More shoppers are reaching for the credit cards--total consumer debt ticked up 0.3 percent in the final months of 2012, the first increase in four years, according to the New York Federal Reserve. That may be good news for the economy, but it could spell ruin for homeowners who get hit with an unexpected home repair. So before you rack up any more debt, read our checklist of problems not to be ignored.
Even if you don't expect every last detail of your kitchen renovation to turn out perfectly, you probably plan on coming close, without any major mistakes. Yet remodeling goofs—like boxing in the fridge or mounting the cabinets out of reach—happen more often than you might think. Consumer Reports talk to some kitchen pros on how to avoid five common mistakes.
As a result of the last-minute enactment of the Taxpayer Relief Act earlier this year, six common energy-efficient upgrades you may have made to your home in 2012 or plan to make this year are eligible for a federal tax credit. Replacement windows and doors, new roofs and upgrades to heating and ventilation systems all qualify for a credit of up to $500. The improvements must be made to your existing home and principal residence, new homes do not qualify. Here are the details, according to Energy Star.
Some home buyers turn up their noses at laminate kitchen counters but laminate has its advantages. For starters, the counters are easy to maintain and in Consumer Reports' tests of 14 materials, laminate resisted stains, heat, and impact almost as well as materials that cost much more. And they come in a wide variety of colors and designs.
It turns out Picasso accomplished more with a can of house paint than most. To create some of his masterpieces, Picasso used a high quality enamel house paint because it was glossy and fast drying and didn't show brush marks like artists' paints of the time. Picasso had a tempestuous love life, but when it came to house paint, he was brand loyal.
You'll pay about $32 a gallon for the top-rated satin, flat, or semi-gloss paints from Consumer Reports' latest tests. Benjamin Moore interior paints also performed very well, but cost twice as much. You can spend less but too often the most inexpensive paints are no bargain. Many require additional coats for hiding so you might have to spend more to get good covering. We asked our experts if there's a way to save money and still use the best paint. Here are five money-saving tips to try.
Many of the goals outlined by President Obama last night in his State of the Union speech will take time, and the cooperation of Congress, to meet. But work on his challenge to Americans to save energy at home can begin right away by taking such simple steps as plugging a leak, changing a lightbulb, setting your thermostat to match your schedule and washing only full loads of laundry and dishes.
Ace Hardware has made the Ace brand paints that line its store shelves since 1984. But it's Ace's new brand, Clark+Kensington, that tops Consumer Reports' latest Ratings of two finishes, semi-gloss and low luster satin and eggshell. For flat and matte paints, Valspar from Lowe's was best. But come April you'll find Clark+Kensington paints, made by Valspar, on Ace shelves.
Upbeat housing forecasts, including a projected 22-percent increase in single-family housing starts for 2013, made for a giddy International Builders' Show in Las Vegas. Our editors and analysts were among the 60,000 or so attendees there checking out the latest products, building practices, and technologies from more than 900 exhibitors. It was a lot to take in. But here are five trends we expect to see more of in 2014, when the Builders' Show returns to Vegas, joining forces with the Kitchen & Bath Industry Show for what promises to be an even bigger bonanza.
From washers to thermostats, you'll find more touchscreen technology all around the house. Schlage's new Touchscreen Deadbolt Lock brings that convenience to your front door. The battery-powered deadbolt replaces your existing lockset without the need for modifications and uses simple, four-digit access codes to open and lock the door. The touchscreen lock was on display at the International Builders' Show.
Vinyl flooring may be relatively cheap and easy to install, but you still have to glue it down. Lumber Liquidators' Tranquility Click LVT is among the first you simply click together and lay down without glue. Tongue-and-groove edges let the sections snap together and float over old flooring, plywood, and below-grade concrete just like plastic laminate and some engineered-wood floors. It caught our attention at the International Builders' Show.
Want a stone wall or mantle? Boral Versetta Stone lets you put one in your home yourself—with simple nails or screws—in as little as a few hours. Each two-foot-square composite panel has the look and feel of real ledgestone or limestone, and includes a galvanized fastener strip. It almost had us fooled at the International Builders' Show.
One of the most colorful booths at the International Builders' Show belongs to Formica, the Cincinnati-based inventor of laminate, which celebrates 100 years in 2013. To mark the milestone, the company is unveiling its new Formica Laminate Anniversary Collection, a line of 12 graphic patterns with a mid-century modern flair that captures the spirit of this American icon.
Even if you don't live in a part of the country prone to hail, such as the Great Plains and southeastern regions, you already know whether hailstorms pose enough of a threat to influence your choice of roofing. At the International Builders' Show in Las Vegas, Boral USA's announcements included its Class 4 Hail Resistant Roof Tile, a new concrete product that might qualify for a discount on your homeowners' insurance.
Benjamin Moore and Behr are familiar paint brands but in Consumer Reports' latest tests of 65 interior paints, it was a newcomer that earned the highest score. Clark+Kensington bested Behr and Benjamin, shaking things up in the paint aisle.
Our testers put 100s of products through their paces at our National Testing and Research Center. Learn more about how we test for: