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Monthly Archives: March 2017

Tricks Create Joyful Home

Houseplants are natural air filters, and can remove up to 70 percent of indoor air pollutants. Plants such as English Ivy, scheffleras, spider plants, and philodendrons absorb large also quantities of formaldehyde, carbon monoxide, and benzene. The most effective plants at removing air pollution are spider plants, pot mums, snake plants, and aloe vera. They’re so effective, in fact, that environmental scientists recommend one plant per 100 square feet in your home and office.

Plant lights, in canister fixtures placed on the floor, can highlight a houseplant while casting dramatic shadows on walls and ceilings. Uplights, placed under palm trees cast magnificent line-type shadows, while plants with holes in their leaves, such as Swiss Cheese Philodendron, will cast lace-like shadows.

You can use houseplants to make a uniquely individual statement. For instance, one of my friends has only spiked-leafed plants in her home — spider plants, snake plants, corn plants, cast iron, and bromeliads. My cousin could only seem to get pothos to grow in her home, so she filled her entire house with them.

Delicate houseplants soften your space, while spiky plants add interesting texture. Collections of African violets, ferns, or trees of all sizes can look fantastic, too. Topiaries, shaped like globes or animals, can add a feeling of luxury and amusement, while Bonsai plants will add a sense of richness to your home.

Keeping Plants Healthy

Because some houses don’t have adequate daylight for houseplants, the best method for keeping your houseplants healthy is to have two plants for each desired space. Keep one plant in a sheltered outside area and one in its decorative site, and switch the plants at least once a week. Special plant light bulbs can also help.

Low light plants include the cast iron plant, philodendrons, pothos, Chinese evergreen, English Ivy, and Satin. Flowering plants, like begonias, impatiens, and fuchsias, require more light. Plants requiring considerable amounts of water generally have hair-like roots, such as ferns and coleus, while plants requiring less water have thicker roots, like spider plants and cactuses.

You can remember to fertilize your plants by doing it on the first of every month, except in cold winter. Adding fish emulsion in the middle of the month during spring will help feed hungry plants like ferns. My staghorn fern has thrived for 15 years on banana skins and an occasional misting of orchid food.

Flowering plants, like white flag or peace lilies, need water-soluble fertilizer with a 20-20 concentration. Applying Plant Shine, a spray available in garden centers, once a month will clean and beautify leaves.

They may take some effort to help them continue to thrive, but the benefits you’ll derive from keeping houseplants in your home will be well worth any inconvenience, and you’ll be healthier and happier as a result.

Home Air Filters

Mechanical Filters – One of the best types of mechanical filters is the HEPA filter, which forces air through a special screen that traps allergens such as pollen, dust mites and pet dander. If there are any smokers in the house, a HEPA filtered device will also trap smoke and other airborne irritants. Those devices which are unable to trap at least 90% of these particles are ineligible to qualify as a HEPA filtering device. When shopping for mechanical filters of this type, be sure that they truly meet HEPA filtering standards, and that you’re not purchasing a cheap imitation that will offer substandard performance.

Gas Phase Filters – This type of air filter is not used for the removal of allergens in the home, but rather for removing odors and other types of pollutants, such as gasses from perfume, cooking, paint or building materials. In a home that needs to eliminate allergies which are triggered by exposure to certain odors, this would be sufficient, rather than the HEPA filter, which is designed to remove absolute allergens that are not gas based.

Electronic Filters – Of the different types of electronic filters, the most effective at trapping allergens is the style which uses electrostatic precipitators with a fan. In the case of electronic filters, electric charges are used to attract and trap allergens and other contaminants. Strive to find one that includes collecting plates so that the particles are trapped within the unit. Otherwise, you’ll end up having to clean all of the surfaces within the home, because the allergens will stick to them. In the case of self-contained units that include plates, they’ll also need to be cleaned, but this is a much smaller task than cleaning all of the surfaces of the home’s interior.

Hybrid Filters – Simply put, these air filters offer a combination of those characteristics which are found in both electrostatic and mechanical filters. These may be preferred by those with allergens other than gas based contaminants, but offer trapping devices for containing allergens.

Working With Contractor

1. Plan your project carefully. Clip pictures, make sketches, write a description. This will help you accurately convey to the contractor what you want the finished product to be.

2. Make a list of contractors. Ask your neighbors or friends for the names of reputable tradesmen. Contact material suppliers — lumberyards, for example — and ask for recommendations.

3. Get at least three written bids for the project, but don’t give in to the temptation to automatically accept the lowest bid. A higher bid may be worth the price in better materials, workmanship and reliability. If you get a very low bid, the contractor may have made a mistake or forgotten to bid on everything you wanted. If they have deliberately low-bid, they may use cheaper materials or take shortcuts to make a profit.

4. Many states and provinces require registration and/or licensing. ┬áIf licences are required in your jurisdiction, be certain to ask to see your contractor’s licences and be sure that it’s not expired.

5. Ask for references and then check them out. Look at the projects and ask the previous clients if they are satisfied with the quality of work done, if it was started and completed on schedule and if it is complete.

6. Get a signed, written contract and be sure you understand it. The Construction Contractors Board of Oregon claims that the single biggest cause of homeowner-contractor disputes is the written contract: not having one, having a poor one, or having one everyone ignores. A good contract should include:

The company name, address (not a post office box) & phone number, the name of the builder, contractor and licence number, if applicable

A detailed project description

A materials list

A statement that all necessary permits and inspections are the responsibility of the contractor

Starting and completion dates

Warranties of workmanship, the length of the warranty, and specifically what’s covered and what’s not

Contractor’s guarantee that he carries liability insurance and worker’s compensation coverage

A statement that clean-up will be done by the contractor

The total price and payment schedule

Be wary of hourly, time and materials or cost-plus pricing where the final price is not determined until completion of the project. Although it may seem higher, a fixed price may give you the best protection and price.

Be cautious about upfront payments for more than 15% of the contract price.

The schedule and criteria for each instalment should be clearly defined in the contract.

Any instalments should be not be required on a certain date, but correlated to work completion.

Do not pay cash. A reputable builder will ask for a check.

Easy Renovations

There are no Contractor Fairies (and I refer here to the magical ones! Ha,ha,ha!) who can slip in the middle of the night and have the project done by the morning, although that would be good! (I’m guessing that there’d be some really loud dance music, anyway, which would just keep you awake…!) Have your Contractor include a probable time frame with the quote.

Have a clear idea of what you want before your contractor comes over. You don’t have to sketch out the changes, but you should be able to tell him or her what changes you would like to see. Many good contractors will have done so many renos that they will immediately know what needs to be done, the approximate cost and time-frame. When a contractor tells you that ‘the little bathroom’ will cost about $3,000.00, don’t think that your job will secretly only cost about $20.00, maybe a little less…then be shocked and dismayed when your bill comes in at…$3,000.00. You’d be surprised how many people have notions like that. Try not to fall into this trap, or to think that any changes you make once the job has started won’t affect the price or the amount of time of a project. Always get written quotes for any work you are having done, that way you’ll both be clear about the expectations for the job.

If you’re really stuck trying to figure out how to improve an area in your home, consider hiring a Designer. Keep in mind that they can work within your budget, but if your budget is really tight, it’s probably better to spend the consultation fee on new drapes or a toilet… If decision making is a problem area for you, and you’re able to relinquish control, then a designer might be the clear solution. Shop around the same way you would for a contractor until you find someone you’re really comfortable with, someone who will listen to what you want. Remember, it’s your house, so do what’s right for you. If you say, “Absolutely no red” and the designer says you need all red if you’re going to be ‘cutting edge’, then choose another designer – one who is more interested in catering to your needs.

Is there a quick fix?

Often, there is a quick fix. If you aren’t dealing with structural changes or a complete makeover, then consider a coat of paint, new flooring, new baseboards, and/or new window treatments. There are lots of things that you can do yourself, now. You might want to up-date your bathroom or kitchen with new flooring. There’s a new glueless laminate ‘wood’ flooring that you can tackle on your own, if you are so inclined. Tiling is an excellent option, too, and you can learn how to do that on our site (click on the Tiling page), or attend a seminar at your local hardware store. A really nice throw rug can change the look of a room and add new life to an old carpet. Installation of new carpet should be professionally done, unless it’s a small area and you are skilled at that.

Sometimes a simple change like up-dating your hardware (the knobs in your kitchen – no, not your husband’s friends! Ha,ha,ha! ) can make a huge difference in the overall look of a room. You may be able to paint your cabinetry if you don’t want to replace it. If you are replacing the cabinets, Check out your Local Hardware Stores selection. You can check for price, availability, installation fees (don’t try this alone!), and for some ideas in general that you like. They will provide you with a computer printout of what your completed kitchen will look like, if you arrange to meet with a Kitchen Designer and draw one out together.

If you have an old brick fireplace that you don’t care for anymore, or want to give it a fresh look, consider painting it. This is not a crime…painted brick looks great! Generally, creamy shades work well, but you can choose what you like. Brick really soaks up the paint, so use a good primer, first.

You can also put a marble tile (slate works well, too) around the fireplace. Use the correct tile adhesive (ask at the store) and choose a nice grout.

You can actually buy a Fireplace Surround pre-made, or you can build your own Mantel with Crown Moulding and some nice lumber. You may want to bring in some help for this. While you’re looking at the Fireplace Mantels, check out the cool ‘Fireplace Overmantels’ — they’re gorgeous! You can have mirror custom cut to fit in the center and make your house look fabulous, darling!

Changing the lighting can create a whole new look in your home. If it’s not too complicated, you can do this on your own. If it’s too tricky or dangerous, bring in an electrician. Changing the light switches and switch plates can make a huge difference, too. You can go from the past to the present in a flick of the switch! Ha,ha,ha!

Doors have a huge impact on how a house looks. Painting old wooden doors (the ones from the 60’s and 70’s) can add new life to them. Change the hardware while you’re at it, and you’ll have a nice new door! Switching to French Doors (the ones with the glass inserts) can add extra light to a room. You can get the glass with many different looks, if privacy is a concern. If your budget will allow, consider changing all the doors to the new white colonial style – that looks nice in just about every home. They’re clean and neat, and will brighten up a hallway.

Replacing your front door can give the house a real boost and probably add a bit of safety, too, since many of the new doors are made of steel. Sometimes adding a lovely screen door can create more interest at the front entry. When you change the doors, you will probably want to replace the baseboards, too. If you are trying to make the job as easy as possible, consider using Rosettes for the corners, then all the cuts will be straight ones. Use Dap to fill in any little gaps, or wood filler if you’ve gone with a wooden finish.