an additional feature that you can add to your policy at any time. It’s designed to supplement or make more affordable a specific part of your coverage. The most common optional policy rider is the death benefit. With a death benefit, your family will get the death benefit if you die. This is a great way to save money when you have a Life Insurance Policy with a term commitment.

Some other optional policy riders are replacement cost and accelerated payment. With a replacement cost rider, your life insurance policy pays out the exact amount no matter what age you die. With an accelerated payment, the insurance company pays your beneficiaries an amount equal to the difference in your premium and the current market value of your policy within a certain period. The beneficiary doesn’t need to know that you’re alive with either rider if you decide not to payout the death benefit.

Another type of optional policy rider is the terminal illness rider. Terminal illness means that you don’t need to make payments on your policy. If you become ill and unable to work, you don’t have to worry about making your scheduled premiums. Instead, your beneficiaries will be given extra financial support until they find employment and can pay the outstanding balance of your life insurance policy.

One more optional policy rider lets you skip making premiums payments until your policy dies. The term “term” means a specified period of time. If you decide to skip making premiums payments during this period, your policy will be canceled and the insurance company won’t pay out. However, it’s important to note that the insurance company will still honor your claim if your policyholder becomes deceased during the specified term. In addition, the insurance contract doesn’t necessarily need to specify the cause of your policyholder’s death. It could be accidental or suicide.

A final optional rider that lets you skip making premiums payments for your policy is a guaranteed issue rider. A guaranteed issue means that your policy will automatically be added to your beneficiaries’ accounts as long as your policyholder hasn’t died. This ensures that you’ll always have enough funds to pay your expenses after your policyholder passes away. However, keep in mind that if you don’t have sufficient funds in your beneficiaries’ accounts when your policyholder dies, then your policy will be immediately terminated.

As mentioned earlier, with many life insurance policies you can specify several different beneficiaries. However, some policies only allow you to designate one primary beneficiary. If you’re unsure what type of beneficiary you should choose, you should always list everyone on your policy. This is the same as naming several people as co-owners of your business or estate. The benefit of doing so is that you’ll always know exactly who your beneficiaries are and how much money they’ll receive upon your policyholder’s death.

As you can see, there are several different ways to name your beneficiaries on your life insurance policy. You need to consider the needs of your beneficiary and your policyholder when naming a beneficiary. You also need to keep your insurance policy in good standing and updated in order to ensure the best interests of your family, while also providing financial protection for your beneficiary. After you’ve named a beneficiary and reviewed your policy documents, make sure to keep good records of all medical and funeral expenses and you should be good to go! Remember that your named beneficiary is the person who will receive whatever your policyholder has already paid.