Window Washing — published on March 25, 2008

Secret Formula for Window Washing

Tools:

  • Squeegee
  • 3 gallon bucket
  • Roll paper towels

Ingredients:

  • Hot water
  • Ammonia
  • Dish detergent

Recipe:

Fill bucket with hot water up to 2 gallon mark.

Add ½ cup ammonia for each gallon hot water.

Slowly, squirt in 3 or 4 drops of dish detergent. Add the detergent after the bucket has filled, you don´t want a pail of bubbles.

Start washin’. Use the scrubber first get all that dirty stuff off then with the blade squeegee side down, wiping the blade with a dry paper towel after each pass. Go over the window with a sheet of paper towel if needed. The real trick here is the squeegee! I’ve washed a lot of windows, tried all the tricks forget about using newsprint to dry the window all that does is get your hands so dirty you can´t touch anything! And the pre-mixed products only leave a smeared mess.

So don´t tell any one — but the real secret is the squeegee! It makes the job go fast and leaves your windows sparkling clean.

Tools — published on March 24, 2008

Top 10 garden tools

Behind the doors of an ace gardener’s tool shed lie the secrets to a beautiful garden. Here are 10 tools you’ll need to cultivate a better garden.

1 Trowel. Without a trowel, no perennials would be planted, no containers potted and no bulbs buried in the ground. The strongest trowels are made of steel and the lightest are made of cast aluminum. Handles are fashioned of wood or easy-grip plastic. Those designed with handle and blade all in one piece offer greater durability.

2 Watering can. Whether for spot-watering wilting plants or fertilizing containers of annuals, a watering can is a garden essential. Generally, those with a longer spout are better balanced. Easy-care, lightweight plastic watering cans work just as well as the more attractive brass and copper ones.

3 Transplanting spade. With its long, narrow blade, a transplanting spade gets into tight spots in the garden, reducing the likelihood of damage to nearby plants. It’s also more suitable than traditional spades to dig holes deep enough to accommodate plant roots.

4 Fork. A garden fork is indispensable for safely lifting out the roots of an established perennial, dividing overgrown plants or harvesting root vegetables. Stainless steel blades are the strongest.

5 Utility bag. Sooner or later, you’ll need to weed. As you move through the garden, discard weeds and garden debris into a lightweight bag or basket that’s easy to pull alongside you. Collapsible pop-up styles are popular, as well as fold-down polypropylene bags.

6 Pruners. Keep overgrown shrubs and trees within bounds with a good pair of secateurs or pruners. The by-pass types are better buys than the anvil pruners because they make cleaner cuts. Look for secateurs with a swivel handle – they’re easier on the wrist.

7 Shears or scissors. What’s a garden without bouquets of flowers? Use chichi shears or scissors or pick up a dozen at the dollar store – all work just as well for cutting the stems of perennials or removing dead flowerheads.

8 Soaker hose. Sprinklers water lawns – soaker hoses irrigate gardens. Placed at ground level, this perforated hose trickles water into the soil, slowly delivering moisture to the root zone – just where plants need it.

9 Wheelbarrow or garden cart. Wheelbarrows make light work of trucking through the garden with heavy sacks of soil or unwieldy bags of peat moss. Whether you choose a conventional wheelbarrow, a garden cart, buggy or wagon, it’s sure to take a beating in the garden so buy one of good quality.

10 Edger. Place the finishing touches on your garden with an edger. This moon-shape hand tool slices into the ground to create a clean, sharp edge between flowerbeds and lawn.

05: Execution — published on March 18, 2008

Spring Cleaning … Outside

What is the first thing you see when you pull up your driveway, or go to a friends house? The yard. It’s the first impression many have of what is inside the house and maybe the first impression they have of you as well. Does your yard reflect the right amount of curb appeal that you want it to? If not then you will have some work ahead of you to get that curb appeal you desire and make everyone on the block want your yard.

You will need to start by cleaning out any old flower beds. Getting all the leaves and whatever else may be hiding in the bushes that may be in your yard as well. If you want to get rid of these, grab the shovel and get ready for some hard labour; however, the outcome will be well worth it.

Once you have everything cleaned out, look around and see how you want to stage your yard. Do you want to add to the flower beds you have? Make a nice walkway to the front porch? Plan it out, but before you go buy everything to get that curb appeal. How is your front porch?

Could it use a fresh coat of paint? Clean it off and giving it a good coat of paint can help spruce up that first glance when people drive by. Is your front door in good shape or do you need to replace it with something more your style? Maybe even add a nice glass insert to give it that extra pop.

Once you have all that done you are now ready to buy your plants, stones, rock, whatever it is that you want to make your yard less of an eye sore. If you are putting a nice pathway in, dig up some of the dirt and lay the stones in place. Making sure they are all level. You can spread rock in the cracks to give a clean look.

Now you are ready to get started on your flower beds. Clean out the grass if you need to and put down the plastic to keep those weeds out. Make the pattern you desire when the stones you have bought. Plant all the beautiful plants you bought. Spreading them apart enough to grow and look nice and neat. That is the whole point. You want the yard to look neat and tidy.

Once you have finished planting, you can spread mulch, rocks, or whatever else you may want to fill in the holes between plants. All the colors should tie in together. The plants should make the color of the porch stand out. It needs to all tie in together and give enough contrast for each.

The last thing you need to think about is staging your porch. You can use hanging baskets for this, as well as placing a nice sitting area on the porch. Two comfortable chairs, two pillows that match the color scheme, and a little table. It will make a world of difference and you can finally have the curb appeal that you have been longing for.

WARNING: Make sure to follow all directions and safety precautions when dealing with tools or power tools or chemicals to prevent injuries or illnesses.

Weekend Projects — published on March 13, 2008

Your curb appeal weekend

Think Spring Toronto

If you’re selling your home soon, ensure that prospective buyers will want to come inside by sprucing up the exterior before they drive by. Don’t worry, this doesn’t have to be a time-consuming project. Here are some easy improvements you can make to boost your curb appeal – on your first spring weekend.

Paint or stain your front door. You probably won’t even have to take it off the hinges. Installing a metal kick plate is another inexpensive way to freshen your entrance – it will cover years of wear.

Polish door hardware. Consider replacing the hardware if it’s really worn or flaking. Don’t forget the doorbell and lighting fixtures. Replace worn welcome mats. A new welcome mat in a cheery complementary color can boost the front entrance welcome factor.

Install outdoor lighting. Consider solar garden lights to line a walkway, or a bright new porch light. This will make your home look more inviting in the evening when most buyers have the time to drive by.

Kill mold and mildew. Use a pressure washer to easily blast the siding, roof, deck and driveway clean.

Rake the lawn. Trim around flowerbeds and other stationary objects.  Get rid of weeds. Add new bark or gravel for a fresh look.

Trim shrubs and tree branches. Cutting overgrown shrubs can open up your home’s exterior. Be sure branches aren’t creeping onto the roof. Show off appealing architectural elements by trimming around columns and windows.

Clean gutters. If the downspout is badly damaged, consider replacing it with a decorative rain chain, which allows water to run down ornamental funnels into the ground drain.

Clean windows. Use an industrial cleaner to make your windows sparkle from across the street. Don’t forget to wash the screens.

You don’t get a second chance to make a first impression. Spending just one spring weekend to prepare your house for the market can pay off big in a big way. A great first impression can mean the difference between a quick sale versus having your home sit on the market for months.

Source: Inman news

Driveways — published on March 12, 2008

Make A Good Entrance

As the entrance to your home, the driveway should not overlooked. If it’s incorporated into the landscaping it can add depth to the entire look for your home. You don’t need to spend a lot of money on the design elements for it either. You can be creative and choose features that are attractive and creative, and have a very low cost landscape that is welcoming.

Make sure that you take everything into account before choosing your elements. For example, if you are looking for minimal work to be used in the driveway’s landscaping, do not plant a flower bush at the end of your driveway where the plants can be disheveled or ruined by those in your neighborhood. Instead, look to an attractive fence or even a rock garden instead.

Another important aspect to pay attention to is the footpath to the home. Do not put any elements into the design that are in the way of the normal footpath. You don’t want to visitors going out of their way, or even worse, trampling your plants to reach your door.

Hardscape Choice

You have many options here. Some common ones include walls and fences. They can add distinction and accent your driveway. For example a large rock can be especially interesting, particularly when it has multiple colors.

You can plant grasses and small flowers in the cracks of stones to create even more decorative looks.

A small fence can add character to the landscape. Use fencing to add color and character to the driveway. Use hanging baskets or lanterns with the fence for more charm.

Softscape Choices

First, determine what you will landscape. For example, on a limited budget, just landscaping along the sides of the driveway is an excellent option. It will cost little, yet add lots of beauty to your landscape design.

As for softscape options that will work in driveway areas, many things will work, such as a flower bed or even groundcover along the driveway. This will create a border that is interesting and separates the lawn from the actually driveway.

Ornamental trees and shrubs can do the same thing for the border of the driveway. Shrubs can be cut to be topiary as well, which will add even more design elements to the look of the driveway landscape.

Another thing to consider is the curved driveway. If your driveway has a curve in it, a great idea is to add a focal point — something to make a statement. For example, you can have a beautiful tree, a flower bed, or a rock garden there. Whatever it is it, should be beautiful because the curve will serve as the main focal point of your driveway landscaping design.

You can use water gardens, landscape brides, a wishing well, as well as many other types of elements to enhance this area and have it look amazing.

Doing these things can completely transform the entrance of your home. In a simple, affordable way, you can add character and depth to your landscape design around your driveway.

05: Execution — published on March 5, 2008

Tips for curb appeal and home staging

When selling your home, the goal is to sell it quickly at the highest price while investing as little as possible in renovations. With a limited budget and a little effort, you can greatly increase your home’s appeal by focusing on what buyers will see on the first visit. 

If they don’t like what they see outside, they’ll never walk inside. Curb appeal can often mean the difference between a house sitting for months or selling in the first week.

The view from the street can net you more traffic than you might think. Eighty-four percent of all home buyers use the Internet to shop for a new home, according to 2006 figures from the National Association of Realtors.

First impression is key. People shopping on the Internet give it one look. If they don’t like what they see, that’s it.

Here are a few tips to help you prepare your house for sale:

Tip #1: Refresh the Exterior

First impressions count when it comes to selling a home. A majority of buyers will not even get out of their car if they do not find the exterior appealing. The best way to improve your exterior includes:

  • Repairing and/or replacing trims, shutters, gutters, shingles, mailboxes, window screens, walkways, and driveway.
  • Painting siding, trim and shutters, and lamp and mail box posts.
  • Pressure washing vinyl siding, roofs, walkways, and driveway.
  • Washing windows.
Tip #2: Tidy Lawn and Landscape

Home buyers associate the condition of your lawn and landscape with the condition of your home interior. The best way to enhance the yard includes:

  • Mowing and edging your lawn.
  • Seeding, fertilizing, and weeding lawn.
  • Trimming and/or removing overgrown trees, shrubs, and hedges.
  • Weeding and mulching plant beds.
  • Planting colorful seasonal flowers in existing plant beds.
  • Removing trash especially along fences and underneath hedges.
  • Sweeping and weeding the street curb along your property.
Tip #3: Create An Inviting Entrance

The front door to your home should invite buyers to enter. The best way to improve this includes:

  • Painting the front door in a glossy, cheerful color that compliments the exterior color.
  • Cleaning and/or replacing the door knocker, locks, and handles.
  • Repairing and/or replacing the screen door, door bell, porch light and house numbers.
  • Placing a new welcome mat and a group of seasonal potted plants and flowers.
Tip #4: Reduce Clutter and Furniture

A buyer cannot envision living in your home if they cannot see your house. A home filled with clutter or even too much furniture distracts buyers from seeing how they can utilize the space your home offers. If you have limited storage space, you may want to consider renting a temporary storage unit to place items you wish to keep. The best way to improve your home includes:

  • Removing clutter such as books, magazines, toys, tools, supplies, unused items from counter tops, open shelves, storage closets, garage and basements.
  • Storing out of season clothing and shoes to make bedroom closets seem roomier.
  • Remove any visible damaged furniture.
Tip #5: Clean, Clean, Clean

The cleanliness of your home also influences a buyer’s perception of it’s condition. The appearance of the kitchen and bathrooms will play a considerable role in a buyer’s decision process, so pay particular attention to these areas. The best way to improve this includes:

  • Cleaning windows, fixtures, hardware, ceiling fans, vent covers and appliances.
  • Cleaning carpets, area rugs, and draperies.
  • Cleaning inside refrigerator, stove, and cabinets.
  • Removing stains from carpets, floors, counters, sinks, baths, tile and grout.
  • Eliminating house odors, especially if you have pets.
Tip #6: Make Minor Repairs

The small stuff does count, especially with first time home buyers. Without dismissing the importance of repairing major items such as a leaking roof or plumbing, you do not need to spend money on replacing these items. Instead, focus on the minor repairs that make your home visually appealing. The best way to improve your home includes:

  • Repairing ceilings and wall cracks.
  • Repairing faucets, banisters, handrails, cabinets, drawers, doors, floors and tile.
  • Caulking and grouting tubs, showers, sinks and tile.
  • Painting ceilings, walls, trim, doors and cabinets.
  • Tightening door handles, drawer pulls, light switches and electrical plates.
  • Lubricating door hinges and locks.
Tip #7: Showcase the Kitchen

The heart of any home is the kitchen. If you are going to spend any money on renovations, this is the one area where you will see the greatest return. Even with a modest budget, focusing on a few key areas can make a great difference in getting the asking price for your property. The best way to showcase the kitchen includes:

  • Replacing cabinet doors and hardware.
  • Installing under cabinet lighting.
  • Replacing light fixtures.
  • Replacing outdated shelving with pantry and cabinet organizers to maximize space.
Tip #8: Stage Furniture

Furniture placement can enhance the space of your home while giving buyers an idea of how to best utilize the space with their own belongings. Take some time out to rethink how different areas in your house could be used. Some ideas to think about includes:

  • Moving couches and chairs away from walls in your sitting and family rooms to create “cozy conversational groups.”
  • Creating a reading corner in the master bedroom.
  • Clearing an empty room to setup a reading space.
  • Turning an awkward space into a home office.
Tip #9: Light Up The House

Create a sense of openness and cheerfulness in your home through lighting. To improve the lighting try:

  • Opening shades and drapes to let the sun shine warm and brighten rooms.
  • Installing brighter light bulbs in rooms that tend to be dark.
  • Adding additional lamps for ambient lighting.
Tip #10: Freshen up the Garage or Workshop
  • Items should be neatly stored in shelving or wall units.
  • Allow appropriate space for the homebuyer to visualize their vehicle or workbench.
  • Consider moving excess or over-sized items to mini-storage.
Tip #11: Add Natural Touches

You can easily add color and style to your home by placing fresh flowers and fruit bowls throughout it. Some ideas to consider includes:

  • Placing fragrant arrangements in the entry and master bedroom.
  • Placing bowls of bright colored fruit in family room and kitchen.
  • Filling an empty corner with a potted leafy plant.
  • If you have room, go for the traditional two large planters, one on either side of the door or walkway. Fill them to overflowing with flowers if it’s spring or summer or evergreens in the cooler months. This will create a focal point, forcing home buyers to focus on one area rather than the whole home at once.
Tip #12:  De-personalize.

Remove objects that your potential buyers won’t be able to identify with. For example, political and religious items may turn off whole groups of buyers, because they cannot “imagine” your home as their home. Buying a home is an emotional decision, and you want potential buyers to make an emotional connection with your home by being able to “see” themselves in it.

Tip #13:  keep your pets under control

Always keep your pets under control. Try confining them to a specific area. Although you may love your pets, they can be off-putting to other people, and smells can be offensive, so make sure there are no lingering odours in furniture or flooring, and if there is, get them cleaned before you sell.

Tip #14: Fit into the community.

If there are tons of kids in the neighborhood, it’s OK to have a bike in the yard. Not so if your neighborhood is mostly retirees. Keep your audience in mind as you show your house.

Tip #15: Don’t Forget the Rear View

Buyers doing a drive by will try their best to see your back yard. If it’s visible from another street or from someone’s driveway, include it in your curb appeal efforts.

Tip #16: Evening Curb Appeal

Do your curb appeal exercise again at dusk, because it isn’t unusual for potential buyers to drive by houses in the evening. One quick way to improve evening curb appeal is with lighting:

  • String low voltage lighting along your driveway, sidewalks, and near important landscaping elements.
  • Add a decorative street lamp or an attractive light fixture to a front porch.
  • Make sure lighting that’s visible through front doors and windows enhances the home’s appearance.

Cosmetic changes do not have to be expensive. In fact, costly home improvements do not necessarily offer a good return on your investment when you sell. It’s attention to the basic, anything that says “this home has been carefully maintained”, that will help you get the price you want.

05: Execution — published on March 4, 2008

Should I Upgrade or Sell?

Should I stay or should I go? It’s a question staring many homeowners in the face. Here is how to tell if there is more value for you in fixing up, or moving on.

First, estimate your costs to buy a new home. Add up the realtor and home selling costs (packing, moving and the new loan financing). Don’t forget hidden items. The buyer may ask you to replace the carpet before you sell. Or, what if you have to replace appliances? Make your best effort to include everything it will cost in time and money to sell your home and buy a new place. Then, estimate what you may get for your house and how much cash you will leave with to put down on a new home.

If you like your neighbors and your school district, consider remodeling. You can get exactly the home you want and you won’t risk any buyer’s remorse. Estimate the cost of making the most crucial renovations needed for you to stay. Decide what you would like to do and go price shopping at your home improvement store. Call contractors and get estimates. This is especially important if you need to add on extra square footage.

Look at what it would cost to move, then what it would cost to remodel. Add in the X-factors like friends, schools and neighbors. When all is said and done, you may find you get more equity by staying in your home and remodeling.