Thursday, December 18, 2008

The Basics of Using Patterns in Home Decorating

Pattern refers to the way colors lines and textures are arranged in an object. While the word pattern generally refers to something which repeats itself, such as a checkerboard, in decorating terms it can just refer to the layout of design elements, and can be quite chaotic, such as in a floral pattern.
In decorating, patterns can be used for several purposes.

- You can use it to create a focal point in a room.

- You can use it to create a theme throughout a space.

- It can add interest to an otherwise dull space.

- Or you can use it to reproduce a particular historical style.

Traditional patterns are generally taken from historical decorating schemes. Chintz is often associated with English decorating, while calico patterns have a strong association with country style. Contemporary patterns are being designed everyday, but are usually based roughly on traditional ideas.

Picking Patterns

Other people prefer to have a plan. Maybe you are trying to recreate a traditional look, or maybe you are trying to achieve a specific ambience. Whatever your goal, you should remember the following tips when panning your strategy.

- Small rooms should use smaller more intricate patterns, which will fill the space with more interest.

- Large rooms should use grand patterns, that stretch out throughout the space and keep the room in proportion.

- Use your patterns to add interest to places that lack architectural features.

- Make sure your pattern is matched to the style of the houses architecture. If your
home is a grand old Victorian you don’t want to create a confusing décor with contemporary silver geometric lines.

You can use some patterns on everything in a room, the walls, furnishings, floors, and accessories. However the room will be immersed in the very particular ambiance created by the pattern, so be careful of overwhelming yourself with anything you won’t love for a long time.

Traditional pattern decorating is done with a single pattern, being matched against a solid background. In this way a boring white room is given vibrant life by a series of brightly upholstered chairs.

Mixing patterns with different colors and with other patterns can be a little tricky. You have to both create harmony between all of the different colors, and create contrast to give the space interest.

- Mixing patterns is tough! Start with just one or two, decide how you feel about them together, and then add more.

- Try to maintain one dominant pattern, and let the others act as support.

- Use patterns which have a single consistent color that runs through all of them

When working with patterns, many people find it useful to use a board, and samples of the various patterns, to get an idea for how they feel together. You can use samples of cloth from the store, matched with paint chips, and magazine clippings.
Set several patterns up together, and then leave them on the board for a couple of days, so you can see how you really react to them.

The most important thing when using pattern is to be willing to change your mind. If a pattern doesn’t feel right, or stops feeling right after a time, then you have to get rid of it. Patterns can create powerful feelings in a space, and you have to pay attention and be aware of those feelings in order to control the ambience of the room.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Indoor Decorating Projects Under $1000

Homeowners don't need to have a big budget to give their home a remodel straight out of the magazines. Any ambitious do-it-yourselfer can have a room looking sleek and chic for under $1000. Remodeling with a budget in mind saves money, and can also increase the resale value of your home.

Painting the interior can change the mood of your house, especially uplifting your spirits during the cold season. Painting your house is a home improvement project that's easy on your budget if you do it yourself. Don't buy the most expensive paint on the market; expensive doesn't necessarily mean good quality paint. An estimate of how much you will spend painting just one room that is approximately 350 square feet will be $50-$200, including necessary supplies of rollers, paint roller tray, duct tape and paint brushes. Other materials such as a drop cloth, paint bucket, or rags are optional. Instead of buying a drop cloth, you can use old blankets that you don't mind getting paint on, or cardboard. Rags can be replaced with old towels or damp paper towels, and paint buckets will only be necessary if you plan to mix paints for faux painting. Remember your price will increase as you add more rooms to your painting plan, and other areas such as trims, windows, doors, etc.

Another cost-effective way to remodel a room or your home is to wallpaper instead of paint. Wallpapering can suit anyone's need and budget, setting a mood and adding elegance to a room. Choosing the right wallpaper can make a room appear larger or smaller, providing an illusion of height for a room with low ceilings. Wallpapering can also add a design and pattern that is difficult to replicate with paint. The average price for a single roll of wall covering is about $12. The price is affected by the type of wall covering, how elaborate the design, the exclusivity of the design, and designer name. For more wallpapering information, check out our wallpapering how-to projects.

Vinyl flooring is an affordable upgrade that can be made to any room, and is especially suited to a kitchen or bathroom. Vinyl floors are easy to install and come in many styles, colors, sizes, and patterns to complement any décor. You can buy vinyl flooring in sheets or tiles. Vinyl tiles are comfortable, easy to clean, and skid resistant. For do-it-yourself installation, click visit our section on vinyl flooring.

Adding shelves to a room or closet can help eliminate clutter. Shelves in any room can be used to display collectibles, ornaments or pictures, and hold CDs, DVDs, books and toys. Shelves can be put anywhere, including in the corners, to add a sophisticated look. They are cost-effective and a cost-efficient investment that come in different styles, sizes, colors and materials to make any room look appealing.

Accessories such as candles, pillows, cushions, and artwork can add to the theme of a room without costing much. Accessories, when not cluttered together, can enrich your personal style as well as be inviting enough for guest to stop and look. Use candles to make your house smell fresh. Since they come in various colors, it's easy to match them to any décor. Pillows or cushions are good for a bedroom and living or family room, and can make any sofa or chairs look like new. You can change the color, design, and styles to whatever mood you are in. A plain wall will make any room look boring, but by adding artwork as the focal point of your theme or décor, you can make a room pleasant and enjoyable for everyone.

by Margareth Montenegro

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Winter Home Improvement Projects

During the long months of winter when exterior home improvement projects are on hold, you'll find plenty to do indoors. Warmer months aren't the only times to work on home improvement projects. Instead of spending time during the spring, summer, or fall working on interior home improvement projects, save them for winter. The following are some of the many home improvement projects you can work on during the cold months of winter, and staying busy will help winter fly by faster than you ever expected. Before you know it summer will be here, and many of your home improvement projects will be complete.

Are your carpets looking worse for wear, or have you always wanted hardwood or ceramic tile floors? Winter is the perfect time to complete these types of indoor home improvement projects. If you have the necessary skills to lay carpet, install hardwood floors, or install ceramic tile flooring, by all means do it yourself and save a considerable amount of money. Otherwise, shop around for the best prices on flooring and installation. Winter is one of the best times to find the lowest prices on flooring of all types.

Window Treatments
Window treatments become tired looking after several years of sunlight and use. If your window treatments are due for an update, start shopping around this winter. Replacing window treatments is one of the easiest and home improvement projects you can do yourself, and it's also one of the most noticeable and least expensive. Search your local department or discount stores for window treatments such as blinds, shades, curtains, draperies, and valances, or shop online to obtain the best prices and the widest selection from the comfort of your home.

Painting and Wallpapering
Who says you can't paint and wallpaper during the coldest months of the year? Latex paint these days isn't terribly odorous and fumes are barely detectable indoors. Wallpaper paste is also virtually odor-free. Just allow a small amount of ventilation in the room where you're painting or wallpapering to bring in adequate fresh air, and keep fans running to dry paint and wallpaper paste quickly. If necessary, turn up the heat to keep the room warm and to help dry the paint or wallpaper paste faster. Painting and wallpapering are great winter home improvement projects. Take your time, and once spring and summer roll around, you'll be ready to begin your outdoor home improvement and painting projects.

Many people aren't impressed with construction-grade lighting, and they eventually opt for more stylish light fixtures and ceiling fans. If you're looking for winter home improvement projects, consider changing unattractive, uninteresting, and outdated light fixtures and ceiling fans. These days you'll find hundreds of options to choose from. Visit your local home improvement store to view a vast display of choices, or shop online and have the light fixtures and ceiling fans of your choice delivered directly to your door. It's really very easy to install ceiling fans and light fixtures. If in doubt, visit HGTV for complete step-by-step instructions and clear color photos.

I don't know anyone who doesn't need to organize at least one area of their home, and this is one of the easiest home improvement projects you can work on during winter when outdoor projects are on hold. Even the neatest most organized people have at least one closet, dresser, or cabinet that needs a little revamping or organization. Take advantage of the extra time on your hands during winter to better organize your closets, drawers, cabinets, or any other storage areas. You might discover things you forgot you had, and you'll find it much easier to access items you use on a regular basis.

By Crystal Ray

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Colin and Justin's 12 Quick-Fix Solutions for Holiday Decorating

We love to entertain, particularly during the holidays. And for us, creating atmosphere is a critical starting point for everything that comes thereafter -- just try getting into the party mood if you haven't properly decked your halls. Try these 12 seasonal styling tips. Simple, but, hey, even at Christmas less is more!

1 Nothing sets the scene better than sweet aromas wafting through the air. Try scented candles -- these days, even supermarkets sell an assortment of fabulous olfactory delights. Or, back in bonny Scotland, we have an old but favourite trick: chuck a couple of vanilla pods into your log fire to promote mood.

2 As an alternative to standard name cards, tie Christmas gift tags displaying guests' names around the stems of wineglasses.

3 Wrap oranges with a cross of red ribbon and stud the flesh with cloves. Instantly gorgeous, and they smell better each day. After Christmas, once the oranges are completely dry, pop some into the back of your wardrobe to freshen your clothes.

4 Forget tradition -- indulge your senses with whatever colour combos you like. We're currently working on a festive aqua and silver living room and a marshmallow pink and duck-egg blue dining room.

5 Use gold- or silver-ink pens to write guests' names on extra-large leaves like those from a castor oil plant, and use as chargers under side plates.

6 Slip lottery tickets inside store-bought Christmas crackers as an extra surprise.

7 Arrange a snaking line of brightly coloured votive holders (with flickering candles in each) down the centre of your dining table. Simple but very effective.

8 Arrange white Christmas lights in a favourite glass vase as an instant conversation starter. Simply switch on and let the twinkling begin!

9 IKEA sells gorgeous glass prisms that will add sparkle to pretty much anything you like. Using fishing line, hang them from your tree or a light fixture, or arrange in an artistic grouping at your window.

10 To create a minimalist display, spray dried flowers white and silver, and arrange inside a large, clear tank vase filled with white pebbles.

By Colin McAllister and Justin Ryan

Colorwashing Walls

The technique of colorwashing walls is easy to master. In addition, it adds soft-focus color to your room and visual interest to your walls. If your wall has blemishes, scrapes, or other imperfections, colorwashing may be the answer to your problem. In heavily trafficked areas like hallways, or in bathrooms where humidity can effect the appearance of walls, the gentle color variations of colorwashing can make any wear less noticeable.

Use a 1:1 ratio of latex paint and wallpaper paste. The color of the base coat, as well as the intensity of the top coat, will effect the overall look, so you may want to test your mixture first to make sure it is what you really want.

Load the tip of a very wide brush with your latex-paste mixture and "dash" a few strokes onto the wall. Then, without reloading the brush, use side-to-side, diagonal sweeping brush motions (like you are making large, loose X's across your wall) to blend the paint evenly. You may also use a sponge to create the colorwash effect, but you will have to experiment with the sponge strokes depending upon the type and size of sponge you use. Finally, use a dry brush to blend any noticeable seams.

Colorwashing with two layers can add subtlety of color and even more interest to your walls. Again, you may wish to experiment with color layers before you apply the color so that you can achieve the desired effect on the first try.

To colorwash with two layers, simply follow the above steps twice, allowing the first coat of paint to dry before starting on the second. A lighter color on top of a darker color will soften the effect of the darker color. Two complimentary colors similar to each other on a color wheel can produce a new, vibrant shade.

Colorwashing can be done quickly and easily to disguise imperfect walls with a sophisticated finish. It's fun and requires only materials and application tools.

By Dorothy Edison

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Mirror, Mirror, On the Wall...

Want a way to catch and reflect light in your home? Nothing does it better than a mirror. Mirrors are great for creating an illusion of space. Mirrors have been used to make commercial buildings look more spacious, and these same techniques can be used successfully in your own home.

Try the following "decorating with mirrors" tips:

*If you have a wall in front of the entrance as you enter your home, then hang a unique mirror on that wall to open it up and add interest to the area.

*Try staggering mirrors on either side of a narrow hallway or stairway to give the illusion of width.

*To make a hallway or stairway appear longer, try positioning a mirror at the end which will double its length.

Wrought iron mirrors are popular and can be used as a home decor accent with most decorating styles.

*Collections of unusual mirrors can be used behind a sofa or in a hallway. They can be arranged in groupings or combined with paintings.

*You can use several hinged mirrors placed together behind candles or flowers on a mantle or table, thus "multiplying" the effect of your decorative accents.

As with your artwork, choosing the right frame for your mirror makes a world of difference. The frame adds to the look of the mirror and enhances the space around it.

The use of long, tall mirrors spaced across a wall is a nice change from the more traditional wall-to-wall mirrors.

*Make sure mirrors reflect only attractive objects. Do not place a mirror directly across from a waste basket or cluttered area. Try placing it across from a window, a lamp, or a favorite painting.

*Miniature mirrors can be used as a decorative touch on throw pillows, curtains and placemats.

*Put a mirror on the ceiling of kitchen cabinets or the pantry which will help you see what's on the top shelf.

*Mirrors can also be used in the dining room to showcase your table decor. Use a mirror instead of a placement at each place setting. They will naturally draw attention to your table and by using bright and decorative dishes you will create a stunning display.

Since mirrors come in all shapes and sizes, they offer limitless decorating possibilities.

Make a mirror the focal point in a room. Consider investing in a really unique, classy mirror and frame that complements the rest of the decor in the room.

*Remember to hang mirrors at a usable height!

by Lynn Cressy

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Color Terms You Need To Know When Decorating

Color is the key to successful decorating. You can have the most expensive furnishings you can find, but without the right color scheme, they mean nothing. Color can work magic in a room by taking disparate furnishings and uniting them with color.

Adding color to a room is quite inexpensive. A new color of paint and fabrics can totally change a room.

The human eye can perceive approximately 10 million different colors. Just imagine all of the different color combinations that can be created. Even so, some color combinations are definitely better than others.

When looking at colors, there are eleven different terms that you should know:

1. Primary colors are the three main colors that every other color is made from: red, blue and yellow. Primary colors are often used in children's rooms because they are bright and will catch a child's attention.

2. Secondary colors are the colors that are created when you combine equal parts of the three primary colors. The color orange comes from red and yellow; green is from yellow and blue; and violet is from blue and red.

3. Tertiary colors are the result of combining a primary color with the nearest secondary color to it on the color wheel. The colors would appear as blue-green, yellow-green, yellow-orange, red-purple, and blue-purple.

4. Related color schemes result from combining secondary and tertiary colors. For instance, the colors blue-green and green will evoke a calming effect because there are no jarring changes in color.

5. Complementary colors are located directly opposite each other on the color wheel. They would turn gray when they are mixed together in paint, but they can be used together - carefully - when decorating a room. Sometimes these color combinations can be too overwhelming so care is needed when using them.

6. Hue is a descriptive word for color, such as leaf green, robin's egg blue or burgundy.

7. Saturation means how saturated (how much color) there is in the basic color. For example, light blue and navy are both still blue. Navy is more saturated with the blue color.

8. The value of a color is how light or dark a color is. White has the brightest value and black has the darkest value.

9. Tints represent the colors that are closest to white in value. These would be pastel colors.

10. Shades are the colors that are closest to black in color, like hunter green or deep purple.

11. Neutrals are the "non" colors, like black, white, gray, brown and beige. They can produce a pleasing color scheme on their own or mixed with other colors.

Color plays an important part in decorating. The entire feel of a room can be changed just by changing the color scheme.

By Jude Wright

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Bamboo Flooring - Top Ten Benefits

In recent years, bamboo flooring has emerged as one of the most popular new flooring styles, and it's easy to see why. Bamboo floors have been widely used in the Pacific Rim for decades, and America has seen bamboo's benefits for years in furniture and home accessories, so it's natural that its usage as flooring is catching up to us now. Its wide range of style and ease of maintenance gives the pro-bamboo crowd a lot to cheer about.

Renewable resource. Unlike many of the hardwood floors available on the market today, which can take tremendous amounts of time to reforest, bamboo grows abundantly both here and abroad, and it replenishes very fast. Conservationists will certainly enjoy this aspect of the material. The leftover leaves and shoots are utilized as a food source for livestock both here in the U.S. and in Asia.

Easy upkeep. While no flooring surface is completely maintenance free, some are better than others, and bamboo has a better resiliency than softer floors like pine or vinyl. A bamboo floor, despite its rapid growth, proves to be extremely strong when cured and can handle the elements and high traffic areas. Additionally, bamboo floors need to be refinished as, if not less, frequently than other popular flooring surfaces.

Easy to install. While there are several ways to install bamboo flooring, one popular option is the beloved "floating floor," an adhesive-less installation that entails a puzzle-like process of connecting mitered sections of plank flooring. This means the average homeowner can single-handedly install a large section of flooring in a weekend. While professional flooring contractors still recommend face-nailing and sub-floor installation, this floating floor option really opens up bamboo flooring to the masses.

Cost. The cost of bamboo flooring can vary greatly, depending on grade, finish, material percentage, veneer, etc. The entire spectrum of cost is well represented, from the high grade, imported solid bamboo planks, to the veneered floating floors available today at home improvement stores. Another cost-saver is the option of self-installation. That particular cost saving can be tremendous, depending on the application.

Style points. Style counts, and when it comes to bamboo floors, style is what it’s about. From its mellow light hues and colors, to its widely varying grains, bamboo can match almost any décor. Bamboo is typically very light, almost white in finish, but can be found tinted and finished in a dark color, which is more widely used in the North East and colonial settings. Another option is the finish; while bamboo is most commonly seen in a high gloss finish, matte and semi-gloss varieties can found, further enhancing its wide options. The many varieties of bamboo allow consumers to tailor the finish and colors of their floor to their specific needs, which puts bamboo ahead of some traditional flooring options.

Adaptability. Bamboo is one of the most adaptable flooring options available today. While some materials require lots of prep work to the subfloor, bamboo can be laid over a much wider variety of surfaces. Where a laminate may be needed for a vinyl or tile material, much less expensive plywood is a more than adequate surface for bamboo to be affixed to. Bamboo is far less sensitive to temperature changes than many other materials, like stone, tile or vinyl. While many materials are relegated to fair climate installations only, bamboo can be installed virtually anywhere.

Material Handling. For some hardwood materials, like mahogany or oak, handling and cutting can prove to be a chore in itself. This isn’t the case for bamboo; general hand tools, cross cut saws, compound miter saws and dovetail saws are perfect for finishing a home project like this. There is no need to use hardwood saws - despite its strength, bamboo is relatively easy to cut, and available in shorter sections so you can maneuver it easily around your work site. Some flooring houses also offer larger sections of bamboo for a more linear look. It’s an option that's really more for those whose work space is wide open, or can be adapted.

Strength. In Japan, bamboo has historically been used for industrial scaffolding, so it's certainly more than strong enough for your family's flooring needs. Its natural make-up has proven it able to carry countless times its own weight, and that converts into a flooring surface which is virtually unbreakable. While it's rare to find a flooring surface stronger than concrete (and by no means is bamboo stronger than concrete), bamboo gives it a run for its money in weight-to-strength ratio. If you are looking for a reasonably strong, lightweight floor, bamboo might be a viable option.

Durability. People instantly think of tile or marble when they are looking for a durable flooring surface, but bamboo can certainly be considered a top contender for longest lasting. Like any floor, it will eventually gain a nice patina, and if cared for, will start to warm and meld into a variety of tones and hues that add a lot of charm to floors. If you look at some of the vintage floors in Asia, where bamboo is widely used, you can see how over time the surface becomes its own gallery of smooth mottled tones and really enhances the décor of any home.

Material Availability. Since its increase in recent popularity, bamboo has gone from a difficult to find and somewhat obscure material, to a widely available surface found at almost any home improvement center. Originally, if you were looking to install bamboo in your home, you had to search high and low, in flooring houses and lumber yards. Now it’s virtually everywhere, and being used in such high volume that your choices of manufacturer and vendor are virtually unlimited.

With these points brought to light, it’s easy to see how bamboo flooring is becoming one of the leading flooring surfaces available today. From its wide adaptability and durability to its cost effectiveness, bamboo has something to offer everyone.

By Sean O'Halloran

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Chinese Red!

What better way to kick out the mid-winter blues than with blue's opposite on the color wheel, red? And what better red than this one, Chinese red, a red that stands up to any other color in its midst, even the steely gray of a February sky.

There are, as you know, many shades of red, simmering on the gradiant stove of color, from a dusky rose to the deepest maroon. Chinese red is not to be mistaken for any of these; there isn't anything watered down or tempered about Chinese red. While a maroon has more blue than Chinese red, and tomato red more orange, Chinese red is simply one thing - red!

This is the fire-cracker red that you see used for Chinese lanterns, used in the Chinese New Year's parades, or for the bright moon doorways in the fronts of homes in Shanghai. In China, red is a lucky color, so it's often used to bring luck into a household. As the Chinese New Year falls on Februrary 12th, bringing us out of the Year of the Snake and into the Year of the Horse, you can look for Chinese red at New Year's festivities in your city's Chinatown.

It's all well and good to have a giant Chinese dragon snaking down Mott Street, but what interior could possibly handle such a strong color? Certainly Chinese red is so strong you wouldn't use it for any large pieces in a room, and using it for wall color would take a kind of courage few of us can maintain.

But what Chinese red is perfect for is trim and accent, those dashing color swaths that bring a room back to life. If your walls are white or off-white, how about adding crown molding in Chinese red, for a crisp Valentine look? Or if your room has shades of yellow and blue, a little dash can bring in a Mexican tone, calling to mind sun-washed patio tiles of bright red and yellow.

When you're thinking of using a strong color, remember to take into consideration the material with which it will be used. A pair of light, silky curtains in Chinese red won't overwhelm the other colors of the room, as light will filter through them, making them appear lighter without diluting the richness of the color. The heavier the material used, the more attention it will draw in a room, so that a wooden bookcase painted Chinese red will stand out more than a satin cushion tossed on the sofa will.
Are there any colors that you should avoid mixing with Chinese red? One of the ironies with strong color is that they can actually be mixed quite successfully with other colors, even those that are somewhat unexpected. Greens, oranges, yellows, blues, and any white or off white works, and Chinese red paired with black will really snap a room to attention, even as the world outside seems to slumber through the rest of winter.

by Sarah Van Arsdale

Thursday, September 25, 2008

12 Ways to Cut Your Heating Bill and Reduce Your Carbon Footprint

Whether your home is heated by gas, oil, or electricity, your hard-earned money and the earth’s precious natural resources could literally be going out the window. How? Your windows, chimney, and even your air conditioning window unit could be sucking the heat (or cold) right out of your house all year around. Roughly two-thirds of your energy bill goes into heating spaces and half of that energy is wasted. The following are 12 environmentally-friendly tips to help you lower your heating bill and conserve energy—from the basement to the attic.
1.Insulate your basement, attic and integral garage. Put insulation above unheated spaces. This means that if your basement is unheated, you’ll add insulation to the ceiling, which will keep the floors of your home a little warmer. In the attic, insulate the rafters or unventilated crawl spaces.

2.Insulate old water heaters and exposed hot water pipes. Heat could be escaping from older water heaters. As hot water runs through uninsulated pipes, it can cool. Buy insulation wrap and reduce your electric bill by as much as 20 dollars a year. (And, once that old hot water heater breaks, replace it with a more energy-efficient model.)

3.Turn the water heater down. Keep your hot water heating under a comfortable 120 degrees Fahrenheit.

4.Turn down the thermostat. Lowering the setting by 1 Celsius degree during the winter can save about 10 percent in energy use. Likewise, if you have air conditioning, raising the temperature by just a few degrees can reduce energy in the summer.

5.Install a programmable thermostat. You can set it to automatically control the temperature. If you aren’t home during the day, why keep your house warm and toasty?

6.Change furnace air filters every few months. A dirty filter can block warm air. If you have an old furnace, consider replacing it with a new energy-efficient model. This will save you money in the long run.

7.Take advantage of natural heat and light. During the day, leave the blinds open to let the warmth of the sun in. Use less electric lighting and instead work with natural light.

8. Close your window coverings at night. This will keep the heat in. If you have curtains or drapes, line them to keep the cold out.

9.Seal drafty windows. If you have single-pane windows, hang storm windows or seal them with plastic to keep the heat in. Double-pane windows are best for energy conservation, so if it is time to replace your windows, choose these. Additionally, caulk or weatherstrip any other openings.

10.Seal doors and close other openings. Feel a draft coming from your door? If you’ve already caulked and weatherstripped, consider putting a rolled up rug or towel in front of your door to stop the draft. Also, remember to seal the hatch to your attic, close your fireplace damper, and remove window air conditioning units. Heat could escape your house from there.

11.Use a humidifier. During the winter months, the air is very dry. Adding a humidifier to your home will cause cooler temperatures to feel warmer.

12.Turn on the ceiling fan. In the winter, reversing your ceiling fan will push warm air down.

Green to the extreme? Consider a different heating method.

*Under-floor heating is one of the most energy-efficient traditional methods. It has one of the highest Energy Star ratings.

*If you are willing to break away from traditional methods, look into solar water heating.

*Consider supplementing your traditional heating system with wood or pellet stoves. Though they are a blast from the past, they have a smaller carbon footprint than other kinds of heating systems. Before installing any wood or pellet burning stoves, check local regulations.

by Julie Young

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Choose Hues Carefully: How Mood Can Be Altered With Color

By Eva R. Marienchild

Did you know that color around your home, as in the paint you use, or the color of your sectionals - even the knick-knacks you’ve placed on bookshelves - influence your mood? There is absolutely no controversy about the fact that color can make you feel everything from serious … to scintillating.

Whether you’re intent on revamping the entire house, or just touching up a few rooms, consider choosing from the following “theme” colors:

Create a Business Mindset

When you invite clients over, have a deep plum or darkest blue on the walls and accessories. You might want to add prints on the walls that exhibit quite a bit of this color, too.

It will impress your prospects. In addition to encouraging business talk, most people associate these colors with conservatism - or stability - and wealth.

These hues will also help you get down to business, when you’ve been awarded that contract!

To Increase Concentration

If you need to focus and productivity is your issue, you’ll want to choose a golden curry color. Stand next to the swatch, if you’re in a design or paint store, and see if you feel energized, and motivated to work!

If your work is more intellectual - writing, editing, research, or the like - go for the deepest eggplant purple. Use a fringe shawl or a throw, in that color, to cover a sofa or ottoman, if you’ve got one.

Note: Do not go "off" that color scheme by even a thread. There are many tints of purple but, for these purposes, you do not want to throw in, say, a bright purple or a violet.

Here’s why: bright purple and/or violet stimulate the recollection of pleasant memories. You might even get a bit nostalgic. There are many places for such a mood, but a work station, for intellectual endeavors, isn’t one of them. Again, stick to dark eggplant for creative, brainy work.

To Resolve Controversy

When Dad and brother are at odds, ask them to take it to the special room you’ve dubbed the “Conflict Resolution Den”, where you’ll remove all the breakables, and let them each have their say. This room will have been painted a soothing, welcoming color, like a deep, rusty red, a rosewood, or a pumpkin color. Also, tones with a hue of pink in them will soften the ambience … and make the mood more accepting.

Ready to Entertain?

For a sparkling good time, go for either a limeade (sort of like a Lime Ricky color), or a raspberry, or even a plum rouge. Again, try standing next to the swatches in the design or paint store. You should feel bubbly, but with a purpose. This is a terrific color for a room that is going to be used to hold dinner parties in. It’s sure to attract stimulating conversation!

For Homework

If your children - or you - need a study room, you can’t go wrong with steel grey. To break up the grey, you can throw in aspects of dusty coral - a muted, soft hue. You might also want to add small throw pillows, or add desk accessories, in this tone. A different variation is to opt for gauzy silver - a less bold look.

Try a periwinkle or a toasted olive color - or a combination of both colors - when you are baring your soul to your significant other. These colors encourage frankness. You might also want to add nut brown accessories - anything the color of pecans. A large plant holder in that color would complement the periwinkle blue or toasted olive very nicely, and would contribute to the give-and-take.

Age and Color

Is there someone in your household who is over 65? Studies have shown that, in many people that age, the lens of the eye undergoes a bit of an alteration. As a result, “cool” colors like blue, blue-green, green and purple are seen with a yellowish or murky cast. Direct lighting should be used, to help the person see properly.

Try to avoid combinations of any of these cool colors, as that seems to worsen the problem.

Suggestion: If your loved one complains that colors seem fuzzy to her/him, try a bright lime on the wall, and a few lime-colored accessories, instead. That stirs up feeling of aliveness and activity. As an added benefit, it’ll make the person feel appreciated - like an important part of the household, again - and take their mind off their changing sight.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Hydronic Radiant Floor Heating

Long ago, the Romans used radiant floor heating in their bathhouses. For centuries, the Koreans heated their royal palaces and traditional homes in this manner. Today, radiant heating technology has been improved and can be used in all or part of our homes.
What is radiant floor heating?
Radiant floor heating is a method of heating your home by applying heat underneath or within the floor. Comparable to warming yourself in the sun, this type of heating warms objects as opposed to raising the temperature of the air.
There are three types of radiant floor heating: hydronic, electric and air. This About Your House document focuses on hydronic (water) radiant floor heating.
Brought to North America post World War II, the first generation of North American systems met with several mechanical failures. The introduction of carpeted floors reduced the system efficiency. Today, significant improvements have been made in both the heating component and the system design.
Hydronic radiant floor heating is a system of plastic or metal tubes/pipes laid within a floor that carries hot water into specific rooms or “zones”, dispersing the heat through the floor surface.

The cooler water returns to the heat source where it is reheated and sent out again in what is known as a “closed-loop system”. The pipes can be encased in a concrete slab, a concrete or gypsum cement overpour, laid into thin grooved panels that nail on top of a subfloor, or suspended below a wooden subfloor using metal fins fastened under the floor surface. The heat output is determined by pipe spacing, water temperature, flow rate and floor covering. The heat output must be calculated to meet the heat loss demands of the home.

One type of tubing commonly used is a new leak-resistant, non-toxic, high temperature, flexible piping called cross-linked polyethylene (PEX). PEX is a durable tubing that doesn’t become brittle over time and isn’t affected by aggressive concrete additives or water conditions. PEX has been used in Europe since the 1970s and was introduced to North America in the early 1980s.

Is this type of heating available in both new and existing homes?
Yes. While the system can be easily designed and installed in new construction, homeowners wishing to renovate may incorporate hydronic radiant floor heating throughout the home, given certain conditions exist:
--the building structure can support the additional weight of the concrete/cement overpour, or
--the underside of the subfloor is accessible, or
--if being added to the basement, there is enough height for a concrete overpour above the insulation. (If the concrete floor is already insulated below, additional insulation is not necessary.)
Entire House Versus Selected Rooms
Homeowners can chose to install hydronic radiant floor heating throughout the house, or in selected rooms. The most popular rooms with this type of heating are the bathroom, kitchen and living room–rooms where the most time is spent. If only selected rooms have this type of heating, then a separate heating and ventilation system is required to heat the remainder of the home. The system can also be “zoned” so that there are temperature controls for each area.

Prior to the installation of a system, a qualified floor-heating specialist should make a heating-load estimate of your home on a room-by-room basis. The heating-load estimate will assist in an efficient system design. By placing the tubing in specific patterns and spacings, the system can accommodate the insulation of the room/home and flooring choices.

Once designed and installed, a copy of the design should be given to the homeowner, should pipes/tubing need to be located at a later date. When renovating, extra care must be taken that piping or tubing not be punctured.

Exposed surfaces that conduct heat well are best for radiant floor heating, such as finished concrete or ceramic tile. It should be noted that if any later flooring renovation is undertaken, the hydronic radiant floor heating installer should be notified to make any required adjustments to the heating system. For example, the water temperature of the heating system would need to be adjusted if there was a change from a bare or painted finished floor slab to ceramic tile, or wood flooring or to carpet with underlay. Wood flooring and thick carpets act as an insulation blanket, restricting upward heat flow and reduce the efficiency of the system.

System Components
There are three components to this heating system: a heat source, a distribution piping system and controls. The heat source in hydronic radiant floor heating is usually a boiler or a hot water heater, but other heat sources can be used too. The energy used to heat the hot water can be natural gas, oil, electricity, propane, wood or solar hot water collection.

A circulator pump near the water supply manifold moves the water from the mixing valve to the supply manifold into the distribution piping system (tubing) inside the floors. Properly designed, this delivers even heat to rooms. A properly designed radiant floor system will not exceed 29ºC (85ºF).

To select how warm or cool a room or home will be, controls are required to set the system to a particular temperature. A manifold system with thermostat or aquastat switches typically located in an accessible wall cavity provides a series of simple valves that are used to regulate the flow of water through each zone. There is a caution not to exceed the recommended maximum temperature as it could warp solid hardwood flooring and cause stress to the system.

There are three choices of installation:
1. Slab-on-grade system: One example of a slab-on-grade system is PEX tubing attached to a wire mesh or clipped onto rigid Styrofoam insulation. Concrete is poured over the piping or tubing at the ground “grade” level. The slab must be insulated from the exterior side of the floor all the way to the slab edges.
2. Thin slab system:
a) The floor heating tubing is fastened above the subfloor and is covered with lightweight concrete or selflevelling gypsum cement underlayment. The floor ranges in thickness from 3.2 to 3.8 cm (1.25 to 1.5 in).
b) Another version is to sandwich the tubing between the subfloor and the finished floor. This raises the floor only 1.3 cm (1/2 in). There are a variety of new underlayment panels that hold the tubing in place and incorporate aluminum transfer plates to improve heating performance.
3. Dry or “Plate” system: Tubing is attached to the underside of the subfloor, also known as a belowdeck or joist space dry system. In cold weather climates, tubing should be attached with aluminum transfer plates and both well insulated for improved performance. Without the insulation, the warmth will disperse into the basement. It is also possible to have an abovedeck dry system, where heat transfer plates are supported by sleepers.
It is recommended that a licensed contractor install the heating system.

An approximate cost of an installed hydronic radiant floor heating system by a licensed mechanical contractor can range from $600 to $800 per approximately 100 square feet. This cost can be more or less depending on specific heating requirements and energy efficiency results. In addition to the heating system, a mechanical ventilation system is required in the house.

Maintenance and Repairs
It is recommended that annual maintenance be done on mechanical equipment such as the pumps, hot water heater, controls etc. If there was a problem or failure, it is commonly found in these mechanical parts. It is recommended that the installer be contacted for annual maintenance.

For repairs to the system, the homeowner should contact the installer. Be sure to have your design plan available for tubing location.

To avoid unnecessary repair work, all equipment must be used and maintained in the manner in which it was designed and installed. Homeowners disconnecting controls or moving pumps can find themselves requiring repairs and possibly voiding their warranty.

While the heat source in a properly maintained system can last for as long as 30 to 40 years, PEX pipes set in the floor are expected to last more than 50 years. (Some test results indicate life expectancies of 200-300 years.)


Radiant floor heating provides even, comfortable, warmth as there is less air movement with this type of system. There are no drafts with this type of heating, unless it is through the building envelope. The thermal mass (concrete floor) evens out the temperature fluctuations. The floor is warm to the touch.

Many manufacturers claim that radiant floor heating is more economical to operate because the temperature setting may be set to 20ºC (68ºF) rather than the usual 21-22ºC (70-72ºF) as required by other types of systems. A study by CMHC (Thermostat Settings in Houses with In-Floor Heating, #01-106) has shown that people tend to keep their thermostats set the same as if they had a forced air system. Even so, the warmest air is at the floor where it is desired (and not at the ceiling) and there is reduced heat loss through the ceiling and walls.

Zoning a variety of rooms with the options for different temperatures has the potential to reduce energy consumption.

Energy Source Compatibility
Since radiant floor heating has a low operating temperature, a wide range of sources can be used to heat the water–a ground-source heat pump, a condensing or non-condensing boiler, solar or even district heating.

The system is quiet because a properly-sized circulator pump, used to slowly move the water, is almost inaudible. The loudest sound in the system is usually the gas or oil burner.

Unlike conventional forced-air furnaces, radiant floor heating has no ducts or radiators to contribute to dust collection or movement. Note: duct work is required for the mechanical ventilation system or air conditioning.
For residents with allergies, the reduction in dust movement may be beneficial.

Room Function
Hydronic radiant floor heating is virtually an invisible system. Without baseboard heaters, forced air registers etc, furniture layout is not restricted by the heating system. Bathrooms or special use areas with hard floor finishes are well suited to this type of heating.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

7 Cheap Bathroom Remodeling Tips

A bathroom remodel to most people means clearing out the interior of the area until it is just an empty box with a couple of drainpipes sticking out of the floor. Then the space is fitted with new fixtures and faucets that may or may not work as well as the ones replaced. In other words a bathroom renovation has a lot to do with style and getting rid of old, familiar items.

As well, when remodeling a bathroom space has a lot to do with it but if you can get along with the same amount of space then there is a lot of benefits that can be had:

* Save money
* Save time
* Less mess
* Less wastage

In other words there are a lot more benefits to remodeling that just saving money – but then, that’s enough.


A dingy, yellowing fiberglass shower/tub can make anyone want a complete remodel. Some people scrub it with an abrasive cleanser only to find that the next time they shower the surface absorbs the color of the shampoo and leaves a tell-tale stain. The truth is that even a tub stained with hard water rust stains can be cleaned with a good dish soap and a mild, nylon cleaning pad. This is the same with toilets and sinks. Before ripping them out try a different cleaner. Search the web for ideas from other homeowners. There are lots of them out there.

Bathtub-style: If your shower is a bathtub with a shower attachment on the wall, and you don’t mind the color, a new shower enclosure really spruces up the area. These come in a variety of styles with built-in shelves for condiments. Don’t break the bank on this. You should be able to get a decent one for under $200.

Fixtures: Check the local hardware stores for up-to-date fixtures. You can really spruce up your clean tub and give it a new look and purpose with a new shower taps and showerhead. There are many different styles and uses to choose so take some time shopping.

Water Saver Showerhead: To save more money buy a water miser showerhead. This can save you over 50% of the water and hot water costs for the same duration of shower.

Shower Curtain: This is what most people notice the first time they walk into your bathroom. Shower curtains and shower curtain hangers set the mood of the whole bathroom and should be coordinated with towels and toilet cover. If your bathroom area is small you should go with a lighter color. Also, if there is a window in the bathroom you can match the shower curtain with the window curtains.


If the toilet matches the bathtub or shower then you are half-way home especially if the toilet tank hardware is fine. Fortunately, compared with other fixtures, toilets are not really expensive but good, low-flush toilets are not cheap. Rather than get rid of a decent toilet to save water try a toilet tank water saver. This is a mechanism that fits in the toilet tank and only lets enough water in the tank to do the job. And it’s adjustable.


If the present sink is chipped or cracked, and is a drop-in style, then a replacement can be had for under $100. A full acrylic model that is yellowed or cracked can be had for about $150. If the sink is okay but looks bland then look at new fixtures at the same time you buy the new ones for the showers. In addition you can buy a towel rack and toilet paper roll hanger in the same mode.


The best thing about a built-in vanity is that it’s built-in and solid. Changing the look can be as cheap as a different paint tone or changing out the doors. Or the latter, take the measurements and go to several cabinet places. They usually have an odds-and-sots section where odd-shaped bathroom cabinets sets and doors can be found. Check the measurements and you may come home with a cheap pair of beautiful doors. Get new hardware to match the racks and water fixtures.


Linoleum: In a small or medium-sized bathroom changing out a floor can be as easy as rolling out a section of beautifully-designed linoleum over the present floor and gluing it down. If the present flooring is linoleum you can get a neutralizing agent to scrub the floor and then apply the mastic. The new linoleum will go down easily. Then install molding to hold down the edges.

Tile: This also cheap and can go over other flooring. For small spaces it can be a do-it-yourself job but a handyman can do it quickly and cheaply. Big tile can also be used on the walls from the floor to the ceiling for a grand, European look.


Usually the lighting is overhead and/or framing the mirror. This might take a couple of hundred bucks for an electrician but installing sconces on each side of the mirror will really give the bathroom a makeover. In addition, spend a few dollars on a quality, quiet fan.


Bathroom paint design is the cheapest remodeling technique going and usually one gallon of finish will do the job. Cleaning is very important and so is a good bathroom primer.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Be More Energy Efficient -- Winterize Your Home

Even homes with adequate insulation material and water pipe heat tape can be further fortified for winter months. Regardless if winter is already well under way, it still isn’t too late to winterize your home. The following steps can save you time, money, and help you avoid inconvenient cold-weather emergencies.

-Check insulation: be sure your attic, basement, and exterior walls are properly insulated and up to code. Depending upon insulation product used, replace or add to batt insulation (also known as blanket insulation) or other insulation material. If you have blown in insulation, a building contractor can determine whether or not more is required.
-Check for cold air entry ports: give your house the once-over; look for areas where cold air can seep in, and inside heat escape – adding to fuel costs. Check external wall electrical outlets, switch-plates, and gaps around windows and doors. Foam insulation made for outlet and switch placement is inexpensive, a breeze to install, and effective. Door weather stripping and window weather stripping made from metal, vinyl, sponge, felt, or foam can also help considerably. Caulk draft areas where weather stripping is not appropriate.
-Check furnace: this may not fit under the winterize your home category, but replacing the furnace filter every 4 to 6 weeks will help your furnace run more efficiently and cut down on heating costs. If you suspect your furnace isn’t running at top performance, have a heating repair contractor inspect it.

A programmable digital thermostat is another fuel bill cost cutter. They are not difficult to install and are more temperature precise than older types of thermostats. They can be programmed to automatically lower temperature at night when everyone is asleep, and during times when the house uninhabited.

Of course, prior to winter months make sure your gutters and downspouts are free from debris. And outside hoses should be disconnected and stored away; insulate outdoor faucets.

More Pre-Winter Ways to Cut Down on Fuel Costs

Aside from adequate home insulation, the use of either foam insulation pipe or electric heat tape, and the suggestions listed above to winterize your home, consider the following:

-Install an overhang above the entry way into your home to reduce ice build up on steps and make them safer.
-A double efficient energy pane window can help cut heating and cooling costs year round. An insulated window treatment, such as an insulated window shade or insulated window curtain, will also prove effective.
-Have chimneys, fireplaces, and woodstoves cleaned before winter sets in to avoid problems caused by accumulated soot and other debris.
-Acquire the services of a roof repair contractor to check loose gutters, damaged shingles, or other repair needs.

One other tip – avoid applying rock salt or calcium chloride to your roof to melt ice and snow. Use of either can damage shingles, and possibly void the shingle manufacturer’s warranty.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Home Interior Decorating on a Budget

Having a large budget to work with may be great when it comes to home interior decorating. But, you don’t have to spend a lot of money on improved home design. Tasteful interior decorating on a modest family budget is possible if you follow a well-planned strategy.

Budget Decorating Tips for Enhanced Home Décor
Successful home decorating on a limited household budget takes preparation and planning. The most important thing is to decide how much money you have to work with before making decorating plans.

Follow these helpful tips when decorating on a tight home budget:

-Pace yourself; accept the fact you won’t be able to get it all done at once.
-Set a budget limit and target date for project completion; this will help avoid the tendency to keep adding to the room design, increasing overall cost.
-Concentrate on one area at a time. For instance, a single room decorating project, instead of the house as a whole.
-Have a clear cut idea of the type décor and design you want; including color scheme, decorating theme, and the type mood you want to create.
-Look at the contents of each room with a fresh eye. Sometimes by keeping and rearranging base pieces of furniture and adding a few new accessories, the desired effect can be achieved.
-When redecorating, don’t over do it. Keep in mind the main function of the room; select a style, and stick to it.
-New wall paint, wallpaper, and the addition of wall borders are all cost effective ways to improve home interior design.
-Accessory items (such as a wall mirror, pictures, decorator throw pillow, vases and lamps) are quick, economical decorating solutions to brighten a room for a more modern home design.
-Quality used furniture or unfinished furniture that you paint or stain can be a big cost-saver.
-If you plan on using crown molding, consider decorative molding made from Styrofoam. It costs considerably less, is easier to install, and is every bit as attractive as molding made from wood.

Home Interior Decorating Tricks of the TradeHome designer professionals are experts at finding cost-effective ways to improve interior design. To produce the type decorating style and atmosphere you want; for a more attractive home design; one that will fit within your budget – large or small.

An interior design consultant can help steer you in the right direction when it comes to color scheme and fabric selection. Or when deciding how to rearrange furniture; for optimal visual effect, ease of movement, and to enhance room use.

For instance, one insider decorating tip is to “float” room furniture, rather than placing it up against the walls. This helps appoint select areas of the room for a specific purpose. For instance, create an inviting environment for intimate conversation or relaxed reading by grouping two easy chairs and a love seat together at one end of the living room.

Position the furniture on a colorful rug to define the area and create a visual separation from the rest of the room. A folding room divider or large potted plants increases privacy.

An effective small space decorating tip is use a wall mirror to give the illusion of more space, create more light and add dimension to the room. Position mirrors so they reflect an attractive element; a fireplace, scenic window view, etc.

If you want to create a more formal setting without spending a lot of money, take similarly proportioned works of art and group them together on the wall. The bold presence of a wall fountain is another great way to add an air of sophistication and ambiance to a room, as well as the tranquil sound of nature for a relaxed atmosphere.

Home decorating tip: instead of spending a lot of money on designer frames, make your own picture frame; one that perfectly enhances other room elements. Simply purchase an inexpensive picture frame and cover it with wallpaper or fabric. Or decorate it with buttons, dried flowers, stained glass shards, etc. Select mats that reflect the room’s color scheme.

Low-Cost Mood Enhancers; a Compliment to Room Décor and Design
Every interior designer knows the importance of mood enhancers when it comes to room design. Elements that add to the interior decor of a home, creating just the right atmosphere.

For instance, afresh cut flower centerpiece that follows the room’s color scheme can pull other elements together. The fragrance can create an enticing, invigorating, or relaxed atmosphere; depending upon flower type. Note: a floral designer can create a dry or silk flower arrangement that goes perfectly with your room’s décor; request floral spray or aromatherapy oil as a mood enhancer.

Mood lighting is another designer technique for creating room ambiance. One technique is to create multiple pools of warm ambience lighting from lamps strategically placed around the room. Tip: a three way light bulb is more versatile than a standard bulb. Providing brighter light when required for reading and other activities; subdued light for a cozy atmosphere.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Using wallpaper wall covering is a concept that has been around since first utilized in China over 200 years B.C. And who can forget the timeless charm of parlor walls clad with cottage rose designs; landscape or the horse and carriage scenes so popular during the Victorian era?

Wallpaper as a wall covering is as vogue today as it was a100 years ago. A timeless option that has evolved into new innovative ideas. With a wide variety of styles, materials, and designs from which to select.

Today’s Wall Coverings – Countless Styles and Innovative Materials
Today, wallpaper and coverings made from other materials - such as vinyl wall covering, bamboo wall covering, fabric wall covering, wood wall covering, textured wall covering, and even leather wall covering are available. Popular options with vogue interior décor in mind.

An interior wall lavishly adorned with a stunning wallpaper mural, or even fabric wallpaper can give a room that flamboyant flair. Even infinite styles of wall covering borders are available to accent any wall covering style; whether muted and understated, or brash and bold.

Common Problems
Along with the innovations and limitless choices in wall covering material or style, comes the possibility of a wallpaper problem of some type after installation.

One of the most common problem is seams that open up or curl. This can be caused by one of several mistakes when installing:

-Not enough wallpaper paste on the edges when seaming.
-“Over rolling” the seam edges, forcing paste from behind wallpaper.
-Taking too much time aligning the seams; allowing paste to dry along the edges.
Special adhesives are available for gluing down open seams without re-papering the whole wall. An effective and quick solution.

Another problem is curling and loose ends, caused by:

-Inadequate preparation of the wall surface. Such as not sealing the surface, or not applying sizing. While in many cases wallpaper removal in not necessary, surface preparation is a must.
-Too high a room temperature during installation; causing paste to dry too quickly.
-Insufficient paste, or the wrong type paste, used during application.
If the problem exists just on the ends and seams, using the special adhesive can solve the problem without re-papering the whole wall.

Some other problems include:

Tears when being trimmed – usually caused by using a dull blade. Change utility knife blades frequently.
Streaks on the surface after application – usually caused by excess paste, which should be wiped away with a damp cloth each time a new section of wallpaper is hung. In some cases a special solution may be necessary for removing wallpaper paste.
Shading variations – some types of wallpaper or wall covering can vary from roll to roll, causing a noticeable contrast when butted together. Alternating strips for a consistent appearance or sorting and matching rolls to lessen contrast can help. Some types of wall covering can be affected by not using a non-staining adhesive or by improper rolling techniques.
Gaps between pieces – can be caused by improper surface preparation, or incorrect butting and seaming.
Wallpaper bubble or blister – caused by improper smoothing, or hanging in low temperature (below 50°F). Improper surface preparation or improper booking can be other culprits. This type problem can sometimes be solved by pricking and smoothing. Or on a larger area, slitting and applying more paste.
Sometimes during surface preparation, old deteriorating wallpaper must be removed in order to obtain a suitable surface for new wallpaper. Many homeowners, after trying to scrape off old wallpaper, are left wondering how to remove it more quickly and efficiently. Using a wallpaper steamer is the best, most efficient method; they can be found in most rental stores.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

How to Create More Storage Space in Small Living Areas

Most articles that offer tips on ways to increase living space and create extra storage areas are written specifically for multi-room houses. But, what about storage for small space ideas; for persons living in a tiny house, apartment, or kitchenette?

The following tips are quick easy ways to increase space saving storage areas.

Invent Extra Kitchen Storage
Even kitchens have extra space waiting to be discovered. For instance, a custom made insert that fits into the top rim of the kitchen sink quickly produces an extra 2 feet or more of meal preparation space. It could be made from wood, covered with Formica that either matches or compliments the color of the counter.

If you don’t want to invest in a custom made insert, measure your sink and shop around for a wood cutting board in the appropriate size. One with a slot at one end would enable you to drain off liquids. It would also provide a handy grip for removing the cutting board when you needed to use the sink.

Hang pots, pans, and larger utensils from racks along the wall or behind the stove to free up cupboard space that could be used for storing small appliances when not in use. Or, to create more space for kitchen pantry items.

An extra shelf under the kitchen sink doubles the amount of storage space available, quickly and effectively. A narrow plastic-coated utility shelf attached to the inside of a cupboard door can hold detergents, furniture polishes, sponges, scrubbers, dust cloths, etc.

Wall shelves are another great idea for creating space saving storage in the kitchen. Small shelves along walls to hold spices and herbs; larger shelves are great for mixing bowls, cookbooks, small appliances like crock pots, and dry food items in boxes.

Maximize Personal Storage Space in the Bedroom
Custom made wood bins, old dresser drawers or plastic storage bins on wheels are perfect for stowing linens, quilts, extra pillows, and out-of-season clothing under the bed and out of the way. This helps to provide more personal storage space, and frees up closet space.

A narrow bookcase in the middle of a bedroom closet, up against the back wall, will help utilize closet space to its max. Hang clothing on either side of the bookcase. Folded sweaters, casual wear, nightclothes, lingerie, and shoes can be kept on the shelves.

See-through plastic bins arranged on the top shelf of the closet can hold gloves, scarves, hats, and other accessories. This keeps everything in the closet neat, orderly and easy to access. It also omits the need for a space-eating chest of drawers in the bedroom.

Create Cubbyholes Anywhere in the Home
One other storage for small space idea; cubby holes can be created in “blank walls;” a wall made of drywall board nailed to a framework of 2X4 studs. Finish the cubbyhole off with paneling or wood that has been sanded and painted. Or, use custom-cut mirrors; top, bottom, and sides. This will help brighten a small room and make it appear more open.

A cubby hole by the front door would be a great place to keep keys, gloves, hats, and mail ready to be sent off. One situated low on the wall near the sofa or an easy chair would be perfect for stowing TV, video, and CD player remotes, reading glasses, magazines, or a small reading lamp.

A wall cubby hole in the bathroom creates more storage space for bath and hand towels and washcloths; neatly rolled up and piled one atop the other.
One in the office on a wall beside the desk would be a great place to keep office supplies, freeing up desk surface space.

Custom doors for the cubbyholes could be made and attached with hinges, or the storage areas could be left open. Another idea would be to make a door from a framed picture on hinges: the picture would swing open to reveal a secret hiding place.

Incorporate Space Saving Features Into Your Home Renovation Plans

When planning on a home renovation or remodeling project, why not incorporate some of these space saving storage ideas, and others, into your plans? Whether you do-it-yourself or aquire the services of a professional contractor, extra cost and time requirements will be minimal.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Landscaping Tips
No one likes to renovate or dig up his or her back yard knowing that the ideas being put into play at this very moment will be outdated in a year or two. We have seen this time and again with appliances, furnishings and bathrooms where $20,000 worth of renovations stays around about as long as a chestnut-brown colored fridge did in the 1970's.

Many people don't think that their outside can also be outdated. Well, it can. For example, in just five years many large cities in the country have banned pesticides and chemical fertilizers. As well, water, once cheaply available in large quantities in many areas, is becoming unavailable for the nurturing of large lawns. These two large considerations are enough to make any homeowner stop and reconsider their large landscaping project. Landscape architects are increasingly using hardscape as focal points the yard: stone patios and rock pathways, water fountains, multi-level decks.

The Indoors, Outdoors

The quest for an outdoor variety of indoor living has led to the growth in patios which are a living room without the roof. Outdoor fireplaces extend the length of the patio season in our cool Canadian climate and plush, waterproof furniture mimics the indoor variety. The addition of the large southwest American-style grill has made the patio the “summer kitchen,” leaving the inside food preparation area redundant until the first flakes of snow.

The Incredible Shrinking Lawn

Once the dream of a huge golf-green lawn was the goal of almost every homeowner. With restrictive water measures and the banning of weed killers now prevalent in many cities the flawless Kentucky bluegrass lawn is becoming less noticeable. Lawns are still fine but getting smaller and homeowners are looking to natural fertilizer and pest controllers in addition to “elbow grease” to eliminate weeds. In addition, the thrum of the lawnmower is being replaced by a sound not heard in 50 years – the clicking of the push mower.

Low Maintenance Gardens

People love gardens but do not want to spend the time on maintenance. Because of their busy lives homeowners want shrubs, trees and plants that take care of themselves or are springing for landscape maintenance. So when a landscape contractor evaluates the needs of this homeowner an important consideration will be the lifestyle of the client. If you want to do the work or have some one do the work for you then, by all means, get the lush Italian garden with rows of beans on the vine, tomatoes and peppers. But if you want a small manageable backyard you can still have the Italian flavor in small doses interspersed with hardscape. Many of the plants can be rooted in large terra cotta pots and placed on a patio of decorative pavers.

Natural Plants

Before the earthmover scraped them off the landscape in order to build your home there were shrubs, plants and grasses native to the area. These plants have had eons of experience getting used to the climate and have their own built-in defenses against pests. In fact, landscape solutions are filled with natural flora and fauna such as saskatoon bushes, ladyslippers, blueberry bushes, wild onions, buffalo grass and honeysuckle. Besides not needing the care of domestic plants they add a different color and texture to the landscape. As they are acclimatized they get their water from the rain but adding composting material from a compost bin is welcome.


Just because it gets dark many this does not mean that homeowners do not want to enjoy their gardens. In many old movies outdoor parties were lit with strings of patio lanterns, colored paper over small light bulbs. Today's gardens are lit to create a magical landscape right out of a Disney scene. With new solar powered LED's and small, colored spotlights placed in strategic places landscape designers are turning the backyard into a personal gallery. And if that's not enough the scenes and colors can be changed manually or pre-programmed for veritable light-show in the evening. Add a fountain and you have a water show.

Wildlife Sanctuary

For a few people, having birds and animals in the backyard is a nuisance. For the vast majority, however, animals and birds mean a constantly changing vista of life. But animals in the backyard (preferably small ones!) do more than just look good. Birds, toads, bats, ladybugs and others destroy insects harmful to garden plants and a nuisance to the homeowner. For example, swallows catch and eat their weight in insects every day. That's a lot of mosquitoes not feasting on us!

Landscape designers take into account the balance between what is natural and what the homeowners want. Consulting with a landscaping expert will give you a better idea of what is happening in backyard design and where the trend is heading.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Water and Fire Damage Restoration

Without exception, regardless of what your DIY handyman capabilities are, fire and water damage restoration is best left in the capable hands of an experienced restoration contractor. The reason is because properly handling the house restoration process can be tricky business. Creating possible health hazards for both the person handling the cleanup and house occupants.

More than posing a possible health hazard, if the home restoration process isn’t handled correctly, bacteria and mold caused by water damage, and contamination caused by fire damage can prove life-threatening.

Water Restoration
In the event of water damage, home restoration efforts by a water damage specialist using the proper equipment are necessary. Not only to restore the home cosmetically and structurally; but safe Indoor Environmental Quality (IEQ) air, as well. And time is of essence.
There is a 48 to 72-hour window required to effectively inhibit the onset of mold and mildew created by water damage. If damage was caused by a sewage leak, extra steps are required to prevent toxins and bacteria from contaminating the home environment. Water damage extraction restoration is only part of the process.
Aside from room content removal, water extraction, and removing any carpet and padding, special disinfectants and chemicals are required. Water damage cleanup may also involve removing molding and at least the bottom section of walls if there is wall covering or drywall water damage. The entire affected area – including walls, ceilings, floors, crawl spaces and vents – will require drying with high-powered air movers. As well as use of dehumidification equipment to speed up the process.

Fire Damage Restoration
Because of the unique behaviors of various kinds of smoke, fire damage control and restoration can be a complex, complicated procedure. Smoke not only causes visible damage to house structure and contents, but flows through plumbing systems and in behind walls, as well.
Smoke webs caused by wet smoke created by low, smoldering heat have a strong pungent odor that permeates into cloth furnishings and walls; leaving a sticky, gooey residue that is difficult to clean.

A protein based fire produces smoke that is virtually invisible, but which discolors paints and varnishes; it, too, has a pungent, hard to remove odor. Fuel oil soot caused by furnace puff backs and other types of smoke from fire all effect the type fire restoration process necessary.

Besides requiring the services of a fire and water restoration company, water or fire and smoke damage to a structure may also necessitate the services of a contractor remodeling restoration expert. Because of the special skills required to effectively handle fire and water damage restoration emergencies, homeowners should become familiar with service providers in their area.

Prudent homeowners will keep contact information on hand for restoration contractors in case of an emergency. Not only to reduce panic should fire or water damage happen to their home. But also to ensure measures are taken to eliminate further damage to their home within the narrow time span required, avoiding further loss and expense.

Learn what should be done in the event of water damage – while waiting for the restoration expert to arrive. Things such as:

-Wipe furniture dry
-Lift drapery off wet carpet
-Place small wood or Styrofoam blocks, or aluminum foil, under furniture legs

Or in the event of fire damage, things such as:

-Cover carpeted traffic areas with towels or old sheets to prevent additional soiling.
-Discard open food packages that could have become contaminated.
-Wipe residue from porcelain bath and kitchen fixtures to prevent etching.

Also, inquire as to what to avoid. Things such as using an ordinary vacuum to remove water. Or trying to lift carpet that has been tacked down, without professional help. Or attempting to wash soot off flat painted walls without consulting with a professional cleaner, or attempting to use appliances that could malfunction because of fire damage.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

What is Stucco and How is it Used?
Stucco is the common name for Portland Cement Plaster which is applied to surfaces either inside or outside buildings. Stucco is hard, durable, rot and fungus resistant, low-cost and does not need a lot of maintenance.

How is Stucco Made?

Stucco is made from Portland cement materials, sand and water mixed together to form a plaster.

How is Stucco Used?

Stucco is applied to interior and exterior walls either manually or using machines. This Portland Cement Plaster can be used on concrete wall systems or on a frame structure in buildings. This is conventionally used for siding or to cover concrete, cinder block, clay brick or adobe.

The Advantages of Stucco

Stucco, or Portland Cement Plaster, is a low-cost finish that is strong and durable and can be used in a wide variety of climates. It is also versatile and can be used over concrete, concrete masonry, brick, wood frame or steel frame. It is also fire resistant and color retentive, meaning that various pigments can be added to give your stucco exactly the effect you are looking for.

Color and Texture

One of the advantages of stucco is that although it is a low-cost surface for construction, it can also take on a wide range of colors and textures. Color is achieved using color aggregate and pigments. White Portland Cement is often used to achieve the broadest range of colors. Texture allows the appearance of the stucco to change and can even give it the appearance of other materials such as wood. This texture is achieved by choosing different aggregate sizes for different textures, controlling consistency of the finished mix, and using special techniques during and after the application.

Should You Apply Stucco Yourself?

Although the application of Stucco may appear a simple procedure, the incorrect application of it can lead to serious problems such as bulging, separating, cracking or allowing moisture through to timber frames causing rotting. It is therefore recommended that rather than attempting to apply this yourself that you call in professionals who can ensure that the stucco is correctly applied according to standards laid out by the regulating organizations. If stucco is correctly applied it will last you many years and will be well worth the expenditure, rather than having it incorrectly applied and having to pay more later.

Stucco Application Standards
The American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) and Canadian Standards Association are the two organizations in North America responsible for setting standards for the application of stucco. The two standards from the ASTM that regulate the application of stucco are:
ASTM C 926 Standard specification for application of Portland Cement-based plaster

ASTM C 1063 Standard specification for installation of lathing and furring to receive interior and exterior Portland Cement-based plaster. These standards are created by a number of different professions putting input into what they believe should be the standards regulating this application and then the ASTM combines these opinions into a consensus document.

Stucco, or Portland Cement Plaster, is used in many buildings as a low-cost finish that can come in a wide variety of colors and textures and is strong, durable and fire resistant. Although the process of applying stucco may seem simple it is best not to attempt this yourself as any mistakes in application could lead to serious problems. The American Society for Testing and Materials sets standards for the application of stucco, otherwise known as Portland Cement Plaster.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Deck Innovations

One of the easiest, and the most inexpensive, ways to gain living space for you home is building a deck. Because unlike a patio a deck usually has a wood frame and can be placed at ground level, flush with your second-story bedroom or as high as the roof-line of your home. It can be a small, useful space for your enjoyment or a massive testament to style and recreation. And an already-existing deck can be enlarged, resurfaced or re-colored with a weekend's contribution of time because it's just wood.

A deck is also one of the very few builds or renovations that can be accomplished within a budget. If the ground is stable a contractor can usually come in at a definite price because the material prices and labor costs are fairly stable. In other words if the deck estimate is $3600 you can pretty well be assured that the final cost will be the same. This is because there are very few variables to move the price around.

However, before building you dream deck there are a few considerations you might want to address:

The amount of money you can afford directly affects the size and scope of your deck. If there is a lot of preparation work to be done – old deck torn out, ground leveled – then this will affect the price. But if it is just a regular square deck built within 4' of the ground, the rule-of-thumb is: Take the cost of materials and double it. So if you go down to the store and price out the materials for deck and they come to $1200 then, with labor and other considerations, the deck will most likely come out to around $2400. This is also a good number to keep in your head when contractors give you estimates.

Shape, Size and Levels
This is actually a very important consideration because the shape affects both the usage and the cost. For example, a rectangular deck in front of the home with diamond-shape end pieces will require extra cutting and shaping to get the right effect. A good carpenter will take more time to make sure that the shape and angles are right and this will cost more.

Now, add to this the levels. Many decks are built into spectacular structures of two or three levels with grilling and cooking stations as well as spas. Fireplaces with large chimneys are finding their way out to the decks allowing a great deck life even when the weather gets cold. To fill this space homeowners are adding posh, waterproof furniture and TV screens just like in the den.

If you live in an area that is very hot in the summer a misting system, fine water drops propelled by a fan, can take the heat away.

Railings and Posts
Decks have railings mainly for safety. But just like window trim and shrubs set off the front of the home, railings and posts define what is otherwise a flat, boring platform. Railings are the functional supports and the balusters, although providing protection, are structural decorations. In older-style homes the posts are a 4” X 4”carved, Victorian style column with matching carved balusters whereas a modern deck may have tempered-glass panels between the posts. The former is more for decoration but the glass, although modernistic, is protection from the wind.

One of the breakthroughs in railing design is the type of materials. Rather than the high-maintenance that wood railings require, these long guard-rails are now being made from powder-coated aluminum, composites and vinyl. In addition, these railings can come in 4' and 8' assembled panels that can easily be attached to posts bolted into the decking. These are more expensive but you can recoup most of the price from the labor savings over the installation of wooden posts and balusters. And then there is the saving in time and money you would have had to invest in painting.

Below Decks
One of the newest movements in deck building is to provide a usable space underneath the deck. This means instead of a dead space where water trickles down between the decking boards the area is used for storage. Of course, to make this area functional the surface of the deck would have be at least 6’ high ,or 4' if you don't mind bending over.

The decking is covered with a waterproofing to divert the water into a small gutter system and away from the home. In many cases the deckwood can be used as a platform for fiberglass sheeting which is then saturated with the epoxy to make it a hard surface. Then this surface is painted with non-stick paint or covered with an outdoor carpet. For a more realistic deck waterproofing is stretched over the joists and then vinyl or composite decking is placed down over that with a sealing solution on the bottom sides.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Keep Your Lawn Healthy...

Keep your lawn healthy using good maintenance practices. Grow a healthy lawn by using correct fertilizing, liming, aeration, mowing, topdressing, overseeding and irrigation practices.


-Mow high when it's dry.
-Grass cut at a height of 6 to 8 cm (2 ½ to 3 inches) will develop a deep, extensive root system and grow thicker. Grass this height helps the soil to retain its moisture better.
-Sharpen your mower blade in the spring and keep it sharp.
-Grass recovers more quickly and easily from a clean cut than when it's torn.
-Leave the lawn clippings on your lawn after mowing.
-Lawn clippings compost, slowly releasing nitrogen for the grass.
-Under wet spring conditions, remove thick layers of clippings (over 0.5 cm thick) to avoid smothering your grass.


-Water deeply and infrequently.
-Apply at least 2.5 cm (1 inch) of water. Put a container on your lawn to measure how much -you've watered it.
-Water when your lawn needs it rather than on a set schedule.
-Excessive watering can lead to poor growing conditions and disease problems.
-Consider the soil type and surface features. Grass growing on compacted, fine soil or on slopes requires more frequent light watering.
-Early morning is the ideal time for watering.
-This minimizes water lost through evaporation and wind.
-Watering in the evening leaves the grass wet for longer, increasing the risk of disease.
-Grass growing near large trees may need to be watered more frequently because the tree roots absorb much of the soil's water.
-A healthy lawn can survive several weeks in a dormant state.
-In extended hot dry periods, a lawn may wilt, turn brown and become dormant. Common grass varieties like Kentucky bluegrass and fine fescues will turn green again when regular moisture conditions return.
-Check the lawn regularly to detect any pests or other problems early.
-It may be more difficult to detect or differentiate insect damage in a dormant lawn.


-Compost is a great fertilizer that supplies your lawn with nutrients needed for plant growth.
-Apply at any time of the season.
-Mix it into the soil before seeding or laying sod, or spread it in a thin layer raked over the existing lawn.
-Commercial fertilizers usually contain the three major nutrients:
-nitrogen (N) to promote leaf growth
-phosphorus (P) for root growth
-potassium (K), which is essential for stress resistance
-The three numbers on the packaging represent the proportions of these nutrients, for example: 21-7-7 formulation contains 21% nitrogen, and 7% of each of phosphorus and potassium.
-Fertilizers with a slow-release form of nitrogen are preferred because they release nutrients uniformly and there is less risk that excess fertilizer will leach away from the root zone.
-All purpose turf fertilizers usually have an N-P-K ratio of 4-1-2 .
-Rates and timing of fertilization can vary with the type of soil, the type of grass, and site and weather conditions.
-A lower rate is generally used in spring and early summer than in early and late fall.
-Organic fertilizers release more nutrients as the temperature and moisture levels increase, so you shouldn't fertilize when conditions are likely to be hot or dry, usually from mid-June to early August.
-Have your soil analyzed every few years by a professional laboratory. This will tell you more specifically what type of fertilizer you will need and how much to use. It will also indicate if the pH of your soil is right for growing grass.
-Combination products containing a herbicide and a fertilizer (weed and feed type) should only be considered if your lawn has a widespread weed problem and a nutrient deficiency. Use these combination products according to the label directions.

Overseeding and Replacing Sod

-Most healthy lawns recover from damage. Depending on the type of grass, vigorously growing lawns will fill in areas that have been thinned by insects or other types of damage.
-If bare patches do not fill in quickly, weeds may set in.


-Regularly spreading grass seed on your lawn will ensure that it remains dense.
-Overseeding is best done in late summer to early fall.
-Topdressing with compost or topsoil can be done at the same time.
-Using the proper type of grass seed is very important for lawns in shady areas.

Replacing Sod

To replace sod:
-Cut out the dead or damaged area to about 2 cm deep.
-Rake the soil and add some fertilizer.
-Lay down the new piece of sod.
-Step on it or roll it to ensure good contact with the soil.
-Keep the new seed and sod well-watered until the new grass is established.


-Aerating your lawn allows a better flow of water, air and vital nutrients to the plant roots, making it easier for them to grow. This does not, however, apply to soil types containing clay.
-Aeration is best done in late summer in conjunction with overseeding and/or topdressing.

Signs that you need to aerate your lawn:
-ground is hard and compacted
-thatch is building up
-water does not penetrate well
-weeds such as prostrate knotweed and clover are present.

There are two types of mechanical aerators:
-solid-tined machine that drives spikes into the ground
-core machine that removes small plugs of thatch and soil
-Sandals or shoes with 6 cm (2 ½ inch) spikes can be used for small lawns.

-Do not roll your lawn in spring as this may increase compaction problems.


-Thatch is a tough mixture of dead grass and roots that accumulates above the soil surface.
-In a healthy lawn, insects, earthworms, beneficial fungi and other
microorganisms break down thatch and aerate the soil.Excessive watering, over fertilizing with nitrogen and heavy use of insecticides and fungicides may decrease the populations of soil organisms required to keep thatch levels down.
-Thatch that is more than 1 cm (½ inch) thick can prevent water, air and nutrients from getting to the roots. Too much thatch can also harbour harmful insects and diseases.
-Remove excess thatch with a heavy rake or de-thatching equipment.