Paint — published on September 4, 2009

Painting for Curb Appeal

Trump architectural challenges and give your facade dimension with color

Curb appeal is not just about turrets or colonnades adorning your home’s exterior; it’s about flaunting what you’ve got. For those of us who didn’t inherit a Frank Lloyd Wright, we have the tips and tricks to give your facade architectural dimension without the architect. Our trick? The powers of paint. Here are suggestions about how to fix up a facade of your home with a fresh coat of paint. Whether you have a bland box structure or intricate detail that deserves attention, this information will help make your home the gem on the block.

How Can I…

Make my house facade more interesting?

If you want to make your home look more visually stimulating, start with painting shutters, doors, flower boxes and porch furniture. When choosing your accent color, make sure to pick one with a mixed hue, like a navy or green with black overtones—the color will change throughout the day, and add a sense of mystery and intrigue. You can make the house really reflect your personality by using colors that change from whimsical to sophisticated all in the span of 24 hours.

Downplay my front-facing garage?

Shift the visual focus. Direct the eye away from dominating garages by painting doors and exterior accents on the opposite side of the house with strong colors. If you have very large garage doors, consider painting them a lighter or darker variant of the main color of your house. This will make the doors look interesting but keep them from dominating the front façade. Remember when confronting this problem, that you ultimately want a house that says, “An interesting person lives here”—not one that says, “Three cars live here.”

Make small windows appear larger?

Make small windows appear larger by painting the window trim a light color to increase the feeling of light. Opt for a color that will contrast from the main body color of your house. Essentially, windows are “the sparkle in the eyes” of every home. People really relate to windows, so it is important to maximize their appearance.

Stand out behind the growth of our landscaping?

To overpower your fauna—instead of letting it overpower you—look for colors that will pop against the natural landscaping (i.e. no shades of green). Gratefully, most colors will complement most landscaping. As a side note, landscaping can be a great way to balance the front of the home or even cover up clumsy architecture.

Manipulate the size?

When painting your home, take into consideration that lighter hues will make a home feel larger, while darker hues downplay a home’s dimensions. For example, is your home too tall? If so, pick a body color in two different shades—the darker for the bottom, and the lighter for the upper level. The darker color will ground the home, giving your home a sense of solidity. The lighter color will pick up where the dark one left off, adding a lightness to the overall look and feel.

Bring it all together?

The last thing you want is a home that has colors that are all over the place. To bring everything together, start with the elements you know you won’t be changing (your roofing, brick, stonework, awnings, and landscaping). Then tackle the issue of selecting the color you will be using the most of (usually, this would be the body color, but on a brick home, it would be the trim). Next, based on intuition and your previously considered criteria, choose your accent colors. Following a distinct process like this will keep you from choosing unharmonious paints.

Written by James Martin

Fencing — published on March 19, 2009

Fencing for adding curb appeal

A fence around the outside of your home can act as a barrier for pets, but it can also dramatically increase the value of your home. There are many new options for fencing that are currently available and you might be surprised to find out just how economical they are. Let’s take a look at the different kinds of fencing you can get, and learn how to pick the one that is right for you. Please keep in mind that you may need to get permission from neighbours or your city’s zoning commission before you get started.

Living Fence

This is a great option that works well on small lots or large lots. A row of shrubs or bushes can serve as a great privacy divider, and this type of fence works well if you don’t want to have any maintenance beyond occasional pruning. While this fence does not work for pets, it does look nice and will help ramp up your curb appeal quite a lot. Look for colorful bushes, or if you want a year round fence, evergreen shrubs are a great solution.

PVC Fencing

This is quickly becoming a favorite alternative among many homeowners. PVC fencing can range in price, but it is generally cheaper than other materials. The maintenance level for this type of fencing is very low, and you won’t ever have to worry about painting it. Keep in mind however, that in extreme cold, PVC may crack on impact.

Wrought Iron Fence

If you’ve got a lot of money to spend and you’re looking for a great vintage feel to the outside of your home, a wrought iron fence is the perfect solution. These now come in many styles and colors and they are very easy to install. However, they may rust or corrode, depending on how well you take care of them.

Wooden Fence

A wooden fence is a cheap alternative, at least at first, but beware, there is a lot of maintenance involved with them. You’ll need to either paint or stain the boards right at first, and then redo it every few years. If you live in a particularly windy area or where inclement weather is common, you may even need to fix the fence every year.

Brick Fence

This is probably the most expensive fence you can get, but on the plus side, it will last for many years, if not decades. This is a great fence if you need a lot of privacy, but it will be labor intensive to install if you decide to do it on your own. Bricks can crumble, but generally, brick fences are durable, long lasting and guaranteed to look nice for a long time.

These are just a few of the options that are currently available for fencing. If you’re unsure of which material is right for you, let your budget and the amount of work you want to do on the fence be your guide.

Entryway — published on October 23, 2008

Making an Entrance


The integration of these three key concepts can ‘make or break’ the way that a home is perceived by visitors, upon entering from the outdoors to inside the home. Whether preparing an existing home for sale or anticipating the purchase of a home in the near future, explore the advantages that thoughtfully considered paint applications can provide with regard to re-energizing a home’s entrance.

With today’s emphasis on everything ‘natural’, shrubs, foliage and flowers assist with the creation of harmonious transitioning from the outdoors to inside of the home. Colorfully painted hanging flower baskets sharing an identical color scheme can be fashioned to stylishly mimic or contrast with the home’s exterior paint color. Generously mass the hanging baskets around the entire perimeter of a covered porch in order to lend fresh fragrance, an abundance of color and interesting texture beginning with the outdoor area and continuing onward to the entrance of the home’s interior. The same concept may easily be applied to a deck that wraps around the home. Simply substitute hanging flower baskets for window boxes that attach to the perimeter of the deck. Carry the natural theme inside the front entrance by greeting visitors with festively painted planters. (Dried or silk flowers and plants offer a practical alternative for homeowners lacking the time or inclination to maintain living flowers and plants.) Consider painting the planters using a color palette that reflects the wall covering colors that permeate the front entrance.

Nature’s colors can also reflect strong hues. If your home lacks an abundance of natural light, why not take advantage of one of today’s popular bold hues, creating a dramatic front entrance focal point that guests will not soon forget. Rich forest green, bronze gold and deep marine blue are a few of today’s hottest bold, earthy choices. Two oversized, painted planters that sport generously overflowing greenery can be placed symmetrically on either side of an entrance door, representing a harmonious natural focal point that graciously transitions the outdoors to indoors for family and guests entering the home.

Once inside the home, there is a multitude of ways that nature can display its presence, illuminating our natural environment as we enter and leave our home. Instead of overlooking the garage area, why not spotlight the space? Painting interior walls, ceiling and even floors in any of today’s contemporary neutral shades adds fresh, modern appeal to the space that is no longer used simply to park our cars! The door that leads from the garage into the home can be painted using a flattering tone reflecting two or three shades deeper than the adjacent walls to further demonstrate stylish use of color. Applying a decorative trim around the door, and painting the trim in a contrasting color draws viewer attention to the desired color palette and further personalizes the garage space. A palette of relaxing natural hues, such as muted moss green, subtle sandy brown, pale wheat or weathered gray provides a soothing escape upon entrance into the home, further accentuating the desired theme.

Providing a practical place to drop ‘things’ once inside the home, need not sacrifice style! Any entrance to the home can benefit from the addition of a compact table or shelf to place house keys, mail and other small daily necessities. When highlighted in an underutilized location that offers maximum impact, these decorative accessories offer an attractive point of interest (particularly when painted using a color palette that echoes the wall coverings, ceiling and floor covering belonging to the entranceway and surrounding area). Consider repeating a stenciled motif that has been used to frame the doorway on the face of the table or shelf for a truly custom appearance. Meandering vines and leaves represent fresh botanical stencil pattern options that harmoniously integrate the exterior facade with the home interior.

The visual perception of the natural world offers a serene environment that any homeowner would welcome at the end of a hectic day. Consider the many ways that nature’s beauty can be incorporated within the framework of your existing home, to seamlessly assimilate the exterior with the interior. Painted applications manipulate the use of color and materials, lending significance to the natural theme and uniquely personalizing any entrance to the home.

Driveway — published on October 17, 2008

Roadside Attraction

When people approach your house, your driveway is one of the first things they see. Here in Canada, where winters are severe, asphalt driveways tend to be popular because of the ease of snow removal and flexibility of the material when experiencing cracks from frost heaves. If you have an asphalt driveway that needs repairing and refreshing from time to time, follow the steps below to bring your driveway back to its original, smooth, black condition. 

Before you begin, check the weather forecast; you’ll need a few warm, dry days to complete the project. 

Sweep, power-wash or shop-vacuum to clean the driveway of debris. Check for oil stains, and clean them up using a specially formulated asphalt-cleaning solution — household detergent might even do the trick for smaller spots. 

Next, address holes. Dig out the bad asphalt, leaving a hole with fi rm edges, and remove the debris. Use a trowel to apply cold-patch, a compound available at most homeimprovement retailers. 

Apply the cold-patch in successive layers, compacting (“tamping”) each layer and letting it dry before adding the next, until the hole is filled. Once the hole is filled, you can compress the area by driving over it after covering it with a piece of plywood. 

Likewise, clean any cracks to make sure they’re free of debris. It’s a good idea to try to widen the base of cracks, a process known as undercutting — this way, the filler will be well anchored at the bottom and thus stronger at the top. Apply driveway crack filler, overfilling the crack and then smoothing over the surface with your trowel. 

Finally, seal your driveway’s surface, following the sealant manufacturer’s instructions carefully. Then step back to admire your “brand new” driveway! 

Planters — published on May 7, 2008

Growing Plants in Containers

Tiny yard, or no yard at all? No problem. Try these techniques to add a little greenery to your outdoor space.

Even if you have some yard space, you might not have enough for a garden. Growing plants in containers might be a solution.

Give Your Plants Their Space

Use big enough containers that your plants will have plenty of room to grow. Ask your local nursery how much soil each plant will need. Although scientists have developed vegetables that don’t require as much growing space, some still need a lot of soil. For example, you would need at least a 19-liter container for a single tomato plant.

Stick to Potting Soil

Use potting soil in your containers rather than soil from the ground. Potting soil is lighter, drains better, and is sterilized to kill weed seeds and diseases that could hurt your plants.

Find the Right Fertilizer

Use a slow-release fertilizer in pellet form. Since you need to water container plants frequently, a regular fertilizer would tend to wash right out of the soil. But in pellet form, one application will release the plant food slowly and last for several months.

Don’t Drown Your Plants

Don’t over-water your plants. Make sure that you thoroughly soak the entire container each time you water, but pour away any extra water that fills the saucer underneath the container. Making the plant sit in water encourages root rot. Since the signs of rot include wilting, many people think that the plant needs more water, which does even more damage. If you’re not sure whether the wilting is from too much or too little water, gently pull the plant up out of the container. If the roots are brown and slimy, it’s root rot. Water it less.

Use Baskets and Plastic Pots

Even if you’re in a high-rise apartment and live far above the nearest soil, let alone gardening space, you can still grow plants in containers and hanging baskets.

Keep Watering in Mind

In high-rise buildings, balconies can get extremely hot and dry from sunlight reflected off the building, so you may need to water your plants every day. Since you’ll probably be carrying water from your sink or tub faucet, keep this chore in mind when you’re planning how many plants to grow.

Pick Plastic Pots

Use plastic pots rather than clay pots. Plants in plastic dry out less quickly because the pots aren’t porous like clay ones. Put 5 centimeters of an organic mulch on top of the soil in the container to reduce water evaporation from the soil.

Hang Smart

When you’re planning for hanging baskets, consider how you’re going to water them. Can you safely stand on a step stool and water with a watering can? Will you get tired of taking the basket down to water it frequently?

Add Water Releasing Crystals

If you travel a lot, and are worried about your plants, a fast, affordable, and practical solution is to stock up on little crystals that soak up and then gradually release water. Specific brands include Water Crystals and WaterSmart Crystals, which are sold by garden centers. When you add water to these polymer granules, they absorb many times their weight in water. By mixing them in with the soil in your plants’ containers and then watering, the crystals soak up and then slowly release the water to keep your plants watered while you’re gone.

Be sure to follow directions on the label, because putting more crystals in a container is not necessarily better. Since they expand when wet, too many crystals can swell up and damage your plant or push it out of the pot.


Decks — published on May 7, 2008

Long Life For Your Deck

Sweep for Long Life

Sweep your deck clean on a regular basis—weekly or more often if leaves, pine needles, or other debris tends to collect. It’s the simplest, most important thing you can do to prolong its life. Debris collects moisture, and moisture promotes rot and encourages termites. So pay particular attention to nooks and crannies where debris can collect, like the bottoms of posts. Get the broom bristles between the deck boards to remove debris that can collect on top of the joists below the decking.

Select the Right Cleaning Solution

Deck cleaners are designed to clean away grime and to remove loose wood fibers on the surface of the deck boards and railings. There are a variety of formulas to choose from at your home center or hardware store. Some cleaners contain only detergents; others may contain oxalic acid or bleach or a combination of these ingredients. Unless you have mildew, moss, or berry stains, you won’t need a cleaner that contains bleach (sodium hypochlorite). Avoid the bleach if you can; heavy concentrations of it can damage the wood. Read the labels and choose a cleaner that best suits the discoloration or staining problems on your deck.

Your Deck: To Finish Or Not To Finish?

You can be taken aback by the variety of deck-finishing products that you’ll find at the hardware store or home center. But just like the 30 varieties of yogurt you find in the supermarket diary case, there really aren’t many variations in suitable wood finishes. In fact, you really only have three choices:

One choice is to apply no finish. This is a perfectly valid choice if you live in a relatively dry climate and you don’t mind the deck turning gray.

The most popular finishes for decks are clear penetrating wood finishes, sometimes called sealers. These usually darken the wood’s natural color in a way most people find pleasing. Clear finishes contain a water repellent—usually paraffin wax, as well as a mildewcide and ultraviolet stabilizers to slow deterioration from the sun. Clear finishes need to be reapplied each year. It’s easy—just use a paint roller attached to a pole for the deck boards and a natural-bristle brush for the railings and anyplace else the roller can’t reach. Use a roller designed for textured paint finishes—it holds the most finish.

If you want to change the color of your deck, you can use a semitransparent stain. The major difference is that the pigment in the stain provides more protection from the sun than a clear finish can provide. You’ll need to recoat only about every two or three years. To apply, use the same technique as for a clear finish.

Don’t Paint Your Deck

Paint and solid-colored stain (essentially thinned paint) form a film on the surface of wood rather than a penetrating layer. This is fine for vertical surfaces like the side of your house, and it provides the most protection from the sun. It’s also okay to use these finishes to add some color to the railings of your deck. But they are not a great idea for deck boards. Foot traffic wears away paint and solid-colored stain, and these finishes become unattractive in a hurry. Water eventually finds its way under the finish, causing it to crack and peel. Worse, the trapped moisture promotes rot. There are paints, usually labeled “porch paints,” that are designed to stand up to foot traffic, but these should be used only on surfaces that will be protected by a roof.

Vent Your Deck

Water dripping from the roof can cause deck boards to rot with surprising speed. The best solution is a gutter to carry the water away. But if that is not possible, consider installing a grill vent along the drip line to let the water drip through.

Keep It Tight

When your deck was built, the wood probably wasn’t completely dry—especially if pressure-treated wood was used. As the wood does dry over several years, connections that have been bolted together (beams or joists to posts) or nailed (deck boards to joists) can become loose. Besides being disconcerting, a deck that wobbles and creaks can cause parts to break eventually. Plus, loose connections collect debris that stays wet and causes rot. If you have this problem, get underneath the deck and tighten every nut and bolt you see. Tighten nails with a couple of hammer whacks, using a nail set to avoid denting visible areas of deck boards and railings.

Flip Deck Boards

Deck boards getting worn, weathered, and splintery? Just take them up, flip them over, and reinstall. You might still have to replace a few, but it’s a cheap way to double the life of most of them.


Rocks — published on April 9, 2008

Landscaping with Rocks

Driving down a country lane our first glimpse of a stone wall along the edge of a field evokes the rustic the beauty of an era that has past into history. The thought of the toil it took to remove these plow breaking rocks from the field are not our first thought as we offer appreciation to the form and beauty that these stacked stone walls offer.

These stone walls, representive of the challenges of an earlier life, are now appreciated in a different sort of way.

You can say that rocks are an icon of order and timelessness. Something that serves as an anchor for anyone looking for an historical link.

So it’s only natural that a new rock would be invented. One so light weight and durable that it could become another common element in today’s landscape. All because an appreciation for this material and technology to make realistic copies.

A single large rock can make a very dramatic statement but also be rather costly. That is until artificial rocks came along.

Now these light weigh, pre-cast rocks are creating a niche of their own. Copied from real rocks they have the presence of real rocks without the cost. Often used to hid unsightly elements, they have gained popularity as a complimentary form for lawn and garden landscapes.

Professionals frequently use them as lightweight substitutes for the real thing when called on to hid an unsightly utility or provide landscape accent.

From Stonehenge to recent times, we’ve had an appreciation for the timeless qualities of rock. And in recent years we have taken to it with even greater enthusiasm.

If you’ve looked at new housing development you may have noticed this growing popularity of rock in outdoor décor, now a common natural element in residential landscaping and building. In some circles it has grown more popular than brick for home designs.

Skillful stone masons are finding plenty of work for other projects as well. Add that to the fact that many DIY are trying their hand at weekend projects only reinforces the notion that stone is a wonderful material for home and garden.

An ever growing selection of lawnscaping materials has added new possibilities to outdoor décor. With a greater variety of choices lawns are taking on a new look, one that carries with it beauty throughout the year and reduces the need for heavy maintenance and chemicals – pluses in an environmentally challenged world.

Larger houses on smaller lots also call for different thinking, complimentary soft forms like juniper, boxwood and viburnum group well with rocks and garden sculpture. If this is your situation, there are resources that can help you make the right choices for region and local conditions. Take the time to identify plants that will thrive in your area to ensure success.

Driveway — published on April 7, 2008

Driveway Entrance Appeal

While some homeowners still choose giant, wrought-iron gates and huge statues of lions to mark the entrance of their driveways, the secret to an aesthetically pleasing driveway is to create one that is open and inviting to your visitors. Attractive, yet durable, landscaping touches are key to creating the perfect driveway entrance for your home.

Step 1:

Decide whether you are going to use any type of wall or fencing when you landscape the entrance to your driveway. The use of “hardscape,” which involves any type of construction material, will dictate the “softscape” or the use of trees, shrubs and flowers. Your approach to landscaping will depend upon whether you want to create a grand, impressive driveway entrance or soften the walls and gates with the use of brightly colored plants.

Step 2:

Landscape your driveway entrance by drawing your visitors’ eyes toward a particular feature or object. For instance, if you plant flowers along the edges of the driveway, your visitors’ eyes will be drawn toward the house or the rest of the property. Just make sure that the ultimate focal point is aesthetically rewarding and not a beat-up old garage or storage shed.

Step 3:

Pick the right type of landscaping to enhance the lines of the driveway or the property. If your driveway is curved, for example, you may want to plant shrubs that enhance the shape and make it more noticeable. Then again, if your property is nothing but right angles and straight lines, you may want to vary the landscaping to break up the monotony.

Step 4:

Choose durable materials and plants when you landscape the entrance to your driveway. Think about the damage that may be caused over the long term due to cars parked along the street, road hazards and conditions, traffic and even vandalism. Avoid placing expensive hardscape and softscape in areas where it could be damaged or abused.

Step 5:

Pick hardscape and softscape that suits the style of your home and reflects your tastes, as well. For instance, rose bushes work very well with traditional forms of architecture, such as Tudor and Victorian homes, while a Japanese maple may be a stunning touch for a more modern-looking house. Remember that your driveway entrance is often the first impression you will make on visitors, so choose landscaping that says something about who you are.

The use of annual flowers and plants is an excellent idea when you landscape your driveway entrance. When you replant every spring, you won’t have to be concerned about damage caused by road salt and bad winter weather.

Entryway — published on April 6, 2008

Adding Curb Appeal

An entryway has the unique position of welcoming visitors to a home and setting the mood for the rest of the house. A front door design theme can be carried from the exterior to the interior and throughout the entire home. Since today’s door manufacturers offer an abundance of striking entry systems that are compatible with most budgets, it’s possible to create a million dollar look for almost any home.

By adding sidelights and transoms, you can can create an elegant entry system. Transoms are shaped windows, usually with decorative glass, above a door. Sidelights are windows, with decorative or clear glass, that frame a door. Included below are tips to create an impressive entry system to fit most budgets.

Even with a limited budget, homeowners can create an impressive entrance. Fiberglas, steel and composite doors are now crafted to emulate the look of wood, while offering energy-efficiency. Steel doors are extremely strong and cost-efficient; Fiberglas doors resist rusting, cracking and splitting; composite doors withstand all types of weather. These types of doors are low-maintenance and cost-effective.

With a more open budget, a homeowner can select from a wider range of entryway designs. Whether the home is stucco, brick or wood-sided, wood doors make a remarkable upgrade to the front of most houses. Wood doors are offered in a variety of species, including oak, fir and pine to fit the homeowner’s personal style.

An inviting entryway can be fashioned within any budget. By creating a unique doorway, a homeowner can change the look of the entire house and increase curb appeal with an inviting, new exterior.

Entryway — published on March 27, 2008

Entryway Curb Appeal

When it comes to creating curb appeal, your entryway plays a major role. Your entryway should be very attractive, neat and inviting to prospective home buyers. The appearance of your entryway can make or break your curb appeal. And that makes all the difference in the world when it comes to prospective home buyers.

The first step in creating an inviting entryway is the front door. Your front door says “Hello, come on in!” to potential buyers. To maximize curb appeal, paint your front door an imaginative color. This will just light up your entryway! You can choose something that matches or offsets your shutters. For example, if your house is white and your shutters are black, try a bright red front door! It’s cheery, and it will get your entryway noticed! Few colors attract the eye and stimulate the psyche more than red.

To bring a cohesive and charming look to your entryway, add accents that harmonize with the door. For example, if you have a red door, you can paint your mailbox red, too! Or maybe you prefer an eggplant door for your entryway to offset your beige vinyl siding; you can paint your house numbers eggplant, too.

You can also add other elements to your entryway to maximize visual appeal. For example, you can add a large terra cotta planter, and plant annuals in a color that harmonize with your door. Petunias work well in a sunny entryway, and impatiens do well in shade. And both varieties will provide color from spring through early fall. Be sure to choose bright, vivid colors that will draw potential homebuyers’ eyes to your entryway! You should note that pansies, although adorable, will wither by late spring in all but cool, northern climates.

Regardless of what color you choose for your entryway door, go for a storm door with the largest view area possible. A full-view storm door, one whose entire face is glass, can help make your entryway more inviting.

And when you’re creating curb appeal with your entryway, don’t forget that all the elements you use should complement one another. In other words, the style of the door knocker, mail box, lights and any flower planters you use should harmonize with each other. For example, if you live in a Cape Cod house in an historic neighborhood, an antique style mailbox that says “Post” coupled with a flower planter placed on an antique white cottage chair will lend charm.

Now here’s the final touch for your entryway to exude ultimate curb appeal: Add a decorative element, such as a wreath or a flag. A wreath hung on an entryway is very welcoming and reminiscent of the comforts of home. A flag will help attract the eye to the entryway, but make sure it displays an image that appeals to the broadest audience possible; elegant flowers are a sure bet.

Next Page »