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Labour Day Weekend Safety Tips

The plan for this last long weekend of summer is to relax and have fun. But taking a vacation from safety could mean a trip to the ER, and that’s no fun at all. Stay safe this Labour Day weekend with these practical safety tips.

Driving Anywhere

Just assume any road – highway, street, major route – is going to be busier than normal. Whether you’re driving to the grocery store or on your way to an Okanagan wine tour, take your time. If you’ll be driving long distance, have the car checked before you go; don’t forget the tires and the spare.

When on a road trip: be well rested, schedule stops, and have a backup driver if possible. Make sure to include an emergency kit for your car – it should contain a flashlight with extra batteries, jumper cables, flares or reflectors, containers of motor oil and coolant, tool kit, a blanket, and non-perishable foods/bottled water.

Outdoor Chores

Some homeowners like to get a head start on fall maintenance chores. If you plan on cleaning out the gutters, washing siding or clearing off the roof, be careful. Examine power tools for frayed cords, damaged casings, and loose prongs.

When using a ladder to clean gutters, trim trees or painting, check the ladder first, then use it safely. Place it on a flat surface; when on the ladder, don’t overreach and hold on with both hands when climbing up or down.

Backyard Entertaining

Place the barbecue at least 10 feet away from siding, tree branches, and flammable materials. When using the grill, follow the manufacturer’s instructions and never leave it unattended. Keep children and pets at a safe distance.

Plan on keeping pets mostly indoors, limiting their time with guests to brief visits. While they can handle regular visitors to your home, a backyard full of partying people might spook your pets. It will also help reduce the temptation to feed them people food.

Practice safe food handling. Don’t leave dairy foods or foods containing milk, mayonnaise, etc. out in the open for more than an hour. Cover containers of food with lids, foil or plastic wrap when not in use. Label common foods that can cause allergic reactions such as fish, nuts, milk, etc.

Getting Your Home Ready for Labour Day Weekend

Labour Day long weekend typically marks the last big celebration of summer. If you plan to spend it in the backyard with family and friends, getting organized now ensures plenty of fun for everyone later. Get outside and enjoy your patio or deck, but first get your home ready for Labour Day with these simple tips.

Home Exterior

Cleaning your home’s exterior will add instant curb appeal. It’s surprising how much grime, environmental pollutants, and tree residue can build-up up on siding and dull the windows. Skip the commercial or lightweight pressure washer. Instead, use a garden hose with a pressure nozzle. Plain water should be enough to remove surface dirt. Use a soft bristle brush and soapy water for stains and marks that need some extra attention.

Wash the driveway, stairs, and sidewalks. As with the siding, start off with plain water and then spot clean stubborn stains.

Windows and Doors

Even if they aren’t all that dusty, smudged glass panes aren’t welcoming. Clean windows with a mild solution or an environmentally friendly glass cleaner.

A sparkling front door can change the appearance of your home’s exterior.

Check door frames and window trim for cracks, gaps, warping and peeling paint. Do any minor repairs now if you have the time, such as caulking and sanding.

Deck and Porch

Wash your deck and/or porch. Wipe down the outdoor furniture. Replace or remove worn cushions, damaged patio furniture, and anything else needs repair. Add some decorative touches such as a seasonal wreath on the front door, colourful plant pots on the steps, or hanging baskets.

Clean the light fixtures and replace any bulbs that are burned out or not energy-efficient.

Get the grill ready for the long weekend. If you have a pool or fire pit, make them kid friendly and safe.

Backyard Prep

Before family, friends, and guests arrive, mow the lawn; trim back overgrown shrubs and trees near where you will be entertaining; and weed flower beds, tidy up landscaped areas.

Divide your backyard into well-defined zones. Rearrange outdoor furniture to create conversation areas. Add side tables for guests to use; add larger tables for serving food and drinks. Have a place for kids to play.

Make sure the grill is safely positioned away from the flow of foot traffic. It should not be placed close to siding or underneath an overhang.

Summer Curb Appeal Tips

Curb appeal isn’t just about real estate value. Whether entering from the backyard or through the front door, returning to a home that’s visually appealing is deeply rewarding. Here are a few summer curb appeal tips that will increase your sense of well-being, while those driving by will appreciate the view.

Exterior Cleaning Services

You clean the gutters regularly, wash the windows when they’re really dusty, and remove stains from the siding on an as-needed basis. But you can’t remember the last time you cleaned the roof and the only time the driveway gets “power washed” is when you water the flower beds. Consider hiring a professional exterior cleaning company at least once every two years. Typical services include:

  • roof cleaning
  • roof moss removal
  • gutter cleaning
  • siding soft wash
  • window cleaning
  • driveway cleaning

When a home’s exterior shines, it invites and welcomes visitors.

Painting the Trim

Painting the exterior of your home will definitely improve curb appeal. But who wants to spend the summer repainting the house? A high impact, low-cost trick is to paint just the trim. Selecting a complementary bold shade or intense earth tone will give your home an updated appearance.

Painting Concrete

Perhaps it’s time to paint the concrete driveway, walkway, or stairs if scrubbing doesn’t make a difference anymore. Applying one or two coats of paint to the front steps can greatly improve curb appeal. You don’t have to stop at “plain.” Explore Pinterest for some really creative DIY projects – pinstriped stairs, checkered porch floor, faux tile patio – all accomplished with tape, stencils, paint, and a little imagination!

Landscaping Tweaks

Flowering trees and shrubs automatically increase curb appeal. However, you can have too much of a good thing. Limit the number in a particular area, a small front yard for example, to under five.

Seed bald spots to bring a patchy lawn back to life.

When flower beds contain perennials, landscaping can be given a seasonal look by adding containers of annuals on either side of the front door, in the corner of a porch or by the steps.

There is a variety of landscape lighting available. Consider what type of light you would like to install. Sidewalk from the front gate to the entry door a bit dark after the sun sets? Choose lights designed to boarder a pathway. The porch lights don’t reach as far as the stairs? Add a down light so visitors can see the stair treads.

Gutters and Ladder Safety

The nice weather is calling your name, enticing you into the backyard to sit on the deck and relax. But summertime is also when homeowners become motivated to get home maintenance stuff done. If checking the siding or cleaning the gutters is on your to-do list, make sure if it involves a ladder, you’re using it safely.

Reasons People Fall off a Ladder

When cleaning out the gutters, cleaning off the roof or inspecting the roofing system, working on a ladder can be dangerous. Reasons people fall off ladders include:

  • wearing the wrong type of shoes
  • improper ladder placement
  • overreaching
  • standing on your toes
  • doesn’t heed the “three points of contact” rule

Choosing the Right Ladder

If it’s not the right type for the task at hand, you’re putting yourself in danger. Keep these tips in mind when buying a new ladder:

  • a step-ladder is fine for a one storey house but if your home is two or more floors, invest in an extension ladder to help you safely reach the gutters
  • if your house is two or more storeys, a straight ladder (leans but doesn’t extend) should be tall enough to reach
  • select metal over wood to avoid warping
  • purchase a ladder with a stabilizer to prevent denting aluminum gutters or buy the ladder standoff/stabilizer separately

Using the Ladder Safely

Most falls off a ladder are preventable. When doing gutter maintenance this summer or cleaning the gutters in the fall, use these tips suggested by professionals.

Place the ladder on even and stable ground. For example, avoid putting a ladder on shifting surfaces such as wet mud or gravel.

Shoes on ladders should have rubber soles or be made of some other non-slip material.

An extension or straight ladder should not be placed too far from the wall – to determine the maximum number of feet the ladder should be away from the house, divide the height of the ladder by four.

If you have to remove a clog just slightly out of reach, move the ladder instead of reaching too far.

Climbing the ladder, place the middle of the foot on the rung. When standing on the rungs, feet should be flat and slightly apart for added balance.

Always practice the “three points of contact” rule: two feet and one hand when cleaning the gutters or one foot and two hands when climbing the ladder.

Partner up with someone when using the ladder – one on it, one holding or standing nearby; never both on the ladder at the same time.

Ways to Make the Backyard Safe

Now that summer is officially here, the backyard is the most common outdoor gathering place for family and friends. Especially if you have children or children visiting throughout the summer, the ideal recreational space should be safe for everyone.

Trees

Trees are great for shade, a home for birds, and bringing nature into an urban setting. But sick, dying or dead trees make a backyard unsafe. If a tree has dead and/or broken branches, fungi growing at the base of its trunk, or patches of peeling bark, it needs attention, even possible removal. Call a landscaper or arborist for advice.

Animals and Insects

Is your backyard a magnet for wild animals and insects? They might be cute on television but animals such as raccoons, skunks, and badgers can cause mischief and even be dangerous. A wasp nest in the gutters is never a good thing. Here are some helpful ways to keep unwanted critters and pests out of the yard:

  • build a fence if you don’t already have one
  • if you do have a fence, keep it maintained – no holes or gaps
  • eliminate sources of standing water like buckets or unattended recyclables
  • put a cover on a sandbox
  • clean out the gutters

Backyard Amenities

Having a pool, fire pit or barbecue helps create the perfect place to hang out. But they do pose certain risks. Make sure the pool area is safe and secure. When the grill is still hot, keep children away from the barbecue. Fire pits should be located at least 10 feet away from the house and not positioned directly under an overhang.

Patio Furniture

Any outdoor furniture on the property should be able to handle fluctuating temperatures and changeable weather conditions. Particularly when being used by children, furniture pieces should have rounded edges or at least not be sharp. Replace any metal patio furniture that is rusting; breathing in particles or having them become embedded in a cut or on skin poses a health risk.

Bring Style to Your Backyard this Summer

The backyard should be a place where you can relax, enjoy the company of friends, and spend some downtime with family. But if it’s missing that wow factor other yards in your neighbourhood seem to have this summer might be the perfect time to bring style to your backyard.

Place to Sit

A backyard sanctuary starts with the perfect place to sit. Charming wicker furniture can transform an urban space into a beachfront refuge. Loungers by a pool or on a deck provide an inviting way to soak up some sun. A porch swing doesn’t always need a porch – it can be hung from a tree or a wide overhang.

You don’t need to buy new – chairs can be repainted or furniture such as stools and wood benches no longer needed inside can be repurposed for outdoor use. Update patio furniture with new pillows and seat cushions in bold colors, patterns, and different textures.

Place to Dine

A deck, patio, or grassy area is ideal for a patio dining set. Choose one that reflects your hosting style and the people who will most likely be using it. Is it just for your family? Are you in the habit of inviting friends over but also include anyone who peers over the fence? When entertaining a large group, select an outdoor table that can be extended.

Give some thought to the theme of your outdoor table and chairs. A rustic farm table or classic picnic table has a casual, country feel. Openwork metal dining table and chairs will lend a backyard a vintage appearance. To give your back yard dining area a tropical vibe, choose a patio set made from wicker or rattan.

Place to Relax

Amp up the style factor of your back yard with an outdoor spa. Hot tubs are available in a wide range of types, materials, colours and sizes. There are even portable models. Yes, it’s fun, but health benefits include reducing stress, chronic pain, and sleeplessness.

An outdoor spa not in the budget? String a hammock between two trees.

Place to Entertain

An outdoor bar shines the light on your bartending skills. It’s also a great way to store everything you need in one convenient place.

Create a conversation area with a built-in or portable fire pit and some really comfortable chairs.

Give Your Home Exterior a Facelift this Spring

Spring heightens our senses and inspires us to refresh our homes, both inside and out. It’s a time when we shake off the gloomy days of winter and get our backyards ready for summer entertaining. Here are some low-budget ways to give your home’s exterior a facelift this spring.

Windows

Cleaning the windows, interior and exterior, will make your house smile. It’s surprising how much light gets blocked out by even a light film of dust or grime.

While you’re out there anyway with the sudsy pail of water wipe down window sills and trim. Examine window and door frames for peeling paint, warping, cracks or gaps. If you need to fill in gaps and cracks with caulking you can do the repairs now or plan to make them in the fall before winter comes back.

Front Door

A new front door can change the whole appearance of your home. It doesn’t have to be “new.” Painting the door a bold blue, red or yellow is an economical way to brighten the main entrance to your home.

Underutilized Areas

Transforming the underutilized areas of your property can greatly improve your curb appeal. Adding outdoor furniture to a bare porch turns empty space into an inviting place to relax in warm weather. Park a bench next to a flowerbed or in front of a birdbath and a patch of lawn becomes a place to enjoy the view. Container gardens are an excellent way to beautify an entry door, deck, patio, plain fence or cement steps.

Landscaping as Camouflage

Don’t have time to paint the fence? You plan to replace the siding in the next two years, but in the meantime, the stained and dented section is very noticeable. Planting shrubs or flowering bushes can hide flawed areas of a home exterior. Camouflage air conditioner units, tanks, trash cans and pool equipment with fencing panels or outdoor screens. Use trellises and flowering climbing vines to bring spring colour into your backyard.

General Cleanup

The appearance of your property will be greatly improved with a general cleanup. Power wash hardscape elements such as a flagstone sidewalk, a concrete driveway, a fire pit, a wood deck or a paved patio. Use a power washer on siding and gutters with caution.

Remove dead plants, trees and any sections of shrubs that have become withered. Rake the lawn to get rid of leftover storm reminders like bits of twigs and decayed leaves.

Why You should have a Landscape Plan

Landscaping that incorporates and harmonizes the different aspects of a home’s exterior creates the best curb appeal. It’s not just about what types of plants and shrubs go where. An effective landscape plan utilizes a variety of elements to create the outdoor space you envision for your home, such as a deck or patio, a flagstone pathway, perhaps a pond or a gazebo.

Purpose

Decide what the purpose is of the landscaping – to entertain, increase resale value, create more visual appeal, replace annuals with eco-friendly plants. When creating a landscape design that is multipurpose, select a unifying theme to connect the different elements or areas together.

What’s Included

If you want a deck, will it include a barbecue or grill? Will you park a wrought iron bench near one of the flower beds? You picture more formal landscaping – would a gazebo be out of place? Since you’re upgrading the garden anyway, maybe the landscape plan should include trees near the southwest corner of the house to protect the living room from the mid-afternoon sun.

When choosing what is to be included in your landscaping design take into consideration height (you don’t want to block your neighbour’s view), building codes, permits, and safety (swimming pool or pond and small children).

Budgeting

You have all these dreams for your perfect backyard, but now you have to make then a reality. Take the time to set a budget: it will help you focus on what’s important and ensure you don’t run out of funds in the middle of repaving the driveway or building the deck. A general rule of thumb dictates that a project involving construction will cost more than adding shrub containers by the entry door or replanting the flowerbeds at the front of the house. Include labour costs for anything you don’t plan to DIY.

Tree Placement

If your landscape plan will be adding more trees to your property, don’t forget about your gutters, siding, and roof. Trees grow tall enough to shed leaves and needles into the gutter system, brush up against siding or damage the roof in a storm. Plant trees to provide shade or protection from the wind while ensuring they won’t interfere with the gutter system, the siding or your roof.

Dangers of Standing Water

Standing water in your back yard and around other areas of your property can eventually lead to structural damage to your home, health issues and pest infestations. Some forms of standing water are obvious, while others are not. Knowing the dangers and how to deal with hidden sources of stagnant water can help you eliminate potential problems.

Hidden Sources of Standing Water

Most homeowners are aware of how standing water forms on a roof, in the gutters or underneath downspouts. But anything that can hold liquid is a possible place for water to become stagnant. Hidden sources include:

  • ponds, pools or birdbaths
  • unattended or mismanaged piles of materials waiting to be recycled
  • gardening equipment like a wheelbarrow or a bucket
  • children’s play areas such as a sandbox or wading pool
  • children’s toys that hold water
  • pet possessions like a dog house, bed, and food bowl
  • landscaping that isn’t draining properly

Potential Dangers of Standing Water

Water collecting in the valleys or flatter areas of a roof that doesn’t dissipate adds unnecessary weight to a roofing system. Added weight is also a byproduct of stagnant water in gutters.

Standing water doesn’t move, which makes it an attractive breeding environment for insects like mosquitoes, dragonflies and certain species of flies.

When standing water, in gutters, for example, reaches maximum capacity, seeping or over spilling can occur. If not dealt with, damp patches on siding might encourage mold, mildew or algae growth. Stagnant water contains microorganisms potentially harmful to a person’s health.

Overflowing gutters and downspouts with drainage issues can cause structural damage to exterior walls and the foundation.

Pooled water on your property could pose a slipping or falling hazard to family members or visitors to your home.

Solutions for Standing Water

Regularly clean the roof, gutters, and downspouts to prevent debris buildup.

Incorporate a fountain or waterfall feature into a pond or pool to keep water in motion. Another option is to remove debris from the surface of a pond, pool or birdbath to make it less inviting to insects.

Keep the yard free of stockpiled materials to be recycled. Put away gardening equipment and tools that have the capacity to collect water.

Cover the sandbox or wading pool when not in use. Bring toys inside.

When garden beds or the lawn is being “flooded,” find the reason for poor drainage and fix it.

Spring Inspection Checklist

Maintaining your home’s exterior is important, especially now that it’s spring and any damage that winter might have done is just beginning to show. Taking the time to go over the outside of your house with a keen eye will alert you to problem areas that should be attended to as soon as possible. Here’s a short spring inspection checklist to help you get started.

Roof    
  1. Missing, loose or damaged roofing shingles
  2. Fascia board and soffit panels should be in good shape
  3. Loose, damaged or cracked flashings and other types of
weatherproofing around vents, chimney and skylights
Gutters 1. Sagging/pulling away from fascia
  2. Filled with debris
  3. Clogs
  4. Streaks, dirt, grime on outside of gutters
  5. Missing gutter sections
  6. Worn or leaking seams
  7. Blocked, loose or damaged downpipe(s),
Siding
   
  1. Cracks, peeling paint, blistering
  2. Loosened panels or missing sections
  3. Mold and/or mildew
  4. Patches of damp that never really dry up (possible sign of leaks)
Basement    
  1. Ceiling and interior walls should be free of stains, streaks and other
signs of water damage
  2. Musty smell
  3. Mold and/or mildew on ceiling and interior walls
Foundation    
  1. Cracks
  2. Discoloration due to moisture buildup or water damage
  3. Earth around foundation should be compact; no signs of sinking
  4. Earth/landscaping slopes toward foundation or other indications
the grade has shifted/changed
Miscellaneous    
  1. Anything made of wood is subject to the elements – check trim
around windows and doors, soffit and fascia for rot/soft spots
  2. Outdoor outlets/power sources for damage
  3. Ensure any outdoor lighting is working properly
  4. Check steps, pathways and driveway for cracks