Weekly home and garden rail, with affordable home upgrades, decorative window film, how to pick a string trimmer, and more.

How To: Make affordable and easy home upgrades

Living on a budget is the norm, rather than the exception, in the current economy. Whether you're trying to entice potential homebuyers or just want to give your living space a quick spruce up, here are a few tips for making a big impact in the look of your home without breaking the bank:

Start small

Small improvements, like a fresh coat of paint or an attractive new floor, truly update a home because people's eyes tend to notice surface areas first.

Experts agree that these upgrades make all the difference to prospective buyers as well. According to the International Association of Home Stagers, investing in small upgrades can increase a home's value as much as 7 percent -- and a new floor has been proven to return nearly twice the value for every dollar spent.

Shop around

From mattresses and dining room sets to LCD televisions and sofas, you might be surprised to find the home decor items on your shopping list at budget-friendly spots like thrift stores, boutiques and warehouse clubs.

Accessorize, accessorize, accessorize

If a new sofa or coffee table isn't in the budget, infuse a room with energy and color by adding simple finishing touches like pillows, artwork and rugs.

Flea markets, estate auctions and garage sales are unexpected sources of one-of-a-kind -- and often inexpensive -- accessories that add color and personality.

In the bathroom or kitchen, swap out existing hardware on cabinets and drawers to quickly create a more up-to-date look.

Clear the clutter

Piles of papers, toys and books can detract attention from the unique items that make a house a home. If your space -- and your budget -- is tight, organize everyday items with furniture that pulls double duty such as a storage ottoman or a bookshelf with built-in compartments.

And if you're putting your home on the market, professional home stagers suggest removing one-third of furniture from public areas like living and family rooms to create the illusion of extra space.

-- ARA

Did You Know …

Pratt and Lambert Paints has a personality quiz on its website, www.prattandlambert.com, aimed at helping you pick the right color paint.

Decorating Tip: Add stylish touch to glass

Window film, a microthin layer of polyester or vinyl film applied directly to glass, can add a decorative touch to your windows.

With decorative film, you can echo the look of stained, etched frosted or textured glass. And, depending on coverage, it can block ultraviolet rays and provide additional privacy.

The film may be removable and reusable, and can be used on windows, Plexiglas, showers, glass cabinet doors and more. But keep in mind that, unlike other types of window film, the decorative version doesn't usually provide significant heat protection.

-- Home Depot

Home-Selling Tip: Show off your dining room

If you have a formal dining room, present it as such. Remove extraneous furniture and accessories. Setting the table is optional; the look right now is clean tabletops with fresh flowers.

-- energizedseller.com

Home Improvements: Upgrade your windows

Windows in the U.S. account for a 30 percent loss of heating and cooling energy.

Storm windows can reduce heat loss through the windows by 25 percent to 50 percent, and low-e storm windows save even more energy.

Low-e windows have the benefits of regular storm windows, providing an additional insulating barrier and reducing infiltration. A microscopically thin coating applied to the window glass helps keep heat inside during the winter and outside during the summer.

-- U.S. Department of Energy

Garden Guide: Pick a string trimmer

Use this string trimmer guide to decide whether a gas-powered or electric trimmer fits your needs.

- Gas models: Good for the tough stuff, they’re typically 9 to 14 pounds. Though they run cleaner, there still is exhaust. Hearing protection is required.

- Corded electric trimmers cost the least and weigh only about 5 pounds. They don't require tune-ups, and start easily. The power cord limits your range, and you'll still need hearing protection.

- Cordless electric trimmers give you freedom from a cord and gas refueling. But they tend to be expensive and heavy (about 10 pounds), and work best with the lightest-duty trimming.

-- Consumer Reports

Backyard Buddies: What to do with woodpeckers?

Woodpeckers help out in the backyard by eating pesky insects, including carpenter ants and carpenter bees.

But an occasional woodpecker may single out a hollow area on a house for drumming, including metal gutters, house siding and television antennas.

An easy step is to distract the bird from the drumming site by using scare techniques: balloons, a child's pinwheel, flash tape, strings of shiny, noisy tin can lids, wind chimes, etc.

If that doesn't work, create a physical barrier by screening the drumming site with hardware cloth, sheet metal or nylon bird netting.

-- U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

GateHouse News Service