Maintain your home and environment with salt alternatives

While salt does a great job of melting snow and ice, it can be bad for your driveway and walkways, garden, pets and the environment. Here are some alternatives you can use instead:

  • Sand – Sand will absorb sunlight, which can help melt snow and ice. It will also provide traction, so you won’t slip and fall.  
  • Kitty Litter – While it won’t melt ice, it will provide more traction for a non-slip surface.
  • Urea – Available in areas where fertilizer development is common, urea is a natural de-icer. While safe for pets and concrete, avoid using it near your garden.
  • Vinegar – It may take a few applications to work, but vinegar contains citric acid, which will help melt snow and ice.
  • Sugar beet juice – Completely safe for roads, pets, plants and grass, sugar beet juice lowers the melting point of ice and snow.
  • Alfalfa meal – Commonly used as a fertilizer, alfalfa meal is completely natural. It’s also grainy, which will help provide traction.
  • Coffee grinds – Like sand, coffee grinds absorb sunlight to help snow and ice melt faster. It will also help provide a non-slip surface.
  • Calcium Chloride – Fast-acting calcium chloride’s snow melting-and de-icing properties continue to work for up to 24 hours after application. However, it is not as common and tends to be much more expensive.
  • Stone grits – While stone grits don’t melt snow or ice, they have a similar composition to gravel or gritty sand which can provide traction. Many stores carry stone grits as a sand or salt alternative and tend to be the last option available when everything else has run out.


As we well know, in the Midwest, temperatures in the winter can fluctuate from freezing to the upper 50s and possibly higher. Combined with rain and snow, these factors can take a toll on the foundation of your home! Here are some ways you can protect your foundation and avoid costly repairs.


If you find a low spot or water puddles against your house, take note of the location and fix it when it’s dry.


Make sure they are off and not leaking. Turning a frozen faucet on in the middle of winter can cause the pipe to leak, which can cause damage to your foundation.


Prepare for flood conditions in your basement and don’t allow water to collect during rains. Installing a sump pump can help keep water out during a storm.


You may be tempted to turn off your dehumidifier in the winter, but excess humidity can cause damage to your foundation and walls. To avoid that issue, turn your dehumidifier to the lowest setting so that it will activate when the humidity becomes a problem in your home.


If you spot a minor crack in one of your walls or your foundation, it’s often a sign of underlying damage. Fill them as soon as possible to prevent the cracks from getting bigger.


Winter brings cold, snow and sometimes power outages, so it’s good to prepare for the worst. One way to do that is by prepping a winter emergency kit. Here is a list of items you’ll need!

  • Water – At least five gallons per person and more if you’re in an area prone to long periods of cold temperatures.
  • Blankets
  • Flashlights and extra batteries
  • Shovel
  • Power source – If you don’t have a backup generator and don’t want to invest in one, consider an alternative power source. You could use a power cord that can connect to your car to charge your phone, a backup battery to power your phone at home or a hand-crank tool to produce your own power.
  • Food – High-energy food, such as dried fruit or candy, and food that doesn’t require cooking or refrigeration is best. Don’t forget extra food for your pets.
  • First aid supplies – Compress dressings, bandages, cloth tape, antibiotic ointment packets, antiseptic wipe packets, aspirin, non-latex gloves, oral thermometer, tweezers, etc.
  • Radio – Purchase a battery-powered NOAA weather radio and portable radio to receive emergency information. These may be your only links to the outside in a power outage.
  • Toiletries and special needs items like diapers
  • Extra medicine
  • Heat – Keep an alternative way to heat your home during a power failure handy, like a fireplace, woodstove or a kerosene heater.
  • Matches
  • Fire Extinguisher
  • Battery powered clock

Now you’re prepared for whatever mother nature throws your way!


Before the snow falls and a chill takes hold, it’s important to winterize your home. If you procrastinate, it could come at a cost! Here are some tips that’ll help make your home more enjoyable when the temperature drops.


Turn the thermostat up to 80 degrees, just to test it. Listen for the furnace to turn on and make sure warm air comes out. If the furnace is not running properly, you may be able to fix it yourself, or you may need to call a technician.


By reducing drafts, you can lower your home’s energy costs by up to 20% per year! Use anything from V-seal weather stripping and rope caulk to shrink film or even nail polish.


Drain the water from your outdoor faucets and garden hoses and roll up the hoses and store them inside. Check for any “problem” pipes that tend to freeze in the winter and consider using heat tape to keep them warm.


Spot any potential issues before the first snow! Check for cracked caulk or rust spots, shingles that are missing, broken, or curling, cracked vent pipes, or large masses of moss and lichen, which could indicate your roof is decaying.


To prevent ice dams or damage to your foundation, clean your gutters to remove leaves and twigs. Also, make sure the gutters aren’t sagging and trapping water.


Haunted house

Kansas City is known for its haunted houses—from The Beast to the Macabre Cinema, you can get your scare on not far from home. However, what if it’s your home that is haunted? Strange noises, unexplained lights flickering, doors closing on their own. Who you gonna call? Probably a handyman.


Flickering lights

Loose wiring is the most common reason lights flicker. Flickering lights are also one of the top reasons for house fires. First things first, shut off the light circuit before removing the light fixture that you suspect is the problem. The best thing to do is to contact an electrician.


Doors shutting on their own

If your doors are shutting without your assistance, it means their top and center hinges aren’t plumb. It could just be loose screws. You can lift up the door and tighten the screws.


Floors creaking

Both solid-board and plywood floors can cause annoying squeaking and creaks. Traditional hardwood flooring is the most likely to give you trouble. A handyman can fix your squeaky floors by sealing up any gaps to stop the wood floor rubbing against the underlying plywood subfloor.


Strange noises

Banging and clanking sounds most likely come from your AC unit. Have you changed your filters this year? That’s important; dirty filters can clog up your system. If you hear high-pitched squealing, you might need to have your fan belts checked.


If you hear hissing and can’t identify it

It’s time to get out of the house. Don’t touch any lights or anything electrical. Call 911 and tell them you suspect a gas leak. This is one thing you don’t want to wait on. If you smell gas, be sure to act quickly, and warn your neighbors as well.


Items disappearing

Chances are you could use the help of a talented organizer. Or, it could be a ghost—we hear they love single socks.

Before you call the Ghostbusters, contact a Zaarly service provider! ReeceNichols has partnered with Zaarly to make sure you get the best service experts for all of your home projects! Ask your ReeceNichols agent for a promo code to use on your first project!


Sign up for Zaarly; it’s free!


Nothing sounds better than curling up by a warm fire these days. But before you break out your supplies, it’s important to make sure you can enjoy your fireplace safely. Here are some tips you should remember before lighting your hearth.

Check your chimney

Have a certified chimney sweep inspect and clean the chimney at least once a year, or after about 80 fires.

Only burn firewood

Burn logs that have been split, stacked and dried for eight to 12 months. Hardwoods that will burn the longest include hickory, white oak, beech, sugar maple and white ash. Never burn construction scraps or painted wood, which could release chemicals into your home.

Clear the area

Make sure the area around the fireplace is clear of anything that could be flammable, like furniture, drapes or books. In fact, keeping a nonflammable rug in front of the fireplace will prevent sparks from melting or damaging your carpeting.

Open the flue

Before starting a fire, make sure the damper or flue is open. This will ensure smoke is drawn out of the house. Also, keep a window open to prevent the room from getting smoky.

Never leave a fire unattended

Even if adults are near, children should not play near the fire or with any fire tools. Before leaving the house or going to bed, make sure the fire is out.

Only burn for a few hours

Although fireplaces are warm, they should not be used as furnaces. Only burn a fire for a short time—no longer than five hours.

With these reminders, you’ll be able to enjoy your fireplace without any worries!


Beekeeping can be a very rewarding experience and it’s become a popular hobby, with more and more hives popping up in neighborhoods across the country. Whether you’re trying it to keep yourself active, to help improve pollination in your garden or to launch a side hustle selling honey, like any other form of agriculture, beekeeping involves knowledge, time and commitment. Where to begin? Here is some advice from the University of Missouri Extension.

Do Your Research

First, find out if beekeeping in your city is legal. Some places require permits, while others don’t have any restrictions at all. Check with your local government to find out what is allowed where you live. If beekeeping is allowed, touch base with your neighbors to make sure there won’t be problems down the road. Then, learn all you can about beekeeping. Read introductory books and join a local beekeeper’s organization, such as the Northeastern Kansas Beekeepers Association or the Midwestern Beekeepers Association.

Order Your Bees

Plan ahead and order your bees for the following year. Bee suppliers will typically take orders in November and December, for delivery in April or May. Then, several months before your colonies arrive, buy your hive supplies and any other equipment you need, making sure everything is assembled and in place 30 days before your bees arrive.

Plan Your Location

Place your apiary near a good source of nectar and pollen. Trees and shrubs are good sources of pollen, and for nectar, look for plants in the daisy, legume or mint families. It’s also important that your hives have a good supply of water nearby, ideally within a quarter mile. Lagoons, swimming pools, birdbaths or even a shallow pan of water would work well. Whatever you use, make sure to add some type of substrate, like small rocks or floating pieces of wood for the bees to perch on. Hives should also be placed in a level location, where they can get sun during the day and be sheltered from strong winds.

Order Your Equipment

In order to keep your bees healthy, it’s better to purchase new equipment. For a beginning beekeeper, an eight or 10-frame Langstroth hive is ideal, because you’ll be able to interchange and add standard hive equipment as needed.

This is just an introduction to a topic that incorporates a lot of knowledge. For further resources and information, visit the University of Missouri Extension. Happy beekeeping!


Break out the pumpkins and cozy blankets – Fall is here!

Switching up your décor is a great way to get you prepared for the change of seasons, but what about the rest of your home? Here are 5 tips to get your home ready for the cooler weather!

Work from the top down

Check for loose shingles, leaves in the gutter and everything in between. Once you’ve made your way back down, take a look around for any cracks in the concrete and asphalt and patch them up.

Give everything a little TLC – Tender Loving Cleaning

    • Power wash the siding
    • Wash your windows and their screens
    • Clean and reverse ceiling fan blades
    • Shampoo the carpets


Cover up

Hanging heavier drapes can help you keep the warm air in and the cool air out by providing additional insulation.

Look out for weathered weather stripping

Avoid cold drafts and improve energy efficiency with weather stripping. Here’s a guide on what you need and how to replace it if yours is looking worn down.

Take additional safety measures

    • Replace batteries in your smoke alarms and carbon monoxide monitors
    • Restock your emergency kit – things like flashlights, candles, spare blankets and so on are good to keep grouped up just in case.
    • Schedule an HVAC inspection so it can heat your home safely and efficiently.


With these tips, you home will be fall ready from the inside out!


School season has officially begun for many and you know what that means – the itch to organize is in full swing! Whether you’re working from home or dreaming up a temporary classroom for your kiddos, finding ways to create a reliable workspace that maximizes functionality has never been more important.

Here are 7 ways to maximize home workstations:

It starts on the surface

Whether you’ve invested in a desk or a portable lap table, having a reliable surface space is key to getting in the zone.

Think vertically

Shelving is your friend! Having that space to place frequently used items will help you keep things organized yet within reach.

Embrace color

There’s a reason classrooms have colorful décor everywhere you look – it’s stimulating! Start by hanging some artwork, propping up your favorite framed photos, or put up wallpaper to visually block off spaces and create interest.

A place for everything and everything has its place

Think drawers, cubbies, etc. Remember those shelves and desks we mentioned? This dynamic trio is guaranteed to save you space and create a harmonious workspace!

“We gotta keep ’em separated”

Maybe you have extra space in your closet or there’s that corner of the room you’ve never been sure how to decorate. Wherever it may be, getting creative with a designated space is vital in being able to keep work and life separate!

Light it up

Natural lighting is wonderful, but for those not so bright spots, lighting is key! Desk lamps are great to get by with but installing any overhead lighting should be left to the professionals.

Screens are friends, not foes

If you don’t have a monitor at home, fear not – your TV can do the job! Consider creating a workstation around the placement of your TV.

With these simple steps, you can create a workstation that keeps you organized and inspired!


When it comes to design in your home, it’s always good to keep resale value in mind. After all, if the time comes when you’d like to sell, your design and décor can make a big impression on potential buyers, and not necessarily in a good way! We spoke with designer and ReeceNichols agent Rebekah Schaaf, who has been interviewed in publications like Apartment Therapy, to get her recommendations.



Most buyers don’t want a cookie cutter look to their house and end up mixing different styles together such as traditional with coastal elements or mountain modern with transitional finishes that don’t force a buyer to one style. Having some eclectic furniture and not sticking to one style makes a home feel more versatile and appealing to more people. Always keep in mind that trends come and go and designing a home that is “trendy” may only appeal to a smaller number of buyers when you decide to sell, so a safe bet is to include key elements in a home and style that most buyers desire. Those features include open floorplans, lots of windows and natural light, generous gathering spaces such as kitchens with large islands and eating areas as well as outside entertainment areas for unwinding and relaxing.



Curb appeal is always very important to a buyer and one of the first things they see when they drive by a home. There are several things you can do to enhance curb appeal that won’t break the bank, like, adding new mulch, painting your front door, planting beautiful containers of flowers and making sure your landscape beds are nicely manicured. Those things can go a long way in making the exterior look nice but are not cost prohibitive, so you can focus your money on the inside of the home where you will get the most return on your investment.



The most important items to prioritize in a kitchen without a full-blown remodel are cabinet color, countertops, hardware, backsplash and appliances. You can also add simple touches to older kitchens by adding inexpensive pull out drawers within cabinets or creating more organized spaces within a pantry or cabinet. Adding floating shelves to display nice dishes or glassware where you might have an unused built in desk or wine rack is also a great way to add more functional space and gives a feeling of a more updated kitchen.



Consistency in wall color is key when selling a home, however having a pop in color in a bathroom or dining room is always acceptable. For a space that can be viewed from multiple rooms, try to stick with navy for a pop of color. For a space where you want more of a relaxing feel, like a bathroom, try a softer blue. In rooms where you spend a lot of time, like kitchens and living rooms, opt for more neutral whites, creams, or a soft grey. That way you can infuse your color in the room with either pillows, throws, accessories or even a fun tile on a fireplace that you can change out easily if you get tired of it.  It’s typically good to avoid strong, bold colors in highly visible spaces because that restricts you to decorate to accommodate a specific, bold color.



Photography by Wayne Sclesky; Staging by Kathy West