Bathroom Renovation Tips

1 Choose elegant fixtures.
A pedestal sink with graceful lines is more attractive than a blocky cabinet vanity. A classic claw-foot tub is like bathroom sculpture. Even enclosed in a deck, the simple lines of the lip have an inherent beauty that surpasses most acrylic versions.

2 Sit in a bathtub before buying it.
Bigger isn’t always better. A 60-inch tub is fine for most people. It offers enough room to stretch out and provides a secure foothold, so you don’t float into oblivion when the tub is full. Assess the angled back and lip for comfort and neck support –- a tub for two people slants at either end and has taps in the middle. If you only have enough space for a small tub, buy an extra-deep one.

3 Select durable flooring.
Ceramic, marble and stone tiles are all excellent durable and water-resistant choices for a bathroom. Subfloor heating coils will make these hard surfaces warm. Well-sealed hardwood floors offer natural warmth and act as a foil for the other hard, cold surfaces in a bathroom.

4 Hang a stylish mirror.
One beautifully framed mirror over a sink is more attractive than many surfaces covered with mirror. Supplement it with a wall-mounted adjustable makeup mirror, and consider installing a lighted, mirrored shaving niche in your shower stall.

5 Use found space.
Take advantage of space between wall studs by recessing a tall storage cabinet into the wall to maximize vertical storage while saving floor space. The cabinet should have an interior depth of at least three inches and a door flush with the wall.


6 Build a shower area.
Consider building an open-concept shower area that doesn’t need a curtain or door and is less confining than a standard shower stall. In addition to well-designed drainage, a ceiling-mounted rain showerhead and/or a high wall-mounted showerhead that splashes less water will keep the area outside the shower drier.

7 Share space for added function.
In homes with back-to-back bathrooms, a shared shower with access doors to each of the bathrooms maximizes limited space. Or turn a closet located next to a bathroom into a small ensuite with access to the neighbouring bath.


Spring To do Things

1. Dryer. Clean the exhaust duct and space under the dryer, and get rid of all dust and lint.

2. Gutters. Clean your gutters, drains and downspouts so that heavy spring rains can flow freely off your roof.

3. Furnace. Replace the air filter regularly. A dirty one can restrict airflow and in turn overwork the furnace, increasing the risk of a carbon monoxide leak.

4. Trees. Prune dead branches so they don’t snap off during fierce seasonal winds.

5. Fireplace. Examine the exterior of the chimney for any signs of damage. Have the flue cleaned and inspected by a certified chimney sweep.

6. Sump pump. If you have one in your basement, test it to be sure it’s clean and operable and that the outflow is draining properly.

7. Battery check. Make sure all your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors have new batteries.

Biggest Renovating Mistakes

Buying Cheap Materials

Don’t Sweat It host Steve Watson says, “One of the biggest mistakes that people make when it comes to home renovation (is that) they try to be cheap when they buy materials. The bottom line is, you’re going to get what you pay for.”

Inaccurate Measurements

Nancy Soriano, former editor in chief of Country Living magazine says, “I can’t emphasize enough how an inch or even sometimes a half an inch can make a difference. And if your dimensions are off and it’s not equal and symmetrical, you’re not going to get the full impact and effect that you want. If you’re not sure about how to measure or you can’t follow the directions, don’t hesitate at all to call somebody. Ask them to come over and take the measurement for you.”

Skipping the Prep Work

“Do it the right way, right away,” says Carey. “You shouldn’t avoid your prep work. You want to take the time to do it right and right from the beginning.”

Contractor Jim Collins says, “It’s a horrible, tedious process, and nobody likes it, but it saves so much time later on down the way. And that’s what you’re trying to do: save yourself money and time.”

Gutting Everything

“Make sure you have a well-set plan before you start your renovations, because you don’t want to go in there and just clear everything out, when you might be able to work around some areas,” warns Carey Evans of Don’t Sweat It.

Excessive Use of Duct Tape

Save the duct tape for decorative purposes only. “My esteemed colleagues, duct tape is not a permanent solution. It is merely a temporary fix,” says Eric.

“People use duct tape because it’s cheap and it’s quick and it’s easy, but it’s definitely a temporary solution. Don’t leave it up for more than a couple hours, ever,” Jimmy adds.

Using the Wrong Tools

“There are really three problems with using the wrong tool: You can wreck the tool, you can wreck the project you’re working on and you can wreck yourself,” notes Spike Carelsen, former executive editor of Family Handyman.

Steps to a Safer Backyard

#Be an inspector. Take a close look at balconies, porches, railings and outdoor furniture to see if there are any missing or rusted nails or fasteners. Also check for splinters, buckled or loose boards, and uneven stair treads and discolored areas. Make sure there are no cracks or gaps in your pathways that could trigger a fall.


#Say so long to slick surfaces. Keep your driveways, walkways and garden paths clear of leaves, branches and other debris. After a heavy rainfall, be attentive to puddles and slick surfaces, and wear shoes or boots with good treads.

#Give your lawn a once-over. One misstep on uneven surfaces and you could lose your balance. Ask a friend or family member to walk around your yard with you to check for hazards such as roots, fallen branches, rocks or bumpy ground. They may see something that you missed.

#Don’t try to be Mr. or Ms. Fix-It. If your mower or weed whacker breaks, take it to a professional repair shop. Throw away broken garden tools.

#Keep it handy. If you have to root around the shed or garden, or reach up on high shelves, accidents are more likely to happen. So place within easy reach the yard equipment that you use most frequently.

#Get slip-resistant. Add abrasive strips or rubber stair treads, and use deck paint that has a rough texture.

#Install outdoor lights. Put in the ones that are motion-sensitive. Don’t neglect the porch, pathway, driveway and backyard.

Tips on Building a Brick Charcoal Grill

A brick charcoal grill will last for years. If you are contemplating building one in your own backyard, here are some tips that will help make the project go smoother.

1. Level Ground

Be sure that the area will be level before you start building your brick grill. Using a shovel to level out the dirt and then laying a concrete base will give you an area that will not shift much after it is built. Go down into the ground four to six inches. Once level, add cement and level again. If you do not lay down a foundation for your brick grill, it may become unsettled later from water, heat, and cold. This can cause your bricks to crack, making the whole grill unstable.

2. Fire-resistant Mortar

When choosing the mortar for your project, you will want to choose a fire-resistant mortar. This type of mortar is best because you will be dealing with high temperatures while you cook and you will not want to take any chances of fire getting out of control.

3. Use a Ceramic-coated Grill Insert

When choosing the grill to insert, opt for one that is ceramic coated, if your budget allows. They are more expensive, but they will not rust. If you do not purchase a ceramic-coated grill, you may have to replace the grill in a year or so after the weather rusts it and wears it down.


4. Check the Levels Often

As you are constructing the bricks into the form you want, use a level to be sure all sides are plumb. Having a side that is lower or higher than the others will cause your project to not only look odd, but it can cause damage later from the pressure or tilt. Check to be sure all sides are level as you add each additional row of brick.

5. Leave Space for Air

When you’re adding bricks to the area where the grill will be placed, add two to four inches under where the grill pan will be to allow air flow. This is very important for charcoal grills. The charcoal will not stay lit for long if it is unable to have air flowing around it.

6. Be Creative and Choose the Right Bricks

You can find bricks in an array of color choices, sizes, and designs, but the most important element to your bricks will be to purchase good quality ones. Some locations sell brick made especially for this type of project, so consult your local brick company for more information on what is available in your area.


7. After the Charcoal Grill is Finished

Although you will want to fire up your new grill as soon as it is built, you will actually need to wait for seven to 10 days for it to cure before using. The mortar will need time to harden. After your grill has cured, you will only need to clean it out regularly so you have a great barbecue every time.

Budgeting Tips for Rennovation

Busting the budget is everyone’s biggest fear when it comes to renovation. And with good reason. Even if you follow the essential advice we’ve been doling out for years—build in a 20 percent cushion to cover the nasty surprises, get contractor references and check them, banish the words “while you’re at it” from your vocabulary—it’s hard not to end up shelling out more than you want to, even if you want to pen a check for a million bucks.

  • Increase efficiency, not size.
    If you can reorganize and equip your kitchen for maximum utility, you may not need to blow out the walls to gain square footage. Start by replacing space–hogging shelves with cabinet–height pullout drawers 8 inches wide, containing racks for canned goods and other items. “You’re getting three or more horizontal planes where you might otherwise get only one,” says Louis Smith Jr., an architect with Meier Group, in Ann Arbor, Michigan. You could easily shell out a few thousand to outfit cabinets with upgrades like dividers, pull–out pot trays, and lazy Susans, but you’ll save many times that amount by skipping the addition you thought you needed.
  • Bring in natural light without adding windows.
    Before cutting a big hole in the side of your house and rearranging the framing, consider less invasive—and less expensive—ways of capturing light. To brighten up a windowless bath or hallway, for instance, you can install a “light tube,” which slips between roof rafters and funnels sunshine down into the living space.

  • Hit the recycling center.
    Do–it–yourselfers can reap big savings with recycled or lightly used fixtures and building materials. Habitat for Humanity operates about 400 ReStores nationwide, which offer salvaged materials at half off home–center prices. One caveat: Many contractors won’t work with salvaged items, or homeowner–supplied materials in general, because they don’t want to assume the liability if something goes wrong. That said, if you’re doing your own work, you can find anything from prehung doors to acrylic skylights to partial bundles of insulation.

  • Donate your trash.
    Before you begin a remodeling job, invite the local Habitat for Humanity chapter to remove materials and fixtures for later resale. “About 85 percent of a house is reusable,” says B.J. Perkins, Habitat’s ReUse program manager, in Austin, Texas. “We can do a total takedown, or do a cherry-pick job and take the cabinets, the tub, the sink, and so on.” You save space in the landfill, collect a charitable tax credit for the donation, and help a good cause.

  • Do your own demo.
    Knocking down may not be as costly as rebuilding, but you can still shave dollars by doing some of the demolition yourself—as long as you proceed with care. “If a homeowner wants to demo a deck, well, I am sure they can handle that,” says Michael Winn, owner of Winn Design, in Virginia. “But when it comes to interior spaces, I would dissuade them from doing it unless they have done it before.” The reason: A reckless wrecker might unwittingly take out a load–bearing wall or, worse still, plunge a reciprocating saw into live wiring or pressurized plumbing.

Kitchen Rennovation Tips

1 Use quality materials.
Top-quality drawer slides and hinges mean cabinet doors will stay closed and drawers won’t stick. Stay away from drawers that are stapled together or made of particleboard. For cabinet interiors, wood veneer is more durable than melamine, laminate, MDF or particleboard.

2 Determine cabinet heights.
If you have eight-foot ceilings, choose cabinets that go to the ceiling. They offer more storage, enabling you to use extra wall space for artwork or open shelves. If your ceilings are higher than eight feet, leave 15 to 18 inches above the cabinets.

3 Decide whether to paint or stain.
Though stained-wood cabinetry is forgiving, most finishes date quickly and aren’t easily altered. Brush-painted cabinets can lend a unique personality.

4 Select an elegant countertop.
White Carrara marble (honed or acid washed and sealed) and stained wood add elegance and warmth. We also like honed Kirkstone slate, soapstone and Wiarton limestone, and plastic laminate with a wood edge for a sophisticated look.

5 Install an island that works.
Beware of placing a bulky cube in the middle of the room. We like islands that have an open, airy look. Ideally, an island should be unencumbered by appliances, but if you want it to house a dishwasher-sink combo or a cooktop, try to maintain the light look of a leggy harvest table.

6 Don’t overdo the details.
Design accents such as pediments over stoves and plaster mouldings on cabinet fronts can represent decorative excess.

Bedroom Makeover

Bedroom remodels are some of the most affordable projects for a make-over (unlike, say, changing up a bathroom or kitchen). You don’t have to install new windows or remove any structural objects; often, all that’s needed is a deep clean and a little surface work.

Organize and Purge

Like with most home make-over projects, a good portion of the actual make-over involves simply getting rid of unneeded stuff that is cluttering up the environment. Sure, you like to read before bed, but do you need a whole stack of books on the bedside table? Put the unread tomes back on the bookshelf or donate them to the library (you read everything on your Kindle now, anyway).

Make Walls That Soothe

Painting a bedroom is probably the fastest and cheapest way to change the overall character. Choose a color that works with your trim (this is where paint chips come in handy). Strive to find a color that enhances the exact ambiance that you want in your bedroom — cozy and warm, light and modern, or bright and eclectic — there are thousands upon thousands of colors to choose from. And remember, if the first color doesn’t work, you can always paint over it.

Consider Window Coverings

You may think that it’s the rug that really pulls the room together, but window dressings are more important in the bedroom. Because bedrooms tend to be smaller and dominated by large furniture, the eye is drawn upward beyond the bed — that’s where the window dressing can work its magic. Curtains, blinds, and shades can be very expensive, so first decide what kind of coverage you need, and then go from there. White panel curtains are simple, cheap, match with almost any style. If you need curtains that block the early morning light but don’t appear heavy, consider thick cotton or velvet in light colors.

Hang Art That You Love

The bedroom is a great place to display the works of art that mean the most to you. Whether it’s paintings or silk rugs, sculptures or kid’s drawings, make the most of whatever wall space you have. If you prefer a clean, uncluttered look, choose one or two pieces that you like the most. If your taste runs toward the more eclectic, you can fill up your walls with whatever you want. Framing art can be expensive, so look into cheaper art displays for your favorite works.

Pick Appropriate Linens

Hey, this IS the bedroom, right? Sleeping is the name of the game, is it not? Your linens should be comfortable first and foremost, with style coming in second. Unless you are the type of person who fastidiously makes your bed every morning, don’t plunk down hard-earned cash on pricey bedspreads and decorative pillow shams. Stick with the basics, in simple colors or basic patterns, and straighten up as needed.

Turn on Good Lighting

You can usually identify a well-designed room by the type of lighting used — it’s always the exact right amount for the right time of day (or night). Is your bedroom suffering from too much light? Recessed pot lights are fine for the living room, but use a lot of electricity and can seem harsh in a bedroom. Consider installing a dimmer (between $60-100) to reduce the overhead glare. Alternately, your bedroom might have dim lighting that strains the eye. In either case, you can benefit from a few well-placed lamps that increase visibility without overloading the senses. Lamps are a wonderfully cheap accessory — check out IKEA’s selection before hitting Target or other big box retailers. Try out a new lampshade on an old fixture for an instant bedside accessory facelift.


Home Remodelling (Dont’s)

Whether you work with a general contractor or act as one on your own project, getting a glimpse into the mind of a contractor can give you a new perspective into remodeling projects around your home.

Don’t delay decisions. If you want your remodel to go well, the best thing to do is make every single decision before work starts. A good builder can talk you through the list of situations that might come up on your job, but decisions about situations aren’t usually what cause delays.

Instead, most of the issues are related to decisions about things like paint, trim and faucet selection. These may seem small, but when your faucet is two weeks late, plumbers have to be rescheduled and the medicine cabinet door hits the faucet when it’s installed, you’ll see how something small can balloon into a week’s delay on a five-week project.

Don’t change your mind (too much). Even though it’s inevitable that you’ll change your mind about something on your project, know this: Every time you change your mind, it’ll result in a change order. Although the change may seem minor, there are always added costs — even if it’s only the time spent discussing the change.

Scheduling can be affected too. Everyone working on the job needs to be informed of the change so no one’s working on the old plan. Everyone makes changes, and that’s OK — just be aware of the potential to disrupt and delay the job.

Don’t buy your own materials. It seems like an obvious way to save money — a builder is going to mark up the cost of materials and pass that added cost on to you. That’s true, but the builder may get a better price than you to begin with, meaning that even after markup, you’ll pay the same price.

Don’t let kids and pets get in the way. Though the people working in your home will often try to accommodate your pets and kids, they shouldn’t have to — it’s just not safe to have children or animals around construction.

Don’t live in the home. Most people ignore this rule, and for good reason. Remodeling is expensive, and moving out just adds to the cost. If you can’t move out for the whole job, try to schedule some time away and set up a clean, comfortable place to retreat to when you can’t handle coming home to a messy and stressful construction site.

House Renovate Tips

  • CALL IN THE PROFESSIONALS Don’t go down the DIY route if you don’t have to. Employ proper partners and builders, but don’t give them an easy time. Get three quotes for each job and references from previous clients. Follow up by asking how much work each firm has on at the moment. This is a coded message for “How quickly can you get around to me?”

Draw up a written agreement regarding how long the project will take and what it will cost. Keep back five per cent for snagging work once the job is done. “Hold that money back for six months,” urges Channel 4’s Restoration Man George Clarke. “Unprofessional builders will hassle you for the money at this point. At the end of this six-month period, though, at their cost and not yours, they are obliged to fix any problems.”


    “The easiest way to get an extra bedroom or bathroom is to build a loft,” explains Location Location Location man Phil Spencer. “It’s not particularly disruptive, either, as most of the work can be done from outside.”However, it’s not just a matter of plonking another floor on top of the house, and another £50,000 on the asking price. Easy access to the space is essential (i.e. not up a steep ladder), as is standing height once you are up there. Remember that if floor joists have to be inserted they can reduce the floor-to-ceiling height. Loft conversions cost around £30,000 upwards.


  • OVEN READY We all know that bricks and mortar aren’t living things, but an Aga is as close as you can get to the soul of a country house. Not only does it heat you up and roast joints of meat, it provides a focal point for the entire home (“focus” is the Latin for hearth).


  • THINK ABOUT OTHERS You may love the vibrant combination of pink and yellow, but when you are decorating with a view to selling, opt for less controversial colours. Buyers want your house, not your taste.

    The same rule applies if you are renting out a property. “It’s your job to create a space that a stranger can make their own,” says Vicki Wusche, known as the Property Mermaid ( “In a kitchen, you can’t go wrong with mid-oak-coloured cabinets and a dark, grey granite worktop.”

  • KEEP THINGS IN PROPORTION A four-bedroom house with three bathrooms is an attractive proposition. A seven-bedroom house with one shower room is a nightmare. More bedrooms do not necessarily mean added value. In fact, if you have to sacrifice comfort, an increased number of bedrooms can result in a reduced asking price. People would far rather buy a three-bedroom house with two bathrooms, than a four-bedroom house with one.