As the Cold Weather Comes Our Way , Be Sure Your Furnace is Ready!

‘Tis the Season….

…to start thinking about turning on the furnace!  To ensure your heating system runs efficiently and lasts longer consider these helpful tips:

Get an Annual Tune-up

A heating system needs annual maintenance to keep it running efficiently, and to repair minor problems before they become major ones (read expensive). Best time to book a service appointment; now – before you turn on your furnace for the season.


You’ve heard it before, but it’s worth repeating. A dirty filter slows down air flow and wastes energy by making your system work harder. Change your furnace filter once a month during winter months, and at least once every 3rd month during the balance of the year.

Programmable Thermostat

If you haven’t already, considering installing one this fall. Regulating and controlling the temperature in your home can save you up to 12% on your energy bill.

Quick & Easy Decorating Ideas


♦ It’s true – you never get a second chance to make a first impression. The entryway is the first area people see when they enter your home. Keep it neat! Make use of practical (but cozy) items like a small dresser, bench with storage (either inside or underneath), a mirror with a shelf or hooks, pretty containers as catchalls for keys and cell phones.

♦ If you love a trendy colour but are afraid to commit to it, try it out in small doses. Paint an accent wall, door, or inside a closet!

♦ The quickest way to add colour to a living room; throw cushions and pillows.

♦ Edit, edit, edit! Starting to feel that your rec room or living room is looking crowded and cluttered? Take a good, honest look and think about what you really need. Then discard, donate or store.

♦ Wish your windows looked taller? Try this simple fix…raise the curtain rod.

♦ Benches aren’t just for entryways. Place one at the foot of a bed, or beside a chair. A great way to store extra things as well as creating additional seating.

♦ Looking for colourful, interesting objects to place on your coffee table? Pick out a few of your favourite books in a variety of sizes and colours, then display them front-and-center!

♦ Add a retro feel to the kitchen by displaying clear glass jars with grains, coffee, tea, pastas and other nonperishables on an open shelf.

♦ Add a touch of whimsy to your kitchen or breakfast nook…gather a set of mis-matched wooden chairs, then paint them different colours.

♦ When choosing a rug size for a dining room, add 75cm (30 inches) per side to table dimensions for chairs with arms and least 60cm (24 inches) for chairs without arms. That way everyone will have room to push out their chair to a more conversational position – before and after meals – without moving off the rug.

♦ If you have a variety of objects that are the same colour, gather them from around the house and group them together to create an eye-catching display.

♦ Give the illusion of a larger room without doing any construction. Paint walls a light colour for an airy feel. To make a low ceiling seem higher, paint it a cool colour, like dove gray, and it will visually appear to recede.

♦ Get maximum visual and sentimental effect by grouping photographs together. Walls in hallways, along staircases, and the rec room, are ideal locations for family photo groupings. Mismatched frame styles make for an interesting display…different frame colours?…simply use a can of spray paint. The same frame colour will give your display continuity.

Clutter Patrol

The ongoing (and seemingly never ending) battle.  Here are some simple, and inexpensive, solutions for your home.

Live by the “one in – one out” rule

For every item you bring in to your home – one item goes out.  Apply this simple solution to everything from clothing to gift wrap to kitchen gadgets to household items and gifts.  Before purchasing anything decide what item you’ll be letting go to make room

Donation Days

Choose 1 day each season – spring, summer, winter, and fall – and declare it a ‘Donation Day’.  On these donation days supply each member of your family with a carton or bag, have them spend just 20 minutes sorting through their possessions to collect clothing, toys, books, shoes, sports gear etc.  You can easily extend these seasonal decluttering sessions to an hour by assigning each family member ‘another room’ – say the family room, entrance-way, even the garage – whichever area(s) in your home attract the most clutter.

Donation Box

Set up a ‘donation box’.  Locate it in a convenient, easily accessible spot – let everyone in your household know where it is! When the box full, drop it off at a local charity.  This is also the ideal spot to store the ‘items going out’ from your earlier rule!  Encourage children to participate by explaining how their donation of clothes, toys, books etc. can help those in need.

Miscellaneous clutter conquering tips

  • Do an inventory of your kid’s clothing, shoes and other misc. gear before going back-to-school shopping.
  • Incorporate storage into your decor; boxes, baskets, small dressers or trunks (instead of tables), bookcases etc.
  • Try to purchase double-duty furnishings; a coffee table with a shelf underneath for newspapers, magazines and the remote caddy – an entrance-way bench with storage or a shoe rack -end/side tables with shelves for extra storage.

Moving? 5 Tips to Remember

Whether you’re relocating to another province, a different city, or simply moving to another area in your present community, packing up and moving from one home to another is a big job.  Here are a few pointers to help lighten your load.

 First Things First

If you’re like most, you have many things in your home that you haven’t used in years.  You probably accumulated in the attic, basement, garage, and every other nook and cranny of storage space in your home.  Do take the time to sort through these ‘storage’ spaces – ask yourself ‘do I want to pack, move, unpack and store these items at my new home’?  If the answer is no, now is the time to plan a garage sale, gift them to a family member or neighbour who could make use of them, or donate them to a local charity.

Pack a Survival Kit

Having ‘essentials’ in one place (and knowing where they are) can make move-in day – and night – for everyone in your family go smoothly.  Although each family’s’ must-haves will vary, here are a few ideas to help you put together a kit.

  • personal toiletries, toilet paper, kleenex
  • cell phone charger
  • jammies and any ‘can’t-sleep- without’ blanket or stuffed animal
  • a deck of cards & travel versions of favourite games,
  • note pad & pen, flashlight
  • pet supplies; dog food, leash, crate or kennel, cat food and litter, water dish
  • can opener, scissors, screwdriver
  • coffee maker, kettle, coffee, tea, mugs, plastic cups, paper plates, package of plastic utensils
  • non-perishable snacks
  • prescription medications, glasses, sunglasses, first aid kit
  • consider having each member of your family put together their own personal kit (it can be pretty tough to determine what is essential to a 15 year old).

Plan Ahead

Whether you’ll be hiring a moving company, or you’ve decided on a do-it- yourself move, you’ll need to make arrangements well in advance of your move date.  Getting estimates and reviewing the contract/details (like insurance) from movers – or arranging for a rental truck, trailer or special equipment (will you need an appliance dolly, clothing racks or furniture blankets) takes time and advance planning.  Check your home- owner insurance policy – or with your insurance agent – are your possessions  covered – and for what – while in transit?

Pack That in the Car

How much you can transport in your vehicle will depend on numerous factors; how many vehicles are making the trip, and the distance to your new home, are just two considerations.

A few of the items you’ll want to pack into your vehicle are; valuables like jewelry or coin collections, important documents like passports and birth certificates, fragile or expensive equipment like cameras.

At this point it’s a good idea to make a list of exactly what items you’ll be transporting in your vehicle – don’t forget about the kids, your survival kit(s), pets, and houseplants!  Check with your moving company about any restrictions they may have with respect to BBQ tanks, open – or unopened – cans of paint, stain or varnishes, ditto for home and garden cleaners and chemicals.  Hunting rifles, ammunition, unopened bottles of wine and alcohol are other items you may need to personally transport.

Moving Day

It’s likely that once all your possessions are loaded you’ll want to do a last minute clean up, vacuum – maybe even mop the kitchen and entrance way floors.  Don’t forget to allow room for these ‘last minute’ items like the vacuum, mop, scrub bucket etc. to be loaded.  You may also have a few final items from the fridge to pack up – or to give to a neighbour.

The Value of Curb Appeal

The impact value of a lawn and landscaping that complements the appearance of a home is an important part of that positive first impression created when a prospective buyer pulls up in front of the house.

In general, improvements that are visible – add ‘curb appeal’ and beautify a home – will add more value than those less visible improvements that do not beautify.  Here are 3 of the most important concepts to keep in mind when making an improvement to the exterior of your home.

  • the visibility of the improvement
  • its relative value to other homes in the area/neighbourhood
  • its degree of desirability according to buyer preferences

Natural Lawn Care


Leave the grass-clippings on your lawn after you mow and be a grass-cycler!  Any lawn mower will cut clippings short enough to grass-cycle. You should only take 1/3 of the grass blade height when you mow so that the clippings are not too long.  If clumping occurs simply run over the clippings a second time, or rake clumps out into a thin layer.  Grass clippings are rich in nutrients that are returned to the soil about 14 days after you mow.


Lawns need fertilizing in order to remain healthy, lush and green.  Nitrogen produces rich green growth, phosphorus stimulates root growth while potassium fortifies the plants.  Your own compost, composted leaves and composted manures are good sources of natural fertilizer for your lawn.  Avoid chemical fertilizers  but  if you do buy commercial products, try to choose  those that contain only natural source products.

Water 101!

Homeowners’ know that water around a home can lead to problems including; leaks, flooding and mold growth – all problems that negatively impact a property’s value.  When we don’t manage the water on our properties with care, we also run the risk of damaging the environment.  Runoff water that doesn’t get absorbed into the ground finds its way into storm sewers or directly into waterways – carrying sediment that can clog streams and chemicals from cars, fertilizers and other human activities that damage aquatic ecosystems.

One of the biggest problems with runoff is that it has nowhere to go if the ground around your home is covered by hard surfaces like cement or asphalt.

Every homeowner can help by simply making use of rainwater!

  • Consider replacing impervious surfaces around your home with something the water can seep through to enter the soil below.  Paving stones or interlock bricks are good alternatives to concrete or asphalt.
  • Make your yard a sponge.  When beautifying your yard, consider using plants native to your area – they develop a more extensive root system and absorb more runoff from the lawn.
  • Planting trees is also helpful:, their immense root systems effectively absorb water over a large area.  But, only a small amount of water goes for producing food.  The rest is returned to the atmosphere through a process called ‘transpiration’.  A mature white birch tree with approximately 200,000 leaves can give off as much as 3,400 litres (900 gallons) of water throughout a summer day!
  • Bare soil can be as hard as concrete.  If you have bare areas but don’t want to create more lawn or garden beds, cover the ground with mulch, wood chips or gravel.  This will help control runoff by allowing water to seep into the soil rather than running over it.
  • Litres of water come off your roof over the course of a year.  Divert it for your own use.  Use rain barrels to collect water then use it to water your garden, flower boxes or deck planters.
  • Extending leaders from downspouts effectively diverts water into garden or shrub beds or out onto the lawn keeping a tremendous amount of runoff out of the local drainage systems.

Watering 101

Water your lawn deeply enough to soak the roots. This promotes deep root growth which increases its ability to resist drought.  Whether using water from your rain barrel or sprinkler, water slowly so that it penetrates the lawn rather than running of onto your driveway or sidewalk.

  • It is best to water in the morning.


Do-it-yourself projects can be enjoyable and very rewarding, but, you must take proper precautions to prevent injuries.

Safety comes first!

Protect Your Back

  • When you need to move heavy items, use the tools the pros rely on; a wheelbarrow, dolly, or an extra set of helping hands.
  • When you do lift – lift properly.  Keep your back straight and your legs bent whenever lifting anything; whether it’s lightweight or heavy.
  • When carrying materials or supplies, do so in a way that’s least harmful to your back.  Usually this means keeping materials waist high and centered between your legs.

Dress Properly

  • Wear long sleeves and pants.  Use safety gear; gloves, safety glasses, ear plugs, for certain projects a hard hat is warranted.
  • Proper footwear is important – choose footwear suited to the task at hand; running shoes are well suited when you’re painting – if you’re handling lumber or drywall, steel-toed work boots are the better – and safer – choice.


  • Set the ladder close to your work.  If your hips go outside the ladder’s side rails, you are overreaching and risking a fall.
  • When setting up a stepladder, make sure all four legs are supported and the spreaders are fully opened.
  • Lean a straight or extension ladder against the house so that the distance from the foundation of the ladder’s base is about one-quarter of the ladder’s height. Check to see that the tops and bottoms of both ladder rails are making firm contact.
  • Always face the ladder when ascending or descending.  Grip the ladder firmly with both hands and place your feet squarely on each rung.  Do not turn around on the ladder or proceed as if you were on a conventional stairway.
  • Don’t stand on the top of a stepladder. On a straight or extension ladder, stop when your shoulders are even with the top of the rails.
  • Don’t carry tools loosely in your pocket; they could fall on someone below.  Before carrying any materials up a ladder, make sure you have a secure place to put them when you get to the top.
  • Wear slip-resistant footwear when working on any ladder.

Protect Your Skin

  • Professionals always exercise extreme caution when working with chemicals – so should you.  Even if a chemical appears harmless, there are many risks; it could rub off someplace else such as in your eyes or on the kids or a pet. Extreme caution should be practiced at all times when handling chemicals.
  • Avoid touching your eyes and even your clothes, as you might have forgotten that  you rubbed off some chemicals onto your clothes and now you’ve used your shirt to wipe sweat off your face potentially harming skin and eyes.
  • Sand and aggregate can be abrasive to your skin.  Wear long sleeved shirts and pants, and water-proof gloves.

Protect Your Eyes

  • Whether you’re welding, laying cement, working with a compressor, sanding drywall or working on a rooftop, be very aware of the dangers and always, always, wear safety goggles or glasses.

Landscaping Mistakes and How to Avoid Them!

With the arrival of spring and summer many homeowners head for the outdoors.  As well as taking care of spring clean-up duties and a multitude of maintenance chores – many will start into gardening and landscaping projects.  Whatever your landscaping goal; attracting birds and other wildlife to a backyard sanctuary, adding colour, creating a theme garden, or improving the curb appeal – and value – of your home, it’s easy to make ‘mistakes’.  Here are some of the most common landscaping mistakes, and a few tips on how to avoid them.

Guarded Entries

Accentuating an entry pathway or doorway by planting shrubs on each side usually isn’t a good idea – especially when the now innocent little shrubs will eventually grow to block the entry!  Instead, consider planting on one side only, which allows the shrubs room to mature – and you opportunities to reshape or enlarge the bed, add shrubs or other perennials, add a garden focal, or annuals for a seasonal display of colour.

Crew-cutting Your Plants

It’s not a good idea to plant a large shrub or small tree in a location where you’ll be required to constantly ‘flat-top’ prune it.  Here again, remember that those pretty little shrubs and trees will grow!  Right now it may look great tucked in against the foundation or under a window – but as it matures it will grow to obstruct the view and light from reaching the indoors – it may become misshapen as it crowds against foundation walls, or causes damage to facia and eaves….and, you’ll find yourself cutting off the top!


A plant collector’s landscape may be interesting, or it may create visual pandemonium.  We most often choose plants based on their colour – either because we like the colour or we feel the colour will complement the exterior finish of our house.  Keep in mind that colour is only one aspect of creating an appealing landscape design, repetition of plant form and texture are also important as they provide ‘links’ bringing landscape and architectural areas together.

Glutted Gardens

Quite often we purchase plants that are all about the same size initially, but grow too many different sizes.  To keep our planting visually ‘nice’ we place all the plants at the same spacing because it looks ‘right’.  Instead, try this approach; choose larger plants for the key landscape areas, then fill-in with ‘temporary’ annual flowers/plants (annuals can be planted in the ground or in containers).  Add more shrubs or perennials as the larger plants mature.

All in a Row

It’s a natural tendency to plant tall plants in back and a row of shorter plants in front of them.  Instead, group plants in masses or sweeps, stagger plant heights in the beds and let a ground cover ‘creep’ along the edges or a vine to ‘flow’ around some of the plants.

The Foundation is Showing!

Resist the urge to snuggle plants close to house walls or plant to cover every inch of the foundation.  You’ll be sorry for having done so when it’s time to paint, put up ladders to clean windows, access the roof, eaves-troughs, or put up holiday lights and decorations! Also, if the foundation is surrounded by garden beds it becomes difficult to gauge whether or not the ground is sloping ‘away’ from the house. Maintaining the slope ensures that water is directed away from your home, rather than towards it, where it can seep in.


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