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Archive for the ‘Outdoor’ Category:

What’s Up?

 
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Your roof is a part of the house that is easy to take for granted until there’s a problem, and trust me—you do not want there to be a problem. One of the best, most important things you can do to prevent this is a yearly inspection, and the great news is that this is the exact right time of year to do that!
 
Winters are hard on roofs, with freezing temperatures, sudden thaws, and colossal amounts of snow that sometimes sit on them, so spring is when you want to get up there (or hire a professional to) and assess if there’s any damage. You’ll want to study your shingles first—are they splintering, curling or blistering? Are any loose or missing? Are you seeing a lot of the granules that are imbedded in the shingle asphalt (also check your gutters for these as that’s a telltale sign of loss)?
 
If the answer to the first question is “yes”, then your roof has come to the end of its lifespan and it’s time to consult with a professional about installing a new one.
 
Don’t panic—with the array of payment plans now offered, re-roofing your home has never been easier and it’s definitely a project you want to tackle as soon as you notice it’s time, rather than putting it off.
 
If shingles are loose, they can easily be secured with roofing cement (available in plastic and liquid forms) and roofing nails. If you’ve lost some shingles during the winter, these are not difficult to replace. You’ll want to tackle this project early in the morning before the sun has warmed your roof up, as the asphalt on the shingles and the sealant will be easiest to work with when they’re cooler and less malleable.
 
Make sure you have the right tools for this, including a roofers safety harness kit, something to pry the shingles around the missing area up with (a hammer claw or crow-bar work best), a good hammer, roofing nails, replacement shingles (buy more than you need as you should always try to have extras on hand), and shingle cement or adhesive (some shingles come with pre-applied adhesive, in which case you can skip this product).
 
DamagedShinglesThe granules in asphalt shingles protect the shingle from the damaging elements. If you notice some shingles with substantial exposure, it’s best to replace those or look at corrugated asphalt roofing panels, which can be applied on top of shingles.
 
While you can re-granule in some cases, panels or replacement are usually your best, long-term fix. If the loss of granules is widespread and significant, check for other symptoms of damage—this may be a sign that it’s time to re-roof.
 
Some or all of these damages may be covered by your roofing warranty, so before you make any repairs, review whether your warranty is still valid and what it entails.
 
Other areas to inspect are yours chimneys, skylights, and vents to see if the rubber seals need replacing. Also take a look at your flashing, particularly in places where two roofing panels meet. If the water tightness there is not as it should be, you can reseal these areas using roofing cement—just make sure you also check in your attic for signs of water damage. It’s important that your roof is healthy from the inside-out.
 
If you find yourself in the market for a new roof, there are several things to consider in making your selection, including durability, longevity, warranties, cost, and aesthetics.
 
Asphalt shingles continue to be the most popular choice due to their very long lifespan (shake wood, slate and tile roofs have a shorter lifespan which is shortened all the more in climates like ours), the ease of installation (meaning a smaller installation cost—hooray!), the wide array of types (which also means a huge variance in price points), and a huge selection in styles and colours (if you like the look of a tile, wood shake or slate roof, they even now make asphalt shingles that when installed are visually indistinguishable from those roof types, but they’re way less money to purchase and maintain, and they’ll last a lot longer).
 
There are two types of asphalt shingles—organic and fiberglass. Traditional organic shingles are thicker and heavier, and are comprised of substantially more asphalt than fiberglass shingles. This makes them less eco-friendly and more costly. They are more flexible than their fiberglass counterparts, and are considered heartier.
 
Fiberglass shingles are the more popular option for most homeowners today. Comprised of fiberglass mat with a waterproof asphalt coating and ceramic granules, these are significantly lighter and have a higher fire resistance. They have a class A flame spread rating, whereas organic shingles have a class C rating, meaning there is more time to safely evacuate a house and extinguish a fire, which will not spread or burn as quickly on a fiberglass roof. Because they are nowhere near as absorbent as organic shingles, these also won’t warp over time. Fiberglass shingles tend to come with significantly longer warranties (usually around 25 years).
 
When selecting your shingle, also check out the wind rating (this will be labelled by wind strength, i.e. 60mph), which means they are calibrated to stay secure in winds up to that ferocity. This could be very important depending on where you live.
 
RoofBeautyWhen it comes to a warranty for your roof, most manufacturers will offer one in the range of 15 to 30 years, depending on where you live and the shingle-type. It’s important to review the terms of your warranty before making installation arrangements, as many of them require professional installation to be valid.
 
The warranty should also be considered in making your decision about which shingle is right for you. Determine what happens to the warranty if you rent or sell your house, if the cost of labour is also covered for shingle repair and replacement, and what it covers (granule loss, curling, thermal splitting, etc.). Keep in mind that most warranties do not protect against severe weather.
 
Even with a newer roof, it’s crucial that you make at least one inspection a year (you should also take a peek after any intense weather).
 
Catching a problem in its early stages will save you money and prevent the damage from escalating. When you're in your home and you wonder what's up, you deserve to know that it's a secure and healthy roof!



 
 


Originally Published by The Chronicle Herald

 

Alexandra Kelter

 
Alexandra Kelter is a social media specialist with Central Home Improvements. Her column covers many aspects of home improvement, both indoor and outdoor, and will combine trending styles with practical applications all within realistic budgets. Kelter is also passionate about fashion, travel, living by the ocean and her bulldog.
 

Archive for the ‘Outdoor’ Category:

What’s Up?

 
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Weeds are an unwelcome resident in most lawns, but they are also a great indicator about the overall health of your grass and soil. They are a symptom of other problems, and with strict regulations now in place about the chemicals that can be used to treat weeds, it has become more viable to examine and treat their cause.
 
weedcontrol2What are weeds? Basically they are any plant that you don’t want in your lawn. They compete with grass for sunlight, nutrients in the soil, water, and space, and they aren’t considered aesthetically pleasing in neighborhoods where a full, lush green lawn is desired.
 
Many weed problems first emerge because of deficiencies in your soil. If you give your grass a healthy start with a properly balanced ground to grow in, it will be heartier against weeds.
 
Nova Scotia soil has a natural acidity that makes it a less friendly environment for grass seed. Your soil’s pH level should be around 6.5—this is something you can easily determine with an at-home testing kit.
 
Most likely, yours will be much lower at first. Liming your grass in the early spring and fall (based on your pH level test) is a solid practice to establish. Liming adds nutrients to your soil that it needs, and prevents grass roots from absorbing naturally-occurring chemicals that are detrimental to its growth. It will raise your soil’s pH level to where it needs to be.
 
It’s equally important that you fertilize your lawn—this is the only way to give your grass nutrients is has no other way of receiving. Thirty days after liming is the best time to apply fertilizer, otherwise the two counteract each other. There are great fertilizers on the market nowadays that contain natural weed suppressants, such as corn gluten, and give your lawn a helping hand in the fight against weeds while avoiding banned chemicals. When selecting your fertilizer, look for the package to say “weed suppressant” and “slow release Nitrogen”—both of these will be hugely beneficial to your lawn.
 
Aerating your lawn is a key step in weed prevention and encouraging lush, green grass. This is the process of perforating small holes throughout your lawn in order to loosen up the soil, making it easier for grass to flourish. Compacted soil is hard for grass to grow in and is a preferred environment for many weeds, so preventing that is key. Early summer is the ideal time to aerate your lawn. You should also avoid walking on our grass when it’s very wet (this includes any time there is snow on your lawn, especially when it’s melting), as you cannot only damage the grass plant but your steps serve to compact the soil.
 
Treating thinning and balding patches in your lawn as soon as they appear will also help prevent weeds from taking major root. Once weeds have an opening, they can quickly take over. Check and treat the soil in those areas, then select an appropriate, hardy grass seed and help it take root based on the instructions detailed on the packaging.
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Properly watering your lawn is another major step to stopping weeds, because it contributes to the overall health of the grass. Healthy grass will stand up to weeds, whereas struggling or weak grass can be easily ousted by intruders like dandelions and Creeping Charlie. Giving your lawn a hearty, serious watering once or twice a week is better for it than repeatedly light waterings. You should soak your lawn once a week in the summer, then avoid walking on it for a day or so until the soil has had a chance to fully absorb the water.
 
Even amidst the healthiest lawn and soil, a weed will crop up. The tried and true method of hand weeding is still one of the best. When digging out a weed, try to get the roots; otherwise it will just grow back. Avoid damaging or uprooting the grass around it, otherwise you create an opening for more weeds.
 
If you stay on top of weeding, it will never become an overwhelming task and you can avoid a sore back (upright weeders that allow you to remove weeds without bending over also help prevent stiff joints and muscles). Try to weed for a few minutes every day or so, and you’ll find that it’s always manageable. This means weeds never have a chance to really spread or take root—nothing like nipping a problem in the bud!
 
For really tough weed problems, there are certain weed sprays that even with new regulations are permitted. Because weeds are indicative of other, more harmful issues with your lawn, this will seldom be your best choice for stopping weeds, but for that occasional stubborn weed, be sure to follow the instructions on the weed spray’s label carefully, and avoid getting the chemical on your lawn, as it can be harmful to the grass plant.
 
The great thing about these environmentally friendly ways of stopping weeds is that they also help your grass grow strong and hearty. The healthier your lawn is, the more resistant to weeds it will be.


 
 


Originally Published by The Chronicle Herald

 

Alexandra Kelter

 
Alexandra Kelter is a social media specialist with Central Home Improvements. Her column covers many aspects of home improvement, both indoor and outdoor, and will combine trending styles with practical applications all within realistic budgets. Kelter is also passionate about fashion, travel, living by the ocean and her bulldog.
 

Archive for the ‘Outdoor’ Category:

What’s Up?

 
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Even if your BBQ has been housed in a garage or shed all winter, chances are you didn’t clean and maintain it before you put it away last fall!
 
To keep it in good working order, and ensure safe operation, it’s important that you spend a little time on spring maintenance before you fire it up for this first time this spring
 
First, remove the cooking grates and soak them in hot, soapy water. Alternatively, you can lay them down on a protective sheet (tarps are great for this), and spray them down with oven cleaner. Either way, let them sit for at least two hours.
 
If your BBQ has lava rocks, or similar, remove and replace them. If they’re not in too bad a shape, you can soak them in a bucket of hot, soapy water to break down grease and food residue. Next, remove the heat deflectors, or flavorizer bars – and do the same thing with them.
 
readysetgrill1Then, thoroughly brush out the inside of the grill, removing all loose pieces of food, debris, etc. Many BBQ experts advise leaving the greasy build-up on the inside of the housing as a metal protectant.
 
Personally, I remove it once a year – then give the entire housing of my BBQ a good scrubbing with a stiff brush and hot soapy water. This requires some elbow grease!
 
Once it’s clean – I rinse it thoroughly with a pressurized stream of water from my exterior hose – then I leave it open in the sun until it’s completely dry.
 
If you decide to do it the same way I do, you must first remove the grease drip pan – and give that a thorough cleaning as well.
 
I warm mine slightly in the oven, then wipe out as much of the grease and drippings as I can with a wad of paper towel. Then I scrub out any remaining grease with hot soapy water and my stiff brush. Rinse well, and I let it dry in the sun along with the BBQ.
 
Although some experts say you should test your burners at this point, others (and I agree with them) advise cleaning out the burners first. I do this with a very fine wire brush or a metal skewer, poking it carefully into each burner hole to ensure they are free of debris.
 
Then I take a pipe cleaner style brush, and run it through the inside of the burner tube, cleaning the brush with each pass, until it comes out clean. To be sure, I then gently tap the ends of the burners on a firm surface, to make sure there’s nothing left inside.
 
Replace the burners in the BBQ housing – then check your propane tank and your hose assembly for leaks by brushing all connections with soapy water, then turning on the gas (outdoors!) for just a moment and watching for bubbles. If you see bubbles, repair the leak BEFORE testing your burners. If everything is OK, test your burners. They should now burn perfectly evenly.
 
By now, the grates and deflectors and flavorizer bars are ready to be scrubbed in their soapy water bath, or wiped clear of the oven cleaner. You should find the dirt and debris come off easily. Once they’re free of all debris, rinse them well and let them dry.
 
readysetgrill2Drain your lava rocks, rinse them thoroughly, and spread them out in the sun to dry as well.
 
While they’re drying, clean off and shine up the outside of your BBQ. Wash it down well (car wash is great for this!) and dry it off.
 
Replace all the internal parts, then light your BBQ again and let it warm up enough to be absolutely certain all of the internal parts, and your lava rocks, are completely dry.
 
Turn the BBQ off, let it cool down – and replace the cover (it is a myth that covering a BBQ makes it rust.)
 
Congratulations! Your BBQ is now ready for another season of great grilling!

 
 


Originally Published by The Chronicle Herald

 

Alexandra Kelter

 
Alexandra Kelter is a social media specialist with Central Home Improvements. Her column covers many aspects of home improvement, both indoor and outdoor, and will combine trending styles with practical applications all within realistic budgets. Kelter is also passionate about fashion, travel, living by the ocean and her bulldog.
 

Archive for the ‘Outdoor’ Category:

What’s Up?

 
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As hard as this long, snowy winter has been on us – it’s been a lot harder on our resident birds and migratory species returning home. Because of the deep snow, birds are struggling to find food, and many are dying from hunger or becoming too weak to fly.
 
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Robins and American Woodcocks are finding things particularly difficult, in part because they have very selective feeding habits. Many Nova Scotians are finding dead birds, or birds sitting immobile at the side of roads or in their backyards.
 
The good new is that you can help.
 
For American Woodcocks, soaking some cat kibble in warm water, or using chunky canned cat food, and spreading it on any exposed ground under trees can be life saving for weakened birds.
 
Only putting out small amounts is a good idea, because the food can also attract predators like house cats, and starving birds are often too weak to fly away.
 
If you don’t mind going to some extra trouble, earthworms or mealy worms are also welcomed by these birds, and can be obtained in many specialty or big-box pet stores.
 
For Robins, a mix of soaked cat kibble, chopped hard-boiled eggs, chopped apple, fresh or frozen berries and chunky canned cat food is eagerly eaten. Spread it on the ground in clear areas, and watch hungry robins arrive.
 
It’s important to check your feeding areas daily, removing any spoiled food, and replacing it with fresh. Most experts recommend that birds not be fed bread as they can choke on it, and it does not carry the correct nutritional value.
 
birdfeedbagiconEven our resident birds are struggling. Black Oil Sunflower seeds are the preferred food for many Nova Scotia backyard birds.
 
Keeping feeders full of this readily available seed is a huge help in reducing bird mortality. Keeping feeders away from windows reduces the risk of bird strikes, another major cause of bird mortality.
 
While the weather is cold, seed mix containing cracked corn and nuts helps birds keep warm and fattens them with the correct oils – naturally contained in these feed mixtures.
 
Bird suet is good too, but remove it from the nylon net packaging it comes in, because birds can get caught up in the netting, and will become seriously injured or die in their struggles to escape.
 
With nesting time imminent, feeding birds is especially important. But you can help in other ways as well. Small fabric scraps, strips of knitting wool, cotton batting – hung in trees in thin shreds are taken by birds to line nests and create warm, cozy environments for both eggs, and later, baby birds.

 
If you’re going to help, it’s important to do it regularly (every day) because the birds will quickly become accustomed to the food and will hang-out in your yard, limiting their ability to find food elsewhere.
 
Until the snow and ice retreat enough that at least half the visible ground is clear, continuing to feed can mean the difference between life and death for many birds.
 
The best part? The birds will reward you by keeping your garden free of bugs this summer, and providing glorious colour and song throughout the warmer months.
 
 


Originally Published by The Chronicle Herald

 

Alexandra Kelter

 
Alexandra Kelter is a social media specialist with Central Home Improvements. Her column covers many aspects of home improvement, both indoor and outdoor, and will combine trending styles with practical applications all within realistic budgets. Kelter is also passionate about fashion, travel, living by the ocean and her bulldog.
 

Archive for the ‘Outdoor’ Category:

What’s Up?

 
lawnrecovery
 
It’s been a tough winter… in fact, it’s still a tough winter.
 
But, eventually, the snow and ice will melt… and just how tough this winter has been will be fully revealed by the state of your lawn.
Giving your lawn a little TLC will help it return to good health quickly.

 
Salt and chemical ice melters end up on your lawn, and can kill your grass over the winter. This is usually most noticeable along the road and driveway edges of your lawn, where your grass will be brown.
 
As soon as the weather permits, soak the affected areas to wash away the excess salt and chemicals. After two to three heavy waterings, plant grass seed and apply a good starter fertilizer to speed up recovery.
 
Dog urine contains high levels of nitrogen, which can harm grass. Begin repair by soaking the areas to dilute and remove the nitrogen. Repair badly damaged areas by overseeding or patching with new sod. One of my favorite tricks is to use lime on badly damaged areas, it neutralizes the nitrogen from the urine, and allows your new seed or sod to quickly establish itself.
 
aeratingPiles of snow and ice sitting on your lawn cause compaction. If putting a shovel in the ground in the spring is hard, your lawn is most likely compacted.
 
The solution: aerate your lawn. But wait until your lawn is at peak growing season in late spring for the best results. Ideally, lawns should be aerated in spring and fall – to allow maximum moisture and nutrient absorption.
 
Bare spots should be fixed right away so that weeds cannot take hold. Select a grass seed that suits your growing conditions (amount of shade and sun, traffic, etc.).
 
Make sure you also use a good starter fertilizer, and ensure your grass seed is watered in accordance with the manufacturer’s directions to ensure seeds sprout properly.
 
limepelletslawncareMost parts of Nova Scotia have naturally acidic soil, which is great for spruce trees and other evergreens, but not ideal for thick, green lawns.
 
Liming your lawn in early spring, and again in mid-spring (before it is really hot outside), will very quickly give you a thicker, greener lawn that is resistant to disease and weeds.
 
Slow-release, pelletized lime is readily available in home improvement stores and garden centres, and gives your lawn an ideal start in spring, and a great pre-winter finish in fall. After liming, wait a couple of weeks before applying your spring fertilizer.
 
It takes a little elbow grease, but these simple steps will give you great results in short order. With the right start in spring, your lawn will quickly be lush and green, and much easier to maintain once the hot weather sets in!

 
 


Originally Published by The Chronicle Herald

 

Alexandra Kelter

 
Alexandra Kelter is a social media specialist with Central Home Improvements. Her column covers many aspects of home improvement, both indoor and outdoor, and will combine trending styles with practical applications all within realistic budgets. Kelter is also passionate about fashion, travel, living by the ocean and her bulldog.
 

Archive for the ‘Outdoor’ Category:

What’s Up?

 
startfromseedbanner
 
The first time I planted an indoor seed garden I thought it would be easy. And, in some ways, it was. In others - definitely not. I read the instructions. Went on the internet and read what the experts had to say. Picked the perfect exposure. Thought I did everything correctly. And ended up with about six spindly little garden plants that never did flourish (of the forty eight seed containers I started).
 
Since that first attempt, I’ve learned a thing or two. If you’re interested in trying to plant your garden from seed – these tips may come in handy.
 
One of the most important things I learned is DON’T SOW TOO EARLY (or too late). If the seed packet says “Sow four to six weeks before the last frost”, my suggestion is that you go with four weeks. In Nova Scotia, that means about four to five weeks before the May long weekend.
 
Annuals and vegetables are the easiest seeds to grow. Perennials are a little more difficult, because they need a period of cold to break dormancy, and they don’t usually flower for the first two seasons. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try them, but you do need to be patient, and you need to know how to break their dormancy without killing the seed.
 
startingseedsindoorContainers
I use square peat pots, having found that the less I handle fragile new plants and root systems, the greater success I have when it is time to transplant. Peat pots go straight into the ground with the new plant, although I carefully tear down the corner of each side (but do not peel the sides back) just as I’m planting to make it easier for the roots to spread. Recently, I saw an interesting method where gardeners used the shells of eggs to propagate seeds, then put the entire egg shell into the ground. I don’t plan to try it, but you can find the method in a number of places on Facebook if you’re interested.

 
Sowing medium
Use fresh, sterile growing mix (I am a big fan of Miracle Gro seed starter mix, although there are many others available). Moisten the mixture about 60 minutes before planting your seeds. The mixture should be damp, not wet (it should feel like a wrung-out sponge). I use bottled spring water, or rain water, to dampen the soil.

 
Follow the seed packets information on planting depth, light and optimal growing temperature.
 
Lids
I place my peat pots into a lidded container, but only just until the first signs of germination. Any longer, and you run the risk of dampening off, a fungal disease that is deadly for baby plants. In my experience, once it begins, you’re going to lose your entire flat of plants.

 
Watering
When the top of the soil looks and feels dry, LIGHTLY water very carefully using a watering can with a very fine spray. I use a sterile spray bottle, and bottled water, and mist my soil, something I have found to be very effective.

 
Light
I have had really good success with a western exposure using only natural light. The sun shines into my growing area from about 11:30 a.m. right to sunset, and as the weeks wear on, it increases a little every day. However, many successful gardeners swear by grow-lights, set about eight to ten centimeters above the containers, and timed to be on for sixteen hours a day.

 
MotherDaughterGardeningFertilizer
Once your seedlings have two sets of true leaves (the first leaves are called cotyledons, or seed leaves) start feeding once a week with a 20-20-20 water soluble fertilizer – initially at half strength – working up to full strength over a period of two weeks or so.

 
Hardening Off
Plants that are started indoors need to be hardened off before they are planted outdoors. After the last frost date, start by setting them outside in a shady, sheltered spot – for about four hours a day. Gradually, leave them out all day, progressively moving them into sunnier and windier areas to acclimatize them to garden conditions. Hardy, cool-loving annuals like pansies and snapdragons can be hardened off several seeks earlier than heat-loving plants such as impatiens and tomatoes.
 
 


Originally Published by The Chronicle Herald

 

Alexandra Kelter

 
Alexandra Kelter is a social media specialist with Central Home Improvements. Her column covers many aspects of home improvement, both indoor and outdoor, and will combine trending styles with practical applications all within realistic budgets. Kelter is also passionate about fashion, travel, living by the ocean and her bulldog.
 

Archive for the ‘Outdoor’ Category:

What’s Up?

 
seasonalstylebanner2
It’s hard not to feel that thrill of excitement when you start hearing Christmas music in the shops and the shelves begin to be lined with gift ideas and decorations for the holiday season.
 
Sure it can be easy to be cynical about the holidays, but isn’t there something wonderful about a time of year where so many of us will be with loved ones, enjoying the company of those we care about and remembering what Christmas is really about?
 
reddiningroomdecorationsA nice way to get into the festive spirit is by decorating your home. Adding those little (or major) seasonal touches is a chance to change your decor a little, and it marks the occasion, creating a warm and inviting place for holiday gatherings.
 
Lighting
 
One of the more common ways to get your home looking festive is outdoor lighting. You have the fun of choosing a colour palette — will you opt for the ever-elegant white lights, the funky multi-coloured, or maybe you’ll use one or two colours for all of your lights?
 
There’s a huge selection of lighting options, from icicle lights to your standard bulbs, and it’s a chance to add some really unique curb appeal to your house.
 
Lawn decorations
 
Not a fan of going up a ladder to string lights? There are some great options available that you can place on your lawn, such as reindeer and snowmen. These great light-up decorations look so pretty on those December nights as the snow quietly falls.
 
Wreaths
 
What is Christmas without a wreath or two? A growing trend we’re seeing by designers is purchasing a standard wreath then adding your own personal touches to it, with unique little decor items.
 
Fun
 
Some people even opt to make their own, using unexpected components, such as strings of Christmas light or candy canes. Instead of taking your outdoor lanterns from the summer inside, leave them out and add some garland or some holly berries to give them a holiday touch.
 
The tree
 
MomandChildwithChristmasTreeA tradition that is always a clear sign that the festivities have commenced in your home is the Christmas tree. More and more, consumers are foregoing real Christmas trees (those pine needles can be such a mess) and making a more long-term investment in an artificial tree.
 
They’re now made to look so real, and you have your choice of different sizes, colours, finishes and even pre-lit ones (anyone who has wrestled with that tangled ball of last year’s Christmas tree lights will appreciate the benefit of being able to just put up your tree, plug it in, and start adding decorations).
 
Many of us don’t see the Christmas tree as a design element in our space, but it definitely is, and we have so many choices about how to decorate it. It’s a really festive way to let your personal taste shine throughout your home.
 
With so many choices for what to put on your tree (ornaments, ribbon, bows, tinsel, and more), you can really personalize your tree — and it’s such a fun activity to do with children and other loved ones.
 
Fireplaces
 
With fireplaces being made so accessible for homes of every size and style to suit every budget, almost everyone is going to have a mantle to hang their stockings from this year, and that presents a perfect stage for setting the festive tone in your home. Whether you set up a Christmas scene on it, or create an interesting vignette using candles and decorations, make your mantle a focal point in your home — it will really add that festive warmth.
 
Ambience
 
Little touches go a long way in establishing ambience. Garlands on your stair banners, swapping some of your hanging art with Christmas-themed pieces, and adding decorations here and there will go a long way in making your space merry.
 
Whether you like to decorate for Christmas a little or a lot, it’s about incorporating the care, love, and warmth of the holiday spirit, and celebrating the things we truly love about home, which are not actually things at all!

 


Originally Published by The Chronicle Herald - November 13, 2014

 

Alexandra Kelter

 
Alexandra Kelter is a social media specialist with Central Home Improvements. Her column covers many aspects of home improvement, both indoor and outdoor, and will combine trending styles with practical applications all within realistic budgets. Kelter is also passionate about fashion, travel, living by the ocean and her bulldog.
 

Archive for the ‘Outdoor’ Category:

What’s Up?

 
finalgardenshedsbanner
pinterestshedsAnyone who spends time on Pinterest and home design blogs has probably noticed that garden sheds are doing double duty nowadays, and are being transformed into visually appealing storage, mini studios, and even little indoor/outdoor rooms just for hanging out in.
 
People are taking them to new levels of style and comfort-- gone are the days of run-down old sheds where spiders lurk and clutter grows.
 
Interested in transforming your shed? Step one is organization. You need to go through the contents of your shed and purge. Donate what you can, toss what needs tossing, and then decide what kind of storage system is right for your space.
 
There are a wide range of shelving units in different styles and materials that you can install in a shed or garage. The different types of shelving are designed to hold different kinds of weight and install differently, so you need to determine what you want the shelving to do. Most units are ones you can easily install yourself.
 
Are you turning your shed into outdoor garden storage? If so, having a nice workbench is a smart idea. A workbench doubles as a potting bench, tool maintenance and repair spot, and so much more.
 
paintingAre you turning it into a hideaway? If so, a coat of paint inside and outside is a big step. Painting the trim will also help add personality. Windows are ideal if your shed will be more than functional, and adding a window box full of pretty flowers adds even more appeal!
 
There are beautiful shed designs available now if you're starting from scratch. You can buy them pre-built, assembly required, or you can design and build one yourself (with the help of a contractor if you're not experienced in this area. A contractor will also know about your local building codes and restrictions).
 
Make sure your shed is properly sealed to keep out the weather and to protect its contents. After that, it's about adding personality!
 
If your shed is more for fun than for storage, window coverings will make it feel more homey. Design it so that on nice days, you can have the shed door (or doors) open-- adding flowy long see-through curtains to blow in the breeze and blur the line between inside and outdoors.
 
A little bistro set and other comfortable seating options will make it a lovely spot for long talks over tea.
 
If your shed is meant to create storage and minimize clutter, the key is organization and tidiness. Putting things away in their rightful place and keeping the interior and exterior shed surfaces clean will do wonders in making the space feel inviting and making it a nice spot to spend time in even when you're using it for storage and work around your home.
 
Properly utilized, storage sheds can be a homeowner's best friend,because as every homeowner knows, there's no such thing as too much storage!

 


Originally Published by The Chronicle Herald - October 2, 2014

 

Alexandra Kelter

Alexandra Kelter is a social media specialist with Central Home Improvements. Her column covers many aspects of home improvement, both indoor and outdoor, and will combine trending styles with practical applications all within realistic budgets. Kelter is also passionate about fashion, travel, living by the ocean and her bulldog.
 

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curbappealbanner
You're standing on the curb (or driving by, or walking past) and you look at a house near you and think, "That house is so beautiful! I wish I lived there." That, my friends, is curb appeal. Technically speaking, it's the level of attractiveness of your home and property as seen from the exterior.
 
sellingbuyinghouseWhy is it so important? For a number of reasons. For starters, curb appeal plays a major role in the resale value of your house. The exterior is a potential buyer's first introduction to their new potential home-- if it looks cared-for and inviting, they're going to be way more receptive to the idea that their house-hunt is over.
 
Many of the elements of a home's exterior that contribute to curb appeal also have practical applications as well. For example, new windows usually offer a significant visual upgrade, however they also increase insulation (keeping the summer sun from turning your house into an oven and the cold winter from making it into a fridge) and improve security (a hardy new window is way less appealing and harder to break into than an old, tired one).
 
One of the best things about attending to the curb appeal of your home is the simple fact that it feels great to take pride in your property. A house is the largest financial investment many of us will ever make-- we work hard to earn it, and it's definitely worth a little TLC to ensure that it reflects our personal style. Who doesn't enjoy having people gush over how lovely their home is?
 
Not sure what to tackle on your home improvement list to kick up the curb appeal? Take a walk all around your property with a pen and notepad. Look at it from the street. What jumps out at you as attractive, and what maybe needs a little makeover? Don't be afraid to check out ideas online and around your neighbourhood. It's hard to know what you like on a home's exterior unless you see it somewhere.
 
Consider the following. Do you want your home to blend into the streetscape? Or would you prefer that it stand out? Determining the answer is a good starting point for selecting colours and finishes that will present the face of your home. Keep in mind that trends come and go – if you don't want to renew your curb appeal every few years, consider sticking with classic colours and design elements in the major features, and incorporate trends into the smaller pieces such as urns and planters, house numbers and entrance mats.
 
roofcloseupLarger elements of your home's curb appeal include the roof, driveway, siding, and lawn. A sound roof is one of the best returns on investment you can make. It influences your home's insulation (in a very big way!), it protects all your beloved home's contents (including family members), and it's a big part of the visual picture. If your roof is tired, invest in a new one. There are some excellent payment plans now available to make a new roof affordable, and in the long run you'll save major money, not to mention that if and when you go to sell your home, a new roof increases the asking price of a property in a pleasing way.
 
Regular minimal maintenance will keep your driveway and lawn looking groomed, which then gives your property a similar air of being well looked-after.
 
For siding, there are so many different options now available that you'll have no trouble finding exactly what you want. Each type of siding comes with its own required maintenance, but as long as you keep on top of it, it's never going to be a major project.
 
frontdoorsPeople often forget that it's the details which really finish a look. Your front door, the walkway leading up to it, your window shutters, your mailbox, the flower beds or potted plants, your house numbers, the exterior trim-- all of these things play a surprisingly big role in the overall impression of your home. A quality front entrance is a good investment for your own benefit, but also when selling your home.
 
Remember the finishing touches, such as kick plates, door knockers and stylish door hardware when adding a new entrance to your home. A potential buyer's opinion of the overall caliber of a property is largely influenced by details like that, because if the seller has invested in these types of characteristics, they've also put thought and care into the larger parts of a home, like the furnace or roof.
 
Your walkway brings people to your home; it's like your property's handshake. Little things like ensuring there are no weeds growing in and around it, keeping it clear of debris, adding some nice flowers or plants along it, perhaps some pretty solar lighting, and similar such easy-to-do tasks will keep it looking fresh, stylish, and welcoming. Mulching walkway beds is a simple way to ensure you won't be spending a lot of time weeding – and it adds a well-groomed, professionally finished look to your property.
 
If you want to increase your home's curb appeal but you're working on a tight budget, consider painting the shutters and/or trim of your house. This simple DIY project won't take a lot of time or money, but you'll be shocked at what a fresh coat of paint can do to the overall attractiveness of your home's exterior. A popular trend among home designers right now is painting the house numbers in a bright colour to match or complement the front door and/or shutters. Adding some outdoor décor, like a wreath or hanging art to your door, and a chair with some colourful cushions, a pot of bright flowers and a stylish exterior entrance mat, will also win major style points.

 
You should be proud to come home to your house-- a little care and elbow grease will ensure that you always are.

 


Originally Published by The Chronicle Herald

 

Alexandra Kelter

Alexandra Kelter is a social media specialist with Central Home Improvements. Her column covers many aspects of home improvement, both indoor and outdoor, and will combine trending styles with practical applications all within realistic budgets. Kelter is also passionate about fashion, travel, living by the ocean and her bulldog.
 

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What’s Up?

 
Asphalt Maintenance Why When & How
Although asphalt driveways are not the most exciting topic, they are an important but easily overlooked part of regular home maintenance. Keeping your driveway in good shape will let you continue to take it for granted, so let's look at what need to be done.
 
Filling cracks and sealing your driveway are the maintenance you can expect to do. The first step is debris removal. Pull any grass or weeds growing up through driveway cracks and trim away any grass growing close to the sides. If you have any stains, like gas or oil spills, clean them with a mild soap (Dawn is great for removing oil). If you leave the stains, they will show through your new sealer. The next step is to sweep any debris off of your driveway. Using a crack sealer, fill any fissures, cracks or holes that have started in the asphalt. Follow the instructions on the crack sealer for best results. Once it has set, hose down your driveway to remove any remaining dirt or debris. If you use a power washer, use a fan-type nozzle and avoid washing over the newly-filled areas. Allow your driveway to dry for 24 hours before sealing.
 
sealingdriveway3 Summer is a great time to seal your driveway because the hot sun will cause the seal to dry faster. Early fall is also a good time (before the leaves fall) as it will protect your driveway from the encroaching winter. You need a sunny day to apply your seal and it has to stay dry for at least 24 hours after completion, so check the weather forecast before you begin. The seal will cure fastest in hot weather, but it's miserable work to do under a blazing summer sun, so apply it in the morning before the day reaches its peak heat and then your driveway has the day to set. Keep everything off the driveway for approximately 24 hours after you're done.
 
For sealing your driveway, you need to first select a sealer. Coal tar and acrylic are the two most popular options. Coal-tar is a popular choice that has been around for a very long time. It's weather resistant and has that long-lasting black sheen to it. It has to be re-applied every 3 years or when it is aesthetically required, whichever comes first. Acrylic sealers are a relatively new option. Extremely durable, they provide a great barrier between your asphalt and things that will damage it, like oil, gasoline and the elements. Acrylic sealers are the most environmentally friendly choice, and though they are more expensive, they only need to be reapplied every six years or so, so in the end, they are not only environmentally friendly, but also the most economical option!
 
While you should always follow the directions on the sealer packaging, the gist of the application process is that starting at the top of your driveway, pour enough sealer to cover a 4ft x 4ft area. asphalt-driveway Using a specially designed type of broom or a driveway roller, spread the sealer into a smooth, even square. Do this until you reach the bottom of your driveway. Be sure to smooth out the edges for the nicest finish. Clean your equipment with soap and water, and be sure to wear sturdy work gloves throughout the process.
 
Try to repair cracks as they appear, as when water gets into them then freezes and thaws it can quickly cause damage throughout your driveway, meaning you'll need to totally fill and re-seal it instead of just some simple crack filling.
 
A well-groomed driveway will prevent your vehicles from being damaged by large cracks and potholes in it, and adds greatly to the curb appeal of your property. Maintain your driveway regularly, and you'll receive a pleasing return on your investment.

 


Originally Published by The Chronicle Herald - August 7, 2014

 

Alexandra Kelter

Alexandra Kelter is a social media specialist with Central Home Improvements. Her column covers many aspects of home improvement, both indoor and outdoor, and will combine trending styles with practical applications all within realistic budgets. Kelter is also passionate about fashion, travel, living by the ocean and her bulldog.