Think of your kitchen as the social hub of your home. Undoubtedly, it's the most trafficked area in your house and is probably where your family gathers the most. It's also the room where you prepare your meals and, most likely, where you do most of your entertaining.
With so much functionality, it should come as no surprise to discover that the kitchen is considered to be the most important room in a house. In fact, 58 per cent of Canadians polled in the 2003 Royal LePage National Home Attitude Study cite the kitchen as having the most impact on potential purchases. When considering a home renovation, remodeling the kitchen is a top priority for many. Whether considering a complete redesign, or a few minor touchups to add some pizzazz, the following options will help make a significant difference:
A countertop serves as the main focal point of a kitchen and a new one can dramatically impact the look and feel of the busiest room in your house. If an upscale look is what you're after, granite is the most popular choice. This natural stone is waterproof and heatproof when sealed and is also durable and stain-resistant. Manmade solid-surfaces are available in a variety of colours and patterns and boast a rich luxurious look. These surfaces are easily maintained with everyday cleansers and most signs of wear and tear can easily be buffed out. If you're budget conscious, plastic laminates are available in a variety of designs. These enduring materials are easily maintained, but one word of caution, they are neither heat or scratch resistant.
Top-quality cabinets can last a lifetime. Equipped with great hardware and built with elaborate finishing systems, new cabinets can spark up an outdated kitchen. When choosing cabinet height, consider the height of your ceilings. For eight-foot ceilings, cabinets should reach the ceiling. For ceilings that are higher than eight feet, 15 to 18 inches should be left above the cabinets. As an alternative to replacing all of your cabinets, consider incorporating glass cabinet doors. Whether frosted, clear or ribbed, glass can enhance both a modern and traditional cabinet. If you are looking to make a dramatic transformation but don't want to break the bank, paint can be used for an instant cabinet makeover. Visit your local paint store for the latest tips and techniques. The choice of hardware can be used to significantly enhance the look and feel of cabinetry. Simply adding chrome knobs and handles can update a traditional kitchen with a contemporary edge.
Hardwood floors have become a popular choice for kitchen flooring. Although often discouraged because of traffic considerations and proximity to water, many are choosing hardwood for its chic look, electing style over practicality. Laminate flooring offers an attractive and affordable alternative. Available in a variety of patterns, durable laminate flooring is resistant to scratching, fading and denting. Laminate flooring requires minimal maintenance – mopping and vacuuming are all that is necessary. Ceramic tiles are renowned for being resilient and easy to care for – especially important in high-traffic zones such as the kitchen. With a wide variety of styles and colour selections, ceramic tiles offer an affordable choice for those looking for durability and style.
Almost every real estate professional will tell you that bathroom upgrades generally provide a solid return on investment. In fact, the 2006 Royal LePage House Staging Report found that 73 per cent of potential buyers would be willing to pay a premium for a home that featured a renovated bathroom. So, if you are considering a renovation for both personal reasons and with an eye for your home's resale potential, the bathroom may be your choice for change.
How do I start?
Remember that the layout of the new bathroom doesn't necessarily have to be the same as the old one. A new approach is to not make the toilet a focal point. A partial wall will give a sense of privacy and block the eye, without chopping up the space the way a full wall might.
When it comes to lighting, think versatility. You will want brilliant illumination by the mirror and the option of more subdued ambience when soaking in the tub.
If you have an old linen closet, consider converting the façade to resemble a cabinet and perhaps take it right to the ceiling.
Bathrooms are heavy traffic areas, so remember to choose tough, easy to clean surfaces, moisture-resistant paint and non-slip flooring.
Take design cues from your fixtures. The soft lines of oval shapes and the curves of pedestal sinks will feel very different from the artsy, ultra-modern look created by angular choices.
Before you buy a bathtub, try it out by sitting in it. Based on your height and the space available, you may want a longer or deeper tub than is standard. Or you may decide that you'll do without one entirely, in favour of a large open shower space.
It's on my wish list...
It may be that like many of us, you are dreaming of a new bathroom, but don't have the time, money or space for radical changes. Don't underestimate your current bathroom's potential for improvements. A wall-to-wall scrubbing, including a clearing out of old and used items can be rejuvenating, as can a fresh coat of paint. Add some new towels and a shower curtain, a basket or two for storage, a change in wall décor, a plant (it will love the humidity!) and possibly an upgrade to your mirror, lighting or faucets, and you can create a beautiful new space for a fraction of the cost.
Is the air in your home making you sick? It can be as innocuous as a persistent cough, rash or headache. But, for the very young, the elderly and those with respiratory disease, the effects of indoor air contamination can be far more serious. The very air you breathe could be affecting the comfort and health of your family. Recognizing the symptoms of poor air quality is the first step toward fixing the problem. Bad air can be the cause any of the following symptoms: -fatigue -headaches -cold or flu symptoms such as coughing, congestion and sneezing -redness or irritation of the eyes -irritation of the nose or throat -dry, chapped or irritated skin -allergies -asthma attacks Your home may have bad air if you or your family continuously experience any of these indicators, primarily when spending time at home.
In some cases the cause is obvious. Cigarette smoke and pet dander, particularly in poorly ventilated areas, are common culprits. But in many cases, the source is hard to identify. You may be able to locate the source by centering your attention in rooms where symptoms are more severe. Your basement is a good place to start, as basements are breeding grounds for mould, another leading cause of poor air quality. Look for damp areas, mould and mildew and dust accumulation. Is there a musty smell in the air? Is drywall, carpet or drapery stained or discoloured? Chemical fumes from a recent renovation or fumes from an attached garage or workshop could also be to blame.
Every home should have a carbon monoxide detector. Carbon monoxide is an odourless gas caused by combustion sources like gas appliances, wood stoves/fireplaces and automobiles. Initial warning signs of carbon monoxide poisoning include sore throat, dizziness, headache and sleepiness - prolonged exposure can be fatal. Carbon monoxide detectors are available commercially and are required by law in some Canadian districts.
Solving the problem can be as easy as removing the source. Mould can be destroyed by cleansing the area with a mixture of one part chlorine bleach to four parts water. Wash the area thoroughly and let it stand for about 15 minutes before rinsing. To avoid recurrence, ensure that the affected area remains free of moisture. Contaminated carpet, underlay and furniture should be removed and discarded.
Routinely change furnace and air conditioner filters and keep your home clean and dust free. When removing the source is not possible or proves ineffective, there are other measures you can take: -Improve ventilation in affected rooms -Humid air can cause and exacerbate air quality. Consider purchasing a dehumidifier -An air filtration system can be installed in the home When symptoms are severe it is best to rely on a professional. Hire an environmental consulting company to analyze the air in your home, identify the cause and recommend a solution.
Small rooms are the bane of the home decorator. How do you achieve a pleasing look that doesn't feel cramped and claustrophobic? Short of building an addition or knocking down walls, you are limited to a few, but effective, decorating tricks that create the illusion of space.
The strategic use of colour and light is the best way to achieve this. Choose light shades of paint or wallpaper for the walls. Lighter colours reflect light making for a brighter room. Use an even lighter shade of the same colour or white for ceilings and floors. A darker colour on the ceiling will make the ceiling look lower and tends to make the walls look as though they are closing in.
Avoid harshly contrasting colours. In fact, a monochromatic colour scheme that carries throughout the room into fabrics and accessories is very effective. Steer away from too many patterned items. The goal here is to blur perspective.
Anything you can do to bring light into the room will also give the effect of increased space. A corner wall sconce that casts light up onto the wall works well. Try to vary lighting effects for interest. A skylight is a great way to add light to a room, but isn't always practical or affordable. Mirrors are a great solution for small rooms. Place mirrors directly across from another for maximum impact. A mirror placed across from a window is also effective. Place a lamp in front of a mirror to add more light to your room.
If you have wood or patterned flooring, have it installed so that the lines run diagonally across the room. This makes for longer lines, which give the appearance of a larger space. When furnishing the room, pick objects that are proportioned to the size of the room. For example, opt for a loveseat over a full-sized sofa. Lastly, keep the clutter to a minimum. Avoid using a lot of knick-knacks and keep the room tidy and well organized.
Whether building a new home or renovating an old one, choose your contractor carefully. Start by writing your project down, including a floor-plan sketch. Ask friends, family and neighbours about good and bad contractors. Select several contractors and arrange to meet with them. During the meeting, ask each of them:
- How long have they been in business - What experience have they with projects such as yours - Their registration numbers for trade associations, the Better Business Bureau, Workers' Compensation and private liability insurance Reputable contractors will gladly answer these questions. Avoid those who balk.
Have the contractor supply at least three references. Ask these former clients about their experiences and, if possible, visit their projects for a first-hand look. Ask your local Better Business Bureau if there have been complaints and how the contractor handled them.
A major project may require professionally drawn plans. Instead of hiring an expensive architect, pay one prospective contractor to draw them. Then you'll own the plans outright and can show them to other bidders. Welcome suggestions. An experienced contractor may have good ideas you never thought of.
Each estimate should state prices for labour, materials (including brand and model names where applicable), and all other expenses. It should also describe the warranty. Don't necessarily choose the lowest bid. Ensure that yours includes: - The contractor's name, address and telephone number, along with registration numbers of the firm's operating licence, memberships in trade associations or the Better Business Bureau and Workers' Compensation. Also include details of private liability insurance coverage. You could be held liable if insurance doesn't cover an injured worker. If subcontractors are involved, the contract should list similar information for them.
- A detailed listing of the work to be done and all products to be used. The contract could specify either a set price, to which the contractor is committed regardless of unforeseen complications, or a cost price, which allows the contractor to charge extra for such problems.
- An hourly rate for labour. This is most important in a cost-price contract, but is also necessary in a set-price contract, in case you decide to change the plan after work has begun.
- A schedule for payments. Pay only a nominal deposit before work has begun. Then, arrange for payments as work progresses. Avoid scheduling payments for predetermined calendar dates. Instead, pay as each stage is completed.
Never sign a partial or blank contract. Any later changes should be added in writing and signed by both parties. During the project, deal directly with the contractor rather than the tradespeople. Handle problems as they arise and be reasonable. Be considerate of the contractor's needs, such as parking space for work vehicles.
How did a material once relegated to the cold confines of commercial kitchens become the hottest trend in kitchen decorating? By getting the word out that it is extremely durable, hygienic, and water and heat resistant. Not to mention that it possesses eye-grabbing appeal.
First introduced to the residential market ten years ago, stainless steel has gained remarkable popularity in a relatively short period of time. Rarely is a new house complete or a kitchen renovation concluded without the addition of distinctive stainless steel appliances. The fridge, stove and dishwasher are the most traditional of stainless steel offerings, but recently the surge for steel has resulted in stainless countertops, cabinet faces and backsplashes. Although first depicted as a decorating trend, it is quickly becoming clear that stainless steel is a mainstream style that is here to stay.
Some homeowners are hesitant to decorate with the glossy steel for fear it will give off a cold feeling, not suited for a family kitchen. This is hardly the case if the material is mixed and matched with common kitchen materials. For instance, blending warm traditional kitchen finishes like maple or cherry cabinets with stainless steel will result in a fantastic, unique contrast. Stainless is also versatile enough to be partnered in a kitchen with black, white or bisque appliances.
The durability of stainless is another element of great appeal. The material is highly resistant to rust, discolouration and corrosion, easily maintaining its professional appearance for years. Perhaps the only drawback stainless possesses is its tendency to scratch easily, although some find the occasional mark adds character and substance. It also has an inclination to attract fingerprints, which can be a concern if children roam your home.
Fortunately, stainless steel is not a difficult material to maintain. Cleaning involves a wash down with a mild detergent, a rinse and then a polish with a dry cloth. Of course, before outfitting your kitchen with stainless steel style, be sure you have a proper bulletin board, as the non-magnetic tendencies of stainless make hanging your families' schedules on the fridge next to impossible. Depending on your perspective, this may be stainless steel's greatest quality of all!
Remaining objective can be a difficult task when viewing an open house. It is easy to fall in love with a home's appearance, blind to problems that may make it unsuitable. While aesthetics can be an important consideration, it is necessary to look beyond window-dressing.
A qualified home inspector should be hired before purchasing a home, but there are areas that consumers can examine on their own. This will shorten your list of potential homes and reduce the likelihood that a home inspector will reject it as unsafe or unsuitable. Here are some considerations and common problem areas to look for when touring an open house:
Much can be surmised from the general state of the home. Is the home clean? Are lawns left uncut? Are the walls chipped and in need of paint? If smaller chores have been ignored it may be an indication of a broader disregard for home maintenance.
Check ceilings and drywall for stains, bulges and other signs of water damage. Water that works its way inside via a leaky roof or a cracked foundation can rot wood, create mildew and mold, destroy possessions and can be expensive to repair.
Does it Work?
Test lights, faucets, the heater, air conditioning, major appliances (that are to be included with the home) - even flush the toilets to ensure everything is working as it should.
As you walk across the floors be aware of ''spongy'' (soft or springy) sections. Excessive squeaking and uneven, bumpy floors may also be indicative of expensive forthcoming repairs.
Doors & Windows
Check that doors and windows fit snugly in their jambs and operate smoothly. Look for flaked paint and loose caulking. If the wood around windows and doors is not protected from moisture, it can rot away. Feel for drafts in these areas too.
On a wet day walk around the yard and look for areas where water collects. This can be an especially bad sign if there are soggy areas near the home''s foundation.
Grout & Caulking
If the grout and caulking around bathroom and kitchen tiles is loose and crumbly, there is a good chance that water is finding its way into the wall or under the floor.
Although this is definitely an area where you want the services of a qualified home inspector, you can get an idea about possible structural problems if you see deep cracks in the foundations or loose mortar and bricks.
Naturally, one the most important factors will be determining if the house suits your family's needs. If you do not want to replace all of your furniture, make sure it will fit into the rooms of the new house. This is difficult to do by eye, so be sure to bring a measuring tape. Also, take note of storage space. If you are moving from a home with large closets and a shed, make sure your new house is able to store an equivalent amount of belongings
Some homeowners are tempted to try selling their property without the help of a real estate agent (this is called FSBO: For Sale By Owner). The reality is that selling real estate is a complex and highly specialized field. If you are like most, your home is your biggest asset. An agent will help steer you clear of the many pitfalls, and most importantly, will save you time and money. Here are just a few of the advantages of working with an agent:
-Your agent knows real estate values in your neighbourhood and will help set an agreeable and competitive price on your home.
-Your agent will establish a marketing strategy for your home ensuring that your property is exposed to scores of potential buyers.
-Your agent takes care of the many tasks involved in selling a house (everything from putting up the for sale sign and taking care of paperwork). This saves you time and ensures that the transaction is simple and low-stress for you.
-Your agent is an expert in the home selling process and as such will advise you of your rights, options and obligations.
-Your agent is an experienced negotiator and will work to get you the best price possible.
-Your agent has access to all of the latest tools, technology and tricks of the trade.
-Your agent can recommend the best ways to improve your home's curb appeal.
-Your Royal LePage agent has the support of a national firm and a network of contacts and expertise.