Home Improvement Project Organization Tips

We’ve all done it. You’re in a hurry to dig into a home improvement project, so you barrel off to the hardware store, home center, or lumberyard without first taking inventory of exactly what you need. Multiple trips later to the hardware store, home center, or lumberyard, the job is completed, but you’re exhausted. The idea with the list that follows is that it forces you to think through every step of the job. In doing so, you’ll be more likely to do the job efficiently. You’ll eliminate unnecessary trips to the hardware store, or even to the toolshed or workshop.

Preparation

Much like anything in life, preparation is key. The more you plan ahead, the smoother your project should be. Below are the steps you should take before every home remodeling project.

  • Gather information, preferably from more than one source.
  • Identify the processes involved (see list below).
  • Identify tools needed.
  • Make a sketch or a plan of the project.
  • Prepare and protect the work area.
  • Bring tools to the work area.
  • Bring materials to the work area.

Materials

Every project needs tools and materials. Believe us, they make a world of a difference.

  • Make a list of all materials needed.
  • Divide the list into what you have and what you need to buy.

From Start to Finish

No matter what type of project you are undertaking, there is a set of steps one must go through. While each step will largely depend on your project, most projects processes will have to go through the following steps:

  • Carpentry
  • Cleanup (dust and debris removal)
  • Demolition
  • Drywall installation, taping, and finishing
  • Earth moving
  • Electrical
  • Finishing (staining, varnish, etc.)
  • Flooring
  • Masonry
  • Metal fabrication (welding, brazing, riveting)
  • Painting
  • Plumbing
  • Roofing
  • Sheetmetal work
  • Surface preparation (cleaning, grinding, sanding)
  • Tile
  • Woodworking

Example Project

You want to install a wood post set in concrete by the edge of your driveway. The post will have a sign with your house’s number and your family’s name on it. For the sake of simplicity, let’s say that you already have had the sign made and the bracket it will hang from. Let’s also say that the concrete that the post will be set in will be flush to the ground, so there’s no need to build a form or be concerned about fancy concrete finishing.

Preparation

  1. Gather information: If needed, look up how to install a post and concrete footing.
  2. Identify the processes and their sequence: The job involves surface preparation, earth moving, carpentry (placing the post in the hole and bracing it), masonry, painting, and then carpentry once more (attaching the sign bracket to the post). Another option is to prepare the post and sign and install the completed assembly in the hole with the concrete around it.
  3. Identify the materials needed: Post, bagged concrete, screws to attach the sign bracket to the post, sandpaper to smooth the post, primer and paint.
  4. Identify tools for each process (below):
  5. Carpentry: Square, pencil, saw, sawhorses, tape measure, safety glasses, extension cord, level (to plumb the post), drill, drill bits, screwdriver bits or screwdriver.
  6. Cleanup: Brooms and shop vacuum.
  7. Earth moving: Pick, prybar, shovel, wheelbarrow and rake.
  8. Masonry: Wheelbarrow, water hose, hoe or shovel for mixing concrete and concrete finishing float.
  9. Painting: Brush or roller, paint pot or roller tray, roller cover, paint stirring stick, rags and screwdriver to open paint can.
  10. Surface preparation: Sandpaper, hand-sanding block or sander and dust mask.
  11. Make a sketch or a plan of the project: Draw out the post and how far into the ground it goes. Determine the volume of concrete in its footing.
  12. Prepare and protect the work area: Not much is needed here unless a shrub needs to be moved.
  13. Bring tools to the work area: Get together your tools. Place them in the wheelbarrow.
  14. Bring materials to the work area: Park the car or truck in a convenient location to unload the materials and bring them directly to the work area.

Materials

  1. Post, sandpaper, primer, paint, screws, scrap lumber, and nails for bracing post in position, grass seed or grass-patch repair kit.

Processes (listed alphabetically; the sequence will depend on the job)

Carpentry

  1. Set up in garage. Prepare your tools and extension cord.
  2. Measure post, mark it, and cut it to length. (Is that circular saw blade in good condition, or should you buy a new one?)
  3. Mark the location of the sign on the post.
  4. Drill pilot holes in the post for the sign bracket screws.
  5. Attach bracket to post.

Cleanup (dust and debris removal)

  1. Sweep up sawdust and dispose of it or use a shop vacuum.
  2. Clean concrete from wheelbarrow and tools.
  3. Clean paint from tools.
  4. Store leftover cans of paint.
  5. Dispose of debris (rags, spent roller, paint cans).
  6. Rock and soil have to go somewhere. Where?

Earth moving 

  1. Dig post hole to adequate depth.
  2. Smooth soil around post before applying grass seed.

Masonry

  1. Position garden hose.
  2. Tear open concrete bags and mix concrete in wheelbarrow.
  3. Position post in hole, brace it, plumb it, and place concrete around it.
  4. Smooth concrete at base of post using the float.

Painting 

  1. Open can of primer and stir. Pour into paint pot or tray. Apply to post.
  2. Repeat with finish coat of paint.

Surface Preparation 

  1. Sand post smooth with progressively finer sandpaper.
  2. There you have it. As you can see, an incredible number of processes have taken place to do this tiny little job.

4 Exterior Paint Colors That Will Enhance Your Home’s Curb Appeal

The visual appearance of the exterior of your home is extremely important to your resale value and curb appeal. Oftentimes, homeowners are so worried about the interior of their house that they forget to give proper attention and care to the outside.

A fresh exterior is one of the quickest and most cost-effective ways to boost your home’s curb appeal. Although some of us like our home to be noticed, it’s important that the color and appearance blends in with neighborhood. I’m going to share with you what experts rank as the top four home exterior color schemes that will help you sell your house and boost your curb appeal.

1. Shades of Green & Brown

Various shades of green and brown are great because they’re colors found in nature that easily blend in with surrounding landscape. In established neighborhoods, it’s suggested that the darker of shade the better. If you want to incorporate a little more color then it’s advised to mix in some red with your shades of green and brown.

 

In order to liven up your home the right way, This Old House suggests selecting colors that are opposite each other on a color wheel (i.e. green and red). Be sure to tone down the colors and avoid using pure red and green. Otherwise, you risk your house looking like Christmas all year round. Tone down the effect by adding similar amounts of gray to both colors.

Earthy hues mixed with rich brown tones is one of the best ways to win with brown. Bring in some light brown and tan elements to brighten up the overall appearance. Another option is to use lighter shades for your siding and trim and paint your garage doors a darker brown.

A traditional mossy green can be accented by a misty gray trim for a warm and welcoming look. If you prefer incorporating a wood exterior, then you should consider using green for the trim instead of the siding. Picking out a shade of green can be tough, so we’ll let you in on which Gardenista picked as the top nine shades of green paint.

2. Light & Dark Blue

If you choose to enhance your curb appeal using blue then select either light or deep shades of the color. Gray and off-white are a few of the recommended accents you can use for your trim and doors. Blue is one of those colors that just illuminates a feeling of calmness. No other hue out there promotes Zen-like emotions like the color blue. It’s said that the psychological effect of the color blue is less pronounced on the exterior versus in a room, therefore, it’s suggested you bring in elements of white and green which will help make it look cool and crisp.

Since blue isn’t rooted in an earth color, it can be a little daring to use. That’s why it’s advised you stick to light and dark shades of blue on your exterior. Grayish shades of blue are a bit safer because they’re similar to that of slate, which is very pleasing to the senses. At the end of the day, your goal should be to create a canvas that’s visually appealing and well-maintained. According to the pros, you can’t go wrong with using primary colors and gray.

3. Neutral Hues

Once again, neutral hues work because they blend in with the natural surroundings. A few options you may want to look into are, a warm taupe, gray hues and cream. A neutral palette presents you with the perfect opportunity to bring in a pop of color to your front door or shutters. The one nice thing about choosing a neutral exterior is that you can guarantee it’s going to look classy and timeless.

When picking out paint colors, remember that perception of color is all relative. I recently came across a good example to help you understand this better. “If you put a mid-value color, such as tan, next to pure white, it will look beige. But if you put it next to dark green, it will look off-white.” Keep this in mind when choosing colors, main and trim (Reader’s digest).

4. White & Black

To achieve a traditional and classic exterior, you should stick with white or off-white as your main emphasis and incorporate black accents. I also love the idea of bringing elements of wood into this scheme, as shown in the example above. It’s all about securing clean lines and perfecting the details with a white and black color scheme.

Shutters bring a whole new level of possibilities to the outside of your home. They create an entire new dimension of color and style for you to work with and highlight. Black shutters deliver a contrast like no other to a white backdrop. Installing black iron light fixtures is another way to add charm and charisma to a traditional exterior.

Pros & Cons Of Mounting A TV Over A Fireplace

Mounting a TV over a fireplace was not possible in 2000, but given the technological advancements and modern design trends over the last decade, a TV over the fireplace is quickly becoming the rule rather than the exception.

As is the case with any design trend, there are pros and cons. When you’re talking about heat and tech, you better believe drawbacks will come about. Nonetheless, there are two sides to every story.

After reading the pros and cons of mounting a TV over a fireplace below, you can determine if this hot design trend will hit your home next.

Flat Screen TV Costs

Thankfully, gone are the days of those bulky televisions that were impossible to move. Not only did they take up valuable space in your stand or dresser, but they more often than not gave the room an eyesore.

With the creation of flat screen TVs, homeowners were able to clear the space by mounting them on the wall. While many of you do not need a pro for such a task, others seek out professional guidance.

According to our cost estimator, the average price to mount a TV is $298. Just know that the cost can fluctuate based on the size of your TV and the location of the cables.

Pros of Mounting A TV Over A Fireplace

Ample Space

The most obvious benefit of hanging a TV over a fireplace is more space. If you do not mount your TV over the fireplace, chances are, you will have an entertainment center, dresser or TV stand occupying the area. While many TV stands are getting thinner by the day, they still take up valuable living room space.

Mounting a TV over a fireplace frees up the area below the TV. Whether you use that area to install a fireplace, store firewood or leave blank to prevent a sense of clutter, additional empty space always opens up other design possibilities.

Hide Wires

Perhaps the most prevalent reason to mount your TV over a fireplace (or on any wall) is to have the ability to hide those ugly wires. Yes, one could throw TV wires behind the TV when placed on a stand or dresser, but those are still visible to anyone walking by.

Mounting a TV over a fireplace gives you the option to place all those ugly wires in the wall. Many pros just fish the wires through the walls and some install wall plates. Either way, if you’re installing your flat screen TV above your fireplace, make sure you place those ugly wires within the walls.

Design Flexibility

Many of you will not add many design elements around the TV and fireplace as they can both clearly act as focal points to the room. However, with less occupied space below, you have more design flexibility to decorate around the room.

Oftentimes, if you are installing a TV on a large wall, the wall will need other elements to add to the overall look and feel. Less “noise” below gives the ability to do so. Nonetheless, if you feel the TV and fireplace are enough, don’t feel obligated to add accompanying pieces.

Cons of Mounting A TV Over A Fireplace

Neck Pain

The ideal viewing experience puts the television at eye-level. Chances are, if you’re mounting your TV, this will not be possible. Nonetheless, the farther up your TV is, the bigger strain you are creating on your neck.

 

Think of it as sitting in the first three rows of a movie theater. No one sits there because of the poor view, but more so, due to the neck strain many of us get later on. It’s much more comfortable sitting higher up.

Brad Simpson, a Physical Therapist and Clinical Director at Life’s Work Physical Therapy, says staring at a raised screen for long periods of time can hinder the function of your neck. You lose the ability for your neck to stabilize he added.

As I will get to you next, due to its proximity to heat, a TV mounted above the fireplace needs separation.

Electronics & Heat Do Not Mix

Perhaps the most obvious reason to not install a TV so close to a fireplace is its juxtaposition to heat. Electronics and heat do not mix and as such, both are typically kept in separate corners.

Most TVs operate best when placed in settings with lower temperatures. Many argue that placing a TV over a fireplace vastly reduces its lifespan, costing you more money in the long run. Additionally, even if you don’t light the fireplace often, smoke is another element that TVs do not like.

If you’re mounting your TV over the fireplace, make sure you clean it often. Otherwise, a hazy film can start to form from the smoke, quickly ruining your Saturday night home movie.

Visibility

Most of us spend upwards of $500 to $1,000 on terrific TVs due to its pristine picture and viewing experience. Well, if you are not watching your TV at the right angle, all that money could go for nothing.

Picture quality changes the farther you get from the center of the screen. In fact, manufacturers even recommend viewing angles and if those requests are not met, your $500 TV could have a picture of a $250 TV.

One way to help reduce the angle is with a swivel mount. The swivel mount allows you to point the TV downward, vastly improving the viewing angle of a mounted TV.

How to Mount A TV

While the steps needed will certainly be a bit different if you’re mounting your TV on a brick wall, the same general principles apply. If you want to forgo the price of hiring a pro, please see DIY Tips For Mounting A Flat Screen TV.

Brick Vs. Concrete Patios

An outdoor patio is not only the perfect way to take advantage of summer and fall, but the best way to relax and unwind after a long hectic day at the office. Fortunately for eager homeowners, there are a few options as far as patio materials, the most popular of which are concrete or brick.

Concrete patios are the standard across the country. They are durable, look great no matter the size and require little if any maintenance. Brick patios, while also durable, offers numerous different designs and gives any home that traditional look so many of us crave.

Nonetheless, there are distinct advantages and disadvantages to both. See the ongoing debate between brick and concrete patios.

Concrete Patio Cost

To no surprise, concrete prices will largely depend on the size of your patio. The larger the patio, the more expensive the project will be. However, according to our concrete patio cost guide, average concrete prices range between $6/sf and $15/sf. The safest way to really determine how much you will spend on concrete is through a concrete calculator.

Besides the size, other factors that can decrease or increase the total concrete patio cost are the type of concrete (basic concrete is the cheapest), the color (if you choose to add color) and the design (complex designs raise the price).

Brick Patio Cost

Just like a concrete patio, the total brick patio cost will largely depend on labor. More often than not, the cost of labor is more expensive than the cost of materials. Nonetheless, the type of materials does play a role.

 

According to our brick patio cost guide, the average price for a brick patio can range from $10/sf to $50/sf. Needless to say, if you use premium materials, the project will be more expensive.

As far as materials, most homeowners will go with concrete brick pavers or clay brick pavers. Surprisingly, clay is more expensive than concrete, but overall, will depend on the quality of brick you choose. Just beware that it is quite common for homeowners to save a buck or two and go with an inferior type of brick patio, but sadly, pay more in the long run after repairs and maintenance.

Durability

Concrete Patios

Concrete patios are very durable no matter where you live. Whether you live in Chicago with long winters or Seattle with all that rainfall, a concrete patio can stand with the best of them.

One of the reasons concrete patios are so durable is due to the sealant many masonry pros add. The sealant prevents moisture from oozing inside the concrete. Sealants are also good for concrete around a pool, providing a barrier to common pool chemicals.

Despite its durable nature, concrete can chip or crack over the years. Likewise, concrete patios can only take so much abuse. Sadly, if you chose a colored or stamped concrete patio (more later), the repairs will not be cheap. Just like paint or carpet, it’s not always easy finding an exact match if you didn’t purchase extra before installation.

Finally, weeds have a tendency to grow in between concrete pavers, but common weed killers or pesticides are readily available at your local hardware store.

Brick Patios

Very similar to concrete, brick patios are durable and can last for decades if cared for properly. It can stand up against inches of snow and rain. Nonetheless, depending on the material and color of choice, the brick can chip and fade after a long period of time. Likewise, if your area sees heavy rainfall, don’t expect that bright red to last forever.

Additionally, brick can also chip, crack and form weeds over time. Fortunately, repairing brick patios is easier than most concrete patios as most homeowners purchase extra bricks. Remember, it never hurts to buy extra material for any home installation or improvement project.

Versatility

Concrete Patios

As I have already iterated, there are few different options when it comes to concrete patio designs, the two most common of which are stamped and colored concrete.

Stamped concrete is the process of decorating the concrete once it has been laid. The name explains it all. When the concrete is still wet, the professional places a stamp above it. When it finally dries, the design will be imprinted into the concrete. There is no limit to what designers can do with stamped concrete.

Colored concrete is another option. Believe it or not, you can color concrete to match that red brick color or go totally out of the box and add a blue-green design to your concrete patio. The pro will either use a concrete dye or concrete stain. Either way, colored concrete will add between 10% and 30% of the total cost and is rarely completed by a homeowner (call a pro).

Brick Patios

While many homeowners use brick to add a traditional, red color to their patio, much like concrete, there are plenty of colors and designs to choose from. If you are looking to go bold, below are just a few of the possible brick colors to choose from:

  • White
  • Cream
  • Tan
  • Orange
  • Pink
  • Burgundy
  • Brown
  • Black

Likewise, brick allows you to incorporate multiple different designs. From a basket weave to a complex herringbone design, there are plenty of brick patio designs to choose from.

Maintenance

Concrete Patios

Given their long lifespans, both concrete and brick patios require little maintenance. Other than the occasional clean and weed spray, both need little if any care over the years.

However, if you want to ensure a long life for your brand new concrete patio, I highly recommend at least one coat of sealer every few years. This is especially important for areas that see a lot of rainfall or snow.

Additionally, make sure you fix any cracks or chips as soon as possible. The longer you wait, the more likely the chip extends to other areas of the patio. Fortunately, a small crack, for example, can be filled in with epoxy and take less than an hour to complete.

Brick Patios

Brick patios can become uneven, dirty and like concrete pavers, form weeds between bricks. For uneven brick patios, homeowners should fix any drainage issues around the patio and then pull up the brick in the uneven area and check the sand/base of the patio. If you need to, add a few extra layers.

Brick should be cleaned on a consistent basis and sealed every two to three years. You can purchase a masonry detergent at your local hardware store to clean the pavers. Might as well purchase when you buy weed killers.

If you follow all the steps above, your brick patio should last for decades, if not generations.

Getting Your Property Tenant Ready

If you currently own a home and are thinking about using your basement or condo as means of generating some extra income, you are not alone. According recent statistics about 1 in 20 Canadian households own some form of income property. The perks of leasing a property can far outweigh the negatives, if done properly.

Before you decide to post an ad on Kijiji or contact a real estate agent, it is very important to understand what leasing a portion of your property may entail. This quick list will get your property rental-ready in no time.

  1. Fire and Carbon monoxide poisoning prevention

    Ontario law requires all homes to have a working smoke and carbon monoxide detector and it is your responsibly as a Landlord to ensure that your property is equipped with these essential products. Make sure you hire a licensed contractor to install the detectors if you are not confident in your ability to do so on your own. This may cost you a few dollars but it will protect your tenants from harm and will absolve you of any responsibility for damages that may occur from fire or carbon monoxide poisoning.

  2. Plumbing

    If you are leasing a property which requires use of a basement, you will want to take an extra step to find a reputable plumbing company that can assess your home and determine if it is at risk of experiencing water or sewage damage. Repairing damage caused by flooding can be incredibly expensive and in this case it is always better to be safe than sorry.

  3. Electrical

    Have you ever walked in to a room and noticed that the lights are flickering or that the on switch actually turns off the lights? Not only are these electrical issues annoying, but they pose safety hazards as well. No one wants to live in a home with unpleasant lighting, so do not subject your tenants to such conditions. Electricians can install attractive and high efficiency lighting to suit your style and budget.

  4. Mold and Asbestos Removal

    Most homes, new or old will likely have instances of mold build up due to moisture or poorly ventilated spaces. Although a little mold in a bathroom can easily be removed through regular cleaning methods, there are instances in which mold contamination requires professional removal. Attempting to clean large areas of mold with bleach is ineffective and can be dangerous.

    Exposure to Asbestos is also very dangerous and has been known to cause lung cancer, mesothelioma and many other health problems. Various companies offer testing for asbestos within your home. If you plan to do any type of renovations on your income property, Health Canada highly recommends you research the ways in which you can lower human exposure to the harmful chemical.

  5. Add some Pizazz

    A beautifully designed space with eye-catching features will convince potential tenants to put your income property at the top of their list. Find a competent contractor that can help you transform your property. By adding shiny new faucets, trendy artwork that can be found at IKEA and installing crisp white baseboards you can create a space that adds value and also feels like home.