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Fall Curb Appeal

Crisp air, leaves changing colour, orange pumpkins, and bright yellow chrysanthemums – there is something very special about autumn. Adding seasonal touches to your home’s exterior is a simple way to update your curb appeal.

Decorate the Front Door

Transform the front door by hanging a garland of autumn leaves, trailing vines, or branches combined with small gourds. Pair the garland with a matching wreath.

Window Boxes

Another way to bring the spirit of fall to your front yard is to add window boxes. Fall flowers and seasonal grasses give color to the landscaping and lend charm to your home. When choosing the kind of window box, consider the type of material that will fit in with your home’s exterior. Wood boxes tend to add a rustic feel, while copper and iron window boxes provide a more traditional look.

Cleaning the Exterior

Clean the exterior of your home to remove accumulated grime, dirt, and particles before they etch glass panes and scratch siding. You don’t have to do it all at once. Spraying the siding with water first will give you a better idea if you need a soft bristle brush and a pail of soapy water. Spruce up the windows, doors, trim, and steps on another day.

Thoroughly clean the gutter system inside and out. Yes, it’s more important to get rid of the debris inside the gutter channel. But removing surface dirt from the gutter face helps preserve the finish.

Don’t forget to clean hardscape elements such as a pathway, driveway, wood deck or paved patio, especially if they are visible from the street.

Lawn TLC

Leave the leaves for the trees. It’s not just a matter of aesthetics. Once they have fallen and are left on the ground, they can do your lawn more harm than good. A lawn must be allowed to breathe. Layers of leaves block sunlight, oxygen, and water required for a healthy lawn. Trapped moisture in the soil can lead to fungi growth. Rake the lawn, seed bald patches and add fertilizer.

Those Finishing Touches

Flank planters on either side of the door and on the stairs leading up to the house.

Add edging – plants, stone, brickwork – to sidewalks and driveways. Use fall plants and/or flowering shrubs.

Create an autumn-themed display by repurposing a little red wagon, old wheelbarrow, or vintage wash tub.

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.

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.

Summer Roof Tips

Out-of-sight-out-of-mind is a dangerous game to play with your roof. Exposed to the elements 24/7 year-round, it can take a beating. Summer is an ideal time to get your roof in shape.

Cleaning Off the Roof

Keep the roof free of debris. Just like the gutters, a roof can be a great collector of leaves, pine needles, twigs, balls and other miscellaneous unexpected items. When using a broom or a rake, don’t press down.

Helpful hint: Don’t use a pressure washer – it can dislodge the granules from roofing tiles, force water in behind fascia boards and soffit panels, and do further damage to worn shingles.

Inspecting the Roof

Since a roof’s temperature is often higher than ground and air temperatures, this can make an asphalt roof more susceptible to damage when walked upon. Plan to conduct your roof inspection early in the morning or use binoculars first.

Look for:

  • debris build-up in valleys and around flashings
  • loose roofing shingles
  • loose flashings
  • damaged shingles
  • damaged shingles around roof protrusions such as dormer windows, skylights, etc.
  • stained shingles, soft spots, and wet patches that don’t dry up 36 hours after a rainfall
  • worn, damaged and/or water stained soffit and fascia

Helpful hint: After inspecting the roof, if you do need to make any repairs, plan on getting them done while the weather is still cooperating. Roofers and gutter contractors tend to be less busy during the summer months.

What are the Gutters Up To?

Inspect the gutters for any damage like dents, worn hardware, or leaking seams. Also look for leftover nests, evidence of insect infestation, and other signs of life (plant or animal) in the gutter system, including the downspouts. If you discover any residue, dead blossoms, and twig bits in the gutter channels, rinse out gently with a garden hose.

Helpful hint: Trim back any trees growing close to the house. This will help reduce the amount of debris deposited into the gutters or onto the roof.

Adding New Elements

Hire a contractor if you are thinking about adding a skylight, some dormer windows or decorative-detailed fascia. Depending on the project, cutting into the layers of a roof or piercing its surface with nails can prove challenging to even an experienced do-it-yourselfer.

Helpful hint: Get three estimates from roofing contractors – it will help you decide on who will be the best fit for your project.

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.

Faux Copper Gutters

Copper gutters have a distinctive curb appeal that puts them in a category all their own. If you’ve always admired the appearance of a copper gutter system, but it’s just not in your budget, here are some alternatives to achieving the look you want at half the cost.

Spray Paint

Using spray paint to create faux copper gutters is one way to get a real copper look. When choosing a type of spray paint, consider the end result. A copper metallic spray paint contains metal pigments that will oxidize (the colour becomes darker over time). There are non-metallic copper spray paint colours available. While they mimic the different shades of copper’s patina aging process, they stay the same colour as when first applied.

Before applying spray paint to aluminum gutters, consider the following:

  • As with any painting project, you’ll need the appropriate primer.
  • Results can be inconsistent due to how long the nozzle is depressed, variations in thickness, the slightest movement of air when applying the paint, etc.
  • There will be overspray (no matter how well you tape off the area).
  • Depending on where you live, it could flake off sooner than later.

Liquid Paint

Another paint option is a can of liquid paint. It goes on truer to colour and any leftover paint can be used for touch ups. As with spray paint, liquid paint for copper-looking gutters is available with or without copper particles. Copper-containing paint will gradually turn into a blue-green patina. But you can speed up the process by applying a patina medium or aging solution.

It’s Already Painted

Some manufacturers of sectional steel and aluminum gutters offer products designed to imitate copper gutters. The gutter colour is typically baked on during the manufacturing process. Faux copper gutter finishes range from new copper (very shiny) to darkening copper (shades of brown) to patinated copper (blue-green or green-blue).

Should You DIY Soffit or Fascia Repairs?

If the soffit and fascia of your home are made of wood, chances are that sooner or later you will have to repair or replace them. Repairing soffit panels or fascia boards that are rotting, splitting or displaying other signs of water damage might seem relatively straightforward, especially if you like to DIY. But as with any home maintenance project, it can quickly become more involved than you expected. Here are some things to consider when deciding to DIY soffit or fascia repairs.

Proper Tools and Equipment

Expect to use or rent scaffolding; a ladder won’t give you the freedom of movement needed to get the job done. Since you will most likely be replacing old wood with new aluminum panels, tools needed for standard soffit and fascia repairs include a circular saw, jigsaw, framing square, combination square, tin snips, saw horses and protective eyewear.

Damage Assessment

Determine the extent of the damage to the soffit and/or fascia. The more extensive, the longer the project is going to take. When damaged sections exceed 10 or more affected areas, consider hiring a gutter contractor.

The Gutters

When replacing fascia boards, and in some cases soffit panels, the gutter sections will have to be removed first. Once repairs to the soffit and fascia have been made, the gutters have to be correctly reattached to ensure the proper slope for drainage.

Fascia Board

Depending on the extent of the damage, all or part of the fascia boards will have to be removed. Examine the rafters for soft spots or rotted areas. If damage to the fascia has occurred over a long period of time, rafters, the attic and roofing tiles could also be affected. Replacement fascia should be measured and cut to the correct size, then installed using the right size and type of nail and/or screw. If replacement material doesn’t match, you might have to paint or stain the new fascia boards.

Soffit Panels

You will have to cut out the bad soffit or remove the damaged soffit panels. Install replacement sections according to manufacturer instructions. Some types of vented and unvented soffits might require an application of sealant. To blend in, color-match replacement soffit sheets by painting or staining them.