Home and Garden

How to Keep Your Home Healthy

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As we all welcome the prime of summer with watermelon, beaches and BBQ’s, it also means bare feet in the house and windows left wide open. This allows germs and bacteria to come in and gallivant around your home. The best way to protect your home from germs, toxins and chemicals is to keep them out in the first place.

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1. Dust

Dust is the silent but dangerous toxin floating around your house. Dust can cause allergies and respiratory issues. House dust aggravates allergies and hay fever. The best way to prevent dust form building up is to vacuum every week, even if your house doesn’t look dusty. Make sure you clean the vacuum bag/filter every time and use a vacuum with a strong suction.

2. Pesticides

Yes, weeds are a huge pain in any gardeners behind but spraying toxic chemicals is not the answer to combating these pesky little guys. You can make a natural homemade spray by combining, 1 gallon of white vinegar, 1 cup of salt and 1 tablespoon of liquid dish soap. Spray this directly onto your grass and continue regular weeding and your garden will be blooming in no time!

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3. Use natural cleaning products

You could be bringing toxic chemicals into your home without even realizing it with some of the cleaning products you might be using. A simple and easy fix is to replace harsh chemical cleaners with natural cleaners. You can either make these cleaners at home or opt for natural cleaners from the grocery store.

4. Watch for mould build up

Mould is a household problem that can turn from something small to a huge health risk if it is not dealt with properly. Mould accumulates in damp and poorly ventilated buildings, typically in bathrooms or around kitchen sinks. Mould can be very damaging to your lungs and can cause inflamed airways, nasal congestion and wheezing.

The treatment of mould will depend on how severe it is. A few ways to prevent mould are to ensure your bathroom has effective ventilation, regularly clean your shower curtains and immediately attend to leaky pipes.

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5. House plants to the rescue

House plants are an excellent way to clean the air in your home, plus they look so darn cute! Spider plants, aloe vera and peace lilies are especially hard workers when it comes to air purification.

Outdoor Decor Musts

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After a ruthless winter and rainy spring, summer is finally here and we are deserving of a beautiful, sunny summer this year! There is truly no better way to celebrate the start of summer than hosting a BBQ or party in your backyard. No matter what size backyard or patio you have here are some outdoor decor musts that will make any garden party a success!

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1. Outdoor Herbs

Whether you have acres of land or just a couple square feet, outdoor herbs are a beautiful addition to your outdoor entertaining set up. They look pretty, smell great, plus you can harvest and cook with them. Farm to table doesn’t get any closer than that. Herbs need a lot of sunlight to grow, so make sure you plant them in the sunniest spots in your garden/ on your balcony. Some of the easiest herbs to grow are basil, mint, chives and coriander.

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2. Lighting

Proper outdoor lighting is essential to outdoor entertaining. Once the sun sets you don’t want to be stumbling around in the dark. Here are some C21 recommendations for great outdoor lighting options.

String lights: These LED string lights create a beautiful, rustic aesthetic to your backyard. They are environmentally friendly and can withstand bad weather.

Lanterns: Not only do these look stunning but they allow you to burn candles safely. They are a cheaper option than the string lights.

Plastic Lanterns: If you have small kids or dogs, plastic lanterns might be a great alternative to the glass lanterns. The plastic is very durable and will hold up against the elements for many years.

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3. Umbrellas/Canopies

For those sunny Saturday afternoon barbeques, you will want some protection from the sun. If your backyard or patio allows it, look at getting a canopy or a large umbrella. There are options for every space:

Half Round Umbrella: This umbrella is great if you are short on space as it is flatter than most umbrellas. It lies flush with the walls so you will hardly notice it.

Canopy: If you have a little more space, a canopy would be a great addition to your outdoor entertaining set up.

Trees: Get shade the natural way by planting some trees! Plan for the future and although it will take a little longer than buying an umbrella, in a few years you will have a cool, shady backyard.

5 Tips to Make Your Garden Blooming Fantastic This Summer

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April showers only bring May flowers if you also do some work! Having a blooming beautiful garden this summer will take hard work and patience. The good news is it will payoff when you have a lush garden in the end. Follow these five tips to have the prettiest garden on the block.

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1. Weed by hand

Try to weed only by hand as it is less harmful than using pesticides and will keep your soil healthier. Keep weeds under control and prevent them from seeding by weeding weekly. A C21 pro-tip is to use mulch to smother and prevent annual weeds. To avoid weeds altogether try replacing grass with clover, weeds have a harder time growing in clover. Plus it looks pretty!

2. Right time, right place

Different plants thrive in different environments, so make sure you design your garden strategically depending on what you want to grow. Before you start planting check the seed’s information to see when they need to be planted and how much sun and water they need.

3. Compost

Feed your soil what it wants- compost! Adding organic elements to soil will be more beneficial than chemical fertilizers. Healthy soil should be crumbly, easy to dig and rich in colour. If your soil is lacking in these components then consider adding on more compost to boost it’s nutrient intake.

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4. Trim and prune

Just like your hair, plants need a little trim to keep their branches healthy and strong. For smaller plants, deadheading wilted or dead flowers will promote new growth. Trees and shrubs require pruning shears and a measuring tape to see how much needs to be chopped. Look online to find out how much your plant needs to be pruned before you go in with the shears.

5. Keep it fruity

Add a sweet touch to your garden by planting fruit trees in your backyard. Not only do they look beautiful but they also provide shade and attract bees to your garden. Plus, there is nothing better than chowing down on fruit grown in your own backyard!

How to Create an Urban Garden

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Having plants in your home not only brings life to a room but they also have incredible health benefits. They can make you feel less tired, decrease your chances of catching a cold and purify the air. It is recommended to have one potted plant per 100 square feet to feel the benefits. Whether you live in the country with acres of land or in a condo downtown Toronto, you can enjoy the pure and simple joy of gardening. Here’s how to create a plant oasis, regardless of how much space you have.

Tips for backyard gardens:

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  1. Prep the beds: Before you plant, loosen the soil and remove rocks so the space is ready for plants.

  2. Channel your inner landscape architect: Think about what you want to grow and then decide where to plant based on sunlight and shade.

  3. Learn their names: It can be hard once you plant everything to keep track of all your new plant babies. To help you remember, put the tags alongside each plant until you can distinguish the plants and know their names.

  4. Discover the secret of perennials: Save yourself some work next year by planting perennial plants; these are plants that will come up year after year. Some beautiful perennials to try are peonies, lavender and black-eyed susans.

  5. Maintenance: It is important to stay on top of watering, weeding and adding organic matter to keep your soil nourished.

Tips for Condo/ Apartment Balcony Gardens:

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  1. If you don’t have a backyard an herb pallet garden is ideal for a condo. Wood pallets are the perfect size to home most household herbs such as basil, mint and chives.

  2. Vines and fast-growing climbers are good for a small space because they lend vertical visual interest quickly.

  3. Layer plants that bloom at different times on top of one another in containers–and fertilize once a month. This will allow each plant to get the adequate amount of sunlight they require.

  4. Plants need different nutrients when they are grown in containers rather than in the ground. Use synthetic soils such as wood chips, peat moss and sawdust when you are planting in containers on your balcony gardens.

  5. Hanging flower baskets are a great alternative and take up very little room. Try to keep with the same colour scheme as you don’t want it to look chaotic and busy in a small space.

Solutions to gardening problems:

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  1. Now that you know the basics of gardening there are some common problems you will come across. Fortunately, they have easy solutions.

  2. Weeds: Weeds are the bane of any gardener’s existence. But they can be easily combated with the right tools! There is no need for harsh chemicals when fighting weeds. You can make your own natural pesticide by combining 1 gallon of white vinegar, 1 cup rock salt, 2 tablespoons dish soap and 1 tablespoon of lemon juice.

  3. Pests: Unwanted garden guests like slugs or birds can ruin all the fruits (and veggies of your labor) if you don’t protect your garden. Scatter egg shells and used coffee grounds to prevent creepy crawlies from attacking your plants.

  4. Watering: For a first-time plant mum/ dad it can be hard to take care of new plant babies. Create a watering schedule for your plants so you can keep track of when your plants have been watered. When you go on vacation, a C21 hack for keeping your plants well hydrated is to fill a jar full of water and put a string from the jar to the plant. This will act as a straw so your plants can keep hydrated while you are away.

3 Inventive Ways to Repurpose Your Furniture

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It’s true that one man’s trash is another man’s treasure, but why not turn your trash into your own treasure? We don’t mean your actual trash, just your old, neglected furniture that is laying around gathering dust. Here are three inventive ways you can repurpose your furniture:

1. Side table to Ottoman Transformation:

As nice as it is to dream about that new kitchen backsplash, safety should take top priority when planning renos. Go through this list to see what your top priorities should be:


  • Side table

  • Foam

  • Utility knife

  • Saw

  • Fabric

  • Staple gun



  1. Measure and cut the foam Measure your table and find a piece of foam with the right dimensions to cover the top of the table. Cut the foam with a utility knife to be the correct dimensions.

  2. Cut the table to ottoman height What is ottoman height you ask? Take a seat on the sofa, stretch out your legs and get someone to measure the height that your legs are off the ground and that is approximately the height you want for your ottoman. Take a saw and cut your table legs to be the desired height. Just make sure they’re even!

  3. Attach fabric Cut your fabric a bit bigger than the dimensions that you cut for the foam. Cover the foam with the fabric, staple the fabric to the table and trim the leftovers. Stretch out on the sofa and rest your legs on your new ottoman!

2. Distress Furniture

Although it sounds counter intuitive, you can make something look modern by aging it. For furniture that no longer fits the style of your house, there are countless ways you can repurpose it to get the style you desire. Here’s a simple way of how to do it and what you’ll need:

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  • Sandpaper

  • Paint

  • Paint brushes

  • Paint thinner

  • Steel wool

  • Stain (optional)

  • Drop cloths/ newspaper


  1. Clear a workspace It is best to do this outside if possible. If the space or weather doesn’t permit it, clear a workspace in your house. Lay down drop cloths and remove anything that could potentially get damaged by the project.

  2. Paint the Piece and Distress with Sandpaper and Steel Wool You can add a second layer of paint if you want the piece to have a two tone look (the first layer will come through after you distress the furniture).Paint the piece and leave it to dry overnight. Now comes the fun part, distressing the furniture! Take your steel wool and sandpaper and scrub away! Scrub as much as you want depending on how distressed you want it to look.

  3. Finishing touches Add a stain if you want the piece to look vintage. When you are happy with how it looks, apply a clear polyurethane to seal the piece and protect the color. Let it dry and then the compliments will roll in!

3. Chalkboard mirror

Chalkboards are always useful. Make your own with an old mirror and some chalkboard paint. Here’s how to do it:


  • Mirror

  • Glass cleaner

  • Painter's tape

  • Spray primer

  • Chalkboard spray paint

  • Newspaper

  • Microfiber cloth

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  1. Clean and prime the mirror Use a microfiber cloth to clean the surface and dry completely. Cover any parts of the frame that are still exposed with newspaper or paper towels and secure. Take the mirror outside, place it on newspaper and cover any areas of the mirror that you don’t want to be painted. Then apply the primer to the mirror.

  2. Paint the mirror Let the primer dry, then paint it with the chalkboard spray. Use two coats of paint and let it dry.

  3. Enjoy! Let the paint dry for 24 hours and then it is ready to use! Pick up some chalk and write down those to-do lists!

At Home With Barbara and Ashley Survey Results

In November, 2018 we asked you to participate in our “At Home with Barbara and Ashley Survey.” We had 45 people complete the questionnaire. Here are the results.

Question 1: Would you prefer a walk-in shower or a bath tub?

67% of respondents preferred to have a walk-in shower.

Question 2: How much more would you expect to pay for another garage bay? ($1,000 - $8,000)

Based on the responses, the average was:


Question 3: How much more would you expect to pay for an in-ground pool? ($1,000 - $8,000)

Based on the responses, the average was:


Question 4: How many bedrooms do you need in a home?

60% of respondents said they only needed 3 bedrooms.

Question 5: Is a basement bedroom of value to you?

61% of respondents said "Yes."

Question 6: What interior paint colour will you paint your next home?

36% of respondents said a shade of grey. Responses also included generic "Neutral tones."

Checklist for Home Renovations

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The start of a new year is a great time to delve into your to-do list and start crossing things off before the motivation starts to slip. Your home reno to-do list might look overwhelming and scary but don’t let the unfinished jobs of 2018 haunt you. Follow this checklist so you can prioritize your home renovations.

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1. Initial Assessment

Clean out anything you don’t need so you can properly assess what needs to be done. This includes getting into the deep, dark corners of your cupboards to check for mold and water damage.

2. Safety First

As nice as it is to dream about that new kitchen backsplash, safety should take top priority when planning renos. Go through this list to see what your top priorities should be:

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3. Develop a Budget

Now that you know what the damage is, establish your budget for repairs. Be realistic and factor in that home renos often cost more than what you originally budgeted for. Remember, you don’t have to fix everything this year, focus on the most important repairs for 2019.

4. Assess your abilities

We are all for DIY but there are some projects you simply shouldn’t do yourself. Decide what you can do yourself and what should be done by a contractor. It can be hard to know what to look for in a good contractor so here is a list of questions to ask a contractor before you hire them:

  • Do they take on projects of your size?

  • Can they give you a list of previous clients?

  • How many other projects would they have going at the same time?

  • How long have they worked with their subcontractors?

  • How flexible are their work schedules?

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5. Enjoy the “fun stuff”

Once all the important projects are taken care of and it’s time for the fun stuff like remodeling and decorating. For a quick but dramatic change, paint/ wallpaper an accent wall. Cleaning/ dusting will work absolute wonders to brighten your house and it won’t cost you a dime.

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6. Remember a post-project analysis

The reality of home renos is that the work is never done. Take note of how much you spent on each project and the date that you completed the renovation. For DIY projects evaluate the time, effort and money spent on the project and assess if next time you should invest in a contractor. If you hired a professional, do a thorough evaluation of the work and projected vs. real costs. Write your post-project analysis down and keep it safe for the next reno so you don’t make the same mistakes twice!

Holiday DIY Decorations

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Get creative this Christmas and try making your own holiday decor/gifts. These three DIYs are easy and quick to make, plus they will make you look a Pinterest master! Are you ready to impress your friends and family?

Let’s get started!

Photo courtesy of Oana Befort

Photo courtesy of Oana Befort

1. Homemade wrapping paper

With wrapping paper this cute, you could wrap up a lump of coal and people will still love it!


  • 1 roll of craft paper (whatever colour you like but we recommend brown for a rustic look)

  • Potatoes (we will explain later)

  • Paint

  • Any stencils or designs you would like to use ( leaves, doilies, etc.)


  1. Lay out your craft paper on a long table or on the floor

  2. Cut potatoes in half and the cut out the design you want on the potato so it acts like a stamp (stick to simple designs like stars and hearts)

  3. Choose your paint colours and dip the potato stamp in the paint to decorate the paper

  4. Get as creative as you like, you can write messages on the paper or just do simple designs

  5. Wrap up your gifts and don’t forget a cute bow!

Photo courtesy of RHBaby and Child

Photo courtesy of RHBaby and Child

2. Mitten Advent Calendar

How is it that, by the end of winter, you somehow end up with at least 5 mismatched mittens? This idea let you take all these sad, single mittens and put them to good use.


  1. Collect all your old mittens (with any luck you won’t have to buy a few more pairs!).

  2. Once you have your 24 mittens, number them and hang them along a railing or bannister.

  3. Put a little gift or chocolate in each mitten for an advent treat each day!

Photo courtesy of Tim & Mary Vidra

Photo courtesy of Tim & Mary Vidra

3. Wine Bottle Holiday Lights

This cute wine bottle light makes for a beautiful decoration-- plus it is a great excuse to drink wine!


  1. Peel the labels off an old wine bottle and clean the bottle ( we recommend using a mix of green and clear bottles as it looks very festive).

  2. Place battery operated fairy lights in bottles.

  3. Group the lights together and enjoy a beautiful, cheerful glow.

5 Tasks for a Holiday Ready Home

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With the holidays upon us, it’s time to get your home looking and feeling festive. Here are the five must do’s to get your home holiday ready:

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1. Entrance First

Make a great first impression with a beautiful holiday entrance. Make your own wreath (or buy one if you’re short on time) to display on your front door. Decorate your front entrance way so guests feel instantly festive once they walk in the door. It can make all the difference!

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2. Prepare for elderly guests and babies

One of the nicest things about the holidays is having several generations of friends and family under one roof. Get some baby toys in if you have some little guests coming and ensure that your house is accessible for elderly visitors to prevent any accidents.

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3. Clean the fridge and oven

Both of these seem like small simple things but will make a big difference when you’re cooking and then after the holidays. Your fridge and your oven will be the two busiest spots in your kitchen over the holidays so keep them clean to avoid less clean up post holidays.

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4. Meal Prep

We all focus on the big meals over the holidays but it is easy to forget to stock up on ingredients for the day to day meals. Before all your guests arrive, plan ahead and cook up a week’s worth of food for the freezer so you will always have back up!

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5. Holiday scents

The easiest and best way to get your house ready for the holidays is to get it smelling like the holidays. Use essential oils such as balsam needle, eucalyptus, citrus, cloves and vanilla to create your own holiday scent.

Preparing for a Power Outage

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You’re familiar with sweater weather, hot chocolate season and the holidays. But this time of year is also the start of storm season. With the cold weather coming in, it is time to start preparing for winter storms and power outages. The best way to avoid a total blackout is to get a backup generator, but you will also need a good stock of supplies to get you through the storm. A storm bin to keep in your home during all seasons, will be especially handy during in the winter time!

Here is our C21 storm prep list:



Candles and flashlights are essential in any storm bin. Make sure you have a lighter/matches and extra batteries in there as well.



Experts recommend four liters of water per person per day in your storm bin. For food you will want to have nonperishable items that are quick and easy to cook. Soup, chili and beans make for great meals. It is worth investing in a small camping stove and a couple of canisters of propane, so you have something to cook on. Throw in some granola bars and snacks in there too just to be safe.



You never know how long the power could be out for and how long you could be without heat. Have extra blankets and sleeping bags readily available to get cozy when the temperature starts to dip.

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Prepare to Work From Home

If there is a big storm forecasted, it could be wise to be ready to work from home. Bring your computer home and save everything just in case the power goes out. You don’t want to come in after a power outage to find all your hard work gone!



In times like these it is important to stay positive and try to find light in a dark situation. Cards and board games are easy to pull out for entertainment while you are camped out in the dark!

Prepare Your Home For Winter: 10 Tips!

Prepare Your Home for Winter


Winter is not quite upon us yet, but here in the Niagara region cold weather has a habit of creeping up on us suddenly and without warning. With that in mind, don’t wait too long to prepare your home for winter before the cold temperatures hit. To help you get going, here are 10 quick tips!

  1. If you have wooden windows, check them carefully for decay or rotting. If they are damaged, repair or replace them to keep the heat from escaping your home.

  2. Another way to prevent heat from escaping is to check the weatherstripping on your doors and windows and replace them if required.

  3. Also check the windows themselves for cracks or gaps. If you find that your windows are damaged, repair or replace them before winter.

  4. If there are overgrown branches on your property, make sure that they are not too close to the home or to electrical wires. If they are, be sure to trim them because the weight of snow and ice combined with strong winds could bring these branches down.

  5. If you have stairs on the outside, check to make sure that they are secure. Their integrity is sure to be tested by the ice and snow.

  6. Check carefully to make sure that the firebox and flue system are clear of creosote and/or soot. Also check for cracks to avoid fire hazards.

  7. In order to ensure that your furnace is functioning at full capacity and that the indoor air is clean, check to see the condition of your filters. Clean or replace them as needed.

  8. Always check the smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors inside your home on a regular basis.

  9. Plug up any leaks that you find in the basement, in the attic, or in crawl spaces.

  10. Ice and snow build up can become so heavy that it can cause gutters to collapse. Before winter sets in be sure to check that all of the gutters are properly fastened, and if you notice any sagging or loosening, tighten them up as soon as possible.

While this is not an exhaustive list, these 10 tips will get you well on your way to preparing your home for winter. For more information, feel free to call Barbara Grumme or Ashley Czinege at 905-356-9100.


Decorate by Nature

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As hard as it is to say goodbye to summer there is something very comforting about snuggling up in a warm sweater, watching the leaves drop and of course the best part about fall- thanksgiving! As we cover up the BBQ and put away the patio furniture we must now bring our summer entertaining indoors. But don’t fret- we’ll help you bring some of the outdoors to your Thanksgiving entertaining with our nature inspired decorating tips!

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Fall Wreath

As hard as it is to say goodbye to summer there is something very comforting about snuggling up in a warm sweater, watching the leaves drop and of course the best part about fall- thanksgiving! As we cover up the BBQ and put away the patio furniture we must now bring our summer entertaining indoors. But don’t fret- we’ll help you bring some of the outdoors to your Thanksgiving entertaining with our nature inspired decorating tips!

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Thankful Tree

Thanksgiving is all about taking the time to be grateful for what we have so why not write these things down? You don’t need much to make a thankful tree, just a small potted tree, some scrap paper and fishing line or thread. During dinner get your guests to write down what they are thankful for and hang them on the tree. Keep the tree up past Thanksgiving to remind yourself of all the wonderful things in your life.

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Pumpkin Spice

Give your pumpkins some spice, elegance and charm by painting them. For an elegant look try painting them white and, for something jazzier, use teal or pink. It will give a little more attitude to your Thanksgiving table.

How to Seamlessly Transition from Summer to Fall at Home

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As hard as it is to say goodbye to summer there is something comforting knowing that it is almost time for sweaters, changing leaves and of course pumpkin spice everything. With the change of seasons comes a change of routines and the inevitable stress of switching from summer mode to back to school and work mode. But don’t fret- we are here to help you get your house ready so you’ll be able to enjoy fall!



Your calendar will become your best friend this school year if you use it properly. We recommend having two calendars, one for the week and one for the month. This way you can see what you need for the day to day as well as into the future.

Century 21 Tip: Use a blackboard for your weekly calendar! This will allow you to change and add things as the week goes by. As we all know – nothing ever stays the same day to day!

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Food Prep

Prep your food to prep your life! Once you get into the habit of prepping your food for the week you will wonder how you ever survived before. Essentials for food prepping:

  • Freezer safe Tupperware

  • A food prep cook book with lots of yummy recipes

  • A slow cooker/ Instant Pot, this will help you cook faster and more efficiently. These are especially great for soups, sauces and meat!

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Home Chores

As it hard as it might be, it’s time to put away your summer clothes. Only keep out what you will use, this well help you mentally get ready for fall. When it comes to chores, decide what your top priorities are and set realistic cleaning schedules for your chores. Saying you will dust, mop and clean the windows every week is likely not going to happen (you are only human) so don’t set yourself up to fail. Like your weekly calendar, set up a cleaning schedule for daily, weekly and monthly cleaning duties and assign tasks to each family member. Many hands make light work!

*Source: http://www.organizedtransitionsllc.com/interesting-facts-organized/

Repairs and Upgrades: How Much Will They Cost?

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During the process of buying or selling a home, your clients often learn about recommended or required repairs and upgrades. This can happen as a result of the home inspection as well as your expert knowledge of your market and comparable homes. Of course, the first thing homeowners want to know is, “How much will that cost?”

Pillar to Post is pleased to offer our popular Residential Construction and Remodeling Estimates cost guide, which provides estimated cost ranges for repair and/ or replacement of the major systems and components in a home. It also includes general guidelines for the life expectancies of those systems.

Request complimentary copies of the cost guide from your local Pillar To Post Home Inspector or download it at pillartopost.com/costguide.


Curious as to which upgrades will increase your home's value the most?  Which upgrades will get you the best return on investment?  Contact Barbara or Ashley today for the answers with their free, no obligation consultations.

Natural Home Cooling

Here are some ideas on passive cooling your home to reduce your need to turn on the air conditioning.

Quick Tricks to Reduce the Heat in Your Home

Keep Your Blinds Closed

This very simple tip can lower indoor temperatures by up to 10ºC.  Up to 30% of unwanted heat comes from your windows, especially those windows facing south and west.  By utilising shades, curtains you can prevent your house from becoming a miniature greenhouse.

Create a Thermal Chimney

Open the lowest windows on the side from where the breeze is coming. Leave interior doors open, and open the upstairs windows on the opposite side of the house. The warm air in your house will draw upwards and out the upper window, an effect called ‘thermal siphoning’. This is most effective when the inside temperature is higher than the outside temperature.

Create a Faux Sea Breeze

Fill a mixing bowl with ice or ice packs and position it an an angle in front of a large fan so the fan blows over the ice.  The breeze from the fan will be extra cooling and feel like an ocean breeze.

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Longer Term Heat Reduction Solutions


Insulating, caulking and weatherstripping are essential to keeping your home warm in cold climates, but they also help keep your home cool in hot weather. The attics of most homes absorb heat through the roof, and insulating the attic floor will keep this heat from radiating down into the house. Fiberglass insulation, at least R-30, is easy to install. The cost will be recouped quickly in lower energy bills throughout the year.


Trees, vines and shrubs can be used to shade your home and reduce your energy bills. Trees or shrubs can also be planted to shade air conditioning units, but they should not block the airflow.

Rock walls, paved areas and rock features should be kept to a minimum on south and west sides of the home, because they increase temperatures by radiating heat.

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Reflective Barriers

An important consideration in passive cooling is house colour.  Dark-coloured home exteriors absorb 70% to 90% of the radiant energy from the sun that strikes the home’s surfaces. Some of this absorbed energy is transferred into your home by way of conduction, resulting in heat gain. In contrast, light-coloured surfaces effectively reflect most of the heat away from your home.

How Landscaping Increases Property Value

by Josh Fredman

If you want to make an investment that adds value to your home, consider landscaping, which covers practically everything on your property other than the house itself. Landscaping upgrades can involve things like patios and decks, flowerbeds, barbecue pits, watering systems and plants of all sorts. As you enter into a landscaping project, you have plenty of choices about what kinds of upgrades to make.


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It doesn’t take much to understand the economics of increasing property value through landscaping upgrades. A well-placed, properly sized tree, for example, can provide visual enjoyment simply by looking pretty. It can also smell good and sound peaceful in the breeze. It can shield your home from summer heat. It can provide recreation for your kids, or support for a hammock. A good tree provides pleasure and utility, and these things translate to increased property value. The same idea applies to all landscaping: If a given improvement offers something that prospective buyers want, then your property value will rise.  Also, as the tree grows, the value of replacing the tree grows as well.  Thus buyers will value larger and more established  trees and shrubs higher than those newly planted.

Quantifying Value

Though experts agree that landscaping improvements usually raise a property’s value, it can be extremely difficult to predict exactly what kind of gains a specific homeowner will see in her individual circumstances. Thornton Landscape president Rick Doesburg uses 15 percent as a ballpark figure when advising clients, but he stresses that estimates vary by home and notes that the lasting effect of landscaping requires ongoing maintenance. Virginia Tech horticulturist Alex Niemiera arrived at a similar figure -- 12.7 percent -- in his research. In extreme cases, property values can more than double, and they can actually decrease if the landscaping contains undesired features that the local market doesn’t support.


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When considering the property value increase of a landscaping upgrade at your home, you must take into consideration the cost of actually installing the new landscaping, as well as the cost of continually maintaining it. If your primary intent is to increase your home’s value rather than derive added enjoyment from your yard, treat these costs as investments and make them cost-effective. Professional landscapers can discuss the options with you. For example, perennials and bulbs can add color and style to your property all year long. Other cost-effective improvements include aesthetically pleasing architectural improvements, such as stone walkways and terracing that require little or no maintenance.

Other Considerations

Landscaping upgrades have a number of variables that go into the property value equation, some of which you cannot control. For example, according to Mark Henry of Clemson University, the quality of landscaping on your neighbors’ lots also affects your home’s value. Even the general quality of landscaping in your whole neighborhood has an impact. If one of your adjacent neighbors has a particularly bad yard, you might want to talk with him to see if he would be willing to make any improvements.

Another important factor to consider is the contractors who do your landscaping upgrades. Many companies vie for this kind of business, and choosing the right contractor can make a lot of difference. Find a contractor with whom you are comfortable, who is honest and patient, and who can show you a good track record. Lastly, pay attention to the details. Michigan State University horticulturist Bridget Behe notes that a subtle, small change, such as curving the edges of your flowerbeds, by itself can increase your home value by 1 percent.

Save Time and Money on Christmas Decorations



Christmas can be a stressful time for many as we rush to buy all the right gifts before December 25th rolls around. On top of that, we often end up spending far too much money as we scramble to get the Christmas decorations up in and around the house.  To help you save both time and money this holiday season, here are some easy and cheap Christmas decorating tips.

1.       Do you have extra ornaments that don’t fit on the Christmas tree? Use them to make a festive centerpiece by placing them into a bowl on top of branches and greens.

2.      If you have wooden logs lying around the house, stack them somewhere in the living room to contribute to a cozy holiday environment.

3.      Want to spruce up your bookshelves? Wrap your books with leftover wrapping paper and throw in some branches and greens.

4.      Fill your vases with pine boughs for great homely decorations that will give off a wonderful smell.

5.      Make a wreath out of a garland of lush greenery and use it to decorate your windows.

6.      Wrap festive bows over your bannisters.

7.      With the help of twine you can hang paper, wood, or metal stars from the walls or windows.

8.     Fill a vase with walnuts, hazelnuts, cranberries, and other natural goodies and place a pillar candle and holder inside the vase to make a lovely centrepiece.

9.      Use ribbons to hang beautiful natural pinecones throughout the house.

10.  Need charming holiday candlesticks? Find empty bottles of wine, replace the label with wrapping paper and ribbons, and stick a candle inside the bottle.

I hope these quick and cheap decorating tips will help make your holiday season a less stressful and expensive one! For more information about Christmas budgeting and other financial and real estate tips, feel free to contact me at Barbara.Grumme@Century21.ca.

Quick Fall Checklist for Your Home


As we transition from Summer into Fall, now is the ideal time to take care of important tasks around your home so that you won't have to worry about them in the cold winter months. These tasks are pretty basic and they can save you money on top of making your home a safer place for your family, but they are often overlooked as a result of our already busy schedules. To help with that, here is a quick checklist that will keep you on track:

  • If you use a gas heater, have it inspected by professionals to ensure that everything is running smoothly before the cold sets in. This will save you money, but it will also ensure the safety of everyone inside the home.
  • Speaking of professionals, have them inspect your furnace at least once a year. Once again, this is paramount for both cost-efficiency and safety.
  • Ensure that your furnace filters are clean and functional.
  • If you have a fireplace, make sure that it is clean and up to code (beware of soot and creosote build-up). Hiring a professional chimney sweep is the most efficient method.
  • If you use a wood stove, have it inspected for safety hazards.
  • Inspect the roof and clean the gutters before the freezing temperatures set in. If either the roof or the gutters are damaged, these problems will likely get worse in the winter months.
  • Drain irrigation systems and outdoor faucets.
  • Repair any damage to your driveway, steps, and sidewalk before it gets too cold.
  • Seal up any gaps or cracks on your doors and windows before the time comes to crank up the heat. Once the heating bills start rolling in you'll be glad you did.
  • For safety purposes test all smoke and CO detectors, ensure you have a first aid kit and a working fire extinguisher, and remove all potential fire hazards from your home.

Following these common sense steps in the Fall will make your home safer and more cost efficient throughout the Winter season, so do your best to check them all off in a timely manner. For more information about home efficiency and safety, feel free to e-mail me at Barbara.Grumme@Century21.ca.

4 Quick Tips For Summer Home Maintenance!

Hot summer weather is the perfect time for taking it easy, but even if sunbathing all season long is a tempting prospect, you shouldn’t skip out on performing these important summer home maintenance tasks.

1.      Check Your Windows! In order to keep as much of the summer heat out as possible, regularly check the quality of your windows, including the window sealants. This simple task can go a long way to saving you money on electric bills as the AC works overtime during the hot summer months.

2.      Check Your Air Conditioning! One of the most important summer home maintenance tasks is to make sure that your AC unit is in full working order. Tune up your AC on a regular basis, make sure that the coils and filters are clean, and take special care to prevent any potential fire hazards.

3.      Tune Up Your Pool! If you have a pool, be sure to clean it, level the water, and check the pumps before you use it for swimming this summer. If the pool isn’t clean and the chemicals inside are not balanced properly, instead of being a source of entertainment your pool could become a serious health hazard instead.

4.      Clean Your Gutters! Make sure that your gutters are cleaned every six months to avoid leaks and clogging. Clean gutters are especially important during humid summer temperatures that tend to bring heavy rainstorms. 

If you follow these 4 steps you should be able to relax in the knowledge that your home is ready for the summer heat. If you’d like to learn more about home maintenance and how to increase the value of your home, call Barbara Grumme at 905-356-9100.