Closet Storage Systems Basics

closet-storage-system-basicsYour new home has an amazingly huge closet, but a startling lack of places to hang stuff. Sure, you could pile all your extra clothing, shoes and accessories in the corner, or move your antique dressers into the empty space, but there’s probably a better solution. Why not try a closet storage system?

Getting Started with Custom Closet Storage Solutions

If you cruise the aisles of your favorite home improvement store, you’ll eventually come to the DIY closet storage systems. Here, you’ll find a wide range of products, from basic wire shelving to wire and metal kits and laminated wood kits. The choices are sometimes overwhelming, to be quite honest.

Do you need a double rod system? Should you get one of those fancy cubby hole pieces for your shoes? Where will your winter boots go in the closet? Abort! Abort!! You have too many questions to do any buying today.

Now that you sort of know what’s available, take a step back and do some real planning. First, the budget. Can you afford a closet system? According to, even the cheapest closet systems run $200 to $500 when you do your own install. If you’ve hung long shelves before, this won’t necessarily be too much of a stretch of your skillset.

Considerations Before You Buy Your Closet System

You know what you like, and really, you probably know what you need, even if you’re doubting yourself right now. Start with a basic sketch of your closet, preferably on graph paper or something similar on your phone. You need to know exact dimensions, after all.

Now, ask yourself these questions:

  • * How much upper rod space do I really need?
  • * Do I need lower rods for jackets, shirts and the like?
  • * How many shoes do I actually own?
  • * Would it be handy to have drawers in my closet?
  • * Is my closet big enough that an island makes sense as a way to create more useable space?
  • * Where will I put my hamper(s)?
  • * Is this a shared space? If so, how will it be divided?

Once you’ve figured all of that out, you can sketch your closet out. This is just for the storage system, for this blog we’re going to ignore any lighting or electrical issues that could be applicable. Remember that if the space you have is 2 foot 3 inches wide, a cabinet that’s 2 foot 5 inches wide won’t fit. You can’t just smash these things and there’s no room to shave a little bit off, they either fit or they don’t — plan carefully.

What’s the Right Height for My Closet Rods?

Remodelers the world over have asked this question again and again. Technically, you can hang those rods anywhere you please. That goes double for an odd-shaped closet like those that often go with upstairs bedrooms or converted attics. However, according to the Family Handyman, this is where you should place rods for best results:

Double hung rods. The bottom should be at waist height, about 42 inches above the floor. The upper should be around 84 inches, so that each level has the same amount of vertical hanging space for shirts, jackets and other shorter items.

Long hang rods. For your dusters, your long dresses, your overalls — anything that’s long enough that it’s going to reach close to the floor when you’re wearing it goes on this rod. Because of the length of the items on it, it should be set about 70 inches off the floor.

Medium hang rods. Items that are roughly knee-length may fit better in your closet on their own rod. Hang them 60 inches off the floor and free up space on your long hang rod.

Pants rods. Do you wear pants? If so, you may need some of these rods in your closet. Set them at 54 inches off the floor.

Also, when installing these systems on your own, remember that closet rods need support at least every three feet, otherwise you risk bowing or collapse. However, adding one every two feet creates a much more secure setup if you have a lot of clothing.

Not Ready to DIY Your Closet?

No worries. Just take a walk through the HomeKeepr community. You’ll find closet storage system suppliers, installers and general contractors — all people who can help you turn that closet of your dreams into a reality. And, hey, your Realtor thinks they’re pretty great, so you know that the people you’re letting work in your home are trustworthy. Your project is already off to a great start!

Kim Billings – 214-794-9738

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The Loan Estimate Form Turns Oranges Into Apples

Shopping for a house can be stressful, but choosing a loan has the potential to be just as bad. There’s a lot to know, a small window in which to figure it all out and a 30 year commitment to a loan product that might just not be right for you for to worry about. All in all, it might be easier to remove your own inflamed appendix than to pick a mortgage.

The Loan Estimate Form and You

If you’ve already been to see one or more mortgage bankers or brokers and received a Loan Estimate form that explains your loan options, grab those now. If not, you can follow along with this dummied up copy provided by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. This is definitely a blog that needs some real life props.

There are a lot of things to see on this form, but it’s a million times easier than the form that was its predecessor. The goal with the new Loan Estimate form was to make it more accessible for more people and, hopefully, easier to compare apples to apples. Let’s see what’s in your orchard.

The Big Question: What’s This Loan Cost?

One of the most important variables for many buyers is the monthly cost of their home loan. After all, the monthly payment is immediate and pressing. If you can’t make it, you have nowhere to live and bad things happen. Check out these items to figure your immediate costs:

Monthly Principal and Interest. You can find information on your monthly payment on the front page of the Loan Estimate form. Under the “Loan Terms” section, you’ll find the “Monthly Principal and Interest” line. That’s the base payment for your loan — and if there’s a big, fat “No” next to it, this is always going to be the base payment for your loan, until you sell, refinance or pay it off.

Balloon Payment. Two lines down is the “Balloon Payment” option. You want this to say “No” unless you have a plan to pay the loan off before the balloon hits. A balloon payment is an amount of money you still owe on the loan when the term is up. So, if you have a loan that has payments calculated like it’s a 30 year loan, but the balloon is expected in five, you essentially have to pay 25 years worth of payments all at once when that five year term is up.

Projected Payments. Pop on down to the section called “Projected Payments.” This section breaks your payment down into more parts. Not only is your base payment included, you’ll see a line for mortgage insurance and escrowed items (usually this includes taxes and homeowner’s insurance). If there’s a planned change in your loan payment, like the removal of mortgage insurance, your “Projected Payments” section will have more than one column for payment information. You’ll read this left to right to see how your payment changes over time.

Estimated Taxes, Insurance and Assessments. The escrowed items are detailed in this section. Normally, that’s one month’s worth of taxes, homeowner’s insurance and HOA fees.

Cash to Close. You’ll probably have to bring some money to closing. You’ll find out just how much on the very last line of page one. You can find the details on this figure on page two, but we’re going to skip that for now.

Comparing Your Tree Fruit

On page three, you’ll find one last set of very important numbers for comparing your loan offers. It’s even labeled “Comparisons.” This section will help you understand the long-term differences over the loans that you’re considering. If loan one will cost you $50k over the first five years and loan two costs $60k in the same time period, it’s clear that in the long run, the first loan will do you better. But let’s say you’re not as interested in the long run as you are in the now.

Right now, you have a small down payment and you’re trying hard to hold on to as much cash as possible for emergencies. Back on page one might be the better place to look for your answers. It’s possible that the loan that’s cheaper in the long run costs a great deal more in cash to close. In that case, you may want to take the more expensive long-term loan and plan to refinance after a few years.

While you’re on page one, go ahead and compare those payments. Do both estimate forms include mortgage insurance or escrows? If so, it’s an easy side-by-side comparison. If not, you’ll want to look at the principal and interest payment, and find out what the average taxes and insurance cost in your market so you can estimate how much extra to hold back each month so you can pay those yourself.

How ‘Bout Them Fees?

The elusive page two includes details on your closing costs. This is everything from loan origination costs to prepaid items like your portion of the current year’s taxes. All of this stuff, when added together, end up on the last line in the right-hand column. That’s your cash to close.

If you’ve rolled any of those fees into your mortgage, you’ll see those appear next to the line that says “Closing Costs Financed…” Asking your mortgage professional for a couple of different Loan Estimate forms with and without fees added to your mortgage can help you decide whether it makes financial sense to pay for those items now or finance them over time.

It’s a pretty handy form, really.

Need to Find a Banker or Broker First?

Of course, none of this is meaningful unless you have some context to set it in. That’s where your friendly neighborhood mortgage professional comes in. If you haven’t started shopping loans, I can point you in the right direction.

Kim Billings 214-794-9738

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3 Things You’ll Need to Get a Home Loan

There are many misconceptions out there when it comes to qualifying for a home loan. Whether it’s down payment or credit, let’s get together today so I can walk you through the process. You may be surprised to find out that you already qualify today!

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Kim Billings 214-794-9738

Tips for Better Deck Building

Image result for backyard deck

Every summer, you find yourself saying the same thing month after month: “Boy, it’d be nice to have a big deck…” So far, one hasn’t spontaneously manifested in your backyard, no one has shown up offering to trade a deck for some magic beans, nothing like that. It’s high time you get out there and put your dreams into motion!

Building a deck can be an intimidating project for any homeowner, but if you’re going to attempt it, you might as well be completely prepared for the job. Attention to detail and careful craftsmanship are the most important skills needed for deck building, it’s definitely a project you can nail (see what we did there?) if you have the time to spend.

Your First Steps Toward Deck Ownership

One of the very best things about building your own deck is that you’ll be intimately familiar with every fastener and board in the structure. You’ll also know if you cut corners, so don’t do that. Building a deck is a process that can’t be rushed if you dare to hope it’ll stand and remain in decent shape for the long run.

Every deck is unique due to a combination of your needs, the geological profile of your soil, the size of your house, overhanging trees and the local climate. You’ll need to be prepared for surprises along the way, so leave a bit of slack in the budget for those just in case moments. If you don’t need to spend it, well, you were wanting a new grill anyway, right?

Building a Better Deck: Tips to Keep in Mind

There’s no single way to build a deck, but there are lots of things that can help you build a better deck anywhere. Here are a few tips to get you started!

Take advantage of pre-cut deck parts. You can make most of what you need for your deck from scratch, but if you’re only building the one deck, why? Check out your local home improvement store or lumberyard to see what they offer in pre-cut items like stair stringers and spindles. These convenience building supplies will save you huge headaches and speed your project up tremendously.

Choosy deck builders choose their lumber carefully. Even though most decks today are built with pressure-treated lumber, yours doesn’t have to follow the crowd. If you have the budget, composite decking is often under warranty for 20 years or more. It costs more than pressure-treated lumber, but if you’re not looking to sell your home any time soon you’ll get a lot of years of virtually maintenance free deck ownership using composites.

Keep your posts out of the dirt. Sure, lots of decks have been built with the posts encased in concrete, or even just backfilled with rocks and soil, but time has proven that this is a really bad practice. Instead, pour a level concrete pad for the post to sit on, then seal the post end and use post bases to prevent moisture wicking.

Beg, borrow or rent the right tools for the job. A basic homeowner’s toolkit with a circular saw, table saw, power drill or nail gun (or hammer, but it’s slow going) and line level can get you started, but if you need to fasten your deck to concrete or have any sort of interesting problems crop up, you’re going to need more. For concrete installations, for example, an impact driver is really required equipment and easy to rent for the day.

Don’t neglect flashing! Sandwiching boards on boards is super basic, but if you want to protect the structure next to your deck flashing is a requirement. Just like with a valley in a roof, flashing redirects water so it goes where it should, rather than creating a rotten mess between the deck and the structure you’ve attached it to. Use ledger flashing all across the top of boards that are in direct contact with any sort of building, then apply flashing tape over it such that about half of the width overlaps the flashing and half overlaps the structure.

Seal the invisible bits. It’s easy to forget that the hidden parts of your deck will need longer term protection. After all, once you’ve covered them with lumber it’s kind of an out of sight, out of mind situation. Instead of opening your deck’s structure to rot and other moisture related problems, seal the joist tops with flexible flashing (a lot like what you’re using for the ledger that’s against your house). There’s a peel and stick version that makes it really easy to get the job done.

More of a Deck User Than a Deck Builder?

If you’re more about sitting on your deck with a cool drink than building it from scratch and taking a nap, let me know and I can recommend a great carpenter. Only the best home pros are invited to be members of the community, you can be sure that not only will your deck go up fast, but that it’s built to the highest standards.


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Thinking of Selling? Act Now!

Buyer demand continues to outpace the supply of homes for sale across the country and it does not appear to be slowing down. If you are debating whether or not to list your house for sale this year, let’s get together to discuss the supply conditions in our neighborhood so that I can assist you in gaining access to the buyers who are ready, willing, and able to buy right now!

#dfwrealestate #home #forsale #realestate #mckinney #pinnaclealliancerealty #homesweethome #allen #frisco #plano #dallas #houston #austin #texas
#forsale #realtorlife #dfw #kimbillings




Outdoor Kitchens: 4 Points to Ponder

Your new house has an awesome outdoor kitchen, or maybe you just had one installed, either way you’re all set to grill outside all summer (and maybe into the fall and winter, too). Have you stopped to consider all the things that it takes to keep an outdoor kitchen running smoothly? Remember there’s live electricity, gas lines, appliances and other things that are going to require regular effort.

An outdoor kitchen can be the best investment you’ve ever made, but you definitely should be considering how an outdoor kitchen is different from an indoor kitchen.

Outdoor Versus Indoor Kitchens: The Big Differences

There’s nothing wrong with an outdoor kitchen, they’re not inherently dangerous or troublesome, they’re just different than an indoor kitchen. Heck, some of the early pioneers had outdoor kitchens before it was cool. At the end of the day, though, the two are fairly different, so let’s take a look at the biggest stuff.

Exposure to the Elements

Your indoor kitchen is around 72 degrees Fahrenheit or so all the time, day in and day out. Depending on where you live, your outdoor kitchen could be exposed to some really extreme weather, swinging from below freezing in the winter to above 100 degrees F in the summer. It’s a lot for gaskets, plumbing and wiring to bear.

Maintenance and regular health checks are vital for your outdoor kitchen, otherwise you could have catastrophic failures without warning. In addition, ensure that all your outdoor kitchen components are approved for outdoor usage — if anything is not, replace it right away or plan for it to have a shortened lifespan.

Levels of Cleanliness

Look, no one is judging you here, but your outdoor kitchen is a lot dirtier than your indoor one. It’s partially because your indoor kitchen is inside, protected from blowing pollen, dust and the various types of insects and animals that happen to run around at night in your backyard. But, there’s also the fact that you neglect to clean your grill as often as you should and you leave the grease catch full.

You can’t keep an outdoor kitchen squeaky clean, but you should always, always, always clean that grill from top to bottom. Not only does grease left in the catcher underneath attract mammals that you’d not normally invite into your kitchen, but the dirtier the grill is, the worse it will perform when it’s time to cook.

Counters and Floors

Inside kitchens are pretty easy to maintain. You clean the tile, vinyl or hardwoods with a regular household floor cleaner and wipe the counters with a wet sponge. No problem! Your outside kitchen, as you may have guessed, is a bit more complicated. So many outside kitchens use stone like granite for counters because of this material’s ability to withstand heat and, of course, because they look amazing next to the pool. The “floor” of that kitchen is often concrete or stone. Not exactly the kind of thing you just mop and go with.

First, make sure your granite counters are sealed every three to five years to protect them from the worst the sun can deal out. Next, make sure you always sweep your patio clear of grass clippings, blown dirt and other plant materials to prevent weeds from popping up where they can find footing. Lastly, make sure to power wash that patio at least once a year to remove stains, grease and mildew.


Obviously, your indoor kitchen should need little to no winterizing since it’s both serviced by a modern heating system and protected from the cold by at least one wall and the insulation therein. Even in a very old house, the most you might need to do is turn on heat tape that’s wrapped around plumbing to prevent frozen pipes. Your outdoor kitchen, though, will need a lot of care ahead of the cold.

Remember to disconnect all your appliances from their various services. Turn the gas off to the grill, empty and disconnect the fridge, drain and winterize the water lines running to the sink. Cover your patio furniture or bring it inside. Cover the grill and other appliances, too, if your outdoor kitchen lacks a permanent roof (a sail or solar cloth isn’t the same thing). If you’re lucky enough to live in a place that only freezes once in a while, you can wait to disconnect everything until just before the storm comes, provided you’re still using the kitchen regularly.

Having an Outdoor Kitchen is Amazing…

…until something breaks or is severely damaged because of a lack of maintenance, that is. Keeping these items in mind can help extend your period of trouble-free enjoyment, but even the best kitchen will need to have a thorough professional inspection every now and again to remain reliable.

When that time comes, check out my Business Directory. Plumbers, electricians, patio-builders and even pest control experts are at your fingertips.

Kim Billings


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12 Point Pool Maintenance Checklist

When the sun is high in the sky and the wind feels like a blow dryer on your face, there’s nothing like the blessed cool blue of your private pool. If you’ve only just recently become a pool owner, you may be weighing your options: should you hire someone to juggle your pool chores or can you do this one yourself? Taking care of a pool isn’t hard, provided you’ve got a checklist to follow (just so you don’t miss a step).

Your Pool Maintenance Attack Plan

Most pools don’t require a lot of care, but if you don’t keep up with a regular maintenance schedule those tiny jobs can easily snowball into a giant one — or a big pile of broken pool equipment. Neither one is an awesome future prospect.

Instead of a looming disaster, you can look forward to plenty of happy years floating without a care in the world while drinking pink lemonade on your unicorn raft with a simple checklist that looks like this:

Daily Chores

Scoop out floating debris. Grab that long-handled glorified fish net and scoop out anything that’s floating in your pool without authorization. That may include leaves, tree bark, insects or your neighbor’s menacing little YorkiPoo.
Check water level. Pool water isn’t special, it evaporates in the heat just like other water. If it’s been raining a lot your water level might be too high for your equipment to run properly. Either way, a quick visual can help you tell if the water’s in the right place. Adjust as needed.
Clean out the basket. You can’t just sweep all the pool debris into the basket and hope no one notices. When the basket is full, your water circulation is limited, just like when a filter is dirty. So, grab it, shake it out, spray it clean, stick it back in. Bada-boom, bada-bing.

Weekly Chores

Vacuum the pool bottom. Remember that debris you were supposed to scoop out most every day (and may have neglected a bit)? Well, you get one more chance at it today. Pick one day a week to really clean your pool with the pool vacuum. It’ll help prevent staining and keep your water cleaner.
Swab the deck. The grime and dirt on your pool deck isn’t magic dust that just stays on land. Oh no, it’ll end up in your pool, in your pool filter and in your fruity drinks if it’s just left to its own devices. Keep your deck clean!
Check pool chemistries. Your pool is a complicated stew of H, O and lots of impurities. Some of these are not awesome for you and your health, others are just really not great for your equipment. Regular chemistries can tell you the situation when it comes to pH, total chlorine, alkalinity, calcium and cyanuric acid. Don’t forget to figure in the saturation index (or grab an app that can do it for you).
Shock the pool. Just like Peter Gabriel had to Shock the Monkey, you need to shock your pool water on the regular. Since it’s not an actual free-flowing water source like a stream or even a lake, it’s easy for algae, bacteria and other microscopic critters to grow. Raising the chlorine level to 5 or 10 ppm will kill off what ails you. A DPD test kit can help detect levels of combined chlorine — you can break it up by shocking the water to a level 10 times the tested level when combined chlorine exceeds 0.3 ppm.

Monthly Chores

Look for tears in the liner. A torn liner is not a great time for a pool owner. You’ll be leaking water if you don’t fix it up straight away. Vinyl pools can be a great option for many homeowners, but they come with a hidden cost — the effort it takes to patch them and keep ahead of any holes that may appear.
Clean your filter. This may need to be done more often than once a month, but cleaning that pool filter is everything. When your pressure gauge is 5 to 10 psi higher than normal, it’s time to improve the water flow by getting all the debris out of the filter. How you clean it will depend on the type of filter you have.
Clean the pump room. Your pump room is where all the real action takes place. Whether it’s part of a pool house, a kitchy cabana or under a plain little cover, keep it clean and free of debris in case you have to take the pump or other equipment apart in a hurry.
Clean your skimmer. Using a scrubbing sponge and soap, clean the scum and dirt out of the skimmer’s throat and well. Keeping the skimmer sparkling clean means your pool’s water line will stay cleaner, too.
Check all pump seals and safety equipment. Your pump, filter and safety equipment like ladders and railings all need to be in good working order all the time. Check each item, tightening bolts or replacing parts when wear begins to show. While you’re at it, make sure your pool gate latches properly to avoid potential future issues.

Would You Rather Be Using the Pool or Cleaning It?

Some people are cleaners and some people are floating around in the pool-ers. If you’ve tried to keep up with pool maintenance and simply can’t, or just don’t want to use your limited leisure time scooping dead bugs out of your glistening waters, I know a pool guy — and he’s awesome! All you have to do is let me know you need a hand.

Kim Billings


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