KITCHEN RENO


Kitchen Renovation Checklist – Planning The Reno

Ah, the joys of a kitchen renovation! The truth is, most of us plan the kitchen of our dreams for years. If you’re lucky enough to be building your dream kitchen or even if it’s not quite your dream, but pretty great anyway, you’ll want to use my handy checklist to help keep your renovation in order.


Breaking your planning up into two phases is not a bad idea. Phase 1 is generally the planning part of your renovation, and phase 2 is when the action begins, with demolition and the renovation.

As we all know, planning and strategy can often guarantee a positive outcome.

Pre-Renovation Planning:
Home appraisal
The purpose of a home appraisal is to help you establish an upper limit for your renovation dollars. A general rule of thumb is approximately 15% of the total value of your house can be spent on a kitchen renovation – but that doesn’t mean you have to spend that much! Call your real estate agent or a home appraiser for advice.

Home inspection
A home inspector, general contractor or renovation advisor will help you determine if there is any extra work that needs to be done to your home in order to support your kitchen renovation. For example, you want to know if you have any structural problems that need attention before going ahead with the renovation, as it will need to be accounted for in the budget.

Energy audit
There are several new incentives right now for increasing your energy efficiency, however, in order to qualify for those grants your house must have an energy audit before you start your renovation. Call an energy auditor to get the process started.

Design ideas
Before meeting with your architect, designer or contractor, check out Pinterest and create inspirational boards of kitchens and kitchen details that you love, and note what you like best about them. Being able to give your professional trades people direction will save you time and money and will help your designer have a clear understanding of how you see your new


Functional Considerations
Why are you renovating? Is it because the space isn’t ideal? The appliances are old, everything is out of date? As you dream about your new space, keep a list of what you want it to achieve. Create new boards on Pinterest for each element, e.g., floors, wine cellar, etc.

Renovation Planning:
Establish a budget
Make sure your budget is realistic in terms of your finishes (ie. countertops, flooring, backsplash, etc.) and whether new appliances are in the picture. Do some online searches at various home renovation stores or speciality shops give you an idea of the finishing costs.

Hire Professionals
Kitchen designers, architects, interior designers, interior decorators, and general contractors need direction as to what you want your new space to achieve, and whether your budget can accomodate marble countertops and high-end appliances.

The more preparation you do before you meet with them, the smoother the renovation process will go. When getting professionals to quote on a project, make sure they are all quoting on the same job. If they aren’t, ask them to break down their quotes so they are easier to compare with others.


Timeline
Once you’ve hired your professionals, work with your designer or contractor to organize when the construction will take place and how long you’ll need to be out of your kitchen. It will help you make necessary arrangements during construction.

Permits
Permits are incredibly important. If you do not get the correct permits you may be in a position of having to destroy the work that you have completed, so make sure you obtain the right paperwork prior to starting your project.

You can either ask your contractor to get the permits (but make sure that you see the permits and are 100% comfortable that they cover the scope of your needs) or, if you have the time, you can save some money by getting them yourself. Ask your contractor whether getting building permits is included in his fee prior to moving ahead.


Temporary Kitchen
If you don’t have to move out to accomplish the renovation, establish a temporary kitchen somewhere else in the house. It could be in the garage or laundry room. In the summer a barbecue can become your stove.


Best of luck with your project.


LED'S FOR THE HOLIDAYS


How To Create a Cozy Home with Lighting
 


With the days getting shorter, darker and colder, now is the perfect time to consider your options for creating a cozy home with lighting this winter.


With daylight savings making our days shorter and darker, what are some ways homeowners can create a brighter and cozier home to help fight the winter blues?
Timers are a must, they automatically adjust for daylight savings and help ensure your home is safe and lit when arriving home during those long dark winter months.

When purchasing new light bulbs for your home, you want to go for bright LED bulbs at the right colour, 5000k is now what’s new and hot in bulbs. LED tape lights are a great way to add accenting lighting.

Energy bills often increase in the winter, what are some cost effective and energy efficient ways to light a home?

Use energy efficient light bulbs and install timers in your lights. Timers help ensure lights are not left on all night and are on only when needed such as when arriving home.

Sensors are also very helpful to light a home and help save money. Sensors throughout walk in closets, hallways, basements, and laundry rooms are another way to help ensure lights come on when entering an area and turn off automatically when leaving. This ensures no extra energy is left on when the lights are not in use.


Holiday party season is upon us now . What’s the best way to use lighting to enhance the party? Are there cost-effective ways to create the best party lighting?

Lighting looks best when used properly, timers ensure lights are on when needed and ensures when guests arrive at your home that it is well lit and therefore inviting. Dimming controls are also effective in reducing energy.

To enhance your Holiday parties, you can easily and quickly add a beautiful centre light or add in some retrofit pot lights to illuminate the space. This job can be quickly done and with minor inconvenience, a room can be brightened with a visit from licensed electricians.

All lights are now LED. From what used to be halogen bulbs, 50w are now 5w LED, reducing consumption and costs. Using non-cheap bulbs allows for the right kind of lumen and LED lights to brighten the spaces up for less money.

Design is everything and lighting is art if you want to set the mood. Lighting consultants and electricians  can make your dream space come true.

Gone are the days of spending hours unravelling the ball of christmas lights, making decorating your home with festive lights easy and less time consuming so/you can enjoy those cheerful get togethers!

 


RAISE THE ROOF


Signs It’s Time to Repair Your Roof


When’s the last time you took a good look at your roof? Unless you keep a ladder nearby for weekly viewings, we’re guessing it’s been a long time. While there’s no need to look at your roof regularly, it is a good idea know the warning signs that something isn’t right. Read through this list and keep these tips in mind the next time you think about checking out the roof over your head.

Things to Consider

Before you can start searching your home for warning signs, it’s important you consider the age of your roof. Do you know how long ago your roof was reshingled or replaced? Most roofing experts agree that a typical asphalt shingle roof will last between 20 and 25 years. Knowing how old your roof is will help assess whether you need a total replacement or if you can get away with a repair.

Once you’ve discovered the age of your roof, it’s time to do an exterior inspection. Taking the time to do this a couple times a year will save you in the long run as you’ll notice any differences. If you want to be extra diligent, take a photo of your roof during your first inspection. This way you will have something to compare to if you think you notice a change.

Shingles

Curled or Cracked

Shingles that look curled or cracked are nearing the end of their lifespan. If you can see a fair amount of curled or cracked shingles, you’re better off replacing your roof than trying to repair the shingles as they curl up.

Curled shingles can also be a sign of environmental damages such as excessive heat or wind and ice. Shingles exposed to harsh weather over time become rigid and can snap off and fly away. To ensure your roof doesn’t fly away with them, have an expert come out and assess the situation.

Dark and Damp

Roofs are designed to keep water flowing down and away from your home. If any of your shingles look dark or discoloured this could be due to water being trapped under or around them. Keep in mind that the discoloured shingle is not always the offending shingle. The issue is likely higher up the roof and is causing water to run down and pool in a specific spot.

Broken or Missing

If your roof is missing any amount of shingles, this can lead to a weaker roof over time. Shingles protect your roof and help shed water. Broken or missing shingles leave vulnerable entry points for water which can lead to bigger issues than just a roof replacement.

Buckling Shingles

Just like broken and missing shingles, buckling shingles are highly susceptible to wind and ice damage and can be torn off easily. How can you tell if you have buckling shingles? You’ll notice a wavy distortion that usually runs vertically up the roof slope. Wet or poorly installed underlayment can cause buckling shingles.

Sandy Gutters

Do you have an odd amount of what looks like coarse black sand in your gutters? Those are actually granules from your worn out shingles. Composite or asphalt shingles shed their granules when they start to age and those granules eventually end up in your gutters.

An older roof will naturally start shedding granules, however, if your newer roof is shedding this is likely due to physical damage on the roof (think falling tree branches or a very large racoon). When the protective granules of a shingle are lost, the shingle begins to harden from heat and sun exposure. This loss will speed up the aging process and can create water entry points.

Roof Accessories

Items like chimneys, vents, pipes, or skylights can all be sources of roof damage. The caulking around these items can separate, lift or simply dry out, making it easier for water to seep in. Often the fixes can be confined to these specific areas so don’t be concerned if you need to hire a chimney specialist or skylight expert to assist in your roof repair.

In Your Home

Stains on Ceilings or Walls

Water stains or discolouration on walls or ceilings can be caused by many different things, but one of the most common reasons is a leaking roof. Specifically, your roof’s underlayment might be allowing moisture into your home which leads to these stains. If your underlayment is the cause of these stains you will most likely have to replace your roof.

Attic Awareness

If you notice water or light in your attic that is not normally there, your roof could be to blame. If there are leaks in your attic, it might be as simple as replacing some flashing. If the leaks continue, the issue could be bigger. When in doubt, have a professional come out and investigate it. The sooner the issue is found, the easier the solution will be.

If you notice streams or beams of light coming through that weren’t there before, you most likely have a roof issue. If light can get in, water can too. Check your shingles as this could be the result of lost or damaged shingles on your roof.

You should also pay attention to the decking or rafters in your attic. If you find they are sagging downward instead of remaining straight, this may be due to leaks causing the rafters to absorb water. If the issue is specific to the rafters you maybe be able to avoid a complete replacement and instead fix the one problem.

Changes in Energy Bills

A spike in your heating or air conditioning costs could be due to air leaking out through your roof. This is a ventilation issue that needs to be corrected, not only to lower your bill but to remain comfortable in your home. Your bill should return back to normal once the issue has been dealt with.

Now that you know what to look out for, you can take better care of your roof and extend its life. Catching minor issues before they develop into big problems will not only cut down on the amount of time you spend worrying about them, it will also cut back on the cost and time to fix it.
 


Home Heating



Home Heating Systems – Which is Best for You?

Winter has arrived!  … is your home heating system up to the task? When selecting an appropriate home heating system, either for a new home or as a replacement, it helps to have a basic understanding of the different types of systems, their efficiency ratings and long-term costs (installation plus annual operating costs).

If your existing system is over 20 years old, you may be spending a lot to keep it running – money that might better be spent on a new, more efficient system. In an existing home, it is usually cheaper to stay with the existing heat distribution system, unless you’re doing a major renovation.
If you are buying a new home, choosing one with an efficient and well-designed heating system can payoff long-term in terms of both operating costs and comfort. Consider factors like whether you want central air conditioning before deciding on the type of heating system.
 

Types of Home Heating Systems


There are four basic home heating systems: Furnace, Boiler, Heat Pump and Radiant Heat. Simply put, a boiler-based system distributes heat by piping hot water or steam, while the other systems distribute warm air directly.

1) Furnace

Forced air heating is the most popular option, in which hot air from a furnace is circulated throughout the home via air ducts and registers. The ducts can also be used to filter and humidify the air and circulate it for ventilation. Having ductwork means you can also have central air conditioning or a heat pump system.

However, ductwork can transmit furnace noise and can circulate dust and odors throughout the house. Ducts can also leak, losing heated air to attics or basements where it’s not needed. With any forced air system, be sure the ducts are properly sealed to minimize leakage.

2) Boiler
Standard Boiler System

Hot water (or hydronic) systems use a boiler to heat water which is circulated via copper or plastic piping, typically to baseboard radiators. Some hydronic systems circulate the hot water through pipes enclosed in the floor slab, which then radiates the heat evenly throughout the room. And some very old homes may still use upright radiators.

The advantages of hydronic systems are they provide more even temperatures throughout the home and the boiler also acts as the hot water tank for the home. However, the installed cost of hydronic systems is higher than that of forced-air systems, and they don’t provide central air conditioning, air filtering or ventilation.

3) Heat Pump
Electric (or air source) heat pumps use the same refrigerant cycle as an air conditioner, but during winter this cycle is reversed to deliver heat to the house. They are much more energy-efficient than other types of electric heat, and may have operating costs comparable to gas furnaces or even lower.

Geothermal (or ground source) heat pumps are even more efficient, because they absorb heat from the ground below the frostline, where the temperature of the ground is fairly steady year-round – relatively warmer than the air outside in winter and cooler than the air outside in summer.

A geothermal heat pump can save 30-70% on home heating and 20-50 % on home cooling costs over conventional systems according to the US Environmental Protection Agency. However, Geothermal heat pumps are much more expensive than air source heat pumps to install due to excavation and piping required. Some municipalities provide incentives to help offset the additional cost of geothermal systems.

4) Radiant Heat
Radiant heat works through the process of radiation or direct transfer of heat from a hot to a cold surface.

Electric radiant heat usually emanates from baseboards, or space heaters that are dedicated to warm up a chilly single room. It is usually more expensive and therefore much less popular than other heating systems.

Fireplaces and stoves provide another type of radiant heat. A closed system, such as a freestanding stove, is much more efficient than a fireplace.  A fireplace may lose more heat than it provides because so much warm air is drawn from the room into the fireplace for combustion and must be replaced by cold outside air. On the other hand, if the fireplace has a tight-sealing glass door, a source of outside air, and a good chimney damper, it can provide useful heat.

Fireplaces can either burn real wood or natural gas with ceramic logs. While burning real wood offers a rustic aroma and crackling sounds, its drawbacks include cleaning up the ashes and the need for annual chimney inspections to reduce the risk of fire and carbon monoxide poisoning due to creosote buildup or obstructions in the chimney.

Efficiency Ratings
The higher the efficiency of the system, the less it will cost to operate. Even a small difference in annual energy costs will add up over the life of the system.

AFUE, or Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency, is the standard efficiency rating for gas-based home heating systems, such as natural gas, propane and home fuel oil. (HSPF, or Heating Season Performance Factor, is used to measure the efficiency air source heat pumps and air conditioners.)

AFUE is the ratio of heat output of the furnace or boiler compared to the total fuel energy consumed by a furnace or boiler. An AFUE of 90% means that 90% of the energy in the fuel becomes heat for the home and the other 10% escapes up the chimney and elsewhere.

AFUE measures how efficiently your furnace can translate the fuel it burns into usable heat. But the type of fuel your furnace burns is more important in determining your operating costs than the AFUE.  Once you have made your decision on what type of fuel to use, you can then use AFUE scores to compare two of the same types of furnaces or boilers and calculate how much you can save with a higher AFUE unit.

Bigger Isn’t Always Better
With any new heating system, proper sizing is important to ensure efficient operation. Some contractors may install larger systems than are really needed, either to compensate for poor distribution systems or inefficient insulation. Home heating systems are most efficient when they run for longer periods of time. An oversized system will meet the demand for heat more quickly, but may never reach its peak operating efficiency because it powers on and off frequently.

Before installing a new system, ask your contractor to calculate your heating load, which takes into account your home’s square and cubic footage, insulation levels, air tightness, window orientation and other factors that affect the amount of heat needed. Or you can calculate your heating load online for $120, even if you don’t have technical drawings of your home.

Either way, you’re now more informed about the questions you should ask prospective home heating contractors.


KEEP WARM


5 Benefits of Insulating Your Home


Did you know that roughly half the money you spend heating your home goes to waste because of poor insulation? Proper insulation will ensure your home is a comfortable temperature throughout, which will help to lower your energy bill. Updating your insulation this fall will also result in a happier and healthier home for your entire family. Stay cozy and comfortable this fall by updating your home’s insulation before winter arrives.

What is insulation?

Most simply put, insulation is any material that is used to fill the little gaps and crevices of your home where air can escape. This insulation material acts as a barrier between the warm air inside your home and the cold air outside. There are many different kinds of insulation yet they all serve the same purpose: to create a barrier between your home and outside elements.

How does insulation work?

Heat naturally flows from warmer areas to cooler areas. During the cool winter months, the warm air inside your home will try to find its way outside. Insulation prevents the warm air from escaping outside and keeps it inside your home. Insulation does this by keeping tiny pockets of air trapped inside the material, which helps to minimize the amount of heat that passes between the inside and outside of your home. This means that your home will stay warm in the winter and cool in the summer because the air is not flowing freely between the inside and outside.

5 Benefits of Insulating Your Home

1. Lower Energy Bills & Energy Consumption

A big reason to update your insulation is the significant impact it will have on the amount of energy your home uses. Did you know that Canadian homes contribute to over 40% of the nation’s total greenhouse gas emissions? Much of this is due to homes not being properly insulated and using more energy than is necessary to heat and cool them. By adding insulation, your home will become much more energy efficient, something that is equally great for your wallet and the planet.

Insulation will help to keep your home warm and comfortable all winter long. This is because the insulation helps to ensure there is no warm air that escapes outside. By keeping more heat inside your home, this decreases the number of times the heat has to turn on. The less energy your home uses trying to keep itself warm, the bigger the savings will be on your next energy bill.

2. Prevents Mold and Damage

A leaky roof is an issue no one wants to deal with. A leaky roof coupled with mold is an even worse issue. When your attic is not properly insulated or your annual roof maintenance is ignored, problems start to form. One of the biggest problems is mold growth. As your roof ages, it will naturally form cracks and little holes. When left untreated, these holes will continue to grow and let rain and snow trickle into your home. If left for long enough, the wood in your roof’s structure will begin to rot and mold will start to grow.

Having an added layer of insulation creates a moisture barrier that keeps unwanted water out of your home. It is also much easier to remove old, damaged insulation and replace it than it is to replace your entire roof. If you have concerns about your roof, it’s always best to have it inspected by a professional roofer. Ask them about insulation for your attic and if they recommend it for your situation. Adding a bit of insulation now could end up saving your roof in the long run.

3. Healthier Home

Living with mold and not realizing it can lead to a number of health issues. Mild symptoms such as coughs and headaches can lead to more serious issues such as chronic bronchitis and other respiratory illnesses. Insulation will also help to keep allergens and pollutants outside of your home. Having fewer irritants in the air could also lead to fewer asthma attacks for any asthmatics living in your home. By adding insulation you’re taking a step towards preventing these illnesses in your home.

4. Increased Comfort

Is your basement boiling but your bedroom is freezing? Do you have to add or take off layers depending on what floor you’re on? If so, the addition of insulation could really help with this problem. Adding insulation will help to ensure the temperature is more consistent throughout your home. Never again will you step out of your cozy warm bed onto a shockingly cold floor. Keep things comfortable on every floor of your home by adding insulation to your home.

Insulation can also help with soundproofing and noise pollution. Whether the noise is travelling from floor to floor, or from outside to inside, adding insulation to your home will help drown out the sounds. Soon enough your home will be quieter and a consistent temperature from floor to floor. That’s a lot of increased comfort just by adding some insulation.

5. Added Value to Home

Adding insulation is a great way to increase your home’s overall value. When you’re ready to sell, any amount of money you put into insulation will return tenfold. This is because adding insulation will result in a more efficient home. Potential home buyers will pay more for a home that is energy efficient than one that is not. Because you already had the work done, it’s one less thing for them to do. They also get the added benefit of moving into an already comfortable home. This means that your small investment in insulation will not only make the time you’re living in your home more comfortable, you’ll also be able to see a return on that investment when you’re ready to sell.


LIGHT UP

Lighting Updates That Will Lower Your Power Bill
 

If there’s one thing most Canadians can relate to, it’s the seemingly endless energy bills that come with the rise and fall of seasonal temperatures. Some of our monthly utility costs, however, have nothing to do with the weather. In fact, lighting alone typically accounts for one-third of your monthly energy bill. So before you decide to move to another country, try out these lighting updates that will not only lower your monthly energy expenditures but will also reduce your carbon footprint.

Switch Up Your Light Bulbs



You can start by swapping out your current light bulbs for Energy Star certified LED bulbs. These bulbs are more energy efficient and environmentally friendly than both incandescent and fluorescent alternatives. Ninety percent of the energy used by incandescent bulbs is given off as heat, making them so inefficient that they are no longer manufactured in Canada. Although fluorescent lights are more efficient than incandescent bulbs, they contain mercury, meaning there are limited ways to dispose of them. By installing LED lights in their place, you can reduce energy expenditures by 80 percent and reduce your home’s environmental impact!

Before you make the switch, you’ll need to determine the right LED bulb for each fixture. You’ll need to consider shape, wattage, and brightness. Because LED is actually a different kind of light, it’s likely you’ll need to adjust the wattage of your bulbs when you transition. The good news is that because LED doesn’t produce heat, in most cases you can exceed the wattage maximums listed on appliance and outlet warning labels. This may seem complicated, but a seasoned electrician can walk you through the process and help install your new bulbs into pot lights and other hard-to-reach fixtures.

As the holiday season approaches, you can also consider purchasing LED outdoor string lights. Not only do these lights use 75 percent less energy than older models, but they also last 25 times longer. Double down on your savings by unplugging these lights when they’re not in use. Contact a handyman who can have your house lit up in no time at all.

Dimmer Switches & Automatic Lights

Did you know dimmer switches are good for more than just creating dinner-party ambience? They also save energy and prolong the life of your light bulbs. Though you’ll likely need the help of an electrician to transition your standard switches to dimmer switches, it is typically quick and relatively inexpensive project to take on.

Another option to consider is installing automatic lights. Automatic lights can either run on a timer or be motion activated and can be used inside and outside the home. Automatic lights give your home a lived-in look without the added cost of keeping your lights on for a prolonged period of time. This is a great option for families who spend a significant amount of time away from home! An electrician can give an in-depth explanation of your options, guide you through the installation process, and consult on the right settings given your lifestyle.

Bonus: Automatic Power Bars

What most homeowners don’t realize is that appliances continue to use energy even when they’re turned off. This is called “phantom power.” On average, 75 percent of the total energy used by your appliances is actually phantom power, making up a decent chunk of your monthly energy bill. A simple solution is to purchase automatic power bars for areas of the home that contain a number of appliances, like the kitchen or bathroom. These bars will turn off automatically overnight and during working hours.

Windows and Curtains



Another way to reduce your monthly energy expenditures is to capitalize on natural light. Large windows and skylights with the right blinds and curtains can be used to effectively control not only the brightness of your home but also the temperature. In addition to saving money, natural light has a number of benefits. Natural light is linked to higher productivity, improvements in mood and sleep cycles, and of course provides much-needed vitamin D. Consult with a windows and doors expert to see how you can improve the amount of natural light in your home.

Together these small updates add up to huge monthly savings. If you’re looking for other ways to reduce your home’s carbon footprint, hire an electrician to conduct an energy audit. Through this process, you can uncover dozens of ways to improve your home’s efficiency. Keep in mind, with each improvement comes decades of savings.


DON'T GET FLOORED

6 Flooring Options For Any Budget


If you’ve ever considered redoing your floors, you probably realized pretty quickly that it wouldn’t be cheap. It can cost thousands of dollars to resurface even small rooms with hardwood or high-quality stone and tile. Luckily enough, in the last five years, many new and relatively inexpensive materials have come to market. With enough research, you can find budget-friendly alternatives for all your favourite materials. To make your life easier, we’ve put together a list of six beautiful flooring options that won’t break the bank.

1. Laminate Flooring

Many homeowners looking to save choose to install laminate planks instead of hardwood. Laminate floors are made by covering a synthetic wood base with a high-quality image of a more expensive material, usually hardwood or stone. The product itself is not only cheaper than hardwood but also it costs around 50% less to install. Laminate floors are also more durable, more moisture-resistant, and easier to clean than hardwood alternatives.


2. Vinyl Sheet Flooring & Luxury Vinyl Flooring (LVF)

In the past, some homeowners were wary of vinyl floors and their dated designs. These days, not only does vinyl come in a number of shapes and patterns, but most retailers carry tiles that closely resemble hardwood and stone. These higher-end vinyl products are called Luxury Vinyl Flooring, or LVF, and are often compared to laminate flooring.

Like laminate, LVF uses high-quality photos to imitate more expensive natural materials. However, unlike laminate, vinyl floors are well-suited for damp areas of the home like bathrooms and laundry rooms.

3. Linoleum Flooring

Like vinyl, linoleum floors are also making a comeback. In addition to being inexpensive, linoleum floors now come in a variety of colours and patterns, are scratch-resistant, and biodegradable.

4. Stained Plywood

This option may be unconventional, but a little stain and sealant can have plywood floors looking like hardwood in no time. This option is particularly easy on the wallet because underneath most floors is actually a plywood subfloor, meaning you may not have to purchase any new materials. One thing to note about plywood is that it is susceptible to water damage, so make sure a sealant is applied.

5. Common/Character Grade Oak Flooring

If you have your heart set on real hardwood, you should consider what lumber yards refer to as common grade or character grade oak flooring. Oak floors are graded based on the wood’s colour variation. Floors with more colour variation are assigned a lower grade and are more reasonably priced, especially when purchased directly from the lumber yard.

Because these planks are unfinished and can vary in length, this is a great option for homeowners who want a reclaimed or herringbone design. However, you’ll need to account for the cost of a pro to install and stain your new floor, as putting in an unfinished hardwood floor would be a challenging DIY.

6. Painting/Wallpapering/Stenciling

Finally, it is worth noting that almost any surface can be painted, including vinyl, plywood, linoleum and laminate floors. However, depending on the base material, you’ll need to prep with the appropriate product to ensure the paint will adhere. For this reason, we recommend connecting with a painter who can tell you exactly which steps to follow and provide the necessary materials.

For those of you who are less confident in your artistic abilities, you can find tile stickers and stencils online in a variety of patterns. Alternatively, have a pro paint, stencil, or even apply wallpaper to your floor.

As you can see, there are a number of innovative alternatives to traditional hardwood that can freshen up your space without the cost.


SHUT THE FRONT DOOR


5 Signs It’s Time to Replace Your Front Door


There’s a difference between wanting a new front door and needing one. Installing a new front door is a great way to increase your curb appeal and your home’s value, especially if you’re getting ready to sell. Aside from aesthetic reasons, there are many practical reasons homeowners across Canada will be updating their front doors this fall. With the cool autumn air blowing in, now is the perfect time to ensure your doors are both energy efficient and secure. Here are 5 signs that it’s time to replace your front door.

1. Wasted Energy

Do you exert more energy trying to open your door than you do once you’re outside? If so, this is a clear sign it’s time for a new door. The reason your door is sticking and hard to open could be due to a number of issues. The weather stripping may have worn down, causing your door to become unaligned with the frame. It could be something as simple as the door coming off its hinges. Or it could be that when the weather changes, our doors begin to contract and expand, causing them to shift.

The constant shifting of our doors can also throw off the alignment and create gaps where air can flow through. Not only is a difficult door an inconvenience, but it’s also losing you money. This means that even while your door is closed, you’re losing hot air in your home, and increasing your energy bill.

If you’re concerned about the amount of air that could be potentially slipping away around your front door, there’s an easy way to check. You can use a lighter or a candle to see where the air is escaping. Hold the flame close to the door and move it around the frame. If the flame begins to flicker or look like it’s being pulled outside, you’ve got an air leak. Not only will this increase your energy bill, but it will also make your home feel colder.

If you can’t seem to find a leak, be sure to check the bottom of your door as well. It’s possible that the threshold has come loose and is letting air in. This is a simple fix that a door specialist or handyman can perform for you. You can also ask them to check the quality of your weather stripping and replace any bits that may have worn away over the years.

2. Moisture, Mold & Mildew

You probably never thought you could have mold and mildew issues with your door, but it can happen. If your front door has double-paned glass in it, it’s at risk of developing moisture issues over time. Just like windows with double-paned glass, over time the seal between these panes will break down. When this happens there is the potential mold and mildew will develop.

If you notice this has become a problem with your front door, it needs to be addressed as soon as possible, especially if you have a wooden door. Up until the past 10 years, most residential doors have been built with a wooden frame or core. Because wood is an organic material, mold and mildew will spread quickly. If you don’t want to replace your door completely, you can opt for mold remediation with a mold removal specialist. Keep in mind that it may be easier to replace the door, but you do have the option to try and save your current door.

3. Seen Better Days

The odd scrape and scuff marks will happen over time. A door covered in scratches, dings, and rust shows that the structural integrity of the door may be compromised. Rust is also a sign that there is a moisture problem, likely coming from the wooden core inside your door. If your door looks beat up and structurally unsound, this could make it quite attractive to a burglar.

Take a look at your door and consider how easy it would be for you (or someone else) to kick it down. If you have any concerns about the safety of your door, it’s best to speak to a professional who can recommend some options. If your door looks like it’s seen better days, it’s worth it to replace it to keep unwanted company from entering your house.

4. Weathered & Warped

From being slammed shut, kicked open, and exposed to extreme weather all year long, your front door takes a lot of abuse. Front doors that have been through many hot summers and cold winters have been contracting and expanding for years. This can cause the wood to warp and crack. This damage can lead to exposed gaps for air to leak through and cause more problems.

Beyond energy efficiency and security, coming home to an ugly and worn looking front door is not a pleasant experience. If your old front door is starting to look a little worse for wear, consider updating it to something new that can better withstand the weather in your area.

5. Curb Appeal

A beautiful new front door will instantly increase your home’s curb appeal. This is great news for those who are looking to put their home on the market as a new front door also greatly increases your resale value. In fact, replacing your front door is one of the best investments you can make as it increases your energy efficiency while also adding enhanced curb appeal.

Even if you’re not planning on selling anytime soon, you should increase the curb appeal of your home for yourself. Coming home at the end of a long day to a scratched and warped looking door is no way to start your evening. Think how much nicer it would be coming home to a beautiful new door that glides open effortlessly you as you enter your home. As the holidays start to approach and you begin to entertain more, your friends and family will also appreciate the look of your new door when you have them over. If you’re looking to make a statement with your new door, speak to a doors specialist who will be able to help you find a door that looks great with your style of home.

Whether you decide to update your front door for looks, security, or energy efficiency, you can feel good knowing you’ve made a smart investment in your home. Fall is the perfect time to install a new front door because the mostly temperate weather means you do not have to worry about a heat wave or snow storm interfering with your install


SEE CLEARLY

5 Signs It’s Time to Replace Your Windows
 

Sometimes it’s obvious you need to replace your windows. If a baseball comes flying through your front window and lands on your carpet, you know you’ll need to replace it sooner rather than later. Other times our windows can be broken or need repairs but because there are no obvious signs, we have no idea they need to be replaced. Read through these 5 signs to find out if it’s time to replace your windows.

1. Your Windows are Drafty

A drafty window doesn’t just mean you’ll feel the air come through. Drafty windows can also be the reason why your energy bills are increasing. As the temperature changes throughout the year, you should see your heating and cooling bills doing the same. If your windows are older, it’s likely that most of the heat from your furnace and the cool air from your air conditioner is going to waste.

An easy way you can test if your windows are drafty is to do the candle test. Hold a candle around the edges of your window. If you can see the flame flicker at certain points, it’s likely there’s a leak where air is getting it. Drafts can be a result of insulation like weatherstripping wearing away or there being hardware problems.

If you find you have drafty windows, it’s important to have them replaced. Older windows are usually single-paned which makes them vulnerable to leaks. Newer windows are much more energy efficient and designed to prevent air transferring that causes drafts.


2. Your Windows Don’t Open Easily

You shouldn’t break into a sweat trying to open your windows. If you find your windows aren’t opening as easily as they used to, it’s time to replace them. Wood frame windows can be particularly difficult due to the swelling and contracting of wood depending on weather conditions.

Walk around your home and take note of how easy or difficult it is to open your windows. If you find you have to apply pressure or have to try a couple of times to get the window to budge, these are signs it’s time to replace your windows.

3. Your Windows Look Worn

There comes a time when your windows don’t look as good as they used to. Regular exposure to the elements and daily wear and tear can build up over the years. An easy to spot sign that it’s time to replace your windows is if you notice them leaking or decaying.

Decaying windows can lead to safety concerns. If your window frame is completely rotted through, pieces of the frame or even the window glass itself could fall off and seriously injure someone below. If you notice any amount of decay, this is a sign that your windows need to be replaced as soon as possible.

Leaking windows can be the sign of bigger problems with your home. While you may be inclined to attempt to fix the leak or ignore it, you’re much better off repairing the cause of the leak and replacing the window. Keep in mind that moisture fuels mold growth, even if it’s a small amount of water. The longer you postpone having your windows replaced the bigger the problem will become and you could end up with a major issue on your hands.

4. Your Windows are Loud

If you can still hear cars honking and driving by when your windows are shut, you have a soundproofing issue. Single and double pane windows will always transfer some amount of sound vibrations into your home. If a number of your windows have soundproofing issues, this will add up and your home will be noisier than it should be.

Rattling or shaking windows that you can hear are also a sign that it’s time for them to be replaced. You should not be able to hear your windows every time a gust of wind goes by.

5. Your Windows are Cloudy


Don’t panic if you notice some condensation on your windows once in a while. The issue here is if your windows are consistently foggy or have condensation build-up on them. If you notice condensation in between the panes of glass, this is a bad sign. This means that your windows’ seals are not working and that it is time to replace your windows before they start leaking and causing more problems.

Cloudy windows are also a sign that your windows are not energy efficient. Condensation occurs when there is air flowing freely from outside to inside. The only proper way to fix this is to replace your windows.


Bonus: They’re Old

The average window is meant to last between 10 and 15 years before the seals between the panes wear out and break down. If you’ve had your windows for at least 10 years, it’s time to replace them. Windows that are even older than that, perhaps installed prior to 1970, this is an excellent reason to have them replaced. Single pane windows installed before 1970 are from a different time with outdated standards.

Some manufacturers will include a small sticker or embossment on the windows. Typically there will be a string of numbers on the sticker that contains information like the make and model of your windows, the manufacturer, and the date the windows were made. This small sticker is usually found in the window jam or may be on the glass. The sticker can be hard to find (or may not exist at all) so inspect your windows carefully if you’re looking for it.

If you have old windows it’s likely you’re experiencing a number of the issues above. Not only are single pane windows prone to leaks and drafts, they can be unsafe. Take the time to replace your windows now so that you don’t have to worry about any issues in the future.

 


THE RIGHT FIREPLACE


Tis The Season To Get The Fireplace You Want And Need
 

 

As we descend into the short days of winter, thoughts turn to creating cozy spaces in the home. The Danish call it Hygge. Hygge cannot be translated as a word, rather it is a feeling. It’s the feeling you get when you spend a winter evening at a friends place, laughing, eating, drinking in a cozy atmosphere by the fireplace, with a few candles. Feeling loved and nurtured, protected. Happily cozy.

A big part of Hygge is the soft lighting of candles, or even better, the warmth and ever-changing beauty of a fireplace. Today’s consumer has so many more choices for fireplaces than ever before; even families who live in condominiums can enjoy the soft glow of a faux fire. Here are the different options available to you, depending on your needs.

Wood burning

Wood fireplaces remain the most traditional way to heat a home, and to create a beautiful atmosphere during the short winter days and long winter evenings. Wood is the least effective however, as about 80% of the heat created by the fire is sucked up through the flue. This is because the draft that must be created to vent the smoke from the home in fact also carries the heat out of the home.

Wood-burning fireplaces require regular maintenance and upkeep, or they can become dangerous. It’s critical to clean a chimney regularly to prevent creosote from building and creating serious a fire hazard. Along with chimney fires, wood-burning fireplaces can produce popping embers, rolling logs and other hazards that can cause fires if not properly protected against.

A serious disadvantage of a wood-burning fireplace is the harmful smoke and emissions it produces, indoors and out. It is a major contributor to particulate pollution in urban areas and poses serious health risks. For this reason many cities across Canada are placing restrictions or bans on wood-burning fireplaces and stoves; therefore many people are converting their wood-burning fireplaces into gas. Be careful to educate yourself about your municipal bylaws if you’re looking to incorporate a new fireplace or wood-burning stove into your home.

Burning wood also requires someone to buy and pile the wood in a dry place, and to stoke the fire. All of this is quite a bit of work, and purchasing wood is an extra cost that must be budgeted for. If you don’t enjoy playing with fire, want to minimize extra expenses, work and yet maximize your comfort, another option might be better for you.

Gas

A vented gas fireplace is comprised of a firebox, a chimney or vent, a gas line run to the unit and an electrical connection for some models. Direct vent gas fireplaces are 75-80% efficient and can be used as an effective heating source. Most gas fireplaces include a variable-setting control or thermostat that gives you the freedom to adjust the amount of heat coming out of your fireplace as well as a multi-speed fireplace fan.

Installation of gas fireplaces is fairly complex. Venting, running of gas lines and electrical connections involve considerable time, labor and planning by trade professionals. As with wood fireplaces, chimneys and gas lines need to be regularly inspected and maintained for safe usage and to eliminate the risk of fire.

Gas fireplaces can emit an odour, so those that are sensitive to odours or fumes may want to consider another option. Additionally, because gas fireplaces require a gas line and a way to exhaust to the exterior, they are often not a viable solution for condominiums.

Electric

Plug and play! There’s really not much easier than an electric fireplace. No need for a chimney, venting or anything other than figuring out where to put your new fireplace and pushing the “on” button. Electric fireplaces are also extremely economical compared to other solutions and can provide a cost-effective, supplemental heating solution.

Since they burn neither wood nor gas, electric fireplaces produce no smoke or fumes and are perfectly safe for any kind of living situation where there is electricity. There is no chimney to clean. You don’t have to buy, chop or stack wood. You never have to worry about cleaning up the logs or ash. The glass of an electric fireplace typically does not get hot, so is safe for families with small children.

Many people however, prefer to have a real flame, which an electric fireplace cannot provide.

Ethanol

Ethanol is a great solution if you are not able to vent a fire, but still want the look and heat of a real fire.

Ethanol fireplaces are super simple to install because they require no vent even though they do burn a real flame. This is because this kind of fireplace burns bioethanol, a clean-burning gas that emits water, heat and an insignificant amount of Carbon Dioxide. Be sure you research the manufacturing of the fireplace you purchase, and enquire as to whether or not the product is tested and certified.

Additionally, an ethanol fireplace loses no heat due to the lack of a flue. An ethanol fireplace usually produces around 2-3 kW, which is the equivalent of a radiator on full effect. Be careful however, as without a vent, you need some way to get a bit of fresh air into a room burning ethanol, as it does consume oxygen. If you can’t get fresh air into the room directly, it’s probably not wise to use the ethanol fireplace for more than an hour or so.

Even more fun, ethanol fireplaces often come in super cool, modern designs that are often mobile and are tailor-made for the condo crowd.