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Staining tips for outdoor surfaces

(NC) Spring is the perfect time to get outside and prepare your outdoor living space for warm days and starry nights. Staining the deck and furniture not only protects and increases their lifespan, but if done right, it will help create a beautiful and luxurious outdoor atmosphere.

Sharon Grech, colour and design expertfor Benjamin Moore shares her outdoor design inspiration and staining tips.

Bring the indoors out: Interior inspired deck and patio areas are becoming increasingly popular, and there are easy ways to effortlessly achieve this look. “Start by adding indoor touches to the outside, such as a brass-finished accent table, portable lantern or a water-resistant bar cart. Consider adding an outdoor ottoman to store some blankets in for those cooler evenings,” suggests Grech.

Get creative with your stain: Try a two-tone effect with stain – using one colour on the deck and another on the railings or on two different levels of the deck for a sophisticated look. A natural, lighter stain works well on the deck, while a darker more solid stain will enhance architectural features of the railing.

Try a different finish: When it comes to staining, selecting the right product and finish is crucial for optimal results. A premium exterior stain will protect your surface and enrich the grain of wood surfaces. “Try out the different colours and translucencies of stain to ensure you get the perfect finish for your wood,” explains Grech. Many products are available in pint sample cans, so you can try them out before buying gallons. For new wood, try a translucent finish; for older wood or a patch job, try a solid stain for a refreshed look.

Grech suggests Arborcoat from Benjamin Moore, which is available in an array of colours and finishes.

Don't forget about the furniture: Furniture is the perfect medium to express creativity and infuse some colour outdoors. “When painting a Muskoka chair or an old outdoor table, take some risks with colour. These surfaces can be easily repainted to suit your changing design taste, so don't be afraid to add some colour,” shares Grech. “This year I'm recommending Patriot Blue 2064-20 and Royal Flush 2076-20 to add bold strokes to your outdoor furniture.”

More information is available at www.benjaminmoore.ca.

Spring cleaning for your kitchen

(NC) Spring is a great time for a fresh start, but spring cleaning is something that most people dread. That dusty refrigerator top, cluttered cabinets and an oven that smokes when you use it have been ignored long enough. It may seem like an ominous task but here are some tips to make spring cleaning a breeze:

One task at a time

Tackling the bigger, dirtier jobs first will make the rest of the work seem not so daunting. Start by emptying out the fridge, cupboards and drawers and giving them a good wipe down. Don't forget to pull out the fridge and stove to clean behind and under them. You should also empty the toaster crumb tray and wipe down the microwave.

Organization

Take this opportunity to sort and discard older, expired items. Throw out multiple opened condiment jars and nearly-empty containers and start a donation bin for the non-perishable food items. Rearrange your cupboards making the most used items more accessible.

Rejuvenate

Over time, your bright and shiny stainless steel cookware can become stained and discoloured. They can easily be brought back to life using specialty non-abrasive cleaners, or even cooking high-acid foods like tomato sauce or washing the pan with vinegar. You can also use spring cleaning as an occasion to polish the silverware and sharpen those kitchen knives.

Short-cuts to save on time

Oven cleaning used to be one of the toughest tasks. Taking advantage of self-cleaning features on ovens can significantly reduce cleaning time and the use of harsh cleaning chemicals. New LG ovens can sparkle in just three easy steps by simply spraying with water, pressing LG's EasyClean and after just 10 minutes wiping away any leftover grime. The Aqua Clean Enamel (ACE) coating means that water can penetrate between the surface and the residue, making baked-on food much easier to separate from your oven walls.

More information is available online at LG.com.

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Investing in your future

5 simple ways to go green at home and save money

(NC) Thinking green throughout the year can offer some significant benefits. Here are some easy ways you can go green in your own home and lower your energy bills:

Invest in a programmable thermostat. It will automatically adjust the temperature in your house, saving you energy while you're out for the day, away on vacation or sleeping.

Switch all of your lightbulbs to CFLs (compact fluorescent light) or LED bulbs. They last longer and use up to 75 per cent less energy than standard incandescent bulbs, saving you money on your electric bills.

Insulate well. Use insulation with a high R-value, such as Roxul Comfortbatt, to top up insulation in your attic. Aim for an R-value of 50 or a depth of 16 inches (41 cm). For whole home efficiency, ensure other areas of your home are well insulated, such as crawl spaces, basement headers, walls and ceilings. It will keep your house cool in the warm weather and take the stress off your air conditioning unit.

Stop air leaks around your home by sealing existing gaps and cracks. Use caulking or weather stripping around doors and windows. Installing a door sweep is also a good idea.

Replace old appliances with energy-efficient models. Only do laundry or run the dishwasher when you have full loads.

Remember that many little improvements can add up—providing valuable monthly savings for you, while protecting our environment for the future.

5 landscaping tips to increase your property value

(NC) Investing in landscaping can bring some of the biggest returns for homeowners, yet too often it remains overlooked or underdone. The same care and attention we apply to interior renovations should be applied to the garden. “Curb appeal plays a huge role in selling your home and adding value to it,” says Michelle Sordi, director of marketing at Husqvarna, the world's largest producer of outdoor power products. “Enhancing your outdoor space with smart landscaping solutions is a great way to invest in your home.”

Sordi shares the following landscaping tips for homeowners looking to increase their property value:

Nurture your lawn – Once the snow melts, do an assessment of your lawn and look for any dead grass or thinning patches so you can quickly treat them. Also, remove any weeds as early as possible so you can avoid breeding pests and diseases.

Landscape with a purpose – If you're planning to sell your home in the near future, tailor the landscaping plan to appeal to your target buyer. Families typically enjoy more greenery and yard space for children to play, and a small patio for entertaining. They are also likely to have less time to groom the property, so select plants that are native to the region and easy to maintain.

Be equipped with the right tools – Quality tools produce professional grade results and help you complete tasks more efficiently. A lawn mower with an adjustable cutting deck makes it easier to select the height for cutting while a lightweight trimmer that is compatible with multiple attachments minimizes the number of tools in your shed.

Pave the way – Commonly referred to as hardscaping, consider adding a stone walkway or patio section. As well, care for the shrubs and greenery that surround your home. This adds immediate curb appeal and helps buyers understand the outdoor living space available.

Consult a pro – Take a walk around your property with a realtor or landscaper for tips and additional pointers on where to make improvements. Their industry insights will ensure you are investing dollars in the right places.

More tips and information can be found online atwww.husqvarna.ca.

Create a beautiful and functional laundry room

(NC) While doing laundry isn't always the most fun task, updating your laundry room with creative storage solutions and attractive décor can make all the washing, drying and folding a little more enjoyable. Sharon Grech, colour and design expert for Benjamin Moore, suggests simple and effective tips to ensure your laundry space is as design-savvy as it is efficient.

Create storage solutions: Storage for extra clothing, equipment and miscellaneous items is key. “Adding cupboards below the laundry sink and above the washer and dryer or repurposing old cabinets are excellent ways to significantly add storage,” says Grech. “A garment rack, wicker baskets and decorative shelving are more ways to help keep the space tidy and visually appealing.”

Add folding space: Installing granite or laminate countertops will dramatically increase folding space and create a cohesive look. To refresh old countertops, consider personalizing your space with colour by installing plywood or MDF countertops and painting the surface in your favourite hue. If budget or space doesn't permit, install a wall-mounted shelf to provide more folding space if needed.

Make it attractive: The laundry room is often overlooked when it comes to design. “The laundry room doesn't have to look utilitarian – it can be another space to express your creativity, whether through colour, art, accessories or a combination of the three,” says Grech. “Because it is often away from the rest of the house, it lends itself to fun. Adding colour with paint is a great way to inject life into your space, or, if you prefer to keep things simple, nothing is better than Simply White OC-117 for a fresh, contemporary look.”

Grech suggests using premium paint with zero VOCs and no emissions, such as Natura Waterborne Paint from Benjamin Moore. It has low odour, meaning it's a safer paint for your family and the environment.

More information is available at www.benjaminmoore.ca.

Expert tips for picking the perfect paint for any project

(NC) Life is hectic and your home is there to play host to all of it. Your walls must be prepared for anything; from big family get-togethers or kids' play dates, to days of furniture rearranging and room makeovers. A good coat of paint is necessary to help your home stand up to wear. Beyond just colour consider these key factors when selecting the right paint that meets the needs of your home.

1. Washable

Look for a paint that is durable and withstands repeated washing. You want the peace of mind that a quick wash will leave your walls looking as fresh as the day they were painted.

2. Stain resistance

When the kids decide to turn your living room wall into a colouring board or when things get a little messy in the kitchen you want to feel confident that the crayon, spills and scuffs aren't permanent.

3. Time saver

Painting can be easier and quicker than you think. Learning the proper technique for cutting in will save a lot of time because it will eliminate the need for tape on baseboards and trim. Also finding a paint and primer all-in-one will save you a few coats and valuable time.

4. Lasting colour

Even with a few time savers, you want your colour to last. If you find your colour losing its vibrant hue over time, fading or yellowing, look for a higher quality paint with technology built in to prevent discoloration, such as HGTV Home by Sherwin-Williams which features the Precision Colour Promise.

Today's paint technology has come a long way and HGTV Home's Showcase line features all the above features with ResiStain Technology, paint-and-primer in one and Uniform-Flow technology making it easy to apply with better coverage and easy clean up. Once you have picked the perfect colour, choose a paint that can withstand the daily stains and scuffs that come with kids and pets so your home looks beautiful for years to come.

Bryan is the star of Bryan Inc. premiering fall 2016 on HGTV Canada. More information available at painton.com.

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