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Setting Up a Backyard Movie Night

During those beautiful summer nights, it doesn’t matter where you are in Canada, you want to be outside. It’s natural, and let’s face it, the past few years have driven many to upgrade their own backyard retreats, so you’ve got a good reason to be out and about in your own space.


Upcycling and repurpose trends show no sign of abating, and we’ve already seen signs of the backyard undergoing radical redesigns, adding features like pizza ovens, outdoor kitchens, and bars. Why not extend that idea and bring your home theatre outside? What says summer better than a drive-in (or walk-in) movie night? In the spirit of the popular staycation trend, let’s look at how you can set up a backyard movie night.


The scale is up to you. It can be as simple as moving a TV onto a balcony or as elaborate as a dedicated outdoor cinema with surround sound and your own version of a concession stand. Be mindful of your surroundings, of course, since the light and sound could impact your neighbours. You may be able to land in their good books, though, with VIP invitations to opening night!


The basics

As with any backyard project, a little planning keeps your outdoor theatre on track. To show your film, you must address four main technical aspects:

  • projection;
  • screen;
  • sound; and
  • streaming or viewing devices.


Moving a flat-screen television to your cinema site solves the first three aspects easily. Your TV handles everything. If you have a smart TV, a streaming service, and your wi-fi signal reaches your outdoor screen, then it’s all taken care of except for the popcorn and seating.


That’s great for an improvised Saturday night showing, but this is your taste of Hollywood at home! Going big makes your movie a special event. A bigger setup may also be a launch pad for weekly events through the summer months. Let’s look at each of your tech needs.


Projection

From cheaper hundred-dollar options to thousand-dollar light cannons, there are plenty of projectors to fit all budgets. Your projector is likely the biggest budget item for your theatre, but you do have options. Check with audio-visual services in your area or try an online search for video projector rentals to manage costs. In terms of quality, you’ll want to look for a projector with between 2,000 and 2,500 lumens.


Don’t forget to scope out your electrical requirements, too. Make sure you have suitable access to power or extension cords that can handle the power needed.


Screen

Your theatre could be equipped with a white bed sheet pulled as flat as you can make it, but you’ll get better results with a purpose-made projection screen. These are usually crease resistant, so you’ll have a flatter surface, and their reflectivity is higher than your average bed sheet, enhancing the visual experience. Screens of various sizes are surprisingly affordable.


If you have a large, flat surface, perhaps the rear wall of a garage or the side of a shed, hang a piece of plywood that’s been treated with projector screen paint. That’s right, screen paints are a specialty product that makes it much easier to create a permanent theatre. It may be the answer if you plan to start a summer movie club!


Sound

Wireless Bluetooth systems are perhaps the most versatile way to go unless you already have a suitable outdoor speaker system. The key to a good sound presentation is balance, particularly if your theatre is in a tight suburban neighbourhood. You want a volume that’s loud enough to overcome traffic and environment noise, but not so loud as to disturb others. Remember, too, that long summer days mean your movie night may have a late start after sundown.


Streaming and viewing devices

Your options here may depend on the capabilities of your projector. Some pair easily to smartphones and laptops, so all your streaming options are still accessible. Many projectors also accept video connections from DVD and Blu-ray players. You might even want to dust off the VCR for one last viewing of those VHS tapes in the basement.


Seating

If your audience is comfortable on a blanket on the lawn, then seating is easy. Otherwise, it’s time to gather camp chairs, patio sets, or whatever you can rummage that will be comfortable over the course of your viewing event.


Another fun option if you have a pool is setting giant floaties and watching from the water. This is perfect for really hot summer nights, although it may make snacking a little difficult.


If you’re hosting the event for kids, you could set up a “drive-in” movie with cardboard “cars” for each child to sit in, complete with blankets and individual snacks inside. Plus, it helps keep everybody settled for the whole movie.


Food and drink

Food and beverages are perhaps the most fun to plan. Depending on who’s enjoying the movie, you can cater specifically to their tastes. For kids (or the more traditional movie watchers among us), popcorn, candy, soft drinks, juice, and even things like warm pretzels can be perfect. Set up a small table in the yard with everyone’s favourites and let people help themselves. Or, pre-pack snacks into little baggies or boxes so each person can grab one on the way to their seat.


If you’re planning an adults-only night, you can up the ante with more appetizer-style foods and cocktails. You’ll want to make sure you have plenty of coolers and ice nearby, as well as a full selection of drinks for your guests.


No matter who’s coming over, easy-to-find garbage and recycling receptacles are a must. This will help expedite cleanup later on and prevent garbage from finding its way onto your lawn.


Bits and bobs

If your yard has unwelcome guests in the form of flying and biting insects, don’t forget bug repellent (sprays, candles, or other devices) and covers for any food items that will be hanging around.


Summer nights can cool down quickly, too, so watch the forecast. Have blankets or sweaters at the ready in case a chill sets in. You can also extend movie season into the fall with propane area heaters.


It may also be fun for the kiddos to have a full “camping” experience outdoors. Consider setting up tents and sleeping bags so the outdoor fun doesn’t have to end when the credits roll.


If the availability of streamed content has made indoor movie night ho-hum, invest in your backyard cinema and have another reason to anticipate the return of summer each year.



Source: https://www.realtor.ca/blog/setting-up-a-backyard-movie-night/26146/1367
Photo: pexels.com

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What to Plant in July (Because It’s Not too Late to Start Gardening)

As the steamy month of July begins, a lot of gardeners concentrate their efforts on caring for and maintaining their existing gardens — not adding more plants. But there’s value in continuing your planting into July, and nurturing new, fledgling plants alongside your mature gardens. While it may seem like the plant selection at your favorite plant nursery is dwindling, now is actually the best time to go hunting for plant sales. You’ll find many plants at a discount this time of summer, not to mention seeds and other gardening gear. Don’t fool yourself into thinking the planting season is over after May, or that you’re stuck doing only maintenance rather than planting. There are still options you can get in the ground this month!


Of course, the offerings will vary from agricultural zone to zone, but the plants on this list will thrive in most. Just remember that when you’re planting in the heat of summer, you should try to do your work in the cooler mornings and evenings. Like people, plants don’t like the heat — and they tend to stress if they are transplanted and moved in the full sun of a hot day. (If you’re looking to experiment with planting something delicate in July, be sure to do your research first.) Below, five great picks worth adding to your garden this month.

Pricey Perennials for a Bargain

One of my favorite things to do in July is to go perennial hunting at my local garden center. This is the time that those high-dollar, must-have plants are marked down. At this point in the season most of those plants have been sitting out, day after day, exposed to the elements. They probably don’t look so great because they’re still in their plastic planter’s pots, which makes them even more difficult for the nurseries to move. The general buyer doesn’t want to buy a crispy looking plant — but their loss is your gain.


You’ll be able to find all kinds of perennials marked down, sometimes more than half-price. For instance, last year my mom and I found “Vanilla Strawberry” hydrangeas, which are typically priced around $40, for $10 apiece at a big box store garden center. This is also a great time to get deals on other perennials such as:

  • Rose bushes
  • Grasses
  • Hostas
  • Daylilies

These plants might look a little worse for wear right now, but when you clean them up and plant them you will be rewarded next year! Perennials have a remarkable ability to bounce back the following year after being exposed to stress.


You can also start thinking about picking up spring-blooming perennials, which in some zones can be planted in the late summer or early fall.

Basil and Kale

Basil and kale are both hardy enough to be planted during July. I know gardeners who have had success both planting plants as well as seeds, so it’s definitely worth a try. If you’re looking for seeds, any garden center should still have them. If you’re looking to buy mature plants, you might have to hunt a bit, but they’re likely still out there.


Both basil and kale thrive when planted in the ground as well as in container gardens. They’re wonderful companion plants, no matter when or where you choose to grow them. Each plant is relatively compact, so they might be a great option to replace any annuals that didn’t make it through the start of summer.


Of course, both of these plants are edibles, but they’re also beautiful enough to grow just for show (just in case cooking isn’t your forte).

Succulents

During my gardening career I have found that succulents tend to be the easiest replacement for annuals that didn’t make it in the heat, or for failed seeds that didn’t germinate.


As long as they have part-sun exposure, succulents will be fine outdoors for the summer. You won’t have to worry about watering them as much as other parts of your garden and you will undoubtedly find that they will grow very quickly, which will be quite the surprise for folks who have succulents indoors. Here are some great options for outdoor succulent planting:

  • Sedum stonecrop
  • Echeveria
  • Hens and chicks
  • Haworthia

One of the best parts about using succulents in your garden is that when it starts to get chilly outside, you can transplant them into a planter and take them inside. Really, it’s like a two-for-one!

Quick-Growing Annuals

Get quick-germinating annual seeds in the ground this month and you’ll see blooms by August. A favorite pick? Zinnias, which are the workhorses of the garden. These provide bright, substantial blooms all summer long no matter how hot it is.


The market is also saturated with all different kinds of varieties, from funky heirlooms to bold blooms with large heads. If you want big color and big blooms but are unsure of what to plant, zinnias will not disappoint. They’re also a wonderful cut flower, so once they’ve grown, snip a few stems and bring them inside for your favorite vase. And good news: Zinnias are nontoxic to dogs and cats.


Other quick-growing seeds to plant this month:

  • Cosmos
  • Alyssum
  • Calendula
  • Cornflower

Black-Eyed Susans (Rudbeckia)

Rudbeckia are common perennial wildflowers native to North America. Rudbeckia—often called black-eyed Susans—are extremely hardy plants, which makes them a great option to plant in July. You’re also likely to find options in the plant center this month, waiting to be re-homed.


Black-eyed Susans are great for attracting pollinators like bees and butterflies, and will give you blooms all the way through October. Not only do these blooms provide pops of summery yellow and orange, but they’ll also blend beautifully with your fall mums and ornamental peppers.


The only thing you’ll have to worry about with these plants is their ability to spread over time and take over your garden. You will have to separate them every few years or so —similarly to irises, dahlias and daylilies — in order to keep them from choking out your other plants. Important to note: Rudbeckia is toxic to both dogs and cats.



Source: https://www.apartmenttherapy.com/what-to-plant-in-july-36768117
Photo: pexels.com

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Condo Fees and What They Cover

Condos are often attractive to buyers, not only because they can be in a more favourable price range than single family homes, they can provide easier access to amenities and a low-maintenance lifestyle.


However, these benefits don’t come without a cost. In addition to your mortgage, you’ll need to plan for the maintenance fees, also known as condo fees. This article will look at what condo fees are, when they can be reassessed, and what they mean for your mortgage, specifically related to an apartment-style condominium building.


What are condo fees?

To put it simply, condo fees are monthly contributions made by unit owners to a condo corporation (the organization that runs the condo building). This money is then pooled together and goes toward funding maintenance and general upkeep of the building. Every condo has a condo board, made up of people from the building, who manage the property on behalf of residents and owners. They’re responsible for making decisions in the best interest of all parties.


While every building is different, the most common costs included in the monthly fees are:

  • Utilities—A condo corporation may pay some or all of a building’s utilities. For example, it may pay for water and electricity, but not heat.
  • The reserve fund—A portion of condo fees will go toward maintaining the building’s reserve fund, which is essentially a sum of money set aside for unexpected repairs. For example, if the roof or boiler in a building needs to be replaced, the condo board can use some of this cash to pay for it. Before you buy into a building, knowing how much money is in its reserve fund can also help you understand the building’s financial health.
  • Common area maintenance—Condo fees can also go toward paying for garbage pick up, snow removal, and the upkeep of common spaces in the building or property including hallways, lobbies, elevators, and the grounds around the building or buildings.
  • Amenities—The more amenities your condo building has to offer, the higher your condo fees will usually end up being. Pools, reception services, saunas, shared rooftop patios, and parking all add to the cost of your condo fees, while admittedly offering a lot in return.

The size of the condo building can also be a factor in your overall condo fees. A building with 20 units will likely not have the same fees as a building with 200 units, as the required maintenance and utilities will be different.


Do townhomes have condo fees?

Not all townhomes have condo fees—owning a freehold townhome is the same as owning a freehold single family home. That being said, certain townhome communities will have condo fees as well which can cover gardening, fences, garbage pickup, shared amenities, and other general maintenance fees as laid out by the condo board. When looking at homes with your REALTOR®, they’ll tell you whether or not the townhome is a condominium or freehold.

When can your condo board reassess your fees?

When you’re looking at condos for sale, it’s definitely easy to gravitate towards ones with lower condo fees. However, lower fees could come with a catch. If the fees are too low, the condo corporation may not have enough cash flow to pay for larger repairs which, in turn, may lead to a special assessment. Your REALTOR® can help provide a more clear picture of the building’s history as they know the area well. They can also recommend properties with better track records to help make you feel more comfortable with your choice.


A special assessment is a payment unit owners must make to the condo corporation, on top of their regular monthly condo fees and mortgage payment. The terms around special assessments will vary based on provincial legislation, so it’s always important to understand what your board can and cannot do.


As an example, the Condo Authority of Ontario (CAO)—an organization that aims to improve condominium living by providing services and resources for condo owners, residents, and directors—indicates special assessments can occur for various reasons, but the most common include:

  • Unforeseen expenses—A major expense may arise unexpectedly, such as the roof needs to be replaced. The CAO says this might happen during a critical year for the reserve fund, which is when the condominium board has depleted its reserve fund to complete major projects. As a result, the remaining balance is too low to cover the unexpected expenses and the special assessment has to be paid.
  • Under-budgeting—A special assessment can also be paid if an expense or major repair ends up costing more than expected.
  • Losing a lawsuit—Finally, the CAO says unit owners must “bear any judgment against the condominium,” which means if the condominium can’t pay the judgment from the operating fund, the board must turn to a special assessment to cover the costs.


Do condo fees affect your mortgage?

When you’re looking for a condo, it’s always a good idea to double check your monthly spend—mortgage payment, property tax, insurance, utilities, and condo fees—and ensure you can afford everything before applying with your lender.


In short, Alex Obradovich, a REALTOR® and sales representative with Chestnut Park® Real Estate Limited Brokerage in Toronto, says condo fees can affect your mortgage.


“When applying for a mortgage or a pre-approval, the lender will most definitely account for condo fees when looking at how much debt they are willing to supply to a client,” he explained. “Condo fees are just one of many factors taken into consideration when determining the amount of debt a lender is willing to supply.”


Furthermore, when it comes to condo fees, Obradovich says they may also have an impact on an owner’s condo insurance.


“Not all condo fees are created equal. Each property may have different costs associated with it. Some condo fees may cover some sort of insurance and the type of home insurance policy you may want to secure may change,” he explained. “Conversely, the home insurance may or may not take into consideration what is provided by the condo or maintenance fees.”


If you’re unsure how to interpret what the condo fees represent, you can request for the condo board to share their status certificate with you. This report contains all the details about the current financial state of the condo maintenance corporation, as well as mention any details of the existing size of their reserve fund and if there are any ongoing lawsuits.


Regardless of whether you’re a first-time home buyer or not, it’s all about asking questions and keeping informed. Your REALTOR® can help navigate condo fees, status certificates, and every other aspect of your condo buying journey.


The information above is for informational purposes only and should not be used as investment or financial advice.



Source: https://www.realtor.ca/blog/condo-fees-and-what-they-cover/25935/1362
Photo: pexels.com

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Your Guide to Creating an Outdoor Kitchen

When the warmer weather hits we all want to spend as much time outdoors as possible! Whether you’re a die-hard DIYer or simply looking for ways to get the most out of your backyard space, creating an outdoor kitchen might be the perfect project to tackle. Let’s see what’s involved with this endeavour to get you hosting some epic meals in your own backyard kitchen.

Why a kitchen in your backyard?

Grilling outdoors is one of Canada’s favourite pastimes. Given our temperate climate and the fact summers can get quite hot—requiring a substantial amount of energy to cool your home—one of the biggest benefits of using an outdoor kitchen is keeping the heat outside.


Another benefit is when you entertain outside, you get to spend more time with your guests instead of running in and out of the house constantly. Everything you need to prepare, cook, eat, and drink can be conveniently within reach. Plus, you can’t go wrong with more surface area for food, drinks, and condiments!


For the Canadian Real Estate Association (CREA) Past Chair Barb Sukkau, a sales representative at Royal LePage NRC Realty, the idea of installing an outdoor kitchen came from a desire to expand their living space outdoors.


“We are so thrilled with our backyard renovation. We grill and entertain around our outdoor kitchen and have a large dining space for our large gatherings,” she said. “In the evening we enjoy the warmth of our outdoor gas fireplace, comfy couches and a little television in our outdoor living room. Honestly we have never enjoyed our backyard so much and are happy with the investment that we feel adds tremendous value to our home.”

Where is the best place for an outdoor kitchen?

Positioning your kitchen close to an entrance means less time carting supplies back and forth at the beginning and end of the season, or when you need to resupply.

While an outdoor kitchen’s function goes beyond a standalone barbecue, it’s important to be mindful of safety. You may build closer to the house for convenience or due to available space, which is fine, as long as you aim for 1.5 metres away from fences, entries, windows, or air intakes (such as for a furnace vent). Too much heat can shatter your windows—not to mention if you’re prone to igniting your food while cooking, you’ll want to keep all that smoke outside. On that last point, always keep a fire extinguisher handy when cooking anywhere.


Some other things to consider when choosing the location of your outdoor kitchen include:

  • proximity to your indoor kitchen in case you need to restock or grab something;
  • available shelter so everything can be covered from the elements;
  • access to power; and
  • proximity to your neighbours.


Note: Check your municipality’s regulations regarding barbecues and propane canisters, as some have specific clearance rules in place for your safety and that of your neighbours. Consult with a certified HVAC technician if you’re moving or installing gas lines to your appliances.

Budget

Depending on your budget, complexity of your plan, and equipment to use, this type of home improvement project can come with a hefty price tag. While a simple outdoor kitchen setup for basic prep and cooking can be accomplished for under $2,000, more complex executions can easily exceed $10,000. Aside from the appliances, things that can impact your price include masonry work, the types of countertops you choose, whether or not you need additional gas and power lines, the overall size of the layout, and any necessary permits. For example, the lower end of the cost scale will get you a functional kitchen with basic appliances and a standard ceramic countertop. However, if you want to add brickwork and stainless steel countertops, you’ll have to spend more.

Outdoor kitchens are often considered a luxury and may add value to your property over and above your initial financial investment.

Fuel source and hookups

If your home is already fed with natural gas or propane, then it might be worth investigating the installation of a feed for your outdoor kitchen, otherwise a portable propane tank is the go-to, and you can incorporate tank storage into your design.


If you wish to include a sink in your setup, then you’ll need to plan for water supply and drainage. You can use your outdoor spigot to supply water to your sink, or run a dedicated line from your home’s water system. Convenience and budget may dictate your approach.


You can hook into your home’s existing drainage system, which can get pricey and may involve a building permit. Alternatively, you can install a dry well for your grey water to drain into your landscape. Just be mindful to stick to biodegradable cleaners.


Don’t forget about electricity, too. If you plan on having a mini-fridge and small appliances like blenders or food processors, or things like sound systems, fun lighting, or other electronic elements, you’ll need to figure out the power hookup for your kitchen. Consider proximity to outlets, and if you require additional electrical work, be sure to contact a professional.

Equipment and appliances

How extravagant you choose to be with your space will obviously impact your budget. The grill, drawers, sinks, and other features you choose will all factor into the overall cost. You’ll also want to ensure the appliances you choose are built for the environment. Most outdoor kitchen components are generally made with stainless steel to prevent rust, which also helps them withstand the elements and makes them easier to clean.


The grill is arguably the most important part of your outdoor kitchen, so it’s a good place to start. If you’re looking to optimize your budget, stick with a basic built-in grill assembly and prep counter with storage underneath. With many options across a variety of notable brands, you can build your own counter structure to accommodate a grill head, assemble your kitchen with built-in components, or go with a full kit for an all-in-one approach.


Stainless steel drawers, shelves, and cupboards are a must to store flatware, cooking utensils, and supplies. If you’re dreaming big, you’ll likely be interested in accessory appliances, like an outdoor fridge, wine cooler, kegerator, or even a sink and outdoor dishwasher for maximum clean-up convenience.

Layout and design

Depending on your space, there are several ways to approach your layout. The most space-conscious option is a basic galley approach, which provides counter and prep space on one or both sides of your grill. It also leaves plenty of room to build guest seating and a dining area around your kitchen. If space is ample, then you may be partial to an L-shaped setup, or get fancy with an angled or curved design.


Creating your own outdoor kitchen will take some planning and commitment, but the prospect of countless delicious meals being prepared by your expert hand for family, friends, and neighbours is hard to ignore. Like all home improvement projects, take your time, do your research, and always seek professional advice to ensure the best possible outcome. If you need help finding a contractor to complete your project, your REALTOR® can provide recommendations.


Bon appétit!



Source: https://www.realtor.ca/blog/your-guide-to-creating-an-outdoor-kitchen/25817/1363
Photo: pexels.com

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Modern Lawns | What should you do to your lawn?

In the 17th century, manicured lawns became the new status symbol for wealthy aristocrats in England and France. Today, people still admire expansive lawns, but most of us don’t have a bevy of servants to do the hard work of mowing, weeding, watering, fertilizing and aerating. On beautiful summer days, when the beach beacons, who wants to do yard work?


According to Statistics Canada, the average residential water consumption in 2013 was a massive 223 litres per day for indoor and outdoor uses. A Columbia University report in 2010 found that five percent of America’s air pollution was caused by lawnmowers and each year more than 17 million gallons of fuel is spilled when refilling lawn and garden equipment—that is more than the Exxon Valdez oil spill.


After much effort and environmental cost, sometimes a lawn just bakes in the summer sun. In recent years, municipalities have had to prohibit lawn watering during lengthy dry spells. Parched lawns are becoming a common sight in July and August, which is another good reason to reinvent traditional lawns.


Alternatives to Grass

Groundcover plants spread laterally and mature at a maximum of just 3cm to 10cm, so they do not require mowing. Once groundcover plants are established, they generally require less water than standard lawn grass.


High foot traffic options:

Clover
Used by some farmers as a green cover crop, clover helps to aerate the soil with its deep roots and ‘fixes’ atmospheric nitrogen (a natural fertilizer) in the soil. Some varieties of clover are quite tall (e.g., red clover) but Dutch white clover is the best option for groundcover because it matures at ankle height, is durable and produces attractive white flowers.


Pros: It is soft underfoot, remains green nearly year-round, and can withstand heavy foot traffic.

Cons: The sweet nectar in the flowers can attract deer.


Thyme

Thyme grows relatively slowly, but once it develops, it produces a dense mat of tiny leaves and flowers. The best options for groundcover are non-culinary varieties: red creeping thyme, mother-of-thyme and woolly thyme.


Pros: All three of these types of thyme tolerate high foot traffic, emit a pleasant herbal scent and will not attract deer.

Cons: Thyme grows slowly.


Creeping Jenny

A cascading carpet of small, golden-green leaves and yellow flowers makes Creeping Jenny suitable for all types of groundcover projects from terraced rock gardens to flat lawns.


Pros: In milder parts of Canada, Creeping Jenny will retain its colour year-round and tolerates moderate foot traffic.

Cons: It can require more watering than groundcovers such as clover.


Light foot traffic options:

Scotch Moss
Velvety Scotch moss works best in shaded areas and looks lovely surrounding rustic pathway stones. Moss grows best in regions that receive more rainfall.


Corsican Mint
Fragrant Corsican mint produces small, rounded leaves and tiny purple flowers. Unlike spearmint that can rapidly take over an entire garden, this mint grows more slowly and is not considered invasive. It requires moist, fertile soil.


Artificial turf

Durable and realistic artificial turf can provide the look and feel of grass for patio areas and even a putting green. Turf can be a visual break between plant cluster islands. Another benefit is that Fido will never create a ‘burn’ spot on your lawn ever again. When installed professionally, artificial turf is typically guaranteed for a decade or more.


Modern design

Lawns were in fashion for 400 years. It may be time to replace monochromatic lawns with beautiful modern versions featuring an array of colours, textures and shapes.


The possibilities are endless and will ultimately depend on the size and slope of your lawn, the amount of sunlight it receives and your preferences. Consider some or all of these ideas:


Terraces: Ideal for a sloped lawn, rock terraces can be filled with a variety of plants, cascading flowers and groundcover.


Pathways: From poured concrete to natural steppingstones, pathways help to define the space and allow you to use tender groundcover plants as your lawn.


Ornamental grasses: Add drama and height with clumping grass varieties such as soft feathery Fountain grass, or Little Bluestem, which is bluish green in the summer then turns purple, red and copper in the autumn.


Edibles: The broad green blades of a leek plant and the colourful autumn leaves of blueberry bushes deliver beauty with bounty. How could your favourite herbs, fruits and vegetables meld with your landscape design?


Raised garden beds: A pretty way to grow edibles is in raised boxes, which also make the garden easy to access.



Start small. Instead of ripping up the entire lawn, experiment with a small section to learn what works best for you.



Source: https://www.sutton.com/blog/home-improvement/modern-lawns
Photo: pexels.com

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Weekend Home Renovation Projects | One weekend and you're done!

On your next free weekend, consider tackling any of these small renovation projects that make a noticeable impact in your home.


Ceiling fan

It is relatively simple to replace a ceiling mounted light fixture with a ceiling fan (with or without a light). Fans quietly circulate indoor air for added comfort year-round. Set the fan to spin counterclockwise in the summer to draw warm air upwards, and clockwise in the winter to push warm air down into the room.


Wall colour

A new wall colour punches up a room for less than $100. Consider these tips to save time and effort:

  • Use a disposable paint tray liner.
  • Use a paint pourer to keep your paint cans clean, which allows for a tighter seal.
  • Don’t rinse your roller; instead wrap it well in plastic film then put it into the refrigerator so it will be ready for the second coat.
  • When repainting a portion of a room, choose the same brand and type of paint (e.g., SICO interior eggshell) for a consistent finish.

Outdoor lights

Add a touch of cottage charm to your home with strings of patio lights, which softly illuminate outdoor dining and relaxation. Attach strings of lights to your porch ceiling or pergola with screw eyes and carabiners so that you can easily remove them for the winter months.


Pathway lights add to the safety and beauty of walkways during the evening. These lights are a cinch to install because they are usually solar-powered and fitted with a stake to push into the soil.


Motion sensor lights automatically snap on in the evening when a person (or an animal) passes nearby. It might be you coming home with an armload of groceries, or it could be a would-be intruder.


Faucet

The greatest challenge in buying a new faucet is deciding among the numerous choices. For years, shiny chrome was in style; now brushed chrome and matte black are popular options. Also, shapes have changed from short, thick styles to tall goosenecks. For the latest products and ideas, flip through home décor magazines. Whichever style you prefer, choose a product that will line up with the pipe openings in your countertop and sink.


Minor wall damage

Scrapes, dings and nail holes on walls tend to accumulate over the years. On a lazy weekend, tackle a room, or your entire home. Start by wiping off scuff marks with a soft, damp cloth. Next, fill holes and dents with drywall filler and smooth with a putty knife. Once the filler has dried, sand the surface, then paint it.


Stain your deck

Sunshine, foot traffic, and spilled food and drink can make a deck look weathered and discoloured. Restore the beauty of your deck in a single weekend by using a power sander to remove the old finish then clean off the dust and debris. Next, apply one or two coats of stain and sealer. Consider innovative new products such as the Canadian-made, Tall Earth Eco Safe Wood Treatment for decks, which is conveniently sold in powder form to be mixed with water.


Energy efficient window

Thermal energy can pass through window glass making rooms hot in the summer and cool in the winter. Upgrading to a window with a low-emissivity glaze reduces the exchange of heat and lowers your energy bills. Check with the provincial and federal governments as well as your local energy provider regarding rebate programs for homeowners who install new, low-emissivity windows.


Cabinet hardware

Do you like your kitchen cabinetry but feel that it looks a bit dated? New cabinet hardware can instantly change the look of your kitchen. Before you go shopping, count how many handles and knobs you will need and measure the distance between screw holes (or bring a handle with you to the store).


Showerhead

A luxurious rain shower experience worthy of a five-star hotel can be yours in just hours. New showerheads offer multiple spray options and some even have temperature controls. Best of all, many new products are considered low flow, which means they have been engineered to feel like a robust shower while using less water.


By the end of the year, you will have turned your free weekends into a home transformation.



Source: https://www.sutton.com/blog/home-improvement/weekend-home-renovation-projects
Photo: pexels.com

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Buying a mobile home was the best financial decision his family made — just don't call it a trailer

For Stephan Gardner, buying the home in Calgary's Greenwood Village didn't feel like settling. 


Buying a mobile home has made Stephan Gardner's life measurably better, especially from a financial perspective.


Gardner lives with his wife and son in Greenwood Village, a mobile home park, in Calgary, Alta.


"I don't feel I settled here," he told CBC's Cost of Living. "We just walked in and we were like, 'This place is amazing."


The family had been renting a home in the city, and feared they would be evicted after it was sold to a new owner. They were paying $2,100 a month rent, plus utilities. That high cost was preventing Gardner from putting money toward his personal debt.


"I know what it's like to have only, like, cans of tuna to feed your kid, you know, and you [don't] eat for two days or three days just to save money," he said.

Skyrocketing housing costs

During their house hunt, Gardner and his wife weren't impressed with the houses and condos available to them. Some seemed like "money pits," he said. But they didn't want to keep renting because it didn't feel like a good financial decision.


Gardner didn't know that any mobile home communities existed in Calgary, until he stumbled across an MLS listing and was impressed by what he saw. 


They purchased a mobile home for $158,000. Now, "every month I put about anywhere from $1,000 to $1,200 dollars on my debt, which is unbelievable," he said.


In addition to mortgage payments of $376 every two weeks, they also pay $840 a month for the pad in the park that their home sits on, which includes water and sewer utilities, waste, recycling and green bin collection, as well as snow removal.


Gardner is among a number of new home owners in Canada who are embracing manufactured homes as housing costs skyrocket, and a way to own a home with outdoor space.


He said that people should forget about the stigma associated with mobile home parks and give them a second look.


"You'll never be as happy as you are in a mobile home," Gardner said. "Because it's affordable and you have options and you'll be able to save all this money."


Others he's met since buying his mobile home have been able to use the extra money to buy electric vehicles, invest, or to travel.


"They are not trailer parks, and they're not trailers anymore."
- Al Kemp, executive director of Manufactured Home Park Owners Alliance of B.C.


Al Kemp is the executive director of the Manufactured Home Park Owners Alliance of B.C., which has about 350 community owners. He says it's important to be clear that the homes are not "trailers," and strongly prefers the term "manufactured home" over "mobile home."


"They are not trailer parks and they're not trailers anymore. A manufactured home today is built to a national building code standard called Z-240," he said. He specifies that means homes are built with solid metal frames, two-by-four or two-by-six wood construction, drywall as opposed to panelled walls, and roofs guaranteed to last 25 years.


"They're designed to last as long, with major renovations every 25 years or so, just like your home and my home are designed. So CMHC [Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation] totally backs them from the mortgage insurance standpoint."


Kemp is critical of popular culture, like the TV show Trailer Park Boys, that portrays people who live in mobile homes in a stereotypical and negative way.


He says these preconceived notions make it more difficult to work with local and provincial politicians to build mobile home communities.

Stigma, zoning issues persist

Anna Lund, an associate professor of law at the University of Alberta, wrote a research paper on mass evictions of mobile homes that was published in April 2021. The paper confirmed Kemp's concerns and noted that government reports have found that stigma surrounding mobile homes might cause local politicians to avoid constructing new parks in their communities or try to shut down existing ones.


Those existing parks may be situated in less than ideal locations, "noisy, unsafe areas, close to incompatible commercial and industrial uses and far from residential amenities," according to Lund.


The study also noted that these reports recommend making zoning more inclusive. That is, allowing mobile homes to mix with conventional housing instead of being set apart, and using the term "manufactured homes" to avoid perpetuating the idea that residents are transient.


About half of all mobile homes in Canada are in B.C. and Alberta, according to the study.


Kemp said many people already see the appeal of mobile homes.


"Not only are they an attractive, affordable housing alternative, but they're also a good investment on the way to, you know, a site-built home or a larger home or whatever a young family's plans are," he said. 


"I've seen existing well-cared for manufactured homes that are 10, 15, 20 years old, are now selling in British Columbia for between $500- and $600,000."


Darcy Moore, a real estate agent with Re/Max in Spruce Grove, Alta., has been selling homes for 20 years. She estimates that mobile homes make up between 80 and 90 per cent of the homes she sells. 

Prices, sales rising

Prices for mobile homes are increasing, said Moore, but not to the soaring heights of site-built homes.


"A [mobile] home that's maybe 20 years old would have sold five years ago for $60,000. Now it sells for $80,000," she said.


"Say five years ago, I would list a home and sometimes it would sit for a year, sometimes longer," she said. 


Now, homes might sell in a couple months. In one particularly popular park nearby, Moore noted that a home might be on the market for as little as a week.


It is difficult to track national or even provincial figures around mobile home sales, because statistics may not be gathered by every local real estate board.


Some data provided by the Canadian Real Estate Association show that prices are increasing, along with sales, in parts of B.C. and Ontario.


The median sale price of a mobile home in Vancouver was $169,950 in 2017, and it has since jumped to $327,000 100 in 2021. Comparably, in Ottawa, the median sale price for mobile home in 2017 was $75,000, and in 2021 it increased to $160,000. 


The number of mobile homes sold in the Northern B.C. region, for example, jumped from 499 in 2017 to 651 in 2021.

Popular with retirees, young families 

Moore notes she's seen people buy homes near her in Spruce Grove, and move them further north in Alberta or to B.C., because the homes can be cheaper to purchase than new builds.


She sees both retirees and young people in the market for mobile homes. She also says she sees a few cases each year of young families who first bought larger homes, and then downgraded to more affordable mobile homes.


Kemp says he hears about young people and young families who want to move into mobile home communities, but in parts of B.C., all the communities are full. So, he's lobbying the province to make some Crown land available to build more.


Gardner said he's inspired by seeing others who have made the decision not to be "house poor" by living in mobile homes or tiny homes, and who put that extra money into savings or investments.


"It's ended up being the best option and the best choice that I've ever made in terms of my financial life," he said.



Source: https://www.cbc.ca/radio/costofliving/buying-mobile-home-financial-decision-1.6473997?fbclid=IwAR0Cjndvvs6Qif2tNOZ7JWrwp4iuLBMIkhkL18SUbv_RtFpy0_H5skJ-Ec4
Photo: pexels.com

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Reduce Household Allergens

Pollen, dust, pet dander, mold spores, bacteria, and many pollutants are so small that they float through the air. When people breathe in, touch, or consume these particles, the body recognizes them as foreign invaders and releases histamines. This natural chemical is produced in white blood cells and released into the body triggering allergic reactions such as sneezing, itchy eyes and runny nose. Sometimes, people have a dangerous reaction called anaphylaxis, which can involve swelling of the airways.


If you have a cough, itchy skin/eyes, or a runny nose throughout the year, then you are likely allergic to a substance within your own home. This puts unnecessary stress on your immune system and may sap your energy.


A clean home is essential to health, but how do you know when your home is clean? Common allergens range in size from 0.1 to 5 microns and most of us can’t see anything smaller than 40 microns without the aid of a microscope. For comparison, a typical human hair has a diameter of 70 microns. No wonder there can be a jungle of allergens inside our homes.



How do you reduce allergens?

  • First, use a vacuum that has a HEPA filter and follow the manufacturer’s directions to clean or replace the filter.
  • Clean your indoor air with a HEPA filter air purifier.
  • Carpeting harbours all sorts of allergens, so ideally, replace wall-to-wall carpeting with solid floorings such as wood or vinyl. If that is not an option, vacuum often and steam clean in the summer months when the warm, dry air speeds up the drying process.
  • Fabric curtains also attract allergens, which get stirred up each time the drapes are opened and closed. Better options include smooth slat blinds and washable curtains made of non-porous, synthetic fabric.
  • Solid wood, plastic, leather, or metal furniture is easy to keep clean compared to upholstered styles; however, consider using washable slipcovers if you like the comfort of plush couches and chairs.


Allergen-specific precautions:

Mold spores

Mold thrives in humid environments such as bathrooms and basements. You can purchase a hygrometer for as little as $20 online or at your local hardware store. According to the Mayo Clinic, the ideal relative humidity is between 30-50% humidity, which means that the air holds between 30-50% of the maximum amount of moisture it can contain. If your indoor air is too humid, be sure to run the bathroom fan when showering and install a dehumidifier, if needed.

Pet dander

Mammals naturally shed tiny flakes of skin. These flakes typically contain proteins secreted by sweat glands and these proteins are what cause allergic reactions in some people. If you love animals and can’t imagine life without them, try washing your pet frequently, keep your dog or cat out of your bedroom, vacuum your home often with a HEPA filter vacuum, and use a HEPA filter air purifier.


Dust mites

This is one of those times we can be thankful we can only see items as small as about 40 microns! Dust mites are frightful pests that live in warm, relatively humid areas such as our beds and pillows and feed off our dead skin cells. Although they do us a service by tidying up after us, many people have allergic reactions to proteins in the dust created by dust mite feces, urine, and their decaying bodies.

To reduce dust mites

  • Use airtight covers for your pillows and mattress
  • Vacuum your mattress with a HEPA filter vacuum
  • Wash your bedding in hot water
  • Lower the heat and humidity in your home


Pollen

Trees, grass, and flowers can all release pollen, making spring and summer challenging for allergy sufferers. In addition to using a good quality air purifier, especially in the bedroom, close your windows on days when the pollen count is high. Many weather stations provide daily information about the local pollen concentration.


Allergens are Common

According to the Cleveland Clinic, approximately one in six people suffer from allergies, but it is possible that many more people unknowingly suffer from mild, ongoing reactions to allergens in their homes.



Source: https://www.sutton.com/blog/home-safety/reduce-household-allergens
Photo: pexels.com

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Moving Essentials Every Home Buyer Should Pack in ‘Open-First’ Boxes

Whether you’re a first-time home buyer or moving into your fifth house, one thing’s for sure: moving can be an exhausting endeavour. Excitement for your new life ahead can quickly give way to stress and exasperation as your to-do list forever grows. If there’s one thing you can do to prepare for your move and ease your transition, it’s to prepare a box of moving essentials. 

Also known as open-first boxes, these essentials boxes contain  all the crucial items you’re going to need immediately after crossing the threshold of your brand new home. It’s the first thing to be opened and is the key to an easy and successful move.

PRO TIP: Label your essentials box clearly and keep it away from your other moving boxes so it doesn’t accidentally make its way on the moving truck!

Now, if the idea of distilling down all your worldly possessions into a few boxes feels overwhelming, don’t fret, it can be done! This moving checklist will help you decide what can be packed for the moving truck and what should make its way over in your first carload.

Here are 15 items you should absolutely have ready for the first days in your new home:

Basic portable toolkit

You never know when you’ll need a hammer or a pair of pliers! You’d be surprised just how much you can get done with a screwdriver (preferably one with multiple bits), knife, wrench, tape measure, work gloves, drill, duct tape, and scissors.

Wallet and purse

Make sure you keep all your important cards and paperwork with you, including driver’s license, passports, birth certificates, professional certificates, credit cards, cheque books, medical records, school records, and any paperwork needed for moving such as leases, contracts, proof of purchases, etc.

Basic first-aid kit

Accidents happen so be prepared for nicks and scrapes with bandages and bandage wraps, instant ice/heat packs, gauze, antiseptic wipes, gloves, masks, hand sanitizer, and tweezers.

Electronics and chargers

Don’t get stuck with dead devices: pack all the necessary cables and chargers for your phone, laptop, and tablet.

Change of clothes

This includes pajamas and underwear, but you’ll also want to make sure you have something to change into if you get sweaty or dirty throughout the day. A clean set of clothes can do wonders for your mood. 

Toiletries, medication, and personal care items

Moving sure can work up a sweat! Pack soap, shampoo, toothbrush and toothpaste, deodorant, bath towels, and washcloths for cleaning up after a hard day’s work. Don’t forget about any medications you might take daily and other personal care items such as cosmetics, hair products, hairbrushes, glasses, and contact lenses.

Kid essentials

Moving into a strange, new house can be a lot for kids. Ease their transition by ensuring their beloved items travel along with them, including favourite books, stuffies, lovies, and blankies. Important baby items, such as changing station supplies (diapers, creams, wipes, etc) should also be included.

Paper supplies

Paper towels, tissues, and at least one toilet paper roll for every bathroom!

Cleaning supplies

You never know what you’ll walk into when you unlock your front door. Be sure to pack cleaning supplies to tackle messes, including rags, antibacterial wipes, sponges, glass and multi-surface cleaner, toilet bowl cleaner, trash bags, a bucket, broom, mop, dish soap, and baking soda for the fridge.

Pet essentials

Make sure Fido has adequate food, water, treats, chew toys, bedding, leashes, and collars, grooming items, clean-up bags, and an appropriate pet carrier.

Bedroom basics

If your new home is not furnished or you don’t have the time to set up your bed, an air mattress, folding bed or portable bed will ensure a restful night’s sleep. Don’t forget sheets, pillows, blankets, or sleeping bags.

Select small appliances

You’d be surprised how many simple meals can be made with just a coffee maker, kettle, toaster oven, pot, frying pan, and blender. Utensils like a spatula, wooden spoon, and a can/bottle opener can also come in handy.

Plates, utensils, and cups

You want to make sure you have something to eat off of so the whole family isn’t hovered over the sink to avoid getting crumbs everywhere. Consider using environmentally friendly or compostable eating utensils. 

Easy-to-make meals, snacks, and beverages

Pack food that requires little-to-no preparation like cereal and milk, instant oatmeal, bread and peanut butter, canned soup, fruit, nuts, granola bars, pasta and sauce, or canned/pouched tuna, salmon, and chicken. Gatorade, bottled water, juice, and sparkling beverages can quench thirst, while a glass of wine at the end of a long day can feel like a major reward.

Valuable possessions

Don’t take any chances with fancy artwork, high-priced jewelry, treasured family heirlooms, irreplaceable collectibles, and expensive electronics—it should all travel with you.


Honourable mentions: Other nice to haves

Of course, everyone will have their own idea of what they consider essential, but here are a few more items worth mentioning: 

  • shower curtains;
  • spare light bulbs;
  • extension cords;
  • flashlight;
  • batteries
  • a lamp or two (some rooms don’t have overhead lighting);;
  • temporary paper blinds (great if you are in a condo or apartment with large windows or a street busy with foot traffic);
  • air pump for mattress.

There are no right or wrong items to include in your essentials boxes—it all depends on your needs and preferences—but using this list as a starting point will allow you to transition into your new home with comfort and ease, with everything you might need at your fingertips! Happy packing! 



Source: https://www.realtor.ca/blog/moving-essentials-every-home-buyer-should-pack-in-open-first-boxes/25770/1362
Photo: pexels.com

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The Low Down on Downsizing

If you’re retiring, looking to cut back on expenses, or perhaps have a bit too much extra space now that the kids have flown the coop, downsizing to a smaller home might be a smart choice. 


Regardless of your reasons for downsizing, it’s enough to make you wish there was someone who could do the hard work for you and make the whole process that much easier (like, say, a REALTOR®). 


Whether you or your older relatives have decided it’s time for you to move to a smaller home, or you’re just curious to learn more about the process, read on to get the low down on downsizing.

When is it time to downsize? 

Making the choice to downsize can be complicated, but identifying the tell-tale signs—and understanding the new freedom and lifestyle that comes with living in a smaller space—can make your decision easier.

Time to cash in

If you’ve owned a larger home for an extended amount of time, your property has likely appreciated considerably over the years, and moving from your large house to a smaller home or condo more suitable to your current and future needs can help provide financial freedom. 

Too much upkeep

If you’ve noticed maintaining your larger home is beginning to take its toll on you, it may be time to consider downsizing. Whether you’re tired of cleaning rooms and fixing or attending to aging appliances or home finishes regularly – or overpaying someone else to do it for you – moving to a smaller home can lessen the workload.

Empty nest

As your children grow up and move out, they leave behind their unused rooms and old belongings. While it’s certainly hard to leave a family home due to sentimental attachment, downsizing to a smaller place means you can spend less time cleaning and doing maintenance, while also saving money. Besides, given how limited housing inventory is in some parts of the country these days, you’d be giving another growing family an opportunity to fill out the space you’re leaving behind. 

Retiring

People often consider downsizing as they approach retirement. Decreasing the cost of property taxes, homeowner’s insurance, maintenance expenses, and house utilities frees up cash flow so your retirement savings stretch further. Downsizing can allow those who are retired to relax more and enjoy their time off from work with ease.

What’s the difference between downsizing and decluttering?

When it comes to moving, you might think you simply need to declutter your personal belongings to make packing easier. But there’s a difference between decluttering and downsizing. Karen Shinn, president of Downsizing Diva, explained decluttering focuses on appearance while downsizing focuses on functionality. 


“Let’s say you have a number of vases and 12 full China settings on display, but you really only ever use one, andt you also don’t want to part with any of them either. So, rather than getting rid of them completely, you would pack them up and put them away into storage only leaving out what you want people to see,” said Shinn. 


With downsizing, you actually eliminate the items you no longer use or have a purpose for and remove them from your home entirely. 


“Over the years, we all collect things that hold sentimental value, so when it comes to downsizing, it’s tricky because you have to decide what items you can and can’t part with,” said Shinn.

How far in advance do you need to start downsizing

Whether you’re moving to a smaller home, to a retirement community, or you’re renovating your home to be more accommodating for a life transition—whatever that is—start downsizing as soon as you can. Anyone who’s ever moved before knows just how stressful an endeavour it can be.


“As soon as you start to think about moving, start downsizing. Don’t wait,” said Shinn.


She explained you need to start small, so begin with downsizing a cupboard, a shelf, or a drawer. 


“It’s a process and not a fast one. But once you start, the more you do, the easier it becomes.”

Things to consider when downsizing

Moving into a smaller space means combing through everything you’ve accumulated over the years—which can be a daunting task if you’re not prepared. But Shinn recommends keeping these four questions in mind:

  • Do you want it?
  • Do you use it?
  • Do you need it?
  • Do you like looking at it?

If you answer no to any of those questions, it will be easier to part ways with items.


Shinn added it’s important to take a step back and evaluate what’s important to you, so you can decide what you actually need. For most people, when it comes to letting go of personal items, it’s easier if you know they’re going to someone who will appreciate them, rather than just donating them or throwing them out. Shinn describes this as a safe passage because you know the items you treasure and care for will be going to someone who will enjoy them as much as you did. Upcycling and Buy Nothing groups in your neighbourhood could be a great way to pass along these items, knowing they’ll be put to good use. 

Tips for downsizing

Sorting through a lifetime of belongings can be emotionally and physically exhausting, but getting rid of clutter can also be rewarding. Shinn recommends keeping these tips in mind to ease the process:

  • Start small, and start now.
  • Find a place for everything.
  • Be a generous giver.
  • Use the good stuff.
  • Edit your wardrobe seasonally.

How do you choose a professional downsizer

When choosing a downsizer, Shinn says to look for a company that’s part of the National Association of Specialty and Senior Move Managers (NASSM), which is the leading membership organization for move managers in the United States, Canada, and abroad. Companies that are members of NASSM must meet certain requirements and adhere to a code of ethics. NASSM members are also full-time workers and are required to take courses and be certified. Also, keep in mind your REALTOR® likely has downsizing contacts if you’re having trouble finding someone. 


Downsizing a home can lead to lots of stress and anxiety for anyone who has a hard time parting with their belongings, but as Shinn added, “when you simplify your home, you simplify your life.”



Source: https://www.realtor.ca/blog/the-low-down-on-downsizing/25520/1366
Photo: pexels.com

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Patio Growth: Landscaping Without a Yard

There’s a harsh reality for plenty of Canadians with green thumbs who can’t indulge in the luxury of a full yard to explore. Perhaps you’re in an apartment or condo, maybe you rent, or it could be you simply want to bring the outdoors inside. 


Tall potted plants use vertical space to help add depth to a smaller residence, and we’ve seen how planters can add to outdoor appeal without hurting your budget. Herb gardens, big or small, indoors and out, are always popular with foodies, and if you play your flora cards right, you may attract some desirable fauna even without a huge greenspace.


To help you ease into some new ideas for your space-friendly garden, we’ve collected some thoughts to share with you. Be sure to add your own tips and tricks in the comments and on our social media pages

Container gardening

While the idea is obvious with more than a touch of cliché, there’s a reason why: containers simply make sense when your space is limited. 


In a large yard, you can replant to take advantage of soil conditions or the sun. Without access to square metres of soil, containers give you versatility, not to mention the easy redecorating options. You’ll also have the ability to move containers indoors through frost warnings, or extend your growing season in both directions—much to the envy of your plot-bound friends. 


When choosing your container, do so carefully. Drainage is a must no matter what style direction you choose. Think both complement and contrast when considering design and, for larger pots, avoid choices that are too bold, since they can’t be swapped out easily. 

The vertical garden

When you’re looking at the limited footprint of a balcony or patio—and wondering how to keep your planned garden out from under foot—take a look around at the amount of vertical space you have to work with. Now it’s time to think up. From hooks and hangers through shelves, to dedicated wall pots, vertical alternatives assure you have maximum room for seating and tables. You can also find vertical tower gardens that grow fresh produce without soil! 


Or, how about a string garden? Kokedama is a Japanese garden artform with a history as old as bonsai. Translating literally to “moss ball,” kokedama starts with the root ball of a plant, surrounded by a clay and peat mixture that gets wrapped in soft green moss. You can place your kokedama on a tray, but the most dramatic way to display these pieces of living art is suspended from string. These are a spectacular addition to your vertical garden. 

Edible gardening

You don’t need an extensive ground plot to grow your own food, so don’t rule out fruits, vegetables, and herbs from your yardless gardening. You can mix container and vertical plantings for grape and cherry tomatoes or climbing strawberries—plants that use cages for upward mobility. 


Strawberry pots are a genre unto themselves and you need not be limited to growing berries. The multiple pockets in a terra cotta urn are a perfect way to keep your herbs organized, with perhaps a few spaces left for new flavours you’ve never tried. 


Can you imagine growing your own potatoes in a visually appealing way? Look no further than the potato grow bag. You can improvise your own solution, but commercial versions with a velcro side flap are handy at harvest time. 

The window box

Inside or out, there’s perhaps no more logical place to add garden space than a window ledge. A sunny kitchen window simply cries out for herbs and an otherwise lacklustre view is perked up with a splash of colourful annuals. 


Though you may start your garden in the spring and summer months, consider fall and winter seasons, too. The cooler temperatures may not support active growth, but a window box out of direct sunlight supports long-lasting seasonal arrangements. Imagine your favourite holiday wreath reassembled horizontally. 


Add some brown and orange elements to suggest fall, or choose a holiday theme when December arrives. Don’t forget to go vertical here, too. A window box can add curb appeal as well as brightening the view from inside.  


When you’re renting or when you have a condo association in place, there may be limits on the sizes and types of planters or fixtures you can use. Be sure to research any restrictions before your trip to the greenhouse to avoid disappointment later in the season. 


Make a budget and a list before you leave for the garden centre, since you know you’ll be tempted to go overboard when you’re surrounded by lush greenery. Otherwise, now is the time to put your planting plans in motion. Happy digging! 



Source: https://www.realtor.ca/blog/patio-growth-landscaping-without-a-yard/25628/1363
Photo: pexels.com

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Speed Date Your Contractor: 10 Important Questions to Ask

Working with a contractor, in lieu of DIY, can be the difference between a successful home renovation or repair and a botched project. Yet, finding a contractor for your home can be easier said than done. You want to make sure the person you hire has adequate experience, can give you the best value for your buck, and communicates in a clear and transparent way. 


How can you ensure you’re making the right choice when hiring your next contractor? 


We’ve outlined 10 questions you should ask to make sure you’re finding the best person or company for the job, helping you avoid any unpleasant surprises that may affect your wallet and leave you dissatisfied.

1. Ask yourself: How do I know a repair or renovation is best suited for a contractor instead of attempting to DIY?

DIY projects are a great way to save money on repairs and renovations around your home, but without professional training, you should limit yourself to small-scale jobs. For projects that require special skills and patience, such as kitchen and bathroom renovations, electrical wirings, exterior refinishings, landscaping, and roof repairs, it’s probably best to hire a general contractor. You can save yourself a lot of frustration and time, and you might even stay under budget by not cutting corners or fixing preventable mistakes. 


Blaise McDonald, President and CEO of MAC Renovations Ltd. in Victoria, British Columbia, says once you start getting into work that requires permits, it’s time to look for a contractor or you may face some liability risks. 


“If you’re doing repairs and you’re single-sourcing specialty contractors, the homeowner can usually manage that,” McDonald explains. “As soon as you get to a point where you’re hiring multiple trades, you become the prime contractor and it puts you at risk—liability risk for the safety and liability of all those companies.”

2. Ask yourself: Where should I look to find a contractor? 

Word of mouth is the best form of advertising, so you can look to your family, friends, and colleagues for recommendations. A local REALTOR® is also a great resource when looking to hire a professional, as they likely have a list of trusted and licensed contractors they can refer you to. Alternatively, you can do an online search or use websites like SmartReno and HomeStars, which offer a database of contractors you can request quotes from.  

3. Ask your contractor: Are you licensed in the province you’ll be performing the job?

Licensing requirements largely depend on a contractor’s designated trade and the province they’re registered in. For instance, carpenters are only required to have trade certification in Quebec—every other province is voluntary. For electricians, trade certification for domestic and rural electricians is only compulsory in Newfoundland and Labrador and Ontario, but the requirements for construction electricians are different. Check your province’s requirements to confirm if the contractor you hire, and their subcontractors, are legally compliant. For peace of mind, you may want to opt for a contractor who has a certified trades designation through a post-secondary program or workplace training. 


“Certain work—electrical, gas work, plumbing—requires specialty trades,” McDonald says. “If you’re getting into large complex renovations or new home construction, you should find out if that contractor is a registered builder.”

4. Ask your contractor: What type of experience do you have?

One of the most important questions to ask contractors is how long they have been offering their services. You should also inquire about how much experience they have with the type of project you need help with and if they have specific areas of specialization. For example, if you’re looking to have your basement finished, you’ll likely want to hire someone who has completed this project before, not someone who has only ever worked on kitchens and bathrooms. 


Keep in mind, just because someone has 10 years’ experience doesn’t mean they’re automatically better for than someone with less. Each scenario will be different, but this type of information is always good to know about to help make a more well-rounded decision. 

5. Ask your contractor: Will you use your own crew or recruit subcontractors? 

If you’ve decided you want a general contractor, they’ll provide a plan that details what exactly you’ll need to complete your repair or renovation, including information on the team they need for the job. Many general contractors will have their own crew, but they may use subcontractors for tasks their team isn’t qualified to do. According to celebrity contractor Mike Holmes, contractors might bring engineers, architects, and interior designers into the mix. Just make sure you know about the subcontractor’s qualifications and experience levels before agreeing to anything. 

6. Ask your contractor: Do you have a website, portfolio, or photos that show your work?

Seeing is believing. Whether you’re relying on word of mouth, or on a web database, you should ask for examples of previous work the contractor completed. This will give you a sense of the workmanship, as well as the types of projects they tend to focus on. Most general contractors will also offer design services, so seeing past examples of their work will let you know if their style aligns with your overall vision. 


You can even take it a step further by asking for references. Get in touch with people who have worked with the contractor in the past if you want testimonials for a boost of confidence.


“Just do your due diligence,” McDonald recommends. “Ask to talk to previous clients, check on Google reviews, check business insurance, all that stuff should be available. A low price is not always the best price or real price. You want to make sure the contractor or organization you’re hiring has a proven track record or experience in that vocation. No website, no reviews online? Those are all red flags. If someone says you don’t need permits or not to get a permit, those are also red flags.”

7. Ask your contractor: What do your timelines typically look like? 

Time is always a key factor when determining the best contractor for your job. You’ll want to get a full-picture idea of what the timelines will look like—not just how long a project will take, but also when the team typically completes work, what it means if things get held up, etc.


Determine when work will take place so you can plan around the disruptions. If you’re someone who doesn’t like to wake up early, you certainly don’t want construction sounds starting at 6 a.m. If you want to continue being in good standing with your neighbours, giving them a heads up about potential noise would be helpful. 


It’s also helpful to know what your contractor and their crew’s workload is before they start working for you. This is crucial because issues with another project, like delays, could end up affecting the progress of yours. Ask how flexible they can be with your needs and how they divvy up their workload.


It’s also a good idea to ask your contractor what their contingency plans are in the event supplies get delayed or something else happens that pushes the timelines back. What does that mean for the completion of your project? How will it get handled? You don’t want to be left with a half-finished project for months on end because the allotted time for your project is up and the contractor can’t fit you into their current schedule. 

8. Ask your contractor: Do you have workers’ insurance? 

Worker safety should always be top priority. The last things you need on your plate are medical and property damage bills because the contractor you hired isn’t covered by insurance. Confirm the contractor has business liability insurance. You can also ask them about their Workers’ Compensation status. According to the Canadian Home Builders’ Association, request the contractor provide a Letter of Clearance from your province’s Workers’ Compensation program.


“[In British Columbia,] the homeowner can go to WorkSafe BC and see if the contractors have worker’s compensation and if there have been any issues (or claims), that’s public knowledge,” McDonald says. “A general contractor should have all the liability insurance certificates from all the subcontractors working on a specific project. The general contractor will manage those insurance certificates to make sure that everyone is covered. If there is a loss, it comes back to the general contractor, not the homeowner.” 


Course of Construction, otherwise known as Builder’s Risk insurance, is also something to consider. This covers the impact of fires, floods, theft, and other unwanted—and unpredictable—accidents. 


“Some mortgages require this kind of insurance in the event there’s a loss,” McDonald says. 

9. Ask your contractor: Does my project require permits, and if so, will you obtain them?

You may never know which permits you need until your contractor takes a look at the project at hand. In most cases, they’ll handle the process for acquiring the necessary permits from the city. That being said, it’s in your best interest to do your own research and be sure everything is being done properly. 


“A contracting firm like ours provides a single source of accountability,” McDonald explains. “We obtain and manage the permits on behalf of the client. Be wary of anyone who tells you not to get permits.”


The obtention of permits should also be factored into your overall timeline. Ask how far in advance these permits need to be obtained before work can start, and how long it usually takes for them to be approved. 

10. Ask your contractor: What type of contract do you provide and will it outline all your fees up front?

Before you give them money, clarify what type of agreement the contractor wants you to sign. Read the fine print and make sure it outlines all the terms you’ve both agreed to, including timing, insurance, permits, etc., and make sure you’re on the same page about the payment schedule. Some contractors will require a downpayment at the start of the project, while others only need to be paid at the end of the project. 


In addition to asking these questions, you want to make sure you get the best possible estimate for the work you’re hiring for. Don’t be afraid to shop around! The best way to do this is by requesting quotes from multiple contractors not only so you can see who will fit within your budget. But, just because a quote is lower doesn’t mean it’s the best way to go. Carefully compare your quotes to see what each contractor is offering. Make sure their workmanship, details, and timelines are aligned with your own ideas.



Source: https://www.realtor.ca/blog/speed-date-your-contractor-10-important-questions-to-ask/25337/1363
Photo: pexels.com

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MLS® property information is provided under copyright© by the Vancouver Island Real Estate Board and Victoria Real Estate Board. The information is from sources deemed reliable, but should not be relied upon without independent verification.