Are You Making These Home Improvement Mistakes?

Home improvement projects can add comfort to your daily living right away and add value to your home over the long term. But if you want your upgrades to have the results you desire, there are at least three common mistakes that you need to avoid. When hiring a contractor, if you don’t make the effort to verify their qualifications and check their references, you may end up being disappointed in their performance. Not making sure you get all of the necessary permits and inspections required by your local community could be a very costly mistake. Planning and executing a home improvement project without creating a reasonable budget ahead of time will lead to overspending or skimping on cheaper materials. Learning how to avoid these mistakes will save you the pain and frustration of a home improvement project gone wrong.

1. Didn’t check credentials or references of the contractor 

Too many people don’t make the effort to check credentials and references. They may be intimidated by the contractor. Some people may be so excited about getting started they don’t want to “waste” time checking references. But simply assuming that the contractor is qualified could lead to a big disappointment when the job is done. Remember, you are ultimately in charge of the project and if you hire a contractor who is not qualified to do the work, you have only yourself to blame. Calling up some of the contractor’s prior customers can give you a wealth of information. Did the project start and end on time? Did the contractor respect the homeowner’s privacy? Would the customer hire the contractor again? Getting the answers to these questions will ensure you don’t encounter unpleasant surprises during your home improvement job.

2. Didn’t get necessary permits or inspection for the project 

You may find this hard to believe, but many homeowners fail to get the necessary permits and inspections required for their home improvement project. It is true that dealing with your local government employees may be frustrating at times. Permits cost money. Waiting for inspections can throw off your schedule. But not having properly certified work could lead to more expensive fines later on. A future buyer may insist on having the work done over again. Depending on the type of project, not having the work properly inspected could even be dangerous to your life and property. The stakes are too big to make this mistake.

3. No budget was planned before project

Another important element of home improvement that some people ignore is creating a budget ahead of time. Granted, it’s not much fun to sit down and crunch numbers when you would rather be demolishing a wall with a sledgehammer. But if you don’t plan your spending up front, you might spend too much on phases that don’t matter and not have the money you need for more important parts of the job. Coming up with a budget for the total project will help you plan the entire job from start to finish.

Avoid these top three home improvement mistakes to get the maximum benefit from any project you undertake. Make sure you check the references of your contractor and verify that he is qualified to do the work. Don’t try to complete your job without getting the permits and inspections that your community requires. Finally, budget your project from beginning to end. When you follow these simple recommendations, you will be able to view your finished project with pride and a sense of accomplishment.

How To Find A Roofer

If you are about to redo your roof, you will want to find the best roofing company that offers an affordable price. That may seem easier than it sounds but you will find a great variety of roofers, some with very poor workmanship and cheap prices and some with skillful workmanship and reasonable prices. However, how do you do it? How can you find an honest and reliable roofing company?

Knows Proper Roofing Practices 

You need to search for a roofing company that knows proper roofing practices. They should know how to install roof flashing in the right way and they need to know how to handle problem areas on existing roofs.  They should be familiar with all types of alternative roof covering products. For example, are they knowledgeable about the various shingle types that are available? Do they understand what is meant by the different grades of shingles? Are they experienced with low slope roofing or the materials needed for a flat roof?

Provides Good Advice on Roofs


A qualified roofing company will be able to educate you with good advice on all of the many roofing materials that are in existence. They can offer you a reasonable explanation of how they are going to proceed with your roof and prepare you for what you should expect during the roof installation. They will explain to you why they can offer you a written guarantee that your roof will last for so many years under normal circumstances.

Ask others 

It may be difficult to you as a homeowner to understand all that is going to unfold as they install your new roof. That is why you need to choose a roofer that has a good reputation in the community. Ask your roofing sales representative for testimonials from other satisfied customers. That will be one of the best ways for you to select your next roofing company. Another good way to find out who offer quality roofing is to ask your friends and family. Maybe they have dealt personally with someone in the past or maybe they know of someone who has recently had their roof replaced and were happy with all aspects of the installation.

Chamber of Commerce

Another way to find out about quality roofers in your area is to contact your local Chamber of Commerce. The Chamber of Commerce may have a list of all roofing companies who are currently active in the community. They will be able to provide you with contact numbers for any of the building or trade associations that serve your area. The Better Business Bureau will also be helpful with information about any particular company that you would like to further investigate.

Yellow Pages

You can continue your search by going to the yellow pages. While this method will only provide you with the names and addresses of roofing companies, you will be able enhance you research later by visiting various building supply stores and asking them about the workmanship of a particular firm. The internet is another avenue open to you when it comes to searching for a quality roofing company. The bottom line is that you need to do your homework if you want the best roofing company in your area to install a new roof on your home.

Green Living Home Improvement Ideas

Many homeowners are choosing to live a greener life, and are finding ways to perform home improvement projects that can decrease the amount of energy consumed every year. There are proven home improvement projects that are essential to green living. They can help the homeowner save money, using energy-efficient solutions while helping to save the planet.

Proper material selection

Through proper material selection, including recyclable and renewable options, there are many ways to improve the aesthetics and functionality of the home using green solutions. This can be anything from changing out an old incandescent bulb, with a new LED bulb that is known to produce the same amount of light for a reduced amount of cost.

Changing shower and bath accessories

Another option is changing out the traditional showerhead, for one that restricts the water flow. They can save thousands of gallons of water every year, while still providing quality baths and showers. The idea of living a green life is often taken in small steps, where minimal changes are made one step at a time.

Eco-Friendly Paint

Many homeowners are choosing to use eco-friendly paint that reduces the amount of airborne fumes during the painting process, and lasting until the paint cures. Every major home improvement retail center offers a wide assortment of eco-friendly paints that can be blended into any color in the rainbow.

Recycled Furniture

Many homeowners are choosing to go green by purchasing recycled furniture. They can pick up outdated, or worn out dining room tables, sofas, and chairs. With simple products found at the local home improvement store, they can easily transform these ugly, outdated furniture items into beautiful pieces of art that fit perfectly within the home.

Reducing the Carbon Footprint

The easiest way to reduce the family’s carbon footprint is to maximize the energy efficiency of the home. This can be accomplished by adding weather stripping around all windows and doors, and plugging up any drafty open holes in the house, attic or basement. In addition, changing out the existing HVAC system for a new energy-efficient one can reduce the amount of electricity required to heat and cool the home.

Many homeowners are also choosing to install solar panels on the roof of their home, as a way to generate their own electricity. This helps maximize the energy efficiency of the home, and minimizes their dependency on burning fossil fuels to generate heat and cooling.

Green Style Landscaping

By planting the right kinds of trees and shrubs around the home, it is easy to block out the heat of the summer sun, and minimize the amount of air conditioning required to cool the home. Heavy shrubs and high foliage trees positioned properly in the landscaping can dramatically enhance the beauty of the exterior of the home, while protecting the house from the harsh rays of the sun.

These few green living home improvement projects can save money, reduce energy costs, and help save the planet. Each one is affordable, and easy to perform. It is beneficial if every member of the family gets involved in living a greener life.

Adding Flower Herbs To Your Garden For Colour

Herbs are an important addition to the fruits and vegetables that we grow in our gardens. However, they do not have to be just plain old green plants. Most flowering herbs can more than hold their own when put up against any flower garden.

They have beautiful foliage and bright blooms. The herbs give you a double bonus by not only looking beautiful, but also being practical as well because they can be used for your crafts or cooking needs.

Having a border made of flowering herbs is a great compromise for those that have limited space because the plants serve double duty as a perennial border as well as an herb garden. There are many easy to plant beautiful herbs that you can use for foliage and flowers. Most of them bloom with colours ranging from silver, pink, lavender, and bronze, as well as white and yellow.

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Anise hyssop

One of the first perennial herbs that you can use is anise hyssop. This perennial will grow bushy clumps, having stems that branch upright and are topped with lavender blue flowers. These flowers will bloom somewhere between mid to late summer.

The flowers are very attractive to beneficial insects and pollinating bees, which in turn will benefit your entire garden. Both the flowers and leaves of this plant are very fragrant when they are dried or fresh and are great to use for a potpourri mix.

Purple coneflower

The purple coneflower otherwise known as echinacea, will produce sturdy stems in clumps that are topped with large daisy like rosy pink flowers that contain raised centres that are brown and orange in colour.

Feverfew

A delicate looking but very sturdy and easy to grow plant is feverfew. This herb will bloom from early in the summer to early fall. The flowers are white pedalled with yellow centres and look like mini daisies. These plants will grow up to 2 feet tall.

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Bee balm

Bee balm is another great flowering herb. This usually blooms in the summer with red flowers, however, some may also come with purple, pink, or white blooms. This herb will  also spread on its own.

Lavender

The very distinctive fragrance and look of lavender is also a great addition to your garden. The tall spikes of purple blue flowers sitting on very slender stalks over narrow leaves that have a silvery colour give lavender a distinctive look.

It will bloom around midsummer and makes a great border. The only consideration for lavender is to be sure it has very good drainage.

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Meadowsweet

Meadowsweet is a great perennial herb that blooms with white clusters of flowers during mid to late summer. Dark green large leaves will grow in clumps and spread by creeping. You will need to divide these plants around every 2 to 3 years to help control their spreading.

Using flowering herbs in your garden as a border, or just in general, can make a great addition to the look of your garden as well as providing great herbs for your cooking and craft needs.

Garage Remodelling Home Improvement Ideas

One of the quickest ways to add additional storage and room to the interior of the home is to utilise space that is not currently used. Nearly every home has unused space in the garage that can expand the area that is utilised for storage. Through an effective garage remodelling, every homeowner can provide a place for more organisation, while using space that was not being utilised for anything.

Remodelling the Garage

Many homeowners understand the garage provides the ideal environment for creating a home office, a workshop, or studio. Because it already has a roof and the floor, it is very easy to convert into quality space they can be used for a variety of reasons. With the simple addition of heating and cooling, and possibly plumbing, it is easy to quickly transform a portion of the garage into usable interior space.

Just because the homeowner is using a portion of the garage does not mean they will need to sacrifice the area used for storage. Consider using the area higher up, near the ceiling, to add additional shelving or storage in unused space. In addition, a small shed can be positioned outdoors, to contain many of the items that were originally stored inside the garage, such as lawn equipment and items for landscaping.

Expanding the Laundry Room

If you realise that your laundry room is positioned right next to the garage, you may have the opportunity to do something with the unused space. The unused space inside the garage might provide the perfect opportunity to take a portion of the garage and increase the size of the laundry room. By simply building an additional wall or two and adding a door the area can be instantly transformed into an expansive laundry room.

Adding a Mud Room

Most homes do not have mud rooms, where the family can remove their outer clothing and dirty boots without tracking debris and dirt throughout the home. Taking a portion of the garage and transforming it into a mud room is an ideal solution for keeping the interior of the home clean. If possible, consider installing a sink and cabinet to make the process of cleaning up much easier. This is a smart solution for a serious problem.

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Creating a Home Office

As more individuals are learning to telecommute, work from home, or beginning their own home business, they need their own home office. Instead of taking up one of the bedrooms, it is easy to create a home office within the existing garage structure. Taking just a small portion of the interior space, two walls, a bit of lighting, and access to the HVAC system is all that is required to transform unused space into an effective and usable home office area.

There are phenomenal garage remodelling home improvement ideas that can transform unused space into something worthwhile to add equity to the home, and increase its functionality. With a little creativity, and thinking outside the box, any homeowner can realise that they already have unused space that can be transformed into a beautiful addition to the interior of the home.

Planting Container Gardens

Container gardens are a good option for those who want to have a flower garden, but do not have the space for a flower bed. Container gardens are also good for those who may have the room for a regular flower bed, but want some flowers in other locations, such as a patio, or a corner of the yard away from a planting bed.

download (43)Obviously the first thing that you’ll need for a container garden is a container. Practically anything that will hold soil can be used as a container garden. You can choose something like a terracotta flower pot or ceramic container that you can find at your local gardening store or you can choose something more unusual. If you want something unique, your options for containers are almost unlimited. Whatever container you choose, just be sure that it will drain water. A few holes drilled into the bottom should suffice.

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A container garden can be used to add your own uniqu touch to your garden; you just have to choose a container that reflects your personality. For a slightly whimsical garden, you can use an old watering can for a container garden, or perhaps an old bowl and pitcher. For something even more unique, you can let your imagination run wild. A pair of boots, an old claw foot bathtub, or even a toilet can be turned into interesting container gardens.

Once you have your container, you need to fill it with soil, and start planting. You may want to put some landscaping fabric in the bottom of the container to prevent the drainage holes from getting clogged with soil. If your container is large, you may want to partially fill the container with empty water bottles, or Styrofoam peanuts, and then fill the rest of the container with soil. This will reduce the weight, and make it easier to move your container garden if you want it in a different location.

images (94)When choosing plants for your container garden, you can either choose plants with contrasting colours and textures, or plants with complimentary colours. Try to vary the size of the plants in the container. Plant something tall in the centre of the container, or in the back of the container if it will be against a wall or a fence. In front of this, use a smaller plant for some variety. Along the edge of the container, use plants that will spill over the side. This three layered planting method provides some interest to the garden.

You don’t necessarily need to follow the planting instructions exactly. If you are using annuals in your container garden, you can pack them together, since they will not have the chance to grow and spread. Just give them some room to spread, but do not leave gaps.

A container garden is ideal for adding a touch of colour to a corner of a patio or yard. You can even plant it several times a year, using different flowers for different growing seasons. With the right container, your garden can even reflect your own unique personality, making your garden your own.

Create A Garden Playhouse

Children love playhouses and creating one in the garden is fun and easy and the children will enjoy helping you create it. Your children will spend many happy summers playing in one of these and it will become one of their fondest childhood memories.

What You’ll Need

  • A nice sized section of garden area. Make sure there’s room enough for the kids to play inside.
  • Sunflower Seeds (various types, we like very tall ones and then smaller ones)
  • Various herbs (we like chamomile, lavender, mint, basil, oregano, marigolds and other similar herbs)
  • Carrots
  • Snow Peas

Decide On A Shape

Decide what shape you want your garden playhouse to be. You may wish to draw it out with string prior to planting your seeds.

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Planting Your Playhouse

Plant your giant sunflower seeds as the outer “walls” of your playhouse. Space them far enough apart that children can go in between them, but close enough together that they make it appear like a secret garden.

Plant snow peas near the tallest sunflowers. They will grow and wind up the tall sunflowers. Children will enjoy nibbling on these while they’re playing so be sure to show them how delicious they are.

Intersperse the herbs throughout the sunflowers and plant smaller sunflowers in between as well. You want it to appear as if there is a quaint little garden fence along the outer “walls” of your playhouse so be creative and make the herbs appear to be a fence line or add pops of color here and there.

Plant the carrots along the inside “wall” of the tallest sunflowers. These make great snacks for hungry children while they’re in the playhouse.

Water

Help your children water their playhouse every day. Talk to them about how some plants grow faster than other plants. Talk about how some plants have edible seeds (sunflowers) and some have edible roots (carrots) while some have edible flowers and delicious leaves.

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Furnishing Your Playhouse

Depending upon the age of your children, you may wish to put some lawn furniture inside the playhouse area. We have a hammock we like in ours.

You could make the inside like a sand castle as well and have a sand bucket or some “earth moving” tools like toy dump trucks etc. Get creative and make this playhouse as personal as you can for your children.

Winding Down The Season

As the season winds down and the sunflowers begin to tip over teach your children about how to dry sunflowers. Remove the heads of the flowers and air dry your seeds. Then toast them with some sea salt and enjoy eating them.

Uproot the remainder of the sunflower stalks and put them in a compost pile. Save the herbs and dry them for eating with dinner in the winter months. Remind the children how the herbs grew in their own playhouse.

Oregano, lavender, chamomile and marigolds will come back year after year so there is no need to remove these. Basil will need to be replanted each year.

Enjoy playing in the playhouse.

Build A Garden TeePee

Gardening doesn’t have to be boring. You can create your own unique garden with just a few creative tips. There are many climbing plants that one can plant. Today, we’re going to focus on climbing peas, beans and flowers (such as morning glory)

Gather Some Big Sticks

Gather up some large sticks. Your sticks should be approximately 1 to 2 inches in diameter and at least 5 to 6 feet long. You should have at least 10 of these sticks to start.

Garden Twine

You’ll need a roll of sturdy but pliable garden twine. Take three of the sticks (I always use the 3 longest sticks for this part) and tie them together into a tripod shape. This will form the basis for your teepee.

Adding More Sticks

Now add in more sticks to make your teepee sturdy. Keep adding one or two sticks at a time at equal intervals apart and tie them firmly at the top with twine. You should have the outer section fanned out and the top section should all be tied together just as if it were a regular teepee. If you wish for kids to be able to play inside of the teepee make sure to leave an opening at this point in time.

Positioning Your Teepee

Now that you have your base it’s time to position your teepee in the garden. Dig a moat around the outer edge of where the teepee will be and place the bottom of the teepee into the moat. The moat should be a few inches deep. Once you have the teepee into position fill in the moat being careful to make sure that the base of each and every teepee pole is in the moat and being filled in. Pack this down firmly.

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Planting

Now, it’s time to plant. Just outside of the moat dig a small furrow around the teepee edge. You may wish to alternate your seeds as far as beans, peas and flowers go or you may wish to plant them in small groups. However you decide to do it, gently place seeds in the ground around the furrow until you’ve placed all of your seeds equally around your teepee base.

Cover Seeds

Now that your seeds are placed it’s time to gently cover them. Place a small amount of dirt over each and every seed and gently tamp it down.

Water Gently

Now that your seeds are in the ground it’s time to give it a gentle watering. I prefer to use a watering can for this so as not to disturb the seeds and displace them. I water all around the filled in furrow and let the ground soak up the water.

Wait Patiently

Now I wait. Patiently. Within a few days (if the weather cooperates) I will see seedlings beginning to pop up. I continue to water with my watering can until the seedlings are several inches tall and won’t be damaged by the sprinkler.

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Weed As Needed

Weed your seedlings as needed.

Wind Up The Teepee

As the plants grow I wind them up the teepee and allow them to wrap themselves around it.

When the plants are ready for harvest I have a fully enclosed teepee and can pick my peas and beans.

Practical Gardening – Grow Your Own Greens

Growing your own greens can cover a multitude – there are, after all, plenty of greens to think about. We all know that eating our greens are good for us so what could be better than growing our own greens? They don’t come much fresher or tastier than straight from the garden to the plate.

There are lots of different types of green to consider but today we’re going to think specifically about salad crops. Now don’t click over, I know what you’re thinking – boring old lettuce. There are actually loads of varieties of green salad crops which can be grown quite easily.

Right, let’s start with lettuce, now what about chard and spinach, some kale and mustard is also nice from the cabbage family and what about growing some of the less well known greens like corn salad, chicory, radicchio or escarole. None of these greens take up too much valuable garden space but they can make a big, tasty difference to a fresh, crunchy summer salad.

download (46)The most popular way of growing lettuce and other greens is using space saving rows which leaves lots of room to try many of the different varieties of greens. Why not splash out on an extra seed packet or two and give them a try – it won’t cost the earth but it could be a very tasty experiment. Try out three or four different types of lettuce and greens so that you can really enjoy a good variety of salads right through the summer.

Top Tip – people who live in hotter climates may find it beneficial to plant things like spinach and lettuce in partial shade – this will help to prevent them from bolting during the hotter months.

It’s always a good idea to start off lettuce and other greens indoors then transplant them for an early spring harvest, you may even live in the right location for a fall crop. Cool-weather greens do need some shade so that’s definitely worth thinking about before you start planting.

download (48)Lettuce and other greens will quite happily mix with other vegetable crops. You could always plant lettuce, onions and carrots in the same row (around 16 inches across) then harvest the lettuce whilst it is still very young leaving plenty of space for the onions and carrots to expand. You can do the same sort of thing with spinach and beets – mixing and matching and making the most of your vegetable garden space available.

One mistake which many newbie vegetable gardeners make is to plant too many vegetables at one time. Think about it, you can’t eat a whole row of lettuces all at once so it makes sense to plant short successive rows to that they don’t all mature and get ready for harvest at once. Think about how many mouths there are to feed in your family and work it out.

Lettuce can also make a rather attractive addition to a floral border, particularly the curly cress. The  bright green foliage can look lovely and provide a great contrast with the flowers – a beautiful edible border – whatever next?

Hydroponic Gardening

When most people think of gardening, they think of plants growing in dirt, but this isn’t the only way to grow plants. Hydroponics is another method to grow plants that doesn’t use soil, especially in hydroponic grow tents. Many of you might be wondering how can you grow a plant without soil? Well, it is quite easy to grow plants without soil. To explain this, lets first explain how plants grow. Plants receive the bulk of their nutrients from the soil and these nutrients are basic minerals and vitamins.

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When growing a plant without soil some type of nutrient free medium is used to hold the plant in place and the actual food and vitamins are feed to the plant via a complete fertiliser. I use the term complete fertiliser because most fertilisers are designed for plants that grow in soil, so they are missing a few key vitamins that the soil is expected to provide.

There are dozens of ways to construct a hydroponic garden. There are passive systems that do not use electronic pumps and bubble machines, and the plants simply grow roots that are submerged into the water. The Kratky method is a good example of this and is being used by commercial lettuce and vegetable leaf gardens.

Other methods use a recirculating pump to aerate the water to provide plants an abundance of oxygen and water. Some use misters that directly spray water on the roots of plants.

So, why would anyone want to do hydroponic gardening. There are several benefits to using hydroponics and I will list then bellow:

(1) Hydroponic plants grow faster

(2) Hydroponic gardens have fewer insects

(3) Hydroponic gardens grow bigger plants

Plants grown in hydroponic gardens grow faster and larger than plants that are grow in soil. How is this possible? This is possible because when plants grow in soil, their roots have to stretch and search for water. In a hydroponic system, plants always have access to well oxygenated water, this allows them to grow at a faster rate.

With hydroponics, you also deal with fewer insects and diseases. The soil that plants are grown in is often a major cause of infestation. The carries insect larvae and gives them the perfect environment to grow, you do not have this with hydroponics.

Another benefit of hydroponic gardening is that they are easier to maintain. You don’t have to carry around bags of dirt or deal with weeds. It is even possible to automate the water and feeding process so that your garden is self-sufficient.

Is hydroponic gardening better than growing in soil? This is a difficult question to ask. Hydroponics does have some major benefits over growing over soil, which we listed above. Better is such a value judgement. I will only say that hydroponics requires less maintenance.

As you can see, hydroponic gardening is a great alternative to growing plants in soil. It is easier to maintain, plants grow faster and bigger in hydroponic gardening. Give this method a try and you will be pleasantly surprise at how well it works.

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