Thursday, December 20, 2007

Secrets to Stress-Free Decorating for Christmas

Your home is your Christmas holiday oasis and decorating it can be overwhelming. By the time you find the right style, budget and energy to start and finish the project, stores are decorated for Valentine’s Day.

This season, don’t let holiday decorating get you down. Follow these basic tips from Marquette Turner to make decorating a positive experience.

1. Have a plan.
Take time to decide how you want to decorate and plan ahead before you start shopping. Collect ideas and images from magazines to pinpoint the holiday style and theme you want in your home.

Whether it’s a focus on the outdoors, vintage toys or a color scheme (try silver and gold versus the traditional red and green), identify these cues to focus your search and make it easier to transform your home.

2. Be patient and delegate.
Rome wasn’t built in a day, and your seasonal décor style won’t be either. Craft a personal theme or style through the years, buying and collecting holiday accents as you go.

Also try to make holiday decorating a family affair. Use your family to help unwrap decorations to reveal favorite holiday themes and include them in your shopping to create new traditions. Collecting your family’s input involves them in the process and cuts down on holiday work and stress.

3.Find Bargains
The holidays are an expensive time of year, so finding ways to save money is important. If you see a holiday idea or accent in a store that is priced beyond your reach, look for coupons online. These sites offer deals for various retailers that carry holiday decorating items. Taking a few minutes to shop for these savings can be well worth it in creating your holiday haven.

Don’t forget to shop post-holiday sales and benefit from the cost savings offered on leftover seasonal items.

4. Be versatile.
Buy items you can use in a variety of ways. For example, holiday-themed tins have many alternative uses, including adding color to a table setting or making a fun display of tins you’ve collected over the years. Items like Arnott's Tins add nostalgia to your décor and can also be used as stocking stuffers or teacher gifts.

5. Use nature.
Try using elements from the great outdoors to spice up this year’s decor. Gather foliage from outside, including pine branches to create a rustic feel in a centerpiece or on a windowsill.

A simple and affordable way to add style to your home is by filling a large glass bowl or colored dish with an array of nature or food items. Foods with vibrant colors, such as berries, add rich texture and fragrance to your entertaining area.

6. Let it shine.
Lighting is a simple and classy way to set the holiday mood. Place candles throughout your home to evoke holiday scents and add a soft glow.

Wrap holiday ribbon around votives to add a special touch or lower lighting levels for a cozy feeling. Try to conserve energy by purchasing energy-saving bulbs and turning off holiday lights during the day. And remember, a fire in the fireplace sets an enchanting scene.

Extreme Makeover: Home Edition

Extreme Makeover: Home Edition is devoted to rebuilding families' homes when the family is in need of new hope. The family will then be sent off on a one-week vacation while the house is renovated or demolished, depending on its condition and the family's needs. (One episode in season three did not include a vacation because the family's daughter was in isolation at a local hospital).

Beginning with Season 3 the demolitions have become quite creative -- the team has used falling trees, tanks, and even monster trucks to accomplish the task where needed.

Consistently in the top ten programs in the US, this emotive reality series follows the transformation of a family's house, including all rooms, exterior and landscaping. The home is made over by the team in seven days and is hosted by Ty Pennington, formerly a carpenter on the show Trading Spaces (similar to Changing Rooms in Australia).

The show is one of America’s top-rated series and has become more popular than the original Extreme Makeover. It has won back-to-back Emmy Awards as Best Reality Program and is in its 4th season.

Coming to W. Channel in January.

Simon Turner, Marquette Turner

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Trumped! Look Inside Donald's $125 million Palace

Donald Trump's $125 million Palm Beach, Florida mansion is the most expensive U.S. home on the market. Read on then watch the guided tour.

In 2004, Donald Trump bought Maison de L'Amitie at bankruptcy auction for $41.25 million. With the refurbished version, complete with a ballroom, a 4,100 square foot conservatory, 100-foot-long swimming pool as well as 2 others, a media room, a library and 475 feet of oceanfront, he aims to set a U.S. sales record.

The mansion has 80,000 square feet of space but no chandeliers. Lighting and other fixtures have been left out of the home, so the new owners can customize it to their taste.

The French Regency “palace” also features an eight-car garage, carriage house, guest house and pool house.

"It's just a fantastic piece of property," Trump says. "The biggest site. The biggest oceanfront. The best location in Palm Beach. And Palm Beach is the richest community in the world."

Now take the tour of Maison de L'Amitie.
Simon Turner

Water Shortage Means Added Value

ADDING water-saving features to your home will also add value to your property, particularly as water shortages and restrictions are almost inevitable these days.

Water-saving features can add up to $5000 to the value of typical Sydney homes.

It also allows people to do "their bit" for the environment.

This is a clear sign that people are recognising the importance of conserving water not only for the environment but in terms of saving money in water bills.

On a personal note, my country home in country New South Wales runs purely on tank water. This was a conscious decision and coincided with the launch of Marquette Turner's environmental program, Clear The Air.
Our tanks are currently full, and we are about to get a third: proof that a simple but well fitted catchment system is more than adequate given the average rainfall that is typical on an annual basis.

And having grown up in the city, when you know that you only have a limited source of water (ie. the tanks), one learns very fast how to conserve it. The bigger picture also becomes much clearer. Water is indeed very precious.

Simon Turner

The Basics: Insulation & Air-Conditioning


Insulated homes are cooler in summer and warmer in winter. Because of its inherent energy efficient properties, installing insulation means that you will save on both your heating and cooling bills.

The two types of insulation are bulk and reflective foil, however the most important thing to consider is the r-value. The r-value is the thermal resistance of the insulation and the higher the number, the more effective the insulation is. The range for r-values is between one and four.

The three common types of air-conditioning include split systems, fixed units and ducted air-conditioning. All of them will cool your home but the differences in installation and running costs will greatly influence what you will select.

Therefore you need to consider things such as where the air-conditioner will be placed and what you want to use it for exactly. Professionals can help you out with this, helping you choose a system that perfectly fits your needs.
Simon Turner

Star Homes: Shaquille O'Neal

Listed at: $35 million

Bought from former Heat teammate Rony Seikaly in 2004 for $18.8 million, O'Neal's 20,000-square-foot Mediterranean-style Star Island home has eight bedrooms, an indoor basketball court, an outdoor tennis court, swimming pool and a dock.

Mitchell Hartmann

Improve Your Home: Add a Deck

Building a deck can be a very pleasant home improvement - you will be able to enjoy more time outdoors at your home, and increase its value.

Before you begin, make sure you check the building codes for your area. Each code will be different based on the size of your lot, how high from the ground it will be, the area of country for frost lines, etc.

Building any home extension which isn't up to code can be a huge headache.
Planning and designing your deck should include where you are going to put your deck and what the deck will be used for.

You should also think about how much sun and shade the deck will have throughout the day. Trees are a nice addition for your home improvement deck, but be careful what types of trees. Some trees will drop a lot of debris on your deck. Berries on the trees can also stain your deck, your deck furniture and the railing.

If it is a very sunny spot, consider a trellis roof to help shade the area. If you are building your home improvement deck to house a spa, you will want to place your home improvement deck to maximise privacy.

Then sit back, relax, and enjoy your fabulous idea to build a deck!

Mitchell Hartmann

Wednesday, December 5, 2007


Remember how paint-by-numbers took the angst out of arts and crafts when you were a kid?

Well, now Wallpaper-By-Numbers offers the same "freedom" to express yourself on the walls of your home. Designer Jenny Wilkinson developed an idea of printed outline designs on wallpaper which can then be filled in using paints, colouring pencils or felt tip pens - easily manageable for anybody who's capable of colouring within the lines.

A "Borders" range is also available if you or the kids don't feel quite up to colouring in an entire wall. For more information visit: Simon Turner

Chromotherapy-Equipped Shower

The Kosmic steam and shower cabin can be illuminated with a choice of eight colours to best suit your mood.

From the vitality of red to the harmony of green, the feel-good fitting offers light relief by the bucket-load. The chromotherapy-equipped unit works to ease away the winter blues. Chromotherapy - or colour therapy - is a form of holistic medicine that uses light to promote relaxation and stimulate wellbeing.

For more information visit:

Simon Turner

Top 10 Ideas To Add Value To Your Home

1. Make your kitchen really cook. The kitchen is still considered the heart of the home. Potential home buyers make a beeline for this room when they first view a home for sale, so make sure your kitchen looks clean and reasonably updated. For a few hundred dollars, you can replace the kitchen faucet set, add new cabinet door handles and update old lighting fixtures with brighter, more energy-efficient ones.

2. Give appliances a facelift. If your kitchen appliances don't match, order new doors or face panels for them.

3. Buff up the bath. Next to the kitchen, bathrooms are often the most important rooms to update. They, too, can be improved without a lot of cash. Even simple things like a new toilet seat and a pedestal sink are pretty easy for homeowners to install, and they make a big difference in the look of the bath.

4. Step up your storage. Old houses, particularly, are notorious for their lack of closet space. If you have cramped storage areas simply add do-it-yourself wire and laminate closet systems to bedrooms, pantries and entry closets.

5. Add a room in a week or less. If you have a three-bedroom house with a family room or study, the only reason it can't be considered a bedroom may be because it doesn't have a cupboard. Therefore, if you add one you've now got a four-bedroom house. That adds a lot of value.

6. Mind the mechanics. It's often very worthwhile to hire an electrician and plumber for a couple of hours to look over your electrical services, wrap or fix loose wires, fix any faulty outlets, and check for and fix any water leaks. Those details tell a buyer that someone has really taken care of the home and can really influence its price.

7. Look underfoot. Carpeting is another detail that can quickly update a home and make it look cleaner. A professional carpet cleaning is an inexpensive investment, especially if your rugs are in good shape and are neutral colors.

8. Let there be light. If you have boring recessed lights in your dining and living rooms, consider replacing one of the room's lights with an eye-catching chandelier. Home stores offer a wide range of inexpensive, but nice-looking, ceiling fixtures these days. If you have a ceiling fan and light, you can also buy replacement fan blades (leaving the fan body in place) to update the fixture's look.

9. Reframe your entry. Do you have a flimsy little knob on your main entry door? If so, spring for a substantial-looking handle-and-lock set. A nice, big piece of hardware on the front door signals to newcomers that this is a solid home.

10. Consider curb appeal. Although it sounds obvious, a nicely mowed lawn, a few well-placed shrubs and a swept walkway makes a great first impression. What buyers see when they first drive by your home is tremendously important.

Homes of the Rich & Famous: Greg Norman

VENDOR: Greg Norman
LOCATION: South Beach Road, Hobe Sound, Jupiter Island
PRICE: $US 65,000,0000
SIZE: 17,825 square feet
FEATURES: 9 bedrooms, 11 full and 3 half bathrooms

DESCRIPTION: Welcome to "Tranquility," a peaceful eight-acre estate with more than 16,000 square feet of air-conditioned space on Jupiter Island in Hobe Sound, Florida. The main house overlooks the Intracoastal Waterway with 370 feet of waterfront, and a 140-foot dock that can accommodate a large yacht with a lift for a smaller vessel...Estate includes a total of nine bedrooms , 11 full baths and three half baths in six structures.

Homes of the Rich and Famous: Jason Lee

Actor Jason Lee has just paid $US 3,350,000 for 5745 Hill Oak Drive in The Oaks area of Los Feliz.

Built in 1948, the Hill Oak Drive house is a “one-story European”-style house, with two and a half baths and a living room with beamed ceilings, hardwood floors and an Arizona flagstone fireplace, according to public records and listing information. Other features include a dining room with an adjacent patio, a kitchen with a Viking range and a SubZero refrigerator, a separate office/guesthouse, a secret garden with a spa, a rear patio with a fireplace and a barbecue area, a wine cellar, and a large driveway with room for eight cars, according to listing information. The 1.412-acre property has a pool and views of the Griffith Observatory.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Listen to Your Home's Heartbeat

How many times have you left the house then wondered if you'd left the lights - or even worse, the iron or oven - on? There are plenty of home-security systems on the market that will alert you if someone tries to break in, but what if the danger is coming from within your home?

The Home Heartbeat home awareness system monitors up to 30 high-risk locations in your home via three components (base station, home key and sensors). The base station monitors your home by way of sensors placed on things like windows, doors, water heaters, etc. and then relays messages to the home key (a key chain receiver), although you can elect to have messages sent to your phone or email. S

o you don't have to worry about the state of your home while you're out, because you'll be the first to know. Simon Turner

One Style Throughout

Q: We have an old home that's had several additions over the years. Is it possible to renovate it ourselves to obtain a more cohesive style?

A: Home renovation isn't a recent phenomenon - it's just become more glamorous recently. Apart from the appeal of many older homes, they are usually well-located and provide real opportunities for capital growth if carefully handled.

Older homes have often been altered or added to since they were originally built. It's not unusual to see houses, particularly period cottages, which have undergone several face-lifts over the years as families have moved in and out, as lifestyles have changed and as repairs have become necessary. A common sight is the "cascading skillion" - a series of lean-to additions at the rear of a home with each roof tucked under the eave of the previous one.

The first priority of any renovator intending to retain previous additions should be to ensure that they are safe. One in four of the homes inspected by building inspectors has some form of illegal building evident - a low ceiling, steep stairs or inadequate natural light or ventilation, for example.

It's reasonable to assume that such work was done without the necessary permits or inspections so the condition and adequacy of the structure, the wiring or the plumbing is uncertain at best. Some investigation should be carried out to establish the extent of any reconstruction work required (and its likely cost) before decisions are made about retaining that "charming attic" or the "sun-filled sitting room".

This done, the design process can begin, taking into account circulation, zoning, orientation, views, materials, lifestyle needs, the form of the house and of course the budget. It's sometimes useful to think about the building an empty vessel within which your particular requirements need to be accommodated.

Style is clearly a matter of individual taste and preference. Many renovators want to preserve or recreate period details while others enjoy the freedom of more contemporary materials and spaces. The choice is yours and it can be worth exploring the possibilities of both approaches.
In any event, it's important to do your homework first. Objectively assess the home so you can decide what to keep - don't assume it's condition or it's adequacy for your needs.

Simon Turner

Architects: To Use or Not to Use

Q: "We are currently weighing the pros and cons of using an architect. We do not want a "cutting-edge" renovation and certainly do not want the pressure of dealing with someone who wants to put his or her "stamp" on the place. That said, is there a role for an architect in our renovation and what is the average percentage charged? Does this include advice on fittings and fixtures?"

A: "Why have a "cutting-edge" renovation when you can have something that perfectly suits your needs. The "cutting edge" makes great news, but what won't be on the front page is how an architect turned a modest budget under budget.

Using an architect really depends on how much value you place in a home. If room layout, circulation, siting, sun, passive solar heating, views and priceless lifestyle benefits are important, it's probably best to use an architect. Archicentre runs a service for people who have renovation dreams, but don't know where to begin. It's called the Archicentre Renovator report.

Following a detailed home briefing, the architect produces concept drawings with one objective: to capture your vision. For optimum value, the architect should present detailed drawings to several builders as part of a competitive tender. If this job is managed intelligently, your architect's fees will be minimal.

Don't be surprised if there is a huge difference between the highest and lowest tender; 40% to 60% is not unusual. The architect's standard fee of 10-15% is merely a quarter of the difference. Advice on fittings and fixtures is included. Simon Turner

How to Easily Update an Old Brown Kitchen

Q: What colours would suit a kitchen/family area/laundry upgrade to a home 30 odd years old with quite a bit of dark brown feature brickwork internally at present.

A: A coat of paint is probably the least expensive way to revive your interior. Colours should be neutral, elegant and if you have trouble capturing much daylight, a skylight or a lighter colour could help. For a flashy result, apply a cement-based paint for a nice textured finish. For excellent interior guidance, a decorator or an architect is ideal for making great value judgements on planning and design. Or research using some of the widely available magazines or ask your local hardware store for advice, colour charts or even 3-D modelling. Simon Turner

Money Laundering Rife in British Washing Machines!

Check your pockets before putting your clothes in the wash, as last year Britons destroyed £163 million of currency, £251 million worth of mobile phones and £13 million worth of MP3 players in washing machines. One-in-ten Britons destroyed cheques.

Handy tip: look after your washing machine and look after your money even more!

Simon Turner

Feng Shui Tips For Your Children

Here are some simple tips to allow your children to benefit from the art of Feng Shui:

1) Try not to allow children to sleep on mattresses on the floor. Yes, this allows young children not to fall off beds but it also causes young children to fall sick frequently. The reason is: chi is not able to flow underneath the bed. Ideally, chi should circulate around the mattress where our children sleep to allow them to be healthy.

2) For young children, try to have their back to the wall when they write. It is important there should be a solid wall behind a children's writing table. This allows the child to have support so that he can sit there and study longer rather than for only half an hour and then they tend to move about because there is no solid wall behind their back. Adjust your writing table.

3) Do not allow children to sleep on double bunk beds even if it means saving space. The child sleeping underneath will not have "fresh chi" and so his health might be weak. But if due to space constraints, then monitor your child's health if not add in a metal 6 rods wind chime or a crystal sphere, to break up the "stale chi" around his bed.

4) If your child usually falls sick in a bedroom then either change them to another bedroom or simply hang a six rod metal wind chime as the metal element will break all the earth energies in that room. After hanging, if the wind could not do the job for you then you will have to "chime" it yourself and then watch for the good results. Simon Turner

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

The Most Costly Part of Your Home To Renovate

For many homeowners, a new roof can be the single most expensive non-elective home improvement they make. So before deciding to buy a new roof, you may want to take steps to prolong the life of the one you've got.

It's often possible to inspect the roof yourself for trouble areas and, if you're handy around the house, even make repairs. If, on the other hand, you're afraid of heights or feel uneasy attempting such a project, then many roofing specialists are there to help you – you just need to pick the reputable and certified ones.

Keep in mind, however, that home improvement/repair scams rank second only to auto-related complaints received each year by the Office of Fair Trading. What's more, roof scams are high on the list of home-improvement consumer rip-offs.

Be wary of a roofing company that comes to the door offering to inspect your roof because they "just happen to be in the neighborhood." Unscrupulous companies will make their way onto your roof and find several hundreds or thousands of dollars' worth of repair work to do. What follows is an "unbelievable" offer — typically a savings of 10 percent to 20 percent — if they can do the work "on the spot" for payment in full upon completion. Sadly, some will insist on advance payment without ever setting foot on the roof and may never be seen again.
So remember a simple rule: Never be in a hurry to begin any remodeling work without doing lots of planning.

If your roof needs repair, have an inspection and estimate made by at least two (preferably three) licensed roofing contractors. You can then compare inspection reports and cost estimates.
Finding a roofing contractor can be a chore. The Yellow Pages, a local consumer referral service, and references from friends, neighbours or a real estate professional (!) are all good resources for finding one.

If the thought of climbing on the roof brings on high anxiety, consider keeping your feet firmly on the ground and using a pair of binoculars. Look for loose shingles or wood shakes, or, if you have a tile or slate roof, missing or cracked pieces. In any case, keep traffic on the roof to a minimum to prevent damage to shingles or tiles.

On shingle roofs, look for curling, fraying and tears at the edges. Don't forget to check the flashing around chimneys, vents, skylights and other roof penetrations; it should be tight and in good condition.

Many roof leaks are actually flashing leaks. Flashing is a solid waterproof barrier that prevents moisture from entering an area that cannot be completely sealed with a roofing material. Although most flashing is constructed of galvanized sheet metal, lead and copper also are frequently used. They are more flexible, which makes them the better choice for use with roofing material that isn't flat, such as clay or concrete S-tile.

Clean up rusted flashing with a wire brush, repair it with high-quality caulking, and paint with a rust-resistant paint. Replace severely deteriorated flashing and vents.

Leaves, pine needles and other debris on the roof can cause water to back up between shingles or around flashing, resulting in leaks. Clogged gutters and downspouts also can cause leaking.
Clear sticks, leaves, tennis balls and other debris from drains, scuppers and gutters. A scupper, typically made of galvanized sheet metal, is a short trough that discharges water off the roof and into a downspout. Scuppers are used in lieu of gutters for many flat roofs. Downspouts apply in either case.

Locating a leak can be daunting. Often, a visual inspection isn't enough to determine where a leak is coming from. In that case, a water test is in order.

You need to venture onto the roof to do this test effectively. Use a firmly braced or tied-off ladder equipped with rubber safety feet, and wear rubber-soled shoes to avoid slipping. Affix a safety harness to an anchor on the roof, a tree or a solid object on the other side of the roof to give yourself more protection. Using a garden hose, run water onto the areas where a leak is most likely to exist.

For example, if you have a water stain on the ceiling just in front of the living room fireplace, concentrate your water test on that general area. The chimney flashing may be the culprit in this case. Have a helper in the attic to see where the water is making its way through the roof.
When performing a water test, always work an area no more than 4 feet wide, starting from the lowest part of the roof and working up, standing on dry roofing. Once you reach the ridge, begin at the eave with another 4 foot section. This allows you to tackle one area at a time and prevents you from working on a wet roof, which can be a slip hazard.

After you find the source of the leak, you can either try the repair yourself or call in a professional. Sometimes all that's required is a dab of roofing adhesive, a touch of caulking or a small shingle patch. Other times, flashing, vents or sections of roofing must be torn out and replaced, in which case you should definitely hire a roofing contractor.

Waiting until the rains begin can make finding a reputable contractor almost impossible, and usually means paying more. Pay now or pay more later! Mitchell Hartmann

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

5 Feng Shui Tips For The Bedroom

1) Your bed should always have a solid wall behind you. This is important if you wish to have a good rest. A solid wall simply means that you can go into deeper sleep and therefore enabling you to have good rest so that when you wake up in the morning, you will feel fresh and well rested. This also allows you to be able to concentrate on your work better.

2) There should be no beam on top of your bed. The beam above causes chi to be pressured thus enabling you to have pressures in life. Therefore, don't place furniture underneath it or alternatively level the beam. But make sure if you choose the latter, it is important that you have enough height for that space.

3) Always open your bedroom windows at least once 20 minutes a day to allow fresh chi to come in, we do this so that it allows fresh new chi from outside to come into your bedroom, if not you will be sleeping with stale chi every night. And if that happens, then how can you expect your life to bring in more good fortune to come to you? So open that window and never mind if dusts comes in! The great good fortune that you can have will far exceed the time you take to clean off the dust.

4) There should be no television sets in your bedrooms: If you cannot get rid of that habit then after watching the television cover it with a plastic table cloth. Remember it has to be plastic and not simply cloth.

5) There should be no mirrors opposite your bed or at the side of your bed. Mirrors opposite the bed can attract a third party to the relationship. Therefore, do not place mirrors anywhere you like and especially in your bedroom. Mitchell Hartmann

Power With A Twist

Having overcrowded plug-boards around the house can be dangerous, yet there never seem to be enough outlets at times.

If you really need to utilise all the power available to you, the Eubiq System - an electrical power outlet system that allows you to add, remove and reposition power outlets with a simple twist - is a great idea.

Available in a wide and versatile range, it consists of tracks onto which power points can be clipped wherever they are needed around the house. It also has a safety feature which grounds all conductive objects that come in contact with it, making electric shocks virtually impossible. Simon Turner

The Drawer Fridge

The Norcool Drawer Fridge, a sleek metallic refrigerator that is built right under your existing counter top space and consists of easy pull-out drawers, adds a whole new dimension and sophistication to your kitchen.

As with dishwasher drawers, if you are just a one or two person household and/or have a smallish kitchen, then this is the best way to optimize space. You could have your fridge installed into your island so that when you’re chopping, you can just grab below for that egg or shot of milk instead of trekking across to the big beast on the other end of the room.

If your space is big enough, you could even keep your old fridge for bottles but use your drawer device for the things you cook with all the time. The refrigeration drawer module has a total capacity of 170 litres. It includes two outer drawers and an inner drawer. The drawers can be pulled out completely and have an easy-glide self-closing mechanism and shock absorption. For more information visit Norcool's website.

The Transformer Couch

The couch that turns into bunk beds

Whilst this isn't coming to a cinema near you soon, it could be arriving in your spare bedroom.

The tidy couch morphs very quickly and simply into bunk beds!. The DOC sofa bed, from BonBon Trading in the UK, is a practical device that is ideal for small pads where space is limited. In a range of colours, from funky orange to more neutral tones, there’s one for every taste. The sofa has removable covers and integrated/patented mechanism which transforms the sofa into a bunk bed. Doc XL furnishes the day area and with a simple movement transforms into a practical ready made bunk bed with integrated supporting ladder and protection guard. Simon Turner

7 landscaping tips to help your investment grow

By spending even just a few hundred dollars on the rights plants and materials and a few hours of time, you can achieve a well-landscaped look without shelling out for professional help. Besides the personal enjoyment you'll get from a prettier yard, landscaping adds more value than almost any other home renovation.

A recent study found that depending on where the house is located, high-quality landscaping adds 5 percent to 11 percent to its price.

If you have no immediate plans to move, all the better: Landscaping is the one home improvement that actually appreciates over time.

So how do you decide which projects to tackle? That depends on how long you think you'll be around to enjoy the results.

If you're selling in a year or less

Edge the beds Cutting fresh edges where grass meets mulch makes the lawn look well kept. A move as simple as curving the edge of your flower beds could increase the value of your home by 1 percent. Also, if your foundation plants are overgrown, widening the beds by two feet will make the shrubs seem smaller.

Nourish the grass For truly lush turf, ideally you should start regular fertilizer treatments a year before listing the house. But you can green up the lawn with just a single application.

Scatter color throughout For even just a few dollars per plant, you can blanket your yard with petunias, impatiens and other small annuals that will flower throughout the current growing season. Also invest a few hundred dollars in some larger perennials and in shrubs that stand at least a metre high. A few good-size plants have more sex appeal than 20 little ones.

If you're improving for the long-term

Cut back the jungle Many everyday garden plants, such as azaleas, forsythia, hollies and rhododendrons, will fill out with new growth after a season or so even if you hack them down to stumps.

Add drama with foliage A distinctive garden will make your home more appealing to the evential buyer. Therefore replace plants that don't flower, or provide interesting foliage with eye-catching alternatives, like a patch of blackeyed Susans, a flowering crabapple or a cutleaf Japanese maple.

If you're planning to stay put, you don't need to spend hundreds of dollars for big plants. You'll save 50 percent or more by buying small ones and waiting a few seasons to get the full visual impact (when planting, make sure to space them based on the mature size listed on the label, not how they look now).

Consider new angles Most gardens have almost all the plants along the foundation and the property lines. But if you place yours throughout different parts of the property, you'll create more depth. This is particularly important if your garden is close to the road. Try putting some near the house's corners to accentuate its shape, others near the street to define the yard, and some in between, where they can block unfortunate views and be admired from indoors.

Cover your rear It's nice to wave hello to your neighbors out front, but the backyard should be a private space. If yours feels overexposed, fencing can offer a quick fix.

Many nurseries offer free design help to buyers, and with research a plenty on the internet, you really can't fail in sprucing up your garden for the short or long term. Simon Turner

Friday, November 16, 2007

The Life Expectancy of Your Home's Fixtures and Fittings

Read on to find out just how long, on average, the fixtures and fittings of your home will last.

Concrete and masonry: 100 years plus
Concrete foundations, including chimneys and fireplaces, should last a lifetime and brick walls have a life span of 100 years or more.

Cabinets: 50 years
Good quality cabinets are built to last a long time but styles go in and out of fashion. Many homeowners replace cabinets after a fraction of their useful life.

Floors: 25 to 100 years
Hardwood is good for 100 years or more, as is stone. Expect 50 years out of vinyl and 25 from linoleum, but you'll probably tire of the pattern long before that.

Roofing: 20 to 50 years
Local weather conditions are critical but, on average, slate, copper and clay/concrete tile roofs last the longest, 50 years or more. Figure wood shake roofs for 30 years, fiber cement shingle 25 and asphalt shingle 20.

Siding and accessories: 20 to 50 years
Brick, stone, engineered wood and fiber cement siding should last a lifetime. Wood shutters should give 20 years of use and copper gutters 50 years and aluminum ones 20.

Countertops: 20 years to forever
Granite could outlast you - by a long shot, absent of a destructive child with a five pound hammer. Cultured marble has a life span of about 20 years.

Decks: Up to 20 years
With wooden decks the key is the weather. In moist climes, decks will rot much quicker than in ones that expose decks only to dry conditions. In ideal weather, figure 20 years. In monsoon conditions, you can't count on much more than half that.

Plumbing fixtures: 15 to 50 years
A kitchen sink has a life of 50 years or more but faucets go bad after about 15. Shower heads should last a lifetime but whirlpool baths, which get widely differing amounts of use, can last 20 to 50 years.

Windows: 15 to 30 years
Think wood, which lasts upwards of 30 years while aluminum windows have a life span of 15 to 20 years.

Gas ranges: 15 years or more
With no motor or many moving parts, gas ranges are the most trouble free of appliances.

Fridges: 13 years
The compressor on fridges work hard and run often. Add complications, such as automatic icemakers and there's more to go wrong. That they last as long as they do is a tribute to their generally high quality.

Electrical: 10 years to a lifetime
You shouldn't have to replace good quality copper wiring but switches and other controls may have to be updated every 10 years or so.

Dishwashers: 9 years
This appliance gets widely varying amounts of use, depending on the household. Big families may have them running a few times a day while a bachelor may keep his sitting empty most of the week.

This survey obviously accounts for wear and tear, as there's no accounting for taste over the years! Simon Turner

Original survey conducted by the National Association of Home Builders

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

"Can you give me some useful tips on renovating my small kitchen"

Even though small kitchens are a challenge to decorate, storage and display areas are of prime importance.

Visually increase a small kitchen’s size with glass cabinet doors. Paint the insides of the cabinets the same color as the walls for a fashionable, well-designed update. Solid-door cabinets work well below the counter and to the ceiling above the eye-level glass-door cabinets.

Another home decorating idea and variation on kitchen storage is to use open shelves over the sink, the cabinets and as much of the wall space as desired. This is especially useful when you enjoy collectibles but are limited on space to display them.

Repetition of shapes plus a variety of textures such as found in baskets is a home decorating idea that adds appeal to any kitchen regardless of size. Even a small kitchen can accommodate an island provided the area is at least 12 to 15 feet wide. This will provide additional storage as well as work space and will be convenient from anywhere in the kitchen. A chopping block or moveable carts with open shelving are examples of items that provide extra work areas and storage.

Think creatively of every space in a small kitchen such as adding a pot rack, pegs, hooks, or wall-mounted baskets for additional storage. Also, don’t add a lot of non-kitchen décor to the room. If you choose good quality, stylish cookware, utensils and dishes, they will make perfect kitchen decorative items.

Install new drawer pulls and cabinet door handles for another inexpensive way to update a kitchen.Since the kitchen is one of the most used rooms in the house, it is important that the design allows for ease and efficiency. By putting the previously mentioned guidelines to work, you will create a beautiful and practical kitchen regardless of size. Simon Turner

Top Five Tips From A Reformed Burglar

How vulnerable is your home? Jon Rainey knows home security, because he knows how to get around it. Listen to what Rainey says about the best ways to protect your home and family. Here are the top five tips from a reformed burglar:

Not Just Any Dog Can Be a "Guard Dog"
In some cases, a barking dog may be all it takes to scare a would-be thief away, because barking draws attention. However, even the loudest, biggest, meanest dog can turn into a whimpering coward when threatened by a stranger, and professional thieves know it. Plus, Rainey keeps his pockets full of dog treats, so he can instantly go from "stranger" to "friend." Don't rely solely on your poor pooch to protect you from criminals.

If You Have an Alarm System, Use It
Homes without an alarm system are three times as likely to be targeted than homes with one. But, if you have an alarm system and you don't use it, you might as well not have one at all. Professional thieves stake out their targets to watch their comings and goings. Over half of all burglaries committed on residences occur between the hours of 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. If thieves see that you never set your alarm when you leave during the day, they'll make a move.

Don't Hide Your House Keys in Fake Rocks
By now, thieves have seen it all. They know every nook and cranny where you might hide your spare key - those fake rocks don't trick them anymore. To properly secure a spare key, keep it in a lockbox or with a trusted neighbor. Thieves always look under the mat. If you hide a key near the door, you might as well leave the door wide open.

Secure Even the Smallest Windows
When Rainey slipped into a police officer's basement through an unsecured window, the officer's wife angrily glared at the CCTV footage and cried: "'Nobody can fit through that window,' my husband said. Even police officers underestimate the stealth of criminals. In one particular example, Rainey was able to steal not only a hand gun and ammunition, but the police officer's uniforms. Just think of how dangerous those items can be in a real criminal's hands. The moral? Secure every entry to your home, even if you are convinced no person could fit through it.

Change Your Garage Door Opener Code
Many people don't realize that garage door openers come pre-set with codes that are meant to be changed after they are installed. Plenty of folks just keep the same code right out of the box, totally unaware that all a thief has to do is drive around a neighborhood with a garage door opener, aiming it at every door they see until a door opens. Then they can walk right in and steal expensive lawn equipment or even your car. Worse yet, homeowners may not lock the door leading from the garage to the house, providing a thief easy access to everything. Ralph Winn

Monday, November 12, 2007

"Can You Please Suggest Some Simple Ways to Save Money when Cleaning my Home?"

Cleaning Woodwork: Did you know that cold tea will clean woodwork? Give it a try!

Grease stains on your carpet: Shake some cornstarch over the grease stain and let set there overnight or at least 8 hours. Vacuum.

Cleaning Brass: Wash with salt and buttermilk or vinegar and salt. This same treatment is also used for cleaning copper.

Care of Aluminium: Place tarnished pieces in large pan and cover with sour milk. Allow to remain overnight. This will make the ware as bright as new.

Furniture Polish: Mix 2 tablespoons. Lemon oil and 1 pt. mineral oil in a spray bottle.

General Purpose Cleaners: Combine 1/2 cup. Baking soda and 1 tablespoon. water to form a paste.

To Clean Wooden Furniture: Wash with warm water and Ivory soap, dry and rub with equal quantities of spirits of turpentine and sweet oil, wipe dry and rub with soft flannel cloth.

To Wash Windows: Dip a lint less cloth in wood alcohol, go over the glass and follow with a piece of old silk cloth. This is fine for cold weather.

Frosted Windows: Want to make your windows "frosted" for more privacy? Add 1 tablespoon of Epsom Salt to 1 cup beer. Brush on the window! Let dry. To remove the frost, wash off with ammonia! This is really neat. Just remember to cover any wood or furniture nearby, because this drips!

Grease Stains on your wallpaper: Try mixing corn starch and water and make into a paste. Rub on with a soft, clean cloth. Test this in an inconspicuous area first.

Scuff marks on your vinyl luggage: Try rubbing lemon extract over the area

Wallpaper: If you need to make a patch for your wallpaper, never cut out a piece. Always use a piece that you have torn by hand and be sure to tear toward the wrong side of the wallpaper. This will make the patch nearly invisible.

Unclog Drain: Mix 1 cup. Baking soda, 1 cup. Salt and 1 cup. of white vinegar. (It will fizz) Let it sit for 15 minutes then pour down clogged drain. Pour in several cups of boiling water.

"My husband and I are planning on renovating our home. How do we make it as stress free as possible?"

Are you aware of your partner's preferences for colours, designs, styles? You will be after you've been dragged through endless decorating supply shops and they are still searching for "that perfect colour or they will know it when they see it".

"It is incredibly stressful," says Mitchell Hartmann of Marquette Turner Estate Agents. "There's no getting around that. You're taking a leap from the known to the unknown, you're losing control and you don't know what's going to happen next. It's liberating but it's frightening at the same time!"

When you're in a relationship, there are likely to be times when you see the worst of each other. It's a shock, but it's because you're under so much stress, so my first piece of advice is don't be shocked!

Simply be prepared for the many left-field decisions you're going to have to make and it's a real challenge to live in absolute chaos."

Considering that many of us can get away with making about three decisions every day - will I get up?, what will I wear?, what will I have for dinner? - the renovating process is a potential minefield. Not only are you choosing fixtures, fittings, colours and layouts you have to choose tradesmen, check contracts, compare quotes, decide if you're going to oversee the work yourself, find someone to draw plans, decide how much you can spend (and try not to get too upset when you go over which is almost inevitable...) and the list goes on.

Given all these consideration, it is no wonder that we can feel consumed by it, and often to the detriment to all else? Finding time to spend with the one you love can be relegated to very low on your priority list. Quite simply, prior preparedness is the key.

And then there's the question of taste: Even with my own family home renovation there has been troubles with picking colours. I arrived home to find they have painted the bathroom light blue. The colour was selected by a family member and every time I walk past it, I hate it. I think that it’s very important that everything is chosen to fit the style and personality of your home.

To avoid such drama, there are a few rules to follow: talk about ideas (with magazine photos in hand) before you so much as pick up a colour swatch, work out what you can live with and what you definitely can't - and then compromise again. Finally, keep a space that is a renovation-free sanctuary, make sure that there's a small space in the house that's completely renovation-free (no dust, no paint charts, no 'mood boards') so that you have an escape.

Mitchell Hartmann