Garden Lighting – 10 Great Ways to Illuminate Your Garden

For many people, enjoying a cup of hot chocolate amidst the beauty of plants and landscape of their garden is the ultimate bliss. But, without attractive garden lighting, you cannot capture that bliss. Lights arranged creatively and at the right spots make your garden a heavenly place to be after dusk.

Your garden gets grace through illumination. However, the trick is to use the right kind of lighting to transform your landscape into a dramatic place with dancing silhouettes and beautiful scenery. Things like glass oil lanterns add a dash of glitter to your garden during the day and make it shine radiantly during the night. The benefit of landscape lights is that it gives the pool, fountains, plants, and pathways a subtle glow, along with a shadowy charm.

Benefits

Garden lighting is one of the most important elements of your garden. And it not only enhances the beauty of your favorite place, but also makes it safer. A properly lit garden is easier to walk by, as you can clearly make out the pathways, steps, patios, and other elements of the garden during night. It also adds to the security of your home; thieves would not usually dare to enter a home that has a glowing garden. To make garden lighting absolute safe, you must use lights that are certified for outdoors use. This means that they are weather proof.

Ways To Light Up Your Garden

* Floodlighting involves a broad and bright light beam that illuminates a larger area. Although it is bright, it creates striking silhouettes that make your garden look inviting.
* Spotlighting is not used that commonly. Whenever used, it is used to light big plants, trees, large sculptures, and other architecture in the garden.
* Uplighting is a popular way to light up the garden trees, walls, and various statues.
* Downlighting is an imitation of natural light. The lightings are fixed overhead with the light falling directly from above.
* Moonlighting is used to render a dramatic effect to the garden. It is done by fixing lighting high above so that when the light falls, it produces a moonlit effect.
* Shadowing is a type of garden lighting that creates the most magical effect on a garden. It needs surfaces like lawns or walls or strong plants to place the fixtures.
* Accent lighting is done through small fixtures. They are fixed near the ground. They illuminate the garden in a subtle manner and are mostly used to decorate various garden spots.
* Spread lighting involves the use of wide beam angles. They illuminate big features of the garden such as the lawn, fountain area, flowerbeds, borders, patios, and others. Such lighting makes evening or night walks in the garden a pleasure.
* Cross lighting technique is used to highlight particular elements of a garden such as urn, statue, bonsai, archway, and others.
* Silhouette garden lighting outlines the trees, archways, and other elements creating a spectacular view.

So, gear up to light your garden. And yes, remember to use solar lights. They are the latest trend.

For information on outdoor festoon lights click here.

What Questions to Ask When Hiring A Painting Contractor

Painting the interior or exterior of your home is one of the most cost-effective home improvements that you can undertake. The first question you have to ask is, do you have the knowledge and skills to do the task yourself and have it look professional?

The last thing you want to do is invest weeks or months of work and not be happy with the result and possibly do more damage to the integrity of your home. If you have walked into a rental property and seen the numerous poor paint jobs done by owners or handymen, you know what I mean.

So if you decide to hire a painting contractor what is the best way to go about it?

SEEK OUT REFERRALS

The best way is to seek out referrals. Talk to relatives, friends or neighbors and find out if they have had a recent experience with a painting contractor. Find out if they were trustworthy, neat, clean and on time. I feel personal experience is the best referral.

If you can’t find personal referrals, the next option is to search the Yellow Pages, internet or check with the paint stores in your area. The paint stores deal with contractors on a daily basis and might be able to recommend a reputable one. An advantage of hiring a contractor that has a good long-term relationship with a paint store is that if there is a problem with a product or color, the store will back the contractor for labor and material not just a few gallons of paint. I would steer clear of the big box stores as they typically recommend contractors who pay them 20+% of the total bill to be a recommended contractor.

ARE THEY LICENSED?

Always hire a State licensed contractor, not a handyman. If a handyman does damage to your house, you have no recourse. One clue is that a handyman will only have five numbers on their license and a painting contractor will have six numbers. The lower the number on the license the longer they have been in business. A State licensed contractor has to carry a $12,500 bond to protect their clients.

If you hire a State licensed contractor, you also want to check to be sure that their license is active. You can check with the contractors license board online. All you have to do is enter the license number and it will show the status and the name of the workers compensation carrier. I looked at a job recently and was underbid by a contractor that does not have workers comp. He claims to do the work himself, but his website shows he has employees. If his employee injures himself on the job, you, the homeowner, will be responsible for his medical bills and rehabilitation. Most homeowners don’t know this.

YEARS OF EXPERIENCE

Be wary of claims of “years of experience”. Check on years of experience as a contractor, as opposed to as a painter, or “in the industry”. When you are at the state license board website under the license number, it tells you when the business was started. To me, painting at ten years old doesn’t count as years of experience. It is pretty easy to start a painting business, but a lot more difficult to stay in business.

PRICE

Don’t hire on price alone. If an estimate is extremely low, there is usually a reason for it. There are many ways to cut price; cut corners on the prep work, number of coats of paint, and quality of paint used; forgo liability insurance, don’t pay workers compensation (illegal if you have employees), use undocumented workers.

Sometimes what seems like the cheapest bid ends up costing more in both money and time – not to mention aggravation. The problem with a bad paint job is that it lasts the life your house unless you strip the paint or replace the surface that has been poorly painted.

Here are some things to ponder. Does the contractor pay their employees a living wage? Do they pay overtime? Do they pay or help with health care? Do they give their employees any paid vacation time? While these factors may not affect the quality of the paint job on your house, they do affect the quality of life of the people who did the work, people who also live in your community and will depend on public services if they can not make ends meet from their wages.

ARE YOU COMFORTABLE WITH THEM?

Any contractor worth hiring should be willing to consult with the owner. Don’t be afraid to ask for help with colors. I have found spending a little time figuring out what my clients are looking for works out for both of us in the long run. There is nothing more difficult than looking through a color deck and picturing what it will look like on the wall. Your contractor should be willing to do a paint out for you on a 8×11 card that you can move around the room from shade to sun. You will be amazed how it changes as the daylight changes.

Find someone you are comfortable with. The contractor and his employees will be working around and inside your house. Many of my clients feel comfortable enough with my employees to leave us in their house while they go to work. Some even plan to have us come in while they are on vacation.

For information on a painter in Kelowna click here.

Why Hire an Office Mover in the Commercial Relocation Network?

Many movers claim to provide office moving services, but most treat office relocations like a typical household move when it comes to the type of equipment and processes they use. The result is a disorganized and unsecure move that ends up costing way more time and money than expected.

Businesses that want their move handled professionally count on office movers in the Commercial Relocation Network for all of their moving needs. The network is a membership organization comprised of reputable office movers that have been recognized as the best of the best in their geographical area. To better understand the benefits of hiring office movers in the Commercial Relocation Network, you need to familiarize yourself with the services that set them apart from your average mover.

Moving Services
Office movers in the Commercial Relocation Network are experts at relocating offices of all types and sizes. They have experience with the many intricacies of relocating an office and doing so with the least amount of downtime. Members of the network provide turnkey office moving services that are widely considered the best in the business. From moving healthcare facilities to manufacturing plants to data centers, Commercial Relocation Network office movers use innovative methods and state-of-the-art equipment to ensure relocations are precisely managed.

Data Centers
Businesses with data centers have a unique set of concerns when relocating from one location to another. They have clients that rely on them for uptime, so they need an office mover that can deliver sensitive equipment within a tight schedule. Commercial Relocation Network office movers offer data center moving services that include disconnect/reconnect, cabling, and precision packing that ensures this high-tech and very expensive equipment is never damaged during the relocation.

Disposal Services
Members of the Commercial Relocation Network are committed to green moving. They help companies reduce waste and dispose of unneeded materials safely and economically–and in an environmentally friendly manner. Whether moving a small office or a large corporation, office movers in the network do so with both the company’s and the environment’s best interests in mind. That is why they offer additional disposal and recycling services for all unwanted furniture, electronics, and waste. In addition, Commercial Relocation Network members also offer secure document shredding and disposal services for outdated files.

Moving Healthcare Facilities
In addition to the relocation concerns of other industries, healthcare facilities face additional challenges and liabilities regarding privacy issues. They must meet the standards of HIPAA and other privacy policies, which is why Commercial Relocation Network office movers provide secure chain-of-custody processes, staged moving, and technology setup. This enables medical offices to relocate their files securely and be ready to see patients as soon as they’re settled in the new building.

Packing Services
Most businesses don’t have the time or expertise to pack up their own offices. This is because packing an office requires precision, careful planning, and the right materials to prevent damage and loss. From moving small electronics to large pieces of art to a massive volume of files, Commercial Relocation Network office movers take better care of their clients’ property than any other movers.

Space Decommission
Most businesses have lease terms that require them to decommission the property back over to the landlord. Office movers in the Commercial Relocation Network can handle the entire coordination process so that businesses can focus on their move and worry less about their old location. Some of these decommission services include meeting with property management, disposing of trash on the property, cleaning the facility, and performing final walk-throughs with property management officials.

For information on a Long Island Storage warehouse click here.

Choosing an Office Mover
When it’s time to move your office, consider the reputation and the broad range of services offered by the office moving company. The Commercial Relocation Network approves only the best of the best, and it continually audits its members to ensure they stay at the top of their game year after year. Whether you’re moving a small office or need an experienced professional for a large, complex relocation, look no further than office movers in the Commercial Relocation Network.

Outdoor Living – How To Turn Your Summer Patio Into A Winter Activity Area

Those of us who live a bit further north, in Canada and the northern U.S., are very aware that winter sets in early and can seem long and restrictive with respect to making use of our patios and outdoor living areas. Often we close them up in late fall, put things away and wait for Spring. But why?

Let’s face it: we are also accustomed to going outdoors to enjoy the activities that winter has to offer. We skate and play hockey on outdoor rinks, we ski down hill and cross-country, we toboggan, snowmobile and make snowmen and forts with our children, and we even organize games of softball, soccer or volleyball in the snow. In many ways, we enjoy this season as much as summer. So why do so many of us then retreat indoors when these activities are done to escape the cold? Why can we not simply turn our patios into a winter entertainment centre to extend our outdoor living activities.

For information on Wylie landscaping click here.

Here are some suggestions about how to adapt our summer patios to winter entertainment centres:

Furniture: Most good outdoor patio furniture materials such as cedar, rattan and teak stand up very well to the elements and can be used all winter long. However, cushions will need to be stored away and it is a good idea to cover chairs and tables with inexpensive vinyl tarps when not in use. The tarps can easily be removed and stored in a storage bin or garden hutch.

Snow: More maintenance will naturally be required as snow will need to be removed on a regular basis to keep the area clear – wise not to fall behind on this chore. Simply pile the snow around the perimeter of the patio to create a berm; as the pile grows it will actually be quite attractive and form a natural wind break.

Heat: A propane patio heater can make the area quite cozy. A built-in fireplace is ideal but a portable fire pit or chiminea will also enhance the outdoor experience provided they are not burning under a roofed-in patio that is not high enough to insure safety.

Wind: Bitter winter winds will always be a factor that will drive people indoors. However, lighter wind can be controlled enough to enjoy the outdoors. A snow berm will do part of the job. Vinyl, or better yet, canvas tarps can also be tied to existing posts to assist in this problem; they may detract somewhat from the aesthetic appeal of the summer patio but remember that the winter patio experience is by nature more rustic.

Lighting: For nighttime use lighting may already exist but if not outdoor, plug-in pole lamps are relatively inexpensive or, to keep the rustic theme going, resort to camping lanterns that use fuel. Moving indoors when the sun sets is not a must.

Entertaining: The barbecue can of course be used all year. A propane cooker with a large stew pot is another ideal tool for winter cooking. Hot soup, stew or chili is always welcome on a cold day; mulled wine or cider provide another option. Cold beer, soda or other beverages will not require a fridge or cooler; if it is very cold, stick them in the snow bank to keep them from freezing.

Remember then that there is no need to close up the patio once the cold weather sets in. Outdoor living can be an enjoyable experience all year. Give it a go and enjoy.

Washing Machine Buying Advice

The market is filled with loads of washing machines of various sizes manufactured by various brands. In this case it is often difficult to choose one washing machine that is best suited to one’s needs. Before buying any product the first thing to be considered is personal requirements. Depending on our requirements we then need to narrow down our search and finally arrive upon one machine. Here are a few tips a consumer needs to consider before buying any washing machine.

Types of Washing Machines

There are two types of washing machines: – front loading and top loading. If you are considering a washing machine that is to be placed beneath your kitchen counter then front loading is the best choice, however if you are looking for a narrower machine. Compared to the front loaders the top loaders consume more power and water, however they have larger capacities.

Wash Load capacities

The wash load capacity determines the load the machine can handle for one single wash. It is advisable to use the machine to its full load capacity for optimum energy conservation. There are three categories as per the wash load capacity of a washing machine.

Machines with less than 5 kg are best suited for small families with one or two members

Machines between 5 to 7 kg are best suited for families with about 3 to 5 members.

Machines with more than 7 kg are suited for large families.

Spin Speeds

The spin speed of a washing machine determines the speed at which the machine will spin the clothes to remove the water while washing and drying it. It is measured in revolutions per seconds (rpm). Most of washing machines only determine the maximum spin speed capability of the machine. A higher spin speed is required for cotton clothes while a lower spin speed is suited for synthetics and delicate clothes. Users need to check for the option to vary the spin speed so that the machine can be used with all types of clothes.

1000 to 1800 rpm is the higher speed required for cotton clothes
400 to 800 rpm is the lower speed required for synthetic and delicate clothes

Wash Programmes

Users need to check out the various wash programmes provided. The main ones are hand wash, wool wash, delicate wash, silk wash, quick wash and anti-crease option. The secondary ones are pre-wash, intensive wash, extra rinse, economy wash, anti-bacterial wash etc.

Many new washing machines include a Fuzzy Logic programme in which users only need to add clothes in the washing machine and then the in-built sensors selects the correct settings as per the requirements of the clothes.

Efficiency

Efficiency is usually rated on a scale of A-G where A is the highest and G is the lowest. Thus a A rated machine will offer maximum efficiency compared to a G rated one which offers the least.

Such ratings are provided for each washing machine on the basis of energy consumption, water consumption and drying capability. The best ones are usually the AAA rated ones which offer the highest efficiency for energy, washing and drying.

Wash Temperatures

Different types of clothes are to be washed at different temperatures; for example silk and delicate clothes cannot be washed at high temperatures, while cotton clothes are cleaned better if set at a higher temperature. Thus it would be better if the washing machine comes with a few temperature settings that can be used for different types of clothes. Most of the washing machines provide at-least 3 to 4 wash temperatures e.g. 30°, 60°, 90° etc.

Water Supply

Most machines are designed to accept cold water which is suited for delicate clothes and fabrics and help in better stain removal. These machines are considered more energy efficient.

Some machines are designed to accept cold and hot water, thus two valves are to be connected to the machine; one for the cold water and other for the hot water. These machines are however less energy efficient.

Noise Level

All the washing machines make some amount of noise. The amount of noise made by the machine is measured in decibels (dB). Usually they are categorised as: Less than 40dB, 40-50dB, 50-60dB and more than 60dB of noise. Most of the washing machine in the market today fall in the 50-60dB category which is equivalent to the noise made by a doorbell.

Although there are many exciting features offered by the washing machines, you need to buy the one which has the features which you commonly use, as the extra features come with a price tag. Thus the best step is to check individual requirement and then browse through the features of various washing machines and narrow down on one that most fits into the bill.

House Cleaning Services – Do It Yourself or Use Professional Cleaners?

Everyone loves a clean house, well almost everyone. However it is quite a challenge to maintain a clean house all year round to a standard where every crook and cranny in the house is cleaned spotlessly. There is no doubt a clean house ensures a germ free environment and one way to achieve this is, to either do it yourself or contract in professional house cleaning services to do it for you.

The advantage of using professional cleaners is of course, they are professional cleaners, it is their livelihood and they have a good understanding of the type of cleaning products and chemicals to use on different surfaces and material furnishings in the house. As well they will undoubtedly clean in areas easily overlooked by the non professional house cleaner. Applying this knowledge to the job will ensure the longer life of surfaces and materials that may be subject to heavy wear and tear.

Using the wrong cleaning products

If you do decide to undertake the task of house cleaning services yourself then it may be advisable to do a little research into the type of cleaning products you should use for the different surfaces in your household. Failing to do this could end in disaster with damage to some of your prized finished surfaces and material coverings including carpets in the house.

Most home owners today live fairly busy life styles with work, family, sports and other social activities so regular house work and cleaning are sometimes put down the bottom of the priorities list of things to do. Busy householders would rather spend their free time engaging in more enjoyable activities. Many I imagine will be more than happy to contract in professional house cleaning services to undertake what can be a laborious and time consuming job.

A quick flick through your local papers or going online will quickly reveal a number of cleaning businesses in your locality that are only to happy to offer a cost and obligation free quoting service. You may be surprised to find a number of very competitive quotes among cleaning businesses in your area.

The benefits of contracting professional cleaners are:

1. They will probably do a better job than yourself, professional cleaners will take the time to clean in obscure areas that home owners sometimes overlook. Eg. cupboards and wardrobe shelves that gather a lot of dust over time, ceiling fans, draws etc.

2. They will use the right cleaning chemicals for the right surfaces, stainless steel, wood, ceramic, Formica, marble etc.

3. They will complete the job within a specific time frame. Once the job is started they will work until the task is completed.

4. The time it would normally take you to do the job can be spent with your family or doing any other activity that you enjoy.

5. You may be surprised to find there are some very good and cost effective professional house cleaning services out there.

Making a good impression

Most home owners will be aware that visitors or family friends who come to your home will usually have an opinion about yourself based on how well you keep your home. Most people are that way inclined unfortunately always judging others either openly or secretly. As they say first impressions are lasting, so it is important to make a good first impression by presenting your home in a clean and tidy fashion.

Unfortunately it is the reason many home owners will not have people around to their homes because they are embarrassed about the state of their homes. Contracting in professional cleaners can definitely help solve that problem.

Cleaning a house spotlessly isn’t for the faint hearted, it requires hard work and dedication. Home owners who have given the big spring clean a go in the past will be the first to agree. It’s a job that can’t be done in half measures and requires a professional approach. Personally I think that engaging professional house cleaning services on a regular basis is the way to go if you enjoy your free time and want to maintain a clean house all year round.

Water in the Basement

As many as seven out of ten homes in New England have some degree of a problem with water in the basement or the crawl space. This article is designed to educate homeowners and home buyers about the various types of water problems and their causes and cures.

The impact of excessive basement or crawl space moisture in a home is wide-ranging, from severe, long-term problems such as dry rot in major structural members to fewer serious problems like mildew, peeling paint, warped paneling and generally unusable space.

The first thing to understand about water problems is that there are no truly waterproof houses. Any house can and will leak given the proper conditions, but uncovering signs of past leakage can be challenging. Every leaky basement or crawl space is a unique problem and must be studied individually to determine possible causes and corrective measures.

In general, all water problems can be traced to one of three causes:
1. leakage of water through walls and cracks,
2. seepage of moisture from the exterior walls to the interior, or
3. condensation of atmospheric moisture on interior walls.

The most serious is number one – leakage, because this can involve a substantial amount of water. It is normally very obvious and occurs during a heavy rainfall or when snow is melting. An excessive amount of water builds up in the soil around the foundation walls, forcing its way through cracks or other defects in poured concrete walls – such as small holes around form wires or through mortar joints in concrete block walls.

Leakage occurs in homes built on sites that have high ground water level, dense clay or other subterranean conditions, which inhibit adequate drainage of water away from the foundation. Leakage may occur in any soil type, but is more likely in areas near marshes or hills. If the area around the foundation has been improperly backfilled or graded, the situation can be even worse. During extremely wet periods, considerable flooding may result.

Note: if you are considering buying a home, you can identify areas with a high water table or impervious soils by contacting the local soil conservation service or the state department of agriculture.

Seepage of moisture from the exterior walls is similar to leakage but usually is not as serious. It is evidenced by large areas of dampness on the foundation walls, rather than by water leaking through a particular spot. It will normally be greatest at the base of the wall.

Active leakage or seepage is caused by excessive water pressure that builds up on the outside of the basement walls when the soil around the foundation becomes saturated. The lack of positive grade (ground level running away from the foundation) or the accumulation of rainwater around the foundation or in window/vent wells will also contribute to the problem. The seepage problem may be compounded by porous masonry walls, deteriorated joints, or cracks that allow easy entry of water into the basement or crawl space.

Condensation can look a lot like seepage, but here moisture comes from air inside the basement or crawl space, not from an outside source though seepage can be a contributing factor to a condensation problem. During warm, humid weather, the moisture in the warm air inside the basement changes to a liquid state when it comes into contact with the cool masonry walls, which then seem to “sweat.” It can also happen during colder months when warm air is discharged by a clothes dryer or similar appliance. Moisture from this air condenses on the cooler walls in the form of droplets, which may be mistaken for seepage from outside.

Condensation is the most easily corrected moisture problem in basements or crawl spaces. The most important aspect of dealing with a condensation problem is adequate ventilation.

In cool dry weather, keep the basement windows open whenever possible. On hot, humid days, keep them closed. In crawl spaces, make sure there is adequate cross ventilation to keep the area dry.

In some cases you may wish to consider installing temperature control vents that are designed to open and close automatically according to the outside temperature. These vents have a spring that opens the vents gradually starting at 40 degrees until they are completely open at 70 degrees. In addition, every crawl space should have a good vapor barrier on the ground in order to keep moisture in the ground and not on the structural members.

Another source of condensation moisture is air-conditioning duct work. During warm weather a tremendous amount of moisture forms on these ducts in basements and crawl spaces and contributes to the overall moisture problem. To correct this, the homeowner should wrap these ducts with insulation to keep the warm air from the cold metal. Finally, for condensation the homeowners may wish to install a dehumidifier that will help maintain a constant humidity at all times.

Correcting seepage and leakage can range from fairly inexpensive to very expensive depending on the cause. The homeowner should begin at the least expensive corrections and move to the more expensive corrections only if the problem persists. The possible corrections are:

1. Install, extend, or repair gutters and down spouts. 90% of all seepage and leakage have its source right here. If the gutters and down spouts are not performing their intended function, they will allow huge amounts of water to pour next to the foundation. We recommend that the homeowner extend down spouts a minimum of five feet from the foundation using black corrugated extension pipes that are available at most home improvement stores.

2. If needed, install clear plastic window vent well covers to keep water from leaking through these areas.

3. Check adjacent driveways, walkways, patios, etc., to be sure there is positive drainage away from the house.

4. If seepage is occurring through the concrete block walls, test two coats of waterproofing paint or compound on a basement wall problem area. If the test is successful after several weeks of trial, cover the entire problem area.

5. If seepage or leakage is occurring through holes or cracks larger than 1/8 inch, these holes must be cleaned out and patched. For small cracks or holes, simply wire brush the blemish and fill completely (do not leave air pockets) with hydraulic cement or silicon masonry caulking that is designed for use on masonry materials. For larger cracks or holes with considerable seepage a dovetail groove (wider inside the material than at the surface) must be chiseled out before patching.

More extensive leakage solutions, which can be expensive and time consuming, are as follows:
1. Install a “weep pipe” baseboard and sump pump system for moderately severe situations caused by a high water table.

2. Use a combination of drain tiles installed under the floor at the perimeter of the interior foundation wall with weep pipes and then install a sump pit. To install this type of system, the floor must be broken up and then repaired appropriately.

3. Basement excavation of the exterior foundation may be necessary in extremely severe situations in order to seal the exterior foundation wall with a continuous waterproof membrane as well as to install exterior drain tiles to a dry well or drainage area. The homeowner should also consider insulating the exterior of the foundation wall before backfilling. If this does not correct the problem, the floor may need to be jack hammered and re-poured over a continuous waterproof membrane.

The winter and mid summer months are the best times to track down and solve minor leaks. With this in mind arm yourself with a piece of chalk to mark wet areas during spring and fall rains for future repair. If you have water in your basement, you’re not alone and there are solutions.