Some of the items in your pantry (like baking soda and vinegar) work as effective all-purpose cleaners and, even better, cost next to nothing. Most of us are spending way more time at home than usual, and we’re starting to notice as winter grime piles up bit by bit. Instead of having a bleach-smelling house on a permanent basis, these natural products will kick grime to the curb and keep your wallet (and your nose) happy.
Important Safety Tip: Never combine ammonia-based cleaners with chlorine bleach or products containing bleach, such as powdered dishwasher detergent. The fumes they’ll create are extremely dangerous. Before doing any mixing, read the product labels first. Always label any bottles of DIY cleaners with all the ingredients inside. In case a child or animal gets into it, it’s important to know what the mixture contains.
1. Scented All-Purpose Cleaner
What you’ll need:
- One part white vinegar
- One part water
- Lemon rind
- Rosemary sprigs
Combine the above ingredients together, pour into a spray bottle, shake, and then let infuse for a week before using. Once done, you can use the natural solution to remove hard water stains, clean trash cans, wipe away wall smudges, and much more. Besides a fresh scent, the lemon rind may help boost cleaning power. Caution: Do not use acidic cleaners on granite, as they will etch the stone.
2. Kitchen Cleaner and Deodorizer
What you’ll need:
- 4 tablespoons baking soda
- 1 quart warm water
To clean kitchen counters, appliances, and the inside of your refrigerator, all you need is baking soda. It makes a great deodorizer and can be used to shine stainless steel sinks and appliances.
To deodorize surfaces, use the solution above or pour baking soda straight from the box and into your drain or garbage disposal to remove odours.
To shine and remove spots from stainless steel, make a paste of baking soda and water. Apply it with a damp cloth and rub gently in the direction of the metal’s grain. Rinse and buff dry.
3. DIY Glass Cleaner
What you’ll need:
- 2 cups water
- 1/2 cup white or cider vinegar
- 1/4 cup rubbing alcohol 70% concentration
- 1 to 2 drops of orange essential oil for smell (optional)
The next time you need to wash your windows and mirrors, combine these ingredients and pour them in a spray bottle.
Hint: Don’t clean windows on a hot, sunny day, because the solution will dry too quickly and leave lots of streaks. For mirrors, spray the solution on a paper towel or soft cloth first before wiping.
4. Natural Heavy-Duty Scrub
What you’ll need:
- 1/2 lemon
- 1/2 cup borax powder
Rust stains on porcelain or enamel sinks and tubs are no match for this cleaner. Dip the lemon into the borax and scrub the surface, then rinse. (This is not safe for marble or granite.)
Tip: You can find borax, a laundry booster, in the detergent aisle, and it’s an ingredient in making slime for kids too!
5. DIY Grease Cleaner
What you’ll need:
- 1/2 cup sudsy ammonia
Sudsy ammonia contains detergent that helps remove tough grime. Mix 1/2 cup with enough water to fill a one-gallon container. Then clean your oven racks, stove hood, and grill by dipping a sponge into the solution and wiping over the surface before rinsing with clear water. You can also soak oven racks and grill grates in the mixture directly, with a little extra ammonia if they’re particularly dirty.
6. Natural Marble Cleaner
What you’ll need:
- 2 drops mild dishwashing liquid
- 2 cups warm water
Mix dishwashing detergent and water the next time you want to clean natural stone countertops. Sponge over marble and rinse completely to remove any soap residue.
Buff with a soft cloth; do not let the marble air-dry.
Caution: Never use vinegar, lemon, or any other acidic cleaner on marble or granite surfaces; it will eat into the stone.
There’s something very exciting about spending your first Christmas in a new house. It’s a relief to be wrapping things up as presents rather than packing up for the moving van, and first Christmases in a new home are always memorable occasions.
Festive decorations are a matter of personal taste, but new buildings require slightly more care and attention than older properties when it comes to decorating. These are our tips for ensuring your first Christmas in a new home doesn’t require an emergency visit to the hardware store…
- Avoid pinning anything up. Your freshly-decorated home could go several years without needing a paintbrush if you look after it. Punching dozens of holes into the walls to support paper chains or Christmas card display racks will achieve the opposite effect. Once the decorations come down in the New Year, you’ll need to fill those holes in – or spend eleven months ‘admiring’ December’s handiwork. 3M stick-on hooks will do most any job without the damage!
- Match main decorations with new décor. We tend to accumulate Christmas decorations over the years, but colour schemes chosen for our last home might not work as well in a new house. Would a real tree leave needles stuck in your new cream carpet, or clash with a green feature wall? Would the 8ft artificial tree from your old bungalow work in your new kitchen? Get creative, and see if and how you can reuse old decor!
- Think about practicalities. Building on the last point, consider how your new home will suit things you’ve done before. Do you have spare plug sockets in the living room for tree lights, and where would the tree look most appealing? Can you fit everyone around the dining table on December 25th, or entertain New Year’s Day visitors in comfort? You get to make new traditions in your new space – which can be very exciting!
- Look for new opportunities. Many people move to new houses from condos or small starter homes and suddenly have extra spaces to decorate. Staircases can be enlivened with low-energy bulbs and garlands, while frontyard are ideal for displaying wooden sleighs or wicker reindeer. And depending on your area, you may want to consider your neighbours by avoiding going overboard on lighting that might shine into surrounding properties.
- Test new chemicals or products on a small area first. Before covering your windowsills with fake snow, or using tape to hang up paper chains, test these products on inconspicuous areas of paintwork – behind furnishings or doors, for instance. If anything causes damage or discolouration, you can avoid using it in more prominent places and then having to undertake repairs in January.
Merry Christmas from the Chris Franklin Custom Homes Team!
These are the houses we basically grew up in, because TV houses – unlike sets from movies – become so familiar every week (or over a weekend if you’re bingeing them on Netflix) that we feel like we know every inch.
These are just a few of the iconic homes we wish we had built, and/or that we’d gladly live in permanently!
This iconic San Fransisco home might look like it’s not quite big enough to house that many people, but the layout allowed for privacy for multiple families all at once.
HOUSE OF CARDS
Francis and Claire Underwood’s home is a classy, sleek, and oh-so-secretive enclave, the perfect escape from the hustle and bustle of DC life.
Amanda Clarke-Porter’s amazing beach pad could totally fit in our area – imagine waking up to the Atlantic Ocean every morning through those windows!
So obviously the only thing we would borrow from Tony Soprano is his style – but this amazing home would make for awesome staycations (and possible planning of whacks and/or hits, if that’s your thing.)
Jay & Gloria certainly didn’t downsize as he started looking at retirement – and who can blame them? From that kitchen to die for to the fantastic layout to those closets…this is truly a dream home.
A recent survey conducted by the Canadian Veterinarian Association found that 35% of Canadian households have a dog, while 38% have a cat, and just about every one of those households consider their pets to be part of the family, which means that pets are now getting their own features in custom builds.
Here are a few of our favourite ideas, both for interior and exterior custom design!
Walk-in pet showers that have handheld shower heads installed closer to the ground and a large drain to handle pet hair makes bathing your furry friend a breeze. Built into a utility room and using wet-room design features, clean-up is quick and easy.
While practical, baby gates are unattractive and get in the way. When deciding on your home design, consider having custom doors installed in critical locations throughout the house. Half-height, sliding pocket doors or stable doors provide the option of keeping pets where you want them.
Built-in feeding stations mean there’s no more spilled water or tripping over your pet’s food dish. Consider a sliding drawer designed to hold pet bowls that can be tucked in when feeding time is over. Placed at the end of the cabinet with a water spigot to refresh the water bowl makes things easier and cleaner, especially with a designated cabinet for your pet’s favourite food and treats.
When picking out the flooring in your custom home, consider both hardness and ease of cleanup. Softwoods are easily scratched, and pet accidents can stain if not cleaned up quickly. Hardwoods like bamboo are a great option. Stone or ceramic tiles are less likely to stain and are easy to clean up. Several luxury vinyl floorings are both scratch and stain-resistant.
While designing your home, consider adding a pet room, which can be as simple as creating a sleeping nook or as extensive as allocating a private space for your pet to sleep and play. Your pet can rest and play there when you are out of the house, and it’s a great spot to store toys and food. It’s also space where your pet will feel safe during a thunderstorm.
For your special indoor cat that enjoys basking in the sun, enclose your patio. Add climbing posts and perches so your cat gets some extra exercise.
Most dogs love to take a dip in the pool, but it can be unsafe if they decide to take a lap when no one is around to help them out. A lagoon-style gradual entrance or large steps can be installed when the pool is being added. Other options are a small splash pad, tanning ledge, or shelf where the pup can lie down.
Older dogs often have trouble going up and down the stairs. Consider adding a ramp to decks and porches, so older pets don’t have to use the stairs. Ramps can also reduce joint damage and prevent injuries in younger dogs, especially those prone to back problems like dachshunds and basset hounds.
Talk to us about the best new home features for pets as you start planning your new home construction.
Chris Franklin Custom Homes specializes in custom home building and can create a wonderful space for you and your family, including the four-legged members!
Choosing the flooring for your new home affects all aspects of the process: budget, upkeep, resale value, and much more.
We’ve gone deep on the 5 most popular types of flooring, and the pros and cons might surprise you.
1. Tile and Natural Stone
Natural stone tile is one of the most popular types of flooring – probably due to its affordability, durability, and versatility.
It’s also easy to clean, and aesthetically pleasing tile can handle high traffic and high moisture areas making it great for those with children and pets.
The tile itself ranges from inexpensive to high-end pricing, and installing tile can be among the most difficult of all flooring options, which can mean higher labour costs. (But it doesn’t need replaced or maintained much, so that tends to even out in the long term.)
Tile is also heavy, meaning that those with multiple stories would be better off using it only on the first floor. Natural stone, as one would imagine, is also very hard and cold, meaning that standing on it for long periods can be uncomfortable. It can also be slippery when wet, so those who are older or have small children should be cautious about where and how they use tile.
Everyone loves hardwood, and for good reason. It’s a classic best known for its durability and visual appeal.
Stained hardwood adds natural warmth to any room, and can be integrated into any style from farm house to ultra modern. That style does come with a downside, however, when floors start to creak or need retaining to match decor changes.
Some types of hardwood can be inexpensive, however staining and sanding hardwood racks up costs quickly, and the higher end look of exotic wood is not cheap.
Hardwood is best for living areas and bedrooms, as it is sensitive to moisture (and therefore not ideal for kitchens and bathrooms.) If you have small children or pets, hardwood may also not be the best choice – scratches and dings can be difficult to sand out and can make your floors look dull before their time.
If style is your top priority, your hard-wood floors can be one of the bragging points of your home.
3. Engineered Wood
Engineered wood (or composite wood) can be a less expensive alternative to hardwood that is also easier to install and still gives the same warmth and style – without the extra care. Engineered wood is mostly plywood, compressed with a thin layer of hardwood on top.
One of the main benefits of composite wood is its easy installation. Hardwood is complex. It needs to be fitted, can’t be laid on certain surfaces, and requires active maintenance.
Engineered wood can be glued or even nailed down, and only needs semi-annual cleaning – and even more importantly it can be used in areas with some (but not a lot of) moisture, like a kitchen.
The biggest drawback with engineered wood is how prone it is to warping and other damage, and that it usually can’t be sanded or refinished.
If budget and style are competing priorities, engineered wood can be the best of all worlds.
Most people have carpet somewhere in their home – even if it’s just a stair runner. The range of colours, styles, and textures makes it a good choice for most rooms, and it adds warmth and comfort to living areas.
One frequent complaint against carpet is that it holds onto dirt and allergens. To avoid this, regularly clean carpets. Also, carpet can be difficult to clean and may even need to be replaced if stained.
Weekly cleaning can be done through vacuuming, and bimonthly steam cleaning is recommended. For those with pets or allergenic family members, a carpet may not be ideal.
If cozy comfort is your top priority and you don’t mind regular maintenance, carpets are a fantastic choice.
5. Vinyl Tile
Vinyl tile is one of the most affordable options for flooring overall, and it requires no special care or consideration for general care.
It’s a good flooring choice for homes that have children, pets, and a lot of traffic. Areas that require frequent cleaning are good candidates for vinyl tile, since mopping and sweeping are a breeze on vinyl.
Vinyl tile is stain resistant and waterproof and isn’t as heavy as natural stone, and as it is still relatively new, it is not seen as valuable as natural stone or hardwood – making it affordable.
For those on a budget, vinyl tile is an effective alternative that can be used to simulate either.
Which Is Right For Me?
At the end of the day, the type of flooring you choose should go beyond aesthetic appeal. Practicality is the primary concern when choosing your flooring. How well does it suit your living space and the room it’s in?
After that, flexibility is a follow-up concern: How do you envision this room changing in the next ten years? Will you want to change a bedroom into a study? If you want to convert your guest bedroom into a home gym, would carpet or tile make that problematic?
Talk to our design experts today to see how your floors can be the first step to building the home of your dreams, from the ground up!
11. Invest in Your Driveway
Investing in your driveway asphalt is a good idea, and having a well-designed and maintained driveway will be essential to the curb appeal. While nothing makes it ‘pop’ like a new top-coat, having visual appeal, usefulness (like a circular driveway or extra parking to one side) is a great way t turn your driveway into a statement piece. Another classic driveway option is interlock brick – but remember that you’ll have regular maintenance to do, inclusion re-levelling, repairing, and weeding.
10. Swank up the Faucets in Your Kitchen & Baths
Choose taps that sparkle instead of the builder basics and go for a look that matches the theme of the home and, most importantly, that will last. Buyers want a home that feels new, even if it isn’t. The small step of carefully choosing modern taps and hardware in your kitchen and bathrooms can cost as little as few hundred dollars and will be the finishing touch if you have nice counters and sinks.
9. Upgrade Interior Lighting
For lighting, we recommend a 3-light fixture. This upgrade isn’t that expensive, and upgraded lighting a long way to increasing the value of your home. All homes feel darker than they should unless you’ve upgraded your lights. Flush mounts with a smooth clear bowl start around $25 and they’re great for halls, bedrooms, and utility areas.
For more formal spaces, we recommend 3-5 light chandeliers or modern fixtures to be used over any table, and you can get some really nice ones in the $170-$250 range. If your rooms are lacking architectural interest like moulding, built-ins or fireplaces, an elegant and eye-catching light fixture can often become the room’s focal point for a small fraction of the price.
You generally get 300% return on moderately priced options (not the cheapest, builder-basic, dime-a-dozen styles).
8. Don’t Scrimp on Flooring
Upgrading your flooring is clearly a more expensive choice than light fixtures or appliances. While trends are great to follow in paint colours and even appliances, we recommend going with high quality, simple flooring options that require little maintenance instead of trendy colours, materials, or styles. Flooring changes the entire feel of the room, and can limit paint and decor options if it’s too noticeable.
7. Counters for Life
Counters are the second surface that can make a big difference to the feel of the space. Luckily, a quality counter is a lot cheaper than high quality floors, and combined with a marble backsplash you can get real bang for your buck.
In executive homes we recommending installing stone counters, but only if the cabinets will suit the look, and the kitchen is a good layout. Once you install stone, you should never need or want to replace it so if there’s any possibility that the cabinets could be replaced in the future, don’t bother with a stone counter. Instead you can choose to go with a more affordable option such as butcher block.
6. Finish the basement
High-income buyers (those earning $150,000 and more) like basements in general – for storage, man caves, or extra living space. You’re adding more heated square footage, which bumps up your house into another price bracket. Even among homes ranging from $250,000 to $400,000, a finished basement can add even more—up to $40,000 or $50,000 to the asking price.
Finishing a basement costs between $6,500 to $18,500 (depending on square footage) and involves installing drywall, flooring, and paint. But this upgrade can carry a return on investment as high as 69%.
5. Put in energy-efficient appliances
Appliances with the Energy Star symbol, the federal certification that they reduce energy use without sacrificing performance, ranked either as desirable or essential home features among nearly 90% of moderate-income home buyers in one study. And the look of high-end, style-relevant appliances cannot be overstated.
4. Get energy-efficient windows
Home buyers of every economic background, from those with incomes under $75,000 to those with incomes over $250,000, rank Energy Star-rated windows among their most-wanted features, whether with triple-pane insulating glass or with low-e insulating glass, one national survey says. What’s more, choosing double-hung windows over insulated vinyl windows recovers about 74% of the costs.
3. Make your laundry room more accessible
A lot of home buyers prefer not using the stairs to do laundry. The national survey shows 68% of moderate-income buyers and 69% of high-income buyers prefer having the clothes washer and dryer on the main floor instead of in the basement or the garage. Some homes above $300,000 have a larger laundry room with a drop zone for children’s backpacks and shoes, or connect the laundry room to the master bedroom instead of the kitchen.
2. Turn your shower into a walk-in
Although 77% of home buyers with moderate income (under $75,000) in the national survey ranked having both a shower stall and tub in the master bathroom as essential and desirable, although some buyers are fine with just a shower in the master bath. And the tub they’re looking for is a standalone deep tub that invites you to sink in and relax – not a short tub with a shower head looking at you.
(To qualify as a “full bath” to an appraiser, a bathroom must have a full-size tub, but it doesn’t have to be the master bathroom. A tub in a secondary bathroom is fine, especially for bathing children.)
1. Kitchen Backsplash
It’s amazing how many people still spend time choosing a kitchen backsplash. To see drywall behind a sink or an oven is both impractical and unfinished. Adding a high end kitchen back splash one of the best ways to differentiate your home from the competition, and show your home to be more upgraded and stylish.
If your backsplash area is less than 25 square feet, I urge you to choose marble. Kitchens are the #1 most important room to buyers, so if you give them what they love, your home will stand out. Going high end on the back splash is especially effective in a smaller space, where the biggest cost of the job is the labour. It doesn’t cost much more to use a better material and buyers will notice. Choose and interesting mosaic with subtle detail and variation, and you will have a backsplash that looks good for decades.
The paradox of choice is that with too many choices, choice becomes impossible.
1 Start with a vision, a look, and a feeling
When building – especially for the first time – most clients are aiming for perfection instead of a vision. If you find yourself spending 14 hours looking at kitchen taps instead of making structural decisions, this might be you.
Start with how you want the house to make you feel, and work backwards, rather than trying to build a “perfect” house. Your vision for how you want to live and move in your house, how you want guests to experience your house, and what you want Sunday afternoons at home to feel like will all make design and detail decisions much, much easier.
2. Bring in the experts
Your best friends, extended family, kids’ friends, and old neighbours will have lots and lots (and lots) of input for you…but they’re not the experts. Listening to the experts who have done nothing but build and design houses for years will save you a lot of time, heartache, and debate. At Chris Franklin, we have a design expert on staff to walk you through the process and help you make decisions much more easily – as long as you let us help you, the build can even be fun!
3. Lower the number of voices
Those extended family members, besties, parents, neighbours, and work friends mentioned above all have opinions. They also won’t be living in your house. Restrict the conversation of your build with people you not are prone to offer opinions that could derail you, or those who make you second guess the choices you loved when you made them. By only celebrating the success once the project is over, and being as vague as possible in the middle, you’ll save yourself a lot of headaches – and be able to surprise your whole social circle with the finished product!
4. Think of budget first, function second, style third
Often we focus on the details of the pictures we pin to our Pinterest boards, or the rooms we save on Houzz, and don’t take into account how that one small detail will affect the budget or the functionality. It’s easier to only choose from the options that are within your budget, so in every conversation with sales staff, your designer, and your builder, eep your budget front and centre for everyone. While there may be sacrifices to be made on style, those can be upgraded down the road – blowing the budget and living in a house that just doesn’t work for your lifestyle can’t be fixed later.
5. Go with your gut, but write it down
Often when you leave design meetings, you and your partner (assuming you have one) will be abuzz with excitement – which means your memories just got a whole lot less reliable. It’s not your fault – it’s the effect of the excitement and the sheer number of decisions you are being asked to make. As soon as you hear or see something that really truly speaks to you, lot it down in detail so you’ll be able to easily recall it later. Have your partner do the same, and then compare notes once you’re out of the meeting. An email the next day is generally fine, and is a way better idea than sending knee-jerk signals that you want to take back later.
6. Give yourself 36 hours for every decision – no more
Giving yourself time for the most important decisions is important, but so is giving yourself a deadline so you can’t bring others in, second and third and fourth guess yourself, or allow yourself to stray to creative ideas that are just too far outside your budget. (Can you tell we’re speaking from experience here?) Giving yourself a full 24 to sleep on the decision, and a bonus 12 if you’re still waffling will keep your decision periods tight but flexible, allowing you to avoid rushing while getting exactly what you want.
7. Remember that (just about) everything is changeable
No matter how life-or-death each build decisions feels like, humans are infinitely adaptable. We can get used to almost anything, what you can’t adapt to you can change, upgrade, and grow.
Winter Prep for the Exterior of Your Home
When temperatures drop dramatically and the snow flies, you’ll be glad to have taken these measures to safeguard your house.
- Remove leaves, sticks and other debris from gutters, so melting snow and ice can flow freely. This can prevent ice damming, which is what happens when water is unable to drain through the gutters and instead seeps into the house causing water to drip from the ceiling and walls.
- Gutter guards prevent debris from entering the gutter and interfering with the flow of water away from the house and into the ground.
- Ice, snow and, wind could cause weak trees or branches to break free and damage your home or car, or injure someone walking by your property.
- Broken stairs and banisters can become lethal when covered with snow and ice.
- Use caulking to seal cracks and wall openings to prevent cold air and moisture from entering your home. Caulk and install weather stripping around windows and doors to prevent warm air from leaking out and cold air from blowing in.
Winter Prep for the Inside of Your Home
Frigid temperatures, snow and ice can wreak havoc on water pipes and tax heating systems. Ensure all your home’s internal systems are “go” for winter safety and efficiency.
- If too much heat escapes through the attic, it can cause snow or ice to melt on the roof. Water then can refreeze, leading to more ice build-up—and may even lead to ice dams that can damage your roof. Well-insulated basements and crawl spaces will also help protect pipes. Consider insulating garages and other unfinished areas to keep pipes from freezing.
- Furnaces, boilers and chimneys should be serviced at least once a year to prevent fire and smoke damage.
- Check pipes closely for the presence of cracks and leaks. Have any compromised pipe repaired immediately.
- Not only do residential fires increase in the winter, but so does carbon monoxide poisoning—so regularly check that your detectors are in working condition.
Each season in the Atlantic provinces brings its own set of challenges. But if you prepare for the summer and winter seasons in the spring and fall, you can avoid damage, annoyance, and extra costs!
1. Get your Air Conditioning system checked before it’s urgent
We’ve all experienced those scorching summer days where all we can think about is retuning home and being greeted by a refreshing wave of cool air, but instead realize that it’s hotter inside your house than outside…because your AC isn’t working. Avoid that living nightmare by making sure your system is fully functional before the heat wave begins, that way you can get it fixed early on. While you’re getting your system checked, also ask a professional to make sure there are no ventilation leaks. This will keep your home cooler, but also ensure you’re not spending too much money on air conditioning.
2. Set up a programmable thermostat
Don’t constantly worry about the temperature of your home by setting up a device that lets you program automatic controls. This not only makes it easier to maintain over the summer, but is also efficient on cost and energy. For extra savings, set the temperature higher when no one’s home and make sure you close all your doors and windows on your way out.
3. Keep excess heat outside by protecting your windows
Windows are the easiest way for heat to make its way inside your home, so make sure to strategically plant shady shrubs and trees, or set up awnings or screens to serve as an extra layer of protection. An afternoon of work, but you’ll thank yourself in the long run.
4. Stop bugs from cooling off inside your house
Bugs like spiders and ants usually hibernate in the winter, but in the summer months, they’ll be looking for shade just as much as you. Make sure to proof your house by sealing any cracks or leaks, maintaining all your vegetation, and spraying repellant along the perimeter (which can be pesticide or a homemade remedy).
5. Prepare for more than sunshine by water proofing your house
Summer isn’t all sunshine and rainbows, it’s also a popular time for thunderstorms and flooding. To ensure you don’t experience water damage, seal any cracks and leaks—especially in your basement, get your roof and gutters checked, and properly seal all your windows. The small renovations and inspections may be a nuisance in the moment, but you’ll thank yourself later on.