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.