Getting The Perfect Outdoor Kitchen

Nothing says outdoors like BBQ. Some people will simply pull out the BBQ grill and set up a picnic table for their guests. However, there are a lot of people that will go the extra mile and have their own kitchen setup outside. If you are not exactly sure what you need or how you want it to look, you can always browse around for the best outdoor kitchen design that you like the most. There are endless possibilities when it comes to a design; you simply want to pick one that will suit you and your needs the best.

Get Your Design On

When you are thinking about what design you want to have, you need to think about questions like how it will perform as well as how it will look. No matter what style you are looking for you are sure to find the perfect design to fit your needs. One of the first things you need to think about is the items that you want to have. You should make a list of things such as:

  • Grill – What type of grill you want such as gas or charcoal and wood?
  • A Sink – Do you want to have a place that you can wash dishes and fruits and vegetables as needed?
  • Island – Do you want an island with enough space to do your prep work on?
  • Pizza oven – Do you want to be able to bake a great pizza while spending time outside?
  • Dining space and Bar – Will you want to set up a small bar for drinks as well as having a space that you and your family or friends can gather to eat together

These are all things that you will need to think of when keeping your design in mind, but you will also want to be thinking about your budget and just how much you have to spend while doing this. The next step will be implementing your design and setting everything up. Will you spend some of the budget on hiring a contractor to do all of the work, or will you buy prefab kits that allow you to easily do the work yourself?

If you are going to have walls or ceilings around the outdoor kitchen, you want to be sure that you leave enough space for ventilation as there is bound to be smoke from the grill. Electric work is something else that you will need to keep in mind when it comes to placement of certain items. You want to be sure that you are able to reach any outlets in your outdoor kitchen without having to run extra cords.

What Furniture to Use

Now that you have the cooking stations set up, you want to start thinking about the type of furniture that you want to have in your dining area. If you went through the trouble of setting up an amazing outdoor kitchen the chances are that you are not going to want to simply set up picnic tables.

When it comes to picking furniture, one of the best types would be Rattan garden furniture. You can easily find furniture in a wide range of styles that will easily fit with whatever style you are looking for in your outdoor kitchen area.

Avoiding the Kitchen of Your Nightmares

Human beings are fallible – that is just a fact of life. There are two things we can do to minimize mistakes. First, plan ahead and think things through. Second, learn from the mistakes others have made. Someone, somewhere has already made whatever mistake that might lie in your future, why repeat unnecessary pain? While that is a great overall life lesson, here let’s apply that to renovating or updating a house and learn what not to do.

Out of the Gate

When tackling a home repair or remodel job, it’s important to sit back before doing anything and count the cost. Not just the dollars and cents, but the time, the effort, the disruption to your life and the aggravation factor. Don’t just shrug off that last bit. Large project or small, something will go wrong. Not might, but will.

Next, get some professional help. No, not that kind of professional help. Although at some point you might feel the need for that kind of professional help (reference “aggravation factor”). Places like Lowe’s or Home Depot have lots of people on hand to help point you in the right direction for what materials you might need or even helping you with a color palette for your final decorating.

While a do-it-yourselfer can use those sources to find out how to install a water faucet or how to correctly hang wallpaper for bigger jobs, I strongly urge you to consult with a certified contractor before moving forward. In fact, I suggest hiring the contractor and let them handle the big stuff.

Nobody knows the Troubles I’ve Seen

As a licensed real estate agent and appraiser, I have had the opportunity to view literally thousands of properties. I have seen the very highest quality results of home improvement and remodeling projects and I’ve seen some jobs that remind me that some people have no business using a hammer and saw.

Since the areas that provide the best return on home remodeling investment are the kitchen and bathrooms, let’s look at kitchen remodeling mistakes to avoid.

Don’t Overdo It

Sometimes after watching one of the home makeover shows on TV, a person can get delusions of grandeur about what to do with their pink tiled and chrome accented kitchen which last saw a renovation in about 1957. The can envision their new kitchens with solid maple cabinets, granite or even quartz counters, solid brass fixtures and a cooking area that would make Gordon Ramsey or Bobby Flay jealous. That could be considered an over-improvement in appraiser-speak. In short, it’s going to cost more to do than you can ever recoup if the house is sold (perhaps significantly so). If you understand that and want to build it solely for your personal enjoyment, I say build away!

Don’t Under Budget

After making the decisions on what materials you want to use in your kitchen, i.e. wood vs. stone flooring, oak vs. maple cabinets and so forth, you need to consider labor costs, permits, etc. I can’t stress enough the number of projects I’ve seen unfinished because people have tried to make estimating costs into an exact science. When trying to force the estimate to meet the exact budget is when problems rear their ugly heads. Some examples of what can happen:

~  Out of stock…a work stoppage along the production route or a major natural disaster wreaking havoc along the supply chain. Either way, the cabinets you wanted aren’t going to make it. So, in order to get something comparable, the price goes up.

~  Unforeseen problems…while pulling up the current floor coverings the worker finds that the subfloor or floor joists are damaged in some way. Now you have a problem that must be fixed. At additional costs.

~  Rising raw material costs…for whatever reason, sometimes a rapid rise in the cost of the wood for the cabinets or the granite for the counters can happen. Now, the choice must be made to either lower the quality of the materials used or pay the higher cost.

~  Design changes…now that the cabinets and floor in that “perfect” lighting scheme don’t seem quite so perfect. Now instead of recessed lighting, you realize you want something visible throughout the room.

The Final Product

Odds are, if you plan ahead, get professional insight and allow for the unexpected, you will be thrilled with the outcome. Whatever that may end up being.

Protecting Your Backat Home

Do you suffer from back pain and discomfort from time to time? Have you ever considered that it could be directly related to some of the furniture at your home?

Are you a “weekend warrior”? Taking the time and effort to protect your back while playing a round of golf or tackling the honey do list?

Your home is a hotbed of activity that can lead to back problems. From the desk you sit at to the bed you sleep in, if not addressed properly these can lead to a bevy of pain and discomfort.

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Let’s start with your desk at the house. Many of us spend a lot of time browsing the web, organizing bills, and helping our kids with their homework at a desk.

According to NASA, standing periodically throughout the day is healthier than walking or daily exercise, so the benefits that come with an adjustable height desk typically exceed expectations of the consumer.

Those benefits include reduced back pain and discomfort, an increase in overall happiness, and improved efficiency and effectiveness.

When we lay down in our beds at night we automatically assume that we are due a good night’s rest. Rarely do we consider how our bed may relate to our overall health, including any back pain and discomfort.

If you find yourself waking up feeling worse than you did when you laid down, it is time to make some changes. Perhaps your mattress is not suited properly for your body, and there are some simple steps that can be taken to find out if this is the case.

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If you suspect your mattress is too hard or soft, simple suggestions are available to determine this before you begin to shop for a new mattress.

If you suspect that the mattress is too firm, place a foam sheet approximately 5cm thick on top of it. Sleep on this for a week and see what the results dictate.

If the mattress appears to be too soft, try placing it directly on the floor and sleeping on it for a week. Again, the results should be self-evident.

If you are not able to purchase a new mattress once you determine that this may be the cause of your discomfort, you might try to support your lower back in various ways.

Now that we have covered two essential areas of the home that can cause your back to have a bad day, let’s tackle the more obvious, for our “weekend warriors”.

Weekend softball leagues and those rounds of golf can lead to a wide array of back trouble. Typically, us “weekend warriors” let our ego take over and we think we are pro athletes when we are far from it.

That is where the trouble lies, thinking we can do what our bodies are not trained to accomplish. Keep this in mind as you take to the field or the course.

Lifting is another key area to protecting our backs. Bending at your knees, keeping your back straight, and keeping the item close to your body is a good beginning to protecting your back.

Many other helpful suggestions are available, as anyone who has twisted the wrong way or lifted an object improperly can attest, the pain and discomfort that follows is unforgettable.

Your home should not be a place that causes any undue stress on your body. Take the time now to look at these key areas to ensure your back stays in top shape for decades to come.

 

 

Reduce your Power Bill with These Energy Saving Tips

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The power bill is one of the major expenditures in most homes. How much are you spending monthly on your power? Are you getting good value for money? There’s no need to pay more than you have to. You can pay much less for your power and still have it serve you effectively.

Saving energy is not all about your expenditure. There is also the bigger picture; our collective role in conserving energy and reducing pollution in an effort to make the planet a greener place to live. You do not necessarily have to make drastic changes to reduce your power bill.

There are some simple measures you can take and make considerable savings. Here are some of them:

  1. Regulate your Air Conditioning

It is estimated that heating and cooling accounts for up to 40% of the power bill. Do you need to heat or cool the entire house at any given time? Absolutely not. Let the air conditioning run only in those rooms that are occupied. Close the doors and windows to reduce external influence.

Shut the curtains and blinds as well, and place a barrier on the space under the door. Set a thermostat so that the house does not heat or cool more than necessary. Finally, turn off the AC when you leave the room.

  1. Energy Saver Bulbs

Fluorescent bulbs save up to 75% energy in comparison to the normal bulbs. How many bulbs do you have in your entire home? They could be up to 20. Now imagine cutting the consumption of each one to 25%.

You’re bound to make a significant difference on your power bill. LED light fixtures would be a great option.

Making a switch to energy saving fixtures is pretty simple. In most cases you can change them yourself. You can consult an LED light fixtures manufacturer if you need some custom made for your home. These bulbs also last much longer saving you the cost of renewing them.

  1. Utilize your Fridge and Freezer Efficiently

These two consume a significant chunk of energy since they’re always on. Ensure that you pick those models with a thermostat so they do not cool more that they have to. The fridge operates optimally at 4-5 degrees Celsius while the freezer should be set at around -16 degrees Celsius.

Avoid opening the fridge/freezer too often, and when you do make it for the shortest time possible. Those seconds that it stays open allows loss of significant energy and raises the temperature, requiring it to cool to the required level all over again.

  1. Save stand-by Power

Appliances and gadgets on standby continue to consume power. For instance, your phone charger utilizes power even when your phone is not fixed; provided it’s plugged in. It may be a small amount, but once left there all day/night, the cumulative effect is significant.

Make a habit of unplugging from the socket when the appliance is not in use.

  1. Use Energy Saving Appliances

Manufacturers are increasingly becoming aware of the need to conserve energy, and are designing electronics aimed at just that. You can find energy effective fridges, freezers, microwaves, blenders, heaters, computers, printers, TVs, sound systems, LED light fixtures and so on.

If you’re still using the old models, you have a reason to invest in the newer ones which will give you good value for money in the long run.

Saving energy is not only good for your pocket, it also makes our environment more eco-friendly. By following the tips provided; you also get to do your part in keeping global warming at bay.

 

Smart Tips for First-Time Condo Buyers

Are you thinking of buying a property in Toronto? This doesn’t come as a surprise, as there are many beautiful high rise developments in the city, such as those developed by Louie Santaguida of Stanton Renaissance. If you have already decided that you want to live in a condo and are now ready to purchase your first home, you need to prepare accordingly. Here are some of the most important things you need to do as you enter the real estate market:

  1. Secure Your Financials

Clean up your credit and save as much money as you can so you can give a bigger down-payment. The bigger your down payment, the better your mortgage rate will be.

Get a copy of your credit report, check it for errors and then take a look at your credit score. You need to get a score of at least 740 and bring down the balance of your credit card to around 30% of its limit.

  1. Check Other Mortgage Options

If you have a low credit score, you may want to consider approaching other institutions that are willing to give you a loan with a competitive interest rate. Just make sure you understand the trade-offs of going to alternative mortgage options.

  1. Get a Pre-Approval

Before you start looking for a new condo, it may be useful to have your credit checked by your lender. Have your income and assets verified so you’ll know how much you can afford to pay. Getting a pre-approval also gives you an edge and may be able to help you get a better deal with sellers who are in a hurry to sell their properties.

  1. Make Offers for Properties That are Not Yet on the Market

It may seem counter-productive but you can actually snap up a great deal by making unsolicited offers. You can browse through rental ads and send your offers to buy the properties listed there. You can also check old listings, especially those that are overpriced and are unlikely to be sold, and then give them an offer. Homes that remain on the market for more than 6 weeks usually drop in price and the sellers are likely to take lower offers.

  1. Use Your Flexibility to Your Advantage

If you don’t really have an urgent need to buy a property right now, then play up your flexibility to give you an edge over other buyers. You can have your agent talk to the seller’s agent to determine what they want and then check if you would be amendable to their conditions. Chances are, they would be willing to accept your offer if their conditions are met. If you don’t find a middle ground, then you have time on your hands to check other options.

Follow these tips when buying a condo to help you save money and ensure you get the best price for the property as well as a competitive mortgage rate.

 

  8 Things About Extermination You Should Know

For a lot of people, the sight of a rodent in their homes is a very frightening experience. No one wants to have pests in their home, right? But before you call an extermination service, there are a few things you should know so you can prevent a pest infestation in the future.

  1. Having a clean kitchen is not enough to safeguard your home from insects and rodents. Moisture also plays a big role in the attraction of pests and if you leave moisture sources in and around your home, it will continue to attract unwanted critters in your property.
  1. Pest control companies will make every effort to completely eliminate your pest problem but without cooperation from the homeowner, the outcome won’t be as successful. So if you’re instructed to keep your garage doors closed all the time, then do it. If you’re advised to fix your window screens, then have it fixed right away.
  1. It’s not a good idea to try and resolve the problem on your own. Sure there are plenty of bug and rodent treatments available but not having the experience and knowledge on how to use them can leave a lot of room for mistakes. You may end up putting chemicals in the wrong places, rendering the products ineffective. Or you might pick a product that does not pass safety guidelines, which could put you and your loved ones at risk.
  1. Just because you don’t see critters in your home, it doesn’t mean they’re not there. Place tight-fitting weatherstrips on your doors, place hardware cloths on foundation vents, and install window screens to keep pests from entering. Large openings should also be stuffed with steel wool before you seal them with caulk.

  1. It’s important to hire an exterminator who knows exactly what they’re doing. Avoid dealing with an inexperienced exterminator otherwise you risk having to deal with a botched job. Do your research before you choose a pest control company and check if they have the necessary qualifications and training to be able to handle the job effectively.

  1. The treatments they use are safe for human exposure. Reputable pest control services use treatments that do not pose any negative impact on people’s health or the environment. Many of these companies follow the Integrated Pest Management process, which is committed to using the safest products in the least possible amount.
  1. Some pests aren’t so bad.

Termites have been known to cause $5B worth of damages to homes every year. Cockroaches can trigger asthma. Rats and mice may carry deadly diseases. But not everything that crawls is bad. There are insects like lady beetles which can safeguard the plants in your garden.

  1. It’s a good idea to inform your neighbors if you have a rodent or pest problem. This is especially true if you live in an apartment or condo. The units adjacent to yours, as well as the floors below and above yours, should also be checked to see if they have a pest problem as well.

Practical Tips for Picking the Right Condo in Montreal

Now’s a good time to buy a condominium in Montreal. It’s a buyer’s market, and there are plenty of Montreal condos for sale to choose from. But for some people, the great number of choices can be confusing.

Of course, you have to take your budget and the location into account. And personal preferences matter too. Still, you can make it easier for yourself if you heed the following tips:

  1. Always try to get a realtor. This should not be an issue since their fees are paid by the seller.
  2. Determine how much you can afford. See how much mortgage you can get and take time to consult with your accountant so you can get a clearer picture of your finances and budget. Remember, you’ll also have to pay for the lawyer’s fees, the closing costs, the land transfer tax, and moving expenses.
  3. If possible, try to get as big a unit as you can afford. It’ll help you feel more comfortable to come and stay at home. Also, when it’s time to resell, the bigger units are usually easier to sell.
  4. Check developments that have features you like such as a spa, gym, and doormen. On the other hand, you may not want a condo unit that requires you to pay for a gym if you’re not going to use it anyway.
  5. Pick one with a great view. Again, this helps you to enjoy staying at home more often. And a great view can help sell your condo unit faster, when it’s time for you to move again.
  6. Be aware where the sun shines throughout the day. Moreover, be mindful of the season. A southern exposure may be warm and sunny, but they may not be all that nice during the summer.
  7. Visit the condo at different times of the day. That way you can envision more clearly what it’ll be like to live there.
  8. Make sure to really look over the location, neighborhood and the design and facilities of the condo. Avoid a layout that looks over a garbage pickup area. Don’t buy a unit that overlooks the garage entrance and the constant flow of traffic. Pick a unit that isn’t near or across the elevator, as you would then have strangers constantly congregating right by your door.
  9. Always choose a unit with a parking space. It doesn’t matter if you don’t have a car. At least when you buy one, you already have a parking space for it. You can also rent out the space and make money from it every month.
  10. Check the visitor’s parking guidelines. This is important so you’ll know what to do if you have friends and family coming over.

These are just a few tips to start with and help you limit your options to a more manageable level.

Safety During Pregnancy: Guidelines for a Worry-Free Pregnancy

There are few things in life as exciting and life altering as finding out you or your partner is pregnant. With pregnancy comes a lot of questions. You’ll have questions about the changes that are happening to your body, questions about your baby’s health as he grows during those first weeks, questions about what to eat during your pregnancy, and also questions about what is and isn’t safe for your baby when you’re pregnant. Here is a list of things to keep in mind when you’re pregnant. If you have any questions about this list or about anything else related to your pregnancy, don’t hesitate to call your doctor and ask.

Questions Frequently Asked During Pregnancy

  • What medications can I take during my pregnancy? It is highly recommended to check with your doctor before taking any medications during pregnancy. Also, prenatal vitamins are generally recommended and are available without a prescription.
  • Is it okay to have a glass of wine while pregnant? Alcohol in any form is not safe during pregnancy. Save that bottle of wine for celebrating after your baby is born. Don’t risk the birth defects that could occur with alcohol usage during pregnancy.
  • Do I need to quit smoking? Not only should you quit smoking during your pregnancy, you should also avoid secondhand cigarette smoke, as that can be dangerous for your baby’s health as well. Ask that friends and family avoid smoking around you or that they step outside for a moment when they need a smoke break.
  • Is it okay to paint a room in my house while pregnant? It’s understandable that you would want your home to look lovely in time for the birth of your baby, but there’s no need for you to be the one doing the painting. Be on the safe side and leave your home while it’s being painted. Go out with a friend or get in a gentle walk. Only go back into your home once the fumes have cleared.
  • Is commercial bug spray safe during pregnancy? When you have a pest problem, you need to get it cleared up, even if you are pregnant. Call Burnaby Pest Control and talk with a professional today. As long as you leave your home while it’s being sprayed and wait the recommended amount of hours before going back in, commercial bug spray should be safe for both you and your baby.
  • Is it safe to wear a seat belt during pregnancy? Not only is it safe to wear a seat belt during pregnancy, it’s recommended. For your comfort, place the bottom part of the strap across your lap and under your belly. The top part should go along the side of your belly and then diagonally across the center of your chest. Be certain that it is snug, but not tight. You shouldn’t feel uncomfortable.

This list is just a sampling of questions you may have about safety during your pregnancy. For more information, check with your doctor, flip through a pregnancy magazine or browse a parenting site online. As always, try not to get overwhelmed by the amount of information available. Read and learn at your own pace. Take your pregnancy one day at a time, and remember to take joy in the little things.