Saturday, May 25, 2024
Home Blog

Making your own weed killer: an extensive guide

Gardening is a rewarding hobby that allows you to grow beautiful flowers, tasty vegetables, and other plants. However, weeds can quickly take over if not properly managed. While store-bought herbicides work, many people prefer a more natural approach and want to avoid harsh chemicals.

What are weeds, and why do we want to control them?

Before getting into recipes, it’s important to understand exactly what weeds are and why we aim to manage them in our gardens. In simple terms, a weed is defined as a plant that is growing where it is not wanted. This could be in between desirable plantings, in cracks in the sidewalk, or anywhere they are not appreciated for their aesthetic or functional value.

Left unchecked, weeds can negatively impact gardens and landscaped areas in several key ways:

  • They compete for resources. Weeds rob water, nutrients, sunlight, and space from more desirable plants you want to grow. Their aggressive growth habits allow them to outcompete other species.
  • They damage aesthetics. Many weeds are unsightly when they spread freely. They can take away from the beauty and curb appeal of your carefully cultivated plants and landscaping.
  • Some are invasive. Certain weedy species like crabgrass, ground ivy, and dandelions can be very invasive. Their seeds or roots spread quickly, making them difficult to fully eradicate once established.
  • Yield loss for edible gardens. Weeds growing amongst food crops and berries reduce the yield you can harvest. Their competition decreases the productivity of your vegetable, fruit, and herb beds.
  • Provide habitat for pests. Certain weeds are hosts for insects and diseases that can then spread to nearby cultivated plants, potentially infecting them as well.

For these reasons, it’s important to implement a weed control strategy tailored to your specific garden and plant situation. With a little effort, you can curtail weeds and promote the growth and health of the plants you want to nurture.

Choosing a homemade weed killer recipe

There are a variety of ingredients you can use to formulate your own weed-killing solutions without relying on store-bought products. When selecting a recipe to try, consider some key factors:

  • Target weeds. Different herbicides work best on certain types of weeds. Choose one suited for the specific weeds troubling your garden.
  • Ingredient availability. Select recipes using ingredients you already have on hand or can easily obtain. Check your pantry and spice cabinet first.
  • Application method. Some recipes are best for sprinkling directly on weeds, while others work as a spray. Pick the right application for your needs.
  • Safety. Always consider any potential risks from ingredients and take proper precautions like wearing gloves and safety goggles. Don’t use anything toxic around edibles.
  • Biodegradability. It’s best to choose natural ingredients that break down quickly like salt, vinegar, or essential oils rather than harsh chemicals.
  • Cost. Home remedies are cheaper than store products. Choose inexpensive recipes using common pantry staples.

With these factors in mind, here are some of the most effective homemade weed-killer recipes worth trying:

Salt-based weed killers

Salt is one of the most popular natural ingredients for weed control. Table salt works well and is cheap and accessible. Here are a couple of recipes:

1. Salt spray

  • 1 cup salt
  • 1-gallon water
  • Spray bottle

Dissolve the salt in water and fill your spray bottle. Spritz the solution directly onto weed leaves until saturated. Works well on dandelions, crabgrass, and chickweed.

2. Salt sprinkles

  • 1 cup salt
  • Gloves, old socks, or mesh bag

Wear protective gloves to handle salt. Sprinkle directly onto weed leaves until fully coated. Reapply after rain. Kills via dehydration.

Salt disrupts the weeds’ ability to take in water through their leaves. Within a few days, they shrivel and die. It works especially well in hot weather or direct sun. Be cautious of overspray near plants you want to keep. Rinse equipment and wash hands after using salt mixtures.

Vinegar-based weed killers

White vinegar is another very effective homemade herbicide. It works through the contact-killing of weed foliage. Similar recipes:

3. Vinegar spray

  • 1-gallon white vinegar (at least 5% acidity)
  • 1 cup salt (optional, boosts effectiveness)
  • Spray bottle

Add salt if used for extra strength. Spritz leaves to wet but not saturate. Great for dandelions and most broadleaf weeds.

4. Straight vinegar pour

  • White vinegar
  • Cup or watering can

For small patches, poured straight vinegar works well. Saturate weed leaves without flooding nearby soil.

These acidic solutions break down weed cell walls and burn their leaves. Vinegar is safe for most other plants after a day if overspray occurs. Reapply as needed, as some weeds may take multiple treatments to fully eradicate.

Dish soap as a surfactant

The dish soap acts as a surfactant or substance that reduces the surface tension of the liquid. This allows herbicide solutions to better coat and penetrate weed leaves. Add it in small amounts to help other ingredients adhere:

5. Soap and vinegar spray

  • 1-gallon white vinegar
  • 1/4 cup salt
  • 1/2 tablespoon dish soap
  • Spray bottle

The soap helps the salt and vinegar mixtures more effectively coat leaves for faster killing. Spritz directly on weeds.

You can apply any formerly mentioned weed killer recipe and boost its efficacy with a small amount of dish soap added to help the active ingredients fully saturate weed foliage. Just don’t use too much soap or it could potentially damage or burn nearby plants. A half tablespoon per gallon works well as a surfactant boost.

Essential oil weed killers

Certain essential oils possess natural herbicide properties. Use alone or combined in these recipes:

6. Essential oil drench

  • 1 cup white vinegar
  • 15-20 drops of clove, citronella, or cinnamon essential oil
  • Watering can

Mix vinegar and essential oil together. Pour solution around weeds to thoroughly wet leaves and soil at the base of plants.

7. Oil and soap spray

  • 1 cup white vinegar
  • 15 drops eucalyptus, rosemary, or peppermint oil
  • 1/2 Tbsp dish soap
  • Water to make 1 gallon

Blend ingredients in a spray bottle. Spritz on weeds for natural control.

Essential oils dehydrate and damage weed cells. Reapply as needed. Take care not to overapply near sensitive plants. Rotate oil types are used to avoid building weed resistance over time.

Other natural ingredients to try

Beyond these recipes, many other common pantry and garden items can be formulated into homemade herbicides:

  • Corn gluten meal: Acts as pre-emergent to prevent new weeds. Broadcast and water into garden soil.
  • Boiling water: For small weed patches, pour scalding water onto foliage to scald and kill them.
  • Newspaper: Cover weeds with newspaper layered with mulch or compost for solarization.
  • Mulch: Apply 2-4 inches of mulch to smother weeds and stop new growth underneath.
  • Acetic acid: Pure acetic acid is a potent herbicide. Dilute 5-10% in water and apply carefully.
  • Ammonia: Can kill weeds applied undiluted directly on foliage. Toxic, so use carefully.

Always test homemade mixtures on a small patch of weeds first to check for effectiveness and unintended damage before wider applications. Reapply solutions as needed based on results. Rotate ingredients to prevent resistance.

Application tips for best results

In addition to selecting the right recipe, follow these tips for effective weed control with homemade mixtures:

  • Apply on a dry, sunny day when weeds are actively growing. Early morning or evening work best.
  • Thoroughly wet all leaves and green portions of weeds to the point of runoff for maximum coverage.
  • Reapply as new weeds emerge or if it rains heavily within a few hours of initial application.
  • Agitate salt or vinegar solutions before each use to keep ingredients fully dissolved.
  • Wear gloves, eye protection, and long sleeves when handling ingredients like salt or ammonia.
  • Clean sprayers thoroughly after each use with soap and water to remove residue.
  • Target weeds and avoid spraying desirable plants to prevent damage from overspray.
  • Consider reseeding or replanting with ground cover after depletion of the weed seed bank in the soil.
  • Mulch bare soil to block new weed seeds from germinating once the area is cleared.

An In-Depth Guide to Mr. Cool DIY Home HVAC Systems

Air conditioning is an essential part of home comfort, but maintaining and repairing conventional HVAC systems can be expensive and complicated. Many homeowners are turning to Mr. Cool DIY Mini Split Heat Pump systems as an affordable, easy-to-install alternative. 

What is a Mr. Cool DIY Mini Split Heat Pump?

Mr. Cool is a brand that specializes in producing affordable and easy-to-install mini split heat pump systems for residential use. Their DIY (do-it-yourself) range allows homeowners to purchase and install the equipment themselves without needing professional HVAC contractors.

A Mr. Cool DIY system consists of an outdoor compressor/condenser unit and one or more indoor air handler units connected by refrigerant piping and wiring. The outdoor unit houses the compressor and condenser coil, while the indoor unit includes the evaporator coil and fan. Together, these function similarly to a traditional central AC or heat pump system.

The refrigerant is compressed in the outdoor unit, raising its temperature and pressure. It then flows to the indoor unit through the piping, where it expands, absorbing heat from the interior space. The indoor fan circulates this cool air. In heating mode, the process is reversed – heat is absorbed from outdoor air and transferred indoors.

Mini split systems offer several key advantages over window units or ducted central systems:

  • Zoned comfort – Each indoor unit can serve a different room for targeted cooling and heating.
  • Low profile – Indoor units are discreetly mounted high on walls or ceilings with no bulky ductwork required.
  • Easy installation – Minimal electrical/piping work needed compared to ducted systems. DIY units ship pre-charged for plug-and-play setup.
  • Energy efficient – Inverter-driven compressor automatically adjusts output for optimal efficiency.
  • Ductless design – No need to install or modify existing ductwork in the home.

Choosing the Right Mr. Cool DIY System

When selecting a Mr. Cool DIY system, the first step is to determine the size and number of indoor units needed based on the square footage and layout of the areas to be cooled/heated. The brand offers a wide range of models in both single-zone and multi-zone configurations.

Single-Zone Systems

  • MRCOOL 18K BTU DIY 1-Zone – Suitable for spaces up to 600 sq. ft. Includes one indoor and one outdoor unit.
  • MRCOOL 24K BTU DIY 1-Zone – Covers up to 800 sq. ft.
  • MRCOOL 36K BTU DIY 1-Zone – For areas up to 1,400 sq. ft.

Multi-Zone Systems

These allow different rooms to be zoned independently:

  • MRCOOL 24K BTU DIY 2-Zone – Consists of 1 outdoor unit and two indoor units.
  • MRCOOL 36K BTU DIY 3-Zone – With one outdoor unit and three indoor handlers.
  • Larger multi-zone systems in 48K BTU and 60K BTU capacities are also available.

Once you’ve estimated the needed capacity, compare the system dimensions and performance specifications to your installation space requirements. Things like refrigerant line lengths, unit dimensions, and electrical specifications must be considered. Be sure to leave adequate clearances around units as well.

Other Considerations

  • Ducted vs. ductless indoor units – Ducted models allow retrofitting existing ductwork.
  • Ceiling cassette vs wall-mounted indoor styles – Choose based on aesthetic preferences.
  • Additional accessories – WiFi control modules, filters, grilles, etc. may be needed.

With DIY units, factor in the time, tools, and skills required for the electrical and piping work. Consult installation guides to fully understand what’s involved. Proper sizing and installation are critical for optimal comfort and efficiency.

Installing a Mr. Cool DIY System

All necessary hardware, like refrigerant lines, mounting brackets, drain fittings, and electrical components, are pre-assembled using DIY systems. However, homeowners must complete the installation themselves. Let’s break down the basic steps:

Indoor Unit Installation

  1. Mount wall-mounted or ceiling cassette-style units securely using the provided brackets. Ensure proper clearances.
  2. Connect the drain line from the indoor unit to a suitable drainage point. In climates prone to freezing, insulate the line.
  3. Run electrical wiring from the indoor unit to the appropriate circuit breaker-protected outlet.

Outdoor Unit Placement

  1. Find a flat, sturdy surface near the condensate drain and power supply. Observe clearances from the manual.
  2. Secure the unit firmly using a mounting bracket and hardware. Slope pad underneath slightly for water drainage.

Refrigerant Piping

  1. Cut refrigerant lines to the proper length as specified in the manual.
  2. Deburr and flare line ends using appropriate flaring tools and techniques. Take care not to kink lines.
  3. Connect lines to indoor and outdoor units, securing them with provided hardware. Insulate lines immediately.

Electrical Wiring

  1. Run 2-3 conductor cables plus ground between indoor and outdoor units.
  2. Connect wires to units per wiring diagram. Ensure all electrical connections are tight and terminals secured.

System Check & Startup

  1. Check for gas leaks at flare joints using a leak detector. Repair any issues and allow to dry fully.
  2. Power on system and test all functions like heating, cooling, fan speed settings etc. Monitor for several hours.
  3. Insulate all piping, control, and power wiring. Clean up the work area and review the manual for maintenance tips.

Proper brazing techniques, flaring, leak checking and wiring are crucial. Don’t hesitate to consult installation guides or an HVAC pro if needed. Careful setup results in long-lasting, efficient performance.

Understanding Mr. Cool DIY System Maintenance

Unlike conventional systems, mini splits have few mechanical parts and require minimal regular maintenance. However, some key tasks help ensure optimal comfort and efficiency:

Indoor Unit Filter Cleaning

Filters in wall/ceiling units should be cleaned monthly during peak usage with a vacuum hose attachment. Replace annually. Clogged filters restrict airflow and decrease efficiency.

Condensate Drain Care

Keep drain lines clear to allow condensate to flow freely. Flush with vinegar or diluted bleach yearly if restricted. Insulate outdoor drain pipes in cold climates.

Annual System Inspection

Check refrigerant levels, oil ports, belt condition and tightness of all electrical terminals and connections. Tighten as needed.

Outdoor Coil Cleaning

Use a soft brush or hose on outdoor coils to remove dirt, pollen etc. At minimum annually, or more often in dirty areas. Coils must remain clear to transfer heat properly.

Refrigerant Recharge

Small leaks may cause performance issues over 5-10 years. Use leak detectors and professional service as needed to maintain proper levels.

Follow maintenance schedule outlined by manufacturer for worry-free comfort. DIY systems are durable, but preventive care prolongs unit life and maxiimizes efficiency long-term. Consider professional servicing annually if unable or unwilling to perform basic tasks.

Energy Cost Savings with Mr. Cool

Compared to window units and aging ducted systems, mini splits provide substantial energy savings potential through advanced inverter technology and targeted zoning. Let’s examine these benefits:

  • Inverter drive: Varies compressor speed up to 120 times/minute based on demand. Prevents over- or under-cooling compared to standard ON/OFF cycling.
  • Zoned comfort: Only cools/heats occupied spaces for maximum efficiency. Window units cool the entire home constantly, even if one room is empty.
  • Insulated indoor units: Minimize heat transfer between indoors and outdoors versus leaky window units.
  • Ductless design: No energy loss through duct leakage that plagues old ductwork in many homes.
  • ENERGY STAR rated: All Mr. Cool DIY units qualify, which requires meeting strict efficiency standards.

Savings estimates will vary based on climate, dwelling size, and existing system type. But on average, these systems use 25-50% less energy for cooling and 10-30% less for heating versus typical alternatives. Lower electrical bills easily offset the initial investment costing only a few years in most cases.

Proper sizing and installation are also critical – an oversized unit will short-cycle and waste energy. DIY kits make monitoring power use straightforward with digital displays. Overall, mini splits are among the most affordable systems to own and operate long-term.

Extending Comfort Seasons with Heat Pump Operation

In climates with mild winters, mini split heat pumps can provide reliable, energy-efficient heating for most of the year without needing backup furnaces. Using an outdoor temperature sensor, units will automatically switch between heating and cooling modes as conditions demand.

While performance drops below freezing, air source heat pumps remain a useful primary or supplemental heat source down to about -5°C/23°F depending on model. Below this point, resistance heat strips kick in as a backup. Heating capacity decreases gradually with lower temperatures but is sufficient for mild conditions.

Mr. Cool DIY units have heating performance rated down to -15°C/5°F, which covers much of the continental U.S. Based on specific climate data, sizing software can estimate months with reliable heat pump-only operation versus auxiliary backup needs.

Even in very cold regions, mini splits still offer valuable shoulder season use. Come spring and fall, when traditional systems are transitioning on/off, a heat pump readily provides affordable warmth or cooling. Some homeowners use them as the sole source nine months a year.

For the harshest climates, consider higher heat output or backup alternatives like gas/propane/electric furnaces. But mini splits represent a smart, energy-conscious choice for many homeowners to extend comfort seasons with a single efficient system. Proper installation practices become even more critical for optimal winter performance.

Adding Value and Comfort with Mr. Cool Upgrades

Once familiar and comfortable with the basic DIY mini split setup, homeowners may pursue additional upgrades to enhance convenience, control, or capacity:

Multi-Zone Expansion Kits

Expand single-zone units to 2-6 zones by adding indoor handler kits. Independent zoning offers maximum flexibility.

Ducted Indoor Kits

Retrofit existing ductwork for central-like cooling. Ideal for living spaces with no wall/ceiling space.

Fresh Air Exchange Ventilation

The damper kit brings in filtered outside air for improved indoor air quality year-round.

Backup Heat Options

Electric/gas heaters lend lower-cost auxiliary winter backup in very cold climates.

WiFi Control Modules

Remote monitor/adjust heating/cooling using the app from anywhere. Program schedules remotely.

Large Capacity Heating/Cooling

Step up to higher BTU multi-zone systems for larger homes or whole-home comfort.

Auxiliary Electric Heat

Fast-response heat strips furnish temporary backup on extreme winter nights or mornings.

Upgrades allow customizing systems further while gaining long-term benefits. Consult an HVAC pro for assistance with more complex installation if needed. With patience and hands-on problem solving, DIYers can continually modernize comfort for years to come.

Mr. Cool DIY System FAQs

1. How long will a Mr. Cool system last?

With proper care and maintenance, these units have long service lives of 15-20+ years on average. Mini splits use fewer wearing parts compared to other HVAC equipment.

2. Can multiple rooms in my home have individual temperature settings?

Yes, with multi-zone kits each indoor handler can be controlled independently. Some include auto-changeover modes too between heat/cool.

3. What is the installation process like for a DIY system?

Installation involves mounting indoor and outdoor units, connecting refrigerant lines and electrical wiring per supplied instructions. Proper techniques like flaring, leak checks, and wiring are important but DIY-friendly with some basic skills.

4. Are Mr. Cool’s units much more expensive than window air conditioners?

While the upfront cost is higher, mini splits typically deliver substantial energy savings and longevity benefits to recoup investment within several years. The total cost of ownership is very competitive versus window units or older central A/C systems.

5. Do they work well in very hot or cold climates?

Heat pump performance does gradually decrease below freezing but still provides usable heating down to about -15°C/5°F. Higher capacity models are best for extreme conditions. Proper installation practices ensure reliability even in harsh seasons.

Easy and Affordable DIY Christmas Decorations

The holidays are a magical time of year filled with festive celebrations, quality time with loved ones, and ornamenting our homes with beautiful decor. However, boosting our space with store-bought accents can add up quickly. Fear not – creating your own one-of-a-kind pieces is not only more budget-friendly but also allows you to flex your creative muscles! 

Planning and Gathering Supplies

Before diving into any projects, it’s important to plan out your decorating scheme and collect all necessary materials. Having the right tools and components on hand will ensure a smooth crafting process.

Color Palette

Establish 2-3 colors you want as your coordinating Christmas theme. Focus on traditional classics like red, green, and silver, or go modern with navy blue, blush pink, and brass. Sticking to a subset of shades will give your space a cohesive visual flow.

Materials List

  • Cardstock, construction paper, and tissue paper for cutouts
  • Twine, string, jute for garlands, wreaths
  • Ornaments – craft acrylic balls, wooden shapes, baubles
  • Ribbon in various widths for bows, wrapping
  • Glass jars, bottles, and tea lights for centerpieces
  • LED tea lights, battery-operated candles
  • Battery-operated string lights
  • Spray snow, glitter, sequins for embellishing
  • Mod Podge, glue gun, and tape for assembling
  • Scissors, craft knife, ruler

Once you have your palette and supplies, you’ll be set to start bringing the festive cheer. Let’s check out some specific projects!

No-Sew Decorations

If you don’t consider yourself crafty or don’t own a sewing machine, don’t fret. There are plenty of amazing decorations you can create without breaking out the needles and thread. I’ll start with a few no-sew options perfect for all skill levels.

Holiday Card Centerpiece

Used cars from years past make for a beautiful centerpiece. Arrange them in a basket or glass container, tucking sprigs of greenery and lights in between, then topping with a bow. The colorful designs will shine the whole season through. 

Glittery Window Clings

Cut holiday shapes like stars, trees, or snowflakes from contact paper and cover with spray or rolled glitter. Adhere directly to windows for a shimmery accent that wipes away easily come January. Kids will love helping with this one! 

Embellished Jar Luminaries

Decorate simple glass jars by gluing sparkly gemstones, ribbons, and twine garlands around the outside. Drop in an LED tea light or real candles with care for an inviting glow on entryways or mantels. 

No sewing? No problem! You’ve just completed three festive décor pieces using only glue, scissors, and some glitter—so cute and easy even the craftiest avoiders can tackle. Keep scrolling for more advanced no-sew ideas perfecting for flexing creativity.

Advanced No-Sew Projects

Once you’ve gotten the hang of basic no-sew techniques, level up your skills with these slightly more involved handmade accents. The following projects allow you to truly DIY custom creations for special personal touches.

Felt Ornament Garland

Cut holiday shapes like snowflakes, trees, and bells from felt, then hot glue them onto twine, jute, or thin rope in a scattered arrangement. Hang the finished garland above windows or along stair rails for a cozy vignette. 

Tissue Paper trees

Crumple sheets of red, green, and gold tissue paper into bulb shapes, securing with a dot of hot glue in the center of each. Glue the “ornaments” directly onto a bare tree branch for a shimmering low-profile tree topper. It’s so simple yet adds such beauty. 

Photo Ornament Memorial

Print or cut out favorite family photos and glue them onto wood rounds or cardboard cut into circle shapes. Finish with ribbon loops on the back for hanging. A thoughtful way to remember loved ones as you decorate each year. 

While these projects still require no sewing ability, they push your crafting a bit by incorporating new techniques like crumpling, arranging embellishments, or adding sentimental personalized touches. Taking on more involved makes your decor uniquely you.

Wreath and Garland Basics

Where would the season be without lush greenery adorning our doors and mantels? Wreaths and garlands are classic for good reason – their easy ability to transform any space. Master these wreath and garland basics and you’ll be set to DIY for years to come.

Materials and Tools

  • Wreath rings/frames (plastic/metal/wood)
  • Garland wire, pipe cleaners
  • Evergreen branches, pinecones
  • Ornaments, and ribbon for accessorizing
  • Floral wire, hot glue gun

Creating the Base

Start by wrapping fresh or faux greenery pinecones around your ring/frame. Secure with floral wire as you go, tucking ends under.

Filling it In

For fuller density, tightly overlap branches as you wrap. Fluff as needed for a balanced look.

Hot Glue Accessories

Add ribbon, balls, and cones with dollops of hot glue for festive flair. Space decor evenly around the wreath.

Hanging and Display

Use ribbon to hang on doors, along stair rails, mantels. You can also lay garlands on any surfaces too.

Follow these foundational techniques, and you’ll be set to craft all your own wreaths and garlands with ease each season. Go wild decorating your space!

Sewn Projects for Experienced Crafters

If sewing is more your speed, these hand-stitched items allow you to get really creative. They take more time but yield such personalized results. Break out your machine, and let’s dive in!

Christmas Stockings

Coordinate Christmas stockings in felt or quilting cotton using your sewing skills. Sew on bobbles, and pompoms, and secure names or monograms at the cuff. Such a treasured heirloom! 

Reindeer Applique Ornament

Print or hand-draw a reindeer design and cut out shapes in felt. Layer and sew onto circular ornaments to add a special handcrafted touch. Hang in twos or dozens! 

Fabric Bow Garland

Cut bias strips of silk and satin fabric. Learn to tie perfect loops, then hot glue them at the centers to make large beautiful bows. String bows onto wired garlands for hanging along banisters or mantels. So full of elegance. 

While requiring more dexterity, hand-sewing allows you to truly showcase your talents through unique creations. Dress up your home with these stunning additions.

DIY Holiday Décor on a Budget

The holidays can add up quickly between gifts, food, and all the trimmings. By getting crafty, you save big bucks while infusing more heart into your decorating. Here are some thrifty ideas:

  • Reuse items – old frames, baskets, jars, bottles
  • Shop sales aisles for discounted basics
  • Utilize materials you have on hand vs buying new
  • Make paper goods from scraps, old maps, magazines
  • Visit thrift stores for vases and platters to repurpose
  • Barter/trade non-essentials online or with neighbors

Stick to simple projects focused more on arrangement than elaborate embellishments. For example, fill bottle vases with pinecones, berries, and a single ornament rather than crafting an entire wreath. With creativity and resourcefulness, you can deck the halls beautifully on a budget.

Storing Decor for Next Year

Part of the joy of handmade pieces is their longevity – with proper care, your creations can become multiseasonal. Follow these tips for keeping items in tip-top shape:

  • Wipe down dust from any surfaces, and allow to fully dry
  • Gently remove & store fragile items separately
  • Tightly wrap wreaths and garlands on frames or hang them on poles
  • Label storage bins or boxes clearly by room/item
  • Tuck away in a cool, dry place like the attic, basement, or underbed

Keeping decor organized and protected allows you to enjoy it year after year. Pull bins out each fall to refresh displays without reinventing the wheel. Your DIY decorating skills will only grow richer!

FAQ

Q: I’m new to crafting – where can I find tutorials to learn basic skills?

YouTube is a great free resource for step-by-step videos taught by pros. Search terms like “how to hot glue,” “how to wire wrap,” “basic hand sewing,” etc. Websites like Instructables and Pinterest also have many craft tutorials broken down for beginners. Don’t be afraid to start small as you build your skills.

Q: What’s the best way to store leftover craft supplies for future projects?

Plastic bins, shelves, or cabinets work well for organizing supplies by material – one for paper goods, another for ribbons/trims, another for greenery etc. Be sure items are dry before storing to prevent mold. Label clearly so you remember what’s inside down the road. For very small scraps, zip top bags work well too.

Q: The holidays always seem to sneak up on me. When should I start crafting decorations?

Most experts recommend starting 6-8 weeks before your major winter holidays like Christmas or Hanukkah. This allows enough time for multi-step or more intricate projects to be completed leisurely without stress. You can certainly start early gift/décor prep even in late fall if you prefer getting a head start. Go at your own pace but allot sufficient time.

Q: What’s the best way to preserve homemade decorations between seasons?

Careful storage is key. Wipe down any surfaces, allow to fully dry before packing away. Store fragile or breakable items separately with plenty of cushioning. Wrap bulky items like wreaths well on frames or hang poles. Tightly seal up completed projects in tubs, bins or boxes, clearly labeled. A cool, dry area like the basement or attic allows items to remain fresh until next holiday season.

Q: How can I use my DIY decorations for other winter holidays besides Christmas?

Get creative with repurposing! Wreaths, garlands, and centerpieces made with neutral greenery, berries, and twigs can easily adapt for the solstice, Hanukkah, or winter scenes. Swap out specific Christmas ornaments for those celebrating your desired holiday. You can also get multi-seasonal use from crafts incorporating themes like snowflakes, mittens, or scarves rather than religious symbols. With a change in containers or accessories, one DIY piece can be styled in different ways.

Crafting Effective DIY Gnat Traps

With summer comes warm weather and more time spent outdoors. However, summer also brings tiny flying pests known as gnats. Although they may seem harmless, gnats can be annoying when they swarm around food or get caught in your drink. 

How Do Gnats Reproduce So Quickly?

One of the reasons gnats seem to multiply exponentially is their short lifecycle. Most common house or fruit fly gnats have a complete lifecycle from egg to adult in about 10-14 days. The females can lay around 100-200 eggs at a time in moist, organic material like rotting fruit or plant debris. The eggs hatch into larvae with no legs that feed on microorganisms and decompose organic matter. Within ten days, the larvae will pupate and emerge as adult gnats ready to breed. Their rapid reproduction allows populations to balloon quickly if food sources are abundant and conditions remain favorable.

Identifying gnats

Before going over DIY gnat trap recipes, it’s important to properly identify the type of gnat you’re dealing with. The two most common indoor house pests are fungus gnats and fruit flies, both of which are attracted to moist environments and rotting organic materials.

Fungus Gnats

  • Tan or grayish-black flies, 1/8 to 1/4 inch long with long legs and antennae
  • Often found near houseplants or potting soils
  • Larvae feed on fungi, mold, and decaying plant matter in moist soils

Fruit Flies

  • Small (~1/16 inch) black flies with red eyes
  • Commonly found near overripe or rotting fruits and vegetables
  • Larvae feed on fermenting fruits and vegetables

Proper identification helps ensure you target the right lure and conditions for the DIY traps.

DIY Trap Recipe 1: Apple Cider Vinegar Trap

One of the most basic yet effective homemade gnats traps uses apple cider vinegar. The acid in the vinegar mimics the fermentation attractant of rotting fruits and vegetables to lure both fruit flies and fungus gnats.

Materials:

  • 1 cup apple cider vinegar
  • Container (jar, cup, vase)
  • Plastic wrap or Parafin paper
  • Rubber band or String (to secure wrap)

Instructions:

  1. Pour the apple cider vinegar into your container.
  2. Cover the opening of the container very tightly with plastic wrap or parafin paper and secure with a rubber band or string. Make several small pinpricks in the covering with a thumbtack or toothpick.
  3. Place the trap near areas where you’ve seen gnats congregating, like houseplants.
  4. The gnats will be attracted to the vinegar scent but not able to escape once they fly through the pinpricks to get to the vinegar.
  5. Replace the trap every 2-3 weeks as it fills up with drowned gnats.

With some vinegar and a few household items, you’ll have an effective DIY monitoring and control solution. The tiny holes allow gnats access to the vinegar scent but prevent escape, providing a natural way to reduce populations over time.

DIY Trap Recipe 2: Wine Trap

For a trap that’s somewhat more elegant than plain vinegar, try this gnat-catching wine trap. The fermented wine scent serves as an even stronger attractant for many types of fruit flies and fungus gnats.

Materials:

  • 1 cup white wine (cheap works best)
  • Clear container (glass or plastic cup)
  • Plastic wrap
  • Rubber band

Instructions:

  1. Pour the wine into your container until about 3/4 full.
  2. Cover the opening with plastic wrap and secure tightly with a rubber band.
  3. Use scissors or a thumbtack to poke 6-10 small holes in the plastic wrap covering.
  4. Place the wine trap where you’ve seen gnats around your home, like the kitchen.
  5. Gnats will be drawn to the wine odor and fly in through the holes but not able to access the way out.
  6. Change out the wine every 1-2 weeks as needed.

Besides being a little more appealing than plain vinegar, the fermented wine is highly attractive to pest gnats. This trap provides effective control without using any chemicals.

DIY Trap Recipe 3: Yeast Trap

If fungus gnats are your main problem in houseplants, crafting a simple yeast-based trap may be the most targeted solution. Yeast mimics the fungi, mold, and microscopic organisms larvae feed on in moist soil.

Materials:

  • 1/4 tsp active dry yeast
  • 1/4 cup warm water
  • Clear container (jar, cup)
  • Plastic wrap
  • Toothpicks or pieces of pasta

Instructions:

  1. Mix the yeast into the warm water until dissolved. Let sit for 5 minutes until foam forms on top.
  2. Pour the yeast mixture into a container, leaving some headspace.
  3. Cover the opening with plastic wrap and secure it with a rubber band or string.
  4. Poke 6-10 toothpick-sized holes through plastic covering.
  5. Place trap near houseplants. The foam and yeast will attract larvae, while holes allow access but no escape.
  6. Change every 1-2 weeks and monitor houseplant soils for drying out.

By targeting the yeast microbes larvae feed upon, this is a great natural solution for controlling fungus gnat root pests in potted plants.

DIY Trap Recipe 4: Mushroom Compost Trap

If your yard or garden is dealing with swarms of gnats, another effective trap recipe utilizes mushroom compost to attract both adult flies and larvae. The rich microbial activity provides an ideal food source.

Materials:

  • 1/2 cup mushroom compost
  • Plastic cup or container
  • Plastic wrap
  • Rubber band
  • Water

Instructions:

  1. Add the mushroom compost to your container, packing it down slightly.
  2. Mist the compost lightly with a few sprays of water to provide moisture.
  3. Cover the container tightly with plastic wrap and secure.
  4. Poke 6-10 small holes through the plastic with a thumbtack or pin.
  5. Place the trap on the soil surface or hanging from a tree branch near gnat problem areas.
  6. Swarming adults and larvae will be drawn to the compost to enter through holes but not escape. Monitor and refresh compost every 7-10 days.

This trap works well for targeting large populations outside, utilizing the microbial activity gnats are attracted to for feeding and breeding habits.

FAQ 1 – How long do DIY traps work?

The effectiveness of homemade gnat traps will vary depending on factors like temperature, humidity levels, and severity of infestation. However, as a general guideline:

  • Vinegar and wine traps – Replace liquid every 1-2 weeks as it becomes saturated with drowned gnats.
  • Yeast traps – Refresh yeast mixture every 5-7 days as it breaks down. Monitor for drying out.
  • Compost traps – Refresh mushroom compost every 7-10 days or as it dries out.

Consistency is key to these low-maintenance monitoring and control methods. By providing a sustained attractant source and altering recipes periodically, DIY gnat traps can help reduce populations over weeks or months with regular use and replacement.

FAQ 2 – Can essential oils be added to traps?

Many essential oils have insect-repelling properties that could further enhance homemade gnat traps. Some oils that may help include:

  • Mint – Repels many flying and crawling insects. Add 5-10 drops mint oil to vinegar, wine or water traps.
  • Lemongrass – A powerful gnat deterrent. Use 3-5 drops of lemongrass oil in solutions.
  • Eucalyptus – Repels mosquitoes and some fly species. Add 2-3 drops of eucalyptus oil per trap.
  • Clove – Creates an aroma mosquitoes and gnats tend to avoid. 1-2 drops of clove oil per trap.

Use caution as some essential oils can burn plastic. Test a small amount first. Only use food-grade oils and never use near kids/pets. Oils may help repel pests from entering homes while traps remove those already inside.

FAQ 3 – How can I prevent future gnat problems?

Once gnat populations have been controlled using homemade traps, it’s important to address any conditions attracting them to prevent future issues. Here are a few tips:

  • Remove decaying organic matter like fallen fruit, old plants, or yard waste that can harbor insects.
  • Improve drainage of houseplant soil that may become waterlogged. Allow pots to dry slightly between waterings.
  • Use tight-sealing lids on garbage cans and clean waste frequently.
  • Fix any rainwater runoff pooling near foundations.
  • Use screened windows and doors where possible during warm months.
  • Consider sterile potting soil for plants to reduce fungi/mold gnats feed on.

FAQ 4 – Will commercial traps work too?

While DIY traps provide an inexpensive and environmentally friendly solution, there are also some commercially available gnat traps that can be effective:

  • Sticky traps – These cards or strips are coated in a very sticky adhesive that traps flying insects. Place near problem areas. Inspect and replace every 1-2 weeks.
  • Pheromone traps – Some traps emit synthetic sex pheromones that attract and capture male gnats. Hang these according to package directions.
  • Bti tablets – Tablets containing Bacillus thuringiensis israelensis (Bti) are a biological larvicide lethal only to mosquito, black fly and fungus gnat larvae when consumed. Add to standing water or moist soils.
  • Mosquito dunks – Similar concept to Bti tablets, these donuts of Bti release a bacteria lethal to gnat larvae over 30 days when added to ponds, horse troughs, fountains etc.

While commercial options provide convenience, DIY methods offer a low-cost, non-toxic approach. Combining different trap types gives the best results.

FAQ 5 – What natural repellents work against gnats?

A few plants with strong aromas can help repel gnats from entering homes when grown near entrances:

  • Citronella – Grows as a grass but oils in leaves repel many insects, including gnats.
  • Lavender – Soft floral fragrance helps mask attractants gnats follow into houses.
  • Basil – Sweet herb smell deters gnats and other flying pests.
  • Mint – Fresh mint sprigs or an essential oil-based room spray with mint can deter invaders.
  • Catnip – The nepetalactone oil in catnip is highly repellent to mosquitoes and some flies.

Placing potted plants of citronella, lavender, or mint near doors, venturing some mints in garden beds, or tucking catnip amongst plants creates a natural barrier against swarms entering.

DIY Effective Homemade Fruit Fly Traps

Fruit flies can be a major disturbance in homes during the summer and fall months. While not dangerous, their constant buzzing and presence on fruits and vegetables can become irritating quickly. Thankfully, there are some easy do-it-yourself (DIY) fruit fly traps you can make using common household items to help get rid of these pesky insects naturally and without using toxic chemicals. 

The Anatomy of a Fruit Fly

Before getting into specific trap designs, it’s helpful to understand a bit about fruit fly anatomy and behaviors. Fruit flies, also known scientifically as Drosophila, are small Diptera insects that are typically 1-3mm long. They have a yellowish-brown color and red eyes. As the name implies, fruit flies are drawn to fruits and veggies that are overripe or rotting because this is where they can find yeasts and bacteria to lay their eggs. The female fruit fly uses her ovipositor (egg-laying structure) to insert eggs just under the skin of soft or damaged produce.

When the eggs hatch, the fruit fly larvae (maggots) will then feed on the fermenting material found inside the fruit. Within 8-10 days, the maggots will pupate and emerge as adult flies, ready to repeat the lifecycle. Understanding this fertile environment and the food sources that fruit flies seek out is key to crafting effective trap designs that simulate what they are attracted to naturally. By setting up traps with wine, vinegar, sugar, and banana pieces, for instance, you provide an irresistible lure while also removing their breeding grounds from your home.

Bottle Trap

One of the simplest and most effective DIY fruit fly traps to make use of common plastic soda bottles. The bottle trap works because it features the fruit fly’s two biggest attractants – an attractant liquid bait and an enclosed design that allows entry but not escape. To prepare the bottle trap:

  1. Remove the labels from a clean 2-liter soda bottle and wash thoroughly.
  2. Combine 1 cup of apple cider vinegar or wine with one tablespoon of liquid dish soap in the bottle. The soap breaks the surface tension of the liquid, so flies that land will sink and drown.
  3. Optional: You can also add 1-2 drops of lemon or orange essential oil to the mixture. Citrus scents are known to draw in even more fruit flies.
  4. Place a piece of fruit, such as a banana slice or grapes, into the bottle as an added visual attractant resting on the rim inside the bottle.
  5. Secure the bottle lid tightly so no fruit flies can escape once inside.
  6. Place the bottle trap in areas where you’ve noticed fruit fly activity, such as near fruit bowls, the pantry, or garbage disposal.

The flies are drawn in by the fruit slice, and the scented attractant blends inside. But once they crawl inside, they are unable to climb back out and eventually drown. Check the traps every couple of days and dispose of captive flies. Additional bottle traps can be made for multiple problem areas.

Wine Trap

For fruit flies that somehow avoid the bottle trap, another effective DIY design uses a shallow container or small glass filled with wine. This type of trap exploits fruit flies’ strong attraction to fermented liquids:

  1. Fill a shallow saucer, small glass, or other flat-bottomed container 2/3 full with a red wine such as Merlot or Cabernet Sauvignon. Sweet wines work best.
  2. Optional: You can also add 1-2 drops of natural fly spray, such as citrus, eucalyptus, or peppermint essential oil, to the wine.
  3. Place the wine trap container in areas with fruit fly activity, such as the kitchen counter near the sink or garbage.
  4. The flies will be drawn down into the wine to drink but will eventually drown as the alcohol disorients and kills them.
  5. Dispose of drowned fruit flies every couple of days by emptying the container contents down the drain and refilling.

Like the bottle trap, the wine trap relies on a potent attractant combined with a lack of escape routes. Its shallow design also makes spotting and disposing of trapped flies easier than with taller containers.

Apple Cider Vinegar Trap

For a DIY trap option, use items likely already in your pantry; apple cider vinegar is very good bait for fruit flies. The acids and esters emitted by ACV strongly attract these insects. To craft an apple cider vinegar trap:

  1. Fill a small mug, jar, or bowl about 1⁄3 full with apple cider vinegar.
  2. Optional: Add 1-2 drops of essential oil such as lemon, orange, or eucalyptus to enhance the scent.
  3. Place a plastic wrap sheet or paper towel over the opening and secure with a rubber band. This creates an opening just large enough for flies to enter but makes escape difficult.
  4. Position the vinegar trap in problem areas, keeping it elevated off surfaces that may get stained. Counters, shelves, and windowsills work well.
  5. Check the trap every 2-3 days to dispose of drowned flies caught beneath the covering. Empty and refill the vinegar as needed.

The vinegar attracts fruit flies inside, where they drown or become trapped, unable to escape. This is one of the simplest fruit fly trap ideas using a common pantry item.

Orange Slice Trap

Fruit flies have an inherent draw to citrus fruits, making orange slices another effective DIY lure. Their bright color and smell of ripe citrus make them difficult for flies to pass up. To create an orange slice fruit fly trap:

  1. Cut several 1/4-inch thick rounds from a fresh orange using a knife or mandolin slicer.
  2. Spear each slice onto a toothpick or short wooden skewer to elevate it above surfaces.
  3. Place the orange slice “flags” wherever fruit flies are congregating, such as on windowsills or near ripening produce.
  4. As flies land on the slices to feed, their tiny legs become trapped in the rind pockets and pores.
  5. Check traps every 2-3 days, gently wiping trapped flies onto sticky fly paper or into the trash. Replace orange slices as needed.

The fresh citrus scent and visually appealing coloration entice fruit flies to land and become ensnared. This all-natural trap is easy on the budget and senses.

Natural Fly Paper

For pesky fruit flies that evade liquid-based traps, traditional sticky fly paper can help remove stubborn remaining insects. Make sure to choose fly paper made from natural, non-toxic adhesives rather than those containing harmful chemicals. Here’s how to use it effectively:

  1. Cut fly paper strips into smaller squares or rectangles about 2×3 inches in size.
  2. Use a citrus or other essential oil to moisten each paper strip, applying a few drops along the adhesive side.
  3. Hang the small fly papers near ceiling corners or places flies tend to congregate up high using tape flags.
  4. Replace papers every 7-10 days as the adhesive loses stickiness over time from capturing multiple insects.
  5. Dispose of full papers in the outside trash to avoid releasing live fruit flies back indoors.

Properly placed sticky fly paper targets airborne bugs that container and produce traps may miss. The essential oil enhances attraction, while natural adhesive ensures safe disposal.

Multi-Trap Approach

For persistent and high fruit fly populations, consider deploying a two or three-pronged trap system around problem areas rather than relying on just one trap type. Combining lure-based liquid traps that utilize different attractants along with visual traps takes advantage of fruit flies’ multi-sensory attractions. A good integrated approach includes:

  • Bottle or wine trap near fruit bowls and cooking areas
  • Apple cider vinegar trap in pantry and waste disposal regions
  • Orange slice traps flanking windows and entryways
  • Small squares of essential oil-treated fly paper hung overhead

Varying trap designs and placement creates multiple intercept points that are more effective at catching gliding and airborne fruit flies versus a single trap approach. Rotate and refresh components of the multi-trap system every 3-5 days for best results. It generally takes 1-2 weeks of consistent use to fully eliminate an infestation. Be patient and don’t give up too soon!

Additional Tips for Fruit Fly Management

Along with deploying DIY fruit fly traps, follow these general sanitation and prevention tips to keep problem populations under control:

  • Remove overripe or spoiled produce from counters and bins immediately
  • Store bananas away from other fruits and in the fridge if possible
  • Take out indoor trash daily and clean disposal area weekly
  • Avoid leaving open sugary beverages, wines, or fermenting foods unattended
  • Use tight-sealing containers or resealable bags for pet foods, grains, etc.
  • Clean under and behind appliances where spilled liquids collect regularly
  • Treat any indoor fruit trees, potted plants, or houseplants with a natural insecticide labeled for fruit flies if they seem to be an attraction point
  • Attempt to seal potential entry points around windows, doors, vents, and plumbing with caulk or weatherstripping as needed

Following these best practices for sanitation and prevention is key to stopping the fruit fly life cycle before it starts. When combined with targeted homemade traps, a multi-pronged approach can help rid your home of an infestation for good within 1-2 weeks in most cases.

Common Fruit Fly FAQs

Now that we’ve covered the basics of fruit fly biology and the most effective DIY trap recipes let’s address some frequently asked questions people have about managing these pesky pests:

Are fruit flies harmful to humans?

While fruit flies can certainly be annoying in large numbers, they pose no threat to human health. Fruit flies do not spread disease and are considered a nuisance pest rather than hazardous. Their main impact is aesthetic and frustration over having to dispose of dead flies constantly.

Why do I only see a few fruit flies at a time?

Fruit flies live in large but dispersed populations. You likely only see a handful at a time because the others are congregating elsewhere, like around hidden fruit, behind appliances, or breeding in drainage areas. Comprehensive trap use is needed to actually reduce the overall population size.

How long do fruit flies usually live?

The average lifespan of a fruit fly is 30-45 days. However, females can live up to 60-90 days, depending on temperatures and access to food/water sources for breeding. Most of their days are spent as maggots within fruit matter. It’s the 1-3 week adult stage people notice indoors.

Are there natural ways to repel fruit flies organically?

Many essential oils have fruit fly repellent properties, including eucalyptus, lemon, orange, cinnamon, clove and peppermint. Try diffusing 5-10 drops in a cool mist essential oil diffuser near problem areas for organic pest management. Spraying infused water near entry points may also deter new insects.

Why do my traps stop working after a while?

The key attractants and lures in DIY traps like fruit, wine or vinegar will break down and lose potency after 1-2 weeks. Be sure to refresh trap contents regularly based on the specific design. Also, environmental changes like weather shifts or reduced food/breeding sources may naturally cause fruit fly numbers to decline over time.

Understanding Loan-to-Value Ratios: Key Factors Mortgage Lenders Consider

Buying a home is one of the biggest financial decisions most people will make in their lives. Taking out a mortgage allows homeowners to finance the purchase over many years with monthly payments. However, not everyone can qualify for the full purchase price of a home as a loan.

Mortgage lenders determine how much of the home’s value they are willing to finance based on a borrower’s ability to repay and various risk factors. A key metric they use is called the loan-to-value (LTV) ratio.

What is a Loan-to-Value Ratio?

To understand how lenders set LTV limits, it’s important to first define what the ratio represents. In simple terms, the loan-to-value (LTV) ratio compares the amount of the loan being requested to the appraised value or purchase price of the home.

For example, if a home costs $200,000 and a borrower is approved for a $160,000 mortgage, their LTV would be 80% ($160,000 loan amount divided by the $200,000 home value equals 0.8 or 80%).

Mortgage lenders establish maximum LTV thresholds based on their willingness to take on risk. The higher the LTV percentage, the greater risk the lender assumes if home values decline or the borrower defaults. Lenders mitigate this risk by careful consideration of a borrower’s financial profile and the strength of the real estate collateral.

Evaluating a Borrower’s Creditworthiness

One of the primary factors impacting a borrower’s maximum LTV is their credit history and score. Strong credit demonstrates an ability and willingness to responsibly manage debt over time. Lenders view borrowers with the following credit attributes most favorably:

Credit Scores

All major credit bureaus calculate credit scores using formulas like FICO, which generally range from 300 to 850. Lenders prefer scores of 720 or higher which indicate very low default risk. Borrowers with scores under 620 may only qualify for high LTV subprime loans with higher interest rates.

Credit Payment History

Having a history of on-time payments across all credit accounts is pivotal. Even one missed or late payment in the last two years can reduce the maximum achievable LTV. Multiple dates or delinquencies make getting a high LTV much more difficult.

Credit Utilization Ratio

This ratio compares outstanding balances to available credit limits. Using less than 30% of available credit is ideal as it shows restraint. Rates go up, and LTV maximums fall as the ratio climbs above 50% due to higher perceived risk.

Length of Credit History

Establishing a credit file takes time. Borrowers with accounts and lines of credit exceeding three to five years qualify for higher LTVs than those with short credit histories of only one to two years.

Credit Inquiries

Each new application for credit causes an inquiry to appear on credit reports. Too many recent inquiries, especially for new credit cards or loans, signal a higher appetite for taking on debt and reducing the maximum LTV.

Derogatory Marks

Public records like bankruptcies, foreclosures, liens, or judgments stay on credit reports for up to seven years and greatly constrain the achievable LTV until sufficient time has passed since these events.

Strong credit is so pivotal that even borrowers with 20% or more for a down payment can be limited to 80% LTV or lower if their credit profile shows higher risks based on the factors above. Credit repair prior to applying may help such borrowers qualify for a more favorable maximum LTV.

Evaluating Employment History and Income Stability

In addition to reviewing credit, underwriters carefully scrutinize employment, income documentation, and stability when determining a borrower’s maximum LTV. Key factors include:

Length of Current Employment

Minimum of two years with the same employer is preferred to demonstrate job stability. Short tenures of only six months to a year may restrict LTV access until a more consistent work history is established.

Income Type

Salaried W-2 income provides the most security as it tends to be stable and continuous. Self-employed borrowers usually have lower maximum LTV access as 1099 income can fluctuate. Multiple income streams are favored over a single source.

Income Documentation

W-2s, pay stubs, and tax returns are standard proof. However, certain industries like real estate that involve substantial commission income may require additional documentation of stable earnings, reducing LTV access.

Gaps in Employment

Unemployment gaps of more than 3-6 months in the past 2-3 years raise flags about hardship. Borrowers need compelling explanations like medical leave to avoid decreased maximum LTV exposure.

Debt-to-Income Ratio

Lenders examine monthly debt obligations like mortgage payments, other loans, and credit cards compared to gross monthly income. The front-end ratio of housing costs to income should be 28% or less of pre-tax income for a strong approval at the highest LTV tiers.

A history of consistent, stable employment verified by documentation gives underwriters greater confidence in a borrower’s debt repayment ability, leading to increased maximum LTV access. Addressing any red flags like job or income changes prior to applying may help negotiate a higher LTV.

Assessing the Strength of Collateral

While a borrower’s financial profile is important, the real estate being used as collateral for the loan is also thoroughly evaluated to gauge risk and set LTV limits. Key property attributes reviewed include:

Property Type

Single-family homes provide the strongest, most stable collateral and command the highest LTVs up to 95% or more. Condos and co-ops have lower maximum LTVs of 80-85% due to shared elements risks. Multifamily and commercial properties have even lower LTV thresholds.

Property Condition

Properties in excellent physical condition incur less repair costs and depreciate slower, representing less risk. Homes needing renovations or repairs may be limited to lower LTVs or required to make improvements first. Condemned homes usually cannot exceed 60-70% LTV.

Property Value

Appraisals establishing fair market value are ordered by lenders. Values must support the purchase price. Short sale or foreclosure resales have lower value certainty, limiting LTVs to ensure sufficient equity cushion. New construction has delayed appraisals until completion also lowering initial LTV access.

Property Location

Areas with stable or appreciating values provide comfort to lenders. Urban properties command higher LTVs than rural. Coastal regions see seasonal fluctuations which increase concerns about long-term value stability capping LTVs to 80-85%.

Occupancy Type

Owner-occupied homes have the security of a living owner motivated to prevent default through responsible payments. Non-owner-occupied or investment properties have strictly lower LTV maximums of 70-75% due to added risk absent an occupant borrower’s skin in the game.

Lenders thoroughly analyze both the borrower’s financial circumstances and property attributes before establishing a maximum LTV. Strong profiles coupled with favorable collateral command the highest limits near 95% LTV. Weaker credit or property risks mean lower and sometimes substantially discounted maximum LTV access.

Additional Factors Impacting Maximum LTV

While credit, income, employment, and collateral evaluation form the foundation, additional niche criteria also influence maximum LTV access:

Debt Level

Borrowers with low overall debt and high available credit access higher LTVs versus those with heavy existing obligations tapping most available credit who face LTV penalties.

Reserves

Lenders prefer seeing 2-6 months of liquid assets to cover emergencies without defaulting. Borrowers with lower reserves may only qualify at reduced LTV levels.

Loan Purpose

Purchase loans usually see higher LTVs than cash-out refinances, which bear added equity withdrawal risk, warranting deeper LTV discounts.

Loan Size

Jumbo loans above conforming limits require lower down payments and reduced LTV maximums to offset the risks of larger balances.

Loan Type

Adjustable-rate mortgages enable higher LTVs than fixed rates due to uncertain interest changes affecting affordability long-term—another risk factor necessitating LTV reduction.

Private Mortgage Insurance

Borrowers putting down less than 20% face PMI premium requirements, further pressuring LTVs to lower to offset costs cutting into affordability.

Thoughtful consideration of all risk dimensions allows lenders to precisely tailor and right-size a borrower’s maximum loan-to-value to balance access with protecting against losses. Those with stronger profiles commanding higher confidence see fewer barriers to financing large portions of home values.

Negotiating a Higher LTV Offer

While maximum LTV guidelines are largely set, borrowers still retain negotiating leverage to potentially increase their pre-approval offer percent by:

  • Improving credit profile elements like paying down balances and limiting inquiries
  • Documenting overall debt reduction
  • Making a larger down payment to absorb more risk internally
  • Providing additional reserves and liquidity evidence
  • Selecting a single-family home with a strong appraisal
  • Working with a lender who offers flexibility and has experience negotiating

Borrowers in a position to strengthen their profile should discuss increasing LTV access proactively during the underwriting process rather than assuming denial. Compelling arguments and extenuating circumstances may open opportunities. Even modest LTV boosts of 1-2% can meaningfully reduce costs over the life of a mortgage.

Leveraging referral relationships through real estate agents, mortgage brokers, or CPAs with lender contacts may also aid negotiations for the benefit of all parties. However, there are no guaranteed outcomes – underwriters must uphold prudent standards appropriate for each situation. With preparation and communication, homebuyers optimize their chances of achieving the highest and best loan terms possible.

FAQs About Loan-to-Value Ratios

Here are answers to some common questions borrowers have about LTV ratios:

What is the maximum LTV most conventional lenders offer?

For well-qualified borrowers, top conventional conforming loans max out around 95% LTV today requiring just 5% down. Portfolio and government loans may on rare occasions exceed 95% in strong markets, but 90-95% represents the realistic ceiling for most prominent lenders.

Can private mortgage insurance help access a higher LTV?

Yes, PMI allows borrowers to put less than 20% down to qualify for LTVs up to and sometimes marginally above 95%. However, the monthly PMI premiums negatively impact the debt-to-income ratio and ease affordability, pressuring underwriters to limit LTV increases to offset the risk.

How quickly can a LTV be built up over time?

Each additional 1-2% in equity from mortgage payments or home appreciation allows about a 1% increase to the maximum achievable LTV—assuming no other changes to the borrower’s financial profile. Fully accumulating equity from lower initial LTVs to the maximum takes 5-10 years or longer of on-time payments and value growth trends.

Does owner-occupancy impact LTV offers differently than non-owner occupants?

Yes, owner-occupants consistently qualify for the highest LTVs up to 95% compared to non-owner occupants and investors limited to 70-80% LTV maximums. Lenders view owner use of the property as occupant borrowers mitigating foreclosure risk.

Can LTV offers differ between various property types?

Definitely. Single-family homes provide the strongest collateral enabling 95%+ LTVs. Condos and co-ops cap at 80-85% due to shared elements risks. Multifamily, commercial properties, and manufactured homes impose the most restrictions, limiting LTV access considerably versus traditional properties.

How do retail store credit cards differ from general credit cards?

Credit cards are a popular method for making purchases, managing money, and building credit scores. However, there are important differences between general credit cards and retail store cards that consumers should understand before applying. Retail store cards are specifically tied to individual retailers instead of bank issuers. While they can offer discounts and rewards at that store, they generally have higher interest rates and fewer consumer protections compared to general cards. 

Interest Rates

One of the most significant differences between retail store cards and general credit cards is the interest rates charged on balances. Generally, retail store cards have much higher annual percentage rates (APRs) than standard bank-issued credit cards. The average APR for general credit cards is currently around 16-24% depending on credit history, while retail store cards often charge 25% or more in interest. Some discount the initial interest rate for a limited time as a promotional offer, but rates typically jump up after the introductory period ends.

High interest rates on retail store cards can result in cardholders paying much more over time if balances are revolving from month to month without being paid off in full. For example, let’s say someone charges $1,000 to a store card at 29.99% APR and only makes the minimum monthly payments of $30. It would take them over 13 years to pay off that balance and they would pay over $2,300 in total interest charges! That same $1,000 balance on a general credit card at a more modest 22.99% APR would still be paid off in under seven years with $830 in interest.

The higher rates on store cards benefit the retailer, not the consumer. People are more likely to continue carrying balances and paying interest, generating ongoing revenue. But it should be a red flag for anyone focused on minimizing long-term costs. Only open a retail store card if you’re confident you can pay statements in full each month to avoid pricey interest charges.

Rewards & Perks

While the drawbacks of retail store card interest rates are significant, they do sometimes offer better rewards when used within that store. Many provide cashback rewards of 5-25% on purchases that can be used as statement credits. Some may offer special financing promotions like no interest for 6-24 months on certain items over a minimum spend.

However, the rewards tend to be limited just to that one retailer. A general rewards credit card earns points or cashback that can be redeemed with flexibility at merchants of your choice. They also often have signup bonuses worth hundreds of dollars for meeting a spending threshold in the first few months.

The rewards on store cards are also not as valuable as general cards once balances start accruing interest, negating any rewards earned. It’s best to approach store cards as a tool for maximizing savings within that retailer only, and not a long-term credit vehicle unless you reliably pay statements in full each period without exception.

Protection & Customer Service

General credit cards typically offer stronger fraud protection policies and customer service than retail store cards. Federal laws like the CARD Act provide requirements around billing disputes, reporting errors, and limiting Liability for fraudulent charges. These protections are administered by federal regulators and the card networks.

In contrast, any disputes or issues with retail store cards would generally be handled directly by the individual retailer. Their policies may not be as extensive, response times could be slower, and there is no external regulatory body enforcing compliance with federal consumer laws. In the event of fraud, returns, or other account problems, a national bank is likely to have more robust processes than an individual store’s customer service department.

Furthermore, if the retailer goes out of business, there may be complications in resolving any lingering account issues or unpaid disputes. Store cards are tightly coupled to the continued success of that specific company, whereas general credit cards remain valid and protected even if once-preferred brands falter over time. Any financial or legal protections would come directly from the retailer rather than independent credit networks.

Credit Reporting & Scores

Both general credit cards and retail store cards can help build credit files and credit scores when managed responsibly. However, there are some differences in their reporting:

  • Store cards typically report activity to all three credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian, TransUnion) on a monthly basis like other credit products. This regular reporting of on-time payments helps demonstrate creditworthiness over time.
  • However, credit limits on store cards tend to be lower than those on general cards. High credit utilization, or balances that approach the limit, can negatively impact credit scores. Care must be taken not to over-utilize the lower limits of store cards versus other accounts.
  • Closed accounts may remain on credit reports for up to 10 years, still affecting credit age factors. This helps those who always paid as agreed. But it also continues to reflect any late or missed payments for the full 10-year period after closure.
  • Unlike general credit cards, most store cards do not increase credit limits over time based on payment history, as the issuer knows the customer is focused on that one store. This also limits the ability to minimize credit utilization percentages just through that one account.

So, in summary – store cards report positive payment history but with some caveats around lower limits and lack of potential limit increases. Manage credit utilization carefully across all accounts to maximize the long-term credit-building benefits of a retail card.

Application & Approval Odds

It’s generally easier to qualify for and be approved for a retail store credit card than a standard credit card issued by a bank. Store cards have looser underwriting criteria focused more on transacting with customers of their business. This means applicants with lower credit scores may still be accepted. However, the downside, as described, is higher interest rates and less flexible rewards once approved.

When applying for a store card, these factors can improve your chances:

  • Existing relationship with the store as a customer with a purchase history shows your commitment. Apply in person during checkout for maximum visibility.
  • Steady employment and income information on the application provides stability signals.
  • No recent bankruptcies, foreclosures, wage garnishments, or other negative items on your credit reports.
  • Credit scores above 600, though some issuers may approve in the mid-500s range or higher depending on other profile strengths.
  • Clean payment history is shown on other active credit accounts like energy bills, auto loans, or an existing general credit card.

Store cards are essentially pre-approved targeted offers for existing customers. Use the easier acceptance to build a positive credit-building account, then look to upgrade to a general card later once credit strengthening allows approval by more competitive issuers.

Restrictions on Use

A major limitation of retail store cards compared to standard credit cards is that the funds can only be used at that specific retailer and are not universally accepted like Visa or Mastercard. While rewards only apply within the store, this also means any credit line extended is effectively a “gift card” only redeemable for purchases from that company.

Emergencies might arise where credit is needed elsewhere, but store cards offer no flexibility in those situations. They also aren’t as useful when shopping online since the card details can’t be securely stored by websites for ease of future checkout. Orders have to be called in each time using just the card number or account PIN.

Store cards are best viewed as a supplemental account rather than a primary all-purpose credit option for these versatility reasons. Keep a general credit card as the go-to choice for payments and have the store card as an additional option for targeted in-store savings when possible.

Impact on Credit Mix

Credit scores considers not just payment histories but also the type and variety of credit accounts held. A diverse “credit mix” with different products reporting like credit cards, personal loans, retail accounts, and even cell phone bills demonstrates strengthened credit management abilities across multiple sources of credit responsibility.

While store cards help build credit files, over-reliance on just one or two types of retailer accounts limits this credit mix effect. It’s healthier long-term for scores to also have at least one general-purpose credit card that can be used universally and shows fiscal discipline with open credit lines across various industries/brands.

Adding a standard credit card to use alongside an existing store card maximizes both the payment updates benefit and positive credit variety reporting to help push scores higher over the years. Retail cards alone may put a visible cap on potential scores due to the constraints around portfolio diversification.

Closing a Retail Card

Closing a retail store credit card requires the same caution as any other account closure:

  • Like general cards, store cards remain visible on credit files and continue reporting activity for up to 10 years even after closure. This preserves credit history length benefits over time.
  • However, it also maintains any negative items that were reported during that period, like late payments, if those occurred before closing.
  • Closing removes available credit, increasing credit utilization on open accounts and potentially impacting scores in the short term.
  • Applying for a new credit line soon after closure may result in multiple new account inquiries and also briefly lower scores.

For these reasons, only close a retail card account if absolutely necessary due to issues like too high-interest rates or annual/inactivity fees charged. Keep the account open but inactive if possible to maintain credit age factors. Don’t close a store card solely to open a replacement credit line, as that results in a short-term hit from multiple inquiries and reduced available credit. Over time, the store card will continue reporting unused but positive data to strengthen aging credit metrics.

FAQ Section

Can Store Cards Help Build Credit for Those with Limited/No History?

For consumers just starting to establish credit or those looking to rebuild after past issues, retail store cards can be good initial options to build positive payment behaviors into credit files over 6-12 months. Their easier approval standards compared to standard banks provide a first step. However, interest charges should still be avoided by paying in full each month. After responsibly managing a store card for 1+ years, the individual will be a stronger candidate for applying and being approved for additional mainstream credit cards offering better terms.

When Should Someone Apply for a General Credit Card Instead?

Most experts recommend applying for a standard credit card once the individual has at least one retail card reporting 12 on-time minimum payments or after being an authorized cardholder on a family member’s credit card with a solid payment history. Credit scores in the mid-600s are commonly competitive for general card approvals from many issuers offering rewards programs. At this point, a consumer demonstrates capable credit management and readiness to be trusted with open-ended trade lines providing balance flexibility each billing cycle.

How Long Should Someone Keep a Store Card Open?

As long as the account is managed responsibly with on-time payments, keeping the retail card open can continue positively benefitting the credit profile for years into the future by providing additional credit history aging factors. Unless annual or usage fees are excessive, it’s best to keep the store card actively charging a small recurring trusted amount each month, like a subscription, to maintain the account’s positive compliance. Inquiries and decreased credit from closing become non-factors over the long run compared to maintaining continuous on-time payment updates reporting to bureaus.

Is There Ever a Good Reason to Open Multiple Store Cards?

While each additional card extends available credit and incrementally strengthens the credit mix factor, there are some drawbacks to consider around repeated applications, including multiple hard inquiries and too much available credit concentrated in retailer trade lines versus diversified accounts. A maximum of one to two store cards is generally recommended. Only open additional retail cards if necessary to access desirable recurring rewards or exclusive promotions not otherwise available on existing cards. Otherwise, it’s better to shift focus toward broader bank-issued credit options once approved for standard credit cards by national issuers.

How Can Store Cards Hurt Credit in the Long Run?

The biggest ways store cards can damage credit long term revolve around carrying debt month after month by paying only minimums and allowing interest charges to pile up. High utilization of lower credit limits also undermines scores. Late payments obviously worsen files significantly, as does defaulting on an account. Beyond active account issues, focusing solely on retailer credit means missing out on stronger credit lines from banks and rewards programs with flexibility and protection under consumer laws – all of which have facilitated safer credit management over the decades as purchasing needs change.

Beyond Bank Loans: Exploring Alternative Sources of Business Funding

Starting or growing a business often requires obtaining funding. However, not every entrepreneur qualifies for or wants a traditional bank loan. There are actually many non-bank options available that can suit your specific needs and situation. 

Crowdfunding Platforms

One increasingly popular way to raise money is through crowdfunding. By leveraging the power of social media and many small individual donations, crowdfunding allows entrepreneurs to obtain funding from a large number of people for their business ideas or products. There are different types of crowdfunding to consider:

Donation-Based Crowdfunding

With donation crowdfunding sites like Kickstarter and Indiegogo, you present a project, and people can pledge monetary donations without expecting anything in return except perhaps a thank you or branded product at higher donation levels. This is common for creative or community projects that may not result in a profitable business. All funds raised must go towards the proposed project.

Equity Crowdfunding

Some platforms like Seedrs and Crowdfunder allow entrepreneurs to offer actual shares in their business in exchange for investments, turning many small donors into shareholders. This type of crowdfunding is regulated similarly to an initial public offering (IPO) and has income qualifications for investors. Equity crowdfunding offers a chance for returns but also means sharing ownership and returns with investors.

Reward-Based Crowdfunding

With this model utilized by Kickstarter and Indiegogo, donors receive a non-financial reward in exchange for their pledges, such as early access to the product or service once it launches. This rewards donors for supporting innovative ideas while allowing creators to retain full ownership and equity in their businesses. It’s a popular choice for launching new consumer products.

Choosing a Crowdfunding Platform

Consider factors like your target audience, funding goal size, geographic focus, and perks or rewards when selecting between major crowdfunding sites. It’s also wise to research each platform’s funding rates and fees. Creating an eye-catching project page along with an engaging campaign through social media is key to crowdfunding success. While it requires patience and promotion, crowdfunding provides flexible financing and a way to test product-market fit before full commercialization.

Peer-to-Peer Lending

Peer-to-peer (P2P) lending connects individuals who have money to lend directly with individuals or businesses looking to borrow outside the traditional banking system, matching qualified borrowers with investors online. Some top P2P lending sites for small businesses include:

Kiva

A non-profit option ideal for micro financing and cause-based projects in developing economies, Kiva has facilitated over $1 billion in loans of $25-$10,000 to entrepreneur borrowers around the world. It requires no interest or fees from borrowers.

Funding Circle

For loan amounts of $25,000-$500,000, Funding Circle vets borrower credit and financials. Loan terms range from 3-5 years at fixed interest rates set by the site, often lower than banks. Business must be established over two years with positive cash flow documented.

Prosper

Prosper connects borrowers in the U.S. with a wider range of individual and institutional lenders. Loan amounts of $2,000-$35,000 are funded within a month or two at set investor rates based on a rating system. Borrowers must have high credit scores.

Peer-to-peer lending streamlines the process compared to banks and offers potentially lower interest rates for qualified borrowers while providing individual investors with attractive return opportunities. Make sure to carefully research any lender’s terms, rates, and funding requirements before applying.

Merchant Cash Advance

This refers to funding provided to a business according to the percentage of future credit and debit card sales. Typically 10-25% of daily card payments are deducted until the advance plus fees are paid off, usually within 6-12 months. Terms are generally faster and simpler than a loan. Examples of merchant cash advance providers include:

AdvanceMe

AdvanceMe offers advances of $5,000-$500,000 at a fixed daily repayment percentage. Borrower credit scores must be 650+ and a year or more in business with consistent card transactions. Approval decisions are fast.

Bluevine

For qualified businesses over 1-year-old with card sales of $30,000 monthly or more, Bluevine provides $3,000-$100,000 advances at flexible daily repayment percentages.

Fundbox

With Fundbox, loan amounts of $1,000-$1 million can be paid off over 6-18 months based on card and ACH volume. Flexible terms are tailored to each borrower’s specific cash flow.

While merchant cash advances are easier to qualify for than loans, the effective interest rates tend to be much higher due to built-in fees. Evaluate the repayment terms closely to determine if this type of funding makes financial sense for your situation.

Accounts Receivable Financing

Sometimes called factoring, accounts receivable (AR) financing involves taking out a loan with future invoices or receivables from clients/customers as collateral. The borrower immediately receives a percentage of the invoice amounts in exchange for giving the lender the right to collect those receivables. Typical terms work as follows:

  • Advance rates range from 50-90% of total eligible receivable balances. Larger, established receivables command higher rates.
  • After clients pay invoices, the lender deducts its fee (often 1-4% per 30 days) from money collected before returning the remainder to the borrower.
  • Clients are notified of the factoring arrangement and pay the lender directly instead of the borrower going forward.

Major AR lenders provide funding up to $15 million or more for established companies with a steady stream of qualified receivables. While useful for accelerating cash flow, factoring comes with an ongoing cost structure. Weigh the cost versus maintaining tight billing/collections internally.

Equipment Financing

Many growing companies need machinery, vehicles, computers, or other equipment to increase capacity or productivity. While an equipment loan may be one option, there are also lease and financing agreements better tailored for capital purchases:

Equipment Loans

Traditional bank loans allow borrowing funds specifically earmarked for equipment. Loan-to-value ratios are often lower for this secured form of financing versus unsecured working capital loans.

Equipment Leasing

Through a leasing company, businesses can lease essential machinery and spread out tax-deductible payments over time (typically 3-5 years) versus a one-time equipment purchase. Leasing builds in equipment upgrades without major future outlays.

Vendor/OEM Financing

Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) like Deere, Toyota, or Vermeer often provide their own financing programs to approved commercial buyers of their products. Terms, Rates, and incentives are customized by the vendor.

Evaluating total costs, including interest charges and residual values, is essential when determining if leasing, financing, or outright ownership makes the most economic sense for a company’s equipment needs and budget. Proper collateral and creditworthiness are still factors to qualify.

Business Credit Cards

Entrepreneurs who have an established business should consider applying for business credit cards to take advantage of 0% introductory balance transfer options or rewards perks. Most major issuers cater to small businesses with options like:

  • Chase Ink Business Preferred: Earn 3 points/$1 on the first $150,000 spent each year on travel, shipping, internet/cable/phone services, and advertising with social media platforms/search engines. Annual fee waived first year.
  • American Express® Business Gold Card: 4X points on the two categories that earn the most, including purchases of $5,000 or more in select business categories. $295 annual fee.
  • CitiBusiness/ATM Card: Fund your business with competitive cash advances and APR through ATM withdrawals that earn rewards. No annual fee.

The right combination of incentives and credit limits from multiple business cards can help businesses consolidate balances from other high-interest debt or fund short-term operating needs more affordably. Just avoid interest charges when balances aren’t paid in full each month.

Venture Capital

For rapidly growing, high-potential startups with large capital demands and ambitious scaling plans, venture capital may provide the right solution. However, obtaining VC funding is a long, competitive process that significantly dilutes the current ownership position:

  • Target companies demonstrate an innovative/disruptive product/service with a potential billion-dollar exit (IPO or acquisition).
  • Founding team and capabilities matter greatly, especially relevant experience.
  • Traditional VC funding kicks in after an initial funding round (Seed) of $1-5 million and before a later Series A round of $5-30 million.
  • VCs take significant equity stakes (10-30%+) that are further diluted by later rounds if the business continues expanding according to projections.
  • Major VC firms in tech hubs evaluate hundreds of business plans to find the next potential multi-bagger investment.

While demanding, venture capital can supercharge business growth like no other funding source for the right high-concept ventures ready to scale rapidly. The startup must demonstrate it is the category leader with the potential for unicorn status or massive buyout to pique VC interest.

FAQs

What is the simplest funding option to obtain?

For many new or small businesses, the quickest sources of capital may be a business credit card, small merchant cash advance, or online loan through peer-to-peer lending. Just be sure to understand all applicable interest charges and repayment terms upfront.

How long does funding typically take to receive?

Funding timelines can range from only a few days for smaller merchant cash advances or credit cards to weeks for peer-to-peer loans to months for the venture capital process. Crowdfunding campaigns of 30-60 days are common, while larger loan/lease applications may require 4-6 weeks.

Can poor personal credit impact business funding?

While business funding looks primarily at business credit and metrics, personal credit will still be a factor considered by many traditional and alternative lenders. Weak personal credit could lead to higher rates or a denied application. Address any personal credit issues proactively, if possible.

What expenses can different funding pay for?

Most alternative sources are flexible and can fund operating capital needs like inventory, payroll, or vendor payments. Merchant cash advances are suited for credit card processing. Equipment loans/leasing, specifically providers of machinery/vehicle purchases. Venture capital is targeted towards long-term growth. Consider restrictions for donations/rewards crowdfunding.

How can I improve my chances of approval?

Thoroughly researching lender requirements beforehand and ensuring all application materials like financials are complete and accurate are key. Having a strong business plan demonstrating revenue/job growth potential also helps. Asking for guidance from a small business advisor or grant writing professional may optimize applications.