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5 Mistakes to Avoid When Planning to Build Your Dream Home

After all the dreaming, hard work and saving you are finally ready to turn your dream home into a reality. With all the excitement what most individuals fail to realize is that it does not take much for the project to turn out to be an epic fail. Proper planning needs to be in effect to save you time and money. Here are 5 costly mistakes you need to avoid.

Mistake #1 – Poor financial planning!

Unless you will be buying your home out of pocket (in that case, we envy you!), you are going to need financing. Check around for the best mortgage rates and terms and find out how much you can afford before meeting with a real estate agent, architect or contractor. Building your dream home should not plunge you into debt or a straitjacket. Deciding on the type of construction and style of the home that will fit into your budget may require some research but it will definitely pay off in the long run.

Mistake #2 – Planting roots in the wrong location

After you have built your dream home, you will not be able to move it around if the location chosen turns out to be wrong for you. Consider changes that may occur in your environment in the future and how that will affect your quality of life, and value of your property in case you decide to sell your home later on.  For your own enjoyment and for future sales look for property in a location which is convenient while still being relatively peaceful.

Mistake #3 – Not starting out with a good set of plans

People think they are saving money by not buying good plans.  First, without plans you cannot get an accurate cost estimate for building a house. You can’t make an accurate materials list so you won’t know what the materials will cost. A contractor will not know how difficult the house will be to build so he cannot give you an accurate estimate of the labor. The plumber, the electrician and other subcontractors need to be on the same page so it must be a plan that can be understood by all concerned.  Incomplete or nonexistent plans will inevitably lead to misunderstandings, tear-outs, delays, and conflicts which cause greater expense.

Mistake #4 – Choosing the Wrong Builder

Shop around for builders, ask for references and check them!  Do not make the mistake of choosing a contractor because he has the lowest price. Talk with several builders; check out their work to find the right fit. A good contractor will be willing to work with you to stay within your budget by going over the proposal to see where you can cut back. Regardless of your choice, understand that working with a professional with a solid background and years of experience can come at a premium price but it is worth the investment.

Mistake #5 – Building for only your current needs

If you know that children are in your future, build with them in mind.   If you cannot afford to prepare for children immediately build to allow for an addition later on. There is nothing worse than building a new house that is already too small the day that you move in.  If you need more square footage than you can afford at the present time, consider lowering the cost of the fixtures such as cabinets, windows, and doors some of which you can always upgrade in the future.  If this is to be your retirement home, what will your needs be then?  Does your home need to have wheelchair access?  Will you always be able to use the stairs?

Which one of these mistakes do you believe would be the worst to make?  Have you made one of them?  Can you think of other mistakes that should be avoided? Share with us in the comments.

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Make Your Home Elder Friendly

The following smart and easy ideas are useful to make your home more comfortable and safe for your golden years, and are also great remodels for current homeowners who have seniors/elders living at home:-


Be easy to find – A home address sign should be erected at the front of the house which is visible both day and night in order to make it easy for emergency services to find the home.


Light things up – As we age our eyesight tends to deteriorate, which means that a home with dark shadows and gloomy hallways can become a safety hazard. Low voltage night lights can be erected to illuminate dark hallways, such as from the bedroom to the bathroom.  One can consider motion-activated nightlights that turn on when someone moves.


Getting a Grip – Railings and grab bars along stairs and in bathrooms can make a great difference in the mobility of the elderly.  There are many different types of grab bars, including some high-end products that don’t necessarily look like grab bars.


Keep steps at a minimum – Steps can be a huge obstacle for senior citizens, and a very dangerous one at that. With the brittle bones and stiff joints that come with aging you would best use as little stairs as possible in your home. Where ever you can try adding rams which are less strenuous and is better suitable for those with wheelchairs, crutches, etc. If stairs absolutely cannot be avoided refrain from making them too high, and too far apart.


Make things hand-friendly – Hands that have lost their strength because of arthritis and other health issues may not be able to easily turn doorknobs, faucet and shower handle knobs. Depending on the space around the faucet, knobs can be easily replaced with levers.


Getting Around – For someone who will have to move around in a wheelchair or scooter, life around their house can get difficult. Wheelchair access and proper door passage through the home is essential.  While getting around, carpets and tiles which are placed improperly or unevenly, as well as slippery floor materials are a hazard for the elderly.  Making sure that flooring is slip and trip resistant is important for seniors since falls can be greatly debilitating for them


We would love to know, which one of these tips is the easiest to implement at your house?

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Use the Sun to Naturally Make Your Home Brighter

Natural lighting conserves electricity, creates a connection with the outdoors, and gives a space a lively feeling. We should attempt to have light come into a building from as many directions as possible. The quality of the light and connection to the outside is what people feel the most, even more than the size of a space. Here are some of the techniques architects use to bring light in and control it for the best effect.


Tracking the sun’s path

If you like to wake up to the sun, you can build the bedrooms on the east side of the house. If you prefer maximum light in the living/dining quarters later in the day, you can choose to put them on the west side.


Funneling light into the center of a home

One common technique many architects use is to create a central stairwell, for multiple storey buildings that doubles as a light well, lit by a nearby window or skylight. This makes the stairs light and open.



Adding more windows to your home or building allows for the maximum capitalization of sunlight. The more windows there are, the more light enters and fill the entire room.


Replace Interior Solid Doors with Glass

Living, dining, laundry rooms with solid interior doors can be replaced with glass doors which not only allows light to easily pass through but also reflects light back into the room.


Paint Your Rooms Deep Colours

The most common thing to do with dark rooms is to paint them light to increase brightness, but sometimes the best thing to do is to embrace the shadows and go for deeper, moody colors.


Hang a Well-Placed Mirror

Another tool for reflecting light is with the use of mirrors. The addition of mirrors in living rooms allows captured light to be reflected in the opposite direction.


Trimming Trees and Other Plants

Trees are beneficial to the home in that it blocks the sun from directly heating the home. However they reduce the amount of light entering the room. By effectively trimming the leaves and branches they can achieve both functions.

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Tips on Making Your Home Energy Efficient

With the effects of climate change and global warming around us increasing, it is important to be environmentally friendly and aware of the impact our domestic activities have on the environment. It is also highly beneficial when you consider how much money can be saved by building or making your home energy efficient. In order to have a productive energy efficient home, you need to be able to cut costs when required. This means using less electricity and trying to eliminate the products that have a negative impact on the environment, which eliminates the stress that comes with paying high monthly bills. Here are few ways you can convert your home into one that is more energy efficient:


Smaller is Better:  A small home built with eco-friendly techniques has less environmental impacts compared to a larger home.  A house that is too large is likely to cost more to heat and cool. Try to keep your home manageable and cost effective.

Energy Efficient Equipment:  ENERGY STAR label on a piece of equipment states that particular product has been deemed as energy efficient by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Switching to these appliances offer significant cost and energy savings without compromising performance.

Use Sustainable Building Materials:  Use environmentally or eco-friendly products to reduce the impact of construction on the environment. Each and every part of your house such as roofing material, building material, cabinets, and counters to your flooring can be environmentally friendly. Use products such as recycled glass or natural products such as bamboo which are made of natural, renewable materials.

Install Solar Panels:  Solar energy is a clean and renewable source of energy. Solar panels may be expensive at first, but the long-term savings you can put into your pocket is worth the upfront costs. By taking advantage of solar power you can bring down your energy consumption and supply more energy.

Water Conserving Fixtures:  Low flow faucets, toilets, showerheads are few of the ways that you can use while building a green home to conserve water. They can cut down on your water bill cost and make your home much more environment friendly.

Rainwater Harvesting Systems: Install a rain-water harvesting system while building your energy efficient home to collect rainwater from roofs and then storing it in a tank. The collected water can then be used for other purposes such as flushing toilets.

Tank-less Water Heaters:  Tank-less water heaters heat only the amount of water needed as it is passed through electric coil. This provides two benefits. Firstly, it eliminates excess energy costs as it heats up only that much amount of water that is needed and secondly, you can get ample storage space by eliminating the hot water tank.

Eco-Friendly Lighting:  Both LED and CFL cost more upfront but use less energy and last longer than traditional incandescent bulbs. Since they offer significant cost savings in the long run, they can be ideal for your energy efficient home.

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Saving Energy in Your Home Office

In our last column we discussed saving energy around the home and saving money as a result.  We touched on ways to reduce costs contributed by lighting and appliances; more specifically, the refrigerator and washing machine.  In a previous article we talked about the home office.  Today we provide a few tips on reducing energy costs in the home office.


Persons working from home will most likely use electronic devices and may use them very frequently.  These normally include a computer, fan or air condition, printer/copier etc.  Although it saves on transportation cost it increases your home energy bills, so in order to actually realize savings there are a few things we should bear in mind.


  1. Selecting energy-efficient office equipment and turning off machines when they are not in use can result in significant energy savings.


  1. Spending a large portion of time in low-power mode not only saves energy but helps equipment run cooler and last longer.


  1. Using the power management settings on computers and monitors can cause significant savings.


  1. It is a common misperception that screen savers reduce a monitor’s energy use. Use automatic switching to sleep mode or simply turn it off.


  1. Another misperception is that equipment lasts longer if it is never turned off. Many appliances continue to draw a small amount of power while switched off so unplug appliances not in use and unplug battery chargers when the batteries are fully charged or the chargers are not in use.


  1. Use rechargeable batteries for products like cordless phones and digital cameras.


  1. Turn on air conditions and fans at hotter times of the day.


  1. Reduce the use of paper. Do double-sided printing and use printed paper with errors for scrap.


  1. Make use of emails and free or cheap calling systems like Skype.
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Saving Energy Around the Home

Right in your own home, you have the power to save energy and money.


Maintaining an energy-efficient home will save you money.  Saving energy will also contribute to the reduction in our nation’s overall resources needed to produce and provide energy.


An average household dedicates about 5% – 6% of its energy bill to lighting.  Switching to energy-efficient lighting is one of the fastest ways to lower your energy bill.  You have many choices in energy-efficient lighting; the most popular ones being halogen incandescent, compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs), and light-emitting diodes (LEDs).  Switching to these may seem to cost more money initially but the cost saving benefit will be realized during its lifetime.


Appliances account for about 13% of a household’s energy costs, with refrigeration and laundry at the top of the list.


To reduce the amount of energy costs refrigeration and laundry account for, the following could be practiced:



  • Ensure your refrigerator door seals airtight
  • Cover liquids and wrap foods stored in the refrigerator. Uncovered foods release moisture and make the compressor work harder.
  • Regularly defrost freezers and refrigerators. Frost buildup decreases the energy efficiency of the unit.
  • Ensure your refrigerator or freezer is not kept at a very cold temperature.




  • Wash your clothes in cold water using cold-water detergents whenever possible.
  • Wash and dry full loads. If you are washing a small load, use the appropriate water-level setting.
  • Dry towels and heavier cottons in a separate load from lighter-weight clothes.
  • Don’t over-dry your clothes.
  • Air-dry clothes on clothes lines or drying racks. Air drying is recommended by clothing manufacturers for some fabrics.


Whether you take simple steps or make a large investment to conserve energy it will ultimately be beneficial to you and your family.

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Home Office

“Make Thousands of Dollars Working From Home!”


You’ve been seeing these ads around right?  Although many of these turn out to be scams there are quite a few genuine “work from home” jobs.  There is actually an increase in remote jobs within many common industries like sales and marketing, real estate and information technology where the concept of working from home falls quite conveniently.


Working from home provides much convenience but in order to be efficient in performing duties, persons are encouraged to have an appropriate work area which will allow them to separate office work from house chores.  Today we share 5 simple tips to assist you in working effectively at home.


  1. If you have an extra room, a garage or an area that is seldom used, dedicate that area for working or convert it into an office. You may consider adding another room if there’s sufficient yard space.  This will actually increase the value of your home.


  1. Once the space is set out, choose the most appropriate furniture and fitting (be mindful of the size of your designated office space). Your health may be the top contributing factor to the furniture you choose.  If you are one of the people who complain of back pain and eye strains, consult your doctor before choosing your furniture and equipment (computer etc.).  If you are not, you should still choose wisely to reduce your risk of suffering from those ailments in the future.


  1. Get all distractions away from your office space. Televisions, games and even house hold chores are common distractions.  Take the television and similar devises away.  Ensure your office chair is not facing areas like your kitchen where you may spot some dirty dishes staring at you.


  1. An organized office encourages efficiency. An office desk with draws would be useful for some storage and should be considered when choosing office furniture.  Depending on the amount of documents you need to store, consider investing in a filing cabinet or shelves.


  1. Personalize your office space. Don’t over accessorize so that it creates a distraction, remember we are eliminating distractions, but a little personal touch, say something that inspires you, can go a long way.


You need to make sure that your work space or office at home has the right location, furniture and setup to allow you to be physically and mentally prepared to perform your duties most efficiently.

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Small Spaces: The Reward of Choice

A recent article revealed that the size of a typical home from the 1970’s has grown from an average of 1,600 square feet to now 2,500 square feet while family sizes have in most cases lowered in numbers over time – with two working parents in the home – a statistic to which most of us can relate.  The logic for many is that size represents greater success or so we tell ourselves. We have essentially considered less of our own individual needs and more of the desire to “keep up with the Jones’”. What we fail to realize is that bigger spaces don’t often satisfy our personal requirements or objectives instead much effort is spent on outfitting extra spaces that may never be fully used.


Evaluation of ‘space needs’ becomes very important for any family considering to build or renovate.  This was most evident in a recent renovation for a client where a space evaluation yielded the need for an additional bathroom; more specifically a half bathroom/powder room. The project though started with a far greater want of space, as the matrix of needs vs. wants developed it was soon realized that wants far exceeded the needs column and an appropriate balance had to be achieved.  With two bathrooms   already within the main house and a growing family plus the focus on outdoor living and entertainment the need for more bathrooms translated into a real functional                requirement.  Once the clients were convinced the project scope became a reality. The overall dimensions of 6’ x 8’ meant materials were in small quantities so the ability to showcase finish styles that could not normally be afforded for larger spaces were now a reality.


The client had the desire for some time to modernize their home but could not afford, now was the opportunity to take this approach and run with it for this new bathroom addition.  Finishes included Group 2 nicely finished porcelain wall and floor tiles, a        rectangular vessel sink mounted on a wooden vanity overlain with a corian countertop, an elongated comfort toilet, and a special streamlined sink faucet for more regulated flow. Choice of lighting was an important decision as a balance between energy          consumption and lumination needed to be made.  A selection was made to use recessed LED lights. This turned out to be a great choice to highlight the level of finishes chosen and blend with the colour scheme.


Oftentimes, smaller projects are better funded in contrast to the budget constraints    witnessed for larger projects.  So the next time you’re considering a home improvement project, a half bathroom remodel/construction may be the solution.

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Step in style!

The front entry steps of your home are the first things visitors see, and this will undoubtedly be used by visitors and neighbours to form an impression of the inside of your home.  There are a few simple ways you can change the look of your steps and make your home more appealing and welcoming to visitors.


Clean & simple – The quickest, cheapest and simplest way is to keep your front steps clean.  Sweeping, at least 3 times a week, and hosing down at least once a week will prevent build up of dirt that can cause your step to look ugly.  The use of a power-wash is quite effective in getting your step to be spotless.


Be decorative – Add some decorative touches to your front steps.  A decorative doormat with a fun pattern for the top step will instantly give the entryway character and personality.


Add some color – Whether your steps are wooden or concrete, a fresh coat of paint can instantly update a tired, worn entryway.


Hide the concrete – Capping concrete steps with elegant stone works will give new life to a concrete step. Using tile is also a great option. Tiles provide great design versatility.


Add a railing – If your front steps don’t have a railing – or the railing is showing its age – adding one can instantly change their look.


If you decide to give your steps a makeover, be sure to share your before and after photos with us!

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Preparing A Concrete Floor For Painting

The building was complete and the floor was painted. The owner of the building walks in later in the day and sees a well painted floor with bumps. Bumps – the concrete was not evenly spread out. The owner anticipating a well prepared, aesthetically pleasing floor needed the bumps gone. The work men brought in a grinding machine to refine the surface.


Now if you’ve used a grinder you will know that they produce dust. So the work men proceeded to grind down the bumps on the floor. While trying to solve that problem the other perfect areas were collecting dust. At the end of the exercise, the entire area had to be hosed down and repainted. What does this mean? Extra material and labour were used which could have been avoided.


Painting can bring new life to the floor surface. With the right preparations it can be done using allotted money and time.


A good way to prepare for painting a floor is to do appropriate repairs in advance. This includes ensuring the area is flat and smooth enough to give the desired look e.g. fill up holes, grind down bumps and repair cracks or other imperfections. You can also attend to areas on the wall that need some work, maybe there are holes to fill.

Carefully clean the surface before you begin to paint. Paint has a tendency to collect particles in its path such as dust and dirt. These particles can be very apparent under the painted surface. What could also happen is, the paint will stick to the debris instead of the floor and will soon after peel off. If you are repainting the floor, you can remove the existing paint by chisel scraping, scarifying, scabbling etc. For new concrete floors, remove any curing agent residues or laitance (the weak layer of cement and aggregate fines on the concrete surface).


In addition to dust and dirt particles the floor should be free from other substances like water and oil. A degreasing agent can be used to remove oil and other substances.


Generally, the right preparation brings the best results, and that applies to painting a floor.