Great tips for hiring a renovation contractor

Great tips for hiring a renovation contractorIf your home needs a refresh, consider opting for the services of a licensed and qualified contractor for projects that are beyond your DIY skills. Use these tips to select the right one:

Find a contractor you can trust and are comfortable with. Check out the renovator thoroughly. Ask lots of questions when you meet, talk with previous customers, and visit past or current projects. Don’t underestimate the importance of a comfortable personal fit so that you feel they are easy to talk with and are responsive.

Find out what services the contractor offers. Many professional renovation contractors also provide design and planning services that add value to the process. A true pro will point out opportunities for improving your design and any alternative that can save you money or improve the overall quality of your project.

Make sure you have a detailed written contract. A professional contractor will always provide a complete written contract that spells out everything, including their warranty. Never settle for anything less than this. Working with a contractor who does business the right way means not having to lie awake at night worrying what the final costs will be, or if the job will even get finished. A cash deal with no contract is no deal at all.

Know what to expect. Ask a lot of questions before any work begins. Who will be at your home for each portion of the work? How will your day-to-day living be impacted? Should you consider moving out during any portion of the construction process? What if want to make changes? The more you know upfront about the whole process, the less anxious you’ll feel.

Take an active role throughout the project. The best renovation results come from good communication between you and your renovation contractor. Ask for regular updates and know how to get hold of the contractor if you have questions or concerns. Be prepared to spend time going over drawings, monitoring the project’s progress and fully discussing decisions.

Don’t expect a problem-free renovation. The bigger the project, the more likely you’ll run into the unexpected, such as existing deficiencies hidden in the walls, delays in special orders or bad weather. Be flexible and understand that some things are beyond the contractor’s control.

The Canadian Home Builder’s Association offers free information on how to hire a contractor the smart and safe way. Find more information at www.getitinwriting.ca.

 

Quick guide to a great summer garden

Quick guide to a great summer gardenAs we prepare for cookouts, barbecues and relaxing outdoors, it’s time to get your gardens in shape. Feeling a little rusty? Here are some tips to make your backyard stand out.

Make a plan: It’s important to take into consideration the location you’ll be planting in and what you’ll be growing, as space and sunlight affect how your garden will thrive.

Have some fun with it: The possibilities for pollinator-friendly flowers and plants are endless: lanced-leaved coreopsis, New England asters, dense blazing stars and so many more. A wide variety of wildflowers in your garden provides a wide selection of nutritious nectar and pollen sources for honey bees and other pollinators.

More honey bees, please: Summertime is an important season for honey bees. Populations in Canada are now at an all-time high, but they need to spend the warm months finding nutritious food to help sustain their hives through winter. Keeping your garden abundant with blooming flowers means the honey bees and other pollinators will have food all summer long.

Get the right stuff: Picking the appropriate pollinator-friendly flowers and plants for your garden can be tough. Bees Matter can help. Get free seeds for a pollinator-friendly garden at www.beesmatter.ca.

Spring cleaning tips for a healthier home

Spring cleaning tips for a healthier homeWith the warmer weather upon us, spring cleaning may be on your mind. And if you have asthma, it’s a good idea to focus some of your cleaning efforts on the air you breathe inside your home.

Indoor air is an important health concern, as most Canadians spend up to 90 per cent of their time indoors. Poor indoor air quality can play a significant role in triggering certain conditions, like asthma. Here are tips on reducing some of the more common indoor triggers:

Dust and dust mites:

  • Remove or reduce dust-collecting items such as carpeting, drapes, stuffed toys and old pillows.
  • Wash bedding weekly in hot water.
  • Encase pillows and mattresses in covers that are dust mite-proof.
  • Keep humidity level below 50 per cent.
  • Vacuum regularly using a high efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter or central vacuum.

Mould:

  • If the humidity level is greater than 50 per cent, use a dehumidifier.
  • Limit the number of plants in your home.
  • Fix leaks and moisture problems as quickly as possible.
  • Remove clutter and allow air to flow throughout your home, especially in the basement.
  • For small amounts of mould, use warm soapy water to clean it up. For larger amounts, hire mould abatement experts.
  • Check that your eavestroughs and drain spouts are clear of any buildup.
  • Make sure the ground around your home slopes away from the foundation so that rainwater drains away — water should flow easily away from the house.
  • Throw away musty items.

Cleaning products:

  • Many household cleaning products contain chemicals that irritate the lungs, so buy air-friendly versions or make your own.
  • When using cleaning products, air out the home by opening windows and using vent fans.

Cigarette smoke:

  • * Do not allow smoking in your home or car at any time.
  • * If you smoke, take it outside every time; when you’re ready to quit, you can seek help from the Lung Association

Find more information online at lungontario.ca.

5 rooms you can brighten with a skylight

5 rooms you can brighten with a skylightAdding a skylight can enhance any space, making it lighter, brighter, fresher and more cheerful. A skylight can also improve our experience indoors, where we spend 90 percent of our time but the air quality is three to five times worse than outdoors.

In addition to the health benefits of more natural light, skylights reduce the need for artificial light and can lower electricity costs delivering twice the amount of light as vertical windows allowing for daylight to penetrate the center of the home. Here are five rooms that would be even better with one of these light solutions.

Bathroom. By adding a venting skylight, you can allow in an abundance of natural daylight while also letting the steam out after a hot bath or shower. Plus, did you know that the best lighting for make-up application is natural light? A skylight can let you enjoy privacy, an unobstructed view and a sophisticated design touch in your bathroom.

Kitchen. Programmable skylights from Velux will let in natural light and they give you the control to properly air out your home and keep your kitchen fresh during and after cooking. By opening your skylight, gases like hot air, cooking odours and toxins escape through the roof.

Living room. Make this popular space feel bigger with a skylight — you can even combine multiple units to create an architectural statement. Add a solar-powered blind to reduce the glare on your television and other screens.

Home office. Incorporate more natural light into your home office or studio to increase productivity, minimize mistakes and improve your mood. Working in natural light will also lessen eyestrain, which can help reduce headaches.

Attic/loft conversion. By converting your attic into a functional loft, you can add more usable square footage, increasing the value of your home. Keep the space bright, airy and open by including a skylight in your new design, leaving you with views of the sky and not your neighbour’s roof, exterior side wall or bathroom. This will allow you to transform your dark attic space into a practical bright space flooded with natural light.

Find more inspiration online at moredaylight.ca/5rooms.

Travel back to the 70s with a retro revamp

Travel back to the 70s with a retro revampTake a blast from the past with some not-so-subtle nods to the 1970s. Incorporate iconic vibrant colour palettes, inviting textures and décor with groovy silhouettes into your home using tips from Sharon Grech, the colour and design expert for Benjamin Moore.

Bold pops of colour. This decade was all about bright hues and bold patterns, which enhance the retro feel. By incorporating neutral elements, you can add a modern spin to this eclectic look. Black and white are great neutral bases when paired with pops of colour and pattern throughout a room. Try painting a statement wall with your favourite colour or incorporating brightly painted furniture and accessories. “For cool, trendy accents, Fiji AF-525 is a refined, earthy blue hue when mixed with a black and white backdrop,” says Grech.

Retro-inspired furniture. Another great way to accentuate retro décor is by adding fun, vintage furnishings. Introduce bright and uniquely shaped pieces of furniture or asymmetrical consoles incorporating retro and colourful elements. Adding a fresh coat of paint to vintage pieces will create depth and new interest in a space. “I always recommend using Benjamin Moore Advance when it comes to painting furniture,” says Grech. Lighting is another great way to incorporate the vintage feel into your décor. Accentuate your space with geometric light fixtures in bright colours that will take you back in time.

Make a groovy statement with fun patterns and prints. When it comes to 70s-inspired home décor, the more pattern, the merrier. Create the groovy look by mixing unexpected prints and patterns as a key design element. “Be sure to mix the scale of your patterned items and work with a consistent colour palette throughout the room to keep a sophisticated look,” suggest Grech.

Are there fire hazards in your home?

Are there fire hazards in your home?Besides a few well-known dangers, people often overlook potential fire risks in their homes. It takes just a few minutes to ensure you’re taking the proper safety precautions with everyday household items. Your insurance company can be a great source of information to safeguard your home, such as these simple tips from insurer, Aviva Canada.

When using electrical cords and extension cords:

  • Check before you use. Always check cords for damage before using them. If damaged, they can spark and cause a fire.
  • Invest in a high-quality power bar. If you’re using multiple small appliances and devices, choose a power bar that can handle the load. Also, never plug a power bar into another power bar.
  • Don’t run cords under carpets or rugs. Doing this could cause damage to the cord and spark a fire in the rug.
  • Use the right cords outdoors. Make sure all extension cords used outdoors are weatherproof and suitable for how you intend to use them.
  • Look for the ULC certification. Ensure that the extension cords you use is certified by the Underwriters Laboratories of Canada.

When using a clothes dryer:

  • Empty the lint trap before each load.
  • Ensure the dryer vent is clear from any obstructions.
  • Vacuum the exhaust hose every few months.
  • Only use the dryer when someone is home.

Find more tips on home and fire safety online at avivacanada.com/blog.

Add value and style to your home

Add value and style to your homeUpdating your home can make the space more livable and beautiful. But giving your home a refresh can also boost your property value. Here are some ideas to consider for your next improvement project, big or small.

Layer the lighting. The secret to making a room look like it came straight out of a magazine is layered lighting. Set the tone with ambient lighting at every height. Try experimenting with wall-mounted sconces, pendants, chandeliers or foot lamps for a brighter space and increased functionality.

Customize your window treatments. Made-to-order window coverings are like a well-tailored blazer — they instantly add timeless luxury and professional sophistication. Opt for a classic look with clean lines that’s always in style, like Vignette modern roman shades from Hunter Douglas. Unlike other roman shades, they can open from the top, from the bottom, or somewhere in-between for the perfect balance of privacy and light. Choose from an array of luxurious textures and colours to transform your windows.

Stage like a pro. Even if you’re the only one who will be seeing your home this weekend, style the place like a designer would for an open house. Start with your coffee table — combine one large statement piece like a vase or bowl and stack art books or candles for fashionable flair. Other meaningful touches are fresh orchids, plumping the pillows and draping a throw across the couch.

Modernize your kitchen. Few renovation projects offer a better return on your investment than a kitchen upgrade. This key room is the heart of the home and is often the first place guests look. Even small updates can make a big difference. Try swapping out a dated sink or an ancient microwave for a new energy-efficient model, or painting the cabinets and replacing knobs and handles with a stylish metal like brass.

 

Tips to choose the right tape for DIY projects

Tips to choose the right tape for DIY projectsThere’s an old saying, “if you can’t fix it with duct tape, you’re just not using enough.” Only what if the amount isn’t the issue, but rather the type? That’s right, not all tapes are created equal! So, how do you choose what’s right for your project? Here’s a few tips:

There are some jobs that simply need a quick fix or short-term hold. For these temporary applications, a Basic or Original duct tape can serve your purpose and save you some cash.

However, there are many projects that require extra strength and durability. For these, be sure to choose a higher-grade product, such as Duck Max Strength duct tape that will offer strong adhesion to a variety of surfaces for long-lasting repairs.

If you need strength, long-term performance, durability in extreme weather or adhesion to rough or dirty surfaces, you need a high-end product. For these situations—or if you simply want a top-of-the-line product for all of your projects—stock up on rolls of T-Rex Tape. It’s formulated with super-durable, extra-thick, UV-resistant materials to work longer and hold stronger than other utility tapes, in all kinds of weather and temperatures. (T-RexTape.com)

Finally, once you’ve determined the appropriate grade for your needs, tapes are also available in colours beyond traditional grey, such as black or white to blend in with surfaces. So, stock your workbench and junk drawer to ensure you’re ready for any project or situation.

Energy saving tips for your spring cleaning list

Energy saving tips for your spring cleaning listSpring is in the air, which means it’s time to start decluttering and organizing. While the main purpose of spring cleaning is to clean your space, it can also include taking on tasks that will make your home more energy efficient.

Here are some tips from Hydro One on how to save energy and make spring cleaning a breeze.

Book a spring tune-up for your air conditioner. Annual servicing can reduce your cooling costs by up to 10 percent and extend the life of your system.

Commit to being clutter free. Keep weeds and debris away from your outdoor condenser unit to allow the air to circulate freely. Prune foliage to be at least 24 centimeters away from the condenser.

Change or clean filters. Clogged filters restrict airflow and make your system work overtime, making it less efficient. Spring is a great transitional season for you to check both your furnace and air conditioning filters to ensure they are clean and working properly.

Install a programmable thermostat. If properly set, it can reduce cooling costs. Set your central air conditioner for 25°C when you are at home and 28°C when you are away. Or turn it off to save more energy.

Schedule your washing loads. Run your dishwasher, washer and dryer early in the morning, in the evening or on weekends when electricity rates are lowest.

Find more tips at www.hydroone.com/saveenergy.

What do rising interest rates mean for your home?

What do rising interest rates mean for your home?There has been a lot of buzz about rising interest rates, which have increased since last summer after remaining quite low for seven years. If you’re like many Canadians, you may be facing staggering levels of household debt.

If some of your credit products carry variable interest rates, you have cause for concern. For instance, home equity lines of credit (HELOC) typically offer relatively low, variable interest rates. According to the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada, HELOCs represent a significantly larger portion of household debt than credit cards. If you’re already living paycheque to paycheque, even a small increase in your HELOC interest rate could make it tough to make your payments.

With flexible repayment terms and a credit limit that may increase automatically as you pay down your term mortgage, a HELOC can be part of an effective strategy to pay off other, higher-interest debt. But if you opt for this route, know that banks may approve you for a higher limit than you need, making it tempting to overspend. Consider negotiating a lower credit limit that does not increase as you pay down your mortgage.

Lower your risk of finding yourself in over your head and create a plan to pay down the principal amount borrowed on your HELOC over a fixed period. Aim to pay more than the minimum payment or interest every month. With a HELOC, there is usually no penalty to pay back as much as you can at any time.

If you think your spending habits are the cause of your existing debt, follow a budget and avoid using your home like an ATM.

Learn more about how to manage your HELOC wisely online at canada.ca/it-pays-to-know.