Tips for a great yard

Tips for a great yardWarm summer days mean more time spent tending to our lawns and gardens. Here are some tips to help make your yard one of the best on the block:

Mow high. Keeping the blade raised for a 2.5 to 3-inch cut is best because it helps a strong root system develop and discourages weed growth.

Don’t water too often. By watering deeply and infrequently, you can encourage deep root growth. If you water in the morning, you’ll lose less moisture to evaporation.

Keep an eye open for pests. A small number of weeds or bugs is nothing to worry about, and if you catch a problem before it gets out of hand you will have an easier time dealing with it. If your problem reaches a point where you need to use a pesticide, just follow the label. The products in Canadian stores are approved by Health Canada before they are made available to consumers.

A healthy yard is not only a beautiful way to add value to your property, it’s also a good way to enhance the environment by filtering rainwater, attracting birds and good insects and absorbing pollution. Regular maintenance and keeping a watchful eye out for potential problems are two simple ways you can make the most of your personal outdoor oasis while contributing to a beautiful, vibrant urban environment.

Achieve your long-term financial goals with your home equity

Achieve your long-term financial goals with your home equityYour home has the potential to build your personal wealth over the long term. If used prudently, a home equity line of credit (HELOC) can help you reach your financial goals.

But with a HELOC, you might be tempted to use your home as an ATM. You need a plan to use this line of credit wisely, and be aware of potential risks.

Home ownership can be a great long-term investment strategy, especially if housing prices rise. Your mortgage debt goes down, because you make regular payments against both the interest and the principal borrowed. This increases your home’s equity — the difference between what you still owe and the value of your home. A HELOC lets you borrow against this growing equity. With this form of debt, you can delay repaying the principal balance as long as you cover the interest each month. However, this short-term credit advantage can mean a long-term debt problem.

Ask yourself if a low interest rate and easy access to credit may encourage you to spend more than you can afford to pay back and jeopardize your long-term financial security. For example, if interest rates continue to rise, will you have trouble keeping up with your payments?

Avoid a debt spiral where you could find yourself using additional home equity just to stay current on your mortgage. Here are some tips:

Establish a repayment plan. Try setting aside a portion of your HELOC in a sub-account with a fixed-term repayment schedule, so you pay more than just the monthly interest.

Develop a plan for how you will use a HELOC. This includes making a realistic budget for any home renovation projects you are funding.

Create an emergency savings fund. Using a HELOC for an unexpected circumstance, like job loss, carries risks if you need to use it to cover your monthly bills for an extended period of time. What you need is an emergency cache.

Learn more about HELOCs and find useful financial planning tools online at canada.ca/it-pays-to-know.

Dos and don’ts for maintenance and energy conservation at the cottage

Dos and don'ts for maintenance and energy conservation at the cottageWarmer weather has teased us out of hibernation and has us planning for a fun-filled summer. As a cottager, you’ve likely marked your calendar with the day you’ll be opening up your summer escape.

Here are some dos and don’ts from Hydro One that will ensure your next few months are stress-free when it comes to electrical maintenance:

  • Do download the free mobile outage app so you can easily be informed about power outages in your area. You can also register to receive proactive free personalized text or email alerts about outages as well.
  • Do a circle check and inspect the power line feeding your cottage. Watch out for any tree branches that are growing close to the line, as they could potentially cause a power outage.
  • Do perform basic maintenance checks regularly. Hydro One will disconnect the power supply to your property once a year at no charge so that any maintenance along or near your power lines can be performed safely.
  • Do check your electricity meter for damage before entering your cottage. Report any damage observed to your local electricity service provider.
  • Don’t energize all your branch circuits at once. Ensure that they are in the off position before turning on the power. You can then open the main switch and energize individual circuits one at a time. Make sure you also fill your water tank before switching on the power to avoid damaging your water heater.
  • Don’t make any repairs without contacting a licensed electrical contractor. You are required by law to do so and they have the expertise, equipment and training to do the job safely. The Electrical Safety Authority has a contractor locator that you can use to find a contractor working in your area.

Purchasing a new air-conditioner? Here’s what you need to know

Purchasing a new air conditioner? Here's what you need to knowHot temperatures have us relying on air conditioning to keep us cool. And since we spend most of our energy dollars controlling our home’s temperature, if your unit is more than 10 years old, it may be time for an upgrade.

Use these tips from Hydro One to help you purchase an efficient model:

  1. 1. Look for Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio (SEER) labels on air conditioners. Official Canadian EnerGuide labels display the model type and SEER, which measures how efficiently the system runs over the entire cooling season. The higher the rating, the more efficient the system. Use this rating while you shop to compare the energy efficiency of different models.
  2. 2. Consider investing in an air-source heat pump. It’ll serve you all year round, as it provides energy-efficient home heating and cooling. In the summer months, heat pumps cool your home efficiently by removing warm air and transferring it outside. They also act as a dehumidifier, removing moisture from the air indoors.
  3. 3. Once you’ve purchased your new unit, make sure it is tuned up once a year. Proper maintenance can reduce your cooling costs by up to 10 percent and increase the lifespan of your system.

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.