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While the temperatures remain relatively warm during the day, it is obvious that Fall is in the air. Nights are cool. The leaves are beginning to change. Annuals that you may have planted in the spring are now looking relatively straggly. The grass is slowing down in its growth. As Mother Nature changes her decor, so too should you. Who’s got time to tackle some home maintenance projects?

OUTDOORS

  • Fresh Fall planters renew your home’s decor

    Pull out annuals that are leggy and spent. While you are at it, dig out summer bulbs and store them for the season. You can replace those bulbs with spring flowers, like crocuses, daffodils and tulips for that burst of colour first thing in the spring.

  • The garden isn’t the only thing that needs some TLC. Your planters are probably looking rather spent as well. Renew them with a hint of fall flair in choices like colourful mums, cool-weather-loving kale, jazzy grasses, and a selection of pumpkins and gourds.
  • Keep cutting your grass right up until it stops growing. Think about over-seeding in the early part of the fall. While the weather stays warm, continue watering your grass. A fall fertilizer applied in October will also give your lawn that boost it needs to shine next spring. Once you have cut the grass for the last time, make sure to winterize your lawn care equipment before putting it to bed for the winter.
  • When the leaves transform into a beautiful rainbow overhead, a camera might be the first thing that you think to reach for. The next thing you reach for though will be a rake. That stunning canopy only lasts so long before it gently drifts to the ground and you have some work to do. Whether you prefer a rake, leaf blower, or mulcher, now is the time to amass yard waste bags in preparation for leaf raking season.

INDOORS

  • Storm windows will keep the heat Inside your home this winter

    Prepping your indoor world for winter is a good idea too. Slowly reintroduce any plants that you took outside for the summer, back indoors. They need to gradually readjust, but most certainly can’t handle any frost or other frigid temperatures.

  • There aren’t too many hot breezes blowing through your home anymore. Time to switch your ceiling fans to clockwise for the winter. That will pull cool air up off the floor and push the warmer air off the ceiling and down the walls towards the floor. It is a simple step that will save you a couple of degrees in your house and dollars in your pocket.
  • While insects might still be buzzing in your yard, they will be gone soon, and with them the need for window screens. Now is the time to remove, wash and store your screens and haul out your storm windows if you’ve got them. While you are at it, check for any drafts and caulk around windows as necessary. If those drafts are bad enough, why not think about replacing those leaky windows altogether? It might be more expensive than tacking up plastic window barriers, but replacement windows add more value to the resale value of your home in the long run.
  • Don’t put the caulking gun away too fast. Since it is out already, now is a great time to recaulk the tub, fill any cracks in your foundation or around outdoor faucets, seal around doors, and winterize your home as needed.

There’s  plenty more to be done around the house this Autumn, but as the days get shorter, energy levels tend to lag. One step at a time my friends! It will all get done eventually…

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Did you feel that? I think oxygen returned to the air when the humidity broke. We might just be able to go back outside to enjoy the patio again!

What? Your porch is in shambles? Your patio is a pass? With the cooler temperatures that have moved into Southwestern Ontario and swept away the heat wave that gripped much of the Eastern US and Canada last week, we can all look forward to breathing a little easier again. Perhaps it’s high-time that you get a little work done outside the house now.

Porch Problems 

A porch is only as good as its support system

If you have stayed away from the porch due to rotten boards, peeling paint or just a general state of ill-repair, take the bull by the horns and move this outdoor project to the top of the list. Take a good hard look at what you’ve got and assess whether this is a job for Superman You or whether you need to call in a professional. If construction is more than you can normally shake a stick at, then don’t add to your pocket book’s woes by taking on a project that might cost you far more when a contractor has to come dig you out of a mess farther down the road. Look at the extent of your project and estimate what it would cost to tackle the job yourself. Is it just a matter of slapping on a fresh coat of paint or stain? Then go for it! Does it look like you might have to rebuild stairs, railings or support structures? Perhaps an estimate from the pros might be in order.

Wondering what to look for? Check for loose or punky boards. Watch out for nails that are ready to cause a trip hazard. Assess the shape of your surface (is it peeling, fading, streaked, rough?). How solid is your porch as a whole (are you in need of new support columns to keep it level)? Is mold, rot or animal infestation an issue? Is it too hot to sit on (solution – thinks shades or umbrellas)? Are your railings to code (you need a guard railing if your deck is 60 cm or 24″ above the ground and they should be a maximum of 100 mm or 4″ apart)? Is this all more than you can wrap your head around? Call in the professionals when in doubt. If you are feeling brave, ask the folks at your local hardware store for some pointers. And remember that the internet is a great place for how-to articles and videos to make any DIY project a breeze.

Party on the Patio?

Watch your step on this weedy patio

Watch your step on this weedy patio

If you can’t remember the last time you partied on your patio, why is that? Is there insufficient seating? Are you lacking in lighting? Does your patio’s surface look like Great Aunt Elsa’s spider veins? It’s time to tackle the patio repairs.

Patios may equate to more or less effort in the home repair department. If you don’t go out to your patio due to overbearing sun, than a simple umbrella might be the solution to your woes. Of course an awning, pergola, or some sort of permanent roof structure would offer shade on a larger scale too. Seating is often as simple as picking up chairs at a local department store, but have you thought of built-in benches, or adding a swing to the mix? You could light the night with anything from citronella candles, to solar lights, to custom lanterns that offer a cozy glow after dark. The choice is yours! Maybe you crave some heat after dark. Does a fire pit fill you with wonder or would a gas heater in the corner do? Sadly, the patio’s actual surface is often the biggest culprit to a lack of time spent on it. Patio bricks are only as good as the prep work done before they are installed. Sinking stones make for an uneven surface and trip hazard. Weeds, molds, or moss make for an unattractive finish. Can you fix that yourself, or is it worth the money to call in contractor?

If you aren’t using your patio, isn’t it worth it to add the extra space to your real estate?

Summer is officially here. Cottagers have fled to the country to relax far from home. Trailer parks have filled up with families looking for fun in the sun. And those left behind are looking for ways to beat the heat in the middle of the sweltering city. If you’ve got a pool, now is the time to use it! If you don’t, better make friend with your nearest neighbour that has. If even that seems like a stretch, take heart in the fact that you aren’t alone. Are you one of those folks? Don’t sweat it. Someone has to keep the economy going, right? The weekend will be here before you know it, but in the mean time there are plenty of ways to keep cool in your own backyard.

Ways to Beat the Heat

  • Plan a backyard picnic. Carve up a watermelon. Pull out your beach umbrella and sit with your feet in a kiddie pool full of ice. Refreshing!
  • How about making an ice bowl full of your favourite summer drink? Fill it full of edible flowers (ie, nasturtium, pansy, roses, day lilies, lilac, etc) or fruits (orange, lemon or lime slices) before freezing for a beautiful display piece that people will talk about long after the punch is gone.
  • If you have work to do around the yard, why not beat the heat by tackling your garden projects early in the morning or later in the day. Avoid the scorching mid-day sun and fit in a siesta instead.
  • Sprinklers aren’t just for the kids anymore. If you have to water the grass, gardens or trees in your yard, why stop there? When the temperature hits 30°C and keeps on rising, shed your inhibitions with your shoes and run through that cool water once or twice. Can’t beat feeling like a cool kid again.
  • Time to ditch the oven for the barbeque. You don’t want to heat up the house any more than it already is. Steaks and burgers are always welcome, but why not expand your bbq repertoire with pizza, veggies or even fruit! Anyone for stuffed peaches on the grill (via bbq.com)?

STUFFED PEACHES ON THE GRILL

Ingredients:

  • 4 large peaches
  • 1 cup frozen blueberries
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice

Directions:

Wash and halve peaches. Remove pit. Place peaches on aluminum foil so that you can fold up the foil and seal the peaches in. Spoon 2 tablespoons of berries into each peach half. Sprinkle 2 teaspoons of brown sugar on each and 1 teaspoon of lemon juice. Fold up foil and seal. Place on hot grill and cook for 15-18 minutes Turn once. Serve right out of the foil.

What’s your favourite way to beat the heat?

Summer time is a great time to get out and get active. Many people go on vacations, go camping, or go somewhere exciting  during the hot and hazy days of summer. That usually takes a little cash though, which sometimes pinches the pocket-book. I too like to get away and relax, so have found a few ways to save money in other areas. Try these money-saving tips this summer to save your cash for more fun pastimes.

Summer Savings

Plenty of room for sheets

 

Hang your clothes outside to dry. Clothes lines use the power of Mother Nature to dry your clothes and cost NOTHING! All you need is sunshine, plus it is easier on your clothes than the tumble of your dryer.

 

 

Quick, hand that kid some laundry to wash!

 

Wash your clothes in cold water. Today’s laundry soaps clean your clothes quite effectively in cold water, which saves you on your hot water bill.

 

Or pick up reasonable priced plants at the Gathering on the Green this weekend

 

Expand your garden by sharing divisions with your neighbours. Everyone wants to save a few bucks, and the garden is the place to do it. When it is time to divide plants (like hostas, grasses, columbines, day lilies, black-eyed susans and other perennials), get in the neighbourly spirit and make some trades around the block. Those perennials keep coming back year after year, reducing the need to drop a small fortune on annuals every year.

 

 

Ceiling Fans cool you down, plus add style

 

Use a ceiling fan instead of the air conditioner. We all know that air conditioners are a godsend in the middle of heat waves, but that cool air comes with a price. A ceiling fan (depending upon its wattage) will cost you about 2¢ an hour to run. Take a look at last summer’s bills to remind you what you paid for your a/c. Plus, don’t forget to switch the blades to running in a clockwise direction to direct that cool air down to you.

 

 

How do you like your steak?

 

Plan your meals for after dark, and take advantage of the barbeque. Not only does the oven cost more to run, but it also heats up the house. Plus, your appetite is usually smaller in the heat of the day, so do yourself a favour and wait til the sun goes down.

 

 

How do you save money in the summer?

The first long weekend of summer has come and gone, and it turned out to be a lovely one. I hope you got a chance to get outside and enjoy the fine weather. Did you hit a patio downtown, go to the beach (despite new parking charges that just took effect at Port Stanley) or just stay home and relax? I bet there were some of you that wanted to stay home, but the sight of your own not-so-stellar patio drove you elsewhere to enjoy the summer temperatures. No worries though, as summer is just beginning and there is plenty of time to plan a backyard makeover.

For starters, what are your wishes, wants and desires? Do you dream of an outdoor kitchen? Would you like to create a relaxing outdoor living room to lounge in after a long day at work? Have you been promising the kids a backyard fire pit to roast marshmallows over for ages now? Or does your deck just need a new coat of paint to make it shine again? From simple projects for weekend warriors, to more complex designs to discuss with your contractor, your backyard deserves to shine this summer.

Once you have your needs worked out, the next step is to figure out how to make them a reality. Does that mean a trip to your local big box store, a phone call to an outdoor designer or a consultation with the bank to help your dreams come to fruition? If the upgrade brings a measure of happiness to you and improves the look of your backyard, then it is all worthwhile.

Of course some projects bring more value to a home than others. Your compromise of an above-ground pool, versus the more expensive in-ground pool, adds nothing to the resale value of your home. That being said, an in-ground pool really only adds value if you live someplace where it can be used regularly (thinking longer seasons) and often (daily laps anyone?). They require plenty of maintenance, plus are sometimes seen as a deficit for families with young children, thereby reducing your potential buyer pool when it comes time to sell. Tell me that you would have turned down a visit to your neighbour’s pool this past weekend though with temperatures in the high 20s here!

One of the best backyard improvements that you can do for your return on investment is ultimately the humble deck. If you don’t have a deck, but have the space for one, this renovation project is one you should consider. It increases your home’s living space, boosts its outdoor appeal and ultimately saves you money that you would otherwise spend on costly vacations. In fluctuating markets, “staycations” are where it’s at! Even more so, if you aren’t planning on moving any time soon. Think built-in seating, storage options and maybe even an extra bell or whistle like an outdoor wet bar. You won’t ever want to leave your dream backyard again!

Welcome to In Your Neighbourhood!

Allow me to introduce myself. The name is Jim. You want to know more? Well, check out my "About Me" page! Don't forget to take a peek at my "Local London Listings" while you are here too! I update it regularly. Enjoy your visit and drop me a line to let me know you were in the neighbourhood!

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