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  • See this Hillside Garden Makeover in California
    by Ann E. Stratton on August 4, 2020 at 5:51 PM

    Saxon Holt Decades in the making, this terraced garden offers 360-degrees of color, while providing layers of privacy from nearby neighbors and a lush habitat for visiting wildlife. Cut into a steep hillside, homeowner Diana Magor’s house in Santa Cruz, CA, overlooks a Japanese-inspired front garden and Monterey Bay, while the back offers views of a colorful terraced flower garden. Dense plantings along the sides of the one-third-acre property provide privacy. Not every homeowner welcomes backyard sightings of bobcats and gray foxes. Nor do many make a habit of eating lunch while watching monarch butterflies lay eggs in potted milkweed plants. A Garden Sanctuary But Diana Magor is the exception. Her garden is as much a sanctuary for her as it is for the wildlife that take refuge there. A zoologist by training and profession, Diana spent her younger years studying manatees in the Amazon, Puerto Rico, and Belize. Now retired, her scientific observations take place much closer to home—oftentimes in her own backyard, where all but the deer and gophers are made welcome. From the start, Diana set out to create a serene natural setting—“a house inside a garden,” as she describes it. Perched on a terraced hillside in Santa Cruz, California, with sweeping views of Monterey Bay, her house defies its suburban setting, its garden enclosed by mature trees and packed with fragrant flowers handpicked to lure birds and other pollinators. “It’s like living in a tree house,” she says. “From every window you can see something green.” The scenery was quite different back when Diana purchased the property 30 years ago. The house was a typical 1970s California Contemporary—clad in vertical plywood siding with awkwardly placed windows—built into a steep hillside of clay soil prone to puddling. “The prior owner told me I’d need heavy-duty muck boots if I wanted to garden here,” she says. “He wasn’t kidding.” As luck would have it, just three days after closing on the property, an earthquake struck, prompting Diana to start upgrading the house sooner than planned. Following the advice of engineers, she reinforced the foundation and replaced a rotting redwood retaining wall along the parking area with one made of reinforced concrete—“mudslides do happen here,” she points out. Rebuilding the back deck came next, then installing a French drain beneath it to improve stormwater drainage. Diana replaced a 4-foot retaining wall bordering that deck with one just under 2 feet. The ground behind the wall was level—until it reached another retaining wall farther uphill, that is. So she regraded the level area into a slope, terracing it with low, dry-stacked rock walls, to put the entire garden on display. “I wanted to see every plant from inside the house and while sitting on the deck,” she explains. Working with the Clay Soil Roses, magnolias, and wisteria were among the first plants to go in, all adhering to a palette of soft pink, peach, blue, purple, and white, with pops of magenta. The soil, however, presented a challenge. No amount of trucked-in topsoil or compost ever turned the heavy clay into friable loam. “I eventually just gave up trying to amend it,” Diana concedes. Through trial and error, she settled on this planting method: She digs a planting hole at least twice as wide as the plant container and a little deeper, adds drainage rock, secures the hole’s downhill sides with two or three stone ledgers, then backfills with organic potting mix and a little native soil. Through the years, Diana has also assembled a trusty list of clay-tolerant plants, which includes blue-flowering Pride of Madeira, everblooming Santa Barbara daisy, and magenta-hued watsonia, one of the few perennials Diana saved from the previous owner’s garden. As for drainage, the slope partly compensates for the heavy clay. “Good Mediterranean plants and natives are really what you need here,” she says—although she’s too much of a plant lover to garden within those boundaries. Japanese-Inspired Design Her forays into Japanese garden design are a good example. An admirer of Greene & Greene’s iconic Arts and Crafts designs, Diana undertook a dramatic whole-house remodel five years after moving in, turning her California Contemporary into a cedar-shingled Craftsman-style house. Clare Owen In the early 2000s, after redesigning her driveway to gently curve rather than beeline to the parking area, she put in a Japanese-style front garden punctuated by non-clumping bamboo, Japanese maples, and a persimmon tree. She added a dry stream bed and a pond along the new driveway, and stone stairs between her sidewalk and the front entry. While not authentically Japanese, the thoughtful stone placement and palette of layered greens echo that aesthetic. Now, decades into lavishing attention on this plot of land, Diana is mostly editing, and observes, “There’s always something flowering.” The magnolias and cyclamen are winter bloomers in her temperate climate, followed quickly by native ceanothus, or California lilac. For this nature lover and birder, there’s often reason to get out her binoculars. Butterfly gardening is her latest fascination, causing her to break from her long-standing color scheme, as the hot shades she avoided are the ones monarchs like best. And so she’s begun introducing milkweeds, Mexican sunflowers, and other pollinator favorites in sunny hues. A little surprised, Diana admits, “I actually like how the yellow nectar plants look with the purples in the back garden.” After all, just as a garden keeps evolving, so does the gardener. 1. A wall of windows across the back of the house looks out on a colorful hillside that blooms year-round; herbs and salad greens form a kitchen garden along the deck’s edge. Saxon Holt 2. Stone steps leading up from the sidewalk to the house disappear into stands of weeping bamboo, Japanese maple, and purple-leaved Chinese fringe flower. Saxon Holt 3. Magenta watsonia and the salmon-colored blooms of Leucospermum ‘Scarlet Ribbon’ punch up an otherwise pastel border featuring blush and yellow roses. Saxon Holt 4. Stone steps off the back deck lead up to a Japanese-style redwood arbor engulfed in Chinese wisteria and a 20-by-10-foot flagstone patio with ocean views. Saxon Holt 5. Sun-loving and drought tolerant, blue-flowering Pride of Madeira attracts droves of pollinators—the drivers behind Diana’s chemical-free, organic garden practices. Saxon Holt 6. A dirt path cuts through the middle of the back hillside, providing wheelbarrow access for garden chores. Saxon Holt 7. Diana designed this greenhouse around upcycled materials. Saxon Holt The 10-light entry door and two skylights (one operable), snagged from a house-parts recycling center, provide ample light and air. An antique Japanese finial decorates the roof, while leftover cedar shingles serve as the siding. Inside, wall-hung shelves provide storage and a work surface for starting seeds. Pollinators, Fragrance & More: Incorporating Plants with Purpose Some provide color and fragrance to lure pollinators, while others offer lush foliage Saxon Holt ‘Sally Holmes’ rose (left)(Rosa ‘Sally Holmes’)Only slightly fragrant, this top-rated climbing rose earns its keep in Diana’s garden by growing vigorously and flowering profusely in shades of peachy pink all summer long. Zones 6 to 11 Bugle lily (right)(Watsonia borbonica)Splashes of fuchsia from the blossoms of this fragrant, summer-blooming bulb appear throughout the back garden. It has thrived over the years despite the clay soil, allowing plenty of divisions. Zones 8 to 10 iStock Narrow-leaved milkweed (left)(Asclepias fascicularis) A West Coast native, this easy-to-grow wildflower, blooming white to mauve, is an essential for any California butterfly garden; its foliage nourishes the monarch’s baby caterpillars. Zones 6 to 10 Sweet pittosporum (right)(Pittosporum undulatum) In spring, this broadleaf evergreen’s creamy flowers fill the air with a gardenia-like scent and buzz with bees. Adaptable and easy to prune, it grows as hedges along the garden’s edges. Zones 9 to 11 Visions/Gap Photos Mexican sunflower (left)(Tithonia rotundifolia)These cheery orange flowers are a recent addition to the garden, to entice butterflies. They’re long-blooming and quick-sprinting annuals, known to top 6 feet in a single summer. Zones 2 to 11 Chinese fringe flower (right)(Loropetalum chinense)Purple-leaved cultivars of this carefree Asian import grow along the driveway, offering showy foliage through the winter, with long-blooming magenta flowers for contrast. Zones 7 to 10

  • Choice Home Warranty vs First American Home Warranty
    by This Old House Reviews Team on August 3, 2020 at 2:23 AM

    Adobe A home warranty, also known as a home service contract, can prevent a homeowner from paying expensive repair costs when a major system or appliance breaks down. In this article, the This Old House Reviews team compares leading home warranty providers Choice Home Warranty and First American Home Warranty on their plans, pricing, and customer reviews. Choice Home Warranty and First American Home Warranty provide comprehensive coverage plans for major home systems and appliances such as a water heater and refrigerator. While Choice Home Warranty covers more items in its plans and offers more optional add-ons than First American Home Warranty, First American offers a unique First Class Upgrade and holds a Better Business Bureau (BBB) accreditation. Continue reading to learn more about Choice Home Warranty and First American plans, pricing, and customer reviews, and determine which is the best home warranty company for you and your home. Known for its affordable cost and 24/7 customer service, Choice Home Warranty will send a service contractor out to a customer’s home within two business days of receiving a claim. Because of these positive traits, we recognized Choice as the home warranty company with the best service. To get $50 off your plan and one month of coverage for free, call Choice Home Warranty at 800-495-1292 or fill out this simple form. Note: Choice Home Warranty is currently facing a lawsuit that alleges misleading language and advertising related to claims. To read more about this lawsuit, click here. First American Home Warranty is one of the most popular home warranty companies in the industry. We named First American as the home warranty company with the best value because of its affordable plans and coverage for improperly installed or maintained appliances and systems. Get a free quote from First American Home Warranty by calling 833-777-0049 or by submitting this easy form. Choice Home Warranty vs. First American Home Warranty Coverage Choice Home Warranty covers more items in its plans than First American Home Warranty, and it offers more optional add-ons for purchase. However, First American offers a unique optional add-on with its First Class Upgrade that provides coverage for cosmetic damage on home systems or appliances. Choice Home Warranty Coverage Choice Home Warranty offers two plans: a Basic Plan and Total Plan. The Basic Plan covers 14 essential appliances and systems in the home, while the Total Plan covers 18 items, including coverage for an air conditioner, refrigerator, washer, and dryer. Compare Choice Home Warranty coverage below: Choice Home Warranty also offers these nine optional add-ons: Stand alone freezer Second refrigerator Sump pump Septic system Limited roof leaks Pool and spa Well pump Septic tank pumping Central vacuum First American Home Warranty Coverage Like Choice Home Warranty, First American Home Warranty offers two coverage plans: a Basic Plan and Premier Plan. The Basic Plan covers eight home appliances, while the Premier Plan covers 16 systems and appliances, including coverage for heating, electrical, and plumbing systems. Here’s what each First American plan covers: Additionally, First American Home Warranty offers these five optional add-ons: Central air conditioning system Well pump Pool and spa equipment Secondary refrigeration First Class Upgrade* *In addition to covering systems and appliances if they were improperly installed, modified, or maintained, the First American First Class Upgrade comes with these benefits: Covers expenses from using cranes during installation Covers expenses related to the hauling away or removal of an appliance Pays up to $250 where local building permits are required for replacing appliances Choice Home Warranty vs. First American Home Warranty Cost Choice Home Warranty and First American Home Warranty offer affordable monthly premiums, but First American offers a lower premium cost than Choice Home Warranty. Regarding service fees, both providers allow you to select your own service fee within a given range, with Choice Home Warranty offering cheaper service call fees. Note: The cost of a home warranty is affected by factors like the square footage of your home and where you live, so the best way to determine how much a home warranty plan will cost is by requesting a free quote from a few different home warranty companies. Choice Home Warranty vs. First American Home Warranty Reviews First American Home Warranty is accredited by the BBB and received a slightly more positive rating from the organization than Choice Home Warranty did. Regarding customer reviews, First American Home Warranty reviews are slightly more positive, on average, than Choice Home Warranty reviews. Our Conclusion Choice Home Warranty and First American Home Warranty both offer reputable home warranty plans at affordable prices. If you’re looking for basic coverage, consider Choice Home Warranty, but if you want protection for items that have been improperly installed or maintained, First American may be a better option. Before you buy a home warranty, we recommend getting free quotes using the panel below to help you decide which provider is the best fit for your home warranty needs. Compare Top-Rated Home Warranty Providers If you’re still not sure whether Choice Home Warranty or First American Home Warranty are right for you, take a look at other top-rated home warranty providers below. Frequently Asked Questions About Home Warranties Is a home warranty worth it? A home warranty can be beneficial for homeowners because it protects them from paying expensive home repair costs when their systems or appliances are damaged from normal wear and tear. When a system or appliance needs to be repaired or replaced, you simply pay a small service fee of about $75 to $125 instead of paying thousands of dollars out of pocket on expensive repair or replacement costs. What is the difference between homeowners insurance and a home warranty? A home warranty protects your home’s systems and appliances from damage caused by normal wear and tear, while homeowners insurance protects your home when it’s damaged from a natural disaster or theft. What is the waiting period on a home warranty? For most home warranty companies, including Choice Home Warranty and First American Home Warranty, there’s a 30-day waiting period before coverage kicks in and you can submit a claim. To share feedback or ask a question about this article, send a note to our Reviews team at reviews@thisoldhouse.com.

  • The Home Service Club vs American Home Shield
    by This Old House Reviews Team on August 3, 2020 at 2:03 AM

    Adobe A home warranty protects homeowners from expensive repair bills when their appliances and systems break down due to normal wear and tear. In this review, we discuss two popular home warranty providers—The Home Service Club and American Home Shield—and help you determine which is best for your home. Need to compare The Home Service Club vs. American Home Shield? These top-rated home warranty companies offer plans that protect major systems and appliances when they unexpectedly break down. In this article, the This Old House Reviews team examines coverage plans, cost, customer reviews, and more so that you can decide which company best fits your home protection needs. The Home Service Club offers two coverage plans that protect a variety of home systems and appliances. This provider also offers 12 optional add-ons that allows customers to further customize coverage. Get a free quote from The Home Service Club by calling 800-842-9334 or by filling out this easy form. American Home Shield has been in the home warranty industry since 1971 and has a contractor network of over 16,000 independent professionals. Because of how popular American Home Shield is, nearly one out of every two home warranty customers purchases their home warranty from the company. To get $50 off of a new plan, call 844-529-9298 or submit this form. The Home Service Club vs. American Home Shield Coverage The Home Service Club offers two plans and optional add-ons, while American Home Shield offers four plans, including a Build-Your-Own Plan, and optional add-ons. Keep reading to compare coverage details between the two providers. The Home Service Club Coverage The Home Service Club offers two coverage plans: a Standard Plan and Comprehensive Plan. The Standard Plan covers 18 home appliances and systems, and the Comprehensive Plan covers 30 home appliances and systems. Here are the items covered in each Home Service Club plans: The Home Service Club also offers 12 optional add-ons: Jetted bathtub Well pump Roof coverage Sewage ejector pump Pool or spa Water softener Freestanding freezer Spa and spa heater Sprinkler system Freestanding additional refrigerator Refrigerator built-in units with dual compressors Utility line coverage American Home Shield Coverage American Home Shield offers four plans: an Appliances Plan, Systems Plan, Combo Plan, and Build-Your-Own Plan. The Combo Plan combines the Appliances and Systems Plans, while the Build-Your-Own Plan allows homeowners to select 10 or more covered items of their choice. Here’s what each American Home Shield plan covers: American Home Shield offers these five add-ons to customers: Septic pump Pool and spa Well pump Electronic extended warranty Guest units up to 750 square feet The Home Service Club vs. American Home Shield Cost Based on the quotes our reviews team received, monthly premiums from The Home Service Club are roughly the same as premiums from American Home Shield. Note: The Home Service Club doesn’t offer flexibility with its service fee, but American Home Shield allows you to choose a service fee between $75–$125—the amount you choose impacts your monthly premium. The Home Service Club vs. American Home Shield Reviews The Home Service Club is not accredited by the Better Business Bureau (BBB) and received a lower rating than American Home Shield from the organization. However, The Home Service Club reviews have been more positive, on average, than American Home Shield reviews. Our Conclusion American Home Shield and The Home Service Club both offer home warranty plans with unique strengths. American Home Shield offers a Build-Your-Own Plan and more coverage plans, while The Home Service Club covers more items in their plans and offers more optional add-ons. Because of its reputation as an industry leader, customizable plan option, and flexible service fees, we recommend American Home Shield over The Home Service Club for most homeowners. That being said, The Home Service Club is still a strong choice and should be considered by homeowners who need protection for specific add-ons. Before buying a home warranty, we recommend getting a free quote from The Home Service Club and American Home Shield in the panel above. You can also learn more about both of these companies by reading our The Home Service Club review and our American Home Shield review. Compare Top-Rated Home Warranty Providers Excellent alternatives to American Home Shield and The Home Service Club are Choice Home Warranty, Amazon Home Warranty, and Select Home Warranty. Compare these companies below: Frequently Asked Questions About Home Warranties Is a home warranty worth it? A home warranty, also known as a home service contract, protects your home systems and appliances from expensive repairs caused by normal wear and tear. Homeowners who have a home warranty pay a relatively low premium that costs about $25 to $60 per month. Whenever service is needed, they pay a deductible between $75–$125. Without a home warranty, common repairs and replacements could cost thousands of dollars out of pocket. Do home warranties cover pools and spas? Most home warranty companies offer coverage for pools and spas as an optional add-on, which can be purchased separately from the company’s pre-packaged plans. Is there a waiting period on a home warranty? After a home warranty plan is purchased, most home warranty companies have a waiting period before a homeowner can submit their first claim. American Home Shield and The Home Service Club have a waiting period of 30 days. To share feedback or ask a question about this article, send a note to our Reviews team at reviews@thisoldhouse.com.

  • Catseye USA Pest Control Review (2020)
    by This Old House Reviews Team on August 3, 2020 at 1:48 AM

    Adobe When you notice signs of a pest infestation, contact a professional pest control company right away. If bugs like termites or cockroaches are left untreated, they can cause damage and even impact the health of your family and pets. Read our Catseye USA review to learn more about services and pricing. Catseye USA offers premium pest control services that remove current infestations from your home and prevent pests from coming back. Offering pest control, rodent control, and wildlife control, Catseye USA is a one-stop-shop for comprehensive pest control solutions. In this Catseye USA review, the This Old House Reviews team discusses services, benefits, and customer reviews, and compares Catseye USA to some of the top pest management companies in the industry, including Terminix, Orkin, and Rentokil. For a free quote from Terminix, call 866-569-4035 or fill out this form. Pros & Cons of Catseye USA Compare the advantages and disadvantages of Catseye USA to determine if this company is right for you. Catseye USA Plans and Services Catseye USA provides residential and commercial pest control services in areas around the Northeastern United States. Its team of certified technicians uses Integrated Pest Management (IPM) to remain mindful of the impact on the environment. IPM methods start with a free pest inspection to identify the type of pest in your home and determine the cause of your infestation. This evaluation is followed by a pest plan presentation that features targeted solutions for your home. Here are the following pests that Catseye USA can eliminate: Ants Bed bugs Bees Wasps Hornets Cockroaches Fleas Flies Garden insects Pantry pests Scorpions Spiders Termites Catseye USA offers seven main pest control plans that target pests like termites, bed bugs, and ticks. Here’s a breakdown of these plans: Platinum Year-Round Home Protection—This all-in-one pest management program protects you against animals and insects with a 100% service guarantee. Cat-Guard Exclusion System—This program protects against mice, rodents, and other wildlife. It’s an all-natural approach that includes trapping and removing animals, followed by preventative measures to keep them out of your home. Here are some of the wildlife species Catseye can remove from your home: Squirrels Raccoons Skunks Voles Bats Birds Pigeons Armadillos Snakes Chipmunks Groundhogs Iguanas Moles Termite Control—Treatment includes the Termidor System, termite baits, and other techniques within Integrated Pest Management. Bed Bug Control—Services start with an in-home inspection and a customized plan for pest elimination, with treatment possibly including the Cryonite method—a technique that uses the extreme cooling properties of liquid carbon dioxide to kill pests. Cockroach Control—This program is designed to eliminate cockroaches in the home and may include pesticides and preventative measures around the house. Carpenter Ant Eradication Program—After identifying where the carpenter ant colony is located, a technician will apply two treatments over time to eliminate the infestation. Tick Control—These specialized services get rid of ticks in and around the home. Locations Catseye USA provides pest control services to seven states, mostly in the northeastern part of the country. Check out the chart below to see the states and cities that Catseye serves. If you don’t see your neighborhood listed above, Casteye encourages you to call the customer service number for a quote, as they may be able to send a service provider to your address from a nearby branch. Catseye USA Customer Reviews Catseye USA is not accredited with the Better Business Bureau (BBB), but it has an A- rating and four customer reviews. Here are a few Catseye USA reviews from the BBB: Elisa L. said: “Excellent service! Great daily reports, information. Will saved our life and our home from a raccoon who just wanted to [stay] and live with us! We can sleep again. Knowledgeable, informative, and professional, he helped us each step of the way. [I] would highly recommend to anyone.” Alidd10 said: “I requested [bat exclusion] in September…the bats were not out of my property until June. The amount of incompetence and disorganization that resulted in this situation is too stunning to recount here. Catseye then had the gall to call me to say my warranty had expired because it had been a year since the initial visit (as opposed to when the service was complete many many months later).” *N/A signals inconsistent accreditations and ratings The This Old House Reviews team gave Catseye USA a 65/100 for their comprehensive pest control plans, environmentally friendly services, and 100% satisfaction guarantee. The company lost points for only being available in seven states and not having 24/7 customer service. Our Conclusion Casteye USA is a trusted pest control provider in the Northeastern United States. The company offers comprehensive pest services, specializing in wildlife management. However, because the company isn’t transparent with pricing on their website and isn’t available in most states, Catseye may not be the best option for most homeowners. For the most comprehensive and widely available pest management solutions, we recommend Terminix, Orkin, and Rentokil. These companies are all known for their excellent customer service and knowledgeable certified technicians who provide pest control services to more than 45 states across the country. To get a free quote from Terminix, call 866-569-4035 or fill out this form. For a free quote from Orkin, call 877-871-4752 or fill out this simple form. Frequently Asked Questions About Catseye USA How does Catseye eliminate a termite infestation? To eliminate termites, Catseye USA starts with a home inspection. This helps determine the type of termites you’re dealing with (subterranean, drywood, or dampwood termites). After the inspection, a technician will recommend a customized treatment plan depending on your situation. Treatment methods may include Termidor, termite monitoring systems, termite baiting systems, and preventative measures around the house. Does Catseye USA provide eco-friendly pest control services? Catseye’s team uses principles of Integrated Pest Management, which are mindful of the amount of pesticides used in a client’s home. With this targeted approach to pest control, your technician will use a reduced amount of product that’s necessary for the job at hand. The only other all-natural pest program Catseye offers is its wildlife removal services. How often will my home be treated for pests? Most companies offer homeowners a few options for visit frequency. Homeowners can choose a one-time service for specific, immediate pest problems, or they can commit to long-term services that are monthly, bi-monthly, or quarterly. When you sign up for Catseye’s general pest control plan, you’ll receive bi-monthly service visits. Company Info Company name: Catseye USA Company type: Private CEO: John Gagne Year founded: 1987 Headquarters: 7A Century Hill Dr, Latham, NY 12110 State availability: 7 BBB rating: A- Our Rating Methodology The This Old House Reviews team values accuracy, transparency, and trust. We created a thorough, objective rating system and scored each pest control company based on our methodology. We spent hours researching companies by speaking with representatives and technicians directly over the phone, via email, and through chat to get the most up-to-date and useful information about plans, costs, and more. Finally, we created a ranking system to determine the best pest control companies, using key criteria like number and type of plans, state availability, customer service, and more. You can find more detailed information on it here. To share feedback or ask a question about this article, send a note to our Reviews team at reviews@thisoldhouse.com.

  • Best Self-Monitored Home Security Systems
    by This Old House Reviews Team on August 3, 2020 at 1:34 AM

    Scout Alarm If you’re looking for a security system without the long-term contracts and high monthly costs associated with a professionally monitored system, a self-monitored security system may be right for you. In this article, we discuss the features, pricing, and benefits of the best self-monitored security systems. Self-monitored security systems are ideal for homeowners who are looking to take full control of their home security. Without the commitment of a professionally monitored system, customers have the freedom to use and monitor their system in a way that best suits their home security needs. Self-monitored systems are also a great option for those looking to save money, as they typically don’t require a long-term contract or month-to-month expenses. With so many professional and DIY security systems offering self-monitoring options, choosing the right one can be difficult. Read on for the best self-monitored systems and how you can choose the right system for you and your home. Abode System Offerings Abode offers home security to its customers through two pre-packaged DIY systems and a build-your-own system offering. The iota All-In-One and Smart Security bundles come stocked with a 93db siren, keyfob, and door and window sensors that send notifications directly to the Abode mobile app. To supplement your system, Abode offers additional security devices, including a glass break sensor, wide angle motion camera, and panic button. Note: all optional devices you purchase are integrated directly with your Abode app, so you can monitor each item remotely. Abode Monitoring While Abode offers professional monitoring, the system is fully functional as a self-monitored system. Abode offers two self-monitoring options: a Standard Plan and a Basic Plan. Standard Plan ($6 per month)—For six dollars per month, customers can self-monitor their system, receive premium customer service, and get access to Abode CUE. Abode CUE is a premium home automation platform that allows you to control your smart home devices through a system of automated scenarios. For example, you can tell Abode CUE to turn your floodlight on only at night and when it detects motion. Basic Plan (Free)—Though Basic Plan customers don’t get access to Abode CUE, this free plan does allow you to self-monitor your system through your phone or web app. Your Abode system is compatible with any Z-Wave, Zigbee, or Wi-Fi third party device. Abode Customer Service Abode customers receive phone and online messenger customer service 24 hours a day on the weekdays, and from 5 am until 7 pm PST on weekends. Along with their accessible customer service, Abode offers free returns within 30 days of initial purchase and a one-year warranty on most hardware. Blue by ADT System Offerings Formerly known as Lifeshield Home Security, Blue by ADT allows customers to build their own security system or choose from three security packages: the 11-Piece System, 15-Piece Camera System, or Blue Doorbell Camera System. All packages come with the following equipment: Base station Entry keypad Door and window sensors Motion sensors Yard sign If you’re looking for packages that include cameras, the 15-Piece Camera System contains an indoor camera while the Blue Doorbell Camera System offers an HD doorbell camera, all controlled and monitored directly from the ADT app. Blue by ADT Monitoring ADT offers 30 days of professional monitoring for free with each system. After the trial expires, you can continue to self-monitor your system. If you have additional, pre-existing third-party devices, you can integrate them with your new system through Z-Wave, IFTTT, and Wi-Fi capabilities. With self-monitoring, you can arm and disarm your system, receive custom alerts, and create unique access codes all within the Blue by ADT app or with the help of voice assistants like Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant. Blue by ADT Customer Service Though Blue by ADT doesn’t offer 24/7 customer service through the phone, they do support their customers 24/7 through their user-focused Support Center. The Support Center allows customers to manage their account, read about supported devices, and troubleshoot system issues. Blue also provides additional support via their web and app portals. Scout System Offerings Scout offers some of the most comprehensive pre-packaged home security kits, offering four different packages and the option to customize your own system. The Scout Packs include the Scout Small, Scout Large, Scout Elements, and Scout Architect Pack, each offering home security essentials like a central hub, door panel, motion sensor, access sensor, and key fob. If you choose to customize your own system, Scout requires you to select a Scout central hub before picking your choice of devices. Here are the devices you can purchase to build your own Scout security system: Door panel Access sensor Motion sensor Scout indoor camera Scout video doorbell Keypad Smoke alarm Water sensor Glass break sensor Door lock Yard sign Panic button Remote control Siren and Zigbee repeater Window sticker Key fob RFID sticker Scout Monitoring Unlike many self-monitored systems, Scout doesn’t provide a free self-monitoring option, instead charging $9.99 per month for this type of monitoring. Although Scout customers pay for monthly self-monitoring, there are no annual contracts with the company and customers receive 4G cellular backup in case of an internet outage. With self-monitoring from Scout, you’ll be able to monitor and control your system directly from the Scout mobile app while receiving email, push, SMS, and phone call alerts. With IFTTT and voice assistant compatibility, you can integrate devices from over 175 smart home companies and control your system hands-free with Alexa and Google Assistant. Scout Customer Service This company offers phone customer service from 9 am until 6 pm CST, seven days a week. In addition to phone customer service, customers can help themselves to an archive of system information through the online Scout Knowledge Base, which contains user manuals and troubleshooting help guides. Scout provides customers with generous return and warranty guarantees, offering 60-day free returns and a three-year warranty on hardware. Additionally, Scout adds free shipping on orders of $200 or more. Ring Ring System Offerings Ring offers customers who want to self-monitor the choice of three prepackaged kits: a 5-Piece Security Kit, 10-Piece Security Kit, and 14-Piece Security Kit. Ring also allows customers to customize their own kit, selecting from over 20 devices. Here’s an overview of what each kit has to offer: Ring Monitoring Ring offers two self-monitoring plans: a Free and Basic Plan. Free—The Free Plan equips Ring customers with motion-activated notifications, real-time video surveillance, two-way communication, and a lifetime theft protection. While self-monitoring with this plan, you can control your system directly from the Ring mobile app. Basic—The Basic Plan costs $3 per month and includes everything in the Free Plan, plus additional 60-day video history, video saving and sharing, and photo snapshots. The Basic Plan is tailored to customers who purchase video camera equipment for their Ring security system. Both self-monitoring plans allow you to control Ring devices and third-party equipment directly from the Ring application or with the help of a voice assistant. Ring Customer Service Ring provides customer service through online chat and phone support. Additionally, Ring customers can receive system help through their mobile application, which allows users to contact support, request spare parts, and look through frequently asked questions. Ring offers a 30-day return policy on its products in addition to a one-year limited warranty. Vivint System Offerings Vivint Home Security offers five security bundles that include standard equipment like control panels, entry sensors, and motion detectors. To supplement your security system, Vivint offers more advanced equipment like smart locks and doorbell cameras. Here’s the additional equipment you can add onto any bundle: Door/window sensors Glass break sensors Motion sensors Smart smoke detectors Flood/temperature sensor Carbon monoxide detector Key fob remote Panic button Ping indoor security camera Outdoor security camera Doorbell camera Kwikset smart lock Vivint Monitoring Once you purchase the Vivint security equipment outright, you’ll be able to self-monitor your system with no monthly contract or cost. Using the Vivint mobile app, you can arm and disarm your system, create custom alerts and notifications, and check the live video feed from your video surveillance equipment. In addition to the mobile app, you’ll be able to control your system using the included Vivint SkyControl panel or a voice assistant like Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant. Vivint Customer Service Your Vivint equipment comes with a 120-day warranty that begins after installation. During that 120-day period, all repairs are free. For quick questions, Vivint is available online through their support chat or through the phone at 1-800-216-5232. How to Buy a Self-Monitored Home Security System Before purchasing a self-monitored home security system, consider the following factors: DIY vs. professional installation—When choosing your self-monitored home security system, consider your installation options and their associated costs. Most self-monitored systems can be self-installed, utilizing wireless devices and adhesive strips to simplify the installation process. Other systems require professional installation and may have a fee attached to the labor. Special features—Special features include devices that aren’t traditionally included in home security bundles. These are items that go beyond motion detection or base stations, like glass break detectors or an outdoor camera with night vision capabilities. Affordability—Before purchasing a system, look into how much the system costs and how much you’ll be paying monthly for the system. Additionally, research the company’s warranty and return policy so you know what’s covered and what equipment you’ll be able to return. Pros and Cons of a Self-Monitored Home Security System With real time alerts sent directly to your mobile device, self-monitoring has never been easier, but there are times when you might not be available to respond to a situation. Compare the pros and cons of a self-monitored home security system below: Self-Monitored Home Security System FAQs Can you self-monitor with ADT? You must agree to a professionally monitored contract with ADT. After that contract is up, you can choose to drop monthly professional monitoring and self-monitor your system using your existing equipment. If you want to avoid long-term contracts and self-monitor your system, try Blue by ADT, which allows you to self-monitor without lengthy contracts. Can I use my existing home security system without monitoring? Most home security systems, like Abode and Scout, allow you to incorporate Z-wave and Zigbee compatible security devices into your new system. Once integrated with your system, these devices can be controlled through your provider’s mobile application. How much does it cost to self-monitor? The cost to self-monitor varies with each provider, though most allow self-monitoring at no charge. Our Conclusion Self-monitored security systems give you full control over your home security. Whether you want to cover a few doors or the whole house, most self-monitored systems allow you to incorporate a variety of devices, including security cameras, motion detectors, and contact sensors. To help you determine which self-monitored alarm system is right for you, compare the offerings from top providers below. To share feedback or ask a question about this article, send a note to our Reviews team at reviews@thisoldhouse.com.

  • 10 Easy Pieces: Front-Loading Dishwashers
    by Janet Hall on August 5, 2020 at 8:00 AM

    After a few of decades of fine tuning, almost all conventional built-in dishwashers perform admirably in the cleaning department. The differentiating factors come down to questions of: How quiet is the operation? What are the energy-saving options (such as shortened cycles, half-load options, condensation drying, and water-flow control)? Are the heating coils and controls concealed?

  • DIY Display-Worthy Racks: 3 Minimalist Designs for Drying Herbs, Dishes, and Laundry
    by Margot Guralnick on August 4, 2020 at 10:00 AM

    At Remodelista, we’re ever on the lookout for household tools that are plastic-free and pleasingly simple. Bonus points for DIY projects that fit this criteria and deserve to be put on display. Here are three examples that feel pleasingly summery (but stand ready for year-round use). They’re the work of Manda and Caitlin McGrath who

  • Steal This Look: A Cheerful Kitchen in Echo Park
    by Fan Winston on August 4, 2020 at 8:00 AM

    It’s been a while since we first covered the Echo Park Airbnb of two of LA’s buzziest creatives—fashion designer Beatrice Valenzuela and her partner, wood and metal artist Ramsey Condor—but we haven’t forgotten its charm. With summer in full swing, we thought it would be a good time to revisit its sunny and colorful kitchen,

  • Living Room Liven-Up: Enter to Win a $1000 Shopping Spree from Hay
    by Remodelista Team on August 3, 2020 at 12:00 PM

    Snoop around in the kitchens, closets, or entryways of just about any of us on the Remodelista team, and what will you find? Chances are, something by Hay. Hay launched in Denmark in 2002 with the belief that good design is for everyone; we quickly fell for their clean-lined, statement-making, and accessibly priced wares, and

  • A Moveable Feast: Two French Shop Owners’ Whimsical, Always-Changing House in Reims
    by Annie Quigley on August 3, 2020 at 8:00 AM

    Little vignettes that are always shifting, always offering something new to look at? Maybe that’s why I can’t look away from the Instagram feed of @nomibis, a vintage shop based in Reims, France, these days. If Nomibis sounds familiar, it’s because we featured the shop itself  a while back. We say “shop” a bit loosely

  • How To Make A DIY Channel Tufted Headboard (& How Our Daughter’s Room Is Coming Along)
    by John Petersik on July 29, 2020 at 5:46 PM

    After using our favorite method to make a simple headboard for our son’s room last week, we actually had enough leftover materials to try out a new trick in our daughter’s room – which yielded a completely free headboard for her. Three cheers for $0 projects, right? Especially since she helped us settle on the design and make it, so it’s not only cozy to lean back on (you know that function is my love language), but she’s also super into the finished result because she had a hand in it. Literally. Before we dive into that how-to, we realized you haven’t seen how her room has shaped up since we moved in. In case you forgot, it looked like this when we first saw the house. Just like with our son’s room, we discovered we could vault the ceilings to make the room feel more spacious (there was nothing but an empty attic above this room and the roof always sloped this way – so nothing structural had to happen). Continue reading How To Make A DIY Channel Tufted Headboard (& How Our Daughter’s Room Is Coming Along) at Young House Love.

  • DIY Headboard + Custom Bookshelf = Cozy Built-in Kids Bed
    by John Petersik on July 22, 2020 at 8:37 PM

    Now that we’ve checked off the basic needs in each of our bedrooms (you know like beds, window coverings, clothing storage, etc), we’ve shifted our focus towards… adding even more function (hello, I’m John “Practical” Petersik). Last week we shared the current state of our bedroom and today we have a few projects that we did to make our son’s room work a lot harder for him. twin bed with built-in drawers / frame / fabric baskets / brass doorknob We still have some plans to bring in more color, pattern, and fun – but things have definitely gotten a lot comfier & more convenient in here in the past few weeks. light fixture / bed / frame / similar rug For reference, this is what his room looked like when we first laid eyes on the house back in February. Continue reading DIY Headboard + Custom Bookshelf = Cozy Built-in Kids Bed at Young House Love.

  • What Our Bedroom Looks Like Now & What We’ve Got Planned
    by John Petersik on July 15, 2020 at 7:56 PM

    Yesterday marks two months since we moved, and our bedroom was probably the last room to make the transition from “dumping ground of things to unpack” to “comfortable space that feels like ours.” So here’s where things are currently – and what’s still ahead of us (including some bad photoshop to give you a peek inside our heads). nightstands | rug | similar lamps | bed frame | similar woven mirror | similar capiz mirror | similar bench | curtains | curtain rod | similar inlay dresser If you recall from our before tour, this space was originally a living room (with another much larger living space upstairs with a nice big deck off of it). Since we quickly realized that we’d rather share that larger room & deck as a family, and sleep on the same level as our kids, we knew this room would be great as our bedroom. Continue reading What Our Bedroom Looks Like Now & What We’ve Got Planned at Young House Love.

  • Some Quick & Extremely Functional Laundry Closet Shelves
    by John Petersik on June 30, 2020 at 6:55 PM

    We mentioned on our podcast a few weeks ago that we had to quickly implement some storage systems in our new house just so we had a spot to unpack everything. Like there was a point on Day 3 or 4 of unpacking where we were faced with the reality that nothing else could get put away until we added some shelves to the narrow hall closet next to the bathroom and this laundry closet. As soon as these shelves & our new counter were up, we were amazed by how much we could store. This closet is a complete workhorse (and dare I say a showhorse? I mean look at those bottle brush trees). And since many of you asked for the DIY details, we’re going to cover why & how we built these shelves. Anyone can tackle this. It’s extremely doable and your home improvement store might even be able to cut things for you so you can just go home and screw them right into your studs. Continue reading Some Quick & Extremely Functional Laundry Closet Shelves at Young House Love.

  • #180: Decorating In The Era Of Zoom
    by John Petersik on June 29, 2020 at 5:00 AM

    The sudden boom of video conferencing in all of our lives is giving us a new window through which to view our homes (and the homes of others – from coworkers to celebrities and news correspondents). So what does your Zoom background say about you? And what lengths will we go to when it comes to altering them to make sure nothing weird gets seen by everyone else on the call? We also realized in hindsight that a family trip earlier this year had a pretty major effect on our decision to move to Florida. Plus we explain the big shiny object on our kitchen counter – and Sherry divulges an embarrassing story from her NYC days that she might never live down. You can also find this episode on your favorite podcast listening app, like Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, TuneIn Radio, Stitcher, and Spotify. Continue reading #180: Decorating In The Era Of Zoom at Young House Love.

  • Is Buying A House Right Now A Good Idea? (Plus A Step-By-Step Guide For First-Time Buyers)
    by Caitlin Higgins on August 5, 2020 at 8:00 AM

    Cat’s outta the bag: I’m house hunting. I’ve been renting in LA for 8 years, I love it here, and mortgage rates are so low that I figured I’d just look and see what’s out there. (Also, I became very obsessed with the @cheapoldhomes Instagram, which has fed into my frenzy and my lifelong dream… Read More The post Is Buying A House Right Now A Good Idea? (Plus A Step-By-Step Guide For First-Time Buyers) appeared first on Emily Henderson.

  • The Difference Grout Color Can Make To Your Tiles
    by Emily on August 4, 2020 at 6:00 PM

    This post has been one of our top Pinterest posts for the past couple of years. We were shocked at first too, but then we realized that grout is not something most people spend time thinking about until they are about to renovate their beautiful new kitchen or bathroom with their beautiful new tile. Then… Read More The post The Difference Grout Color Can Make To Your Tiles appeared first on Emily Henderson.

  • A DIY Kitchen Renovation In Two Parts (Plus A Reno Pep Talk)
    by Sara Tramp on August 4, 2020 at 8:00 AM

    Emily has loved following along with Jess and Tyler Marés, of Renovate 108, on Instagram as they renovate their 1500 sq ft home in Los Angeles. And their kitchen is truly a crown jewel. And since I’m about to embark on my own kitchen renovation journey (so far it’s terrifying), I caught up with Jess… Read More The post A DIY Kitchen Renovation In Two Parts (Plus A Reno Pep Talk) appeared first on Emily Henderson.

  • The Practical, Functional, Everyday Things That Make Our Lives SO MUCH Better
    by Caitlin Higgins on August 3, 2020 at 8:00 AM

    Back in March, Em wrote about her favorite household basics. EHD’s go-to flatware, glasses, bed pillows, duvet inserts — it’s all in there. But on a recent call, we started talking about the less glamorous basics. You know, the sponges and drying racks and vacuums and brooms that keep us, and our homes, functioning.  These… Read More The post The Practical, Functional, Everyday Things That Make Our Lives SO MUCH Better appeared first on Emily Henderson.

  • The Link Up: Emily’s New Favorite Decor Piece, Jess’ Body Changing “Hammock” and The Best Bath Towels
    by Jess Bunge on August 2, 2020 at 8:00 AM

    The fact that we have made it to August feels a bit mindblowing. But we also made it to Sunday (YES!) and that is cause for a little celebration. We hope that you can find at least a few moments where you do something that is purely for you. And if that is only the… Read More The post The Link Up: Emily’s New Favorite Decor Piece, Jess’ Body Changing “Hammock” and The Best Bath Towels appeared first on Emily Henderson.