Great Houseplant Choices for the Gardening Impaired

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Houseplants not only make a home look nicer but they also really help improve the air quality as well and can even, in some cases, help combat pesky excess moisture in the air which can lead to mold and mildew.  In theory you should be able to simply head to your local nursery or home store, pick out a few good ones, find a nice spot for them, water them occasionally and be done.

Unfortunately, as many of us have found out, there is often more to caring for houseplants than that and all too often they are looking very sad and brown within just few weeks – if they last that long.

There are some houseplants that are far easier to take care of than others though and are well suited to those of us who do not exactly have green thumbs! Here is a little about some of the best of them:

Snake Plants

snake_plant_r8reeIf the only houseplants you have had success with in the past are plastic ones then a snake plant might be just the right choice for you to try with living plants again. Its architectural, sword shape leaves and bright yellow and green colors make it a very attractive choice that suits any decor and the fact that it can survive very well at standard room temperatures and as its soil should be allowed to dry between waterings it means that it can be forgotten for several days and still be no worse for wear.

 

 

 

zeezeeplantZeezee Plant

This succulent looking plant is also often referred to as an eternity plant simply because it is so hardy and long lasting. The Zeezee plant can tolerate low light and varying temperatures and it can actually remain lush, green and healthy if it isn’t watered for a fortnight! This is thanks mainly to the fact that its fleshy leaves can retain moisture very well so it can essentially feed itself if its owners forget about it for a while.

 

 

 

Cast iron plantCast Iron Plant

As you can probably gather from its nickname – it is really an aspidistra – you would actually have to work quite hard to kill this plant off. As it grows very slowly it can withstand neglect, low light, low humidity, high humidity and a wide range of temperatures. As it is such a slow grower though you should keep that in mind when choosing a cast iron plant in the first place, as the size you purchase it at is likely to be the size it stays for quite some time!

 

 

 

 

Jade1Jade Plant

If watering is usually what kills off your houseplants (or the lack of it) then the tree like jade plant may be just the right choice for you. This very slow growing plant can actually survive for decades as long as it has fairly bright light and minimal water. It is a good choice for a slightly damp atmosphere as well, as it can absorb moisture from the air in order to nourish itself.  It does survive well enough at average room temperature, but it can also handle cooler temperatures if it has to.

The When, Where and Why of Mould Resistant Paints

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Even if you are only an occasional visitor to home improvement or hardware stores you may have noticed that these days when choosing both exterior and interior paints for use in and around your home there are an increasing number of ‘mould resistant’ choices available. But what are these new paints and when and where should they be used?

What Mould Resistant Paints Do

Mould resistant paints are designed to literally do exactly what it says on the tin; resist mould and mildew. In order to do so several (non-toxic) chemicals are added to the paint base and the resistant properties remain once the paint is applied and dry and can offer a number of years of ‘protection’.

When Should You Use a Mould Resistant Paint?

Specialist mould resistant paints are designed to be used only on clean, mould free surfaces. Painting over patches of mould in the hope that it is going to help solve the problem is futile. All you would be doing in that scenario is wasting paint and making what could be a serious situation that needs to be addressed by a mould remediation experts as soon as possible.

Where a mould resistant paint can be very useful is to repaint areas that have been affected by mould be the problem has been effectively remedied. While some moulds are caused by plumbing disasters and are unlikely to occur again more often it is the areas it grew in themselves that are the problem and with the best will in the world, the chance of reoccurrence is not an impossibility by any means.

For example, bathrooms are a veritable potential playground for moulds and mildew. The average bathroom often offers all of the things that mould love most; excess moisture, damp heat and some nice dark corners to lurk in. While improved ventilation and vigilance help a great deal choosing a mould resistant paint over a standard option will add an extra layer of protection that is well worth considering.

Where Should You Use a Mould Resistant Paint?

As we just mentioned the bathroom is a prime candidate for this kind of specialist care but it is not the only spot. Basements that are prone to damp (which is a lot of them), busy kitchens, wooden decks, any painted siding and even wooden outdoor furniture may all benefit from a new paint job using the mould resistant versions of your chosen colour schemes.

Cautionary Reminders

You should remember that the operative word in the phrase ‘mould resistant paint’ is resistant. It does not make anything ‘mould proof’. That means all of the other preventative measures still need to be taken; proper ventilation, the use of a humidifier where appropriate and simple careful observation (a little patch of mould can become a big problem quickly unless you take fast action) should all still be item on your to-do list where mould prevention is involved.

The other potential downside is that as it is a relatively new idea this specialist paint while now readily available at most paint stores, is not offered in the myriad of colours you are perhaps used to. There are some great choices that can be tinted to a certain extent but if you are looking for darker colours especially you may be out of luck.

One alternative is to use a white mould resistant paint as a primer and then top it off with a coat of a fancier colour of the standard stuff. The protection may be slightly decreased but in most indoor situations not significantly so.

Garage Heaters 101: Types, Uses and Safety Tips

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At first, you might wonder why someone would need a garage heater at all. After all, a car can’t feel the cold; in fact, it can’t feel much of anything! However, look at the issue a little closer and many homeowners then begin to see the logic. If they had a garage heater their garages would not be stone cold all winter long and that morning trip out to the car would be a lot nicer and less of a horrible, freezing shock. It would also probably mean that the days of trying for five minutes (in the cold) to get the car to start (because the engine is so cold) are gone as well. And for some who have larger garages having a heater allows them to actually use the space in the winter months.

If a garage heater sounds like something that might be a good idea for your home then there are lots of different types, makes and models out there for you to choose from. So many in fact it can all get rather confusing. Here is some information though that should help you make the best choice for heating your home’s garage space:

What is the Best Garage Heater? Figuring Out Your Needs

Before you even start looking for a garage heater you should determine exactly how you are going to need to use it. Do you want a small unit that can just provide the occasional warming blast when the temperatures drop or do you want to keep your garage nice and warm all the time because you use it a lot for things other than storing your car, as many people do? Do you prefer electric, gas or propane? Which will be easier to install in your unique garage space and which will be cheaper to run in the long term?

You do not need to make all of these decisions before you shop but having a good idea about the kind of garage heater you want before you head out shopping can help simplify the selection process a lot.

What is the Best Garage Heater? Choosing Your Fuel Source

When it comes to garage heaters of all shapes, sizes and heat sources there are three basic options available to homeowners when it comes to the type of fuel they use to power them – electric, natural gas and propane.

One of the things you will need to give some thought to is how much each type of fuel will actually cost you in the long run in order for you to be able to use the garage heater in the way that you want to. Most suppliers that sell garage heaters both on and offline will be able to supply you with a “garage heater energy calculator” but it will be up to you to discover what the actual pricing in your area is beforehand so that using it actually gives you a fairly good estimate of the eventual running costs you might face.

When choosing a fuel type you should also keep convenience in mind. Will you have to have new gas lines run in order to install a natural gas heater or maybe change the way the space is ventilated? If you opt for electric will that involves installing extra wiring or extra outlets? and if you opt for propane do you know how you can get a regular supply so that you do not suddenly “get left out in the cold” if you run out?

What is the Best Garage Heater? Common Wisdom

Although every garage is different, the following “common wisdom” may help you make the right garage heater choice as well:

Pros and Cons of Electric Garage Heaters: On the plus side electric garage heaters are clean burning and usually fairly straightforward to install. Their temperature can be tightly monitored which can help you save money and they can be purchased in radiant, infrared and blower fan form, offering a lot of flexibility. On the downside if the power goes out (which in many areas it does tend to do in winter) the heat goes out as well and if used a lot the cost of an electric heater can get a bit high.

Pros and Cons of Natural Gas Garage Heaters – Natural gas heaters tend to warm up quickly making them a good choice for intermittent use and they are often the most economical option in terms of running costs although installation is often more complicated than it might be for other types of heater. For safety’s sake, you also need to make sure that your garage is well ventilated.

Pros and Cons of Propane Garage Heaters – Propane garage heaters tend to be the fastest to heat up of all and they are easy to install. They also offer a bonus in the summer months as the fan can be reversed to blow cool air into a warm space. On the downside keeping an extra supply of propane on hand can be inconvenient.

Is it Safe to Use Garage Heaters?

The answer to this question is usually yes, though, as long as you keep the following simple safety tips in mind:

Garage Use – Different types of garage heaters are safer to use than others if you generally intend to make use of the space yourself. For example, if you are a handy type of person and intend to use some of your garage space for woodworking and other DIY type projects a lower intensity tube gas heater may be the safest option.

If you choose an electric model there is a danger that wood chips, dust, and debris may come into contact with its workings and cause them to stop working or even worse catch fire. A propane heater may not be the best choice either as its fans can swirl sawdust around making working comfortably, with having sawdust flying in your face can be hard. On the other hand, if you just intend to use your extra garage space as an office then a compact wall mounted electric garage heater free of too many wires and cables would be a great, safe choice.

Ventilation – If you are going to use a gas garage heater it is crucial that the space is well ventilated and that may mean making some adjustments to the basic setup of your garage before installing one – an extra cost. Failing to make these adjustments can be far more costly though in human terms as a gas heater used in a poorly ventilated space is a serious health hazard.

Placement – Where you place your garage heater can have safety implications as well. A ceiling mounted unit might sound very convenient but the combination of a low garage ceiling and a tall person can make them rather dangerous as well! If you use space in your garage to work in any way you may not want to have the heater placed too close to your work area either, in order to avoid bumping into it and burning yourself by mistake.

Free standing garage heater options can be convenient if you only intend to heat the space on an occasional basis but they are rarely ever suitable for use in a garage that sees a lot of action and traffic because the risk that they will accidentally be knocked over is just a little too high.

On the whole, modern garage heaters of all types are designed to be very safe to use and if you do have concerns about the suitability of a certain model in your home then the supplier you are working with should be able to help you address them before you buy a garage heater at all.

Easy Ways to Warm Your Home Without Electricity This Winter

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When a winter storm strikes – and we may yet still experience at least one or two of those this year before Spring returns – one of the things that can often happen is that the electric supply to your home is disrupted, and if the storm is bad the outages can last for hours (or more.)

While you may be able to light your way with candles, torches and other nonelectric sources of light if you home relies on electricity for heat – which many do – you could be in for a rather cold time, which is why it pays to brainstorm an alternate heat source for those frigid days. Alternative sources of heat can also help you save on your electric bill, something your bank account will thank you for. Here are just a few ideas.

Add an Eco-Friendly Fireplace

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You wish you had one of those great looking built-in fireplaces, both for aesthetic reasons and an additional source of heat, but your home simply did not come along with such a thing and the cost of having one installed is prohibitive. or so you thought.

There is another way though. Gel fuel fireplaces are a relatively new thing but they are gaining in popularity quickly. Instead of relying on wood or electric they are powered by an eco-friendly gel fuel that can throw off up to 6,000 BTUs of heat. many models are completely vent free, very nice to look at and can be purchased for $200 or less at a big box store like Lowes. And not only will you be getting a relatively inexpensive source of extra heat that does not rely on mains power to function, you will also be getting a great piece of new home decor.

Bundle Up a Bit

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Instead of cranking the thermostat way up on a cold day to keep warm why not do things the old fashioned way and bundle up a bit more? Keeping your whole body covered is the best way to prevent heat loss. It’s a bit of an old wives’ tale that we lose the majority of our body heat through our head. The truth is, we experience heat loss throughout our entire body. So pile on those big sweaters, thermal undies and cozy socks safe in the knowledge that you might well be saving enough to add an extra couple of new pieces to your Spring wardrobe in just a few months.

Invest in Some Thermal Curtains

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Even if you have newish double pane windows on very cold days any window is a source of heat loss, and if yours are older windows then a significant one at that. You may already know to keep the curtains closed to preserve more heat but an even better idea is to make sure those curtains are thermal curtains.

These days thermal curtains can be found in as many attractive styles as ‘regular’ ones and only cost a few dollars more so installing them for the duration of the cold season is a bit of a no-brainer.

Raise your Body Temperature

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If all else fails, sweat it out. There’s no better way to get warm quickly than to move your body. Even in a small space, there are plenty of ways to raise your heart rate and generate some heat. Push back the coffee table, improvise some weights (canned goods or bottled water will do just fine), and prepare to sweat.

Home Improvement Tips – Alternative Choices for Great Bathroom Flooring

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As water damage restoration experts we do, perhaps unfortunately, spend a great deal of our time in bathrooms, as that is where so many water damage incidents begin. Therefore, over the years, we’ve pretty much become bathroom experts and take a keen interest in how to make them look and function better as well as how to fix them up after a water damage incident.

Your choice of flooring can have a major impact on both the look and function of your bathroom and yet it is one of the most  overlooked aspects of the average bathroom remodel. Believing it’s really their only choice, many homeowners opt for ceramic tile, choose a nice pattern and then move onto other aspects of the space without too much of a second thought.

While ceramic tile is a good choice for a bathroom – it’s durable, relatively easy to keep clean and fairly affordable – it is far from the only option you have and should consider. Here are some other choices that are certainly worth a second look when planning a bathroom remodel:

Glass tile – Small, mosaic-like glass tile can be an excellent choice. Not only do they come in a rainbow of different colors, shapes and sizes but they are also durable and relatively inexpensive. Better still they are often sold in sheets with a mesh like backing and are therefore super easy to install even though the finished look appears to be very intricate and have taken hours and hours to complete.

woodHardwood Alternatives – A hardwood floor makes a bathroom look rich, warm and inviting, but using real hardwood in such a damp space can be very problematic, even if it is very well treated and finished. An alternative that is better suited to a bathroom space that can still provide that beautiful wood look is laminate flooring, which can stand up to all of the excess moisture

Alternately, if your heart is truly set on a real hardwood floor looking for recycled or reclaimed hardwood flooring can be a great idea. The chances are that it will already have imperfections – albeit rather attractive ones – and older, vintage hardwood planks tend to be tougher than their modern counterparts. You will need to be very careful about moisture control though. Wood is durable for sure, but it is also prone to warping in a moist atmosphere and mould can quickly become an issue as well.

Concrete – If the thought of a concrete bathroom floor sounds cold. clinical and very much something youconcrete bathroom floor might find in a public bathroom, you might want to think again. Concrete can be stamped and stained in almost any color or with any pattern, so it is actually a very versatile option that is also almost perfect in terms of functionality for use in a bathroom. It can also be treated to add a waterproof ‘skin’ that is as tough as any ceramic tile.

Building the Best Basic Homeowner’s Toolkit Without Spending a Fortune

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Owning a home is an adventure, especially when it comes to home maintenance. And every homeowner should be able to perform at least some of the basic maintenance that every home inevitably needs. In order to do so successfully though, every homeowner also needs a good basic set of tools.

However, many of us don’t really give too much thought to building a proper toolbox, we just have a drawer fill of random ‘stuff’ rather than a formal set up. But even if you are not a DIY fan in any way you should have at least the basics, especially in case of an emergency. Here’s some of the essential hand tools for every homeowner, all simple and none very expensive at all.

For Measuring

Every household needs, at least, one (and preferably more) good tape measure. Look for one that has a self-locking tape and a high-impact plastic case. Twelve to sixteen feet will work for most jobs, but if you need something longer and more durable – and you very well might – a 25’ version with a sturdy metal case will last for decades and cost you less than $10.

You should also have a spirit level. While the electronic ones are cool they are also not that reliable so keeping an old fashioned wooden spirit level in the house is a much better idea. It does not need batteries and it will be far more accurate and reliable.

Hanging and Fastening

The very first tool most people get is usually a hammer. A good solid claw hammer is a good all around choice. You can find hammers in weights that range from about 12 ounces to two pounds but for most household tasks the 16-ounce version is just about right.

You also need a decent set of screwdrivers. This should include the most common sizes in both flat head and Phillips varieties and it should be a set that has a little quality to it. Yes, you can get a set of screwdrivers at a discount store for just a few dollars but all too often they are about as much good for practical use as a butter knife is.

Gripping

You don’t just need one pair of pliers, ideally, you need assorted pliers. A good start is a decent set of the fine needle-nose pliers as well as a pair of slip-joint pliers. Though many people love their “vise grips” or “channel locks,” they seem to be misused as often as not.

And then there are wrenches: a good place to start is with a medium adjustable wrench, the 8” (25cm) size. You’ll also want combination wrenches (sets in metric and imperial units), and probably a socket set as well. You can buy three hundred -piece sets of shop tools around Dad-centric holidays that include all those tools, but they also include a lot of extra tools almost no one ever needs so it’s a better idea to go with a basic set.

Pipe wrenches are handy for emergency plumbing work, especially the nuts that are too big for pliers – like those around plumbing fixtures – and an adjustable wrench, a medium size model should really be all you need in most cases though.

Cutting

A decent hacksaw comes in handy for all kinds of projects and repairs. You can use this inexpensive saw type to cut more than just metal as well; keep one around for plastic pipe, even bone. You should also have a good quality utility knife. These can cut everything from carpet and tiling to plastic pipes and have endless general uses around the house.

Finally, all of these essentials need to be kept together in an organized, waterproof box. It does not really matter what specific kind, as long as everything stays together and in a relatively well-organized manner.

What we have just described is only a very basic toolkit, many people, once they get started, buy a lot more, including some of those big, shiny power tools some people are so very fond of. This, however, is a good place to start and will allow you to perform all kinds of ‘little’ jobs around the home with relative ease and efficiency.

Getting A Healthy Home – It Is About More Than Just House Cleaning

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An attractive home is something that we all strive for, but a consideration that is just as important is that we also have a healthy home. Some things that make living spaces less than healthy are actually things many of us tend to overlook, especially since having a healthy home is about more than simple house cleaning. Here is a brief look at some of the ways you can ensure that your living space is a place that is conducive, not detrimental, to everyone’s health:

In the Bedroom

How many times have you woken up in the morning with sudden sniffles, or find yourself in the throes of a sneezing fit for no good reason? These things are often not the result of a cold coming on but are instead a reaction to irritating dust mites, tiny creatures who really love nothing better than a nice comfy bed.

To help solve the problem, bedclothes should be washed at least once a week. If you have children who tend to keep stuffed toys on their beds, those should be washed occasionally too. If a toy cannot be laundered, oddly enough, freezing it for a few hours will kill off dust mites as well. And if you have carpeted bedrooms vacuuming, a standard part of house cleaning of course, is best done using a vacuum cleaner fitted with a HEPA filter, so that dirt and debris that it picks up does not get thrown right back into the room.

Finally, VOCs (volatile organic compounds) are given off by paint and some furniture (MDF based furniture especially). VOCs may cause all kinds of rather awful health problems over time but often the most noticeable short term effect are headaches, something else that many of us wake up with for no reason. To minimize this, look for low VOC paints and stick to real wood bedroom furniture.

In the Kitchen

We all like to believe that the place where we make, and often eat, all of our food is the healthiest room in the house. However, even if you clean the kitchen every single day, that is not always the case.

For example, exactly when was the last time you took a peek at the state of things behind the fridge? If the answer is not lately, then there is most likely all kinds of junk back there – often rotting food – as well as an awful lot of rather nasty dirt and dust. The coils at the back of any fridge attract all of this stuff, so they, as well as the area behind the fridge, should be vacuumed often. like a magnet you should get into the habit of vacuuming them, and the back of your fridge in general at once every couple of weeks. Dirty coils also force the fridge to work harder, increasing your energy consumption which is never a god thing.

Garbage disposals get pretty goopy and nasty too. One way to clean it up regularly without using any chemicals is to simply drop a few lemon peels right into it once a week and then run it. Not only does this help clean it but the whole kitchen will get filled up with a lemony scent that should last for at least an hour or two!

In the Bathroom

Bathrooms are quite the germ magnets, as you might imagine. The biggest key to a healthy bathroom and one that can be easy to overlook in an older home especially is proper and adequate ventilation, and not just for odor control either.

If a bathroom is not properly ventilated, the moisture that is often present in the space really has no place to go and mildew, mould and damp can quickly become a real problem. If you are currently opening a window after a bath or shower to air the bathroom out, it is time to call in a pro, and get a proper ventilation system installed. They will be able to advise you about just what kind of system will be right for your home as there are several different options available.

One very attractive way to keep the air quality in your bathroom healthy all the time, even when the fans and extractors are not running is to add a few potted plants. According to no less an authority than NASA, who employ the tactic on their space-going vehicles, the best air cleaning plants are snake plants, English Ivy plants and good old rubber plants.

Your bathroom accessories may be causing health problems too. Shower curtains develop mould you might not see, so they should be washed or periodically replaced if you prefer the plastic kind. Washing all bathroom rugs should, at least, be a monthly task as well.

Often Overlooked New Year’s Resolutions for Your Home

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The holidays are over and we’re all back to work and school. But don’t let that New Year’s spirit fade just yet, at least, when it comes to your home. We all tend to start off the new year with the best intentions for self-improvement, and in fact, if your house could talk, it might very well have a few resolutions of its own and some of them may be less obvious, but just as essential, than others.

Fortunately helping it achieve these less obvious goals is probably going to be a lot easier than that resolution you made about giving up chocolate for the year…

Check Your Smoke and CO Alarms

The batteries in your smoke and CO alarms should be changed at least once a year and so now is just the right time to add some fresh new Duracells while also resolving to break the very bad habit of removing the smoke alarm’s batteries when cooking a big meal. Although you may rarely think about them both smoke and CO alarms save hundreds of lives a year, so ensuring that they are functional is a must. Don’t have CO alarms installed in your home yet? Then now is the time to go buy some.

Clean Range Hood Filters

Range hoods play an important part in keeping the humidity levels down in your home and yet in most homes it is a seriously neglected piece of household equipment, especially when it comes to cleaning.

If this will be your first time attempting this task we’re not going to lie; it’s not going to be pretty. However, if you grab some degreaser from a local car parts store, mix it up with some hot water, don a pair of gloves and brace yourself washing away all of the gunk will at least probably be faster than you thought, even if it’s not very pleasant. Then make a note to never allow it to get that bad again!

Invest in a Programmable Thermostat

The spring is still a way off yet and in fact, in our area, the cold weather is really only now kicking in after some unusually mild days at the end of last year. That means that you will still be cranking the heating for a while, so there is still time for a programmable thermostat to pay for itself and then some before the first daffodils arrive. Just how much could you save on energy bills? Up to 35% just by having the thermometer adjust the temperature by as little as 5 degrees at the appropriate times.

Get Rid of Those Icicles

Icicles are quite pretty, we get that. But as soon as you have taken that arty Instagram shot (yes, we know you want to) it’s time for them to go as, however nice they look, they can do more harm than most people imagine.

Not only are they basically a nature made weapon (ever had a sharp icicle fall on you?) they are heavier than they look and can damage both your roof and your gutters with their weight. They also melt very slowly when they fall and the slow drip can lead to foundation water damage if icicles are left ‘to their own devices’.