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Easy Renovations for Your Home

Renovating should be a fun and exciting process (really!).  The key is to plan the project out in advance, hire the right people, allot the appropriate amount of time, and make provisions for delays.  Try not to make the completion date coincide with your birthday or anniversary.  Begin waaaay before that date, if you’re planning a special party, and even then, have an alternate location in mind. 


Don’t impose a time frame on yourself or your contractor that will create stress.  At the same time, get a clear understanding of how long the project will probably take, and when it will begin.  If it’s a three month job and the work won’t begin until November, your house will not be ready for a New Year’s Party, unless you’re celebrating Chinese New Year…  This is a surprisingly common problem – how much time the home owner thinks a project will take and that actual work time required. 


There are no Contractor Fairies (and I refer here to the magical ones! Ha,ha,ha!) who can slip in the middle of the night and have the project done by the morning, although that would be good!  (I’m guessing that there’d be some really loud dance music, anyway, which would just keep you awake…!)  Have your Contractor include a probable time frame with the quote. 

Have a clear idea of what you want before your contractor comes over.  You don’t have to sketch out the changes, but you should be able to tell him or her what changes you would like to see.  Many good contractors will have done so many renos that they will immediately know what needs to be done, the approximate cost and time-frame.  When a contractor tells you that ‘the little bathroom’ will cost about $3,000.00, don’t think that your job will secretly only cost about $20.00, maybe a little less…then be shocked and dismayed when your bill comes in at…$3,000.00.  You’d be surprised how many people have notions like that.  Try not to fall into this trap, or to think that any changes you make once the job has started won’t affect the price or the amount of time of a project.  Always get written quotes for any work you are having done, that way you’ll both be clear about the expectations for the job.

If you’re really stuck trying to figure out how to improve an area in your home, consider hiring a Designer.  Keep in mind that they can work within your budget, but if your budget is really tight, it’s probably better to spend the consultation fee on new drapes or a toilet… If decision making is a problem area for you, and you’re able to relinquish control, then a designer might be the clear solution.  Shop around the same way you would for a contractor until you find someone you’re really comfortable with, someone who will listen to what you want.  Remember, it’s your house, so do what’s right for you.  If you say, “Absolutely no red” and the designer says you need all red if you’re going to be ‘cutting edge’, then choose another designer – one who is more interested in catering to your needs.  

Is there a quick fix?


Often, there is a quick fix.  If you aren’t dealing with structural changes or a complete makeover, then consider a coat of paint, new flooring, new baseboards, and/or new window treatments.  There are lots of things that you can do yourself, now.  You might want to up-date your bathroom or kitchen with new flooring.  There’s a new glueless laminate ‘wood’ flooring that you can tackle on your own, if you are so inclined.  Tiling is an excellent option, too, and you can learn how to do that on our site (click on the Tiling page), or attend a seminar at your local hardware store.  A really nice throw rug can change the look of a room and add new life to an old carpet.  Installation of new carpet should be professionally done, unless it’s a small area and you are skilled at that.


< >Sometimes a simple change like up-dating your hardware (the knobs in your kitchen – no, not your spouse’s friends! Ha,ha,ha! ) can make a huge difference in the overall look of a room.  You may be able to paint your cabinetry if you don’t want to replace it.  If you are replacing the cabinets, Check out your Local Hardware Stores selection.  You can check for price, availability, installation fees (don’t try this alone!), and for some ideas in general that you like.  They will provide you with a computer print-out of what your completed kitchen will look like, if you arrange to meet with a Kitchen Designer and draw one out together. 

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< >If you have an old brick fireplace that you don’t care for anymore, or want to give it a fresh look, consider painting it.  This is not a crime…painted brick can look great!  Generally, creamy shades work well, but you can choose what you like.  Brick really soaks up the paint, so use a good primer, first. You can put a brand new Fireplace surround either in front of your existing fireplace, if it's already a flat exterior, or dismantle the current matle and install this new fireplace surround - should not be too much work! lol! And they have these new fireplace surrounds that are absolutely stunning, made of all sorts of materials... just gorgeous!


< >Put a marble or granite tile (slate works well, too) around the fireplace.  Use the correct tile adhesive (ask at the store) and choose a nice grout. You can cover the Fireplace with a fine mesh first, if you like, or stick the tiles directly on top of the existing fireplace using some really good adhesive. You can find really good bonding agents at any local hardware store. Smear the adhesive over the old bricks, or what have you (it's probably bricks!), then carefully set the tiles. I prefer a tiny grout line on a fireplace -- maybe a 1/16th", but if you like a 1/8th" grout line, that would be okay, too. A grout line in the 1/4" range would be too big, I think, and will draw away from the affect you are trying to achieve with your new fireplace. Personal choice, though, as always! Just make sure it looks good to you, and will also look good to any potential buyer!

< >How cool is this?? They have Georgia O'Keefe, too ... soo many different fancy ties you could have a lot of fun decorating with! lol!


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You can actually buy a Fireplace Surround pre-made, or you can build your own Mantel with Crown Moulding and some nice lumber.  You may want to bring in some help for this. While you're looking at the Fireplace Mantels, check out the cool Fireplace Over-mantels -- they're gorgeous! You can have mirror custom cut to fit in the center and make your house look fabulous, darling!

< >Changing the lighting can create a whole new look in your home.  If it’s not too complicated, you can do this on your own.  If it’s too tricky or dangerous, bring in an electrician.  Changing the light switches and switch plates can make a huge difference, too.  You can go from the past to the present in a flick of the switch! Ha,ha,ha! Has a Great Lighting Selection

< >Doors (or perhaps the facade of a door?? lol!) have a huge impact on how a house looks.  Painting old wooden doors (the ones from the 60's and 70's) can add new life to them.  Change the hardware while you’re at it, and you’ll have a nice new door!  Switching to French Doors (the ones with the glass inserts) can add extra light to a room.  You can get the glass with many different looks, if privacy is a concern.  If your budget will allow, consider changing all the doors to the new white colonial style – that looks nice in just about every home.  They’re clean and neat, and will brighten up a hallway. 



< >Replacing your front door can give the house a real boost and probably add a bit of safety, too, since many of the new doors are made of steel.  Sometimes adding a lovely screen door can create more interest at the front entry. 


When you change the doors, you will probably want to replace the baseboards, too.  If you are trying to make the job as easy as possible, consider using Rosettes for the corners, then all the cuts will be straight ones.  Use Dap to fill in any little gaps, or wood filler if you’ve gone with a wooden finish.

< >Also, Changing out the Garage Doors in an Older Home to Update the Exterior look of your house is a great idea. Garage Doors are a very reasonable price, these days -- some things become more reasonable as time goes on -- go figure! But changing out the Garage Doors can create an incredible new look for your house. And maybe add some nice neat Trim around the Doors, too!

Here's exactly what I advocate -- getting Three Good Quotes for the Same Job -- this is a great way to find out how much a Home Improvement Job is really going to cost you -- and it's a Free Service, so why not give it a try?

< >Did you know that you can paint your appliances?  It works, too.  You can hire a painting service to do this if you’re worried about the outcome.  If you are getting new kitchen cabinetry, you can order matching covers for the appliances.  Ask at the cabinet place for details to see if that is feasible in your kitchen. Sometimes your best bet is just to bite the bullet and buy new appliances.  My favourite new appliance (who knew you could have a ‘favourite appliance?!) is the Upright Freezer.  I’m putting one in the new house, it’s sooo cool!  It looks like a refrigerator -- some the same height and almost the same size, and some a little shorter. You can arrange to have the door open from the left, if you have the fridge and upright freezer side by side, so access is even easier.  Anyway, it saves ‘losing’ all those items at the bottom of a regular freezer that you can’t remember and find a couple of years later… Also, there are some really neat new small appliances that will add more efficiency to your kitchen.  There’s a roasting oven that that just plugs in and sits on your countertop – great for big dinner events when you could really use another oven. 

If you have a small space with a closet (front entry, bedroom), consider changing the regular doors to mirrored doors.  That really opens up a room and provides more light, quickly.

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Window Treatments can make the world of difference in a room.  There’s a huge selection of gorgeous curtains, most of them reasonably priced.  Shop around – there are some great deals, out there.  On-line shopping is perfect for this.  At the very least, it’ll give you an idea of what’s available on the market.  Adding a beautiful Valance will have a huge impact on the room.  You can make them out of Crown Moulding if you like the wooden look, or you can build them out of plywood, cover with cotton batting, then material to suit your room, and staple them at the back.  Be sure to get help hanging them on the wall as they will be quite heavy.  Be sure to attach it where there’s a stud, too.  (Are you making your own stud jokes?! Ha,ha!)  The relatively new wrought iron curtain rods with all the cool attachments are really attractive, too.  They are much easier to install and generally less expensive than a valance.  You can buy ready-made material valances, too – they’re usually offered with the set of curtains that you choose.  Tie-backs can make a real difference, too, so have a wee look at them, as well.

Furniture plays a key role in the look of your house.  There are some gorgeous slip covers available, if you don’t want to replace your extra comfortable stuff!  You could try your hand at reupholstering your furniture.  It’s not as hard as it looks, but it does take time and skill, but if you’re a willing participant and plan it carefully, it should work out all right.  Get a staple gun to make the job a little easier. 


Maybe you’re in the market for a new head board?  You can make your own out of a nice door, with an even pattern, some nice Crown Moulding, and some legs. You can purchase these at any lumber store.   Turn it on its’ side to create the look you’re after. 


If you’d like a softer headboard, try covering a sheet of plywood with a fair bit of padding, then cover with material and staple.  If it’s big enough, you may be able to just sit it behind the head of the bed, or you can attach it to the frame. 


I'm in the Market for some new Slipcovers, these days. I'm very fond of our old Furniture, because it's sooo comfy, but after years of Tia jumping up on it and scratching it with her little paws, it could use a new look. Slipcovers are a great way to quickly improve the look of your home.


Let go of your old notions about painting wooden furniture – it can really bring it into the present (especially if it’s that really dark wood so very popular in the 70’s…).  If you are painting a hutch, remember to paint the interior to keep it looking light.  Adding additional lighting is easy with the new ‘stick on lights’ available at regular retail outlets.  Smear Vaseline on the windows of the unit before you paint it to make clean up faster and easier. 


You can replace the hardware, too, or paint that, as well.  If you really want to be adventurous, you could tile the top of your dressers and end tables with a nice marble or ceramic tile.  Check ‘How to Tile’ to learn how to do this.

<Beautiful New Bedding >

New Bedding can really change the feel of a bedroom.  If you don’t already have Bed skirts, try adding these.  An easy and inexpensive way to create you own bed skirt is to take a flat sheet that is a size larger than your bed.  Place it carefully on the bed to reach the floor around the bed, then make pleats at the corners.  You can pin it, or just arrange the top mattress over the sheet to hold it in place.  Try adding a Duvet Cover over an old comforter for a different look.  You can get matching Pillow Cases, too, that’ll really complete the look. 

Speaking of Tiling, if your Kitchen Countertop has seen better days, you might want to consider tiling it.  This is actually a surprisingly inexpensive venture, especially if you can do it yourself.  Many arborite countertops have a little ‘lip’ at the outer edge, which you will probably have to plane down to create a smooth and square surface in preparation for the tile.  You can also remove the old countertop and replace it with ¾ plywood (have it specially cut to fit), then tile on that. There are so many beautiful tiles to choose from, that the possibilities are endless.  Look at all the different sizes of tile, too.  People often think of the tiny tiles, or the 4” tiles, for a Countertop, but you can go much larger.  The tile we chose for our next kitchen (you can watch this process by clicking on the Tiling box) is a 13” X 13” Green Marble Granite Tile – gorgeous.  Real marble tile is fantastic, too.  There is a special grout to use for countertops, so be sure to tell your retailer what your project is.  Also, using a thin grout line will make a real difference. 


If your bathroom is in need of an up-date, a coat of paint might do the trick.  Many people have successfully painted their tile.  Ask your retailer what type of paint and finish you’ll need for this.  The bathtub can be painted, too – there’s a service that specializes in this, so check your local papers.  Tub Surrounds are not a bad idea if there’s no water damage on the walls.  Tiling is always a good option.  If you’re doing it yourself, and you have to tear down the existing walls, remember to use waterproof drywall before you complete the wall finish.  Replacing the countertop, sink, toilet, tub or fixtures will really improve the look of the bathroom.  Call a professional before you ‘get in too deep’, though, and by that I mean before you end up in a foot of water – outside of the bathroom! 

Shelving can make a tremendous difference in the feel of you home if space is an issue.  Check your closets to see if there’s a space at the very top where a shelf could be added. That’s usually wasted space, and you could store your ‘opposite season’ clothes up there.  Can you build shelves into your Pantry to make more room for canned goods? Stackable baskets and boxes are useful for storing all the extra little things that cause clutter around the house.  There are lots of shelving ‘kits’ on the market, now.  They are often less expensive than buying all the materials to build your own shelves, so check these out first. 


A really simple way to change the look and feel of your home is to rearrange the furniture.  Sounds painfully simple, but it can breathe new life into a room.  Also, the addition of some nice big tropical plants, some hanging plants, and/or some potted flowering plants will add life and colour to a room.  Hanging some nice prints or other artwork will do wonders for your décor, too. 

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Major Renovations


Generally, major renovations would encompass Remodeling a portion of your home or the whole thing.  The important stuff to remember is not to get in too deep.  A very common problem is taking on more than you can chew, usually right after watching your favourite renovation show on television!  It always takes waaaay longer to do a renovation than what is accomplished with the magic of TV!  Ha,ha,ha!   For one, they have all kinds of professional help (free – yours probably won’t be…), and note how the camera carefully avoids any close-up shots of the finished work.  If you race through a job, you’ll have lots and lots of time afterward to look at all the mistakes.  Take your time, plan it out carefully, and do one area at a time.  Sounds obvious, but it’s surprisingly easy to start ripping out all the stuff you don’t like, then realize later that it takes forever to actually fix any given area.  Much better to decide what needs to be done, write out a list, then prioritize.  If you have the Walls and the Floors on the same list, do the walls first – it’ll be less stressful when the paint splatters! 

If it’s a huge remodeling job, consider how you will cope with all the mess.  Do you have an alternate location where you can live during the renovations?  How about a little area of the house that you can keep as a sanctuary?  Give this some serious thought before you get started.  It can be surprising how difficult life can be during a reno project.  If you happen to have a House Trailer, this is probably a good time to ‘camp out’, if only for a little break from the chaos. 

Read through the Building Information for a really big project, since much of the information is applicable.  Don’t forget the Permits! : )





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