How to Hang a Hammock in Your Backyard

Source: Minglewood Designs

Source: Minglewood Designs

By Bob Vila

Laying in a hammock is the epitome of summertime relaxation. Getting the hammock set up, on the other hand, can be a frustrating endeavor. Consult the tips below to make quick and easy work of the process so that soon, you will have gone from hanging the hammock to hanging out in its comfy, swaying embrace.


Choosing a location for your hammock is perhaps the most difficult part. While you probably don’t have the perfect pair (and ideally spaced) palm trees on your property, you might very well have two healthy oak, maple or beech trees that are strong enough to support your weight. Ideally, those hardwoods would be as far apart as the total length of your hammock, fully stretched out.

If the trees are too close together, the underside of the hammock is going to scrape along the ground. If the trees are too far apart, you’ll need to extend the reach of the hammock by means of an added-on rope or chain. While there’s a simple remedy for the latter problem, there’s unfortunately no fix for the former (other than to buy another, smaller hammock). Note, however, that it can be a mistake to extend a hammock any more than 18 inches at each end. Doing so leaves it vulnerable to ripping. So if you fully anticipate having to add extensions, only consider buying a hammock outfitted with a spreader bar to inhibit rips.


For obvious reasons, it’s important to establish a secure connection at each end of the hammock. One option is to use tree-fastening straps (which may or may not be included with your purchase). These straps feature a loop on one end and a metal ring on the other. Simply wrap the strap around the tree, pass the loop through the metal ring, then attach the hammock to the ring with S-hook hardware. One virtue of tree-fastening straps is that while effective, they cause no harm to the trees involved.

Though there are countless hammocks on the market, most fall into one or two design categories. First, you have traditional hammocks, and then you have hammocks with spreader bars. Traditional hammocks are meant to hang loosely between two trees, with the center dipping down. Since they get attached to points that are 6 to 8-feet high on nearby trees, you can, in a pinch, consider using tree branches, not tree trunks — so long as the branches offer sufficient heft.

The other type of hammock involves spreader bars, which force the hammock to remain open, so the occupant never becomes wrapped up in a hammock burrito. Unlike the traditional design, hammocks with spreaders hang only 4 or 5 feet from the ground. Also, whereas a traditional hammock hangs loosely, these hammocks hang taut; when unoccupied, they are virtually parallel with the ground.

Remember that the wonderful thing about hanging a hammock is that once you’ve finished the job, your reward is right there in front you. Collapse into your new favorite spot — hey, you’ve earned a break!


Bob Vila is the home improvement expert widely known as host of TV’s This Old House, Bob Vila’s Home Again, and Bob Vila. Today, Bob continues his mission to help people upgrade their homes and improve their lives with advice online at His video-rich site offers a full range of fresh, authoritative content – practical tips, inspirational ideas, and more than 1,000 videos from Bob Vila television.

Note: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or position of Zillow.

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Real Estate Q&A: Buying in a Market With Little Inventory


Real estate investor and Zillow Blog contributor Leonard Baron answers questions from readers regarding buying, selling and investing. Have a question? Send it to

Buying in a market with little inventory

Q. We are a young couple in Pennsylvania, and we want to buy a house. However, there are no reasonably priced houses in our area due to lack of inventory. When one comes on the market, it’s gone in a few days at a high price. We’re pretty frustrated and probably just going to stop looking for a while. When do you think it will be a better time to buy? Tess L., PA

A. I don’t know any better than anyone else how the market will play out or when it will be a better time for you to buy. Usually when prices rise (as they are today in many areas due to a shortage of homes for sale) many folks jump at the chance to list their homes in an attempt to capture those higher prices. But lately, the higher prices haven’t done much to increase the flow of inventory among homes affordable to first-time buyers.

For you, don’t rush. Homeownership works best when you own the property for a long time. If you rush, you might buy something you don’t like, then you’ll end up selling in a few years and probably losing money.

Keep searching for a good house, and keep saving money while you search so that you can put a 20 percent down payment on a home to avoid paying private mortgage insurance (PMI). Even if it takes a couple of years to find the right house at a fair price, that’s a better decision than buying something you don’t love. Good luck!

Investing in crowdfunding real estate

Q. I’ve seen a lot on the news about crowdfunding for real estate deals. Basically you can invest in real estate without the management hassle and less risk. What do you think of these type investments? Marvin H., New York, NY

A. I can assure you they are not less risk. In addition to all the significant regular risks that come along with investing in real estate, you’ve got a few significant extras in a crowdfunded deal.

First, the people taking your money for the investment are most likely computer entrepreneurs or venture capitalists — not real estate investors. They’ve probably already learned the hard way that real estate investing is high-risk. You might ask how much of the sponsors’ own money is being risked on your particular deal? Also, of the remaining funds — the funds that aren’t paid in fees to the sponsors and that flow through to the actual real estate investment — how good is that investment deal? Since the sponsors make money getting you to invest, they are simply trying to line up as many deals as possible. As the investor, you are farther down the list of their concerns about who earns a profit.

You also have no control over the investment, and a large portion of real estate investors in private “non-controlled” deals like these never seen a dime of their money again (non-controlled means the investor does not get to make any of the decisions). If they do, it’s probably not a very good rate of return on their invested capital. What I’m saying is they could have done better with less risk buying diversified mutual funds. To be fair, some people do actually earn a decent amount on private real estate deals, but they are very risky investment.

Contrast these private real estate deals to publicly traded real estate investment trusts (REITs) that have long-term operating and investing histories, are highly regulated by the Securities and Exchange Commission, with independent audits and financial statements you can review. Also contrast them to a personal real estate investments where you have control over your money and the investment. Either of those investments incurs much less risk — although they are both still very risky.

Roll the dice if you like, but don’t write a check for a larger amount of money than you can afford to lose.


Leonard Baron, MBA, is America’s Real Estate Professor®. His unbiased, neutral and inexpensive “Real Estate Ownership, Investment and Due Diligence 101” textbook teaches real estate owners how to make smart and safe purchase decisions. He is a past lecturer at San Diego State University and teaches continuing education to California real estate agents at The Career Compass.

Note: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or position of Zillow.

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Room of the Week: Fresh, Modern Kids’ Room

At some point a nursery must become a kid’s room — ideally a space that will work for years to come. Megan Duesterhaus of “The Homes I Have Made” created a “fun, fresh, energized and kid-friendly space” that wasn’t overly-themed and could grow with her son.

The challenge

green credenza 3

Determining the room’s furniture layout was quite difficult. The space is just 12 feet by 12 feet with just one solid wall.

The result

A cheery green credenza is the perfect accent furniture for a child's room.

A cheery green credenza became the perfect accent furniture for the room. The colorblock credenza was an old office file/storage unit found at salvage company ReStore. After a good amount of scrubbing and dent filling, it was painted with a high-quality cabinet paint to withstand rough-housing.

green credenza 2

The credenza’s frame and legs were painted bright white, and the doors were given a two-tone green treatment.


Complementary elements bring harmony to the room’s decor.

Tips for recreating the space

White walls in a kids’ room don’t have to be boring! Start with neutral paint and add color through a single bold piece of furniture and accents of that color elsewhere in the room — in this case, the green credenza, quilt and artwork.


Layer your main color with a neutral accent — in this case black — to really make the room pop. To keep the space from being too “matchy-matchy,” add small doses of other colors, like the polka-dotted pillows or wooden animals. This still keeps the room fun and kid-centric.

pillows on bed

See more ideas for designing a modern kids’ bedroom on Digs!


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All Families Need to Have the Financial ‘Talk’

financial_talk(MCT)—It’s the conversation that many families put off. And then put off some more.

It’s the talk between elderly parents and their adult children about the parents’ finances. It’s a conversation that every family eventually must have—and it’s best to do it before a crisis hits.

“Money is a taboo subject for families, but we do find that silence can be costly,” says Lauren Brouhard, a senior vice president at Fidelity Investments.

The company recently released a study that found that when it comes to important but difficult conversations about finances, many families struggle with the timing.

The Intra-Family Generational Finance study showed that 64 percent of parents and their adult children differ as to when detailed conversations on key financial topics, including retirement preparedness, elder care and estate planning, should take place.

“While parents would prefer to wait until after retirement, their children want the conversations to take place well before their parents retire or experience health issues,” Brouhard says.

“The study found that the top reason cited by parents for not discussing their retirement plans or other matters with their adult children is that they don’t want them to count too much on their future inheritance.”

While I understand where parents are coming from, their reluctance is risky. Sooner or later, they will have to have that talk, and it most likely will occur during a crisis.

“It is a difference between destiny and certainty,” says Michael B. Cohen, an elder law attorney in Dallas. “A failure of the family to communicate will lead to mere destiny, whereas if there is a family discussion, then a plan can be discussed for certainty. If nothing else, there will be a better understanding of what is truly important to the parent and what risks they are willing to take, if any.”

So the best time to have that talk is now.

Adult children can broach the subject by using another person’s situation. Perhaps a friend recently had the discussion with his or her parents. You can use that as a bridge to ask your parents whether they have the proper estate planning and medical documents prepared, and whether they have spelled out their desires.

You need to know this so you can carry out their wishes.

On the flip side, parents can also initiate the talk. Knowing that they’ve communicated their wishes to their family can keep them from fretting.

“One of people’s big fears as they age is being a burden on others,” Brouhard says. “Taking the time to have more detailed conversations can really dramatically increase peace of mind and reduce anxiety for many families.”

“Short of having these discussions, there could be surprises about a parent’s wishes, what responsibilities a parent may be assuming a child may or may not be willing to take on — important matters that really impact everyone’s life in the family,” Brouhard says.

For example, the Fidelity study found a wide gap in expectations about who will care for a parent if they become ill. Of adult children surveyed, 43 percent expect they or a sibling will need to handle caregiving duties. Only 6 percent of parents expect this.

As an adult child, it’s important to remember that decisions about their finances are up to your parents, as long as they are capable.

“When it comes to finances, it’s not a democracy,” Brouhard says. “While different family members should have a role in the planning process, ultimately, it’s going to be up to the parents to make the important decisions that they have a right to make about their future, as well as how they disperse their assets and who’s in charge of what.”

Pamela Yip is a personal finance columnist for the Dallas Morning News.

©2014 The Dallas Morning News
Distributed by MCT Information Services

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8 Outstanding Miami Waterfront Home Interior Designs

What makes a waterfront home truly stunning? Beyond showcasing prime views, striking interior styles complement the natural beauty of these coveted properties. While some designers opt for whitewashed interiors to highlight the varied colors of the sunrise, others decorate with cottage flair to enhance the nautical atmosphere.

From casual to sleek, get inspired by these eight interior designs featuring waterfront properties near Miami.

Brown Davis Interiors

Brown Davis

This free-flowing design features sheer drapes and leisurely chaise lounges with hints of aqua blue and flora green. Although this casual space makes you almost taste the sea breeze, it manages to stay sophisticated with streamlined, chic furniture.

Pfuner Design

Renata Pfuner

Renata Pfuner’s contemporary space pairs dramatic bursts of red paired with classical selections for a stunning and dynamic coastline high-rise.

Causa Design Group

Causa Design Group

Dawn Causa’s eclectic design includes an array of neutral tones and dynamic textures, creating a comfortable and welcoming feel with seaside views.

FORMA Design

FORMA Design

Andreas Charalambous’ award-winning space embraces lush, monochromatic textures and mid-century furniture, allowing the view to take center stage.

DawnElise Interiors International

DawnElise Interiors

Dawn Hamilton’s eclectic design exudes carefree charisma, with the polished elements of a classic living room and the trademarks of a beachfront home such as wood, wicker and pale ocean-blue.

Dkor Interiors

Dkor Interiors

Dkor Interiors spins waterfront design with modern flair. This perfectly proportioned, refined space includes an array of natural materials, soothing tones and low-slung furniture.

Studio M Interiors

Studio M Interiors

Michelle Wiebe’s colorful design blends traditional seaside hues with sunrise-tinted walls and sparkling silver accents.

Fava Design Group

Fava Design Group

Joseph Fava’s striking Florida design is both dramatic and playful with bursts of refreshing green, a bold white backdrop and circular patterns.


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