Coordinate your home's exterior colours like a pro
(NC)—No matter whether you are building a new home, or freshening up an existing one, choosing complementary exterior colours is quite a challenge.
Experts tell us that the most attractive exteriors use three to four shades to define the primary surfaces: main body, main trim, complementary trim, and supplementary trim. Using multiple colours will create interest and depth and are used to highlight an architectural feature, such as a pergola.
The main body colour is the dominant shade of the structure, often the brick, stone, wood or vinyl siding. The main trim colour is found on windows and moldings. The complementary trim colour is used on doors and shutters. Lastly, the supplementary trim colour can be found on decks, siding, fences, pergolas or other architectural features. Choosing the right ones will result in an eye-pleasing, coordinated look that is bound to increase the value of your home, as well as protect your investment.
If you need some guidance, Olympic exterior stains has developed a helpful guide to lead homeowners through the many choices of not only colour, but the type of stain best suited to each application. It's called “Become a Color Genius” (www.olympic.com/staincolorguide) and it's packed with information, tips, and seven colour schemes to enlighten and inspire homeowners.
Once you select your colour palette, it's time to determine the level of stain coverage for the wood components of your home. A clear stain allows wood to weather to a natural grey, yet still be protected from the elements. A toner delivers a slight hint of colour that maintains the natural beauty of wood.
Maybe you prefer a subtle wash of colour that allows the wood's grain and texture to show. If so, choose a semi-transparent stain. For a rich opaque colour, choose a solid stain and you will still see the rich texture of the wood, but with more depth of colour. Both semi-transparent and solid stains come in many beautiful shades that coordinate with one another.
New carbon monoxide alarms last 40% longer
(NC)— Despite the life-saving protection they provide, carbon monoxide alarms remain largely overlooked. Research shows that just 40 per cent of Canadian homes have them.
And questions arise like: Who needs a CO alarm? Where should I install it? When do I need to replace it?
Safety professionals tell us that one CSA-approved CO alarm should be installed on each storey. These alarms are especially important outside bedrooms in homes with a gas or wood fireplace, a fuel-burning heating system, or if the home has an attached garage or carport.
The CO alarm replacement question is not so straightforward, since different brands have different lifespans ranging from five to seven years. Adding to the confusion are smoke alarms which need to be replaced every 10 years.
Simplifying matters, safety product market leader Kidde has now updated all its CO alarms with sensors certified to also last 10 years. This technology is the first of its kind in Canada.
“Families can now have worry-free safety for an entire decade,” says Carol Heller, Kidde's home safety specialist. “Updated models also have a built-in chirp that tells you when alarms are approaching the end of active use.”
The alarms come in battery powered, plug-in and hardwired models. More information is available online at www.kiddecanada.com and www.safeathome.ca.
The Spring Garden Guide
(NC)—Spring is the season of rebirth and re-growth. Which also means green-thumbs can't wait to get back in those gardens! To get you started, here are some helpful tips from garden guru Peter Cantley, at Loblaw Companies Limited
Make your garden beds. Rid planting areas of weeds and spread a 4-inch layer of compost or manure over soil. Using a pitchfork, mix soil and compost going about 10 inches deep until you've got moist crumbly soil.
Primp and prune. Remove dead or damaged branches from woody shrubs or trees before new leaf growth begins. Prune spring-flowering shrubs and trees only after the first spring bloom.
Take some tests. Different planting areas may have different needs. Check the pH balance of soil in each spot with a home soil test kit. Then as new growth appears you can treat each one with the fertilizer and amendments required.
Peter's Dos and Don'ts to get you ready for beautiful summer Blooms:
• DO water the garden before 10 a.m. If you leave watering for the hotter hours almost half the amount of water you apply will evaporate in the summer heat.
• DON'T cut back foliage of bulbs until it dries naturally. The bulb needs the green leaves to make food for next season's growth. Cutting foliage too early results in small, weak bulbs the following year.
• DO fertilize roses every week, all summer long. Most hybrids are very heavy feeders and need a lot of fertilizer for beautiful and healthy blooms. Be sure to plant your bushes in a location with plenty of sunlight and leave at least 3 feet in between plants for good air circulation.
• DON'T forget to experiment with new perennials every year. Each year, we showcase some of the latest introductions and it's a wonderful treat to find new plants toenjoy in the garden. For instance, try the PC® Campanula – Purple Get Mee, with purple bell-shaped flowers. This perennial acts like an annual with rich blooms that come back summer to fall.
Curb appeal puts your home in big demand
(NC)—In a market where sellers are in competition to make the most out of their largest investment, improving your home's first impression is one of the best ways to set it apart from the rest of the pack.
When prospective buyers or renters drive through your neighbourhood, what do they see? This is a really important question that you need to answer because it will help understand what your buyer is going to be looking for in a new home. Once you've answered this, ask yourself objectively if the front of your home is in keeping with the rest of the houses on your block. The first impression is critical in setting the mood for prospective agents and buyers. If your home's exterior looks like it needs work, then people immediately assume that it's a 'fixer-upper'. The opposite is true if your front yard is manicured, the roof is in good shape and the driveway is in good condition. Having a potential buyer walk into your front door in a positive mode can translate into big dollars for you.
Both Virginia Tech and the University of Guelph did studies in 2011 that measured the effect of landscaping on property values, and they both came to the same conclusion. To improve curb appeal, basic landscaping increased the home's value by 5%, but more extensive landscaping including decks and patios increased the homes value up to 15%.
So where do you spend the money?
Set your budget and be realistic about what you're trying to accomplish with it. Keep in mind that you are trying to create an excellent first impression to attract potential buyers. This isn't the opportunity for you to realize your landscaping dreams. Consider a new paint job using a colour scheme that highlights the character of your home. Install a new front door or at least update your door's hardware. Even something as simple as full and healthy planters can make a favourable impact.
One of the easiest ways to improve curb appeal is to have a clean and tidy front yard with a manicured lawn. Maybe this is the opportunity to invest in some new tools to help do the job properly. The best part about this type of investment is that not only will your plants and lawn look better with edging, pruning and cutting, you also get to take your new tools with you once you've sold your home.
The technology for landscaping tools has made the purchasing task much easier as well. Now you can get a hedge trimmer, string trimmer or sweeper & vac all in one system. With the Black & Decker 36V Lithium system, for example, you can use the same battery and charger for all three of those tools. A quick prune of the shrubs with the hedge trimmer, followed by a 'one-around' with the string trimmer and then tidying up with the sweeper will help you to maintain the front yard as short as 10 minutes per day.
The goal is to create an emotional connection at the first glance of any prospective buyer, so before you put that sign on the lawn, be sure to spend enough time at the curb.
Zero-maintenance gardens are imaginary
(NC)—Over the last decade, the idea of a zero-maintenance garden has become the holy grail of outdoor spaces.
Imagine, a yard that always looks amazing and requires no effort on the part of the homeowner – a personal utopia that remains exactly as you left it. But don't hold your breath. Most experts agree there is no such thing as a zero-maintenance garden. Even if you paved your entire yard and installed plastic plants, nature would find a way to be a part of your perfect space.
The best we can achieve is less maintenance. Every single thing you put in your outdoor space requires effort. Even dirt requires work. Making your life easier is all about making the best choices for you and your space.
I laugh out loud when clients ask me for a nice big lawn as part of their easy-to-care-for backyard. In my experience, there is nothing more time consuming or labour intensive than grass. We have this misconception that a lawn should look like the pictures on the fertilizer bag and people spend all summer trying to make it happen. My neighbour Jim has the best grass I've ever seen. I decided to track the amount of time he spent in one week making it perfect. With weeding, watering, cutting, edging, trimming, and fertilizing, Jim spent almost 20 hours working on his lawn…and I didn't see him actually enjoying it. Personally, that's not how I want to fill my weekends. As a designer however, I know that filling a large backyard with a grass-less creation is expensive. I'd also be fighting a tradition that has been a part of the North American home for longer than I've been alive.
So instead of doing away with the lawn, maybe the better answer is to redefine it. The marketplace is now full of options that are alternates to our customary Kentucky Blue grass seed. Some people have opted for clover lawns; others have gone with mixes that utilize native fescue seeds. Both are definitely less maintenance than what we are used to, but they both still require some effort. To help with this, technology is also changing through the introduction of new battery-operated tools that are easy to use and easy to care for.
The Black & Decker 19-inch 36V Self-Propelled Cordless Mower (SPCM1936) is my new favourite outdoor toy. Not only can I adjust the mowing speed to my personal pace, its one-touch height adjustment allows me to choose my desired grass height – all with the pull of a single lever. Cutting grass has never been so easy
Maybe the key to discovering the zero-maintenance garden isn't trying to get rid of all the things that require work, the key is to make the work more enjoyable because then it isn't really a chore anymore! Like I've always said, “When the tools becomes toys, the job becomes a hobby!” One day we could all enjoy the yard work so much that we actually consider it a pleasure!
Maybe I'll file this idea right beside my photo of the yeti.
Edible Landscaping- grow a delicious relationship with your garden
(NC)—Not only does growing your own produce allow you to save on fresh, organic produce, but edible plants grow in a variety of shapes, colours and textures enabling you to cultivate a landscape that is as unique as you are. Lowe's Seasonal Plants Expert Karey O'Halloran provides quick tips on selecting and growing the right edible plants for your garden.
• Most (but not all) vegetable and fruit plants require full sunlight- at least 4-6 hours/day
• Full sun vegetables and fruist that grow on the vine generally produce the most colour. Consider and assortment of bell peppers, eggplant, Hot House Tomatoes, strawberries, and blueberries
• Cool-season plants such as cabbage, kale, spinach, broccoli, cauliflower, peas, and beans are versatile and can tolerate some shade
• Vegetables and fruits will not grow in full shade
• Salad greens make for great edging plants as they are lush in colour and foliage.
• For small spaces- window boxes, hanging baskets, potted plants, and raised garden beds are versatile and can allow for great growing.
• Need shade? Consider planting a fruit tree in your yard. Apple, peach, pear, or apricot varieties are all great choices for Canadian climate and produce beautiful flowers. Keep in mind that falling fruit can be messy, and could attract pests such as flies and bees.
• To control pests, plant garlic bulbs sporadically throughout your garden. This will help ward off spiders, flies, and slugs.
• If you love flowers, consider growing edible varieties such as Pansy's, Borage, or even Squash.
Start cottage safety on Day 1 this year
(NC)— After the winter we just had, cottage season can't come fast enough. But whether escaping to cottages, cabins or trailers, Canadians are being urged by fire safety officials to start the season by taking stock of smoke and carbon monoxide alarms and other safety equipment.
“To enjoy true peace of mind in your piece of heaven, you need to know that your family and guests are safe,” says Carol Heller, a home safety expert at Kidde Canada, the country's leading manufacturer of smoke and CO alarms. “Safety needs to start on Day 1 so you can enjoy an incident-free vacation.”
Follow these summer safety steps:
• Opening day, check the age of your smoke and CO alarms. Immediately replace any that are over 10 years old and replace CO alarms over seven years old, no matter whether they are plug in, hardwired or battery powered.
• Next, make sure there is at least one working smoke alarm on every storey and outside sleeping areas. In Ontario, this is the law.
• If you have a fireplace, woodstove, garage or carport or attached boathouse, or any other gas, oil or propane-fueled devices, install at least one CSA-approved carbon monoxide alarm outside sleeping areas.
• Once alarms are in the right places, check their batteries. The cold can deplete batteries over the winter, so make sure every alarm has fresh power.
• Turn your attention outside. Make sure all vents, ductwork, and exhaust fans are free of debris. And, depending upon your watercraft size and local regulations, you may need a fire extinguisher and CO alarm onboard. Know what's required.
• Lastly, it is extremely important – especially for renters – to know a cottage's exact address and fire emergency numbers. Some cell phone calls to 911 from rural areas can't be pinpointed. So make sure you can give full address information to emergency operators.
More summer fire and carbon monoxide safety tips can be found online at www.safeathome.ca.
Take control of spring allergies
(NC)—Along with the warmer weather and longer days, springtime can bring runny noses, watery eyes, and seasonal sneezing. From the ceremonious spring cleaning to blooming flowers and thriving trees, the season can trigger allergies caused by culprits both inside and outside the home. Don't let allergens such as pollen, mold, dander, or dust mites make you suffer and spoil your spring fever. Take a look at this list of practical, chemical-free tips from the Reliable Corporation, on how to better control allergies within your home:
• Declutter to reduce dust collectors. Remove piles and stacks, toss out or recycle any unwanted items, and then place remaining objects in closed plastic containers to avoid attracting dust.
• Vacuum, steam, and flip the mattress, this should be done annually in order to help maintain shape and avoid uneven wearing. Easily kill dust mites and mold spores with the EnviroMate Pronto (P7) a portable steam cleaner by Reliable. Use the fabric brush attachment and hold device over the mattress to eliminate allergens. The power of steam also deodorizes and sanitizes every crevice, a natural alternative to using harsh chemicals.
• Wipe down your home from top to bottom, but skip the hazardous chemical cleaning solutions and use a damp microfiber cloth to attract dust on tables, walls, frames, shelves, dressers, ceiling fans, and more.
• Keep your doors and windows closed, especially during peak pollen hours. If using an air conditioning system, make sure to change the filter monthly.
• To eliminate mildew and lime buildup without the use of chemical cleaners, lay down paper towels over appliances and soak in vinegar. For best results, let it sit for at least an hour, allowing the residue to soften, eventually making it easier to remove.
More information is available online at www.reliablecorporation.com.