Design on a budget

Do you spend lazy Saturday afternoons browsing the pages of designing magazines, wishing you had the budget to hire an interior designer to replicate their interiors? Many times, well-designed rooms can be done by changing small elements, you can give a room an entirely new personality. Sometimes adding a few colorful pillows or picking up a paintbrush is all you need to do to make your room look like something out of the pages of a magazine.

One of the most common fixes for a boring room is color. Updating the color of just one wall in any room will give it an entirely new feel.

  • Warmer colours can make a room feel cozier and more inviting.
  • Cooler colors like grey or white may give a room a more industrial feeling.
  • Light airy colours open up a space.
  • Deep, dark colours can make a room appear small. 

Adding accents to pieces you already own can also make a large difference. For instance, if your couch is not as exciting as it once was, try throwing a few fun accent pillows on it. Remember, throws and cushions, when selected as accents, can really bring new life to a tired piece of furniture. Fabrics also can add beautiful softness to a room.

Another budget-friendly change is to rotate the artwork in a room. Using the same frames but changing the images can easily create a new theme or mood, and combining several different frames in different finishes and sizes can achieve different looks.

Updating lighting can dramatically change the mood of a room. Try installing a new fixture or simply swapping out the shades on current fixtures. Installing dimmer switches can also make for an interesting change.

Fall Maintenance

Here are some lawn care and home maintenance tasks that will see you through the winter:

Autumn Lawn Care Basics

Fall is a great time for new grass seed to take root, so consider reseeding in bare areas. Reseeding also eliminates areas for weeds to grow in the spring. Fertilize your lawn one more time with a high nitrogen fertilizer to encourage root growth. Look at a “winterizing” lawn fertilizer.

It is a good idea to rake leaves and debris off your lawn in the fall; ensure to rake out areas where heavy thatch has built up.

Cut your lawn one last time after it has stopped growing, but before the first snow. Adjust your mower setting to cut your lawn to about one inch. The final mowing should be done with a bagger to pick up cut grass, stray leaves and other debris, which leaves fewer places for snow mold to develop.

Fight Snow Mold

Snow mold is one of the most common lawn diseases and typically it shows up in the spring. As the snow melts, it uncovers a lawn that has spent several months hidden under the snow, with no air and no sun. In its cold, wet, dark environment snow mold slowly forms, leaving blades of grass dead and brown. New grasses will sprout up behind it, but unless you vigorously rake it away, the new growth will be slow and thin.


Aerating your lawn is a great way to reduce thatch, loosen up compacted soil and pave the way for water and nutrients to reach the roots of your grass.

Maintain Gutters

Remove all debris from the gutters so water can drain properly, which minimizes standing water and slows the freeze/thaw expansion process that occurs in the winter. Gutter guards can prevent debris from entering the gutter. Downspouts direct the flow of water away from the house preventing damage.

Trim Trees

Watch for large dead branches; detached branches hanging in trees; rotten wood; and cracks or splits in the trunk.

Home Cleaning Tips

Does the mere thought of tackling your weekly house cleaning chores exhaust you?
Simply follow these tips to help make chores more manageable:


Give the shower and bath a quick wipe down after every use. Keep a sponge or squeegee in the shower, along with the daily shower spray, to eliminate the build-up of soap scum and mold.

Within Reach

Disinfectant wipes, even baby wipes, are a great way to quickly clean something when you make a mess. If they are in reach you are more apt to clean up the mess immediately rather than put it off until later. Gather all of the supplies you will need to complete a task before you begin. You will spend less time traveling from room to room hunting down the products you need.

Beat the Clock

You don’t have to carve out an entire afternoon to take care of your house cleaning. Set a timer for 15 or 30 minutes and you will find that when you are “on the clock” you will be more efficient and less distracted. By scheduling your duties in shorter segments you won’t feel as if it has taken up as much of your time.

Home Insurance

When was that the last time you thought about your insurance coverage?

• The structural part of the insurance package generally covers damage such as fire and smoke, lightning, wind and hail storms, vehicles, explosion, and aircraft or other falling objects. The package should also include coverage for theft, vandalism, riot or civil commotion, freezing or sudden water escape from the plumbing system or appliances, glass breakage, and sudden tearing of heating or cooling systems.
• A comprehensive home owner’s policy should cover your home, any structure attached to it such as a porch or garage and any unattached buildings on your property that are not used for business or rented to others. Damage caused by flooding, or tornados is not covered by your regular home owner’s policy. Your insurance agent can provide you with information about natural disaster coverage.
• The personal property portion of the insurance package protects things in your home like clothes and furniture. It should also provide protection for your personal property while you are away from home, the things you take with you on vacation. However, it is important that you know that special limits may apply to certain types of personal property; for example, money banknote and rare coins, securities, stamp collections, jewelry and furs, firearms, silverware/goldware, rugs, tapestries and wall hangings. Higher limits on most of these items are available through upgrades on the policy or by taking out a separate policy for the items.
• Check to see that your policy is written for replacement costs and you may want to consider inflation coverage. Replacement cost coverage on your personal property means that the insurance will pay to repair or replace your personal property that is covered.
• How do you know if you have too little or too much insurance? Start with a home inventory to help you assess your insurance needs. First, you need to know how much it would cost to rebuild your house today on your existing lot.
• For your belongings inventory, list every item in your home, attic and garage, when you bought it, its original cost and its estimated value. It also helps to have photographs or a videotape of your possessions. Have a couple of sets of the photos or videos made. Keep one copy in a fireproof safe at home or a safety deposit box. Marking your items with a personal identification number such as the last four digits of your social security number (don’t put your full number as that will make you vulnerable to identity theft) will make reclaiming any stolen items easier.
• If you ever need to file a claim, the inventory will make it easier and ensure that you are compensated for virtually everything. If it’s not on your list when you file a claim, you won’t be compensated for something that you’ve paid for years to insure.
• A home owner’s policy will also include “personal liability” coverage. That is, the insurance provides payments for bodily injury or property damage for which you or a relative who lives with you may be legally responsible; for example, if someone is accidentally injured on your premises, such as falling down stairs and breaking a leg, or if your ladder falls over on your neighbors car and damages it. Personal liability also includes medical payments to others, meaning that if someone is accidentally injured on your property or is accidentally injured by you or a relative who lives with you, the insurance will cover medical expenses to a certain limit.
• In case of a legal matter, your personal liability coverage includes the cost of defending you, whether you are liable or not, against an, insured or covered lawsuits. About one out of every three homeowners has proper insurance coverage. Take some time today to make sure you are one of them.

Home Maintenance Tips

It’s the weekend and you have a whole list of household chores to do, but keeping your home in good shape is important. Taking good care of it with regular maintenance is necessary to maintain its value and ensure it will provide a comfortable, safe shelter for you and your family.

Here is a list of home maintenance tips and chores you may have overlooked:

• Forced-air furnace filters need to be changed at least every three months during the heating season.
• When you have a faucet that is leaking, the washer on that facet usually needs to be replaced.
• You should run cold water through your garbage disposal.
• You can use a plunger and a plumber’s snake to unclog your drains.
• You can use a coil spring-steel auger to unclog a toilet.
• The aerator (the screen inside the end of the faucet) needs to be cleaned every three to four months.
• The fire in your fireplace should be built on the andirons or grate, never on the fireplace floor.
• Throw in a handful of salt into your fireplace to prevent soot and add color to the fire.
• Concrete sealer helps keep unpainted concrete floors easy to keep clean.
• You can clean hardwood floors with water when the floors have a polyurethane finish.
• Hardwood floors need to be waxed periodically when they do not have a polyurethane finish. You can use a liquid or paste “spirit” wax.
• Water emulsion wax is the best polish for vinyl floors.
• Noisy water pipes should be fixed promptly – the condition that causes noisy pipes may be accompanied by vibration that can cause fittings to loosen and leak.
• Frozen pipes should be thawed slowly to prevent the formation of steam, which could cause the pipe to burst.
• To ensure your safety, smoke and carbon monoxide detector batteries should be checked regularly to make sure they are operable.
• You should use spackling to fill nail holes and cracks in plaster walls and gypsum wallboard.
• Efflorescence is a white powdery substance that sometimes appears on masonry walls. It is crystallized soluble salts that can be removed by scrubbing with water and a stiff brush.
• To help a window slide easily, rub the channel with a piece of paraffin.


• Moving parts of garage doors should be oiled every three months.
• You can use cat litter or sand for traction on icy sidewalks, steps and driveways; never use salt because it damages the pavement.
• Your roof should be inspected by a qualified roofer every three years.
• Skylights should be inspected each time your roof is inspected so leaks don’t develop from cracks and interruptions around its seals, caulking and flashings.
• A simple solution you can use to wash extremely dirty exterior windows is equal parts of vinegar and water. Use a piece of crumpled newspaper to wash the glass to avoid lint left behind by paper towels.
• Inspect your siding yearly to see if wood-sided homes need to be repainted; check to see if the caulking around the windows and doors has split and cracked, and replace if needed; clean the mildew; trim shrubbery away so it does not touch the siding.
• Your firewood should be stored outside and away from your house and not directly on the ground.

Home Storage Tips

When you first move into your new home, you wonder how you are going to fill it up. Before you know it, you are wondering where all of that space went.

Do An Audit

Before you invest a lot of time deciding where things should go, look through your closet, files and drawers to determine what can be thrown or given away. For clothes, it is a good rule of thumb to get rid of items that you have not worn in more than 12 months.

A lot of your household financial documents and papers may be available online through the provider company’s website. If that is the case, discard old financial statements or bills that you can more easily access electronically. Invest in a paper shredder for these documents to protect your identity and accounts.

It is very easy to allow cabinets and drawers to become cluttered over time, especially when you have to do a quick cleaning of your home when you have surprise visitors. Declutter those drawers periodically to keep from accumulating outdated flyers, menus, magazines and newspapers. This will open them up so you can store more day-to-day items that you need to quickly reach.

Buy Dual Purpose Furniture

If you are looking to replace old, worn-out furniture in your home, buy pieces that also can serve as storage. Consider a coffee table that has drawers or an ottoman that can open up and double as a spot to store your blankets.

Using Wasted Square Footage

Homeowners are giving up valuable square footage if they don’t install cabinets or shelves that go up to the ceiling. Store items that are either out of season or that are rarely accessed on the higher shelves where they are out of the way. This will free up the lower shelves to allow you to get to the things that you use on a regular basis.

Bed Risers

By simply raising the height of your bed a few more inches, you can gain a lot more storage space that is also hidden away. Bed risers can be found in home design and improvement stores in different shapes, styles, textures and colors to complement your current bedroom furniture. They are inexpensive and not only give you added storage space, but will also give your bedroom a new look.

Keeping Unwanted Guests Away

Summer is a great time for entertaining. There are, however, some unwelcome guests.

Pest infestations are more than a nuisance. The cost of a pest infestation for a homeowner is to fold: treating; the existing pest problem and the cost to correct the damage that has been done.

Here are some steps you can take now to help keep your home pest-free for years to come.

Inside Your Home

• Starve them out – keep a tight lid on the trash and empty it often. Clean up spills immediately and store food such as cereal, flour and sugar in plastic containers rather than in their original packaging.
• Dry them out – some pests, such as cockroaches, can survive a long time without food, but need water more often to survive. To shut off their supply, be sure to fix leaky faucets, dishwashers, and washing machines immediately and empty plant pots of excess water.
• Keep them out -seal cracks and openings along baseboards, behind sinks, and around pipes and windows. Repair holes in door and window screens.

Outside Your Home

• Look for cracks and holes on the outside of your home and seal them up. Be sure to include points where utility lines enter the house. Also, address damage to the basement foundation and windows.
• Check your landscaping. Rake mulch away from the base of your home and keep it to a minimum to allow for adequate drainage. Trim back tree branches and bushes so they do not make contact with the house. Remove tree stumps from your yard.
• Keep firewood piles stacked outside of your home neat, away from the house and off the ground.
• Make sure basements and attics are well ventilated and dry.
• Check the roof for any rotted or decaying shingles and also check that your gutters are free of debris.

These simple steps now can save you a lot of headache and money down the road from these unwanted visitors.

Lawn Care

Care and patience make the difference between a lush, healthy lawn and a coarse, brown eyesore.

Most people take pride and care in maintaining their lawns, although weather conditions often hamper even a green thumb’s best efforts. And, it’s not just a matter of beauty; maintaining your home’s landscape is important for property values.

To check soil moisture, insert a screwdriver into the soil. If it penetrates the soil easily, it is moist. If not, you know your lawn is getting dry.

Here are some lawn care tips:
• Minimize fertilization. Over fertilized and over-watered lawns tend to lack the wherewithal to thrive under stress. This spells trouble during a drought because the lawn hasn’t developed a deep root system. Heavily fertilized lawns also require more water, so homeowners may want to wait until fall to fertilize.
• A good rule of thumb for mowing is never removing more than one-third of the grass at one time. Mowing higher forces grass to develop and use deeper roots.
• Try mulching – even if you don’t have a mulching mower. Let clippings remain on the grass. Lawns tend to lose more water and nutrients through evaporation when you remove clippings.
• If you didn’t aerate your lawn in the spring, consider doing so this fall. Aeration creates small holes in the ground that allow water to soak deeper into the ground and promotes root growth.
• Maintain your lawn care equipment. Sharpen mower blades at least twice during the summer. Dull blades tear grass, forcing grass to use 40 to 60 percent more water while it struggles to recover from stress.
• Watering from 4 a.m. to 9 a.m. is ideal. Irrigating during the day wastes water, because much of the water evaporates in the heat.

Watering on alternate days can save 40 to 50 percent of water, and heeding these few tips will go a long way to helping you maintain and enjoy your lawn, even though the hot, dry summer.

Safety with Natural Gas

Natural gas is a versatile, clean-burning fuel that is often used to heat your home, cook meals, heat water to shower dry clothes and start the fire in the fireplace. It is a non-toxic, colorless, tasteless and odorless gas.

Identifying a gas leak:
Use your nose – Enbridge Gas NB adds an odor to natural gas so you will quickly know if there’s a problem. If you smell an odor that is similar to skunk or rotten eggs, there may be a natural gas leak. Use your eyes – You cannot see natural gas, however, if you see a vapor, ground frosting, or a significant area of brown vegetation, that could be an indication of a natural gas leak. As well, if you see continuous bubbling of wet or flooded areas, or dust blowing from a hole in the ground during drier conditions, there may be a natural gas leak. Use your ears – If you hear a high-pitched hissing or roaring noise, there may be a natural gas leak.

Taking action:

Gas leaks may occur from faulty appliances, loose connections, or a problem with the service lines inside or outside your home, or from the gas main. If you identify a gas leak, take these precautions immediately:
• Leave your home or area immediately.
• DO NOT use any electrical switches, appliances, telephones, motor vehicles, or any other sources of ignition such as lighters or matches.
• Call Enbridge Gas NB 24-hour emergency line from a safe place 1 800-994-2762. DO NOT assume that the issue has already been reported or that someone else will call.

Practicing safety:

You should regularly inspect your furnace; a properly maintained furnace runs more efficiently and that saves you money. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions to perform the inspection. 

Here is a checklist for inspecting your furnace:
• Make sure the furnace is free of dust, rust, or any other signs of corrosion. Make sure the space around it is clear of paint, solvents, rags, paper or any other combustible products.
• Check the air filter regularly, every one to two months. Replace or clean it if necessary. 

Many homes have gas appliances in the kitchen. Never use the range top burners or oven for home heating purposes. Ranges and ovens are designed as cooking appliances only. Used improperly, they present a fire and burn hazard, and a malfunctioning gas range can produce toxic carbon monoxide.

Gas dryers also need a checkup periodically to ensure the dryer vent is free of lint. Lint buildup in the hose can cause a fire. Check the manufacturer’s instructions for information on how to remove the lint from the hose, or call a qualified appliance repair contractor.

Speedy Home Sale

By putting some sweat equity into your home before it goes on the market, you can ensure that your home presents well, stands out from the crowd and doesn’t turn off potential buyers so that you can sell quickly and for the best price.

Tone Down Personality

• Your bookshelves may be filled with books and figurines that may reflect your personal interests, but to home buyers, it looks busy and cluttered, and may distract them from truly seeing your home’s unique architectural features and spacious rooms. Family pictures may help or hinder a sale; future home owners may not be able to look past your kids’ smiling faces plastered all over the walls and see themselves building their own future in your home.
• Since you hope to move soon anyway, go ahead and box things up and put them in storage in advance of the open house or showing.
• While accent walls may tie perfectly into your ultra-modern furniture, a potential buyer of your house may be turned off immediately and decide that the entire house doesn’t reflect their style. Consider painting walls a neutral color such as beige or taupe.

Don’t Burden the Buyer with Repairs

• If there are problem areas in your home, get them fixed. When prospective buyers tour the house and see leak stains on the ceiling or peeling paint, they will also see future work and assume that bigger maintenance and repair issues are lurking behind those small problems.
• This is particularly true in kitchens and bathrooms, which are often the two rooms that make or break a sale. The expenses you incur on the front end sprucing up your home will be cheaper than the profits you could lose by having to lower the price.

Maximize Exposure

• Take advantage of unique ways to market your house. Use YouTube to introduce your house for free. Take home shoppers on a virtual tour and tell them about its uniqueness and strengths from the first-person point of view.
• Use social networking sites such as Facebook or MySpace to create a Web link with a profile of your home. Include pictures and a description of your home’s features. E-mail the link to your friends and ask them to forward it on.
• When photographing your home for promotional purposes, invest in a wide-angle lens for your camera so that rooms appear bigger and in proportion. When doing a virtual tour, look for professionals who will be able to film and upload your video using the best techniques and technology.

Summer Barbecuing

Enjoying your home to the fullest in the summertime usually includes a barbecue out on the patio or deck. It’s important to remember some safety precautions to take both with the equipment you use to grill and the food you are grilling.

• Maintaining an adequate distance between the grill and the outside wall of the house is important to reduce the chance of fire. Gas and charcoal grills should never be used indoors, in closed garages or on enclosed patios and balconies. Not only is fire a threat in these areas, the toxins released by the charcoal can be dangerous.
• Make sure the grill is placed on a level floor so it won’t tip, and set it away from any potentially flammable objects such as cars, lawn mowers, gas tanks or compost heaps. Keep a clear walking path from the grill to the eating area so there is no danger of tripping and knocking down the grill. Always keep a fire extinguisher handy for any emergencies and keep an eye on children in the area.
• Another barbecuing concern is the preparation of the food, especially the E. coli bacteria. To avoid contamination, handle raw meat carefully. Keep it separate from other foods and never reuse a plate on which raw meat has been placed. Wash your hands in warm, soapy water after handling raw meat and clean all surfaces and utensils that touch raw meat with hot, soapy water before using with other food. Meat should be thawed on a plate in the refrigerator or microwave oven, not out at room temperature.
• Food should be cooked to a safe internal temperature – judged by using a food thermometer – to destroy harmful bacteria. Don’t simply judge its doneness by how brown it is on the outside. Don’t leave food sitting out for more than an hour; promptly refrigerate any leftovers.
• After you’ve grilled the perfect hamburger you’ll want to relax and enjoy eating it. That means keeping the bugs away. To help lessen insects’ intrusion on your picnic, keep sweets and sodas covered and capped and eat while it is still light to avoid mosquitoes in the evening. Use spray repellent, mosquito coils or citronella-laced candles or torches to help keep the pests away. And most importantly, have a safe and fun barbecue!

Your Home’s Tool Box

Your home requires regular maintenance and care which is made easier and quicker when you have the right tool. Here is a list of tools that every homeowner should have in their toolbox:

• An assortment of nails, screws, nuts, bolts and washers – having a variety on hand will allow you to be prepared for any project that might spring up.
• Caulking gun
• Claw hammer – used for driving and pulling nails, and generally the most common hammer.
• Crosscut saw – saws come with various-sized teeth and specific numbers of teeth per inch designated by “points”. The higher the number of points, the finer and slower the cutting.
• Drill and drill bits – a good drill whether it is a hand drill or power drill should last a lifetime. When choosing a drill make sure you choose one that will best fit the projects you expect to work on in your home. Don’t forget to purchase a variety of drill bits so you are prepared for any project. If you choose a power drill and the correct accessories this will allow you to grind, sand, and polish.
• Gloves
• Level – these are available in a variety of sizes depending on your needs.
• Measuring tape – you will want to choose a tape that has a solid case and a reliable return mechanism.
• Needle nose pliers with wire cutters – these have thin, tapered jaws for reaching into tight spots or to hold and bend wire.
• Paintbrushes – brushes ranging from an inch to four inches and made from synthetic material are adequate for any homeowner’s tool box. Be sure to use the correct brush for your project. When using latex paint don’t use natural-bristle brushes. The packaging on the brushes usually indicate which paint works best with them. Cut-in work is best done with a chiseled brush, and a one-inch brush is good for trim.
• Plane – this is used to shave wood from boards. When using ensure you cut with the grain and use both hands and work at a slight angle. A sharp blade will give you the best results.
• Pliers – are scissor-like tools with jaws to grips small objects. Having pliers in a variety of sizes is probably a good idea.
• Putty knife/scraping knife – great for small scraping or spackling jobs.
• Rubber mallet/soft-face hammer – used to strike wood handled chisels or to tap soft materials into place that would be damaged by a metal hammer face.
• Safety glasses – never take a chance with your vision while working around the house.
• Screwdriver set – ensure that your toolbox contains both slot head and Phillips head screwdrivers in a variety of sizes. Use a screwdriver that fits the screw head, otherwise you can damage the slot or strip the screw.
• Utility knife – this tool is handy for cutting soft materials such as carpet, drywall, tape and string.
• Wrench (medium) – general use wrenches are used to turn any type of hex or square nut or bolt, or an object with flat surfaces. Plumbing wrenches are used to turn objects with round surfaces, such as pipes.