Category Archive: Renovating Articles

  1. Renovate Your Basement

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    Want more living space in your home but don’t want to build up or out? Then think about renovating your basement.

    Main floor family rooms have been the trend in many newer homes, but when there is no extra outdoor space for an addition or you want to save money, your basement may be the answer to your space problems.

    This isn’t a return to the “rec” room of the past. With the variety of new materials and innovative building techniques available today, the sky’s the limit for the lowest level of your home. Light-toned floorings and wall coverings and specialty lighting can turn even a dark, cramped space into a cozy, pleasant room. Whether it’s a home theatre, a games room, a home office, an exercise gym or just a place to relax at the end of the day, with the right paint, furnishings, wall and floor coverings, you can create almost any atmosphere you want.

    Converting a basement into a comfortable living space also have several advantages. It usually costs less to renovate a basement than to build an addition. Basements are also removed from the main household traffic areas, making them the perfect place to watch a movie, work from home or give the kids their own space.

    Before deciding what to include in a basement renovation, determine what your family will benefit from the most in years to come. If you plan to knock down walls and install creature comforts such as a home spa, wine cellar, big screen television, pool or shuffleboard tables, be sure to measure the cost against the long-term use of these features. Also, take measurements; you want to be sure you can fit big-size items down the stairs and into your new space.

    Most basements present two key problems: too much moisture and a lack of natural light. Any renovation plans should try to compensate for both.


    If the air in your basement feels damp occasionally, the solution may be as simple as adding a number of dehumidifiers to the new rooms. Most basement wetness/moisture is caused by inadequate drainage away from the house and foundation. Landscaping improvements around the exterior of your home can often resolve this problem. You may want to consult with a basement specialist before deciding what to do.


    Most basements, even ones with walkouts, lack natural light. A wide variety of lighting fixtures and features are available today to help you solve that problem. Task lighting, dimmers, accent and other forms of lighting can be used to provide the brightness and atmosphere you want for different rooms or activities.

    Other problems

    Turning a basement into a high-quality living space can present significant problems in some homes, especially older ones. A variety of posts, ducts and other structural challenges can turn a simple project into a complex renovation exercise. Some older homes, for example, have low basement ceilings. To get more head room or meet building standards, the basement floor may have to be lowered. This is an expensive and difficult undertaking. Most people will benefit from hiring a reputable basement renovation company to do this kind of major work.

    Hiring a contractor

    If you plan to hire a contractor to do the renovation, interview and get quotes from several before selecting one. A good contractor will be able to advise you on everything that’s needed to create the kind of space you want for the amount of money you have in mind.

    When you select a company, be sure to get a signed contract that outlines in detail the scope of the work and the payment schedule.

  2. Unclutter Your Home

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    Do you have a closet, a corner of the basement, a room or some other space you dread looking at because of the junk you know is there? The time has come to start uncluttering your space!

    By simplifying and organizing space, you will actually spend less time looking for things – or looking for places to put things -and have more time to concentrate on enjoying life. A clutter-free environment also means you may spend less money shopping for things you don’t need …and may already own but can’t find.

    Here are a few tips to get you started in uncluttering your space.

    Make a list of ways to cut down on clutter. What can you get rid of? What can you put away in boxes or bins. For example, if you keep tripping over your children’s toys, try putting half of them away in bins and out of sight for six months; chances are your children won’t miss those toys and when you bring them out six months later they will seem brand new.

    After your list is complete, made a schedule and commit to tackling one de-cluttering project a month. For instance, June could be your month to cull winter clothing and send unworn garments to Goodwill or the Salvation Army; July might be the time to clear out old newspapers, magazines and catalogs and August the time to clean out the garage.

    Getting organized

    Once you have de-cluttered your home, keeping it clutter-free can be a major challenge, especially for growing families. Disorganized clutter has a way of surfacing regardless of how often you put it away. Bathrooms, kitchens and closets of older homes in particular provide little storage space, and without enough space to put things in or on, those areas can get disorderly very quickly.

    Overlooked spaces

    Most homes are filled with overlooked storage spaces; all you need is a sharp eye to find them. A closet, for example, can be built in a free corner of any room -bedroom, bathroom, den, etc. Other, less obvious spaces include window wells, the area behind attic knee walls. The backs of doors, under the beds, hanging shelves in the garage over the car hook, along walls, under stairs and in wall alcoves.

    Adjustable shelves and modular storage units are your best bet to add and reorganize storage space. These can be regrouped, added to or used separately as storage needs change. To avoid piling things up, use many small shelves and compartments. They look neater and make it easier to put things back in place.

    In the bathroom

    With all the toiletries, cosmetics, medications, soaps and towels, this can be a very disorderly area. Here are some tips to make the area safer and clutter-free:

    • Mount a wall cabinet about a foot above the toilet. To avoid hitting it, ensure it is no more than eight inches deep.
    • Place a shelf just above the sink to place all the things that now sit on the counter area.
    • Combine wall shelving with towel bars.
    • Below the sink or counter, install pull-out shelving to make better use of wasted space.
    • Add a magazine or book rack to the wall.
    • Use storage gadgets such as shower caddies, soap dishes, trays and other containers.

    In the kitchen

    Kitchens are also notorious for collecting clutter. Try some of these tips:

    • Add shelving to the backs of doors, pullout shelving to cupboards and freestanding shelving to empty corners.
    • Pull-down under-cabinet racks and handy flip-down plastic trays put storage right at your fingertips. Put the walls to work by adding shelving and other clutter savers such as vinyl-coated inch-deep wire wall grids that you can add hooks and baskets to.

    Closet organizers

    Most closets are full, but mostly of wasted space. A typical closet consists of a rod, a shelf and a floor a combination that does little to maximize space.

    The best way to get the most use out of a closet is to install a closet system there are many to choose from or make your own. Most ready-to-assemble closet systems have three basic components: wardrobe shelving, linen/shoe racks and baskets to work with the framing system.

    Closet systems, whether built-in or modular, multiply your closet capacity. They are also useful in organizing walk-in closets, which can also get very disorganized.

    Where to store things

    Try to store objects where you use them the most.

    Keep frequently-used items between knee level and no more than 10 inches above your head. .Put items you use less often on higher or lower shelves.

    For safety and convenience, store heavier items below waist level.

    To gain more space for the things you use every day, put rarely-needed and out-of-season items in clearly labeled boxes or bags and keep them in your home’s less accessible storage areas.

  3. Time for a Kitchen Renovation

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    Kitchens and bathrooms still top the list of renovation projects with the highest potential to add or maintain value in a home, according to the latest survey conducted by the Appraisal Institute of Canada.

    Renovating a kitchen can also be one of the more expensive projects a homeowner will undertake. How much you spend depends on your budget, of course, but also on the length of time you expect to stay in that house. If, for example, you are remodeling your kitchen as a face-lift prior to selling it, it is recommended that you spend no more than 10 -15% of the cost of your house. If you are going to remain in your house for more than five years, you can spend 25% or more -and in most cases you will recoup the cost of the renovation when you sell.

    How much will it cost?

    Inexpensive kitchen renovations can cost you $2,000 -$3,000 for a cosmetic facelift with no new cabinets, plumbing or electrical changes. Look to spend about $8,000 to $10,000 if you choose new low-end cabinetry, counters, appliances, flooring, paint and some minor structural changes. However, the sky is the limit when it comes to a new kitchen and you can expect to pay $20,000 and up for high quality cabinets, custom work and many upgrades.

    Keeping costs down

    There are ways to cut costs without sacrificing quality when updating your kitchen. Regardless of what you budget, do not skimp on design, appliances or labour. These are the basis for a functional kitchen and you should get the best you can afford. To keep costs to a minimum, use stock cabinets instead of custom work, laminates instead of solids and hang on to your current appliances if you can. Also try to keep your existing plumbing and electrical and don’t make structural changes to the room.

    Planning ahead in detail will also save you money. Any changes or corrections halfway through the process will prove to be expensive.

    If your budget is tight and small projects are what you are aiming for, here are a few ideas:

    Resurface or repaint old cupboards

    Paint is inexpensive and can transform wooden cupboards in a matter of hours. Try a new painting technique, or a textured look or a zesty combination of colours. You can also resurface old cupboards with wood laminates, or one of the new, non-traditional plastic-based materials that resist chipping, denting and staining. Formica counter tops, for example, provide the look and feel of expensive solid surfacing at about half the cost.

    Use more glass

    Replace a few cabinets with glass ones. Glass and mirrors in a room add the illusion of more space as well as glamour -especially if you add interior lights to your new cupboards.

    Change your hardware

    Simply adding new cabinet and drawer handles can change the look of a kitchen. With the many choices in colour, size and style of drawer knobs and handles, there is no limit to what you can achieve. Everything from ceramic to metal to stone is available in many choices of colour, size and style so you can give your kitchen a personal touch.

    Floor and wall facelifts

    Paint, wallpaper and flooring can easily spice up a bland kitchen. Stencil a border around a window, below a ceiling or between the cupboards and you can change the mood overnight.

    Flooring options feature a wide variety of colours and styles in linoleum, ceramic and wood floor applications. But be careful; too much contrast in a small kitchen can make it appear even smaller and more cluttered.

    Be innovative

    A good kitchen should not only look great, but stand up to daily wear and tear. If should function well and enable people to move freely between it and related areas of the house.

    If you plan to completely remodel the kitchen, be honest about your ability. You may want to leave this important job in the hands of an expert who can do the work quickly and professionally. A kitchen designer or contractor can suggest unique ideas and come up with creative solutions to particular problems.

    Finally, be sure to get at least two quotations on the work you plan to do and compare them carefully before making your choice.

  4. Make Your Bathroom Beautiful

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    The bathroom is often the smallest room in your house, but it generally gets the most traffic. It’s also the room that is visited by almost every guest in your home, so why not spruce it up and give it style?

    Bathrooms today are more than just practical, necessary spaces. The bathroom is a place where you can renew both body and spirit; it can be luxurious as well as functional and efficient. Whether you are thinking of a quick facelift, weekend project or total renovation, be sure to plan your project very carefully. If you are thinking of a major renovation, check with your local municipality to see what permits are required.

    What’s your style?

    Big or small, the size of the bathroom doesn’t matter; it is the style and personality that you create within the space. Are you drawn to a romantic country look, traditional elegance or simple, clean lines?

    Do your homework -visit supplier web sites, read trade magazines, tour showrooms and building centres. If the project entails a change or additional fixtures and accessories -sink, toilet, tub, steam shower unit or custom cabinets -you will find loads of options available. Next, decide if the job is something you can handle yourself or if you need to enlist the help of professionals. Redoing a bathroom can involve a lot more than just plumbing. From stripping the existing room to doing structural, electrical and plumbing work to installing fixtures, cabinets and finishing touches, a bathroom can involve many different trades whose work must be coordinated and kept within your budget.

    A professional can identify problems and solutions before the work even begins: an uneven floor that results in incomplete draining of your bathtub, for instance, or rotted flooring from years of water penetration. An experienced contractor will make sure that plumbing, venting, electrical wiring and outlets all conform with building codes in your area. Whether you hire a contractor or have the skill to go it alone, you have many options in terms of style, products, finishes, price and suppliers. Begin your bathroom make over from the floor up. Since the bathroom is usually smaller compared to other rooms in the house, it is often affordable to indulge in a few luxuries. For example, radiant heating under ceramic tiled floors is a nice extra.

    Think outside of the “traditional” bathroom box. The bathroom is a room for living, so it needs furniture and accessory items like all other living spaces.

    Lighting your way

    Lighting in a bathroom is one of the most important design elements of the rooms. It is imperative to have good lighting for the functional aspects of the space: shaving and make-up application.

    Good grooming demands adequate lighting. Plan for lighting from above and from the sides of the mirror area. Mood lighting is also nice for those quiet times, so put your overhead lights on a dimmer switch and be sure to accessorize with candles.

    Changing the wall texture and colour is one of the easiest changes you can make in a room. In a small powder room, go for drama. Since this space is used for only short, functional visits, you can be especially daring and creative. The size of the space also allows you to use materials that may be otherwise prohibitively expensive -wallpapers, custom faux finishes or even fabric- or metal-paneled walls. Darker colours create personality and impact.

    In a bathroom that is used by the homeowners and guests for daily grooming, make-up application and shaving, colour needs to be carefully selected. Skin colour needs to be as real as possible, so take into consideration that wall colour will reflect onto your skin in the room. Neutrals, peach, mango, taupe, gray and soft yellows are good choices to maintain “real” skin tones. Use additional dramatic or vibrant colours as accents.

    The next step in your bathroom make over is the detailing. Small touches provide efficient storage and a feeling of luxury. Is there room for a bench or chair? A seat provides a place to sit and a place to lay clothing. Be creative. Conveniences

    If you enjoy lounging in the tub but hate to miss the morning news, install a wall-mounted television set, or a shower radio. A clock is an important -but often overlooked -bathroom detail.

    Warming drawers and towel heaters are other excellent pampering additions to the bathroom. Use baskets, glass shelves installed above the toilet, or wine bottle holders to store extra towels and bottles of shampoos, conditioners and bath oils.

  5. What’s New in Roofing?

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    We’ve come a long way from the thatched roofs that many of our ancestors used to cover the shelters they called home. Traditional and new roofing materials are better than ever and available in many varieties and price ranges. Regardless of the materials used, a new roof will add curb appeal to a home and increase its resale value.

    When buying a home, one important feature to consider is the condition of the roof. Generally, if the roof is more than 15 years old, chances are you’ll have to replace it soon. This cost should be factored into the purchase price of the home.

    Whether you are purchasing a home or concerned about the condition of the roof on your existing home, spring is by far the best time to do an inspection. This is when winter damage is fresh and the dryer weather ahead will provide the conditions needed to replace, patch or re-roof.

    Depending on the roofing material used, look for obvious damage – cracked tiles, missing shingles, warned or gapping wood shakes. With asphalt roofs, look for thick, weather-worn shingles. On a warm day, gently bend a few shingles back. If they aren’t flexible or if they crumble, consider re-roofing.

    Before re-roofing with asphalt shingles, lift a few shingles that are located away from the edge to see if there is another layer of shingles below. If there is, you’ll need to have all the layers of old shingles removed before re-roofing. However, if the roofing material is less than 15 years old and there are only a few bad spots, you may only have to patch these up. Asphalt shingle repair is simple and inexpensive. This is a job you could consider doing yourself.

    Roofs can be deceiving. Sometimes you can’t spot the damage from the outside. If you suspect a problem, inspect the roof from the attic or crawl space. Check for dampness and dark water stains.

    What’s up in roofing materials

    When it comes to roofing materials, asphalt shingles still offer the greatest versatility and continue to be popular among homeowners. Available in a vast array of colours and textures, asphalt shingles can conform to any shape. Compared to some roofing materials, they are inexpensive and easy to install and repair.

    As a roofing material, wood shingles and shakes are less popular these days. While any homeowners prefer the bold, traditional, sculptured look wood shingles and shakes give a home, concerns have been raised about how well they can resist fire.

    Cement and clay tiles enjoy a certain popularity and they come in a variety of colours, shapes and textures. They can, however, be both expensive and heavy and not the best choice for many homes. Some companies now offer high-tech alternatives to traditional roofing materials. These combine versatility, light weight and durability with high fire, weather, insect and mould resistance properties.

    Lightweight aluminum roof shakes, for example, also help lower energy costs by keeping your home warm in winter and cool in summer. Other roofs use fibre-reinforced cement that weighs about the same as wood or premium shingles and comes in slate, shingle or wood shake forms.

    Some roofs use earth stone granules and acrylic resin bonded to aluminum or galvanized steel bases to capture the pleasing look of tiles or the rich textures and strong lines of wood shingles.

    These new roofing materials often come in a variety of colours, shapes, textures and sizes. They are generally more expensive than traditional asphalt shingles. But in most cases, the extra cost is well worth it. Some of them are backed by a 50 year guarantee, and most will look as good 20 years and more from now as the day they were installed.

  6. In the Market for a New Driveway?

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    A driveway can say as much about a home as the home itself. Most homeowners don’t give much thought to their driveway, especially if it’s safe, durable and attractive. But a problem driveway can become a homeowner’s nightmare and can affect the appearance and value of the property.

    A gravel driveway, for example works well in rural and wooded properties where the home is set back a distance from the road. But even on long, flat road stretches, gravel can easily be washed out by a major downpour. Meanwhile, a steep driveway – regardless of the surface finish – can collect so much ice in winter that your car just never makes it up. Then you have the driveway that feeds into the intersection of two or three streets. No matter how perfect, this driveway is a daily traffic challenge. Finally, there are the driveways of some older homes that are so narrow some cars just can’t squeeze through.

    But a driveway is for more than just cars. If you are considering re-doing yours, take time to think about how it will be used. Will your cars be parked in the garage or on the drive? Are your kids going to be shooting hoops on the driveway? Where do you plan to put the snow when you shovel your drive? How long is it? Before deciding when and how to resurface your driveway, here are a few tips to keep in mind.

    Take measure

    Driveways should be as straight and short as possible. The main exception is a driveway on a steep lot: by lengthening the drive, you can reduce the grade. Any grade that exceeds a 12-foot rise in 100 feet (12 per cent) is not ideal. But driveways shouldn’t be totally level either; if you want surface water to drain away from your home, you need a minimum two percent slope.

    Check your subsoil

    Before deciding on what finish surface you want, consider what’s supporting your driveway. Soils behave differently depending on their composition. Organic soils such as peat, for example, are not very good at holding up anything – especially a driveway supporting heavy vehicles. Clay and silt soils turn to mud easily. Sandy soils are great because they drain well. But soils that blend clay, silt and sand or gravel are also very adequate, if well drained.

    If you don’t know what kind of soil you are sitting on, it might be worth getting a soil expert to test it. You can less accurately test the soil yourself by stripping a patch of topsoil and seeing how well the subsoil drains in a heavy rain.

    Consider surface options

    The four most common driveway finish surfaces are asphalt, concrete, gravel and pavers. Consider the advantages and disadvantages of each before deciding which finish surface is best for you.

    Asphalt – This is a common material used for driveways. It is fairly inexpensive and durable but definitely not a do-it-yourself project. The asphalt must be placed while still hot from the delivery truck. It is spread in an even layer and compacted with a roller before it cools down.

    While durable, asphalt can soften and is easily gouged in hot temperatures. This is actually an advantage in cold temperatures. Because it absorbs the heat, ice and snow melt faster on asphalt than on some other surfaces. Unfortunately, gasoline and motor oil also dissolve on it and spills can leave permanent spots. Materials are often added to the asphalt to create a longer-lasting finish, but this generally increases the cost.

    Concrete – Basic concrete slabs can cost about twice as much as asphalt for the same size driveway, but are longer-lasting. Pouring the cement slabs requires a certain degree of expertise and most homeowners should hire a professional to do the job. An alternative to the standard white concrete slab is to expose the aggregate below. This creates a rougher surface which is attractive and provides good traction.

    Gravel – Gravel is probably the most inexpensive surface finish for driveways, but can be a lot of work. If you don’t keep runoff from rain and snow away from the driveway, you could find yourself shoveling it back off the street regularly. Also, it’s difficult to keep gravel in place on higher grades. Putting more gravel down is not the solution. Gravel should not be spread more than two inches in depth. The more you put down, the worse it is for traction.

    Pavers – The Romans built their roads with packed aggregate and cobblestone pavers for good reason. It kept their feel and wheels dry. This technology works just as well today. Fortunately, we’re no longer limited to just using cobblestones. Interlocking concrete pavers today come in all shapes, colours, sizes, styles and textures. They not only beautify the overall appearance of a home but can last half a century or more when installed correctly. Poured concrete, asphalt and gravel have a much shorter life span.

    Because they are time-consuming to install, pavers can be quite expensive, especially if you have a large driveway. But the added value may be well worth the extra cost. Driveway pavers can be coordinated with pavers in other areas such as walkways, patios, pool decks and gardens. They don’t crack with the freeze-thaw cycle in winter, provide excellent traction, resist de-icing salts and any oil or antifreeze that may leak from vehicles.

  7. Give Your Home a Facelift

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    Improving the “look” of your home can not only make it more attractive and comfortable but it may also increase the market value of the property.

    The wisest improvements in any home are those that bring it up to the standards of other properties in the immediate area. If most properties have garages or carports, central air and fireplaces, these are well-worth adding. Other good improvements that enhance the exterior of your home are adding terraces, wooden decks and fences that increase privacy. Shade trees, shrubs and landscaping that is easy to keep up also add value.

    Very specialized improvements, unless strictly for your own enjoyment, are not a good idea because the money spent may not be returned through added value. Saunas, home gyms, green houses and dark rooms are examples of personalized improvements that have limited demand and, as a result, little added value.

    Making your home more attractive doesn’t always require major improvements, changing the colour scheme, repainting, paneling, hanging new wall coverings and installing new lighting and flooring can help give your home the facelift it needs without breaking your budget.

    Take stock

    Before you begin any improvements, take stock of what you have. Try to work any new colour schemes with the furnishings you want to keep. For continuity and to create spaciousness, maintain the same colour scheme through the living areas of the home, varying only the accent colour from room to room. Also stick to one style, whether traditional or contemporary. Personal spaces such as bedrooms and bathrooms can depart from the overall style and theme.

    Get free advice

    While planning your home’s facelift, take advantage of free advice available from paint stores, wallpaper outlets, fabric shops, picture framers, furniture and craft stores. Take home samples whenever you can and take your time. Scale, size and colour are dramatically different in a store setting. Samples may appear completely different in your home

    Paint it all

    When it comes to home decorating, colour is your best friend. Colours can visually enlarge or reduce the size of a room; heighten or lower a ceiling. And there is nothing that comes in more colours than paint One of the best ways to update your home on a tight budget is to use paint. Paint can transfer dated cupboards and vanities too.

  8. Cook Up a New Kitchen!

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    Whether it’s a minor cabinet shuffle, wall-to-wall paint job or complete renovation, any upgrade to your kitchen is sure to raise the market value of your home.

    Regardless of size, today’s kitchens are no longer merely places to cook a meal. Instead, most new kitchens are bright, airy and sizzle with all kinds of activity. They are often extensions of family rooms, dining and other living areas.

    With the variety of materials, unique design ideas, colour choices and modern appliances available today, you can transform almost any kitchen into an attractive, pleasant and efficient hub of activity.

    Improving a kitchen can, however, be costly and time-consuming. A kitchen is typically the most expensive room in a house to remodel – appliances, cabinetry, counters, floors, walls, plumbing and wiring – it all adds up!

    The key to spending your money wisely when contemplating a complete kitchen renovation – or even just some upgrades – is planning.

    Begin by taking an inventory of your present kitchen – what do you like and dislike about it? Is it too dark, too big, too stale-looking, too small to work in or eat in? This list will quickly give you a good idea of what you want in a new kitchen.

    Next, ask yourself how your present kitchen fits in with your family’s lifestyle. Do you want your kitchen to be the hub of your home? Do you want to look up recipes on the Internet when you cook, or entertain friends as you chop vegetables? Or do you like to cook alone, away from the noise? If you don’t want people migrating to the kitchen, you may not want to knock out walls and extend the existing space into other living areas.

    Also consider the time of year you plan to start remodeling. If you are going to be knocking down walls and windows, stay away from cold months like January. As well, you should avoid remodeling before many family or holiday events.

    Finally, decide what kitchen style you like most. The old-fashioned country kitchen is one of today’s popular designs, but you may prefer something more contemporary, or even a combination of styles. If your budget is tight and bite-sized projects are what you are aiming for, here are a few ideas:

    Resurface or repaint old cupboards

    Paint is inexpensive and can transform wooden cupboards in a matter of hours. Try a new painting technique, a textured look or a zesty combination of colours. You can also resurface old cupboards with wood laminate or one of the new, non-traditional plastic-based materials that resist chipping, denting and staining. Formica counter tops, for example, provide the look and feel of expensive solid surfacing at about half the cost.

    Replace a few cabinets with glass ones. Glass and mirrors in a room add the illusion of more space, as well as glamour – especially if you add interior lights to your new cupboards. Go ahead, display that 18th century tea set you inherited from your great grandmother.

    Say it with hardware

    It’s amazing how new cabinet and drawer handles can change the look of a kitchen! With the many choices in colour, size and style of drawer knobs and handles, there is no limit to what you can achieve.

    From gleaming chrome to floral ceramics to unique designs in the shape of spoons, forks, roosters and rabbits, you can easily find something that will give your kitchen that personal touch.

    Floor and wall facelifts

    Paint, wallpaper and flooring in a variety of textures, styles, colours and patterns can easily spice up a bland kitchen. Add a matching border around a window, below a ceiling or between the cupboards and the counter tops and you can change the mood overnight.

    Flooring options feature a wide variety of colours and styles in do-it-yourself, easy-to-install linoleum sheets and tiles, or trickier ceramic and wood floor applications. Be careful not to go overboard. Too much contrast in a small kitchen can make it appear even smaller and more cluttered.

    Be innovative

    • Vary counter heights to suit the task and the person. Dough-kneading and pie-crust rolling need a special height; so do eating and cooking areas.
    • Whenever possible, incorporate counter space next to each appliance.
    • Try to achieve a “work triangle” where the stove, refrigerator and sink/dishwasher are within easy reach of one another.
    • If you are replacing cabinets, go for the “custom” approach, even if this costs a little extra. Under the customized approach, cabinetry is designed and built specifically to fit your particular kitchen space.
    • A good kitchen should not only look great but stand up to daily wear and tear. It should function well and enable people to move freely between it and related areas of the house.
    • If you plan to completely remodel the kitchen, be honest about your ability. You may want to leave this important job in the hands of an expert who can do the work quickly and professionally.
    • A kitchen designer/contractor can suggest unique ideas and come up with creative solutions to particular problems. Be sure to get at least two quotes on the work you plan to do and compare them carefully.
  9. Time to Change Your Flooring?

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    It’s time for some new flooring in your home, but what do you choose? You like your neighbour’s hardwood floors, but you aren’t sure if they are right for your family’s lifestyle. And what are your choices, anyway? Read on to find out more about your flooring options.

    Residential flooring generally comes in four basic types of materials. what is referred to as “resilient” flooring includes all types of tile and sheet vinyls. Ceramic, hardwood products and carpeting are the other three flooring choices.

    Vinyl tiles

    Vinyl tiles are available in different styles and offer a wide selection of decorative patterns and colours. Frequently they are embossed to make them even more resistant to wear and tear and to improve their appearance. For the do-it-yourselfer, the major advantage is the convenient size, the self-stick backing that many come with and the reasonable price. Even a novice can do a good job of laying these tiles.

    Sheet vinyls

    Because they have to be cut to fit the floor shape and size ahead of time, sheet vinyls can be more difficult to work with. They also come in a wide variety of colours, patterns and grades at reasonable cost. The “inlaid” types, in which the colour and pattern extend through the thickness of the material, offer a longer life in heavy traffic areas.

    Ceramic tiles

    These are considered a permanent flooring, good for the life of a room, if they are properly installed. The thicker tiles are designed especially for floors, while thinner ones are intended for wall-use only. Ceramic tiles come in a variety of shapes, patterns, sizes and colours. They are more expensive but longer-lasting than vinyl floor coverings. These tiles can be installed over a smooth, dry concrete or acceptable wood-product subfloor, but never over tongue-and-groove hardwood. They are installed with a special grout mixture and require special attention and care during installation.

    Hardwood products

    Like ceramic tiles, hardwood flooring products are especially popular in today’s residential housing market. Hardwood products can be used in any room, but extreme care should be taken when installing them in kitchens, bathrooms or over concrete floors. Hardwood floors expand when wet and can buckle. Unless specially treated, they are not recommended for high moisture areas.

    Because of their popularity, some hardwood flooring manufacturers have come up with products that can be installed easily by do-it-your selfers. Parquet flooring, for instance, comes in a variety of designs and colours that can give a room the warmth and depth of real wood. It is reasonably priced, comes in tile form, is simple to install and has an easy-care finish.


    Carpeting comes in a variety of styles, textures and materials. The most common styles are level loops, also known as indoor/outdoor carpeting, multi-level loops and cut piles. Level loops are often installed in kitchens, basements and other high-traffic areas because they are easier to clean than carpets with higher pile. Multi-level loops offer a compromise between level loops and cut pile carpets. They are still relatively easy to clean and can be quite attractive. Most elegant are cut pile carpets. These can be very plush, but are also more difficult to keep clean.

    Most carpets are made of nylon fibres. Nylon is considered the strongest, most stain-resistant and least expensive to manufacture. But it has some disadvantages: it is difficult to clean once stained and can generate a lot of static electricity. To reduce static, often other synthetic fibres are combined with the nylon. Wool carpets are probably the oldest and finest of all carpets; that’s why they are also the most expensive. Many retailers no longer carry wool carpeting, or provide it only on a special-order basis.

    Carpets can be installed over any good flooring except other carpeting. Leaving an old carpet and using it as padding under a new one is not recommended. Old carpets always have dirt embedded in the backing, which can work itself up into the new carpeting. Urethane foam padding has generally replaced the old hair-jute pad and rubber waffle padding. It’s easier and cheaper to use for both do-it-your selfers and professionals. In addition, it’s also lighter, longer-lasting and comes in various thicknesses.

    Before choosing

    Before making any flooring decision, think about the traffic patterns, the size of your family and the wear and tear expected. There’s no point installing light, plush carpeting in an area that will be heavily soiled.

    If you are installing the floor yourself, be sure to measure each room carefully. A flooring store representative can help you estimate the amount you will need and offer other advice.

    If you are having a floor professionally installed, ensure the retailer sends an estimator to your home ahead of time to take accurate measurements and check the condition of the subfloor. Get a number of estimates from various retailers and ensure the product you select has some form of written guarantee. New floors are expected to last a long time and you should get the most for your money.

  10. Improve Your Surroundings with Paint

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    One of the easiest, most cost-efficient ways of enhancing your home is with paint. With the advances made in paint over the past decade, there’s not much you can’t do with it indoors and outdoors.

    Gone are the days of the all-purpose can of paint. Today there are paints available for specific materials and surfaces. Whether your floor is wood or concrete, there is a paint designed for use on it. There are even paints for metals, such as the smoke pipe of a stove, that heat up to extremely high temperatures.

    Some paints are made for specific uses on appliances, cabinets, tile walls and floors, bathtubs and sinks. You can even produce a terrazzo look on floors or a textured effect on walls with the right kind of paint.

    Before you begin any project, visit a paint dealer and discuss the kind of material you plan to paint, its condition and the result you want to see. There are so many paints on the market, you want to make sure you get just the right one. A paint that’s good for interior woodwork, for instance, is not necessarily good for wood floors or outside wood trim. A paint intended for concrete walls won’t necessarily hold up on a concrete floor. So be specific.

    To apply any paint all you need to do is follow the instructions on the paint can. These are usually very detailed. But be sure to read them before you leave the store in case you have any questions. Also ask about any materials or tools that may be required for a particular kind of paint.

    Many paints are flammable and harmful if taken internally or inhaled. Be sure to read the warning labels which are usually illustrated quite clearly on the container. Always keep any area where you are painting well-ventilated.

    While a fresh coat of paint can easily transform any dull room, cupboard or furniture item, you can’t expect all flaws to be magically concealed. Painting requires good surface preparation and some elbow grease before you can splash on new colours.

    Start by filling in all holes and cracks with an appropriate filler. When the filler is dry, use a fine sandpaper and sand all surfaces lightly. Then wipe all surfaces to ensure they are dust free. Here are a few tips for different paint jobs:

    Bathrooms and kitchens

    Because of high moisture, use an enamel rather than a flat paint for walls as well as woodwork. An enamel is easier to clean and less likely to be harmed by moisture. Epoxy paints will hold on sinks, bathtubs, ceramic tiles and other areas that are extremely smooth and exposed to water. These paints mush be handled carefully and require good ventilation.


    A latex masonry paint is good for concrete basement walls. Many paints are designed to dampproof or waterproof basement walls. Their effectiveness depends on how well they are applied. However, it’s virtually impossible to waterproof a basement from the inside simply by applying waterproof paint on the walls.

    Use heat-resistant enamels on any surface that gets hot, such as metal pipes. Concrete basement floors must be cleaned before painting. Use a cleaner recommended by the paint manufacturer.


    Any paint you use should be designed to withstand the weather. The surfaces – whether aluminum, iron, steel, brick, concrete, wood, wicker, etc. – must be prepared in advance as recommended by the paint manufacturer. Before starting any project, be sure to consult your local paint store representative for ideas and advice.

  11. Windows: Replace or Repair?

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    In ancient times, windows were as common as doors in dwellings, but they were merely holes in walls used to control the amount of light and air that entered a home. Appearance and style were not a consideration.We’ve come a long way since then. Today windows in most homes combine science and technologies that increase energy efficiency and actually reduce heating and air conditioning costs.

    Modern windows not only beautify the appearance of a home, they bring sunlight in during winter, while preventing the warmth created from escaping outdoors. Windows also insulate a home from heat during the summer and keep cooled air from escaping.

    When deciding whether to repair or replace your existing windows, begin by considering their age and condition. Poorly designed, constructed and placed windows can cost money through heat loss.

    Increasing efficiency

    If your home is more than 30 years old and still has the original windows, chances are that your windows are not keeping you as warm or as cool as well-placed and installed newer models. But there are measures you can take to increase their efficiency:

    • tighten the seal around the windows with weatherstripping. There are many different types of weather-stripping available for use on wood, metal, aluminum and vinyl. One of the easiest to apply is caulking cord which comes in a roll. All you do is press the cord into place to make a tight seal.
    • every window not made of insulated glass should have a storm window. If your home has storm windows, ensure they are in good condition and install them properly before the cold season begins. When those icy winter winds start blowing, both you and your pocketbook will notice.
    • if your home doesn’t have storm windows, or they are in poor condition, you can get as good or better protection using heavy-gauge clear plastic sheeting. Seal it tightly over your existing windows and you have an inexpensive and effective alternative.

    Replacing windows

    Replacing existing windows with more energy efficient models doesn’t have to be done all at once. Begin by replacing the ones causing the most heat loss, such as the large picture windows in your living and dining rooms. Replacing windows in stages over a period of years costs less up front and still increases energy efficiency.

    With the variety of windows on the market today, however, it pays to shop around. Before making a decision, consider the principle types of windows available.

    The common window types are double-hung, casement, stationary, awning and horizontal sliding. They may be made of wood, aluminum or vinyl or a combination of these materials. Almost all feature insulated glass and easy-to-clean designs that provide tight seals and eliminate draftiness.

    Whether you plan to install the new windows yourself or have them installed professionally, be sure to visit a number of suppliers and study the various products and options on the market. You want to select windows that augment the appearance of your home, increase energy efficiency and give you the most value for your money.

  12. Give Your Home a Tune-Up

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    Just as you take your car for a regular tune-up to ensure it continues to run smoothly, your home also needs some special attention. There is a lot more to keeping up a house than cutting the grass and clearing snow from the driveway.

    Ensuring your home “looks” good and is in proper working order not only makes it more attractive and comfortable, but it can also increase the market value of the property.

    Homeowners who plan to move within a few years are often reluctant to invest time and money on improvement projects that may not pay them back. But unless these improvements are very specialized, any project you choose -from fixing leaky faucets to installing new energy efficient windows -will start to pay you back in energy savings and comfort long before you sell. The wisest improvements you can make to any home are those that keep it running smoothly and bring it up to the standards of other homes in the immediate area. And these needn’t break your budget.

    Easy maintenance, repairs

    Start with simple repairs that don’t cost a lot and you can do yourself: securing loose tiles, adjusting a door, installing a lock, repairing a leaky faucet or pipes, and so on.

    If the decor in your home is bothering you, don’t decide right away to rip everything out. Changing styles in decor and every-day wear and tear can make any home look worn and tired. But all it may take to make your home look more attractive and in better repair are small improvements such as refacing cabinets and counter tops, changing the colour scheme, repainting, paneling, hanging new wall coverings or installing new lighting.

    It is a good idea to locate and read your gas, electricity and water meters on a weekly or monthly basis. This will help you gain an understanding of seasonal increases and decreases in consumption and enable you to take measures to become more energy and water efficient. The savings could be substantial.

    You should have your furnace inspected and serviced annually to ensure there are no problems. Unless you know a lot about furnaces, this is something you should not do yourself. You can and should, however, change or clean the furnace filter regularly. You should also inspect the smoke and carbon monoxide detectors in your home; you want to be certain these work in the event of a fire or other emergency.

    Bigger upgrades

    While replacing leaky faucets can drastically improve a bathroom’s appearance and cut down on water usage, sometimes it takes a lot more than that to bring an old bathroom to an acceptable standard.

    A bathroom tune up can pay big dividends. The first items to replace should be the fixtures -the sink, faucets, vanity, bathtub, shower and toilet. This is where you will add value and save money by opting for a water-efficient toilet, water-conserving showerhead and faucets, efficient fans and other energy-saving devices.

    The floors, walls, and accessories are not an essential part of a bathroom tune-up but you can save time and money if you do your overhaul all at once rather than one piece at a time.

    Other good major home improvements include replacing old carpets and flooring with new, more durable products; adding a garage or carport if your home does not have one; installing central air conditioning; repairing or adding a fireplace; upgrading your basement space; replacing old windows with new energy-efficient ones; adding terraces, wooden decks and fences that add privacy; and investing in landscaping that adds value and is easy to keep up.